Sunday, March 25, 2007

Film reviews of 2007 based on the trailers

I haven't actually watched a single film in 2007 other than My Brother which I screened at a film festival. I usually don't watch much at the beginning of the year and use this time to catch up on films from the previous year, or maybe pursue other hobbies. I did this in December too before holiday season and so here are some reviews that I just guessed at what they'd be like using everything i know about movies. This is really a fun exercise. Anyway, many of these films have already come out, so please tell me how my blind guess compares with your experiences

TMNT-This strikes me as the exact opposite of what they might teach you in a film marketing class. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were popular when I was growing up in the early 90s and, well, me along with my age group aren’t necessarily a good audience for this movie, because we’ve kind of grown up. I’m not up-to-date with what cartoons are being played on Saturday mornings I don’t really know if anyone currently under the age of 14 even knows what the Ninja Turtles are, and the rest of us can’t explain it to them because we’ve sort of forgotten. .

Zodiac-I’m pretty sure that David Fincher (the director of this film as well as Fight Club and Se7en) is a jerk. His film “Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons” was filming throughout New Orleans when I was there and once I was near the shooting and everyone on his crew I talked to said he was, so he must really be bad. If one or two people think you’re a jerk, ok, but everyone seemed to just be in agreement about this. Anyway, as for Zodiac, it might win its opening weekend, but it’ll be forgotten within a year. Probably just a good thrill ride, nothing more, as some people are making it out to be.

Shooter-Mark Wahlberg, your last 2 movie choices were awesome so I’ll let this one slide, but this does not look like anything remotely original. It looks like a Bourne Identity copy-off, so please don’t talk about how much you love this movie when you’ll be having to eat your words when the bad reviews come in this week. And by the way, I don’t know why people responded so well the Bourne Identity or rather, could the people who responded well to it please admit that it was all about the cool car-chasing and fighting scenes and it had nothing to do with the plot or character development (because it had none)?

300-Sin City taught us (or at least me) that all the cool special effects in the world does not redeem a violent movie if it has no soul to it. Sin City wasn’t about real people. The people in that movie (except possibly Bruce Willis) drank nothing but alcohol, did nothing for recreation other than secure hookers and brutally kill each other, and had no moral qualms about anything. In other words, they weren’t real, just the embodiments of perverted adolescent fantasy. For that, I have a hunch that Frank Miller isn’t so much interested in the history of Greek warfare as he just wants to show a bunch of blood, gore, and other guy stuff. Consdering, he did actually seem moderately knowledgable about the historic period in an interview, I might be wrong though and I’d be eager to be proven so.

Blades of Glory-I’d have to say that this might be the make-or-break-it film for John Heder’s reputation. He will now be 3 films removed from Napoleon Dynamite. Benchwarmers did well at the box office but wasn’t amazingly well-received. School for Scoundrels did not do well at the box office despite aggressive marketing (although while I haven’t seen it, it looked like a good vehicle to me), so considering the hype for this film, it might be his last chance to win audiences over as John Heder or stay trapped in Napoleon Dynamite forever. I’m more anxious to see how SNLer Amy Poehler and Will Arnett do in this movie.

Wild Hogs-It’s a buddy comedy/road trip kind of movie, but what’s odd about it is its group of “buddies” are the four most random people in Hollywood. John Trovolta is a cult icon known for his singing and dancing, a few choicy roles and his scientology; William H. Macy is one of those character actors who nr, Martin Lawrence is a hack comedian, and Tim Allen have probably never been in the same room with each at the same time. They’ve probably never been within a 5-mile radius of each other

Meet the Robinsons-I couldn’t even stay awake through the trailer. It’s a cartoon

Breaking the Gates-If they really thought that a film about the Rwandan genocide would be a film of artistic merit, they would not have released it in the first three months of the year. They would have released it somewhere near the end for Oscar consideration. Thus we are left to conclude that it’s probably some generic action flick.

