Friday, February 29, 2008

2008 Oscar blog

-I think John Stewart started to come off as kind of smug in his opening remarks like, “Let’s honor ourselves for three hours”…well that’s the point of the ceremony, if you’re hosting it, play ball. Pick another time to bash it. Then he started to get hilarious. 2 quotes I really loved:
-“Atonement: Finally a movie that captured the raw passion and sexuality of “Yom Kippur.”
-“Does this town need a hug?”…kind of funny…“All I can say is thank God for teenage pregnancy”

He says congratulations to George Clooney in Michael Clayton but it’s not George Clooney’s film by any means. He’s like the 3rd best actor in the film at best. Clooney is so exalted, it’s getting ridiculous. Isn’t anyone going to take a shot at him?

Ummmmm….wasn’t last year, the environmentally conscious green Oscars?

So Elizabeth and the Golden Age wins best costume design…nice. Short and sweet. Was that Elizabeth’s very first Oscar? (As in the 1998 film didn’t win any Oscars)

Is there anyone out there willing to lampoon George Clooney

Brad Bird had the best speech of the night, possibly: Discussion with guidance counselor about what you’d do if you couldn’t make movies…..It gave me something to think about, inspirational.

The Oscar ceremony tends to function as an advertisement for working at Pixar with the award winners for Finding Nemo, Little Miss Sunshine, Incredibles, and Ratatouille full of praise for Pixar

Whew! Katherine Heigl looks like Marilyn Monroe.

Amy Adams’ number was terrific but give her some background dancers or something.

Javier Bardem’s win-A good choice but let’s acknowledge that it was a very talented field this year and give praise all around. One of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s meatier roles, Tom Wilkinson in a bit of inspired madness, Hal Holbrook in a career achievement award, and Casey Affleck was amazing I hear.

“’Cate Blanchett’ played the dog there.” Stewart is on fire. Doing better than last time, although I personally prefer someone like Steve Martin or Billy Crystal simply because I can see Stewart be funny every night while Martin and Crystal don’t have their own nightly shows.

Tilda Swinton’s win makes my night, because I did not expect it.

Sidney Poitier is pretty much the greatest endorsement the Oscars could get-He’s Pretty much the voice of dignity. He was black and proud at a time when no one else was. He speaks about acting and his blackness as elegantly as anyone else.

Kristien Chenowith plus reggae is a bit akward

The Oscars go through the same motions every year, but they have the challenge of having to reinvent it every year. They probably always do a short bit on how the Oscars are counted, and this year their Pricewaterhouse Cooper bit was slightly original, so good stuff.

Also, I liked how they showed bits of people winning, because there’s not enough footage from past ceremonies that’s easy to dig up on the internet. I doubt I could find Jack Lemmon or Ernest Borgnine’s Oscar acceptance speech on youtube for example

Sound goes to Bourne Ultimatum: Good speech

I think the screenplay win signifies that No Country for Old Men is in the lead

Marion Courtland has a good night: this is hard to believe because the Oscars’ best actress competition is like women’s figure skating at the Olympics, it’s like the glamour prize and the crowning of a new prom queen: So I’m surprised that they give it an unknown.

Haha, liked the joke “we make fun of your wardrobe at home”

Didn’t we have the best picture montage in the 75th year Oscar ceremony.

Once, was pretty good, but….very country like

Bourne Ultimatum wins editing….good choice but best car chase….was it b/c of Roderick Jaynes, and they didn’t want a fictional person to win?

Danny Boyle was an interesting and unpublicized choice

Austrian had a good speech, short and sweet. You could tell his film was the best in the 15 second montage.

So Amy Adams gets invited to the party, gets to sing and dance, pretty much better than being nominated

My dad is now making comments about how the guy is standing too close to the microphone. Oy vey.

They should have had clips of the five movies, where’s that part. I like that because it gives you a small synopsis and lets people at home know why they need to rent it at blockbuster.

Oh, come on, the guy who won the song “Once” should’ve known he was going to win. He could’ve read 100 websites devoted to predicting the Oscars out there, or a copy of any entertainment periodical in the last two weeks to know he was the favored guy, so don’t look so shocked. At the same time, his speech included virtually no thank yous….“They know who they are”

When I saw Clint Eastwood presenting to Stephen Spielberg in that montage on best directors, it made me think about how nice it is from one director to present to the next, and they should make that a permanent policy

Trovolta plays along with that joke about the best director. Good stuff.

