Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Trance Red Band Trailer

The early part of any given year often leads to some disappointing films. Lately, we've been getting these fairy tale knock offs like Alice in Wonderland, Mirror Mirror, this year's Jack the Giant Slayer. We get the occasional blockbuster, like last year's Hunger Games which certainly entertained many, but what we don't normally get is some intriguing, more adult fare. But as I mentioned in my article two weeks ago , this year we're getting some pretty good stuff. That includes a few holdovers from last year's fall film festivals. For instance, films from Malick ("To the Wonder"), Harmony Korine ("Spring Breakers"), Noah Baumbach ("Frances Ha"), and Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond the Pines."

That's what makes Danny Boyle's "Trance" such an interesting case. Boyle shot this before he committed himself to the opening ceremony of the London Olympics and it'll be his first film since "127 Hours." Trance stars James McAvoy and Vincent Cassel and is described as an "art heist thriller". Not an arty thriller that features a heist, but a thriller that centers around an art auctioneer. Judging from the Red Band trailer, it looks to be the type of film we crave in the usually dour period (film-wise) that is the early Spring.

"Trance" comes out in the US on April 5th. And it's not a fall film festival holdover, we just got lucky this time. This isn't Danny Boyle necessarily making the type of serious film that could garner awards. This just looks like a fun, sexy thriller from a great filmmaker.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Final 2012 List

1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. The Master
3. Beasts of the Southern Wild
4. Argo
5. Looper
6. Django Unchained
7. Moonrise Kingdom
8. Lincoln
9. The Dark Knight Rises
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
11. Rust & Bone
12. Amour
13. Your Sister's Sister
14. The Avengers
15. Skyfall
16. 21 Jump Street
17. The Deep Blue Sea
18. End of Watch
19. Seven Psychopaths
20. Jeff Who Lives at Home
21. Damsels in Distress
22. Silver Linings Playbook

I've seen all that I've needed to see. I've only made one change to the top 10. Other than that, I've managed to fill in the bottom 10 of my top 20. I also added a 21 and 22 because I did like those films, they're just not top 20 worthy. I guess I could've done a top 25, but whatever. I'm done with 2012 movies now!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Weekend roundup, part 2: The Oscar show

EVERY year, people have complaints about the Oscar host. The host isn't funny enough, the host is too edgy, the host is too tame, the host is too boring... basically, the host can't do anything right. Seth MacFarlane last night? Not that bad. Were his jokes off color? Sure, but what did you expect? Some people took his jokes as being mean-spirited, but I didn't see it that way. I find Family Guy to be mean-spirited at times, and MacFarlane was much tamer than that last night.

I mean, yes, he did have a musical number about breasts, he made a joke about women not being able to let anything go, he made a Chris Brown/Rhianna joke. Oooh shocking. Except, not really. It's as if people are waiting to be offended at the start of a show. If MacFarlane didn't try to make off color jokes, people would be complaining that he was too soft, not edgy enough. I thought his jokes were right in the middle. That doesn't mean they were perfect and the opening act was way too damn long. At first, it was funny to see him interact with Captain Kirk but it got old after awhile. Plus, the musical numbers he did to "make up" for the bad show were so... lame? Still, it was nice to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe dance with him. Plus Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron.

One thing I found irritating was MacFarlane's penchant for singing. He's not that great of a singer, passable at best, but he loves his voice. He showcases it all the time on his TV shows and he's a voice actor. So, clearly, the man loves his voice. He loves hearing himself talk. I'm surprised he didn't do Stewie during his act. Seth MacFarlane has a bit of an ego and is kind of a jackass, but he didn't do that bad last night. It was passable. He was better than Billy Crystal and James Franco/Anne Hathaway. He was better than Alec Baldwin/Steve Martin. Honestly, he wasn't that bad.

Were there bad moments in the show? For sure. Namely...

The lame 007 tribute. It was nice to see Shirley Bassey sing "Goldfinger," but that was it? That's all we got? A montage and one song? Seemed lame to me.

Why was the orchestra in another fucking building?

And why were they playing the Jaws theme music to play people off, how rude is that? I'll say this once: while we all like to say "hey, shorten your speeches, Oscar winners!" I still don't think it's right to play people off and cut their mics off unless they go completely insane in their speech. When they're trying to pay tribute to their colleagues, like during the Best Visual Effects' winner's speech, it's just obnoxious and unnecessary. You can bet they won't be doing that next year.

I heard they closed the show with a closing number, but I changed the channel by then.

Having said all that, it wasn't the worst Oscar telecast by any means. You know what I missed though? They did this for two years then they stopped. I know it took a long time to get through the nominees, but I thought it was awesome in the '08 and '09 ceremonies when they brought out five actors who paid tribute to the five nominees for best actor and best actress. I know it was kind of a waste of time and the show is already self-congratulatory enough, but I used to think that was pretty cool. Oh well.

Also, Barbra Streisand singing "Memories" in a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch? That was actually pretty neat even though I'm not a fan. 

