Wednesday, December 27, 2006

50 best actors of all time

A pretty objective list, I think, of the top 50, I’m surprised I made it all the way to 50 and it was a really hard assignment since actors come in different types: mainly those who create a persona and are a personality and those who are character actors, so it's really hard to make a standard list. You also have people who are more prolific and people who made each picture count. Stars who are very bankable, stars who are confined to one niche (i.e. The Western, etc.)

I think i might keep working on providing descriptions and stuff but that would probably take a lot of time, and come on, i can't be here all day writing. Some notes though:

  1. Marlon Brando-Notable Roles: Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata, Apocolypse Now, Last Tango in Paris, On the Waterfront, The Godfather, Favorite Director: Elia Kazan
  2. Humphrey Bogart-Notable Roles: Sabrina, African Queen, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, To Have and Have Not, Key Largo, The Big Sleep. Favorite Director: John Huston
  3. Jimmy Stewart-Notable Roles: It's a Wonderful Life, Rear Window, Vertigo, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Winchester '73, Favorite Director: Frank Capra/Alfred Hitchkock
  4. Lawrence Olivier-Notable Roles: Hamlet, Richard III, Rebecca, Wuthering Heights, Favorite Director: Himself
  5. Cary Grant-Notable Roles: Arsenic and Old Lace, The Awful Truth, North by Northwest, Charade, His Girl Friday, Bringing up the Baby, Favorite Director: Nomadic
  6. Gary Cooper-Notable Roles: The Westerner, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Pride of the Yankees, Seargent York, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, High Noon, Favorite Director: Nomadic
  7. Alec Guiness-Notable Roles: The Lavender Hill Mob, Bridge on the River Kwai, Star Wars, Dr. Zhivago, Favorite Director: Mostly British directors
  8. Robert De Niro-Notable Roles: Once Upon a Time in America, Deer Hunter, Godfather II, Mean Streets, Raging Bull, New York New York, Goodfellas, Casino, Favorite Director: Martin Scorsesee
  9. James Cagney-Notable Roles: White Heat, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Public Enemy, Favorite Director: Nomadic
  10. Henry Fonda-Notable Roles: Young Mr. Lincoln, Grapes of Wrath, My Darling Clementine, 12 Angry Men, Once Upon a Time in the West, On Golden Pond, Favorite Director: John Ford, pehaps
  11. Orson Welles-Notable Roles: Citizen Kane, Magnificent Ambersons, Lady from Shanghai, Othello, Third Man, Touch of Evil, Favorite Director: Himself
  12. Clark Gable-Notable Roles: It Happened One Night, Mutiny on the Bounty, Gone with the Wind, Favorite Director: Nomadic
  13. Charlie Chaplain: Modern Times, City Lights, Gold Rush, Great Dictator, Favorite Director: Himself
  14. Peter O’Toole: My Favorite Year, Lawrence of Arabia, Beckett, Lion in the Winter, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Last Emperor, Favorite Director: Nomadic
  15. Jack Lemmon: The Apartment, Days of Wine and Roses, Mr. Roberts, Some Like it Hot, Save the Tiger, Odd Couple, Glengarry Glenn Ross, Irma la Douce, Favorite Director: Billy Wilder
  16. Kirk Douglas: Spartacus, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Out of the Past, Lust for Life, The Champion, Paths to Glory, Favorite Director: Nomadic
  17. Dustin Hoffman: The Graduate, Tootsie, Midnight Cowboy, Lenny, Papillon, Kramer vs Kramer, Rain Man, Wag the Dog, Favorite Directors: Barry Levinson, Mike Nicholls
  18. Jack Nicholson: Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, The Shining, Prizzi's Honor, Terms of Endearment, A Few Good Men, As Good as It Gets, Favorite Director: Roman Polanski
  19. Gregory Peck: Duel in the Sun, Twelve O'Clock High, Gentleman's Agreement, Roman Holiday, To Kill a Mockingbird, Favorite Director: Nomadic
  20. William Holden: Network, Bridge on the River Kwai, Sabrina, Stalag 17, Wild Bunch, Towering Inferno, Favorite Director: Billy Wilder
  21. Gene Kelly-Notable Roles: Anchors Aweigh, On the Town, Summer Stock, American in Paris, Singing in the Rain, It's Always Fair Weather, Favorite Directors: Stanley Donen, Vincente Minelli
  22. John Wayne-Notable Roles: Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, Rio Bravo, The Searchers, The Alamo, True Grit, Favorite Director: John Ford
  23. Tom Hanks-Notable Roles: Splash, Big, Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, Road to Perdition, Favorite Directors: Rob Zemeckis, Ron Howard, Stephen Spielberg
  24. Sean Connery-Notable Roles: The Hill, Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Murder on the Orient Express, The Untouchables, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Favorite Director: Sidney Lumet
  25. Edward G. Robinson-Notable Roles: Little Ceasar, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, Double Indemnity, Key Largo
  26. Spencer Tracy-Notable Roles: Boys Town, Woman of the Year, Adam's Rib, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Bad Day at Black Rock, Inherit the Wind, Favorite Director: Stanley Kramer
  27. Fred Astaire-Notable Roles: Flying Down to Rio, Top Hat, Swing Time, Holiday Inn, Barkleys on Broadway, Band Wagon, Towering Inferno, Favorite Director: Whomever was assigned by RKO
  28. Burt Lancaster-Notable Roles: The Killers, From Here to Eternity, Elmer Gantry, Atlantic City
  29. Sidney Portier-Notable Roles: The Defiant Ones, Lillies in the Field, In the Heat of the Night, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Favorite Director: Stanley Kramer or Norman Jewison would be my gues
  30. Robert Redford-Notable Roles: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Natural, The Sting, The Candidate, The Way We Were, All the President's Men, Out of Africa
  31. James Dean
  32. Clint Eastwood
  33. Paul Newman
  34. Al Pacino
  35. Montgomery Clift
  36. Albert Finney
  37. Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
  38. Michael Caine
  39. Harrison Ford
  40. Gene Hackman
  41. Ben Kingsley
  42. Frank Sinatra
  43. Denzel Washington
  44. Walter Matthau
  45. Tom Cruise
  46. Robert Duvall
  47. Anthony Quinn
  48. James Coburn
  49. Ernest Borgnine
  50. John Voight
-I might call this a best actors and actresses of the 20th century list, simply because recent great actors like Russell Crowe, Jonny Depp or Scarlett Johannson who have been much bigger since 2000, have had a much
-Although, i am capable of independently thinking about this, i did consult two sources: AFI's twenty five legends and Premiere's April 2005 issue of top 50 movie stars

