Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Sunday, March 28, 2010
So the 34th annual Cleveland International Film Festival is over, and as I finish my first year volunteering I must say that it was a truly wonderful experience. It was a great interacting with staff, patrons, and other volunteers while working and seeing films. In total I saw 10 feature films and 26 shorts, some good some bad. I also fell asleep during 2, which is an example of how tiring a festival can be. I made new friends and would encourage all to volunteer or just attend next year's festival.
After some meditation exercises with friends, Eric is visited by an imaginary friend in the form of Eric Cantona (played by himself) the star player of the soccer powerhouse Manchester United in the 1990s and Eric's favorite player. As he begins to heed the advice from his make-believe hero, Eric begins to pick up the pieces of his life. From this description, you may think this is the usual tale of self-redemption, but if you think you know where this is going and how he gets there, you are sadly mistaken. We are lead down roads we cannot anticipate into an ending that is inspired and uproarious.
While engaging the viewer with its comedic elements, Looking for Eric also succeeds by drawing us in with its human elements, making us care about its characters. Though some of the characters are rough around the edges, the filmmakers have nothing but love for them and what results is a kind, observant, and profound film experience while managing to be utterly hysterical at the same time.
Original Review Well the time has come and closing night, the last film is upon us in my first volunteer year for the Cleveland International Film Festival. This year the film selected to close this years fest is Ken Loach's Looking For Eric and it was a truly wonderful selection. Looking for Eric stars a postman named Eric (a wonderful Steve Evets) who is undergoing a mid-life crisis. His kids don't respect him, his ex-wife won't talk to him, and he has just been in a car crash. He can't remember the last time he was happy. After some meditation exercises, Eric begins to see an imaginary friend in the form of Eric Cantona (played by himself) the star player of Manchester United in the 90s and Eric's favorite player. With advice from his hero, Eric begins to pick up the pieces of his life. But if you think you know where this is going and how he gets there you are sadly mistaken. This is the kind of British comedy that Americans just aren't capable of. It is kind, observant, and profoundly human while being utterly hysterical at the same time. What a great film to end a great film festival with.
here. It was preceded by a short. Here's that review:
The Palace Of Light
Hilarious short shows Post's Shredded Wheats CEO trying to hold back his company from progress. There are many sharp points and funny moments in this 13 minute film. ***1/2
The Palace Of Light
Hilarious short shows Post's Shredded Wheats CEO trying to hold back his company from progress. There are many sharp points and funny moments in this 13 minute film. ***1/2
Lost and Found*
Home is a surprisingly bland and empty short made with home photographs and having to do with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. **
The Devil's Wedding
Devil's Wedding is a darkly comic, well-written, and disturbing short about Satan getting hitched. ***
Claiming The Title: Gay Olympics On Trial*
Well-made short about a girl risking her life to regain her lost soccer ball in a war zone neighborhood. ***1/2
We Were Twenty*
Well made and well acted short about a Marine's homecoming just rings false. **1/2
Again well-made but extremely convoluted Danish short about domestic abuse. **1/2
Wonderfully conceived and executed short about the dangers of drinking expired milk ****
The Best Part Of My Day
Cute but long and obvious short. **1/2
reviewed here **1/2
The Beauty Of Damage*
reviewed here ***1/2
Lost and Found*
Heal tells the story of a Middle Eastern boy who finds he has a special power in the time when his village needs him. I didn't think this was a top-notch short though it was kind of powerful at the end. **1/2
Wonderful documentary detailing a one-legged boys attempt to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro for charity. ***1/2
The Action Hero's Guide To Saving Lives
Amusing short in which a Bruce Willis like cop is called in to handle a hostage situation.