As far as the winners are concerned, no big deal to me. Argo won Best Picture, which I have zero problem with. I got 18 out of 24 correct, which is a good year for me. My only issues were Roger Deakins getting snubbed yet again for Best Cinematography and I thought Christoph Waltz winning Best Supporting Actor was kinda strange. I liked him in Django Unchained, but he didn't even have the best performance in the movie. Other than that though, no complaints.

Lastly, I can't end this post without mentioning Michelle Obama. What was that? I like Michelle Obama, but the whole time she was doing the presentation and announced the Best Picture winner, I couldn't help but think "what is happening?" It was easily the biggest WTF moment in the entire show. I still think it was strange, but pretty cool.

The only memorable Oscar moments in Oscar history are the excruciatingly bad moments, like Snow White and Rob Lowe singing at the 1989 Oscars or James Franco acting stoned during the whole show. There were none of those moments, which basically means this telecast will be as forgettable as others.

People will always complain about the results of the Oscars. How it went with a movie that wasn't serious enough. How they picked the wrong actor. It's endless with the complaints, but the Oscars are gonna do their thing. They've been doing it for 85 years this way, and they won't stop. Rarely will they pick your favorite movie as Best Picture so it's not a big deal.

What I learned overall this year is that you could have 10 great movies come out in a year and people will still bitch about 80% of them. What I hate about the Oscars are the pundits who speak fondly of one movie while shitting on the others. I hate that people treat it like a real competition. For me, it's more like "who do I think the Academy will go for" not "who I wish they would pick." This year was especially egregious. I used to love following the awards season because there'd always be surprises coming out of left field or some weird controversy. It's fun. But this year? Thanks to twitter, I just can't stand following the Oscars anymore. People who follow the Oscars all year don't really give a shit about the movies involved, it's really just about their own ego. It's disappointing, but that's something I came to realize this year. So, screw them. I'll watch the Oscars next year, like any other. I'll occasionally speculate on who'll win next year. I'll post predictions. But it ends there. And you can bet I won't throw a little hissy fit when my favorite movie doesn't win. I wish others could do the same. Oh well. It won't happen.

Weekend round-up: part 1 - The Spirit Awards

So this weekend was so busy and jampacked that I have to separate my thoughts and feelings in order to make more focused blog posts. The long Oscars telecast is freshest in my mind at the moment but I have a bone to pick about the Independent Spirit Awards.

It's ridiculous to me that "Silver Linings Playbook" won best picture at the Spirit Awards. It used to be that there was a limit to the budget that you could have in order to even be nominated for a Spirit Award. SLP was made for $21 million. Last year, The Descendants was made for what was estimated to be $20 million. The whole point in the Spirit Awards was to honor "the little guy." The films made for a minimal amount that succeeded despite its limited budget. If we're gonna keep expanding the budget limit, why not include all independently produced films? Like Cloud Atlas or The Master? Because at a certain point, we're just rewarding Hollywood films masquerading as indies, which is what Silver Linings Playbook and The Descendants are. They're not bad films by any means, but they had strong representation at the Oscars with major studio backing. The Weinstein Company may not be a part of the "studio system" but there's no denying that they're a major studio. Let's get real.

Indie Spirit Awards should be anti-establishment in its nature. It should be rewarding films that best represent... the spirit... of an indie film. Beasts of the Southern Wild was a true surprise in that regard because here was a film that was made with very little money and resources and yet it wound up being so amazing. That's part of what made it so special. Yes, it wound up getting recognized at the Academy Awards too, but there's nothing conventional about its placement in there. Benh Zeitlin and his cast and crew are complete nobodies. Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert Deniro? Major Hollywood stars. Harvey Weinstein? A major Hollywood producer. David O. Russell? A major Hollywood filmmaker. David O. Russell used to be an indie filmmaker but let's face it, he's not anymore. I think it's great that he's making bigger movies because he's a great filmmaker, but he no longer personifies the "indie spirit." He's proof that someone who starts out in indie film can become a major player in the film industry, but that indie spirit he may have had once is no longer there. And he doesn't need it.

 I like the Independent Spirit Awards, I like the idea of it. As a voting member, I take this more seriously than I have in years past. But after seeing The Artist win last year and SLP win this year, it makes me wonder if there's even a reason to vote in the first place. If we're just going to vote for the eventual Oscar favorites, then what are we doing this for? Who does this benefit? C'mon, Film Independent. Something's got to give.

Oscar Winners List

1. Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz
2. Animated Short Film: "Paper Man"
3. Animated Feature Film: "Brave"
4. Cinematography: Claudio Miranda for "Life of Pi"
5. Visual Effects: "Life of Pi"
6. Costume Design: "Anna Karenina"
7. Makeup and Hairstyling: "Les Miserables"
8. Live Action Short Film: "Curfew"
9. Documentary Short Subject: "Innocente"
10. Documentary Feature: "Searching for Sugar Man"
11. Foreign Language Film: "Amour"
12. Sound Mixing: "Les Miserables
13. Sound Editing: "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Skyfall" (A tie)
14. Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway
15. Film Editing: "Argo"
16. Production Design: "Lincoln"
17. Original Score: "Life of Pi"
18. Original Song: "Skyfall"
19. Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio for "Argo"
20. Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantion for "Django Unchained"
21. Directing: Ang Lee
22. Actress: Jennifer Lawrence
23. Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
24. Best Picture: "Argo"