-For those keeping track, i basically have Robert De Niro as the best actor today. Obviously, it doesn't look as good with his last few comedic movies but look back before Analyze This
-Among my immediate family, Cary Grant is controversial but oddly enough Premiere Magazine ranked him #1 star of all time and AFI named him the #2 screen legend.
-Walter Matthau was a tough cookie to place, cause what do you have of him without Jack Lemmon
-This isn't really my opinion, although it's a balance between my opinion and popularity
-Ever notice how Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck and Jimmy Stewart are all very alike? Gregory Peck has some great performances but he was so cheesy in Gentleman's Agreement
-I would say that the two biggest actors i grew up with are Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks, and it's interesting to put them up against the greats. If you think about movies that are entertaining and exciting, Harrison Ford is always front and center, though admittedly he hasn't had a hit in years. Hanks, to me, is the best, but i weighed that against other stuff. He's my personal favorite, put it that way
-Admittedly Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire aren't the best actors, but keep in mind that those were the only 2 guys out of the entire MGM roster of stars who can act, sing and dance at a level that made those musicals work. Donald O'Connor could dance but he couldn't act that well. Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra could sing but couldn't dance.

-Tom Cruise isn't the best actor, no, but he's done enough good work that he deserves a place on the list. Remember when he used to not be so universally reviled and thought of as one of the biggest stars in the world. It is pretty interesting because Premiere's April '05 (before Oprahgate) Issue ranked Tom Cruise as the greatest living star of today, so it wasn't that long ago. I wonder if the magazine editors who had pages and pages praising Tom Cruise would have changed their minds like the rest of the American public within the following 18 months

-I don't think number of oscars equals greatness. Jack Nicholson isn't number one although some people might say he is. He's good, i like him, he's definitely extroadinarily talented but I think late in his career he's relied on just being Jack. Also, i think i disagree with other people over his best performances (i like 5 Easy Pieces and Chinatown, not As Good as It Gets or One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). I also perfer Robert Redford to Paul Newman even though Newman's been nominated a million times.

-James Coburn is interchangable with a number of stars from his era who were in The Great Escape or Magnificent Seven or similar Western/War movies with him-James Garner, Jack Palance, Charles Bronson, etc. It was a close call. I went for Coburn because In Like Flint just blew my mind. Was I supposed to take it seriously or was it a spoof? I couldn't figure out which.

-Sean Connery is also tough to nail down and evaluate outside of Bond. Is he a one-trick pony? The truth is he's done way more than 7 films in his career (that's how many Bond films he did), so it's a shame that he's so associated with Bond. His best acting performance outside of James Bond that i've seen is The Man Who Would be King. He's also not bad in Murder on the Orient Express

actor matches from yesteryear to today

This was in response to a USA Today article asking users
who they would pick as the modern day equivalent of certain stars:

Dick Powell-Ewan MaGregor: Both can sing and dance and play
young heart throbs, and they also took on a dramatic role in 
Murder, My Sweet and Star Wars, respectively
Robert Mitchum-William DeFoe: Flexible range, can play 
jaded, dark characters
John Wayne-Robert DuVall-In their later stages in their 
career, seen as the top cowboy in tinseltown (Few people 
forget that John Wayne was originally turned down for 
Stagecoach for Gary Cooper and was seen as a B-movie actor 
in the 30s)
Rudolph Valentino-Antonio Banderas: The Latin Lovers
Jane Fonda-Madonna: Both sing, both have remained icons of 
their generations and have generated controvoursey, both 
have passions linked to other countries, Madonna with 
Argentina in Evita, and Hanoi for issues surrounding 
Vietnam, Hanoi Jane
Audrey Hepburn-Mischa Barton/Brittney Murphy: An Audrey 
Hepburn clone comes along every two years, just about, 
Hepburn was very cute and also had a lot of grace and 
sophistication to her. Jennifer Love Hewitt or Brittney 
Murphy are people I would’ve seen in those roles, and I’d 
still see Brittney Murphy in that role, but I think the next 
one to come along as current TV actress Mischa Barton, she’s 
captivating in the OC and the way she dresses when she goes 
to interviews shows a European sophistication about her
Sidney Poitier-Don Cheadle: Black actors, selective of their 
roles, committed to breaking new ground and play pretty much 
all drama forgoing lighthearted comedies. Cheadle’s 
intensity and devotion to Hotel Rwanda raises him to Sidney 
Poitier’s bar
Judy Garland-Emma Rossum: Phantom of the Opera star is 
young, has a naïve and innocent stage persona and has the 
chops to match
Faye Dunaway-Susan Sorandon: Could play sexy in her younger 
days, in her older days brings a commanding authority to all 
her roles (aka Network for Dunaway, Client for Sorandon)
Orson Welles-Sean Penn: Genius is impossible to deny by 
everyone, but seen as an outsider and difficult
Marlene Dietrich-Catherine Zeta-Jones: Foreign allure, very 
Clark Gable-Harrison Ford: Men of good character, steel 
resolve, both play heroes, Gable’s “Frankly my dear, I don’t 
give a damn” is something I could see Indiana Jones saying 
as he rescues Kate Capshaw from a burning temple while she’s 
complaining about her hair getting wet or something like that
Jimmy Stewart-Tobey MaGuire: Wide-eyed young-at-heart boys 
who can be strong when it counts (Mr. Smith Goes to 
Washington for Stewart, Spiderman for Tobey)
Diana Rigg-Jennifer Garner: Brittish avengers star was a 
beauty but also a tough girl
Barbara Stanwyck-Maria Bello/Marrisa Thomei: Brooklynite 
brashness to them, can be manipulative but usually straight-
up honest, endearing underneath it all
Henry Fonda-Tom Hanks: Quintissential good guy and barometer 
of American character. Hanks’ love of American history 
manifests itself in which projects he choses (Saving Private 
Ryan, Apollo 13), Fonda belief in the goodness of American 
values manifested itself in 12 Angry Men and My Darling 
Clementine among others
Katherine Hepburn-Merryl Streep: Versatile women who are 
respected for their craft above anyone of their generation

Top 10 comic personalities of 2005

I haven't updated it this year, but last year i was thinking of all the top ten lists that happen in December and I thought of a new one, i could add to the mix. Of course, the new magazine, Cracked Magazine does this too now.


1. Nick Hornby for his novel “Long Way Down” and success of continuing adaptations on screen

One of the few people who I’d voluntarily read a novel from. His books are witty and refreshing enough that his books go by like a magazine article ordinarily does. His books have been adapted into hit movies like High Fidelity, About a Boy, and Fever Pitch, and when his latest comedic book about four people who randomly meet on the rooftop of a building, all with plans to commit suicide (how’s that for a comedic challenge) came out, the movie rights were gobbled up right away, by someone no less than Jonny Depp.