Ok short detailing an FBI agent dealing with a bothersome pigeon. **1/2
Disturbing short in which the fake-Superbad dude starts a relationship with a bulimic brothel worker. **
Saw this earlier in the week, reviewed here ***
My favorite short of the program shows what happens behind the scenes at a Chinese restaurant. ***1/2
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
Well, today was the day it hit me. After watching hours of film and volunteering all week I was utterly exhausted. I had tickets to see a double feature before my shift today started. The first film was called the Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner. Since it was nominated for an Academy Award Best Documentary Short, I reviewed it here or you can scroll down the blog to view it. The director introduced the film which was pretty neat. After nodding off a little towards the beginning the film, I decided to skip the second feature which was called Convention and was supposed to detail the Democratic Convention in August 2008. I figured I didn't need to see two liberal documentaries in one day. I was so tired that I decided not to volunteer today and skip the midnight screening I had tickets for called Storage. I didn't realize how exhausting a film festival can get!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Down In Number 5
The first short of the program is also probably the best. It tells the story of a dying man's efforts to secure a future for his disabled son. It is exquisitely filmed and heart-wrenching. ***1/2
Cricket is a mercifully brief Japanimated short. **
When I'm Not Alone
This is also a wonderful short, a documentary about a woman who was abused so bad and so long that she thinks she is a man. However, it is not a weepy film that makes you feel sorry for the person, but rather an uplifting story about succeeding despite obstacles. ***1/2
Short tells about an overprotective, hypochondriac mother who continually nags her grown son on the cell phone, though he has a secret she should be worried about. Funny short, though the joke begins to wear thin. ***
This finely realized short tells the story of a young woman who's inventor father has recently died and left his New York apartment a mess for her to clean before selling it. However, her father may have one last surprise up his sleeve. ***1/2
Helpless takes place in a police station and recalls an incident from several different point of views. Certain elements in this short irritated me but at the same time I enjoy these kind of exercises. ***
The Shopkeeper (Dukandar)
Indian film tells the story of a mischievous boy with a vivid imagination who is given the task of watching his father's shop during a crucial cricket game. This one didn't really work for me, but it had its moments. **1/2
I Want To Spend The Rest Of My Life With You
Very short short is darkly humorous as a destined couple meet. ***
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Red Riding: In The Year Of Our Lord 1974
Red Riding: In The Year Of Our Lord 1980
Red Riding: In The Year Of Our Lord 1983
All comes together this brilliant final chapter which contains everything that was good about the first two films along with the clarity that was lacking in those films. As another young girl disappears, we are given two investigators who delve in the case. The first is a verteran cop who has been on the case since the beginning, who now begins to look at the case with new eyes as his conscience begins to bother him. The second protagonist is the unlikely, rotund attorney, son of a corrupt Yorkshire policeman, who takes the case of his neighbor who is imprisoned for the murders. As he reluctantly gets further and further into the case, he begins to sense something fishy going on, and begins to delve deeper. Wonderfully filmed and acted, providing the desired closure.
This ends up being a great series but I would recommend watching them as a whole if you have 5 hours to spare. Also, watch it with the subtitles and with your undivided attention. In the end, I think you will find this to be a very deserving crime saga.
here). Quest For Honor wasn't a bad documentary. It just wasn't an interesting one. Maybe I've gotten used to the in-your-face Michael Moore style of documentaries or maybe it was just too late, but this one didn't really peak my interest though it was about an important subject. It opens with CNN's Anderson Cooper reporting on an "honor killing" in Iraq where a woman has been brutally beaten to death for betraying her husband. The film then follows a group that tries to protect women from these killings. We also meet a victim of an attempted murder, a journalist who writes about these horrid happenings, and a policeman who is investigating one such murder. Though this is an important issue, I thought it could have been presented in a less tedious fashion.
