Saturday, January 31, 2009

4 Reasons Why "Doubt" Is One of The Best Films of 2008

After seeing "Doubt" last week, I had to make an adjustment to my "Best & Worst 2008 - Films" list. It was tough to decide which film to take off of my "Best" list, ultimately I decided on removing "Quantum of Solace". Here is why....

1. To put it simply - "Doubt" is a great story. It's original, intense and universal. It's based on the Broadway play and is translated beautifully to the screen with the help of some of the best acting performances of the year. While most stories can be boiled down to "good vs evil" this one is "good vs good" or if you are extremely pessimistic (as I am...) it's "evil vs evil". Who do you trust more: a nun who is set in her old-fashion ways and is ruthless in protecting her beliefs or a Liberal, change-seeking priest that is accused of molesting an alter boy? Usually when one is accused of molesting a young boy, you tend to automatically see their guilt - but what if they are extremely trustworthy, caring, sensitive and charismatic? And what if their is no actual proof of such an occurrence? I guess you can say, I tend to appreciate films that ask questions rather than answer them and this film is a myriad of questions with zero answers.

2. Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams & Viola Davis and their powerhouse performances. Although Viola Davis will probably be the only award winner come Oscar night, all four Actors are incredible. Amy Adams shines as a naive nun who unintentionally causes a whole lot of drama. Although this is the last role where I will tolerate her as a vapid, wide-eyed ingenue (Junebug, Enchanted, Catch Me If You Can...She has perfected this type of role, I look forward to seeing her do more). Davis is in the film for only one scene (albeit a long one), I don't feel that she was as memorable as the rest of the cast. Hoffman is another actor that can really do no wrong- he has impeccable taste in choosing his roles. And despite Streep claiming that there is no "best actress" or "greatest actress of all time" at the SAG Awards - she certainly proves herself wrong every time.

3. Doubt versus Certainty. The theme of the film is a universal one and is a great theme to explore within the film medium. In the film we are left doubting everyone. There is no answer, although some may feel they "know" who was "right" and who was "wrong". The power of gossip is also explored, when we find out exactly what the catalyst was that caused Sister Aloysius to question Father Flynn's character it's gut-wrenching. To realize that one innocent mannerism or action can be interpreted the wrong way and essentially ruin your reputation and in turn your life is a powerful message.

4. Not in the Action or Comedy genre. After reviewing my top 10 favorite films, most are either action or comedic films (with the exception of Milk). I haven't been too impressed with drama's this year and even more so with horror films this year. So in order to add my favorite drama Doubt to my list something had to go. I had to lose Quantum of Solace simply because Wanted and The Dark Knight were far better action films. Sorry, Bond.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

10 Underrated Actors/Actresses

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about actors/actresses that don't get enough credit for their brilliant work. These are my thoughts on some actors/actresses that have given us several deserving performances and are yet have not been recognized by the Academy Awards...

1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt - His recent performance in Stop-Loss should have been nominated this past year, although the film was less than mediocre. This isn't the first time he has been completely overlooked. The biggest oversight was his performance in Mysterious Skin in 2004. The same year that Brokeback Mountain broke barriers and its performances were hailed as groundbreaking, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was inconceivably ignored for his portrayal of a gay teen prostitute who was molested as a child. His performance was disturbing, raw, intense, brave - it took me weeks to stop thinking about it. I couldn't believe that this was the same kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun. You can't deny how cute he was as a child actor in Angels in the Outfield or even when he tried the teen genre in 10 Things I Hate About You. It seems like it was out of the blue, but he has turned into an extremely dynamic actor. He continues to choose weighty and relevant material. I now consider him to be the greatest actor of my generation (we are the same age). Other great performances by him can be seen in Manic, Brick and The Lookout.

2. Mary Louise Parker - MLP is finally getting recognition for her work on one of my favorite shows ever - Weeds. But she never got the recognition she deserved for her work on such great movies as Fried Green Tomatoes, The Client (along with the also under-rated late Brad Renfro) and Boys on the Side.