Indie Spirit Awards results

Best Feature
“Beasts of the Southern Wild”
“Keep the Lights On”
“Moonrise Kingdom”
“Silver Linings Playbook” – WINNER

Best Director
Benh Zeitlin, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Ira Sachs, “Keep the Lights On”
Julia Loktev, “The Loneliest Planet”
Wes Anderson, “Moonrise Kingdom”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook” – WINNER

Best Actor
Jack Black, “Bernie”
Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”
John Hawkes, “The Sessions” – WINNER
Thure Lindhardt, “Keep the Lights On”
Matthew McConaughey, “Killer Joe”
Wendell Pierce, “Four”

Best Actress
Linda Cardellini, “Return”
Emayatzy Corinealdi, “Middle of Nowhere”
Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook” – WINNER
Quvenzhané Wallis, “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, “Smashed”

Best Supporting Actor
Matthew McConaughey, “Magic Mike” – WINNER
David Oyelowo, “Middle of Nowhere”
Michael Peña, “End of Watch”
Sam Rockwell, “Seven Psychopaths”
Bruce Willis, “Moonrise Kingdom”

Best Supporting Actress
Rosemarie DeWitt, “Your Sister’s Sister”
Ann Dowd, “Compliance”
Helen Hunt, “The Sessions” – WINNER
Brit Marling, “Sound of My Voice”
Lorraine Toussaint, “Middle of Nowhere”

Best Screenplay
Ira Sachs, “Keep the Lights On”
Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, “Moonrise Kingdom”
Zoe Kazan, “Ruby Sparks”
Martin McDonagh, “Seven Psychopaths”
David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook” – WINNER

Best First Feature
“Fill the Void”
“Gimme the Loot”
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” – WINNER
“Safety Not Guaranteed”
“Sound of My Voice”

Best First Screenplay
Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, “Celeste and Jesse Forever”
Rama Burshtein, “Fill the Void”
Jonathan Lisecki, “Gayby”
Christopher Ford, “Robot and Frank”
Derek Connolly, “Safety Not Guaranteed” – WINNER

Best Documentary
“The Central Park Five”
“How to Survive a Plague”
“The Invisible War” – WINNER
“Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present”
“The Waiting Room”

Best Cinematography
Ben Richardson, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” – WINNER
Roman Vasyanov, “End of Watch”
Lol Crawley, “Here”
Robert Yeoman, “Moonrise Kingdom”
Yoni Brook, “Valley of Saints”

Best International Film
“Amour” – WINNER
“Once Upon a Time in Anatolia”
“Rust and Bone”
“War Witch”

John Cassavetes Award
“Breakfast With Curtis”
“The Color Wheel”
“Middle of Nowhere” – WINNER
“Mosquita y Mari”

Robert Altman Award

Truer Than Fiction Award
“Only the Young”
“The Waiting Room”

Someone to Watch Award
Rebecca Thomas, “Electrick Children”
Adam Leon, “Gimme the Loot”
David Finker, “Pincus”

Producers’ Award
“Nobody Walks”
“Prince Avalanche”
“Stones in the Sun” – WINNER

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Super Excellent, Expert Oscar Predictions from a Genius

By not obsessing over the Oscars and just enjoying what was the best year in film since 1999, I come to predicting these Oscars with some energy. I'm actually looking forward to this Sunday because, you know what? It's just the Oscars, who cares? It'll be a bloated awards show with things that'll make you go "why? why do we have to see this? why are you wasting our time?!"

Whenever someone tries to come up with solutions to shorten the Oscars, though, it's always like "hand out fewer awards!" But I respect the editors, the cinematographers, the visual effects guys. Those guys deserve their brief moment of fame. After last week's BAFTAS, which were the first BAFTAS I ever watched completely, I was thinking to myself "wait, didn't they miss some awards?" Turns out they handed out more awards, but didn't televise them. I don't know, I understand why they did it but I like seeing all the winners out there, even if it's someone I don't know. Maybe that's just me.

I don't expect my predictions to be halfway correct and I feel good about that. This is genuinely the first Oscars in a long time where we really don't know who could win Best Picture. No idea. It could be Argo, everything points to Argo, but it just doesn't make sense. It'll be the first BP winner since Driving Miss Daisy to win Best Picture without the director being nominated for Best Director. But this is a strange year. After months of sticking with Lincoln, I am making a change, officially. Nothing indicates that Lincoln will win BP or BD. It has no momentum in those categories.

So in my final predictions, it's all based on my gut feelings and instincts while keeping in mind the recent award shows: WGAs, DGAs, SAG, PGAs, BAFTAS, etc...

Without further ado...

Best Picture
"Beasts Of The Southern Wild"
"Django Unchained"
"Les Miserables"
"Life Of Pi"
"Silver Linings Playbook"
"Zero Dark Thirty"

All signs point to Argo. Affleck not being nominated for Best Director confuses things considerably. And who knows? Lincoln did garner 12 nominations, it had to for a reason, right? But Argo has the momentum. It'll be a surprise if it doesn't win.

