Monday, January 30, 2012


Image of the Day: Awwww! Cutest Darth and Luke ever hug it out

Yes, yet another addition to The Film Tome. This follows the "picture of the day" (though rarely is it a daily thing) I've implemented in AllMoPs and The Video Game Tome. It's simple, I post a picture (film-related in this case), provide the source (because it will likely not be an original picture from me), and then comment on it. As with everything I post, it will be best if you also add your thoughts and comments below.

Now, about this first Cinepix...

Obviously it's cute (perhaps in a cheesy or even cloy way). Some "Star Wars" fanatics might even think it downright sacrilegious. Me? I find it an interesting alternate reality on one of the saddest (when you really think about) father-son relationships in film. Last year I revealed my "Top Ten Father-Son Relationships," I made mention of the Darth Vader / Luke Skywalker dynamic on display in "Episode(s) V" and "VI." I struggle over what to title this one. Forgiveness? Love conquers all? In the end I decided to keep it simply, "Hug." Lastly, gotta say I dig the crayon element. Those imperfect lightsabers lay dwindling and forgotten. Father and son are no longer dueling.

Friday, January 27, 2012


  • Declaration of War* / 88%
  • The Grey / 76%
  • An Inconsistent Truth*
  • Man on a Ledge / 22%
  • One for the Money / 0%
  • The Theater Bizarre*
  • The Wicker Tree*
* = limited release

  • 50/50 / 93%
  • Godzilla CC
  • The Moment of Truth CC / 80%
  • Paranormal Activity 3 / 66%
  • Real Steel / 59%
  • Restless / 36%
  • The Whistleblower / 74%
CC = Criterion Collection
% from Rotten Tomatoes

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The beginning of the trailer (trailer 2 of the link) for "October Baby" had me worried. I thought we were aboard a teen angst road trip. The self-narration from this young woman even tells us that we don't know her story and that her whole life has been a lie. Oh, boy. I was able to admire the cinematography, which allowed me to appreciate what was going on narratively. As our protagonist tries to find her mom the film finds its legs. It certainly looks to have a good message (about forgiveness) even if it is heavy-handed about it.

Peter Facinelli plays a young pickpocket in NYC whose life is turned upside down when the woman he slept with three months ago informs him he is going to be a father. "Loosies" is a love story between the two, you can bet she sure has problems with his choice of "career." It is also promises to be a drama between the two as they try to stay one step ahead of the inevitable justice on their tails. There looks to be plenty of action when he messes with the wrong people and in his ettempts to escape the police. Oh yeah, it is also played as a comedy. Overall, very entertaining and engrossing stuff. It is currently playing is select theaters.

Nothing to quite mix things up like a foreign family film. A cat drinks a toxic barrel of something and is transformed into a young woman, "Miss Minoes." She aids a journalist with her diverse abilities and together they strive to make public some dark secrets in town. It looks like it has a strong enough narrative, based on an acclaimed children's book across the pond, but when the trailer man said, "Look inside your heart and listen to your felines," I groaned, not purred. It was showing in select theaters by Christmas, but I suspect most of us will have to check it out when it hits shelves.

Amanda Seyfried looks for her younger sister who she is sure has been adducted by a murderer in "Gone." When the police don't trust her pleas she has to take matter into her own hands and kill the killer while evading the cops who now think she is crazy. I like the subdues colors and tones throughout, but for a thriller, nothing sizzled or snagged my interests. Will you find it in theaters on February 24th?

"Haywire" hit cinemas around the country last week. It is the newest film from Steven Soderbergh, from whom we never quite know what to expect. His "Ocean's" trilogy was a big success, his experimental indie films (like "Bubble") were always interesting, and his most recent film ("Contagion") was one of the year's best and most important. Gina Carano plays a CIA agent who is betrayed and goes rouge. Essentially it is a premise for a woman to kick a whole bunch of male butt. Those who enjoyed the "Bourne" films will surely find a lot to like here. It looks incredibly violent and yet classy. Also, with a list full of recognizable names (like the "Ocean" films and "Contagion") it has plenty of star power behind it.