Decent cinematography speech…connection to Wings

The score from There Will be Blood was robbed

Awww, Stewart let the Once girl come back…..

The controversial speech by the documentarian about torture went over pretty well

Serviceman in Baghdad announcing Academy Awards: good choice

My mom: “He looks terrible”, “Daniel Day-Lewis, echhhh, with the earings and the long hair and the hairstyles”

Diablo Cody wins looking like a stripper and she still looks like a stripper, “I worship you guys and I’m learning from you so thank you so much”….good stuff, Diablo! Humility goes a long way. “Jason Reitman, I’m in awe of his talents”

So Miyoshi Ukemi, Heath Ledger, Jane Wyman and Deborah Kerr died and with them 12 oscar nominations, while 20 were given out this year, so I guess the balance is that more Oscar nominations are being rewarded than are being given out

To some extent I think presenting the awards which the general public finds uninteresting like sound mixing and costume design are actually great ways to remind the public that the filmmaking community is made up of some working-class people. I'm pretty sure people working in the sound mixing, set design, or costume design departments are not flying personal jets to the ceremony like John Trovolta. The idea of Hollywood when movies hadn't yet caught on was the symbol of the American dream and I think seeing these scrubs win Oscars for these "lesser" categories promotes that.

Ohhh, Clooney gets applause so much, oh, everyone’s at his feet.

Oh yeah Day-Lewis, you kiss Clooney on the cheek! Let him have it. Rub it in his face that he’s not as good of an actor as you. With his comment that the Oscar came out of Paul Thomas Anderson’s head, is Day-Lewis suggesting that Paul Thomas Anderson sweated out an Oscar? Also, he still doesn’t realize that his son on screen HW Plainview is not his actual son,

You know, Mortgensen wasn’t perfect in his performance in Eastern Promises. Great performance but not Oscar-worthy. The way he had lines like “I put him in a 5-star hotel” was said with a little too much humor for the gravity of the situation but he generally pulled it off.

It’s really good to see Tommy Lee Jones, one of my favorite 90’s actors be recognized this decade with a nomination. But I’m very surprised that without any premeditated planning, voters were able to vote him in for the Valley of Elah.

The presenters need to pause more! Take some cues from Survivor: “And the Oscar goes to…..”

Three producers get nominated for the Oscars which is up from last year’s 2 person limit.

This is Miramax’s 4th film to win an Oscar behind Chicago, English Patient and Shakespeare in Love. Miramax is kind of known as an Oscar factory in that they aggressively promote their actors for Oscars and plan their films meticulously around Oscar season. For the record Warner Brothers Studios produced Million Dollar Baby and The Departed, Dreamworks Studio (Spielberg and Katzenberg’s company) had a 3-picture streak with American Beauty, Gladiator, and A Beautiful Mind; 20th Century Fox and Paramount co-produced Titanic (because the production was so large, they needed two studios to fund it), Lord of the Rings was New Line (off the top of my head, I’m not sure what New Line’s affiliation is but I think it’s 20th Century Fox), and I have now idea who produced Crash.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reviews of Cat Ballou (1965) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff (1966)

I have an Oscar blog I will be posting on here soon, and other stuff, but in the meantime, reviews of two films I've seen today:

Cat Ballou:

Cat Ballou veers towards parody with its drunken hero who seems to commit his greatest acts of heroism by accident and occasional moments of slapstick humor interspersed with the action but by no means is it a full-blown parody. It's a uniquely charming story in the Western landscape of an unlikely heroine who's resourceful to get by in a man's world and in that sense, the it's more of a feminist power trip whereas the Wild West is being used to illustrate a man's world, than it is a traditional Western.

Jane Fonda, who I have never previously had the pleasure of seeing at an age of less than 60, is radiant and charming (and just plain hot) as the heroine and very easy to root for. Like Rio Bravo or The Wild Bunch, there's also a very enjoyable sense of camaraderie between Fonda and her gang of outlaws which include Michael Callan, Dwayne Hickman, and Tom Nardini, and Lee Marvin in a role that won him an Oscar (although, I have absolutely no clue why). Also of note, Danny Kaye and Nat King Cole are featured as a Greek chorus of sorts singing musical numbers.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff:

Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff is a film that I can honestly say is like nothing you've ever seen before. It's like horror meets melodrama. The best I can do for a synopsis is it's about a couple who invites another couple over for an evening's entertainment but instead of playing pictionary, they subject the couple and each other to a series of twisted psychological games. Why the younger couple voluntarily staying through these twisted psychological games for the duration of the evening was clearly the screenwriter/playwright's biggest challenge and he partially succeeds in setting things up so that the couple is partially captive to the situation. I'm willing to excuse the screenwriter for this because it's such a fascinating piece.

