Sunday, January 29, 2012

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Higher Ground - I have been in love with Vera Farmiga ever since I saw her in The Departed and have been following her career very faithfully ever since. I was really happy that she was making her directorial debut, but I must admit that the religious theme of this film is not exactly my thing. The story follows Corrine, a woman who through a series of events ends up in a very tight-knit religious community (I would describe it as very cult-like but others may disagree). The beginning was a little slow but Vera was conveniently able to cast her younger sister, Taissa Farmiga (from American Horror Story), as her younger self - which was a brilliant move. The film actually became quite interesting when she starts to question religion and her role in this religious community (it starts when her clothing is questioned and she is told to "not teach men" but really develops more when her friend, Annika, develops a brain tumor - that leaves her mentally disabled which was described as "the will of God"). As weird as it sounds, I actually identified with Corrine simply because I am fascinated by (and almost jealous of) people that have faith in things - I feel like life must be much simpler this way. When Corrine ultimately denounces this community - she gives a really beautiful sermon-like speech that was absolute perfection. She never denounces religion or even spirituality because she states that sometimes God has been there for her but it's the times that he has not been there for her that has led her to lead her life differently. This is definitely a film that will stay with me for a while, which is always a welcomed result.

2. The Ides of March - I was disappointed in myself for not catching this film in the theaters especially since I had been anticipating it for so long. I feel like once it hit the theaters, I was already over it - the reviews weren't spectacular and everyone that I knew that saw it said " was ok". I think it was actually a good thing that my expectations had been lowered because I really liked it (not enough to make it into my "best" list though....). No, the story wasn't that original - set around a political campaign, of course a scandal is expected. The reason that it still worked was mostly based on the solid acting performances from every actor along with a few things that weren't expected (at least for me) and it moved things along pretty quickly. George Clooney plays a Democratic presidential candidate with such ease that I actually thought I would totally vote for this guy (too bad that doesn't happen in real life) while Ryan Gosling is his Campaign Press Secretary - also a seemingly good guy, so when they let the evils that come along with politics get the best of them it is disheartening and perfectly cynical.

3. The Tempest - Another film that I was looking forward to, but this one came as a bit of a disappointment. I was excited for a female adaptation of Shakespeare because it is very much a "mans world", but Julie Taymor created a visually stunning, but ultimately a very messy film. 'The Tempest' is probably amongst my least favorite of all Shakespeare plays so that doesn't help. The play is a bit over-dramatic and long-winded, about Prospero who is banished to an island with his daughter. He decides to get revenge on those who brought about his misfortune by causing a ship-wreck on the island. The play is part romance, part comedy, part tragedy in typical Shakespeare fashion - but it isn't all that interesting or memorable. I was disappointed that the film didn't give it any new depth or direction - it had no voice of it's own. It also felt very stagey (is that a word?) and precise. Helen Mirren was obviously great, along with the rest of the cast. At first, I was confused by the acting choices- *Cough* Russel Brand *Cough*- but then it made sense in context (because Russel is the perfect fit for a typical Shakespeare "jester" character). I just enjoy when films make Shakespeare interesting again - and this one did not.

4. The Devil's Double - The only reason I had any interest in this film was because I heard such amazing things about Dominic Cooper's performance as both Uday Hussein and his 'fiday' (body double). That is a tough thing to pull off and I think Cooper did do a pretty good job (not as good as the praise...but still noteworthy). I absolutely loathed the film - it was very one-sided about the son of a Dictator who basically represents the ultimate evil - he rapes young girls and also a woman on the day of her wedding, kills people impulsively, is obsessive, maniacal, obnoxious and basically an all around creep. He declares things like "Allah gives me nothing" and "I love cunt more than God", which is probably pretty insulting to a lot of people. I wanted to scream at the film - WE GET IT...HE IS A BAD PERSON...GET TO THE POINT! But that was the problem with the film - it had no point. It actually becomes quite comical - almost a parody of itself. I would recommend it to acting enthusiasts, but everyone else should stay far away.