3. Ryan Phillippe - O.k, I might be a little biased because physically he is absolute perfection. I promise that once you look past that, he is actually a great actor....just maybe not in anything you have ever heard of. At the same time he was distinguishing himself as the next male hottie choice for teens in films like Cruel Intentions and I Know What You Did Last Summer, he was also in a few lesser known films. He was outstanding in Little Boy Blue (a heartbreaking film), memorable in White Squall and downright hysterical in Homegrown. He's extremely versatile and sincere, it's a shame his looks (and the tabloid gossip from his split with Reese) overshadow his talent. He is consistent in picking challenging roles and working on great projects (Gosford Park, Igby Goes Down). Recently he has been getting a little bit of credit where it's due (one of the many great actors in the ensemble drama Crash, and held his own in Flags of Our Fathers and Breach). I'm really excited by the IMDB Cast list for the upcoming The Stanford Prison Experiment which casts him along with Benjamin McKenzie, Kieran Culkin and Giovanni Ribisi. I hope this film happens.

4. James McAvoy - Utterly brilliant in the BBC comedy series Shameless along with the BBC Mini-series State of Play (speaking of - the U.S film version looks incredibly disappointing!). James McAvoy is extremely unique because he has universal appeal. He's adorable, sexy, funny, smart and non-threatening. During the 2008 Oscar Roundtable interview he surprised everyone by being more charming and dashing than George Clooney (even Clooney himself was impressed). Plus he can act. Wanted was one of my favorite films last year solely based on his performance (although the accent was a bit off- I'm sure he will perfect it soon). He made Atonement watchable and held his own against the Oscar-winning performance of Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland. I know he has made some poor choices (Penelope, Really?), but he is a risk taker and that doesn't always work out, but is always greatly appreciated.

5. Sandra Bullock - This is not a joke. I have adored Sandra since her bus driving days. Her presence on-screen and off is always refreshing and uplifting. Sure she has perfected the Romantic Comedy genre, but she has also done a lot more than she gets credit for. She proved herself in Crash and even received Oscar-buzz for her portrayal of Harper Lee in Infamous. Besides, even if you classify her only as a comedic actress, she outshines most other leading ladies. I thoroughly enjoyed 2 Weeks Notice and Miss Congeniality. I can't say the same for the efforts of Kate Hudson and Jennifer Aniston.

6. Kelly Macdonald - I think the best word to describe Kelly Macdonald is delightful. I first noticed her in Gosford Park, but then started seeing her more and more in some amazing television performances - a short, but memorable performance in Alias and stand-out work in State of Play (along with Mcavoy). I think others finally started taking notice when she surprisingly won the Emmy for her performance in Girl in the Cafe (great film). However, she was completely overlooked for her work in No Country For Old Men as Carla Jean Moss. Her authentic Southern American accent alone should have garnered her an Oscar nod (she's from Glasgow!). I adore her and I hope she will continue to gain respect in the industry.

7. Gael Garcia Bernal - Some of my favorite films - Amores Perros, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Crimen Del Padre Almaro El, The Motorcycle Diaries, Bad Education, The King, The Science of Sleep and Babel. Is it a coincidence that Bernal is in all of these films? Maybe. Honestly, I don't think it is - instead I think he has an impeccable taste in films and I trust that a film will be worth my time if he is in it and I can always expect to see a great performance.

8. Evan Rachel Wood - The queen of independent film. I have enjoyed so many of her performances (although I didn't really like her in the much praised Thirteen). She can be dark and portray angst without being contrived or stereotypical. She always chooses unique roles in interesting films such as Down in the Valley, Running With Scissors, King of California and my personal favorite of her films The Life Before Her Eyes. I didn't see The Wrestler yet (!), but from what I saw in the trailer her performance looks emotive...I'm prepared to cry.