Astronaut Farmer-I have to wonder what Billy Bob Thornton is doing here. It’s one of those triumphant value-of-the-human-spirit movies and he seems like the least likely guy to be on screen when the orchestra swells up and plays that sappy music that it plays in these kinds of movies. His screen persona is that of a cynical and jaded personality. Let’s review what he’s been in: Intolerable Cruelty (a black comedy about the fickleness of marriage), Man Who Wasn’t There (a film noir), Bad Santa (another black comedy), Primary Colors (his character was one of the more shady members of President Clinton’s staff), A Simple Plan and Bandits. But I don’t know, I like space movies, so I might give him the benefit of the doubt.

Smoking Aces-This would be one of the few from the last couple of months that I’d have a mild interest in seeing and I can’t explain it because I don’t know much about it. I’m just attracted to it by the name. The title sounds cool: something with playing cards and guns. Or maybe they’re shooting at cards with guns? I don’t know. It’s probably some hip and shiek nourish thriller-type thing. The other thing I know about it is that I saw Jeremy Piven on Regis and Kelly and he said something like “this is the best movie I’ve ever been in.” On the one hand, he has been in Black Hawk Down, Runaway Jury and a bit part in the Rob Altman movie The Player whose cast included practically everyone in Hollywood. He’s also been in some of the worst movies of the last 2 decades: Rush Hour 2, Chasing Liberty, Very Bad Things and Singles.

Freedom Writers-Coach Carter, Glory Road and now this. Does anyone else see this pattern of January as Dead Poets’ Society rip-off month where they do the overused plot of actor stretches his range by being an inspirational teacher/coach who turns things around for a group of dummies/retarded people/repressed/at-risk youth, etc. I’m not saying that this wouldn’t be a good movie, but I am saying that if you’ve seen any of the above mentioned movies along with The Emperor’s Club, Mona Lisa Smile, Take the Lead, Stand and Deliver, Hoosiers, or We Are Marshall, I’m betting you’ve probably seen this movie too. Still, within the list above, I might cite a couple (Glory Road, Mona Lisa Smile) as slight variations, and if it’s based on a true story (unlike Emperor’s Club or Mona Lisa Smile) then it’s a story slightly more worth telling

Stardust-Is this a fantasy film or a period piece? What are Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer doing here? Is Robert De Niro just giving up on acting and trying to commit career suicide? He’s arguably the best actor of his generation so he shouldn’t take parts like this.

Georgia Rule-The standards for Lindsay Lohan are going to be high because the stories of her being late to set and upsetting the producer is going to more publicity than this movie is going to get. I actually think that this will be good and do decently. I won’t see it, but if you like this kind of film, I’d blindly recommend it.

Reign Over Me-I’m just flabbergasted. I have no idea what to think. Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle are such a random pair of variables that I can’t even begin to predict where this movie will go.

Blind Dating-So it looks like American Pie with blind people. That doesn’t sound funny, it sounds insensitive and mean-spirited. Oh, god forbid, you’re 22 and a virgin. Wasn’t the standard for it being an embarrassment that you’re a virgin 40 just last year? Oh, Jane Seymour is in this again, haha.

The Hawk is Dying-I love the music in the background, but, um, what the hell is this about, again? Let’s recap and I am not making this up: First, we see that this movie was an entry in Sundance Film Festival. Not that it won anything, it was just an entry. So basically the art house crowd let the movie be screened for them. Paul Giamatti spots a hawk through some binoculars and starts panicking. The hawk isn’t even attack him, he’s just sitting there in a field. If birdwatching is that stressful of an activity for him, maybe he should take up croquetting. Words appear on screen such as: “between passion and obsession” “sanity and madness” and these moments “define our lives.” There’s some talk about how he has to train a hawk or something. Some guy in voiceover says that “it’s possible for a man to live his whole life and not know whether he’s a coward or not.” Um, he’s just birdwatching and carrying a hawk on his arm, this isn’t really that big of a deal. Then some guy says “put down the bird” or something, like it’s a gun. Again, everyone here is just overreacting a lot. Oh yeah, and Paul Giamatti kisses someone towards the end of the trailer. How nice. Oh yeah, and Samuel L. Jackson is in it, dispensing advice to Paul Giamatti about his birdwatching obsession, or something. It’s confusing.. I need an aspirin,

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why GMU's run last year gave us such a boring sweet 16

As we are leaving the sweet 16 and moving on to the next round, and before this becomes irrelevant, I thought I'd post this.