The dialogue is stylized to the point that it has virtually no frame of reference in reality. I say virtually because if you came from a household that dysfunctional, you probably would have committed suicide by now, but if you haven't and you saw this film you would relate but for the rest of us, it's more of an abstraction. Aside from the quality of the dialogue the reason to watch this film, is the way these four actors take such nonsensical words and actions and make it come to life. Sandy Dennis and Elizabeth Taylor won Oscars for their roles and George Segal (Just Shoot Me) and Richard Burton were nominated and every one of them deserved the praise. Burton, in particular, was so convincingly mad, it's just emotionally draining to watch him spin emotional circles around logic on screen.

The film is Mike Nicholl's debut (and marks the eighth film I've seen of his making him the director I'm 4th most familiar with),

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Review of The Hoax (2007)

“The Hoax” might be termed a feel-good story about the Watergate Era with Cliff Irving making a surprisingly likeable antihero.
Gere plays Clifford Irving, a down-on-his-luck author who nearly got away with the scam of the century as he authored a best-selling tell-all biography of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes whom he had never in fact met.
I found the film to be n oddly sublime marriage of director and material: Lasse Hollstrom’s penchant for rich storylines that veer towards happy endings is combined with characters that add a certain satirical element to the film. Hollstrom asserted in an interview with Scott Hollerean of box office mojo that Cliff Irving was symbolic of the anti-establishment attitudes of the era. When asked for what motivated Cliff Irving, Hollstrom said, “And I think it was a part of the early Seventies—which was all about finding a cool way of needling the Establishment, of questioning the Establishment.”
The film makes Gere’s Irving a character to root for and encourages its audience to push our reservations about Irving’s morals into the back of our minds. Irving is portrayed as a shade of grey, through most of the story and he is also in conflict with his own morals. He had an affair but struggled with himself for it, as he tried insisting that the mistress divorce him and get married. The film asks, more importantly, was Cliff Irving really that bad of a guy when neither of the two big figures in the film were honest?
Backed by Gere’s likeable anti-hero who gives us someone to root for and Alfred Molina supplying an odd couple dynamic with Gere, the film is an enjoyable ride.

Predicting the Oscars with Dan Johnson

Here is a conversation I had with Dan Johnson at about the Oscars in which we both made our predictions :

Dan: This Oscars is hard to predict
Me: I think it's easy, except for one category
Dan: Which?
Me: I was going to say best supporting actress. Which category do you think is the hardest?
Dan: Adapted screenplay for one
Me: Ok, good point. If we went to 8 major categories, then maybe the screenplay cateogries get iffy but I think of the main 6, 5 are easy
Dan: oh yes - those are fairly easy
Me: No Country, Day-Lewis, Joel and E Coen, Christie, Bardem, and the supporting actress one is tricky
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Visual Effects:
Dan: Visual effects?
Dan: Pirates 2 won last year so seems like it will be out
Me: transformers, golden compass, and pirates 3?
Dan: Yes
Me: Transformers is so CGI heavy but the other 2 might be hurt by poor critical response

Me: None are really worthy of Oscar consideration for effects. Poor choices this year on the part of nomination.
Dan: I'm going with Golden Compass for effects
Dan: Don't know why - it just feels right
Me: Did you actually see the film?
Dan: No
Me: There's nothing that spectacular about the special effects
Dan: When I was a kid I was really angry that ET won for effects over Blade Runner
Dan: I mean come on! Frame by frame effects-wise that was wacked!
Dan: Maybe thats why I'm predicting Compass
Dan: You think Transformers will get it?
Me: ET won for effects over Blade Runner during the 1983 awards ceremony, so that was right around when i was born
Me: I think Pirates III
Me: I'd like to say that cause it did up the ante on effects even more than pirates ii
Dan: but Pirates won last year
Me: Ok, transformers it is, then
Me: i'll say transformers
Me: it's just a bit CGI heavy
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Best Documentary:
Dan: Seems like Michael Moore won't get it this time
Dan: No End In Sight may be my pick
Me: I think Michael Moore's Sicko broke new ground, there was a sort of publicity angle that Moore had changed his image and softened up, but I agree that I don't think people have warmed up to Moore that much and that Sicko didn't top Farenheit 911 for sheer cultural impact
Me: so i'd go with No End in Sight as well
Me: That's the only one of the other nominees that made a splash in the cultural landscape
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Sound Editing:
Dan: Bourne, No Country, Ratatouille, TWBB, and Transformers