9. Sarah Polley- Back in 1999 an amazing film came out called Go. Sarah Polley was the star and she shined, I really thought she was the next great hollywood star. Instead Sarah has been quietly working in lesser known films but still giving extraordinary performances. I can't really say any of the films are worth watching - My Life Without Me, The Secret Life of Words and The I Inside (also with Phillippe) were all pretty dull but she showed promise in the remake Dawn of the Dead. She also showed she has talent behind the screen by writing and directing Away From Her (which she did receive an Oscar nod for Adapted Screenplay). Hopefully, she will stick around and pick some better films to showcase her talent (or write them!).

10. Michael Pena - Out of all the outstanding performances in Crash his was the most memorable. That scene with his daughter just breaks my heart EVERY time. I was upset that Matt Dillon was the only actor that really got any credit for the film, when Michaels performance was clearly superior. He also stands-out in other films such as World Trade Center and The Lucky Ones. Plus he looks hilarious in the upcoming Observe and Report - I almost didn't recognize him.

Monday, January 26, 2009

5 Surprises, Delights & Disappointments with the Oscar nominations


1. The rise of The Reader - Once the announcement for Best Supporting Actress excluded the favored to win Kate Winslet, I assumed The Reader would be excluded from the rest of the nominations. I was obviously wrong. It garnered a total of 5 nominations including Best ACTRESS for Kate Winslet, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography & the biggest shock - Best Picture. I presumed the Best Picture nominees to be The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionaire with the fifth nominee a toss-up between the beloved Wall-E, The Dark Knight, Doubt or Revolutionary Road. Stephen Daldry's nom for directing is also a bit surprising because he is now 3 for 3 in this category (he was also nominated for his first 2 films Billy Elliot and The Hours) which has never been accomplished before. I suspect the only win for the film will be for Winslet. This is the 6th (!!) nomination for the 33 year old actress. If she keeps going at this rate, she will surely beat Meryl Streep's 15 nominations.

2. Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road was shut-out of every major category except Best Supporting Actor? His performance was superb, but i didn't expect it to be nominated.

3. Doubt scores four Acting nods, but no Best Picture? - I just saw this film 2 days ago (a post about the film will arrive shortly..) and I am genuinely surprised it was overlooked. It will definitely be added to my 10 favorite films of 2008 (replacing Quantum of Solace). I suspect the films only win will be for Viola Davis in the Best Supporting Actress category although I think Amy Adams is more deserving.

4. The Dark Knight receives a Best Editing nod - Considering that the only flaw I found with this film was that it needed to have about 40 minutes edited OUT of the's a bit ironic right?

5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button leads the pack with 13 nominations - Considering it hasn't actually won any major award, despite being nominated for several- I thought the Academy would overlook it. My guess is that in the end it will be 1 for 13 and that will be in the Best Makeup category.


1. The inclusion of Melissa Leo - She was robbed of an Oscar nomination in 2003 for her work in 21 Grams, then again in 2005 for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. She is one of the busiest working actresses around(check out her IMDB profile - she has 10 movies listed as completed or in-production for this year alone). I haven't seen Frozen River yet, but I am delighted that she is finally being recognized for her incredible talent.

2. RDJ's comedic role now an Academy Award nominated role - Critic's and Film Experts have been talking about a possible nomination for Robert Downey Jr.'s turn as method actor Kirk Lazarus since the film opened this past summer, but I didn't believe it would actually happen. What really surprised me is that RDJ has only been nominated once before (for Chaplin in 1993). While most people consider 2008 as his "comeback", he never really went away. Recently he has been in some of my favorite films such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, A Scanner Darkly, Zodiac and A Guide to Recognizing your Saints (in which he also Produced). I'm happy to see his success with this role and the Iron Man films, but stop calling it a "comeback".