Best Director
Michael Haneke - "Amour"
Benh Zeitlin - "Beasts Of The Southern Wild"
Ang Lee - "Life Of Pi"
Steven Spielberg - "Lincoln"
David O. Russell - "Silver Linings Playbook"

Ang Lee seems to be getting the most love of these five nominated. If Lincoln had the momentum, Spielberg would be obvious, but Life of Pi works because of its director. I could see Russell sneaking in for the victory, but Lee looks like the most surefire choice right now.

Best Actor In A Leading Role
Denzel Washington - "Flight"
Hugh Jackman - "Les Miserables"
Daniel Day-Lewis - "Lincoln"
Joaquin Phoenix - "The Master"
Bradley Cooper - "Silver Linings Playbook"

No brainer here. Nobody is beating DDL.

Best Actress In A Leading Role
Emmanuelle Riva - "Amour"
Quvenzhane Wallis - "Beasts Of The Southern Wild"
Naomi Watts - "The Impossible"
Jennifer Lawrence - "Silver Linings PLaybook"
Jessica Chastain - "Zero Dark Thirty"

This is an interesting one. Chastain and J-Law could easily win, but I'm sensing a lot of late support for Emmanuelle Riva. Lawrence and Chastain are still really young. Watts and Wallis just don't have any momentum. Amour might get shut out in the rest of nominated categories, except Foreign Language Film.. This might be its consolation prize.

Best Actor In A Supporting Role
Alan Arkin - "Argo"
Christoph Waltz - "Django Unchained"
Tommy Lee Jones - "Lincoln"
Philip Seymour Hoffman - "The Master"
Robert De Niro - "Silver Linings Playbook"

The toughest category to figure out. I think Tommy Lee Jones will win it though. Some may deem him overdue for another Oscar, since he won his last one 20 years ago. Deniro's role isn't all that impressive. Arkin, Hoffman, and Waltz all won in the last 10 years. Tommy Lee Jones makes the most sense. I could see Arkin winning though if the Academy loves Argo as much as the other guilds do.

Best Actress In A Supporting Role
Anne Hathaway - "Les Miserables"
Sally Field - "Lincoln"
Amy Adams "The Master"
Helen Hunt - "The Sessions"
Jacki Weaver - "Silver Linings Playbook"

Another no brainer. Hathaway wins here, no one else has a shot.

Best Original Screenplay
Michael Haneke - "Amour"
Quentin Tarantino - "Django Unchained"
John Gatins - "Flight"
Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola - "Moonrise Kingdom"
Mark Boal - "Zero Dark Thirty"

I could see Mark Boal winning but I think Tarantino would get the push here.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Chris Terrio - "Argo"
Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin - "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
David Magee - "Life Of Pi"
Tony Kushner - "Lincoln"
David O. Russell - "Silver Linings Playbook"

If Argo is going to win Best Picture, it has to win another big award. That'll be Best Adapted Screenplay. If Life of Pi wins Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director, then Life of Pi would have to win best picture. But I'm assuming Argo does indeed have the momentum, and if that's the case, it should win Best Adapted Screenplay.

Best Foreign Language Film
"A Royal Affair"
"War Witch"

 I loved No. I liked it more than Amour. I wish this was a contest, but I don't think it is. Amour has a lot of love going for it, it should win this category easily.

Best Animated Feature Film
"The Pirates! Band Of Misfits"
"Wreck-It Ralph"

 Kind of a tough one, actually. I could see Wreck-It Ralph giving Brave a run for its money, but Brave has that Pixar brand name. Brave wins.

Best Original Song
"Before My Time" - "Chasing Ice"
"Pi's Lullaby" - "Life Of Pi"
"Suddenly" - "Les Miserables"
"Skyfall" - "Skyfall"
"Everybody Needs A Best Friend" - "Ted"

Either Skyfall wins, or the Academy has fucked up royally.

Best Cinematography
Seamus McGarvey - "Anna Karenina"
Robert Richardson - "Django Unchained"
Claudio Miranda - "Life Of Pi"
Janusz Kaminski - "Lincoln"
Roger Deakins - "Skyfall"

Deakins deserves this one so badly. He's been nominated a bunch of times but has never won. He should win those one. If Kaminski wins, given that Beset Cinematography is announced early, then that'll be a sign that Lincoln may have more momentum than we thought. If Life of Pi wins, it wouldn't be surprising because of its superior visual effects. But Skyfall is the most beautifully shot franchise film of the past few years. Deakins wins this.

Best Film Editing
William Goldenberg - "Argo"
Tim Squyres - "Life Of Pi"
Michael Kahn - Lincoln
Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers - "Silver Linings Playbook"
William Goldenberg, Dylan Tichenor - Zero Dark Thirty

I could see Zero Dark Thirty winning this, for sure. But Argo should win.

Best Costume Design
Jacqueline Durran - "Anna Karenina"
Paco Delgado - "Les Miserables"
Joanna Johnston - "Lincoln"
Eiko Ishioka - "Mirror Mirror"
Colleen Atwood - "Snow White and the Huntsman"

They generally like to give Costume Design to a film nominated for Best Picture. Les Miserables looks like the favorite to win this one.