Me: Um, I know nothing about sound editing and i question whether the people in the academy who aren't sound mixers even know or should be aloud to vote in this category
Dan: Yeah good point
Dan: Its a toss up, huh?
Me: the thing is, dan, i can only pay attention to so many things when i watch a film, and unlike most oscar voters, i'm secure enough to admit that i have no clue about this category
Dan: I getcha
Dan: alright then
Me: i don't know what it is, except i would just like to say unqualified, but i mean if i had to guess, maybe bourne ultimatum, certainly not ratatouille

Dan: I'm going with the Coens
Dan: It feels like their time
Me: I don't see any reason why they wouldn't get it
Dan: Of course I thought that 10 years ago with Fargo
Me: 2 of the other directors are virtual rookies Me: so they should be in the happy to be nominated cateogry, i think Schnabel's the token foreign pick
Me: well, Fargo was before Big Lebowski and Oh Brother Where Art Thou
Dan: yeah like Bill Murray would say in his old Oscar picks on SNL in the '70s "too foreign?
Me: And the cult of Big Lebowski is growing, they are the only comedic team out there that gets critical respect and is considered high art as opposed to the Farrelly Brothers or Kevin Smith. The Coens are way up there in the film industry in critical respectability, so it's there time, certainly
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Art Direction:
Dan: Art direction?
Me: I think that maybe what Pirates did well as more landscape/art direction
Dan: Amer Gangster, Atonement, Compass, Sweeny Todd, adn TWBB
Me: I don't think Atonement or Golden Compass, American Gangster was a period piece
Dan: I think Sweeny Todd
Me: But recreating 1970s harlem isn't that hard
Dan: Yeah, I don't think AG will get it
Me: I mean, Harlem hasn't changed much since the 1970s

Me: it's good to see American Gangster nominated though, it got completely overlooked
Me: But why not There Will Be Blood?
Me: I think that or Sweeny Todd, and I'll go with Blood in the end
Me: I mean a lot of detail was taken towards authenticity
Dan: I just think ST has the artsy edge over TWBB
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Dan: I liked TWBB better but that's how it feels
Dan: I'm going with Assassination of Jesse James
Dan: Deakins
Me: I wish I saw that film
Dan: That's from my heart not my brain
Dan: I saw it last week
Me: I believe it was the most overlooked picture by most accounts
Me: I think No Country or Assassination cause Westerns are popular
Me: Westerns are made for cinematography, and No Country would be a far more ordinary picture if it weren't for cinematography
Dan: Yeah Deakins seems a shoe-in
Me: Not No Country?
Dan: It may win
Dan: But I feel AFJJ

Me: The way I see it No Country for Old Men is an incredibly rare film, like the French Connection in that it is basically an action movie that is going to transcend its genre and win best picture

Me: The raving reviews aren't talking about the script or the characters or the intricate storyline and plot, it's basically a cat and mouse chase that's done so perfectly that people are treating it as a complete package of a film
Me: so categories like editing and cinametography, i feel like it's hard to beat

Dan: Diving Bell for editing
Me: What are the editing options?
Dan: Bourne, Diving Bell, Into The Wild, No Country, Blood
Me: hmmm, i think Bourne or no country
Dan: I think it will too

Dan: Are you predicting a No Country sweep?
Me: Why would you say Diving Bell?
Dan: The editing was the show in that movie. It was so full of fleeting imagery
Me: Hmmmm, interesting
Me: Well, Bourne is compared to French Connection as a perfectly edited film
Me: So it's hard to rule that out either
Dan: I'm biased because I didn't see Bourne
Me: No, i'm not predicting a sweep, because i don't think it will win best screenplay
Me: What do you think on screenplay front for adapted
Me: Can we go to that one?