5. Moneyball - I have to say, I avoided watching this film for personal reasons - I knew that it would remind me of an ex-boyfriend. He was not just any baseball fan - he was the ultimate fan. Not just of the sport but of the "business" of baseball (he even got a job working for Major League Baseball). Anytime we would go to games, while others were cheering on their favorite players - he would talk about statistics, the value of each player, how every game effected the entire year. I can't say that I was all that interested, but I can't help but be inspired by his passion (and I'm sure I often bored him to death with all my "film" talk). It's sort of a shame that we aren't together to witness the 2 things we love the most come together so beautifully. Brad Pitt was sublime (might be my favorite performance of 2011....definitely a tough one between Ryan Gosling in Drive). Pitt portrays Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's, a team that is struggling financially. The film sets up the "underdog" mentality from the beginning - they are a simply a team that isn't going to win. Along with a Ivy league graduate, played surprisingly to perfection by Jonah Hill - they come up with a way to beat the system and turn the entire sport upside down. They start relying on statistics to build a team of players that are more likely to get on base (and therefore score) for bargain prices. At first, it is a bit of a mess but once the system starts to work the team is unstoppable (they win 20 games in a row - which I believe is still the record). These 2 guys changed the entire sport - a sport that has been around since the Mid-18th Century. It's a lovely and inspiring film about how with enough passion and determination anything can be accomplished. It definitely moves in to the empty #9 slot in my top 10 films from 2011.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

3 Reasons Why 'Haywire' Is Both Awesome and Awful

1. Gina Carano is both awesome and awful - Usually I am a fan of a hot chick that can kick the shit out of her male counterparts. In theory, it was a great idea to cast former MMA champion Gina Carano in the role because this is probably the first time in the history of these types of films that I actually believed that this girl could actually take down all of these men. Totally believable and totally awesome to watch. However, her acting was offensive. It was not all her fault - her character had very little depth and I will even give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she was directed to deliver every single line with the exact same monotonous tone (I did read that they altered her voice to make it deeper - which if true was the ultimate mistake and totally not her fault). I just felt like she had very little human quality to her, so ultimately I didn't really root for her. You know there is a problem when Channing Tatum isn't the worst actor in your film (I kid, I kid - I actually have been a fan of his since A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. It's just fun to make fun of him...) Also, whoever decided to put Gina in cornrow braids for the last 1/2 hour of the film should be fired - totally brings her hotness factor to about a zero.

2. The fight scenes are both awesome and awful - Again, watching her fight was definitely the highlight of the film. I also love that most of the fighting was hand to hand combat (not many weapons used at all). What I didn't like was that most of the fighting seemed staged and way too choreographed. Plus each fight was very similar to the previous one - it just became a bit tedious to sit through (which is why I think several people walked out of the theater - I think I counted a total of 6 walk-outs).

3. The plot is both awesome and awful - Mix an Alias type plot with the sleek style of Steven Soderbergh and you can officially call me entertained. The plot wasn't exactly original but it is still right up my alley- She is part of a mission that is a set-up against her, she figures it out and takes revenge on all involved in the double-cross. I just wish that the plot didn't have as many holes as it did and that they spent more time on the revenge than on the back-story. The last 20 minutes were too predictable and really didn't present us with any danger or excitement. It was just a case of a little too much style not enough substance.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oscar Nominations: The Good, The Bad and The Snubbed

The Good:

Midnight in Paris is nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. Amongst the 9 Best Picture nominations it would be my pick.

• Brad Pitt was awesome in Moneyball which normally doesn’t surprise me but this was such a different role for him. The film would not have been on anyone's radar if it wasn't for him.

• Overall, the Best Actress category is full of talented women so I can’t complain – It is a bit surprising that Tilda Swinton was not among them after all of the amazing things that I have read, but I am actually happy that Rooney Mara snuck in there (still haven’t seen the Fincher version – but of all the clips I have seen she nails the role of Lisbeth).

• As much as I hate The Help, the acting talent definitely deserves all of the recognition they are getting.

Bridesmaids is one of my favorite films of 2011, but I never thought it was Oscar worthy. I do think that Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo successfully wrote a comedy that was absolutely hilarious, while also having relateable characters and a heart that most comedies lack so I am satisfied with their nomination. Also, I adore Melissa McCarthy –so I wont complain about her nomination either.