2. Sara Silverman (Role in the Aristocrats and Jesus Walks)

Over 100 comedians tell the same joke and she was the one who was able to find an original angle and run away with it. Sort of a Jewish version of Andy Kaufman, who’s a lot easier on the eyes, she’s starting to become well-known for her brand of humor.

3. Steve Carrell (for his role in the Office and for his starring vehicle in 40-Yr Old Virgin)

Surprise, surprise, Steve Carrell is not just good as a fake newsman, but can do other things too. He had roles in the new Woody Allen movie, Melinda and Melinda, in Bewitched, and starred in his own creation The 40-Year Old Virgin. Even better, catch him on the American version of The Office on NBC for his take on the office boss who tries too hard to be friends with his employees. His awkward silences will make you cringe.

4. Steve Colbert (for his new talk show)

By now, John Stewart is just a little bit too powerful. He probably thinks he’s an actual news anchor who can match wits with fellow anchors on CNN because he’s better dressed than them. At least, Steve Colbert hasn’t forgotten that he’s a comedian. Colbert brings non-stop comic inventiveness to his part, always finding sharp comedic angles.

5. Chris Rock for adding color to the Oscar Ceremony, his successful new show on the UPN, his continuing touring of the circuit in stand-up and for Madagascar

There are those who think Chris Rock isn’t the best comedian in America because he’s not mainstream, but just an appealing voice to the black crowd. Those critics should’ve seen him handle the stage at the most mainstream event there is: the Oscars. While the press made a big deal of a completely non-existent feud he had with Sean Penn, he worked the crowd with as much class and humor as any other host. He also leant his talents to Madagascar, the top-grossing cartoon of the year and made one of the year’s best new TV shows about his childhood growing up in Brooklyn, with comedic monologues featured in flashbacks, another way to get his stand-up co

6. Ricky Gervaise for continuing contributions to TV with “Extras” and for voicework in Valiant

Most of us were not satisfied with Gervaise for producing only twelve regular season episodes of The Office and that’s why we’re thankful to have him back on our TV in any way, shape or form. He made an HBO series about two extras that was must-see TV on Sunday nights for at least another six weeks, this time with a more likeable protagonist and the village idiots being carried out through stunt casting.

7. Vince Vaughn for breakout role in the Wedding Crashers

Vince Vaughn’s rapid fire monologues was what separated Wedding Crashers from a B-grade raunchy comedy to one of the summer’s biggest hits. Before this year, Vaughn was in a lot of funny movies, but this year we were more sure that he was the cause of and not just a lucky guy in the middle of them.

8. Jason Lee for My Name is Earl

This incredibly far-fetched idea for a sitcom suddenly becomes amusing and watchable in the hands of Jason Lee.

9. Penn and Teller for there magic act and for making The Aristocrats

The Aristocrats got mixed reviews, but it was pretty ingenious way to separate the men from the boys (and the women vs the girls, of course) by giving them all a crack at the same joke, and it was all done out of a love of comedy. They also got more publicity for their magic act, which has its moments, too, although Penn does talk a little too much and can give you a headache (but Teller compensates for it, I suppose).

10. Alec Baldwin for bit roles on TV and in movies-

Baldwin is an incredibly underrated comic actor, probably because people take him seriously, but he never misses a beat and dives into a comic part with 110% intensity. He was recently in a minor film with Matthew Broderick called Open Shot which came out on DVD this year and was also in Fun with Dick and Jane, plus he guest-starred on Will and Grace and hosted Saturday Night Live (try downloading his Scoutmaster molests Canteen Boy sketch from the early 90s, to see how funny he can be).

Monday, December 25, 2006

Congratulations, you've won the oscar: now what

I think one thing movie fans care about more than anything else is the oscars. That has become as of late become the way that movie fans who like quality movies get into movies. The oscars have the fun competition aspect that sports have. But I don't think the oscar is the ultimate prize for a film to get.

If you win best picture you get held up under a very close microscope. It's a lot of pressure. I wouldn't equate it to winning an olympic gold medal or the superbowl or a set in congress because you've won at that point. I would equate winning a best picture to being in the lead of a marathon or winning the big 10 basketball championship. Yeah, that's great and all but your goal is to make the final four.

Because, when you think about it, what's the ultimate prize? Being remembered in history. Having your picture be thought of as a classic, making AFI's top 100 or BFI's top 100 if you're British, or the Library of Congress's national film registry, or just being on video store shelves 10 or 20 years from now. The best picture gives you a good shot of being remembered in history but I think A Place in the Sun, MASH, or Raging Bull are remembered a lot better than Life of Emile Zola, Ordinary People, and Marty.

Also, my point of being put up to a lot of scrutiny is that a lot of people like to dissect, analyze, and knock down pictures which most of us can agree are at least good pictures but which we now hate for winning best picture over some other personal favorite of ours like Forrest Gump, Chicago, A Beautiful Mind or whatever else. I personally want no part of those discussions because that's pointless. Those are all good pictures and while the winner isn't guaranteed the best picture in absolute terms, it's very very often one that's good, at least. I think that's what a best picture oscar is: a seal of guarantee that the picture is at least good

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Keep your politics out of my movies

In response to critics who dismiss Blood Diamonds merits as a film because it's "too left-wing":

First of all, basic question. If you dismiss this as left-wing, does that mean that the right-wing view is that all these people in Africa should be killed for diamonds and that their story shouldn't be told? That's disgusting.

I hate the way our partisan political culture takes its toll on the way we see films. Movies are art serve an important function in analyzing and putting up a mirror to our culture. They should feel free to do so completely uninhibited from the potential response of self-proclaimed left or right-wing people. Unless, it's a movie like Farenheight 911 which is made with the explicit purpose of removing a president from office, movies are just movies. They might have political overtones but they deserve to be treated as works of art as such. I think we've gotten to a point in society where people just take their truly arbitrary political labels and use those biases to dissect everything around them in life.

On the note of movies just being movies, Ed Zwick clearly states in his production notes that he desires to make entertainment first and foremost. Second, he wishes to state a message. You can agree or not agree with his message but don't dimiss the art. Don't dismiss the merits of his film and don't dismiss his right to say it. Also, i hardly see how you can disagree with his message unless you're in the habit of being so attached to a set of beliefs that it's just your policy to dismiss the merits of anyone on the opposite side of those political beliefs as you. You can't honestly believe it's a bad thing to shed light on the struggles taking place on the African continent?

Monday, December 11, 2006

For Your Consideration review

Christopher Guest and company return to the big screen with a haphazard film that will be just enough to appease the die-hard fans of their unique comedy style but will be unlikely to gain any new converts.