Best Documentary Feature
"5 Broken Cameras"
"The Gatekeepers"
"How To Survive A Plague"
"The Invisible War"
"Searching For Sugar Man"

Everyone loves Searching for Sugar Man. It's a crowd pleaser.

Best Visual Effects
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
"Life Of Pi"
"Marvel's The Avengers"
"Snow White And The Huntsman"

Life of Pi easily wins this.

Best Production Design
Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer - "Anna Karenina"
Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent, Simon Bright - "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Eve Stewart - "Les Miserables"
David Gropman, Anna Pinnock - "Life Of Pi"
Rick Carter, Jim Erickson, Peter T Frank - "Lincoln"

I could see Life of Pi winning this, but Anna Karenina is all about its production design. I think it wins here.

Best Original Score
Dario Marianelli - "Anna Karenina"
Alexandre Desplat - "Argo"
Mychael Danna - "Life Of Pi"
John Williams - "Lincoln"
Thomas Newman - "Skyfall"

This one could go to any of the five nominated, really. But I think Life of Pi wins this.

Best Make Up
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
"Les Miserables"

The Hobbit could win, but I'm going with Les Mis.

Best Sound Editing
"Django Unchained"
"Life Of Pi"
"Zero Dark Thirty"

If ZD30 wins anything, it'll be sound editing. Skyfall could win this too. I'm going with Zero Dark Thirty.

Best Sound Mixing
"Les Miserables"
"Life Of Pi"

This is Les Mis's to lose. The actors sang live. Nuff said.

Best Documentary Short Film
"Kings Point"
"Mondays At Racine"
"Open Heart"

Best Animated Short
"Adam And Dog"
"Fresh Guacamole"
"Head Over Heels"
"Maggie Simpson In The Longest Daycare"

Best Live-Action Short Film
"Buzkashi Boys"
"Death Of A Shadow"

The last three are just guesses.

The end!

We'll see what happens on Sunday evening.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Short reviews: NO and Sound City

Man I've been slacking lately...

Sound City

Dave Grohl's Sound City is a wonderful documentary about remembering the things that make you who you are, appreciating the human element that goes along with making music, a great discussion on analog vs. digital recording, and the history of a legendary music studio. That Grohl is able to handle all of these ideas and make a great documentary out of it is deserving of praise alone. Grohl is just a musician who really wanted to make a documentary about a studio he owes his whole career to. That passion comes through and it ends with a series of performances from Grohl, his Foo Fighters bandmates, Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, Trent Reznor, Josh Homme, and Paul fucking McCartney. Sound City is available on itunes. See it now!!!

Grade: A-


Nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars, NO stands no chance against Amour but perhaps it should. Gael Garcia Bernal, one of my favorite actors of the last decade, stars as an ad man who spearheads the 1988 NO campaign. To garner international support, Chilean dictator Pinochet is pressured into turning his country into a democracy so in 1988 they hold a referendum, whether to vote YES to Pinochet or NO. Voting NO would signify the end of a 15 year dictatorship. Shot in an aesthetic that would make you believe the film was made in 1988, Bernal carries the film effortlessly as his character, Rene, plays a large part in the NO campaign succeeding. The "yes" and "no" sides had to make 15-minute advertisements every day for about a month to help the people make an informed vote. Director Pablo Larrian does an outstanding job deftly balancing the comedy and the drama while also utilizing an interesting style that almost immediately sucks you into that time period.

Grade: A-

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Don't sleep on the first half of 2013

I know how it goes. The first half of any year is not always the most exciting half for film. Generally, for cineastes, it's all about Sundance and Cannes. What films will come out of there that will be talked about for the rest of the year? Well, this year it's a bit different.

Amidst the aging action hero films and the plethora of films starring The Rock, we actually have some pretty interesting films that will be released in the next few months and I want to go over as many as I can. Let's get started.

This past Friday, it was Steven Soderbergh's "Side Effects." I gave it a B+. Really good film, you should see it.

This weekend, there's "No," "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III", and "Like Someone in Love." "Charles Swan" is failing gloriously on rottentomatoes, but I gave it a C+. Honestly, it's not the worst thing in the world, but then again, I watched it via itunes. I even said in my review that it may suck to have to pay $10-14 to see the movie. So, really, just watch it on itunes then.

But the other two are interesting. "Like Someone in Love" is a film by internationally renown Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. It's his follow up to "Certified Copy" and this time, he's set the film in Tokyo. While reviews have been middling for the film, you can't ignore such a film from a director like him.

"No," for me, is the must see of the bunch. It stars Gael Garcia Bernal and it's a Chile-set film about an ad exec who comes up with a campaign to defeat dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile's 1988 referendum. Buzz regarding the film has been sky high, high enough for it to get a Best Foreign Film nomination at this year's Oscars. I plan on seeing it this weekend. You should too if you have the chance.