• I am still not quite sure how I feel about The Tree of Life, I know I didn’t like it as much as most film critics. I will admit that the film is beautiful, poetic and visionary – Terrence Malick’s passion for art and film is evident. It is nice to see someone like that nominated for an Oscar.

• Something for Warrior!!!! Nick Nolte snuck in a Best Supporting Actor nomination – I only wish that Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy had snuck in as well.

The Bad:

The Help was a painful experience.

• Judging from the comments on my Twitter feed, War Horse was painful as well.

• I’ve never read anything but mediocre reviews about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (aside from the performance from the kid and Max von Sydow).

• Michelle Williams was a lock (that I disagree with) but Kenneth Branagh? Really? I barely remember him at all in My Week With Marilyn.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon was nominated for 3 awards. Enough said.

The Snubs:

Drive should have been nominated in pretty much every category. Best Actor (Ryan Gosling), Best Supporting Actor (Albert Brooks), Best Director (Nicolas Winding Refn), Best Adapted Screenplay (Hossein Amini) and Best Picture. It’s an insult to the film industry that it didn’t make it into at least one of these category’s (It did score a measly ONE for Sound Editing).

• Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were not nominated for the amazing music they created for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?? I can't comprehend that one.

• One of my favorites, Super 8, was a guaranteed snub for Best Picture and Best Director (I would also argue that Elle Fanning should have been nominated for Supporting Actress – she was brilliant) but I assumed it would get a visual effects nod.

• I didn’t see Shame yet but based on their previous collaboration (Hunger) and all of the amazing things I have read, Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender were deserving.

• Charlize Theron was really the only reason I would recommend Young Adult to anyone. I was mesmerized by her (she should have replaced Michelle Williams).

• I know Another Earth was not everyone’s cup of tea, but you can’t argue that Brit Marling and Mike Cahill wrote a beautiful, inspiring, original screenplay.

• I would have jumped for joy if Joseph Gordon-Levitt got a nomination for 50/50. My second favorite Actor performance of the year (behind Ryan Gosling for Drive). Also Will Reiser should be nominated for the screenplay.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Golden Globes: 7 Best and Worst

A few years ago I wrote a blog about the Golden Globes being my favorite awards show (they award both television and film; they split comedy and drama etc), but last year I was really disturbed by the films and acting that they deemed nomination worthy (i.e 'Burlesque', Piper Perabo). This year the nominations weren't *as* bad although they missed quite a few of my favorites of 2011 ('Drive', Aaron Paul, Courtney Cox). I don't think I can really take this awards ceremony very seriously until they start re-thinking their nominations. Here are my best and worst from this years telecast:


1. Best Win - That is a tie between Idris Elba for Luther and Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris. I've never seen Luther but Idris never got enough recognition for his work as Stringer Bell on The Wire, so I will accept this as compensation. Midnight in Paris is among my favorite films of 2011 but mostly for the beautifully inspiring screenplay - it was probably the only time during the awards that I shook my head in agreement.

2. Best Loss - The Help losing Best Drama. I really don’t understand the praise for this film. While, I certainly don’t think The Descendants was the Best Drama of the year I was rooting for anything to take the steam away from The Help.

3. Best reference to what I call 'The Tina Fey Syndrome' - Tina Fey! While presenting with Jane Lynch they spoke about how different they were from their characters – then Tina jokingly couldn’t come up with anything….because she plays a characterized version of herself on 30 Rock. I love Tina but I never understood why she got so much praise for “Liz Lemmon” when she wrote the character based on her own life – she’s not exactly stretching her limits.

4. Best Presenters - A tie between Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy’s very adorable and really well done jingle and Seth Rogen – who probably made me laugh the hardest with his announcement that he is hiding a “massive erection” while presenting with Kate Beckinsale. Then he really won me over by sarcastically describing My Week With Marilyn as “hysterical”.