This year's opening weekend of the tournament was what I might consider a very boring tournament. Sure, Ohio State had a thriller against Xavier and Pittsburgh and VCU went to overtime, but in both these games the upper seed won. Regardless of the play, if you look at the tournament on paper, the bottom line is that among the teams that advanced none were double-digit seeds and no one was lower than 7. The last time we had a tournament without a double-digit seed advancing to the Sweet 16 was 1995 and every tournament from 1997 on had at least two.

Then I was thinking, if you just look at the schools themselves who had advanced you'll see there's a Missourri Valley Conference school in Southern Illinois and a Horizon league school in Butler. The two teams to have made the sweet 16 from the Horizon League, Butler in 2003 and Wisc-Milwaulkee in 2005, were seeded 12th and the last time a Horizon league team was seeded in the single digits it was 1996 (Wisc-Green Bay was seeded 8th). Similarly, the Missourri Valley Conference has done a little better on seeding but they've generally been home to the biggest giant killers in the tournament. SW Missourri State and Bradley were the lowest seeds to advance to the sweet 16 of their respective tournaments in 1999 and 2006. Creighton has upset as a double digit team 3 times and Southern Illinois made the sweet 16 before as a double digit seed. The highest a MVC team has been seeded was 7th (if I'm not mistaken) in the specified time span.

In each of those cases, we considered those victories major upsets and cheered those underdogs on. The only thing that's really changed is the numbers in front of the team names on our brackets. 12th-seeded Butler making the Sweet 16 is exciting while 5-seeded Butler making the Sweet 16 is a yawn.

The reason for this higher seeding, I believe, is that after GMU made the tournament last year, pollsters started having their eyes out for the next George Mason and after Butler did so well in the Pre-Season NIT, the pollsters annointed them the next GMU and stuck them in the top 25. Similarly, Southern Illinois started winning games and their win-loss record looked impressive enough for the pollsters to group them in that category as well. Once you get into the AP Top 25, you are virtually guaranteed to advance higher and higher up on that list every week you don't lose a game because others will. The problem there is that Southern Illinois and Butler play against far inferior competition to that of the power conferences, so winning was far easier for them. I'm not entirely sure how much the RPI computerized system plays into the final selection of seeds, and if it's computerized and the seeds are actually based on the level of competition than I am completely wrong, but my theory would be that the constant presence of Butler and Southern Illinois on the AP Top 25 polls this season gave the selection committe added weight to want to give them high seeds.

Another way of looking at it, however, is that the Seeding Committe finally got it right. They successfully picked the two non-major conference schools who would be able to upset the majors en route to the Sweet 16, and thanks to George Mason's run, that really is a significant milestone. The only problem is that when the selection committee is that exact, the tournament is far more boring.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

How the Academy has scored over the years on best picture

Here's a big, grand list of how the Academy did year by year. If another film isn't listed, it means that in retrospect that film still has the critical consensus as the best film of that year.If it isn't the best film, than i mark approximately what that film is ranked among that years entries and what other films are ahead of it. This isn't my personal list, but an effort at establishing critical consensus. It would be pointless to debate "well, Crash was only my 9th favorite film of 2005." We all have different opinions. My conclusion is that we all complain a lot but the Academy has never done worse than 7th by my count.