3. Milk scores 8 nominations - Obviously from my previous posts, this is one of my favorite films of the year, but I began to get nervous when it was practically shut-out at the Golden Globes. I know Slumdog Millionaire is favored to win the big award, but I am hopeful that Sean Penn and Dustin Lance Black win for Best Actor & Best Original Screenplay respectively.

4. The Changeling nominated for Art Direction & Cinematography - I didn't really enjoy this film, but I have to admit it was beautifully crafted although some credit should have been given to Mr. Eastwood for Directing it.

5. There are no clear winners! The show might get interesting... - Usually the film with the most nominations is the favorite to win, but with Benjamin Button it doesn't look so good. It's pretty clear that Slumdog Millionaire is favored in the Best Picture category, but it has no nominated performances, while the film nominated in the most acting categories (Doubt) isn't nominated for Best Picture. I think it's a tough call in all categories except Ledger for Best Supporting Actor for his brilliant performance in The Dark Knight. He is the only "lock" in my opinion which makes for an exciting show.


1. Josh Brolin nominated for Milk instead of W. - He was terrific as Dan White in Milk, but his turn as George W. Bush in W. was truly sublime. Plus the Best Supporting Actor Category has Heath Ledger as the clear winner already, if he was in Best Actor category he might have a chance at the trophy.

2. Colin Farrell's Golden Globe win for In Bruges didn't translate to an Oscar nomination - Like I said - Heath Ledger owns the Best Supporting Actor category. But there were several performances that should have been nominated - Farrell being one of them. (The other's being - Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Stop-Loss and Emile Hirsch in Milk).

3. The exclusion of Sam Mendes & Christopher Nolan in Directing categories - Revolutionary Road & The Dark Knight are both incredibly beautiful, well-crafted, superbly acted films which is a direct reflection of their creators.

4. Wanted was robbed! - O.k - I know a film like Wanted isn't exactly Oscar material, but it was visually stunning. It's only nominations were for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. It should have been nominated for Cinematography, Art Direction, Editing, and at least for VISUAL EFFECTS! (only 3 films were nominated in this category - The curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight and Iron Man - which means there is plenty of room for Wanted and maybe even Cloverfield?).

5. So was Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist - Again - not "Oscar material". However, it received mostly positive reviews and Ari Graynor gained a great deal of attention for her performance. It would have been lovely if Ari received a nod for Best Supporting Actress and if Lorene Scafaria was nominated for adapting the novel into a such a touching and entertaining film.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Golden Globes: 8 Best Moments, 11 Worst Moments

The Golden Globes is my my favorite Awards show. It combines Film and Television, separates Drama and Comedy and doesn't bore us with the technological awards. Here are my best and worst moments of last nights show.


1. Kate Winslet stealing the show- Her surprise win for the shows first award, Best Supporting Actress definitely created the tone for the rest of the show, but she officially stole the show when she beat out Anne Hathaway for Best Actress in a Drama. Considering Winslet has been nominated for 7 Golden Globes (including this year) and 5 Oscars, it's about time she wins. And who doesn't love hearing her proclaim her everlasting love for Leo?

2. Anne Hathaway not winning- Speaking of the Best Actress in a Drama, I am pleased that Anne Hathaway didn't win. I saw Rachel Getting Married and I don't see what the big fuss is about. As someone that absolutely hates weddings, watching this film was the perfect torture for me. That aside, her performance was satisfying but not award-winning. Critics seem to be amazed that she jumped from the squeaky clean role model in The Princess Diaries to this self-centered, intolerable addict with a tragic past in Rachel Getting Married. There were several films in between that helped her grow as an actress. I think she did an admirable job in The Devil Wears Prada and she held her own against Steve Carell in Get Smart, so it wasn't really a shock that she can actually act. (Oh and I won't hold Havoc against her).

3. Heath Ledger/Chris Nolan - I don't think the Hollywood Foreign Press really had a choice with the Best Supporting Actor category this year. Hands down best performance of the year. Christopher Nolan has the daunting task of accepting Heath's awards...will the Oscar be next?