Guest, formerly of Saturday Night Live and Rob Reiner’s cult hit This is Spinal Tap (which he cowrote) , has made a small yet exciting ripple in comedy in the last decade with a new breed of improvisational mockumentary-style comedy. With a recurring stock of actors that includes Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Bob Balaban, Catherine O’Hara, Michael McKean, Parker Posey and the like, his films work as astute parodies of such obscure subjects as community theater (1997’s Waiting for Guffman), dog shows (2000’s Best in Show) and folk music (2003’s A Mighty Wind).
In contrast, the film’s target of parody, Oscar hype, doesn’t work as well because it’s blaringly obvious to everyone how silly the Oscar process is. While praise should be given to Guest for willingness to experiment with a winning formula, the movie suffers a little for these changes. The movie foregoes the mocumentary-style and because the characters’ internal monologue doesn’t get expressed on-screen as much, the movie doesn’t convince us as much that it’s in its own jokes. The jokes from these characters are so wonderfully subtle that you need to be hit on the head with them, and the fake interviews take care of that function.

Lastly, the movie at only 86 minutes, does not give itself enough time for its characters to develop. With such limited screentime, some characters have their moments: Newcomers Richard Kind and Sandrah Oh had an entertaining scene and Bob Balaban and Fred McKean work nicely as a pair of screenwriters, but it was hard to get to know anyone’s idiosyncracies, which is usually where the humor lies in these films. If Fred Willard was any different from his announcer personality in Best in Show, there certainly wasn’t enough time to find out. Perhaps the deleted scenes in the DVD extras will show us what Fred Willard and the rest of the cast were really all about, but until then the version in the theater feels like an incomplete draft.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Top 10 Films of 2003

To set things in context, here's a summary of 2003:
-2003 was the Year of the Epic, in my opinion. Last Samurai, Master and Commander, Cold Mountain, Lord of the Rings were among the 10 most successful films of the year. Also, admirable failures like The Missing and the Alamo was originally scheduled for this year.
-This was Scarlett Johannson's breakout year. Before 2003, she was best known as Thora Birch's best friend in Ghost World
-Also, a good year for comic actor Bill Murray and offbeat actor Jonny Depp. When Jonny Depp's Pirates of the Caribbean broke the $300 million barrier, in a kid's movie nonetheless, it signaled an arrival of sorts for the reclusive artist, followed up with another acclaimed performance in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Depp was awarded a Screen Actor's Guild win, and Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. Bill Murray's Lost in Translation was considered the best performance of his career and was the 1st Saturday Night Live alumni to get an oscar nomination for lead actor (not counting Rob Downey Jr.)
-Pure comedic actors Jack Black and Will Ferrell also cemented their status as go-to guys for bankable screen comedies with Black's School of Rock, a perfect part for his hard-rocking persona. Will Ferrell's Elf grossed over $150 million domestically and cemented his status as a movie star.
-There was a lot of diversity that was recognized in that year's Oscar nominations: Djimon Hotsou (In America) of West Africa, Shoreh Aghdoshloo (House of Sand and Fog) from Iran, Benicio Del Toro (21 Grams) of Mexico, Ken Watanabe (Last Samurai) of Japan, Ben Kinglsey (House of Sand and Fog) who is half-Indian, Jude Law (Cold Mountain, from England), and from down under, Kiesha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) of New Zealand, and Naomi Watts (21 Grams) of Australia
-It was also the summer of the sequel: X-Men 2, Dumb and Dumberer, Charlie's Angels 2, Spy Kids 3-D, Legally Blond 2, Tomb Raider 2, and the Matrix Reloaded. Although today, that sounds about average, it was about 2003 when sequels and blockbusters were really saturating the summer market. Only 2 of these did halfway decently at the box office (Matrix and X-Men) or by any other measure.

There was a lot of diversity in

Top 10 Films of 2003

1. Cold Mountain, Anthony Mingellia
An extraordinary epic, Cold Mountain is more of an “odyssey”/”oh brother where art thou” type of picture, than a civil war picture. Jude Law, in a performance that exceeded my expectations of what I thought was possible of him, plays a confederate soldier who deserts and heads home to Cold Mountian, North Carolina at the request of a girl (Kidman) with whom he shared just a single kiss before leaving. The people that Inman (Law) encounter along his trek, shed light onto the cruelty of man when times get tough and the fragility of life. As the film switches back and forth between Imman, and the difficulty back home on the farm for Kidman and her helping hand Ruby, played memorably by Rene Zellwenger, you’re taken on an gut-wrenching ride that will have both very bright and dark parts. The score, which combines elements of bluegrass and stirring classical, is exceptional as well.

2. Last Samurai, Ed Zwick
Being released alongside so many other great war epics, The Last Samurai probably won't get the recognition it deserves, but that should not detract from its achievements. Set in 1870s Japan, this is an epic set around a washed-up Civil War veteran played by Tom Cruise. Whether you think he's too much of a pretty-boy or not, Cruise can still create magic on screen, even if he plays the same kind of guy over and over. To refresh your memory, Cruise starts his films (Rain Man, Jerry MaGuire, etc) as an arrogant jerk before meeting an inspirational figure, that leads him to a journey of self-discovery where he changes himself and turns into a true hero. This movie is the same, but within the context of a war epic, Cruise is just what the doctor ordered, and just as Hoffman and Cuba Gooding Jr did exemplary work alongside him, Cruise brings out the best in costar Ken Wattanbe, who had an extroadinary presence, in an already emotionally stirring relationship. The story is beautifully told and visually the set design is stunning.

3. Seabiscuit, Gary Ross (also Movie of the Summer)
Just like the horse and it’s partially blind jockey, the movie was kind of an underdog in itself. It's hype made it vulnerable to critic's blows in a blockbuster-heavy summer, and it’s plot about a race horse story didn’t sound appealing to attract more than 21 million dollars worth of viewers on opening weekend. The movie however, is the real deal: an entrenching story that moves viewers past the Disnefied-type underdog-triumphs-above-all plot. Set against a period backdrop intertwined with historic footage, autumn-hued cinematography and Thomas Newman's heavy score, the movie feels well-crafted on every end. The underrated Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper fill out character roles alongside Tobey Macguire who brings to his character more ferocity and toughness than even his superhero persona Spiderman had. Small casting editions like Elizabeth Banks as an industrial magnet’s young new wife and William H. Macy providing some comedic relief are a plus.

4. Mystic River, Clint Eastwood
Like Unforgiven, Bridges with Madison County and Bird, Eastwood might frame his movies within the realm of certain genres, but his stories are all about human emotions. The movie does reek a little bit with stars Tim Robbins and Sean Penn crying out for Oscar nominations, but the movie is a display of good acting more than anything else, the performances are too powerful to brush aside. One of the underpraised performances is by Laura Linney as Penn's wife who gives a speech that's subtly diabolical.