After two days of volunteering and seeing films I took a day off and was back today for a movie before and after my shift. I started the afternoon out seeing a Danish film called Applause. This is the kind of film where the lead performance is the whole movie, and that should be no surprise since it is about an alcoholic stage actress trying to reform her life. Though her career is still strong and she is still a celebrity, Thea has lost her husband and relinquished her kids. Now she desperately wants her children back, if only she can stay off the bottle. We have seen this scenario many times before, but I think why filmmakers return to it again and again is for the performance and here Paprika Steen delivers a home run. She plays Thea as an angry woman, upset at her ex, furious with her visible aging, and ultimately furious with herself. She plays her with such ferocity, you aren't quite sure how a trip to the park with her children will turn out. Though we have seen this type of film before, Steen's performance is one to behold.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Since festival films are usually hit-or-miss, I thought why not taken in a couple of proven films that are shown as part of a retrospective series, and since this year's films were 1967's The Graduate and In The Heat Of The Night, where could I go wrong? The actual name that is given to the retrospective screenings is called From The Page To The Projector and is actually an award given to those who have made contributions to literature and film. This year they decided to award Mark Harris, whose book PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION details the five Oscar nominated Best Picture nominees from 1967 (the other three are Guess Whose Coming To Dinner, Bonnie and Clyde, and Doctor Dolittle[he explained this nomination]) and how they changed Hollywood and America. He spoke before both screenings, after the second screening, and in between when he received his award. He seemed very genial and well versed in film. Before reviewing these two classics, I just wanted to state how great it was to witness them on the big screen and to see how they helped to usher in the revolution.
As the film begins, it offers us the prisoner's two choices: enslavement with brutal work and cruel punishment or escape through the harsh and unforgiving wilderness. The men choose the latter and are off on a grueling battle with Mother Nature, but of course they will find that the real enemy is themselves (it doesn't help that the seven men are from opposing British and Irish backgrounds). This film had potential, but soon it becomes a nasty, nihilistic, and gruesome tale that plays out like an And Then There Were None version of Saw. There is no point to all the mayhem and carnage accept for the fact that it was supposedly based on a true story of an 1822 escape by prisoners on the penal colony of Van Diemen's Land in Tasmania. What makes everything worse is the extreme self-seriousness of the story, especially in the narration. A good survival in the wilderness story can be the most fun of films, but not the way this one was handled. It does score points for its wilderness shots, but even the cuts are sloppy and the film shows the sign of its low budget.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
George Carlin had a bit that said something about sports fans being the lowest of the low, and in Robert Siegel's (writer of The Wrestler) Big Fan we get a picture of a fan so dedicated to the New York Giants we sometimes forget that he isn't a twelve year old. Paul, nicely played by the unexpected Patton Oswalt, is the 30-something super-fan who lives at home, works in a tollbooth, and spends his remaining time calling New York local sports talk shows and rooting for the Giants. The rest of his family is successful. His sister is happily married and his brother is a hotshot personal injury attorney with a Jersey Queen, double D wife (I like how Siegel gets the Jersey details right again-notice the 50 Cent icing on the birthday cake). Still, Paul is comfortable with a lifestyle. That is until he chances to meet his favorite player, and unexpected consequences pursue. This is a nice little Indie movie, released direct to On Demand I believe, and never seeing the light of day in a theatrical release (at least in Cleveland). The film never really reaches for greatness, but it is nice for what it is: a character study of a man who may resemble more men they would care to admit.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Before the actual film starts, we are shown a short story that takes place back to the old country as an old Jew walks home with his horse. He informs his wife that he has been helped alongside the road by one of the neighbors and she in turn informs him that the neighbor is a dybbuk, a ghost of sorts having recently died. The dybbuk shows up at the house and when it leaves they are afraid that it has cursed them forever. As Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" plays during the opening credits and we are then taken to the main story set in 1967, we begin to wonder what the prologue has to with the film and most would assume nothing. But as the story of Larry Gopnik, a Minnesota college professor whose life begins to unravel in a fashion similar to Job, maybe the opening short is a key to understanding the film. Gopnik is the kind of man who wants to live a serious life, the kind of man who solves never ending physics' problems on a chalk board, but has no answers when everything in his life goes wrong. He is played to a point by newcomer to film Michael Stuhlbarg. Though their imprint is definitely on this film and that it is said to be their most personal film to date, this is not the Coen brothers' greatest work. It is a challenging, intellectual and artful film, nominated for Best Picture this year in an expanded category. With their ending, the Coens seem to be channeling the ending of their No Country For Old Men, but I'm not sure it works as well as it did in this one. Though some elements are off and that certain demographics may enjoy this film more than others, this is a film to seek out, especially if you like to think and not to be spoon-fed at the movies.