4. Showing In Bruges/Colin Farrell some love - This film is one of my top 10 favorite films of the year, but unfortunately has been snubbed by most awards. I didn't really expect a win, so I was super thrilled when Colin Farrell won for Best Actor in a Comedy. I have always said "Colin Farrell can act! If you don't believe me watch Tigerland". It's one of my favorite films (definitely in the top 50) and Colin's performance was outstanding. I think he just got caught up in Hollywood and ended up making some really crappy choices (Alexander, S.W.A.T, Miami Vice), hopefully his latest film choices (Cassandra's Dream, Pride & Glory, In Bruges) reflect his future career in films.

5. Laura Linney - Absolute perfection. She can never do wrong in my book, even when she is in a bad film - she still has this grace and elegance about her that is inspiring. I didn't see John Adams yet, but I can confidently say she deserved the award.

6. January Jones gets a nomination for Mad Men - Her performance on that show outshines her male counterparts, but is usually ignored. She didn't need to win, the acknowledgement is enough for now.

7. Mickey Rourke winning Best Actor in a Drama - I didn't see The Wrestler and I didn't plan on seeing it, but then I saw the trailer before Revolutionary Road and I felt my eyes begin to water - the actual film might make me cry (not very easy to do Mickey!)

8. The speeches - From Tina Fey addressing her Internet haters to Mickey Rourke thanking "his dogs" the speeches were mostly amusing and brief.


1. Rumer Willis - I don't like trashing a 20 year old girl, but even Demi noticed her hunching.

2. Michael C. Hall not winning - His portrayal of Dexter should win every award. EVER.

3. The awkward Star Trek promo - Yes, we know Cris Pine is "Kirk" and Zachary Pinto is "Spock". We don't need the introduction.

4. Drew Barrymore - We expect more from you Drew. Her and Jessica Lang were attached at the hip and high on life (hopefully.) but it was really her hair that seemed the most absurd - combined with the dress and makeup she looked like she came straight from an 80's prom slasher flick.

5. The Jonas Bros - Who let them in?

6. Ricky Gervais not hosting - The Golden Globes doesn't have a host, which is part of the appeal. However, after his hilarious rant at the Emmy's - they really should have reconsidered before he is scooped up for the next big award show. They did have the common sense to let him present, in which he proved to be captivating and witty. Plus he knows his stuff- as he reminds us of Kate Winslet's hilarious cameo in Extra's - "do a holocaust movie and you will win awards"... And that she did.

7. Tina Fey winning Best Actress in a Comedy - Don't get me wrong, I am a huge Tina Fey fan. She is a brilliant writer and comedian. However, she is essentially representing a stereotyped version of herself in 30 Rock- how difficult can it be? Now Mary-Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin in Weeds, that is award-winning acting.

8. Who is responsible for Renee Zellwegger? - She gets more unrecognizable every time I see her, but now she is officially creepy. That Caroline Herrera (I'm guessing - this is usually her designer of choice right?) fishtail, see-thru number was horrendous and her eyes are disappearing. Someone help her.

9. Tracey Morgan accepting for 30 Rock - He's the worst part of that show!!! Please don't let his annoying demeanor keep you from watching it, because apart from him and Jane Krakowski, the show is pretty good.

10. Mickey Rourke winning Best Actor in a Drama - I know I already listed this as a "best moment", but I can't imagine his performance being better than the incredible Sean Penn in Milk.

11. Speaking of Milk.... - where was the love? Hopefully the Academy doesn't make the same mistake.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

6 Thoughts I Had While Watching "Revolutionary Road"

I just can't decide whether I liked Revolutionary Road or not, but here are some thoughts I had while watching it....

1. It should have been adapted into a play - I know I would have enjoyed it as a play. The internal struggles within the characters and with each other would have been more effective on stage, live. The dialogue is heavy, and I don't feel like the film medium gives it justice.