"Red Tails" also landed last weekend. What "Glory" was to the Civil War, "Red Tails" is the WWII. Well, with a lot of CGI planes thrown in. Herein the Pentagon relies of the Tuskegee, a force of African-American pilots, to fight our air battles in Europe. Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr. headline the feature. Obviously nothing on this scale could have been made without CGI, and yet that is what gives the film a heavy artificial feel, especially when comparing the plane scenes to everything else.

"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is a doc about Sukiyabashi Jiro, the sushi master who runs a small restaurant in a Tokyo subway. Despite his old age he is working every day to perfect the way of the sushi. Classy trailer with compelling subtitles, classical music, and clean visual. I wonder how many people are going to go out for sushi after they see this... You can smell it in select theaters on March 9th.

"Indie Game: The Movie" will be showing at this year's Sundance and follows the year(s)-long quest of independent game developers doing what they do. For one of the largest industries in all of entertainment there has been a surprising lack of documentaries about video games. This gets at the struggle of those who make them and seems the capture the allure that these ever-changing things we call video game have.

"Albatross" is a rebellious comedy about a rebellious 17-year-old girl. Naturally, she's writing a novel and naturally, its title is the film's title. With a troubled past and seemingly nothing to lose, she says what's on her mind, goes to parties, and even seduces her friend's dad who was said he'd teach her creative writing. Some pretty shots and convincing performances, even if it is yet another teenage angst dramedy.

Finish that whisky, I reckon it's prime time for the Trailer Round-Up Awards:

The Head-Scratcher:

Definitely a case of "seen the trailer, feels like you've seen the film" with "Big Miracle." John Kransinski (AKA Jim from "The Office") plays a reporter in small town Alaska. He gets a big story when three gray whales are trapped by walls of ice nearby. His friend (and love interest?) played by Drew Barrymore is a Greenpeace volunteer and sticks it to the man in hopes to save the leviathans. Anyone else kind of reminded by Disney's "Snow Dogs"? The dogs were certainly the best part of that film. Having spent some time in Alaska and its whales I can testify of these divine creatures and the reverence they invoke. This trailer has been swimming around for months now, but recent TV spots have put this picture on my radar. See the miracle for yourself on February 3rd (and yes, it is based on a true story.)

Lasso of the Week:
Ross McElwee, the one-man team documentarian, is back with "Photographic Memory." For the past few years, all students who apply to BYU's film program must watch and analyze the film "Bright Leaves." I absolutely loved the film. It was creative, funny, and poignant, not to mention incredibly small in scope. It was one man's journey with a camera to learn something. I believe that is why they want all film students here to experience it. That was a film McElwee. This trailer supposes "Photographic Memory" is going some very interesting (and personal) places just as "Bright Leaves" did. What starts has a father struggling to understand his teenage son leads this man to delve back into his own past. Not sure when or where we'll be able to see it, but I for one am very interested.

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FILM: Johnny Depp

IMDb has released their Top 10s of the last decade, including films, movie stars, and TV shows. Keep in mind, these are the top of their various meters, which I believe correlates to being the most popular. Anyone else surprised that Johnny Depp tops the stars list? The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Coinciding with this weekend's release of "The Grey" Rotten Tomatoes is sharing "The 10 Best Survival Movies." Happy to see "127 Hours" topping the list, my favorite film from 2010. Other modern classics like Werner Herzog's "Rescue Dawn" and the forgotten "Cast Away" (the namesake for the casting news section of this very series) make the list. What other good survival films come to mind?

Even though we are weeks into the new year I'm still going to be posting top ten lists of others (call 'em as I see 'em). Besides, I'm still taking my sweet time to post my own. As great as it is to see what various critics and bloggers alike are ranting and raving over, it is particular exciting to see what filmmakers' favorites are. However, you don't see it all that much. That said, Quentin Tarantino is one outspoken person you can always expect to hear from. He shares the best, worst, and even the "nice try"s of the year here. As always, the results are quite surprising. I cannot believe he called "Meek's Cutoff," an incredibly acclaimed film, one of the worst!