5. Master and Commander, Peter Weir
This film brings history to life in a way few movies do. Set in 1805, the movie follows a British ship led by Captain Jack Aubry (Russell Crowe) in pursuit of one of Napoleon’s fleet. Whether it was the accuracy of Patrick O’Brien’s novels or Director Peter Weir’s devotion to detail in his recreation of life at sea, I felt as if I were on the ship myself. I might have also felt this way because of the film’s unwavering vision to its subjects rather than conventional Hollywood storytelling. For example, in a story set at sea, we would naturally be looking forward to seeing exciting naval battles. While we do get our share of exciting naval action, we mostly experience the HMS Surprise, where every minute of the movie takes place, spending their time waiting and trying to maintain their sanity so that when a battle actually does come, you realize the magnitude of it. The human element of the movie, of course, is the multi-layered relationship between Crowe and Bettany, a duo seen before in Beautiful Mind that does not disappoint.

6. Finding Nemo, Andrew Staunton
With a sense of imagination that only a child could have, Pixar has finally struck gold. The highest grossing animated movie in history, and deservedly so, Finding Nemo is a real gem for both kids and their parents. Its first move in the right direction is setting the picture underwater. Amid a previously unseen and pleasantly quirky world of spaced-out sea turtles and 12-step program sharks, the movie presents a heartwarming story about a father’s search for his son. Add in witty dialogue and extraordinary performances by Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks and you got a movie that’s too good to miss.

7. X-Men 2: X-Men United, Bryan Singer
With much of the exposition out of the way, the second installment of the X-Men is much freer to develop its characters and engage in some summer fun along the way. The film benefits from its large and talented ensemble, which includes a number of new heroes and villains entering the scene. New characters include a vanishing monk named Night crawler (Alan Cumming) and a conflicted teenager with firepower named Pyro (Shawn Ashmore). Of course, we’re treated to a brand new villain (Bryan Cox), which adds a new dimension to the battle of good vs. evil as the good guys and bad guys are forced to enter into a temporary alliance and some riveting complications result thereafter. Overall, Bryan Singer has the challenging task of navigating the complexities of this comic and showing the appealing side of this band of misfits, and he comes through in flying colors.

8. House of Sand and Fog, Vladim Perelman
A tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, House of Sand and Fog is a profound and moving study of what often gets lost in the pursuit of the American dream. Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley would easily be deserving of oscars in any given year for their work here as two opposing foes in a battle for rights to a house. To Kingsley, an Iranian immigrant who was once an Iranian general, the house represents having finally attained the status of being a real American family. For Connelly, a recovering drug addict, the house represents all that she has to hold onto from a privileged life she grew up in.

9. Pirates of the Carribean, Gore Verbinski
Pirate lovers have been waiting for a movie like this since the days of “Waterworld” and “Cutthroat Island.” Set in Port Royal, an island historically associated with pirates, and based on a Disney world ride, the movie follows Orlando Bloom as a sword smith with a dark past, who enlists the help of famed pirate (Depp) to rescue the object of his affections (Knightly). To go in more detail would take hours because, unfortunately the plot’s long-winded and has more twists and turns than one can keep up with in one sitting. Nevertheless, while Pirates veers into the basic formulas and clichés of any other pirate movie, it does so with purpose and style to make a quality ride out of a familiar outing. The movie also has some truly original elements, most notably Depp’s performance as Jack Sparrow, a name you’ll remember long after you see this movie.

10. Lost in Translation, Sophia Copolla
The meaning of the film's title is double: Not only is the film set in Japan where the main characters can’t speak the language, let alone grasp the culture, but they are lost in their own lives as well and don't have anyone to express it too until they find each other. Bill Murray plays an actor who goes through a midlife crisis, realizing how low he has sunk by having to do Japanese television commercials. At the hotel bar, he meets Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johannson, who’s having a quarter life crisis and they end up bonding through their mutual alienation to the world. Murray, who needed over 100 consecutive February 2nds to finally start caring about people in Groundhog Day, and Johannson, a non-conforming teenager in Ghost World, were both great candidates for portraying apathy. The film’s weakness is that it moves too slowly at times, but I think that’s because director Sofia Copolla’s portrayal of a meaningful relationship is so much more real than anything else I’ve seen. Just like watching this film, to have a relationship in real life takes time and patience and Copolla’s brilliance is her unwavering vision here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Top 10 Films of 2004

Review of 2004:
-This was the year of the biopic, in my opinion. Ray, Kinsey, The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Beyond the Sea, and Vera Drake were among the most successful this year. Also, there was Delovely. I don't think I'm a genius for coming to that conclusion, either. It was just an obvious trend that for some reason all happened this year.

-This was the year where there was a sense that there was a Brat Pack. The term was coined by the media somewhere (don't remember who) and they were kind of cemented. It's hard to explain how that stuff works but factors that lead to it were: 2 of the biggest water cooler movies of the summer in Anchorman and Dodgeball along with a lot of Ben Stiller movies: Envy, Starsky and Hutch, and Meet the Fockers (one of the highest grossing films of the year). The brat pack is basically Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. In this year all of those people except Owen Wilson was in Anchorman in some form or another, Stiller and Vaughn were in Dodgeball, Owen and Stiller were in Meet the Fockers and Starsky and Hutch together, and Stiller and Black were in Envy together. You can trace this group back and forward (i.e. Old School was Luke, Ferrell, and Vaughn, see the pattern?)

-This might have been the very peak of the summer blockbuster season. 2005's grosses went downhill and that's not so much because 2005 was a failure, just for the fact that 2004 had so many humongous movies hitting the theater pretty much every weekend. Troy had a big opening weekend gross of $45 million, only to be brushed aside 5 days later when Shrek 2 nearly set a box office record eventually becoming #3 all time, followed by Harry Potter with a $245 million domestic gross, followed by Spiderman 2 which dominated the box office for 2 weeks, to be then be set aside by a string of films I, Robot/Bourne Supremacy/Village, each of them grossing over $50 million opening weekend. In between, The Day After Tomorrow grossed enough its first weekend to set a record for the highest film never to hit #1. The year produced 3 films that broke into the top 10 all-time, Shrek 2, Spiderman 2, and Passion of the Christ, which brings me to the next bullet

-There was a whole thing in the press about a red-state and blue-state divide that got blown up a lot. This was representative through two big successes. One appealed to the religious right because it was a big picture about Jesus, and the other was not really religious in nature but it was made with the purpose of removing George W. Bush from office. The connection is somewhat hasty, but nevertheless: Passion of the Christ was a humongous film coming from Mel Gibson and was made even more impressive by the fact that it was in subtitles, incredibly violent and very long, which usually isn't a good formula for commercial success. On the other side, Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 set a box office record for documentaries and looked like it had the potential to really make an impact