Aside from Bryan Singer's "Jack the Giant Slayer" which doesn't really look all that exciting, we have Park Chan-wook's "Stoker" starring Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska. It also has Dermot Mulroney. Or is it Dylan McDermott. No, Dermot Mulroney. Yeah, for sure. Anyway, Park Chan-wook is yet another famed international director and he hails from South Korea. What has he made? Oh, just Oldboy, Thirst, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance... now Stoker first screened at Sundance a month ago (holy shit, that was a MONTH ago?) and it came out to wildly mixed reviews. Some loved it, some hated it. It was divisive. The last three sentences all mean the same thing. Either way, it's definitely a film worth catching.

Then for the most part, we have crap for the next few weeks. I gotta be honest with you, "Oz the Great and Powerful" looks stupid. Looks like it was shot on shitty video. I mean, in color it looks gorgeous, but the black and white looks really cheap in the trailer. I could be wrong, but I stand by what I say.

March 15th gives us "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," a comedy which is supposed to send up Sigfried and Roy. This could easily go both ways, couldn't it? I mean, it has a great cast: Steve Carrell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi, James Gandolfini... but this could easily turn to shit in the wrong hands. Don Scardino is the one helming this film and he's only done TV work thus far. Granted, some of it is good, and the writers of "Burt" wrote "Horrible Bosses" which was a pretty clever film with some big laughs. I don't know, I'd hate to write this film off completely but the trailer leaves a lot to be desired.

March 22nd has Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" which I gotta admit, I'm very intrigued by. It has the buzz, it has James Franco playing a rapper/gangster, it has hot former Disney stars dressed in bikinis. The appeal is obvious with this one. Now I'm not a huge Korine fan but I definitely am willing to give this film a spin a month from now.

This leads to what I'm looking forward to the most... The Place Beyond the Pines. Holy shit do I want to see this film. Derek Cianfrance impressed just about everyone with his raw, emotionally gripping "Blue Valentine." Now he follows that up with this crime epic starring Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, and Rose Byrne. The film's got a 140 minute running time and, from what I gather, it's basically like a cat-and-mouse between a bank robber and a rookie cop, and the film is a multi-generational story. I already said enough. This looks really good. I can't wait.


April 5th gives us two interesting ones: "Trance" and "Upstream Color."

"Trance" is Danny Boyle's follow-up from what's arguably his best film, "127 Hours." Trance is more of a pure genre/caper type film starring James McAvoy and Vincent Cassel. Boyle hasn't really done this kinda film in awhile so it'll be interesting to see how he returns to a more crime-oriented genre.

"Upstream Color" is the very very long-awaited follow-up to Shane Carruth's "Primer." Primer's that mind-boggling film about time travel that's impossible to understand but hard to not admire. Seriously, I don't know if I love the film, but I admire the shit out of it. It was made for $7,000 and it looks like it was made for $1 million, at least. I really want to watch that again, actually. "Upstream Color" has a bigger budget, looks like the scope is much deeper. Anyway, it should be an interesting sci-fi film from a guy who has already turned the genre inside out once before.

April 12th gives us "To the Wonder," Terrence Malick's 6th film. Everyone apparently hates Terrence Malick now, or at least, it's cool to hate on him. I don't. As you all know, The Tree of Life was my favorite film of 2011. To the Wonder is apparently more ambitious than ToL, but you know what? Fuck it. Bring it on. I can't wait.

Now you'll be surprised to hear me say this but I'm also circling April 26th on my calendar for... what's that? A Michael Bay film? What? But seriously, after the shitty Transformers movies he's been forcing down our throats the past half-decade, I can go for a silly Bad Boys-like Michael Bay film. Shot on a smaller budget than is usual for Bay, the film stars The Rock and Mark Wahlberg as body builders who get caught up in a kidnapping scheme gone wrong. I don't know. This could be dumb fun. I can dig dumb fun, as long as it's fun and not an eyesore.


So in May, we have the obvious. Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, Star Trek 2, Hangover Part III. Those are all well and good, but there's also some interesting indie fare in the midst.

First there's May 17th. Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" starring Greta Gerwig, this little indie film was shot in secrecy last year and later was screened at Toronto last September to great reviews. Many called it a career refresher for Baumbach and they praised Gerwig's performance, who's almost always delightful. For all the talk of Lena Dunham, Greta Gerwig has always been my fave. I am a Baumbach fan so I'm definitely up for this one.

And on May 24th, there's Before Midnight. This is the third film in a trilogy. The first two films were "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" and they all star Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as strangers who happen to meet and wind up getting to know each other over the course of a day in Vienna. Then the second film, they meet up 9 years later. And now, with Before Midnight, they meet up 9 years later once again. How cute. Seriously though, the first two films were great and this apparently is just as good. It'll be a nice alternative viewing for those looking to escape the loud summer fare.

Ok that's basically it, as far as we know now. That's what I gathered from wikipedia and imdb. I feel like there's more though. As it is, I had to dig to clarify that Frances Ha is coming out on May 17th. According to my sources it most definitely is. I do know that Pedro Almodovar's "I'm So Excited" comes out in June so there's that also.