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John Hurt is now attached to Bong Joon-ho's next film, "Snow Piercer." Joon-ho is the South Korean director behind "The Host" and "Mother," two of my favorite films of the last decade. He is one of the front-runners of Korean directors, who I believe are among the most talented filmmakers today. This is his first time doing an "American" film and I am eagerly anticipating the result. Chris Evans, Jamie Bell (Tintin himself!), and Tilda Swinton are already on board. /Film has more details.

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The Academy Award nominations were announced this week. See the nominees here. I put this in "The Good" because I am actually a fan of the Oscars and appreciate their process and picks. Of course, anyone can find something to disagree with, but where would be the fun in everyone agreeing on something? It is no possible to please everybody, but I thought they did a great job at nominating a wide array of films this year. There a nine Best Picture (instead of the usual ten in recent years), including "The Tree of Life." That's good. Another pleasant surprise is Demian Bechir getting a Best Actor nod for "A Better Life." He is far and away the best part of an otherwise good film. What were you glad to see on there? What made you upset?

Here is Roger Ebert's article regarding the nominations. He discusses the love for movies about movies, such as "Hugo" and "The Artist," which led the pack in the number of nominations.

Sundance Film Festival is winding down. I'll be going up to Park City tomorrow to catch a couple showings. /Film has a recap of their crew's experiences there during the first half.

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Deadline explores who got snubbed during the Oscar nominations this week.


Also, The Hollywood Reporter shares "12 of Oscar 2012's Biggest Snubs." Some love for Leo playing "J. Edgar" here and "50/50" not taking that tenth Best Picture spot.

"The Help"

Check out these brutally honest 2012 Oscar nominee posters as found on BuzzFeed.

"The Hangover II" got a lot of critical hate this last year, but became one of the top grossing R-rated comedies of all-time. It should not surprise anyone that a third is in the works (or at least in the talks). What's more, each of the three stars are asking for $15 million a piece for the project. The Hollywood Reporter reports.

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Zade Constantine (I don't know who that is either) has a 12-minute video on Vimeo entitled, "A History of Film As I Understand It." He takes us chronologically from 1920 to 2011 showing us some of his favorite moments. Enjoy the show!

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Tower Heist

As if the posters above were not enough, here are "9 Rejected 2012 Oscar Campaign Posters" courtesy of Next Movie.

Nerd Approved imagines the result for, "Siri, what's the forecast for Mordor this week?" This nerd approves.

In conclusion, it seems everybody found something to complain about regarding the Oscar noms... even Hitler.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012


梅蘭芳 (Forever Enthralled)
Released 12.5.2008

Directed by Chen Kaige
Written by Chen Kaige, Yan Geling and Chen Kuofu

"Forever Enthralled" tells the story of Mei Lanfang in a showcase of Peking opera offering luring looks behind the curtain. This pageant of performances makes for a pretty and promising biopic, but it will likely feel pedantic before the end.

"Forever Enthralled" is a biographical picture on Mei Lanfang, China's most famous star of the Peking (Beijing) opera during the first half of the 20th Century. Not unlike Shakespeare times, the female parts in these operas were originally played by men (called "dan"). This immediately emerges as the most fascinating aspect of the story. There is a prize performance from Wang Xueqi in the first act who plays the veteran opera dan and has a competition with Lanfang, who seeks to bring change to the "old ways." Lanfang is led by Qi Rushan (another notable performance here by Sun Honglei), the two become blood brothers of a sort and dedicate their lives to opera. We spend time with Lanfang (his stage name) at various ages, but mostly follow the goings-on in his adulthood where he is played just fine by Leon Lai. I still want to know if it was really the actor singing during the opera, I doubt it. If so, I am deeply impressed.

Probably most interesting segment is when Meng Xiaodong (played by the exquisite Zhang Ziyi) shows up in the middle, an alluring opera star herself who easily seduces the already married Mei Lanfang. I like how The China Post put it in their review, "Meng Xiaodong sweeps Mei off his feet in a symbolic role reversal: Meng, used to playing male characters, is aggressive and headstrong, whereas Mei is shy and reserved." Though I'm told this subject is given more and better consideration in "Farewell My Concubine," a critically lauded film that the same director delivered nearly 20 years ago.