5. Best Ricky Gervais moment - His opening was decent – not as good as last year, but I think expectations were high…maybe a little too high. I think it hurt his whole shtick that most people played along – Jodie Foster smiled and nodded as he joked about her “beaver” while Johnny Depp gave in to the fact that he hasn’t even seen The Tourist either. I think my favorite moment was when he called Colin Firth a racist - although it would be funnier if it was someone who was actually a known racist.

6. Best Speech - Claire Danes redeemed herself for all the speeches she gave for her Temple Grandin performance were she continually said the words “like” “awesome” and “um”. This time she remembers back to her teen years, winning the award for My So-Called Life and how she forgot to thank her parents - then she gives a heartfelt shout-out to her mom in the audience. I also enjoyed Sophia Vergara saying her speech in Spanish with Steve Levitan “translating” – brought some much needed laughter to the end of a very long show.

7. Best Dressed - The ever important question of the night...right? There were a lot of amazing dresses to be seen - like the warrior inspired dress that Nicole Kidman was wearing and the really sexy, but still classy dress that Rooney Mara wore. My two favorite looks of the night were Kristen Wiig and Emma Stone. Wiig stood out in a low-cut nude number - it was simple but still really elegant, while Emma gets the "most-improved" award (last year she looked horrendous with the blond hair, overly tanned skin and bright orange dress) - this year she rocked a gorgeous Lanvin dark purple and red dress complete with an unexpected eagle belt buckle.


1. Worst Win - Michelle Williams secured her spot as an Oscar nominee but I really disagree with pretty much everyone. She did a really good impression of Marilyn Monroe but it wasn't worthy of all the praise. I would have been more ok with the award if she was nominated in the Drama category - since this is the one awards show that splits the Dramatic and Comedic acting I think this category should go to someone who was actually funny - like Kristen Wiig.

2. Worst Loss - What does HFPA have against Breaking Bad? Seriously, the show was snubbed for recognition for the past 3 years, along with Aaron Paul. I would also argue that Giancarlo Esposito created one of the most evil villains in recent memory and deserved a supporting actor recognition as well. For the past 2 years, they had the good sense to nominate Bryan Cranston (who has won 3 Emmy’s for his brilliant portrayal of Walter White) but he lost to Steve Buscemi last year but that wasn’t as much a punch to the face as this year’s winner – Kelsey Grammer? For real? I get that the Golden Globes usually pick “new” shows – and if they recognized Breaking Bad from the beginning I might not be as outraged. Bryan Cranston should never be on the losing end of any award. Period.

3. Worst reference to what I call 'The Tina Fey Syndrome' - It was sort of ironic that Matt Le Blanc won for his portrayal of... Matt Le Blanc. I’ve never seen Episodes and to be honest I have never heard anything good about it. Is Matt funny? Probably. Is is award-worthy? My answer is a resounding NO!. I feel the same way about Louis C.K – should he get a writing award for Louie? Hell yeah – that show is downright genius but when he was nominated for an acting Emmy, I definitely questioned it. I also don't think Zooey Deshanel should be getting any praise because I see no differentiation between her and her New Girl character.

4. Worst Presenters - I would like to go with Rob Lowe and Julianne Moore but that wasn't really their I will choose everyone else!! Seriously, everyone was really boring.

5. Worst Ricky Gervais Moment - Making a “like a virgin” joke about Madonna??? There are so many things to make fun of Madonna for – this one is just simply played out. Also, her “comeback” jokes were pretty unbearable to watch.

6. Worst Speech - Meryl Streep – I know everyone made fun of her for “acting surprised” but I actually think she expected Viola Davis would win. But then, she realized that she forgot her glasses so she couldn’t read her speech – however she wasn’t holding a speech and she sort of implied that it was on the monitor…which would just be weird. The whole thing struck me as odd – as was the camera panning to the celebs in the audience passing her glasses up to the stage only to have David Fincher keep them (what a dick)