Wings/Sunrise 3rd (Jazz Singer)
Broadway Melody of 1929
All Quiet on the Western Front
Cimarron/Little Ceaser 2nd
Grand Hotel
Clavacade/42nd Street 3rd (I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang)
It Happened One Night
Mutiny on the Bounty
Great Ziegfield/Dodsworth 3rd (Mr Deeds Goes to Town)
Life of Emile Zola/Awful Truth 3rd (Lost Horizon)
You Can’t Take it With You/Bringing Up Baby 4th (Jezebezel, Adventures of Robin Hood)
Gone With the Wind
Rebecca/Grapes of Wrath 3rd (His Girl Friday)
How Green was My Valley/Citizen Kane 4th (Maltese Falcon, Sullivan’s Travels)
Mrs Miniver/Yankee Doodle Dandy 2nd
Going My Way/Double Indemnity 5th (Laura, Meet me in St Louis, To Have and Have Not)
Lost Weekend
Best Years of Our Lives
Gentleman’s Agreement
Hamlet/Treasure of the Sierra Madre 3rd (Lady from Shanghai)
All the King’s Men
American in Paris/Streetcar Named Desire 5th (Place in the Sun, African Queen, Strangers on a Train)
Greatest Show on Earth/Singing in the Rain 3rd (High Noon)
From Here to Eternity
On the Waterfront
Around the World in 80 Days/Searchers 5th (Giant, 10 Commandments, Lust for Life)
Bridge on the River Kwai
Gigi/Vertigo 5th (Touch of Evil, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Defiant Ones)
Ben Hur
West Side Story
Lawrence of Arabia
Tom Jones/Hud 7th (How the West Was Won, Lillies in the Field, Great Escape, 8 1/2, Cleopatra, Lillies in the Field)
My Fair Lady/Dr Strangelove 4th (Mary Poppins, Topaki)
Sound of Music
Man for All Seasons/Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff 2nd
In the Heat of the Night/Bonnie and Clyde 3rd (Graduate)
Oliver!/Lion in the Winter 4th (2001: A Space Odyssey, The Producers)
Midnight Cowboy
French Connection
Sting/Exorcist 6th (American Graffitti, The Way We Were, Sleeper, Mean Streets)
Godfather II
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest/Nashville 2nd
Rocky/Network 4th (Taxi Driver, All the Presdietn’s Men)
Annie Hall/Star Wars 2nd
Deer Hunter
Kramer vs Kramer/Apocolypse Now 4th (Alien, Being There)
Ordinary People/Raging Bull 4th (Shining, Tess)
Chariots of Fire/Reds 4th (Raiders of the Lost Ark, On Golden Pond)
Ghandi/Tootsie 2nd
Terms of Endearment
Out of Africa
Last Emperor/Broadcast News 2nd
Rain Man
Driving Miss Daisy/Born on the 4th of July 6th (Crimes and Misdemeanors, Dead Poets Society, Do the Right Thing, Glory)
Dances with Wolves/Goodfellas 2nd
Silence of the Lambs
Schindler’s List
Forrest Gump/Pulp Fiction 2nd
Braveheart/Apollo 13 2nd
English Patient/Fargo 2nd
Shakespeare in Love/Saving Private Ryan 3rd (Thin Red Line)
American Beauty
Gladiator/Traffic 2nd
A Beautiful Mind
Lord of the Rings: ROTK
Million Dollar Baby/Aviator (3rd, Sideways)
Crash/Brokeback Mountain (3rd Munich)
Departed/Little Miss Sunshine (3rd, Babel)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Review: Man of the Year

I was aware of Man of the Year’s critical pans and unremarkable gross, but was prepared to give the film the benefit of the doubt because I know pictures can fall under the radar during the crowded release schedule of the Fall months.