So overall, to recap:

Side Effects
Like Someone in Love
Spring Breakers
The Place Beyond the Pines
Upstream Color
To the Wonder
Frances Ha
Before Midnight
I'm So Excited

Those are all the indie/adult fare coming out in the next four months. That's 12 films. 3 films per month. That's not a bad ratio at all.

I'm also pretty sure Nicolas Winding Refn's "Only God Forgives" is supposed to be coming out in May but I've got nothing at the moment that supports that.

There's also The Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" which has a trailer but no release date yet. You would imagine it'd at least come out by June, we'll have to wait and see. But that's two more films.

So that's what we got going on in the next few months. I hope I've convinced you that there's a lot to look forward to in the cinema world and you don't have to wait until September/October like most other years. Most other years, you'll be lucky to get 3 interesting films come out in the first half of the year. Sure, you might get a great summer tentpole here and there, but some summers? Not the case. This summer? Meh... there's Elysium and Pacific Rim and that's about it. Hopefully, of what I listed above, you can find something that interests you.

Monday, February 11, 2013

"Side Effects" review

Steven Soderbergh had perhaps one of the most unique career paths out of any other filmmaker. The man did it his own way, always trying to do different things. His films weren't always great, although he made a lot of great films. But his craft, his sensibility has always made his films interesting. There's not necessarily a discernible "Soderberghian" style when it comes to his films and that's what is so great about him. Sure, you can find similar themes throughout his work and certainly "Side Effects" feels like a sibling to 2011's "Contagion," but the perfect example of his idiosyncrasy is with his last theatrically released film. "Side Effects" isn't an all-encompassing, career-defining piece of work, but it's a sexy, twisty, endlessly watchable psychosexual thriller that changes direction on you halfway through and becomes an engrossing procedural film. It's not without its flaws, but that's what makes it a fitting final Soderbergh film, a man who's not afraid of flaws.

"Side Effects" starts out with Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara), who eagerly anticipates/dreads her husband's return from prison (Channing Tatum). Her husband, Martin, had been in prison for insider trading and, naturally, life has not been the same for Emily since his incarceration. Soon after his release, Emily winds up in the hospital for ramming her car into a concrete wall in a parking garage. This ultimately leads her to Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) who is convinced to take her out of the hospital but wants to be directly involved in her case, subscribing her antidepressant pills.

When the pills he subscribes do not appear to be working, he takes a suggestion from Emily's former psychiatrist, Dr. Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and winds up putting Emily on a newer drug called Ablixa. Using Ablixa, Emily appears to have everything back in order, aside from an occasional sleep-walking episode, which is a side effect of the drug. From there, that's when things start to turn ugly. The film shifts perspective and becomes centered around Dr. Banks who winds up having to face the fact that his patient is now guilty of having committed a murder, thanks to the Ablixa drug.

Then we watch as Dr. Banks's life starts to fall apart and he winds up becoming obsessed with Emily's murder case. This is where, with an average director, the film would start to falter but the remarkable thing about "Side Effects" is how seamlessly it changes direction and how the shift in perspective actually feels like a natural progression in the story. What also helps is the game cast. Jude Law and Rooney Mara are both at the top of their game, turning in great performances. Catherine Zeta-Jones turns in one of the juiciest roles she's had in years. And Vinessa Shaw, who plays Dr. Bank's wife, is also great in this. 

"Side Effects" is a well-crafted film and you can tell that Soderbergh and crew really had fun playing up the more "psychological" aspects of this psychological thriller. And when the second half of the film starts to piece together what the first half of the film was really about, it's even more impressive. That said, the twisty nature of "Side Effects" can be a little much in some places. You're not going to buy all the revelations and, at a certain point, it really starts to get far-fetched. The second half of the film is just as fun to watch as the first half, but the first half comes off much more naturally. Also, like Contagion, the film doesn't really build into one huge climax but rather a series of smaller "big moments" that bring things forward. It's not that the film necessarily needed a big climax, it certainly didn't, but it did feel too much like the film was going from plot-point to plot-point instead of everything naturally unfolding.

Nevertheless, these days, films like these aren't as well-made as this one is and there's never a point where you feel the film is insulting your intelligence. "Side Effects" is able to get away with such a twisty plot because even when it starts to head into the ridiculous, it establishes the first half so well, that it never takes you out of the film fully. 

When Soderbergh first announced his retirement, it was natural to look at his final few films with more scrutiny. "Side Effects" is easily the best of the bunch. It kinda makes you wish that Soderbergh would forget about his retirement and make more films like these. Nobody else wants to make smart psychological, sexual thrillers these days, so why not? But Soderbergh's never gonna do what you want him to do, and that's why we love him. For a guy who claims to be bored with the craft of filmmaking, you'll be surprised that "Side Effects" winds up being so enjoyable to watch.