As is custom with Asian period pieces, the production design is immaculate. While working with only a fraction of the budget of most Hollywood productions, "Forever Enthralled" manages to be every bit as stunning. The operatic performances themselves are a foreign delicacy. For Western audiences the film plays with this expectation when Lanfang takes his tour to New York City. The reception of that performance becomes one of the film's highest stakes and plot points.

The third act becomes particularly strenuous to sit through. I cannot imagine anyone being forever enthralled with the story by this point, especially when it felt like it was winding down some scenes earlier. By this point the most interesting chapter (with Xiaodong) is but a memory, for Lanfang and us. Yet the film keeps skipping along like a strange stone, taking its time with seemingly throwaway scenes (for example, Lanfang eating soup while chatting with a servant). The Japanese occupation (and the mentioning of Nanjing) rekindled my interest briefly, but it doesn't go anywhere as visually interesting as the first half. I suppose that is the point: we experience the lows with Lanfang and long for the war to be over. At least the film ends in a right place, even if it doesn't feel like the right place. "Forever Enthralled" is worth seeing, I just wish all of it was as good as some of it. If such cannot be achieved, you may be better off trimming it.


CONTENT: some violence and sexual implications


Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon)
Released 10.15.1956

Directed and Written by Albert Lamorisse

Here is a short film that is so pure in its intention, so clever in its craft, and so artful in its result that it will win you over. Simply put, "The Red Balloon" is magical and timeless.

Perhaps you're like me and vaguely remember this film from somewhere in the canals of your childhood. I invite you to rediscover it and recapture the miracle, because that is what the best of films are. A young French boy finds and befriends a loyal red balloon, much to the envy of his classmates and much to the chagrin of his headmaster. He takes the balloon everywhere and they always seems to reunite when circumstances part their paths. It is as simple as the fantastical gets and with very little dialogue, though I think it would do even better without any.

The compositions of each shot are a delight unto themselves, but strung together highlight the merriment brought by the red balloon's escapades through a cheerless and melancholic Paris. The balloon is without words, but still communicates a jolly disposition. As our title character, we appreciate the bliss he brings to the lonely boy. When the jealousy of his peers erupts, we are treated to chases down cobblestone alleys and deft escapes.

You'll surely wonder how on Earth they achieved the effect of this versatile balloon. (Hint: If you look closely in the final moments you will begin to discover the answer). Here's a film that needs no translation because the visuals speaks for themselves. The parable of a conclusion adds to the charm and  increases splendor. It'll transfix children and amuse the adults. Most importantly, none of us are too old for its message(s).


CONTENT: some violence


Real Steel
Released 10.7.2011

Directed by Shawn Levy
Written by John Gatins (Story by Dan Gilrioy and Jeremy Leven; based on short story by Richard Matheson)

While even more preposterous than it appears at times, "Real Steel" is actually better than it appears. Thanks to a capable cast and effects crew, it is a movie about robot boxing that I still somehow recommend despite its nonfunctional parts.

Hugh Jackman plays a charming deadbeat who has found work in controlling robots in the ring after his own boxing career left him washed up. We soon discover he's the estranged father to a Dakota Goyo's Max. The missing maternal role is naturally filled by the talented Evangeline Lily (BKA Kate from "LOST"), who it was great to see in a motion picture. Gotta say, she absolutely sizzles opposite Hugh Jackman. Luckily for the premise, all three seem to be experts in one area or the other regarding robot boxing.

The interactions that set this plot in motion are downright absurd. The "deal" between two characters in particular comes out of nowhere and felt unreal to a fault. This was bothering me, then I had to ask myself, "Am I really concerned with realism in film about boxing robots?" It might seem just as ridiculous as this movie to nitpick about such things, but even in the face of fantasy and science-fiction, it is realistic interactions (or the lack thereof) that make (or break) believable narratives despite the subject matter. Also, if you're not a fan of the know-it-all child roles that occasionally sprout up in movies (where do I sign up?), this one belongs in the hall of fame. Max is constantly stuffing humble pie in his dad's face as he proves time and time again that he is a child prodigy. Along with his dad, who still knows a few moves, they just might stand a chance. All the competition (and the stooge of an antagonist for Jackson's character) are instantly unlikable. They never stood a chance in this paralleled world.