OK so maybe I got carried away in my last blog when I professed my love for NYC based movies. I rented New York, I Love You mainly because I found its predecessor so charming, that being Paris je t'aime. That film collected well known actors and filmmakers from around the world and made 10 short films about romance in the city of lights. That film was charming, simple, and contained the work of stellar directors such as Alexander Payne and the Coens. This time around the setting is the city that never sleeps and we get 12 shorts with even more famous actors but less-than-stellar directors. Also, unlike the first film, characters appear in other sketches outside of their own shorts. The results are not charming, and are often pretentious and off-putting. Following is a brief description and rating of each of the shorts:
- Directed by Jiang Wen and starring Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, and Andy Garcia. The opening short follows a pickpocket attempting to woo a girl only to be outsmarted by an older con-man. Uninspired and Christensen is the worst. ** stars
- Directed by Mira Nair and starring Natalie Portman. A Jewish diamond saleswoman and an Indian haggle over the price of a piece of jewelry as the Indian begins to fantasize about the soon to be wed woman. Nice little short is the kind of work that is missing overall in this film. *** stars
- Directed by Shunji Iwai and starring Orlando Bloom and Christina Ricci. A musician expresses his discontent about a record producer on the phone to a woman he's never seen. This was one of the few I liked as well. *** stars
- Directed by Yvan Attal and starring Ethan Hawke and Maggie O. A brazen writer tries to pick up an attractive woman on the streets. This one was pretty pretentious. **1/2 stars
- Directed by Brett Ratner and starring Anton Yelchin, James Caan, Olivia Thirlby, and Blake Lively. A pharmacist asks a recently dumped young man to take his attractive daughter to prom, with more than just a few surprises in store. This was probably my favorite short though it was kind of disturbing at one point. ***1/2 stars
- Directed by Allen Hughes and starring Bradley Cooper and Drea de Matteo. Two people contemplate their first encounter on the way to their second date. This is probably the most stylishly filmed of the shorts, but pretty empty other than that. Ethan Hawke reappears at the end during a nice bit. **1/2 stars
- Directed by Shekhar Kapur and starring Julie Christie, John Hurt, and Shia LaBeouf. A singer visits her favorite hotel and is waited on by 2 kindly butlers. Ludicrous short makes no sense and is laughable as LaBeouf sports an accent and a hunchback while playing one of the butlers. ** stars
- Directed by Natalie Portman. A man and his daughter take a walk in Central Park. That's about it. I don't even think this one had a script. *1/2 stars
- Directed by Faith Akin. A Chinese woman considers an artist's offer to paint her. Nice little short hits the mark. *** stars
- Directed by Yvan Attal and starring Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn. While enjoying a cigarette outside a restaurant, a woman teases a man while her husband waits inside. Irritating and more pretentious dialogue though Cooper does his best with it. ** stars
- Directed by Joshua Marston and starring Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman. A Jewish couple bicker as they take a walk in Coney Island on their 63rd wedding anniversary. Somewhat heartfelt but pointless. ** stars
- Directed by Randy Balsmeyer. Two of our stars meet up, form a bond, and a hand-held film of all our stars is shown before the credits. No dialogue and more pointlessness. *1/2 stars
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I first saw Wallace and Gromit a few weeks ago during a screening of their Oscar nominated short A Matter of Loaf and Death and I now realized what most of American animation needed. It is not just enough to be superbly animated, but these films must also contain plot, wit, humor, and drama, elements of which are far too often lacking in this genre. Wallace and Gromit represent animation at its best. In this installment, the first feature film, the British chap and his loyal dog are running a humane anti-pest business to keep the local neighborhood gardens safe from rabbits. Along the way they encounter a lovely dame intending to put on a vegetable fair on her estate (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter) and her devious suitor, a cruel dolt who holds contempt for rabbits (Ralph Fiennes). At the same time an experiment involving Gromit and a rabbit goes awry and a mysterious were-rabbit begins to terrorize the community. All of this is meshed together and wonderfully handled through slapstick and animation that defys explanation. My only quandry was that this did work better as a short rather than a full-length feature, but I still contend that Wallace and Gromit represent if not the best, then the most overlooked entry in the animation genre.