Dan: Sure, that's a tough one

Dan: Maybe Atonement
Me: I think There Will Be Blood, it's an x variable how well the token foreign film will do
Me: Pedro Almodovar's Talk to Her has won before
Me: I think There Will Be Blood is an interesting adaptation, from what I understand, it was a stretch for PT Anderson to adapt someone else's material when he has his own style
Dan: Blood strays too far from the source material to get it
Me: Historically, you win oscars for sticking close to it? I think Adaptation and Capote were both contenders in the adapted category and they were nothing like the source material
Dan: Not sure about that but it just seems like a loose adaptation from what I've read
Me: I think I'll say There Will Be Blood, still
Dan: okay

Dan: Original screenplay- I'll say Juno
Me: Juno's an obvious answer, I think Michael Clayton might also be in the running
Me: If Juno wins, there'll be this boring pattern established of the token quirky dramedy winning it, stemming back to Lost in Translation and Little Miss Sunshine
Dan: The Oscars are all about boring patterns!
Me: So i'd like to see Michael Clayton, but Juno's too big of a force to stop, it's managed to establish itself as a completely unique and unforseen development of a film even though we had Little Miss Sunshine last year

Me: ok, song?
Me: what do you say?
Dan: from Once
Dan: people love that soundtrack
Me: Yeah, I think so
Me: Enchanted is going to cancel itself out like Dreamgirls did
Me: And score?
Dan: hmmm
Dan: that may be Atonement too
Me: 3:10 to Yuma is on my wishlist
Me: I'd love for it to win an oscar since it's my favorite film of the year
Dan: I can't remember the score in Michael Clayton
Me: Is the Atonement score memorable?
Me: James Newton Howard is a fixture in the industry, i believe, though pretty swelling classic Hollywood stuff
Me: No, i think they like variety
Me: Maybe ratatouille
Me: That would be the suprise of the ceremony, but why not
Me: How about kite runner. How was that score?
Dan: I didn't see that

Me: For animated Persopolis vs Ratatouille?
Dan: Ratatouille, but then Happy Feet won over Cars last year
Me: Persopolis has been drawing raves
Dan: Dan: Raves but not attendence
Me: But Cars didn't make top 10 lists like Persopolis
Me: I mean Cars didn't make top ten lists like Ratatouille
Dan: I love if Persepolis won but I'm predicting the rat
Me: I think it'll be the rat because ratatouille made a lot of top 10 lists and drew in reviews

Me: But I’d like to note that Persepolis would have easily won last year or for 2005
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Acting Categories:
Dan: Best supporting actor?
Me: My personal choice is Tom Wilkinson, but Javier Bardem is unbeatable

Me: And that's good to get another good foreign actor in there

Dan: Yes - but theres usually a shocker Like Arkin last year
Me: Well, i don't feel like i have to accomodate historic patterns

Me: In 2003 and 2004, there were no shockers, in 2005 there were no shockers either, just 06 with Arkin and 02 with Brody and Zeta-Jones
Dan: me either but I like to acknowledge the mixing it up

Me: I think the main acting categories are pretty obvious, don't you think?
Me: Day-Lewis and Christie for the main acting leads, right?
Me: Some will say Courtland will beat Christie but people like Julie Christie, she's in line for a second one, and her film is picking up clout as evidenced by the fact that Away From Her was nominated for a best screenplay
Dan: I think she'll win
Dan: I'm predicting Hal Holbrook
Dan: He was the best thing about Into The Wild in my book
Me: Hal Holbrook?
Dan: Thats my wild card
Me: I don't think he'll get the beloved old person award that Martin Landau, Judi Dench, James Coburn and Alan Arkin have previously gotten
Me: Because he's not a beloved old guy
Dan: Are you kidding?
Dan: He is beloved as all. Get out

Dan: Most likely I'll be way wrong (Bardem is probably gonna get it) but I can't help but go with it, call me crazy
Me: I disagree that he’s beloved. , Alan Arkin and James Coburn were beloved icons who people felt were owed some dues
Dan: All my film friend fans love him
Me: Ok, i'm playing devil's advocate here but 10 times the number of people have heard of Alan Arkin before they've heard of Hal Holbrook
Me: I'm reading Holbrook's biography now and it looks like he was only in about 3 movies of note: Julia, Wall Street, and the Great White Hope, as well as a bunch of TV movies and Broadway
Dan: All The President's Men!
Me: Oh shit, he was deep throat in all the president's men, I didn't see that. I'll give you that. But he's not more beloved than Alan Arkin or James Coburn
Dan: Well man - all valid points but that's my wild card!
Me: Ok, what about supporting actress, that's a tough one