Now, you may be wondering what I did appreciate about this film. Let me tell you. The three leads all do terrific work with the cards they're dealt. The robots themselves, while lacking any personality (but when I think back of my painful viewing of "Short Circuit" I see how that might be a good thing), are an impressive effect. Atom in particular, who gets the most screen time, captured my interest. Plus, there was something alive about him as the film not-too-subtly suggests. The use of CGI and animotronics actually  makes for some real steel. What surprised me most is how this is one of the year's best shot films (in a really beautiful year I might add). Mauro Fiore, who won an Oscar for his achievement in "Avatar," does nothing too experimental, but keeps the camerawork traditional and terrific. Ultimately, this is a father-son film about working together, saying you're sorry, and proving it through your dedication. It even gets a little emotional during that inevitable championship fight. It is certainly better than the other film released this year featuring fighting robots. Of course, I'm talking about "The Help." No, wait...


CONTENT: plentiful action and violence (mostly involving robots) and some language

Updated 4.11.12

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Meek's Cutoff
September 4, 2010 (Venice Film Festival)
April 8, 2011 (United States)

Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Written by Jonathan Raymond

Meek's Cutoff is a beautifully bleak portrait of settlers moseying along the Oregon Trail. The naturalistic filmmaking makes this one of the truest Westerns in film history, one that keeps you wondering the outcome as it moves along at an ox's pace.

At last, I have experienced a Kelly Reichardt film. She is now four features into her promising and proving career, being highly praised in indie and experimental circles. She is also one of the pioneers of the ongoing neo-neo realism movement (A.O. Scott of the NY Times explores that term here). It is fitting that this anti-Western is about pioneers, lost in an unforgiving high desert. The small (three covered wagon small) party is led by Stephen Meek, a frontier man if you ever did see one. Words ain't uttered for a while as you begin the film, but as one character carves "LOST" into the gray stone bark of a fallen tree, it speaks loud and clear.

The film's opening visuals are among the most striking, or maybe I just grew accustomed to the way Chris Blauvelt patiently and perfectly shot the film, in a 4:3 aspect ratio no less. I have furied over fullscreen most my days and yet, here is a film shot in those parameters and in pristine 35 mm; I durst not complain. Surely I typically prefer "wider," but here is proof that when fullscreen is intended it can and should be embraced. Meek's Cutoff is a picturesque depiction of the high and dry climes they walk and walk through. As the picture above illustrates, some of the colors used simply sizzle in the desert sun. The scenes at night are barley discernable. Sometimes the dialogue is the same way. It remains real and never strays. It will no doubt prove challenging for the viewer. I accepted it.

Bruce Greenwood plays Stephen Meek. I realized who the actor was afterwards and was shocked. It is an incredibly masked performance, though he was certainly able to hide behind long hair and a face full o' whiskers. Hence the title, he's the one who led them off the Oregon trail, which may or may not prove far worse for these weary travelers. Michelle Williams, who has been turning heads left and right in recent years (including an Oscar nomination for My Week with Marilyn), plays Emily: a strong willed lady who is understandably fed up with this trial and won't simply wander much longer. Ron Rondeaux plays the Indian who they come across, another incredible performance that seems more authentic than anything I've seen in previous Westerns.

I could not help but think of Louis L'Amour's novella The Quick and the Dead as I beheld and afterwards pondered this film. I recently finished that supreme tale wherein an experienced Westerner leads a Eastern family of greenhorns through similarly dangerous lands. He wrote, "These western lands brought death suddenly, without warning, and in a hundred ways. It had a way of exploding into violent action  leaving a man broken and bleeding, far from any help. Many a father or son rode away never to return, many a lone hunter left coffee on the fire to picket a horse or fetch a bucket of water, and that was the end of him. Sometimes his bones were found. Often enough not even that." This threat is always lurking in Meek's Cutoff, more so than most Westerns because Reichardt gives the landscape time enough to prove itself unrelenting. A minimalist score from Jeff Grace certainly added to the effect. Folks, this is a fine film indeed. It is far from your run-of-the-mill blockbuster, but has far more reasons to impact and leave insight.