What I found out was that the movie is surprisingly uninspired. Surprising is an understatement considering Barry Levinson’s gift for political satire (demonstrated in Good Morning Vietnam and Wag the Dog) and Robin Williams’ obvious comic gifts. Robin Williams, in fact, is mysteriously underused. On the “Making Of” featurette that comes with the DVD, Barry Levinson talked about how sometimes he let Robin Williams improvise off the script, like it was some naughty secret of his. Um…are you really that much of a moron, Barry Levinson? Whenever you have Robin Williams in your film and want to use him for his comic abilities (basically, every movie he’s been in other than Insomnia or One Hour Photo), don’t cage him within a script. Let him ad-lib whatever he wants because he is the funnier than anything anyone else can write for him and his uncontained comic rants can instantly raise the bar on any mediocre movie like RV or Patch Adams. What I found even more baffling in his failure to make use of Robin Williams was that back in 1987, Levinson used this exact formula to perfection in Good Morning Vietnam, injecting Robin Williams’ bursts of comic zaniness into a war picture to make a resounding political piece.

So the film isn’t as much of a laugh-fest as it could be and feels awkwardly lost in its tone. If the film had potential to work as anything, it might have made one of those thrillers from the mid-‘90s in the style of The Pelican Brief, The Fugitive, or one of those Jack Ryan films. Its plot centered around an employee at a Silicon Valley company uncovering a glitch in a system that reveals that the country elected the wrong president and the efforts of the CEOs to eliminate her before the secret gets out, so if you replaced Robin Williams with some Harrison-Ford-type actor, or perhaps even Harrison Ford himself, added a couple more explosions, I could have seen it working that way.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

