Sunday, February 27, 2011



Last year I did my "pre-Oscars post" an hour or so before the Awards began. It looks like this year will not be any different, though I do have more quality and quantity than last year. Next time around I hope to have it published week(s) or, at the least, days before the big night comes.

Most of us cinephiles who do an article of this breed include a prediction of who "Will Win" and who "Should Win" the major awards. As you will see, mine is not any different. However, I have included another piece with who "Should Be Nominated." A lot of film sites do a segment of this nature after the nominees have been announced, since I did not get around to doing that this year, I am including it here. This gives me a chance to praise (i.e. my unabashed love for "The Book of Eli," the likes of which surely did not even show up on the Academy's radar) some of my favorite films from 2010. Also, it should be clear that I am covering a majority of the awards, but not all of them (namely some technical and cosmetic categories). For a full list of all categories and all nominees, click here.

Finally, the most humbling slice of my foreword shall be served: I have not even seen all of the films nominated at tonight's Academy Awards. I would dare declare few people have (especially when discussing them shorts!). I have not even seen three of the ten films nominated for Best Picture. In my defense, several I am still unable to see (namely the docs and foreign language films) due to lack of distribution. So, in an effort to show where I am lacking, I have italicized the nominations I have yet to see. Please keep that in mind when I express my opinions. On that subject, why then hear the opinions of one who has not even seen all the nominated films? Well, I have seen some, I know a bit about some of the ones I have not seen, and ultimately and simply, I love films and that is what this tome is about.


Since I was young I have loved to watch the Oscars. I remember well the 1998 Academy Awards: Billy Crystal was a funny host. "Titanic" swept the golden men. James Cameron shouted he was "king of the world." It has always been interesting to me. No matter what category, no matter what movie, I just thought of the people who made them and got there. Stars announcing nominees, winnings, acceptance speeches, interviews and tributes... I relish in it.

Tonight we have James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting the Awards. I am excited to see what surprises they have in store for us, especially how they begin the event. It seems having a duo host is part of the new Oscars, which started last year with Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Another addition was having 10 nominees for Best Picture, which looks like it is here to stay. More films equals more love and I am happy about that.

Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, here we go:

* * *

Matthew Libatique for "Black Swan"
Wally Pfister for "Inception"
Danny Cohen for "The King's Speech"
Jeff Cronenweth for "The Social Network"
Roger Deakins for "True Grit"

Will Win: Roger Deakins for "True Grit"
Should Win: Wally Pfister for "Inception"

Even though Deakins is far from done, I believe he will win this year as a sort of lifetime achievement. His work, particularly for the Coen brothers, has been exceptional. "Inception" was the most impressive film I saw this year and I must give it to Wally Pfister. The trailer for "Black Swan" also suggests some fantastic shots from Matthew Libatique and team.

Should Be Nominated: Anthony Dod Mantle for "127 Hours," Adam Arkapaw for "Animal Kingdom," Don Burgess for "The Book of Eli," Lee Mo-Gae for "I Saw the Devil," Andrew Lesnie for "The Last Airbender," Robert Richardson for "Shutter Island," Robert Elswit for "The Town"

What a great-looking year!

* * *

Jon Harris for "127 Hours"
Andrew Welsblum for "The Black Swan"
Pamela Martin for "The Fighter"
Tariq Anwar for "The King's Speech"
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter for "The Social Network"

Will Win: Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter for "The Social Network"

Should Win: Jon Harris for "127 Hours"

"127 Hours" is a ride like few films are. With a short running time of just 94 minutes, Harris pieced an unforgettable visceral experience together.

Should Be Nominated: Lee Smith for "Inception"

One word: layers. What Lee Smith accomplished for Nolan's vision was masterful!

* * *

Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, a Journey Diary

Will Win: Madagascar, a Journey Diary
Should Win: Madagascar, a Journey Diary

This has become one of my favorite categories. You can watch "Madagascar, a Journey Diary" here. It mixes several different animation styles and paints an exquisite portrait of a land and culture I thoroughly enjoyed visiting for 10 minutes. Pixar's "Day & Night" (not to be confused with 2010's "Knight and Day"), which showed before "Toy Story 3," was a novel concept that also mixed 2D and 3D animation. It too is a delight to behold if you somehow have not already done so. "The Lost Thing" is an intriguing parable with surreal visuals and dreamy music.

* * *

"Coming Home" from "Country Strong"
"I See the Light" from "Tangled"
"If I Rise" from "127 Hours"
"We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3"

Will Win: "If I Rise"
Should Win: "If I Rise"

All fine songs in my book. I especially dig "I See the Light" and "If I Rise," the latter strikes a chord in my soul and came at a time of great need within "127 Hours."