-A couple small independent films made a splash. The first, Garden State was written, directed by and starred Zach Braff and won him the National Board of Review honor for new director, a Grammy for best soundtrack, and a lot more young fans in addition to those who love him on the TV show Scrubs. The second, Napoleon Dynamite, an offbeat film about incredibly odd characters growing up in Idaho, became a cult hit. This wasn't significant from an art standpoint (at least I hope not. I hope a lot of people don't imitate this), but it did mark a success for the people at the Sundance Film Festival where the film was originally released and sold for national distribution. The following year, Sundance also saw more success for independent films Hustle and Flow and Junebug which both got national distribution and Oscar nominations

-Lastly, it was a big year for Martin Scorsese, or at least it had the potential to be. His movie the Aviator was very hyped up and was supposed to guarantee him an Oscar. As you can see from my list, i thought it was a great film, and others did too. It also did win a lot of Oscars, but the big prize at the end of the evening went to Clint Eastwood, so Scorsese had to go back to the drawing board.

Top 10 Movies of 2004:
10. Anchorman, Adam McKay

I’m sure I’m in the minority in calling Anchorman one of the best films of the year, but when done well a pure comedy can be just as much a show of great film-making as anything else. Set in a 1970s San Diego newsroom, Anchorman is the best display of improvisational comedy on screen since Christopher Guest. The comic timing was excellent as jokes were pushed to extreme situations (i.e. the West Side Story like brawl, the random a capella rendition of “Afternoon Delight”). More than that, however, a great comedy is about the characters and what I loved about this film is how everyone in the cast stepped it up to match Will Ferrell’s intensity in mining the zaniness out of their characters.

9. Ray, Taylor Hackford

Ray showed us a portrait of a man who whether morally in the right or wrong, was unquestionably a man of great vision. Heeding his mother’s parting advice to not let anyone treat him like a charity case, Ray Charles refused to act blind. He denied himself a walking cane or even a helping hand. At the same time, however, Charles was blind in a way: to skin color. Despite the discrimination he faced, he befriended black and white people alike and musically opened himself up to both style. Jamie Foxx turns in the best performance of the year that captures the man inside and out.

8. Manchurian Candidate, Johnathan Demme

Johnathan Demme’s remake of the 1962 classic managed the rare feat of updating an original to a contemporary setting while preserving the spirit of the original. Demme’s version also plays out more like a thriller than the original much like the novel. Even by the standards of Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, the performances are surprisingly tuned in.

7. Fahrenheit 911, Michael Moore

Michael Moore didn’t succeed in changing the course of national history with his documentary. He did, however, succeed in infusing the non-fiction format with mainstream entertainment and broke a box office record along the way. More than just a presentation of facts, Moore’s documentary tells a story infused with emotion that brings the viewer to tears and laughter.

6. Spanglish, James L Brooks

In his first film of the new millennium, Brooks does a great job of exploiting both the humorous and dramatic possibilities of the cultural and class barriers between a wealthy suburban family and their new Mexican housekeeper. Adam Sandler gives a surprisingly mature performance that doesn’t compromise his likability, the underrated Tea Leoni hits the right notes as a high strung wife, and the introduction of Paz Vega as the housekeeper is a welcome surprise. She gives a delicate performance of a character that acts as a counterbalance to the dysfunction.

5. The Life Aquatic, Wes Anderson

Some were disappointed with Wes Anderson’s follow-up to The Royal Tannenbaums, but I might just be a sucker for Jack Cousteau-type adventures. Still, it’s hard to see what’s not to like with the addition of Willem Dafoe, Cate Blanchett, and Jeff Goldblum in place of frat-packers Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller, and Bill Murray back at the helm, the Life Aquatic brings an ensemble of rich and multilayered characters that mesh together in the trademark Wes-Anderson-style. The plot follows a ship out at sea and it could be argued that it’s not particularly focused, but with such beautiful visuals and a soundtrack of such original sources as David Bowie covers covered in Portuguese, it’s fine just to sit back and enjoy the ride whatever direction it takes you.

4. Sideways, Alexander Payne

A somber and highly engaging comedy that derives its humor from its strong footing in the tragedies and subsequent triumphs, however small they may be, in real life. Payne’s last film, the critically acclaimed About Schmidt starred Jack Nicholson in a toned-down role. In contrast, this film centers around four quirky character roles cast perfectly with Thomas Haden Church as the brash playboy, Sandra Oh as a raunchy single mom, Virginia Madsen as a fragile waitress, and Paul Giamatti as an introspective elementary school teacher who wants just a little more in life.

3. Motorcycle Diaries, Walter Salles

One of the greatest and most important stories of Latin-American folklore is brought to the American movie screen and turns out a winner. The Motorcycle Diaries is the firsthand account by a young Ernesto “Che” Gueverra and his traveling companion of an 800-mile motorcycle trek through South America. Guevuerra would go on to become one of world history’s most notorious revolutionary figures, and the immense appeal of this story is its tale of a naïve and innocent man before en route to becoming the icon that so many of his countrymen revere.

2. Hotel Rwanda, Terry George

Described as “Schindler’s List set in Africa,” Hotel Rwanda is an intense gritty war drama is powerful in its horrific imagery, shot on location. Yet, it is a story of hope as well. Don Cheadle plays Terry George as a hotel manager in Rwanda who first tries to save his immediate family from the conflict, but is then moved to save everyone he can. It’s a truly eye-opening experience about a part of the world and one of the many conflicts within that all-too-easily get ignored.

1. Aviator, Martin Scorsese

2004 was undoubtedly the year of the biopic with movies being made about singers, abortion activists, sex researchers, and whether Howard Hughes was a more important figure in history than Bobby Darin or Ray Charles, it was clear that no biopic story this year was told with more passion for its subject than The Aviator. Like the Golden Age of Hollywood in which the movie is set, Aviator was quality film making at every end, with big production values, a majestic score by Howard Shore, and a roster of talent so deep that bit parts were being filled out by the likes of Jude Law and Willem Dafoe. Alec Baldwin as a slithery airline executive and Kate Beckinsdale as bombastic belle Ava Gardner stand out for their performances, and Leonardo DiCaprio tosses aside his “pretty boy” persona for a deeper performance.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A review of every movie BEFORE it comes out

I usually can forecast pictures pretty well and how they'll turn out:
Apocolypto-Following in the footsteps of The Passion of the Christ will be hard, and critics will probably compare this to Passion's standards. It might suffer from some animosity by people disturbed by Mel Gibson's comments and it might not, but it will definitely not make as much as Pasison of the Christ which made like $380 million and is in the all-time top 10 highest grossing films, so therefore the press will label it a failure and history will say that at was because of Mel Gibson's remarks and then even less people will see it, but that's silly. It's probably a good movie

Good German-Sounds like a winner. A good cast, not too recent in history, not too far back. Will probably just miss out on the oscars but hopefully not. Will probably be a big Matt Damon make-or-break it kind of role.