"We're all just playing our parts now. This was written long before we got here. I'm at your command."
- Stephen Meek


CONTENT: mild language and brief violence

Updated 7/29/13

BEST OF 2011?

Dearest Film Tome Travelers,

I hope the new year is going well for y'all thus far. It is always a fun time during the award season for those who weren't able to see everything in theaters (due to time, money, and of course, location) to catch up with last year's most acclaimed titles. Earlier today the Oscar nominations were announced in a press conference, which ruffled some feathers as always. Still, it lists several films that people should know about if they don't already.

It is fitting that around this time I ask what you thought the best film of the year was. I have done this to the left where the current poll is up and running, asking folks that very question. I gave ten choices (ten films that I've seen in a lot of "best of 2011" lists) and of course provided an "Other" option for those with differing tastes. If you do choose "Other" please comment below this post what film you picked and why. Same goes for those who picked one on the list. I would love to hear why you deem this film the best.

I have more films to watch (as always), from 2011 specifically, before I do a blog post on my "Top 10 Films of 2011." As tradition, I also plan to do a pre-Oscar post where I consider the nominees and so forth.

Finally, it is damn-near impossible for one to see every film from a given year, so it is ridiculous for someone to have an ultimate ranking to end all lists. Still, it is fun to share what you loved the best out of what you've seen and I endorse such activities all the way home. I would like to go on record for calling 2011 the best year in films in recent memory. Certainly since 2006, but I think it's the best year I personally know of. Granted, because it is the most recent year and I know more about film than I ever have, not to mention I have seen quite a bit more than most years, my claim is unbalanced, but I claim it nonetheless.

Please vote and please comment and please enjoy the show!

J.S. Lewis

Sunday, January 15, 2012



  • Beauty and the Beast (In 3D) / 91%
  • Contraband / 46%
  • The Divide* / 17%
  • Don't Go in the Woods / 17%
  • The Iron Lady / 55%
  • Joyful Noise / 35%
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin* / 83%
* = limited release


  • Killer Elite / 25%
  • Killing Bono / 55%
  • Moneyball / 95%
  • There Be Dragons / 11%
  • What's Your Number? / 24%
CC = Criterion Collection
% from Rotten Tomatoes

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This week everyone is talking about the trailer for the newest Wes Anderson film, "Moonrise Kingdom." He is the king of quirk and with a resume including "The Royal Tenenbaums" (one of the best things I've ever seen) and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," he demands and deserves attention. The cast, in addition to some Anderson faves (Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman), includes Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Frances McDormand. I am eager to see this renowned filmmaker work with the likes of these talented thespians, it is my guess that they were excited to do so as well. A 12-year-old boy falls for a 12-year-old girl and become a scout camp fugitive to further the forbidden love. Antics ensue and Anderson's camera frames all the colors and costumes in the center. Yes, you can tell a Wes Anderson film from a mile away, for better or worse See it on May 25th.
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We got a Top 15 a couple of weeks ago, but now we get "The 30 Best Movie Posters of 2011" from Flavorwire. Great list and great comments. Such as this one for the poster above, "It’s like the 'Mad Men' intro went to the water park."

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Ricky Gervais Devil Golden Globes Promo - H 2012

The Golden Globes are tonight! Are you ready for the wrath of Ricky? Gervais said of the gig (which he is hosting for a third time, to everyone's surprise), "I only do things that could end my career now." Clearly, he is ready for the awards shows. The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

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Gene Hackman, who turns 82 this month, last appeared in a major motion picture in 2004.

It must feel terrible to hit an old man on a bike with your truck. It must feel terribly embarrassing if that old man is Gene Hackman. CNN has the story. Just to let you know though, Hackman survived and is reported to be all right after his rush to the hospital.

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Slate published an fascinating article this morning, "In Praise of the Golden Globes." Tom Shone claims that "they're more fun than the Oscars, and they pick better winners, too." There are plenty of examples where the Golden Globes got it right and the Academy Awards not so right. It gets into a conspiracy theory of sorts regarding why certain films seem to win. If you are interested in either of these award shows I highly recommend the read.

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Talk show host personality Ellen DeGeneres gives some acting tips on a recent show. Plus, an appearance from a legendary actress!

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