* * *

A.R. Rahman for "127 Hours"
John Powell for "How to Train Your Dragon"
Hans Zimmer for "Inception"
Alexandre Desplat for "The King's Speech"*
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for "The Social Network"

*Note: I saw the film, but have not listened to the soundtrack on its own like I have with the others.

Will Win: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Should Win: A.R. Rahman

"The Social Network" bears a fine score that matched the metallic mood divinely. It is a unique album for a film and certainly is of the best of the year. (Atticus Ross should also be revered for the track "Panoramic" found in "The Book of Eli.") A.R. Rahman proves once again that he has the prowess to compliment the kinetic energy that is Danny Boyle filmmaking. He won the year before last for "Slumdog Millionaire" and deservingly so. He deserves it again this year. Check out "Test Drive" from the "How To Train Your Dragon" soundtrack, one of best tracks this year.

Should Be Nominated: Clint Mansell for "Black Swan," Atticus Ross for "The Book of Eli," James Newton Howard for "The Last Airbender" (proof), Harry Gregson-Williams and David Buckley for "The Town,"

* * *

"127 Hours" by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
"The Social Network" by Aaron Sorkin
"Toy Story 3" by Michael Arndt
"True Grit" by Joel and Ethan Coen
"Winter's Bone" by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

*I have not read any of these screenplays except for the beginning of "The Social Network." Thus, I am judging based on the film itself.

Will Win: "The Social Network" by Aaron Sorkin
Should Win: "The Social Network" by Aaron Sorkin

It is remarkable how much material is fit into a 2-hour film like "The Social Network." The dialogue goes rat-a-tat-tat throughout. This is really my first Sorkin experience and now I will make sure it is not my last.

Should Be Nominated: Ben Affleck, Peter Craig and Aaron Stockard for "The Town"

* * *

"Another Year" by Mike Leigh
"The Fighter" by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson
"Inception" by Christopher Nolan
"The Kids Are All Right" by Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
"The King's Speech" by David Selder

*See above.

Will Win: "The King's Speech" by David Selder

Should Win: "Inception" by Christopher Nolan

Should Be Nominated: "Animal Kingdom" by David Michod, "The Book of Eli" by Gary Whitta

* * *

Amy Adams in "The Fighter"
Helena Bonham Carter in "The King's Speech"
Melissa Leo in "The Fighter"
Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit"
Jacki Weaver in "Animal Kingdom"

Will Win: Hailee Steinfeld
Should Win: Hailee Steinfeld

Steinfeld will win in a category she should not even be nominated for (see below). Still, since this is the category she is the running for, I will give it to her. Jacki Weaver is terrifying and that means she did her job well.

Should Be Nominated: Marion Cotillard in "Inception"

* * *

Annette Bening in "The Kids Are All Right"
Nicole Kidman in "Rabbit Hole"
Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone"
Natalie Portman in "Black Swan"
Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine"

Will Win: Natalie Portman

As the italics indicates, I am very unqualified to discuss this category. All I know is that Portman's performance as Nina Sayers is all the rage. She underwent lots of prep-work (including months of physical training as a ballerina) to take on the role as White Swan. Am I talking about her or her character? I am talking about both.

Should Be Nominated: Michelle Williams in "Shutter Island," Hailee Steinfeld in "True Grit"

It is ridiculous that Steinfeld got nominated as a Supporting Actress instead of a Leading Actress solely based on her age. She is the protagonist of "True Grit" and onscreen for nearly the entire film. Maybe the Academy wanted to put gold statues in the hands of both Portman and Steinfeld, but that is no reason to discriminate. May the Best Actress win regardless of her age!

* * *

Christian Bale in "The Fighter"
John Hawkes in "Winter's Bone"
Jeremy Renner in "The Town"
Mark Ruffalo in "The Kids Are All Right"
Geoffrey Rush in "The King's Speech"

Will Win: Christian Bale
Should Win: Geoffrey Rush

Keeping in mind that I still need to see "The Fighter," I thought Geoffrey Rush was terrific as the Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, who is hired to help a stuttering king. The dynamic between one middle-class man and one of royalty leads to great confrontations. The scenes with Collin Firth and Rush together are as good as acting scenes get.

Should Be Nominated: Andrew Garfield in "The Social Network," Armie Hammer in "The Social Network," Ben Kingsley in "Shutter Island," Gary Oldman in "The Book of Eli," Justin Timberlake in "The Social Network," Ken Watanabe in "Inception."

"The Social Network" had a knock-out cast!