Monday, March 8, 2010
So by the end of the night, there were no major surprise, David had slew Goliath, and history was made as a woman finally (and deservedly) walked off with a Best Director trophy. It was a great night for the Hurt Locker, walking away with 6 Oscars including Picture, Director, and Screenplay. It also became the lowest grossing movie of all time to win the Award (or even be nominated) as it knocked off Avatar, the highest grossing movie ever made. It was definitely the moment of the evening when Kathryn Bigelow bested her ex-husband James Cameron to claim her Best Director award. Ben Stiller was a close second for moment of the night when he appeared to present dressed as an Avatar and briefly speaking the Na'vi language. Overall, I thought it was a great show. Here are some random thoughts I had during the show:
- Why open the show with all 10 lead acting nominees on stage. Thought that was unnecessary.
- I hate Neil Patrick Harris and his stupid song-and-dance introduction
- Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin were hit-and-miss during their opening monologue. I was cracking up at the "Jew Hunter" joke though.
- Christoph Waltz gave a good speech and I really liked listening to the way he talks as I did watching him in Inglourious Basterds. Performance of the year, glad he won and kept the villains in the supporting actor category streak going.
- I liked the characters from the animated films bit before the best animated film was announced. It was a good year for that category. I had mixed feelings about nominating Up in that category and in Best Picture though.
- I liked limiting the nominated songs to a brief clip instead of 5 full performances. Those songs usually make the show drag. Nice to see the expected Crazy Heart song win.
- The John Hughes tribute was lame and even lamer were the has-been stars from his movies paying tribute to him. Why should he be the only person who died last year to get their own personal tribute.
- The Hurt Locker was not the best original screenplay, but it won anyway
- I liked how they made the shorts awards interesting by showing past winners and what wins did for their careers. I saw some of the shorts and thought the wrong ones won though, esp. Logorama
- Ben Stiller was hilarious as usual, one of the highlights of the night
- The Governor's Ball clip should not replace the Lifetime Acheivement Award
- Precious was not the best original screenplay (This should have been Up in the Air's category) but the winner, Geoffrey Fletcher seemed utterly surprised and it was a nice moment when he went blank during the thank-yous
- Why did Robin Williams present the Supporting Actress Award. I thought someone connected to Heath Ledger would present as he would have presented the award.
- I was pleased with Mo'Nique's tasteful acceptance speech and her thanking Hattie McDaniel, the first black person to win an Oscar. I'm not sure I agree with her that her win was "based on the performance, not politics" though.
- I liked the presentations of clips from the 10 Best Picture nominees throughout the show.
- Baldwin and Martin's Paranormal Activity spoof skit was hilarious
- I couldn't figure out why they had the horror tribute, but I liked it anyway
- I liked Morgan Freeman explaining the sound effects and mixing. I really thought they did the lesser categories justice this year.
- Loved seeing James Taylor play The Beatles "In My Life" during the In Memory segment
- They brought back the street dancers to do their silly interpretive dancing to the Original Score nominees. It was nice hearing what the scores sound like. During this segment, I thought, man the Ennio Morricone score from Inglourious Basterds wasn't even nominated and was way better than the 5 nominated.