My new March Madness method

Here's my new system of doing the tournament. Treat seeds as irrelevant and treat them as such, i'm going to rank the teams as i see their chances and i throw in a little bit of randomness just like how when you predict the tournament. When these teams meet on whatever the bracket may be that's released this afternoon, i will go by who's higher on my list:
1. Kansas-I just have them pegged to win this year. It's been a while since they've won and I just like the success story of Brandon Rush trying to right his brother's wrongs.
2. UCLA-I feel like even more than Florida, they'll be hungry to get back there and depth is big
3. Ohio State-I'm basing some of my picks off the Carmelo Anthony rule: A talented NBA-level freshman can change the course of the entire tournament and I think that's Greg Oden. He shouldn't even be in the tournament except for the new rule
4. Florida-They're my favorite team but conventional wisdom says that they're vulnerable and won't repeat. Still, it's such a talented group of players who show strong resolve and teamwork. I like Noah as a person but i don't think he can repeat his performance and i don't think he's really a star player that can carry his team. Perhaps Humphrey or Horford can
5. Wisconsin-With the senior trying to do carry his team (see Mateen Cleaves) possibilities are big, but I'm usually not used to linking Wisconsin and final four team in the same words. It was done once before on an extreme fluke.
6. Pittsburgh-They were my dark horse final four team. They've been a 2 or 3 seeded team with somewhere around Sweet 16 credentials for about 5 or 6 years now, the law of averages shows that like Louisville in 2005, Texas in 2003, Indiana in 2002, Stanford in 1998, that if you keep finishing the season in the 10 or 12 teams, sooner or later you'll make the final four
7. Washington State-I don't know, they'd just make a good story
8. Memphis-Haven't been tested that much, it's some of the same strong group that put on a good performance last year
9. UNC-Not placing much stock in the ACC this year, all those talented freshman though, could do good but they also could do bad
10. Texas-Subscribing to the Law of Carmelo Anthony with Kevin Durant, i'm putting them high
11. Oregon-Aaron Brooks is one of those talented players who could turn on
12. Oklahoma State-They'll be ranked incredibly low which means only that they've had a few bad weeks down the stretch, but they've also had some good moments and have hung with the best of them. They have a penchant for doing well at the tournament and i'm inclined to pick them to do well
13. Air Force-They were once really good, and i don't think injuries or anything have changed them significantly. I'd like to see a team representing the Armed Forces do well in the tournament for once. It's a hopeful, wishful thinking sort of thing
14. USC-OJ Mayo isn't there yet, which will be the irony. Karma will reward USC for it's dissapointing football season with a good basketball season
15. Nevada-Of the mid-majors hoping to do well in the tournament, i have the most faith in Nevada. It's conference doesn't suck as much as Butler's or Creighton's
16. Vanderbilt-A sleeper in the SEC. They've done devestating stuff to Florida
17. Marquette-I don't know, there recent losses never convinced me that they were a bad team. Big East is a tough conference, i feel.
18. Stanford-Has had a lot of losses, but some quality wins. They're also a team that has had a lot of bad luck in the tournament since their 1998 final four run. Karma will be generous with them
19. Duke-Tradition of winning is too powerful to ignore
20. Kentucky-Same for this program as well
21. Southern Illinois-I'll put them around here. Normally a Missouri Valley Team is an underdog making an upset but with a 3 or 4 seed, it'll be reverse as they'll be waiting to be taken down
22. Maryland-Star power is what gets a team to the final four. They have at least a little bit of it
23. Texas A & M-Congratulations to the Aggies on their unusually good season but this post-season, i see you as one of the unlucky beneficiaries of a Cinderella
24. Indiana-It's the Hoosiers, come on. Give them some love.
25. Boston College-Jared Dudley might make the difference.
26. Kansas State-Bob Huggins is desperate to prove critics wrong, and this team almost hung with Kansas
27. Louisville-I love the Cardinals, usually, but they weren't ranked in the preseason and I think it's generally a rebuilding team. They're only hot as of late.
28. Arkansas-They've beaten all those teams in the SEC like Alabama, Vanderbilt and Tennessee. And look at them in this tournament.
29. Georgetown-As with people who predict upsets, i'm predicting a bit of randomness in Georgetown's losing. Like Louisville they haven't been good the whole season and just the flavor of the moment. I also just never really liked the school and am rooting against them. I'm from Washington D.C. and I don't know why locals here like the University. I think Georgetown is a snobby and secluded college (and neighborhood) that really doesn't interact or organically blend that much wiht the rest of Washington.
30. WVU-Since WVU made the elite eight, i'm always rooting for that WVU magic as someone who went to college 13 miles from the West Virginia Border
31. VCU-I think statistically, it might be unlikely that the tournament's big Cinderella will come from the same conference twice, but as a Cinderella this team has proved resillient and reliable and has stayed atop a conference that is getting better and better.
32. UNLV-I'm placing them low, i concede but just don't have any confidence in them even though they won the SEC tournament
33. Creighton-They’re in the Missourri Valley which has a tradition for upsets
34. Notre Dame-A solid team, not entirely upset-resistant
35. Virginia Tech-They have no experience whatsoever playing in the NCAA tournament and haven’t had any in years
36. UNLV-I'm placing them low, i concede but just don't have any confidence in them even though they won the SEC tournament
37. Syracuse-Jim Boheim has NCAA experience
38. Texas Tech-Bob Knight and Company usually have a lot to prove
39. UVA-I’m a Virginian, and even I concede that we rarely are ever good. Do we have any really good players?
40. Davidson-For getting the league bid over Applachian State
41. Butler-Hello?! It’s the horizon league. They’re not nor were they ever that good

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fued of the Sound Mixers & The annoying focus on oscar losers

I found myself quite interested with the sound mixing controvoursey that took place between Michael Minkler, one of the three sound mixers for Dreamgirls who won an Oscar, and sound mixer Kevin O'Connell, the 18-time Oscar loser, who turned up a record-breaking #19 at this year's ceremony, thanks to Dreamgirls.

I did see the video today, but before that had heard reports about what happened, and the best thing to do is see the video yourself to see exactly how Minkler worded what he had to say, but here's a summary by the Hollywood Reporter:

Could a little rivalry have been revealed in the sound mixing world? Things turned weird when the winners in that category -- Willie Burton, Bob Beemer and Michael Minkler for "Dreamgirls" -- were onstage in the press room. A question was thrown to the trio about what advice they had for Kevin O'Connell, a nominee for "Apocalypto" who now has been nominated 19 times without a win. While Burton and Beemer had conciliatory things to say -- "Hang in there, Kevin, you'll get your chance," Burton said -- Minkler's words were the opposite. "I think Kevin should go away with 19 nominations," he said without cracking a smile. "We work really hard, and if we stumble upon an award, we are so grateful. I have to wonder ... Kevin is an OK mixer, but he should take up another line of work." He exited the stage leaving people wondering whether he was serious.