* * *

Javier Bardem in "Biutiful"
Jeff Bridges in "True Grit"
Jesse Eisenberg in "The Social Network"
Colin Firth in "The King's Speech"
James Franco in "127 Hours"

Will Win: Colin Firth
Should Win: James Franco

Do not get me wrong. I thought Colin Firth was exceptional as King George VI in "The King's Speech." He utilized subtle expressions, controlled seemingly uncontrollable moments of fury and even mastered a speech impediment. He is one of our greatest actors today. That said, the degree of difficulty placed upon the shoulders of James Franco and the perfection with which he delivers is a performance for the ages. He is onscreen for 99% of the film, stuck in one place for 80% of the film and holds one's attention 100%. Not to mention that Aron Ralston (as played by Franco) has to cut his own arm off at the film's crisis. Jesse Eisenberg was amazing as Mark Zuckerberg. Whether an accurate depiction or not, he gave millions of Facebook users a troubled genius to consider. Also, Jeff Bridges gave a sweet 'n sour showing as the iconic Rooster Cogburn (formerly played by the Duke himself). It was a fantastic year for leading actors!

Should Be Nominated: Leonardo DiCaprio in "Inception," Leonardo DiCaprio in "Shutter Island," Denzel Washington in "The Book of Eli"

* * *

Darren Aronofsky for "Black Swan"
David O. Russell for "The Fighter"
Tom Hooper for "The King's Speech"
David Fincher for "The Social Network"
Joel and Ethan Coen for "True Grit"

Will Win: David Fincher
Should Win: David Fincher

Of the aforementioned men, I would have to give it to David Fincher. He kept the narrative tight as a drum and remained true to the initial vision. "The Social Network" is an instant classic and he directed it there.

Should Be Nominated: Danny Boyle for "127 Hours," David Michod for "Animal Kingdom," Albert and Allen Hughes for "The Book of Eli," Christopher Nolan for "Inception," Martin Scorsese for "Shutter Island," Ben Affleck for "The Town"

* * *

Exit through the Gift Shop
Inside Job
Waste Land

Will Win: Inside Job
Should Win: Exit through the Gift Shop

I love "Exit through the Gift Shop" and would be absolutely ecstatic if it were to win. Mainly, I want to see if Banksy shows up in guise and accepts the award! Perhaps that is not the noblest of reason to want a film to win. Regardless, it is a masterpiece and becomes street art itself. "Inside Job" is getting loads of adoration. I gotta check out these other nominees sometime.

Should Be Nominated: Catfish

Perhaps because nobody knows if this film is real or not it did not merit a nomination. See my review.

* * *

How To Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Will Win: Toy Story 3
Should Win: Toy Story 3

I am sad to report I have not yet seen Sylvain Chomet's "The Illusionist." It looks great and in the same style as Chomet's previous masterwork, "The Triplets of Belleville." Still, what Pixar achieved with "Toy Story 3" was a perfect ending to a perfect trilogy and will surely take home the Oscar.

Should Be Nominated: Despicable Me and Tangled

I thought 2010 was an exceptional year for animated films. Why then did the Academy only choose to highlight three?

* * *

In a Better World
Outside the Law

Will Win: Incendies?

No other comments at this time.

* * *

127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Will Win: The Social Network
Should Win: 127 Hours

I am surely in the minority on this one, but I thought "127 Hours" was the best film of 2010. It is a very personal journey about one man who must decide how much he wants to live. After the success of "Slumdog Millionaire" Danny Boyle was "king of the world" (as Cameron puts it), he could have made any film that he wanted to. It was the story about outdoor-and-adrenaline-junkie Aron Ralston that Boyle had wanted to tell for the last few years, an idea that co-writer Simon Beaufoy originally thought would never work as a feature film. This very personal journey about one man takes each of us on an intimate ride. We are compared to Aron Ralston in the narrative and out of it (and ever after). The innovative craft with which the story is told will inspire artists forever.

Should Be Nominated: Animal Kingdom, The Book of Eli, The Town, Shutter Island

* * *

And there you have many of my predictions and thoughts about tonight! Feel free to add yours in the comments section below. Now if you will excuse me, I have a tux to press and a limo to rent. Cheers.

Saturday, February 26, 2011




"Apollo 18" bears the tag-line, "There's a reason we never went back to the moon." I never knew that we had stopped sending men to that rock, but according to the synopsis the last time was 1972. The synopsis goes one to claim that Apollo 18 went to the moon a year later and apparently the two-man crew never returned. The "actual footage" that makes up this film is the reason for that tag-line. Essentially, this looks to be "Paranormal Activity" (a series a really like) on the moon. The '70s look and feel, especially as seen through their myriad cameras, is a nice touch. It is interesting how alike products always seem to emerge at the same time. Compare this with the impressive teaser for "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" (which, by the way, got a 30-second spot earlier this month during the Big Game) and Duncan Jones's indie masterwork "Moon" from 2009.