2. Sam Mendes certainly has a sense of style - This felt like a "Sam Mendes" film - and that is a compliment. It had the same beauty, gracefulness and realism that American Beauty had, yet it didn't feel like the same movie-it felt fresh. It's subtle yet bold, it's real yet dramatic, it's confined yet universal. I look forward to more of his films.

3. Leo, Kate & Kathy - It's not their fault that they were in the greatest film ever. But it is distracting to have them in another film together. I constantly found my thoughts drifting to Jack & Rose..."I'll never let go.."

4. The Case Against Marriage - Now I know the film's main commentary is about the American tragedy that is the suburbs - the repression and conformity of America, but I think that the bigger American tragedy is the institution of marriage. Now without boring you with my own personal political views, the film definitely makes the case against marriage for me.

5. The Ending - **MAJOR SPOILER ALERT** The film should have ended when Frank and April wave goodbye as he leaves for work. The scene prior to this last wave is so creepy, it gives you the sense of immediate doom. Why not end it there? Did we need to know that she gives herself an abortion and dies? No. The film didn't need closure. If it ended at the wave, it would have left the audience wondering what horrible act does April commit? Did she kill herself? Did she poison that last breakfast for Frank? Or does she continue this fake, creepy act until they grow old and die together?

6. Who is that guy? - His name is Michael Shannon. He seems to appear in every movie and is always superbly creepy.

5 Reasons Why "The Spirit" Was a Huge Disappointment

1. Because Sin City was so good. Sin City was my favorite movie of 2005 and dare I say one of the coolest movies ever. It is a visually stunning film, with a modern and innovative story and a brilliant cast. With that in mind I expected Frank Miller's directing of The Spirit to be just as spectacular. Maybe that was my first mistake. NO, I wasn't expecting another Sin City - that is what the sequel is for, but I was expecting something exciting, something...unexpected. Ok, so the film is visually stunning and is in-line with Frank Miller's graphic sense of "style", but it seemed more like a cheap rip-off of Sin City instead of an original creation. And yet the visual aspect of the film is the only good thing it has....

2. Gabriel Macht. Now I am one of the very few people who knew of Gabriel Macht before this movie and would actually consider myself to be a "Gabriel Macht fan", while most people would say "who?" He has been relegated to playing "the other guy" in movies like The Good Shepard, The Recruit and American Outlaws, yet he always seemed to stand out to me. Imagine my delight when I heard he would be starring in Frank Miller's next film! Now after seeing him as a lead actor, I realize being "the other guy" might be where Gabe belongs because he certainly can't carry a film. Where was his charisma, his essence, his spirit if you will? Plus with his face behind that ridiculous eye mask you can't even see how hot he is.

3. The dreadfulness that is Scarlett Johannson. I never jumped on the Scar Jo bandwagon, but i have enjoyed her recent collaborations with Woody Allen (Matchpoint, Scoop and Vicky Christina Barcelona). Yet, Allen seems to be the only director that can get any kind of emotion out of the actress. She is worse than dreadful in this film, it's laughable - and not in that it's so cheesy it's good kind of way. I'm aware that her presence in the film is mere eye candy and that her ability to act isn't pertinent, but while some actresses pull this off gracefully - like Jessica Alba in Sin City, Scarlett seems to even bore herself in this film.

4. Predictable and unoriginal - The two worst things you can say about a film. This film, although tries to fool you into thinking you are watching something new, is in fact the same ole' superhero movie. Hero vs. villain. Plain and simple.

5. Waste of time - I rarely say this about any film, because as a movie lover - even the bad films are worth watching at least once. I saw this movie in a fairly large theater yet only about 20 people filled the seats and by the end there were only 5 left. During the absurdity of the Nazi scene (yes, there is a Nazi scene), I even considered joining the others by walking out, but having never walked out of a movie before, decided against it. However I wish I had that hour and 48 minutes of my life back. It definitely is added to my worst films of 2008 list...