Dan: Blanchett so she can dedicate her Oscar to Ledger

Me: you think they'd vote based on that?
Dan: Not really but the idea is in the air and many predict her
Me: I honestly didn't think Amy Ryan was that great
Me: I wouldn't mind seeing Ryan
Dan: I have Gone Baby Gone!
Dan: I need to watch it
Me: I watched about 2/3 of it, I'll bet Amy Ryan starts to get emotional and crazy and do the good acting in the last 3rd, that's why I was unimpressed
Dan: Okay - I'll watch the movie then make my pick
Me: Do you think people are really ready to annoint Cate Blanchett twice?
Dan: Her performance was amazing
Me: It would be an interesting performance
Me: I think it will be great to see Day-Lewis honored again
Dan: I think he'll win

Me: I always felt he got the short end of the stick in Gangs of New York. What about picture?
Me: I think I’ll go with Tilda Swenson, what about picture?
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Me: A There Will Be Blood upset would be interesting
Dan: I agree - it is tight between No country and Blood
Me: No Country's the front runner but it lacks substance, it's just a great exercise in genre recreation
Me: if There Will Be Blood is in the race at all, then i'll be strongly pulling for it
Dan: I disagree with NCFOM lacking substance
Dan: I thought it had a lot of weight
Me: Would you agree that it's something designed for a high brow crowd and will have many ordinary filmgoers scratching their heads?
Dan: I seriously don't think the Coens designed it for an intellectual demographic
Me: It really doesn't have much of a plot, don't you admit?
Me: I mean one guy chases another guy across the desert and one guy chases another guy
Dan:Why isnt that enough of a plot for you?
Me: That's what it would sound like if you were pitching the film because you don't know much about the characters?
Dan: I think you get a lot of notions of back stories
Me: Yeah, it's very subtle and back-handed
Dan: Did you read the book?
Me: No. It's subtle, I'll admit. And there's nothing to the plot other than that, I mean the storyline is incredibly bare. How would you pitch it?
Dan: A drug bust goes bad with no survivors, man comes upon it and takes large amount of money - the most evil man a brutal killer who sympbolizes a coming darkness chases him while a jaded fading sheriff follows their trail.

Dan: That's how I would pitch it
Me: I think you're mostly right
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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

From a consumer's point of view, the writer's strike wasn't so bad

The writer's strike wasn't such a bad thing because I constantly feel attacked by pop culture. Sometimes, I feel like I have to see the latest episode of Heroes or The O.C. or some reality show to catch up with what's going on and I don't have time to do it all. Sorry, Mr. Trump, I wanted to see your Celebrity Apprentice, but I couldn't afford to catch more than half an episode so far. The writer's strike gave me a chance to stop, catch my breath, and catch up on whatever shows I wanted to watch at my own pace. I think the networks feel like they must constantly suffocate us with pop culture so that we don't find other non-TV-related hobbies to take up.

Honestly, the idea that we constantly need new movies and TV shows in the theater is something decided by the entertainment industry, not us.

More specifically, the idea that the general public needs approximately 3-5 large scale releases added into circulation, is one created by the movie theaters, not the general public. Adding 3-5 large scale releases decreases the circulation of 3-5 other pictures and often bumping them out of your local theater. Ordinary moviegoers might go to the movies two times a month. I go about 3 and I'm blogging about films. I saw about 31 pictures from 2007 in a movie theater between March '07 and February '08 (I saw about 4 more on DVD or hotel pay-per-view) and I had the advantage of working in a movie theater where I was often too tired at the end of the shift to do anything but plop down in front of a movie screen.

My point: Keeping up with films is not what drives people to the movie theater. People don't have time in their schedule, usually to see all the films they want to see. Even though you might want to go just because have a friend who's a film buff (and this wouldn't be me, but one of my film friends) who's like "You have to see this! How could you not have seen this?" and you don't want to dissapoint him/her, you usually can't keep up with all the films you want to see in a theater before they run out.