7. Worst Dressed - There were a lot of flops like Jessica Beil wearing an antique wedding dress, the usually trendy Julie Bowen sporting a princess look that was much too immature for her and Sarah Michelle Geller who let her 2 year old daughter pick out the dress (which is totally cute so we might just have to let it slide…right?). Hands down Zooey Deshanel was the worst dressed in her “custom Prada”. Shame on them for letting her leave the house like that. Also, as much as I like the idea of Lea Michele’s dress – In the end it looks like something is growing on her body and about to suffocate her. I was having a panic attack just looking at her. Plus the hair

and makeup make her look older.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thoughts on 6 Films

1. Margin Call - This is what Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps should have been - intense and intellectual. Films about economics usually go right over my head, as parts of this one did. Yet, I understood the complexity of the situation - set in an investment firm during the early stages of the financial crisis, I understood how the decisions that were made effected the entire country and I understood the attitude of "being first" and that was enough for me to enjoy the film. It is led by a fantastic group of actors: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci and Zachary Quinto (I thought I would argue that Penn Badgley was horribly miscast and a weak link - but he was actually pretty decent). There was heavy dialogue, but it moved rather quickly. I wouldn't call it fantastic, but it held my attention much more than films like this usually do.

2. One Day - Not nearly as bad as I was expecting but I still see it as a disappointing film because the idea has a lot of potential. The film is set to show the different stages in the relationship between a couple on the same day over many years. The concept is genius (I will have to read the book soon), but the film lacked appeal - mostly due to the lack of chemistry between Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. Their "epic" romance just didn't work for me from the very first encounter, so I never invested in them as a couple. It was a bit ambitious in portraying 20 years worth of living in under 2 hours - showing how they change individually as well as a couple. I would love to see a film that does this well.

3. Warrior - Probably the most surprising film of 2011. I never intended on seeing it, having no interest in Mixed Martial Arts - I automatically assumed I would be bored to death. Then, I read several amazing things about the film and it kept moving up on my Netflix queue. Sure, it followed some of the cliche's of these types of movies but I was surprised that a film like this could have such emotion and heart, while also leaving me feeling completely conflicted on the outcome. I think the less you know about the film, the more enjoyable it will be so I won't even go into the plot, but I will say that it is one of the best films I have seen all year and that shocked the hell out of me. I am surprised it is being ignored for awards - both Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy were nomination worthy, as was Nick Nolte.

4. Your Highness - Hands down the dumbest film I have seen from 2011 (no, I didn't see Bucky Larson). I am surprised that someone thought this would be a good idea - I assume they were going for a Princess Bride type comedy but it failed miserably. I really don't think I am a fan of Danny McBride - he plays the same pathetic loser type character in every film and it is really not funny. James Franco has been amazing (Freaks and Geeks, 127 Hours), but sometimes he overacts (Spider-man), other times he looks like he is unaware of his surroundings and just reading off of cue cards (like this film). Overall, the film was just plain stupid and even if that is what you are in the mood for (as I was) it is still unsatisfying.

5. The Help - I am in complete confusion as to why this film is getting so much praise. Sure, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis were awesome (but that was to be expected...right?) but that doesn't save the whole film from being boring, having a predictable plot and an awful preachy tone. I hate when films reduce the complexity of situations by making one person the "pure evil" one - in this film this was portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard (and nope..I still don't like her...she is such a BLAH actress). She literally had no redeeming qualities which was ultimately the biggest problem of the film. Also, there was a lot of pointless subplots (like Skeeters boyfriend issues) and Celia's entire story arc. I never thought I would hate Emma Stone in anything, but her character was annoyingly idealistic. The movie was literally painful to sit through.

6. The Art of Getting By - Teen angst can be somewhat interesting and entertaining sometimes, but no so much in this film. Freddie Highmore plays sort of the outcast teenager but he doesn’t seem to have any reason for being an outcast - he just chooses to be this way. I sort of get his "depression" about the pointlessness of existence ("we all end up dying alone" as he claims in the beginning) but he does have passion for art – and really that is the point of existence (to find what you are passionate about). Why the film reduces the meaning of life to finding love (especially amongst teenagers) instead of passion is beyond me. Emma Roberts is adorable and I enjoy her in anything (I pretend that Valentines Day doesn't exist) I know people freaked out at seeing child actor Freddie Highmore as a teenager but watching Michael Angarano as an adult is more disturbing for me (he was Jack’s adorable son on Will & Grace). I think the film relied heavily on Freddie's shoulders, but I think he was a bit of a disappointment - absolutely zero on screen charisma. I think I would have enjoyed the film more with someone else in the part. Although the whole "anything is possible" ending would have still irked me nonetheless, so I guess it doesn't matter. Also, I find it nearly impossible to take Alicia Silverstone seriously.