Ridley Scott's daughter (Jordan Scott) will now get her film distributed in the states. Apparently filmmaking runs in the Scott family. "Cracks" does not quite seem to be my cup of tea, but it sure looks beautifully photographed. Might it be the "Picnic at Hanging Rock" of our generation?

The next trailer comes with a bit of a personal experience attached. I saw "I Saw the Devil" at Sundance this year. I knew then it would never merit an "R" rating (it is among the most violent films ever made, making the likes of "Saw" and "Hostel" seem like Saturday morning cartoons in comparison), so it makes sense that they are releasing it as "Not Rated." It is for that reason I cannot recommend "I Saw the Devil." Still, the filmmaking and acting was on another level of excellence that one truly does not see everyday. It is a mixed bag of fruits: wildly disturbing, ever-so-thrilling, sometimes inspiring, usually distressing and ultimately thought-provoking. I still contemplate the film's title and the decent of our protagonist. I took the experience as a self-evaluation and learned a lot about myself that evening in the Egyptian Theater and in the days after.

Toss of the Week: Ever since I first heard of "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" I have wanted to experience it. Uncle Boonmee is on his deathbed and his visited by family members, both living and dead. It looks chilling, bizarre and beautiful. It won the Palm d'Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival. (For those not in the know, that is the highest prize at one highest regarded film festivals in the world. Past winners include "The White Ribbon," "Elephant" and "Pulp Fiction.") Uncle Boonmee's tale surely will not hit theaters around here and Netflix says the DVD availability date is unknown. It appears I have some patience to implement.


I have already addressed the "Spider-Man" reboot (still a bewildering notion), but now there is more news. Sony Pictures has officially announced that it will be called "The Amazing Spider-Man." JoBlo has the story and here is the film's official site.

2011 will break the all-time record for most film sequels in a single year with 27. Wow. Box Office Mojo with the tale.


"The Monk and the Fish"

Written and Directed by Michael Dudok de Wit.

Excellent use of colors and underscoring of music to match the action in this silly yet poignant tale.

* * *




During last week's Bowl of Super proportions there were several TV-spots for some of this year's hottest flicks ("Super 8," "Cowboys & Aliens," and "Captain American" to name a few). Out of all of these, I am the most psyched for "Super 8." If it is about what I think it is about (a child takes advantage of a real alien encounter to make a movie)... it is right up my alley! (No wonder Spielberg wanted to produce this.) Many of these titles look great. Even though I have yet to see a 2011 film, I am starting to believe it can be a good year. To restate and for the record, I thought 2010 was a MARVELOUS year for film.

Here is the spot for "The Adjustment Bureau". Firstly, I will behold anything with Matt Damon. Secondly, this high concept is nutty enough.

"Limitless" looks like it just might have limits. Then again, it does have De Niro. What does any of this mean? Nothing.

Will "Hop" be worth the leap? From the director of "Alvin and the Chipmunks" (oh... no...) and the studio that brought us "Despicable Me" (Hey!) come the best CGI-characters in a live action environment since "Yogi Bear" (ew...)! It could go up or down folks.

I know nothing about X-Men, I have not seen any of the previous films, but perhaps that doesn't matter. This is "X-Men: First Class." The visuals are stunning to say the least.

"Battle: Los Angeles" also got a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl. The second trailer came out last month. While offering some new visuals, neither are quite as compelling as the debut trailer set to Johann Johannsson's haunting masterpiece of a song. (Trailer 2 uses the same song eventually, but too eventually IMHO.) In any case, I am excited for 3.11.11.

I greatly admire the novel quirk found in "Beginners." It looks to be well-acted (huge fan of Plummer and Melanie Laurent, who was PERFECT in "Inglourious Basterds") and carefully filmed.

Toss of the Week: "Even the Rain" seems to be rather onerous for audiences, such fair often are our greatest films. The impressive conception of a director making a film about the discovery of America amidst contemporary challenges in his own country. Finally, if I haven't said it before, I swear it now: Gael Garcia Bernal ("Amores Perros," "Y Tu Mama Tambien," "Babel," and "The Science of Sleep") is one of our finest actors. Although, they really should change the hombre's IMDb picture. Seriously, that might be the worst picture ever taken of him. There you go ladies.


Entertainment Weekly ran a gallery of "10 Movies that Changed Hollywood." A couple of these are among my all-time faves.