Grade: B+

Monday, February 4, 2013

Wrapping up 2012 with a few more short reviews

End of Watch

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed End of Watch. It wasn't perfect. The camera work was disorienting at first, but it was a bold move by David Ayers to shoot it in such a you-are-there documentary-type way. The movie is at its best when it's strictly about the cops and their day-to-day work. The way it gets so deep into the personal lives of Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Michael Pena) is one of its greatest strengths. The scenes with the Mexican gang members were incredibly weak by comparison, however. Overall, it's endlessly entertaining from a filmmaker who's working from subject matter he knows best. B+

The Invisible War

I don't review many documentaries on this site, but that's because I simply don't see enough of them. It's my own damn fault. But The Invisible War is a very effective, if not, occasionally flat documentary. It's at its most powerful when it peers into the lives of these incredibly brave and unlucky female soldiers and the more you learn about the military scandals and coverups, the more infuriated you will be. This is a scathing indictment on the US Military and the way they treat their own when it comes to sexual assault, a valid indictment.  B+

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Awards Season brings out the asshole in everyone

I've talked about this before but it warrants repeating. The Awards season doesn't matter. None of it matters. It's fun to talk about, fun to speculate, just like Fantasy Football is fun for football fans. None of it is real, none of it actually matters, but it's still fun to talk about.

So why is everyone acting like such an asshole?

Again, 2012 was a GREAT year for film and in any other "great" year, we would be touting how great of a year it is. But, in the age of super cynicism and asinine comments on twitter, we all must take sides. We treat films like highlander. There can only be one. We can only side with one film, fuck the rest. Go out of our way to trash a film just because we didn't like it enough. Regular people don't do this. Regular people don't care about the Oscars, but the people who make the Oscars their livelihood? Man, I've never seen a sadder state of people bitching about something that is so trivial.

You don't like Silver Linings Playbook? Fine. That doesn't mean you have to trash it completely. See, there are people, when they talk about the Oscars, they pretend that they're the only ones who are being fair. "I love Film X, but nobody in Hollywood does, that's fine, but it doesn't mean you have to trash it." Meanwhile, that person will trash every other film the Academy, or the guilds will award instead. Here's the reality...

Argo is an amazing film. It's brilliant. Just because it's a crowd pleaser, that doesn't take away from how powerful it is. It does everything right and it has a high re-watchability factor. Ben Affleck isn't just a sexy director, he's a great one. He's one of the better actor/directors I've ever seen. He has a real style, it's not just boring generic Hollywood style of filmmaking. He actually has a recognizable style and swagger in his films.

Silver Linings Playbook. I've seen it twice. The second time was a better viewing experience. It's an enjoyable film. It can be a bit wacky, but when I watched it the second time, I saw it as a modern day screwball comedy and it made so much more sense to me. It's a great film. Nobody involved in the film should be trashed. If Jennifer Lawrence wins Best Actress, it doesn't make her a bad person. She's not just the flavor of the week, she's a great actress. Winter's Bone should have proven that.

Lincoln is a great film too. Some people might think it's boring, I didn't think so. I was hooked from the beginning, but it does have some Spielbergian touches, it is a little light. It's unlike any other Spielberg film, but I don't think anyone could have made it the way he made it. With that, it has the credentials. It deserves respect like any other great 2012 film. I thought it would win Best Picture, but Argo's omnipotence in the awards race makes its ultimate victory hard to avoid. Argo looks poised to win best picture. At best, Spielberg will win Best Director. That seems fine to me. I thought Lincoln would run away with this, but Hollywood likes Argo more. It's as simple as that.

You know what? I like Argo more. I also like Zero Dark Thirty more than Argo, but I still think Argo is a top 5 film of the year. Whenever the Academy poaches into my top 10 or top 5, I don't give them shit for it. So Argo isn't my number 1 of the year, who gives a shit about my opinion? Who cares about some Oscar blogger's opinion? The only opinions that matter in awards season are the ones that actually get to vote.

Though I also get to vote during awards season. I vote for the Independent Spirit Awards. I'm kinda, sorta one of them! Hahahahaha!

But seriously though, I'm glad this has all happened. There are some great writers among the Oscar bloggers. As someone who has loved film for so long, loves writing about it, it's natural that I'd follow a few Oscar bloggers. A lot of them have unique perspective and they make the awards race even more fun than it is. But, this year, the pettiness has shone through. The lowness. I mean, it's gotten pathetic. The problem is that a lot of films came out this year that people are purely passionate about. They have made the mistake to trash the films they aren't as passionate about, in return. It doesn't have to work like that, it really doesn't. That's what pisses me off about this year's awards race. People who follow it closely are taking it too personally. Thanks to twitter, you can see these guys bicker back and forth at each other. It really makes you wonder where their heart really is. Do they care about film at all? Or do they just care about being right?

I don't give a shit about being right. I predicted Lincoln to win it all simply because I thought the Academy would go for it. It might not, Argo might win BP instead. No statistics can possibly predict this outcome. I think only Driving Miss Daisy won BP without getting nominated for Best Director. That was the 1989-90 Oscar season, that's a long time ago. This year's different because the nomination ballots came in before the guilds nomination. So, naturally, everything is going to be different. Argo will probably win Best Picture. Spielberg, Ang Lee, Michael Haneke... could all easily win Best Director. You know what though? I have no idea, legitimately. And that's awesome! An unpredictable Oscars should be what we all want. Do we really just want it so that the Oscars align perfectly with your predictions? I don't. But I'm sure there are many who do. After this year, I will never again take their opinions seriously.