3 Thoughts on 'Young Adult'

1. For a film written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman it is rather dull - I am a huge fan of this collaboration (Juno), but especially of Jason Reitman. His film Thank You for Smoking is one of my favorite comedies - it is sarcastic, perfectly cynical and intelligent. Anyone who expects these things from this film will be disappointed. The plot has a lot of potential but ended up really flat. It tells the story of Mavis, an "author" of a young adult book series - in theory she is successful but the opening sequence of the film rejects this theory by presenting her as a bit of mess (hungover, apartment a mess, adorable dog that she doesn't take care of). Mavis decides that in order to get her life in order, she needs to return to her hometown and get her ex-boyfriend back. She believes her high school days were her "glory days" and expects that the people in her hometown will fawn over her, her ex will immediately leave his wife and newborn baby, and in turn boost her confidence and reaffirm that her life is in fact a success. To her surprise, none of this happens. This has potential for a great character study, but no one is really explored except Mavis. The story is a bit cynical, but never really that thought provoking, the sarcasm was expected and therefore never really that funny but my biggest issue of the film was the pace - it was never ending.

2. Nothing changes - I enjoy films where things are left unresolved, but this ending felt really empty. Sure, I would have hated for her to learn some big, important life lesson and become a better person. However, a film that sets out to be a "character study" type film should have characters that change in some way - otherwise the entire film becomes pointless. We never fully understand Mavis's intentions - why the sudden interest in her past? Did she ever get treated for Trichotillomania (obsessive hair pulling)? We see a bit of interaction between her and her parents - who refer to her condition as a continued problem from her youth (which would sort of disproves that her high school years were in fact her "glory days"). All of the characters that live in her hometown are bland and we don't really get any sense of their happiness (or unhappiness). Mavis thinks that her ex is trapped and feels like a "zombie" but we never get a definitive answer as to whether this is true or not. Also, Mavis forms an unlikely bond with a former classmate (who is a self-described "fat geek") but this bond is abandoned in the end which, again, makes the whole relationship pointless.

3. Charlize Theron is fantastic - In the beginning, she makes Mavis a completely relateable character - although she reminded me of me about 10 years ago (at 20), the fact that she is playing a 37 year old is what makes the film a bit depressing. I think it is widely agreed that Charlize Theron is one of the most beautiful women in the world, so the fact that she can convincingly play someone with believable insecurities is outstanding to watch. Even when the character increasingly becomes unrelateable (as in a delusional sociopath), Charlize shines. Her disgust in others is so blatantly internalized and can be felt with just the slightest touch of sadness in her eyes.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Best and Worst Films of 2011

Happy 2012 everyone!! Another year of movies is over - and while it was better than last year it was still pretty pathetic. I struggled once again to come up with 10 films that I consider "the best" (I only came up with 8), while my "worst" list just kept growing. Here is what I came up with:


1. Drive (my favorite film of the far)
2. Super 8
3. Bridesmaids
4. Another Earth

5. 50/50
6. Attack the Block
7. Midnight in Paris
8. Warrior

Of course, there are still a few films that I need to see (hopefully two of these will fill the #9 and#10 slot): The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Young Adult, Shame, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Money Ball, The Skin I Live In, The Ides of March


1. I am Number Four
2. Lincoln Lawyer
3. The Roommate
4. Monte Carlo
5. The Green Hornet
6. Sucker Punch
7. Take Me Home Tonight
8. Bad Teacher
9. Green Lantern

10. Your Highness

I am pretty sure that I Don't Know How She Does It, Jack & Jill and New Years Eve belong on my worst list, but I haven't tortured myself by watching them yet.

My thoughts on all of these films can be found right here on my blog... : )