Good Shephard-The Steve Sodebergh/George Clooney black-and-white neo-noir thing will be hard to pull of. Sodebergh's movies lately have been more of a show of "ooooh, look at what new innovation i just came up with," and not be story heavy and without a soul, this will be more like Sin City than L.A. Confidential

For Your Consideration-It will probably be well-liked by Christopher Guest fans because Christopher Guest doesn't really dissapoint and no one else will really know about it

Deck the Halls-Probably be relentlessly bashed by critics because it's not really a quality movie and a step down for Matthew Broderick, but kids will like it and parents would probably rather take their kids to that than "Happy Feet" or another animated movie because it has a few likeable actors in it and they're sick of animated movies and by comparison they'll probably think this is good so it'll get a long shelf life on video and be replayed by a lot of TV stations during holiday time, like Elf is now (i'm hoping things go with the audience)

Nativity Story-Like Chronicles of Narnia last year, The Christian Right will love it. It'll have a small following and a few small oscar nominations, maybe.

10 Items of Less-Never heard of it

Dhoom 2: Back in Action-There was a Dhoom 1?

Deja Vu-This is Denzel Washington's 3rd or 4th or 5th role in a row as a tough jaded cop with some girl he's going to have to protect (hmmm, there was Out of Time, Man on Fire, etc.) so low on originality points. Denzel has a fan contingent though so i'll say it does decently and people like it

Turistas-Josh Duhamel and Melissa George. Well, Josh Duhamel might get some people but an episode of Las Vegas will probably score a little higher

Blood Diamond-This will probably be awesome. Like Last Samurai, Ed Zwick makes great period pieces that are solid in every way AND he will infuse it with a lot of action scenes. It will probably fall just short of getting an oscar nomination because it'll be seen as more of an action movie than a serious piece but isn't that what the audience wants? what's wrong with action?

Breaking and Entering-It will probably be good, i think it got good reviews when it was screened way back in the day. Low box office gross though

The Holiday-Has the potential to be as popular as Love Actually and be a 21st century romantic comedy for the ages, but who knows

Unaccompanied Minors-I have no reason to root for its failure but sadly it probably will

Days of Glory-Sounds like a good name for a movie, at least. Know nothing else about it. Wait, Wasn't there a racecar movie with Tom Cruise in like the early 90s/late 80s with that name?

Dreamgirls-It's got the 2004 7th place contestant from American Idol, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy, Beyonce, and Jamie Foxx. What a wierd agglomeration of a cast. Still it'll be loved and do well.

Eragon-I don't get fantasy. I'll personally stay away from it but since Lord of the Rings was a big hit, there's probably an audience that'll see this too if it's marketed well. Since no one read the book (is there a book?) , probably do really poorly

Pursuit of Happiness-Will not gross as high as Will Smith usually does, but will probably get some good reviews, maybe some awards, little to no audience because Smith is not beating up anything or blowing anything up

Venus-It'll win an oscar for best actor, i hear, but still no audience, until at least after it wins the oscar, then people might see it on DVD to see what was so great about the performacne

Night at the Museum-Will range from mildly dissapointing to mildly funny. Won't be artsy enough for the critics

Rocky Balboa-They actually went ahead and made this movie? Sylvester Stallone is so old he [insert old joke of your choice here]. It clearly won't be as good but with the way sequels go, people might just be duped enough to go see it and make it a commercial success

Children of Men-It's another classy movie but crowded among too many other good movies, it might get shut out. Michael Caine is in this movie too? He's kind of a workahaulic, isn't he?

We Are Marshall-I don't care how good this is, one football movie per year is enough and I already saw Invincible. Can we just have a Hollywood quota on number of inspirational sports movies focused on coaches? We already had Glory Road this year with Josh Lucas who looks a lot like Matthew McConnegheay anyway and Josh Lucas loks like Matthew McConnegheay if you squint your eyes, so even less reason to make this movie.

Curse of the Golden Flower-Nope

Notes on a Scandal-A movie designed for the sole purpose of giving Judi "Dame" Dench another oscar nomination giving her 1st place in all of history for number of oscar nominated roles in movies that no one has seen (Has anyone seen or heard of Mrs Henderson Presents, Mrs Brown, Iris?)

Factory Girl-The magazine that i'm reading has a lengthy feature article featured on this film, but other than that i've never heard anything. It stars the woman who Jude Law dumped for the housekeeper or something, but I just don't think that's enough to sell a movie these days.

Miss Potter-I hope it fails, because I don't want Rene Zellweger to get an oscar nomination. She'll give a really annoying speech thanking everyone she's ever worked and find ways to compliment them all that'll make me want to throw up. (e.g. "I'd like to thank my publicist, he was such a beautiful soul and inspirational being and source of love")

And finally....
Pan's Labrynth-It sounds like a cool name for a movie but do you see how many movies come out in December, already?

Da Vinci Code

Critics so far are giving Da Vinci code mixed reviews but when you're making a film based on a book that apparently has sold more copies than any book since the Bible (as Roger Ebert notes: "good thing it had a different ending") the expectations are going to be hard to live up to. The other mistake critics are making is that they're judging the film along the lines of how controversial it is, and are lampooning the usually middle-of-the-road Ron Howard for once again playing it too safe. That makes no sense to me: a movie has to have picketers at its premiere to be considered successful? The fact is that Howard is in a damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don't situation with the material and he skirted the controversy smartly by just focusing on making a good movie and even if by sticking to the book he won't get the credit for the great story, that's still exactly what he did.

For those of you that didn't read the book, The Da Vinci Code is an intelligent thriller that starts out with a murder at an art museum in France, and a Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon (Hanks) is called upon to help decipher the victim's dying message. Making their way into the story at intersecting points and building up the suspense level are a French cryptologist and granddaughter of the victim, a police chief with a vendetta (Reno), a bishop who heads a controversial sect of Christianity (Molina), a murderous albino monk (Bettany) and an obsessive British aristocrat (McKellan). The story is filled with cliffhangers and surprises at every turn and the film pretty much follows that same pace, being careful not to cut out too much of the interesting tidbits that made the book so interesting in the first place. The story's genius, after all, comes from playing with familiar historical events suggesting they didn't happen exactly the way we thought they did.