To compound matters, half the films worth seeing usually come out in the same month: December. There were approximately seven or eight films I wanted to see that came out in December. Last week, I worked my way to seeing Charlie Wilson's War and I still have to see Juno and There Will Be Blood. That would be nice if the movie theaters let the Christmas films run for a few months because people still probably want to see all of them. To some degree this is happening: The Christmas season films last longer in movie theaters than films from any other release period of the year, but still, Oscar-quality films are being gradually pushed out by film output from the first couple of months like Underworld: Evolution, Freedom Writers, Are We There Yet?, the Pacifier, Norbit, Epic Movie, Failure to Launch, The Shaggy Dog, Date Movie or Wild Hogs and films this year like Meet the Spartans, 27 Dresses, and Rambo. Occasionally, a film like V for Vendetta, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Erin Brockovitch, and 300 will be a surprise hit, but the movie business doesn't really care about the period from January to April. The movie studios will make most of their money in the summer months and they'll produce the really good films that will be remembered for years to come between October and December (making September another awkward filler month). They only release movies between January and April as filler during this time. These films are the equivalent of the bench for a sports team that takes the court as the stars are resting.

The studios figure they might as well put something out while waiting for the blockbusters or quality films to come out, but they shouldn't be too quick to relegate their proverbial star players to the bench until they're all used up. The average moviegoer did not get a chance to see The Kite Runner, The Great Debaters, No Country for Old Men, Charlie Wilson's War, Juno, There Will Be Blood, Atonement, The Savages, and Persopolis and while the box office numbers are indicating declining performances for all these films each weekend, these films will still have an audience of people who will go out of their way to see them. Studios shouldn't underestimate that

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Themes of various 2007 films

In film classes, whenever we were presenting on films, we usually had to talk about the themes behind each film. Here are themes of 2007 films. I will keep working on this as I go:

Charlie Wilson's War:

-Salvation through Professional Dedication
It's a recurring character point that the film from Charlie Wilson to Gust to Mike (the weapons expert) that none of the man might look the part that they are assigned to do and in the case of Charlie, highly immoral in every which way, but they are all 100% committed to what they're doing, they judge each other by their ability to get the job done and the film expects the audience to like Charlie and Gust based on that as well. The film never even addresses Wilson's ammoral ways because Wilson, himself (or the version of him shown on screen), never was introspective about it, and from what is shown of him at the beginning, you would think that he only cares about the perks of being a Senator but he does end up fighting tooth and nail for something and it's somewhat forced upon us the idea that his immoral ways mean nothing compared to his accomplishments. This is often a theme of Sorkin's work (which is kind of annoying) where every single character on screen happens to be 100% dedicated to their job and no lackadaisical people or slackers were ever born into the Aaron Sorkin universe.

-History repeating itself
A fairly obvious point of the film was showing that this conflict would surface again. People like Rudy Guiliani and Senator Murtha in the Charlie Wilson Story resurface in the present day as major figures and they're included in the story as a reminder of that. Also, people like Crystal, the naked girl in the hot tub, and Amy Adams' character asking "Afghanistan, where's that?" echoed the fact that when Afghanistan entered the forefront of current events after 9/11, a lot of people had a similar reaction in not knowing anything about the country of Afghanistan.

-Good vs Beuracracy
As opposed to good vs evil, beuracracy is the main enemy that Charlie Wilson battles against to reach his goal is the hurdles of beuracracy. The "evil" force, which is the Soviets is not really much of a main character in the story, and the conflict doesn't stop when the Soviets are defeated: Hammered into the quote from Charlie Wilson's book "We fucked up the endgame," is the implication that inneficient beurecrats in Washington are what messed up Afghanistan by not signing a small bill for education. Wilson's power also stems from his ability to make deals and bring people together which is what Washington is about at its best and worst.

No Country for Old Men:

-Inevitability of evil
This is a fairly obvious one. Javier's character presents a sense of inescapable dread. The idea that Tommy Lee Jones knows his time will come is somewhat of an odd one.

-Fate determined by chance
The coin flip mechanism says it all, but it's echoed by a few other developments in the film, and it seems as though Javier Bardem is a force that lives by those developments in chance and believes in enforcing them. He has no logical reason to kill Kelly McDonald's character.

Lions for Lambs:

-Children are our future

-Price of political dissillusionment

Michael Clayton:

-Money vs Truth

-Character is determined by what we chose to do when the stakes are high


3:10 to Yuma:

-Bravery isn't defined by societal values

- Honor among thieves

- Hero worship/Perception

- Honor is earned

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium:

-Adulthood as a liability

-Summoning power from within and that power is imagination

Pirates of the Carribean:

-Always a second chance

-Can't escape our destiny


-"You can't stop the beat"

-Self-awareness/Coming of Age = Moral awakening