Minkler just revealed an apology:
"Gentlemen, Friends, and Colleagues,

A very unfortunate situation has developed because of my stupid answers to some inappropriate questions. I did not seek this spotlight­ -- the press did, as they have in the past. It was wrong of them to ask the questions, and wrong, wrong, wrong of me to answer them the way that I did.

I apologize to all of you for creating a messy situation, and exposing the appearance of any dissention among our ranks.

The press has been asking me questions about Kevin since 2002. They continue to hound me with the same questions again and again, and this time I lost control, using bad choices of words and bitter sarcasm. The award should be about the work---period.

It is always my concern to preserve the Oscars' significance to the filmmaking community and its international audience. My thoughts got away from me at an emotional time, and that I regret.

My response to the last question was off-the-cuff sarcasm meant as humor. However it seems that it has caused even greater reaction...shock. I wanted to end the questioning and those words came out. Not funny. I am very sorry. The time and place was wrong for any of it.

Adding sentiment to this unfortunate situation has of course been the sorrowful passing of Skippy O'Connell. My sincere condolences go out to the entire O'Connell family.

I have been in communication with Kevin directly, and I wish the best for him in the future. I am sure that he will receive his due recognition on that same stage very soon, and I will be the first to congratulate him.

In my career, I'm sure that I have accidentally hurt people, but I've never intentionally sought to do harm. I ask forgiveness from them. I have given shots and taken some, but I don't believe that at any time, true malice was the objective.

I appreciate you sharing your personal thoughts with me, as I always have. I now thank you for allowing me to share mine with you.

Respect to all, Michael Minkler [src]"

A lot of people were harsh, saying Michael Minkler was a humongous jerk, but I perfer to look a little beneath the surface. I'm not saying I forgive Michael Minkler, obviously some of it is a PR stunt, but there must be more to it than him just being a jerk and I'm glad to see more to the story.

I always thought there was a little more to it than Michael Minkler being a jerk when I saw those comments. I reasoned that it probably had something to do about the press not caring anything about sound mixing at the oscars and how people like Richard Roeper are saying that the smaller awards should be given a seperate ceremony. The Oscarcall pundits who do a weekly podcast from and write for various LA Publications are also saying something about how the Oscars should follow the format of the Grammys, where the more technical awards that appeal less to the general public are relegated to a seperate ceremony in the Grammys.

I think that there is just tension beneath the surface of the Oscars for the equal treatment in terms of facetime on tv for the smaller categories. Similarly, the press room full of film critics has to come up with similar questions to field to a group of artists that they probbaly know nothing about.

If you look at how many posts I've written, you'll see that I know quite a bit about the movie industry, yet I have no freaking clue what sound mixing is, what it takes to be a good sound mixer, and of course which movie had the best sound mixing.

So maybe the only question I might be able to come up with to a sound mixing winner is "so what do you think about that other guy, who hadn't won 18 times, he should've won. That would've been a more interesting story for us to have written about." But the truth is that that's an insensitive question and will get on the guy's nerves who is taking the award on stage and these guys probably could just crack under the pressure of having to be politically correct all the time. They should ask him questions about his sound mixing craft like they do with the acting winners or the directing winners, but who really has any f*ing clue? that's the problem.