What better way to get ready for the big night (Feb. 27) than to complain about the nominees? EW here with "Oscars: 19 Snubs That Bug You!". IMHO: Nolan should not only have been nominated, he should probably win. Something I will surely address on my "Oscar Preview" article next week.

Another way to get ready for this year's Academy Awards is to recount "16 Memorable Moments" from last year's show. (Again, EW is there for you and for me.)


After Christopher Nolan makes his third batman flick ("The Dark Knight Rises") he wants to do a Howard Hughes biopic. But wait... Yeah, of course Nolan is aware of Scorsese's "The Aviator" (a Howard Hughes biopic and a rather recent one at that). Why then? Because Nolan's film will cover the rest of the story.

Few directors have tackled as many genres as the Coen Borthers (Comedies, Dramas, Thrillers, Rom-Coms, Noir and most recently the Western), so it both surprising and not surprising to hear the two are working on a script for a horror film.


Directed by Chris Vincze

The techniques are nothing revolutionary, but what Vincze and team have crafted is a lovely little picture that is sure to please.

* * *

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


January 22, 2010 (Sundance Film Festival)
September 17, 2010 (United States)
86 min
United States (English)

Directed by Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman

Once you begin watching, you will want to know what it is. "Catfish" is a phenomenal achievement for its makers and a blessing for modern-day audiences.


The slogan on the poster for "Catfish" instructs: "DON'T LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT IT IS." I am going to honor that request and keep my brief review spoiler-free. Since I first saw the stellar trailer months and months ago, I have somehow managed to avoid learning the reveal. That is quite a feat in today's Internet-age (especially when you visit as many movie sites as I do). If I can keep myself from knowing, you can to. Wait and see the film, you will be glad that you did.


Nev lives in New York with his brother Ariel and their friend Henry. Nev is a photographer. Ariel and Henry are filmmakers. One day Nev receives an impressive painting of one of his photographs that appeared in a publication. The artist? An eight-year-girl in Michigan, Abby. The two become friends over the Internet, especially through the means of Facebook. Nev becomes friends with Abby's family, especially with her older sister Megan. Nev and Megan begin to have an online relationship. Ariel and Henry document it all.


Several of the brilliant minds behind film-related podcasts and articles that I frequent have already explicated a motif from the cinema in 2010: "the line between fact and fiction, and the blurring of it" (as stated by Alison Willmore on the IFC podcast). A.O. Scott made a point of the "subjective reality" found within several fiction films (e.g. "Inception" and "Black Swan"). Of course, "The Social Network" comes to mind with all its storytelling liberties in regards to the creation of Facebook. Those getting up in arms about such sanctions should further analyze that contemporary classic. Fifteen minutes into "The Social Network" we cut to a Mark Zuckerberg (years later) in a legal trial setting and the first words out of his mouth are "That's not what happened." The film is purposely never clear about the truth. The hosts of the IFC podcast were wise to mention Werner Herzog (I always seem to find a way to mention him... my favorite filmmaker) whose "idea about the ecstatic truth" seem to spread like a wildfire among the filmmakers of 2010.

There has been much conversation about whether or not "Catfish" is a faux-documentary. "Exit Through the Gift Shop" is also being scrutinized. "I'm Still Here" has already been admitted to being a hoax. In regards to "Catfish" (and "Exit Through the Gift Shop" for that matter), at the end of the day, I care not whether the events depicted are fictional or not. The messages conveyed herein are still relevant and make serious statements on our society and everyday lives. The stories are rooted in realism and therefore could be true. The very fact that it is debatable should attest to their believability. Still, it is nice and somewhat comforting to know what is real and what it not. For the record... I believe Nev, Ariel and Henry when they tell us it is "100% true."


The camerawork is exemplary. Ariel and Henry appear to each have a camera at all times, which leads to us receiving an ideal view at any given moment. Extreme close-ups and zooming are plied for engaging sights and shots that keep you guessing. Pics and texts and other Facebook charms are also used to great lengths. Thus, many of the narrative's details become instantly relatable. I must mention the perfectness of the score (which I desperately want to add to my library, but was devastated to not find it on iTunes). It is modernly rhythmic at times (such as during the terrific opening credits) and classic-ly calm in other instances (such as the beach sequence), matching the caliber of onscreen occurrences.


"Catfish" has been labeled as a thriller. It certainly managed to live up to that criteria, but it is so much more. This is an important documentary that should be required viewing for 21st-centurions. Unlike many docs, it will not have a problem compelling you to watch. You should see "Catfish" and should see it soon because what it is... is a modern masterpiece.

"If this is your documentary, you're doing a bad job."
- Yaniv Schulman


CONTENT: some sexual dialogue

Updated 6/15/13