For those of you who have read the book, don't worry, it's not by any means an exact copy of the book. Things are cut and moved around and at least a couple of key elements are changed for the better. For example, Bezu Fache, the policeman, is a member of Opus Dei in the film, which makes for more sensible character motives, and Robert Langdon is a religious man which makes for a slightly more open-ended approach to the religious controvoursey. What really makes the movie work, however, is the casting. Audrey Tatou, Paul Bettany, and Ian McKellan are all vastly underrated actors who give Tom Hanks great support and enhance the movie. McKellan's devious scholar seems to comes straight out of an Indiana Jones movie, and Paul Bettany makes Silas the albino monk sufficiently scary but surprisingly human at the same time.

My friend has a review at:

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Stop the internet, get out of the house

I read in the newspaper how there are some companies that are looking into introducing services and technology for downloading movies. I did write in my last post about how the movie theater business has some sly ways of getting money from people like with the expensive popcorn and all but I would trade the movie theater experience for downloading a movie onto your computer any day of the week. I think a movie theater is an awesome experience: it's definitely part of the escapist element that you go to that big room with the screen and watch it there instead of from your home. That's why I worked at a movie theater too: Because of the atmosphere

I think our society is actually getting too dependent on the internet period for our pop culture fix, which really spells the chaos of our society. I don't know if people are aware of this. I'm really just one person on this planet and can only do so much, and like the "stop pollution in the ozone layer" movement or "stop children soldiers" movement, I really don't see anything getting done on this front of stopping the internet or anything, so like any young person that doesn't control the world (at least not yet), i'm just gonna hope that the powers that be who control things know what they're doing with the internet. I mean isn't it obvious to everyone that if we all get all our arts stuff (movies, music, e-books) everything off the internet for free, then the artists who make them won't make any money and they'll be forced to go do another profession? How selfish of all of you?

Personally, I like to buy books, newspapers and magazines when I can. I also like to buy tickets to movies, and I like to buy CDs as well. Even if I'm strapped for cash, I'd rather do that than download music over the internet. Well, allright, i still download music from the internet but i make it a point to buy CDs. That's actually not a bad way to live: Feeling you have to buy CDs because it's a charitable cause, even when it's out of your budget range. I'm worried that that stuff spreads to newspaper and book circulation and I think it's much nicer to read things out of a newspaper than to read things out of the internet and scroll your screen up and down.

Anyway, the internet is now everything for someone like my older sister. My older sister does everything through the internet. She's a 25-year old (or maybe she's 26, i can never keep track) college professor who grades papers through the internet and posts assignments through it. She also uses the internet to do pretty much everything: book flights, seek jobs, pay her bills, buy holiday and birthday gifts for her family, buy books, book hotels, etc., etc.

I am totally the opposite. I perfer to go to the mall and buy presents there. I perfer to call the hotels (my sister never uses the phone, if she can email) and call the airlines myself or maybe even go to the airport. I think doing this stuff gets me fresh air. The airport is a fun place to see. I also would never really know how i felt about a hotel or a job for that matter without seeing the place. I'm very environment-based in the sense that i'd only know how much I'd like a place if i was there myself. There was a job with a long application i wasn't sure if i wanted to waste my time applying to, so I actually looked up the address for the job and went over there and walked around for a while and asked for a tour of the place before i decided i wanted to waste my time with an application.

Hell, I don't even like blogging. If it would advance my career just the same, I would easily write this stuff on paper and post it in the town square (or i suppose they call it the Arlington County Government Offices).

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Conspiracy box office theories of mine

One thing I was thinking of doing with my film degree (will, it was a minor in film in addition to a major in something non-film related, but whatever) was being a box office analyst. I didn't even know who box office analysts were or who hires them (answer: people with backgrounds in business and accounting hired by studios) but I do read movie reports that say "box office analysts predict _____ for this weekend" so I basically wanted to be one of those.

I did think that I was a little smarter than all the box office analysts too, because when they explained the factors of why this movie did or didn't do well, I thought they completely missed some factors.

How about the weather of the weekend the movie opens? The movie theater that I worked at would have business skyrocket if it rained outside or if it was a heat wave. I don't know if weather patterns are nationally constant like that. But what if a storm hits the northeast? That should affect how many people go to the movies and disporportionately affect the ones that are opening that weekend.

Also what if a movie plays 12 times a day rather than 3 times a day? That means there are more hours to wait for the 3X a day movie, so people will usually not want to wait and just go to the movie that's playing sooner. That happens to me a lot when I'm a movie watcher. I asked my manager and he said that movie watchers usually know what they're gonna watch beforehand, and also that isn't an original idea I came up with either. It's fairly well-known that movies with more hype going in and bigger studios backing them will get more theater screens showing on opening day which will get more people seeing those movies since they play more frequently and that will cycle back into its chances of hitting the big time.

How about this? The fact that most people usually don't see movies by themselves. Four summers ago (the movie was Men in Black II), I made a life-changing decision to see movies by myself if I didn't have anyone to see the movie with, and I can't tell you how liberating it's been. You would not believe me unless you experienced it for yourself, but would you guess that it's PRETTY MUCH NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL if you're seeing the movie with other people or by yourself? And on the bright side, you don't have to compromise what movie you want to see, you don't have to work around people's schedules, etc.

But most of America doesn't think like that. Up until when I saw Men in Black II, I didn't think like that either and that means that most of the time when you see a movie, you're not seeing the one you want. If two people on a date see a movie, the man might defer to the woman so maybe that means that a check flick might get an extra run on the tally. In larger groups, let's say one guy takes his kids and his neighbor's kids to a movie and the adult picks the movie. That might be 4 out of 5 not seeing the movie that they chose. I'm not really sure how the dynamics of it all are affected, but whatever that is, the final tallies aren't reflected by the movies that people want to see.

I wonder if maybe we started dispelling the notion that people need to see movies with other people, if improvements would be made in the box office of movies and therefore the quality of movies. This notion is really something that Americans are permanently attached to. People act like seeing a movie by yourself is like drinking alcohol by yourself. Drinking alcohol by yourself is a disease. Seeing a movie by yourself being wrong is just a corporate brainwashing campaign that the movie industry created because it gets them more money to have more poeple in the seats.

It's just like how Americans feel that they HAVE to buy popcorn or something when they come into the movie theater. As a concessionist, I think it's rediculous how many people (probably 50%) spend money inside the movie theater when in 2 hours they can go eat whatever they want at half the prices. I sometimes try to get people to stop buying popcorn, or if they complain about the price of popcorn, I tell them to stop buying it, because if they stopped buying the concessions at outrageous prices, the theater would be forced to bring it down. But, I mean it's not TOO big of a deal to spend money on popcorn. But, it's just interesting how lucky the movie theater industry is that most Americans feel it's just an American thing to do to buy popcorn. It doesn't really benefit the American government, just the Americans who run the movie theaters.