Also, i'm tired of the focus on losers. If you get nominated you're a winner, and if you win, you're even more of a winner. I'm incredibly impressed with someone who has racked up 5 nominations like Kate Winslet, let alone to have done so at a younger age than anyone else. And who knows, if she won for Sense and Sensibility or Titanic, the academy might be less inclined to honor her subsequent work because they felt she'd already been given her dues. Tom Hanks is one of our generation's greatest actors and has continued to turn in excellent performances, for example, in The Green Mile, Catch Me if You Can, The Terminal, and The Ladykillers but has gotten no oscar buzz for any of those performances (and i'm not saying he should've been nominated but at least he could've made the top 10 or top 15 on sites like the oscar igloo or the film experience who monitor oscar buzz).

And don't get me started on Peter O'Toole. First of all, why has everyone freaking forgotten his honorary oscar. Kirk Douglas got an honorary oscar and got to join the 75th anniversary oscar photo for it. Not to mention, Peter O'Toole's Lawrence of Arabia performance ranked him #1 all-time on Premiere Magazine's 100 best performances list. I also personally judge an actor by
how many memorable roles they have. I look at someone like Dustin Hoffman and think: Midnight Cowboy, Rain Man, Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, Papillon and The Graduate, what a career! He only won Oscars in 2 of those but by looking at his list of nominations you easily get a sense of what a great actor he was. If you look at Hillary Swank's # of Oscar nominations and # of wins, you see the same # of wins but outside those 2 winning-films, it's not nearly as impressive of a career yet. Same goes for Russell Crowe, a more modern day example, his nomination in A Beautiful Mind and The Insider along with his win for Gladiator gives me a better idea of how great an actor he is vs. Helen Hunt, for example with 1 nom and 1 win. Another example of a guy with a lot of worthy nominations but only 1 win would be Paul Newman.

ate Winslet had

Friday, March 02, 2007

The American spirit as captured through the eyes of Billy Wilder

In the book "Conversations with Billy Wilder," Cameron Crowe reads an old newspaper quote from Hollywood's Golden Age to Billy Wilder in which a commentator observed the irony that the heart of the American Spirit was being captured onscreen by an Italian (Frank Capra), a German (Ernst Lubitsch), and an Austrian (Billy Wilder).

In reality, it wasn't just those three (although personally, I never felt Lubitsch catered to Americana) but much of Hollywood in the 1930s and '40s was composed of immigrants. Many Jewish filmmakers escaped to America to escape Nazi persecution and other filmmakers were pushed over to America because Hitler dissolved the country's prominent film industry and replaced it with a wartime propoganda department. Among the directors from Germany's Ufa Studio (which in some ways was more progressive than the United States) were Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Edward Dmytryck, Douglas Sirk and even Alfred Hitchkock who was British but interned with Ufa. They influenced the American film industry through their aesthetic. Without them, the film noir movement, which captured the country's pessimistic mood, would have never taken hold. Greg Toland, one of these German emigrees first infused the expressionist style into American films with Citizen Kane, but Billy Wilder fused that styling with the pulp novel mystery to create the first true film noir in Double Indemnity (1944) so he was a cornerstone of that movement to which Dmytryck, Lang, Preminger and others followed suit. But like the quote said, Wilder didn't just infuse the German aesthetic into American film, like some of the immigrant directors who stayed in the film noir genre.

He experienced the American dream, going from rags as a poor immigrant going through Ellis Island, to riches. He was transformed by it and was an ever-present observor of that dream. The Apartment, although considered a comedy, was a brilliantly dark satire about the sacrifices people are forced to make for that dream. Perhaps one can imagine Billy Wilder having been The Apartment's C.C. Baxter at some point in his life, having to sell his dignity to work his way up the corporate ladder at the Studio. Through tools of humor with Ball of Fire, romance with Sabrina, and blatant sexuality with Some Like it Hot he dissected the hypocrisy of a class in America. He also was proud of being one of the first to explore alcoholism in The Lost Weekend.

When Crowe asked Wilder about his thoughts on this quote Wilder said it was funny because he couldn't make a European movie. Consider the dud Irma La Douce, which he conceded was a failure because he just couldn't make Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine come off as European. Wilder had lived the American dream and it became an inescapable part of him.