- Why is there always a surprise in the Foreign Language category. For example, in the past The Lives of Others beat Pan's Labyrinth and last year Departures beat the class and this year El Secreto de Sus Ojos beat the favored The White Ribbon. Maybe this is one of the few categories based on merit and not buzz or politics.
- I liked the clips for Best Actor/Actress followed by the nominees introduction by past collaborators.
- Loved seeing Jeff Bridges win, man, and give that totally great speech, dude, paying tribute to his mom and dad and stuff, man. Great moment and speech.
- Sandra shouldn't have won, but did and gave a very nice speech. I think I like her as a person, but not an actress.
- Barbara Streisand, WTF. In addition to not being able to stand her, it took away all the suspense from Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to win the Best Director. Still, after the award was handed over, and Streisand went out of view, Bigelow had the night's best moment as she graciously accepted and gave a humble speech.
- Tom Hanks awarded the Hurt Locker, which was nice to see the little film that could win, even though it probably didn't deserve it.
- Final thoughts: The Hurt Locker triumphed, while Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, and especially Up in the Air really got the shaft. No major surprises. The front runners all won in the major categories. I liked the hosts. I would have liked to do better in my polls as I don't think I won any of the contests I entered, but I still thought the Academy put on a great show this year.
Picture: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air
Director: James Cameron, Avatar; Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker; Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds; Lee Daniels, Precious; Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
Lead Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart; George Clooney, "Up in the Air"; Colin Firth, "A Single Man"; Morgan Freeman, Invictus; Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Lead Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side; Helen Mirren, The Last Station; Carey Mulligan, An Education; Gabourey Sidibe, Precious; Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Supporting Actor: Matt Damon, Invictus; Woody Harrelson, The Messenger; Christopher Plummer, The Last Station; Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones; Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Nine; Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air; Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart; Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air; Mo'Nique, Precious
Animated Feature: Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, Up
Art Direction: Avatar, The Imaginarius of Dr. Parnassus, Nine, Sherlock Holmes, The Young Victoria
Cinematography: Avatar, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, The White Ribbon
Costume Design: Bright Star, Coco Before Chanel, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Nine, The Young Victoria
Documentary: Burma VJ, The Cove, Food Inc., The Most Dangerous Man in America, Which Way Home
Documentary Short: China's Unnatural Disaster, The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner, The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, Music by Prudence, Rabbit a la Berlin
Editing: Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious
Foreign Language Film: Ajami, The Milk of Sorrow, A Prophet, A Secret in their Eyes, The White Ribbon
Makeup: Il Divo, Star Trek, The Young Victoria
Musical Score: Avatar, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Hurt Locker, Sherlock Holmes, Up
Music (Song): "Almost There," The Princess and the Frog; "Down in New Orleans," The Princess and the Frog; "Loin de Paname," Paris 36,; "Take it All," Nine; "The Weary Kind," Crazy Heart
Short (Animated): French Roast, Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty. The Lady and The Reaper, Logorama, A Matter of Loaf and Death
Short (Live Action): The Door, Instead of Abracadabra, Kavi, Miracle Fish, The New Tenants
Sound Editing: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Star Trek, Up
Sound Mixing: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Star Trek, Transformers 2
Visual Effects: Avatar, District 9, Star Trek
Writing (Adapted): District 9, An Education, In the Loop, Precious, Up in the Air
Writing (Original): The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, The Messenger, A Serious Man, Up
Oscar Tally: The Hurt Locker-6, Avatar-3, Crazy Heart-2, Precious-2, Up-2
Thanks to all who entered my poll for being good sports. No one beat me, two tied. I had 14/24 (58%) correct. Here are the poll results:
1. Tommy Sakenes 14/24 (58%) (won tie breaker)
2. Billy Kaiser 14/24 (58%)
3. Mo Kaiser 12/24 (50%) (won tie breaker)
4. Tommy Kaiser 12/24 (50%)
5. Chris Kaiser 10/24 (42%)
6. Andrea Altman 9/24 (38%) (same tie breaker)
6. Robin Altman 9/24 (38%) (same tie breaker)
8. Fe MacKinnon 8/24 (33%)
9. Brian Mahoney 7/24 (29%)
10. Jon Altman 6/24 (25%)
Sunday, March 7, 2010
The title refers to a hidden area in a small Japanese town where the dolphins who are unable to be sold are led to be slaughtered for their meat. This Oscar nominated documentary focuses on this town's cruel practices, but introduces to other ways in which dolphins are mistreated around the globe. We learn about how dolphins suffer in captivity and how the largest whale protecting group in the world does not include porpoises or dolphins due to Japanese interests in their hunting and killing. We are also given beautiful footage of dolphins in the wild as well as in captivity. One of the people who guides us through this well-made doc is Ric O'Barry, a former dolphin trainer who helped train Flipper for the popular TV series.After realizing the dangers of captivity, he has spent the last thirty years fighting back against an industry he worked for. You can actually sense the remorse and see the sadness in his eyes as he reflects on his days as a trainer. Yes, there are also interviews of eco-nuts who think dolphins are smarter and more important than humans, but overall this is a harrowing film, especially in the last ten minutes when the filmmakers find their way to the deadly cove and expose the world to the blood red waters where dolphins are being slayed.
Oh and he gets everything so right in the beginning. Young Alice is grown up yet still a dreamer, engaged to be married to a boring stiff and hoping to escape her stultifying Victorian upbringing. The English countryside and houses are wonderfully filmed and you wonder if Tim Burton will not let his weird sensibilities take over this reimagining of the Lewis Carroll classic. Yet, the rabbitt appears, Alice gives pursuit and falls into the hole and is swept away to Wonderland again or rather to a set out of Burton's imagination that we've seen in plenty of his movies. There are scenes of beauty, but most of its uninspired. We meet the same characters as before, some I wasn't familiar with. Johnny Depp appears as the Mad Hatter in a fleshed out role, where he gives another off-the-wall performance which seems similar to his other "unique, off-the-wall" performances. The 3D is unnecessary and actually becomes headache inducing after a certain point. Helena Bonham Carter aka Mrs. Burton is atrocious as always as the red queen. The real talent comes in the form of the voicework of the animated characters such as Alan Rickman as the caterpillar and Michael Sheen as the rabbit. Actually, newcomer Mia Wasikowska makes a very suitable Alice. This may sound like an incendiary review, but I must admit I did enjoy this movie for most of the film until at some point towards the end, it turns into some kind of a Lord of the Rings mashup with with the good side of hodge podge characters engaged in battle against the evil clones, with a dragon and 4 false endings thrown in for good measure. This material is out there enough as it is that letting it be helmed by an terminally strange director will not do it justice.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
When I heard that Tim Burton's version of Alice and Wonderland would be a rethinking of the classic tale with Alice revisiting Wonderland as a young woman, I decided to check out the Disney version of the story which I had not seen since I was a child. This was not one of the Disney films I remember fondly from my youth and after watching it again I can see why. Disney's animated film of the Lewis Carroll classic (which I have not read) is a trippy and psychedelic film. It begins with the young Alice daydreaming during an outdoors tutoring session and following a white rabbit into a tree and down a ditch into a world of imagination where things aren't as they are supposed to be. While in Wonderland, she meets a series of nasty characters and these meetings play out as a series of vignette. It is also a letdown that the music is forgettable. What does stand out about this picture is the animation, which must have been cutting edge in 1951. It also seemed that it stayed true to the story (from what I could tell) and I liked how the characters were British to a T. Although it is not an entirely pleasant trip, Disney's Alice in Wonderland is a journey worth taking.***
Friday, March 5, 2010
The Ghost Writer represents the second early year release from a legendary director that again exemplifies why he has achieved this status. With this film, Roman Polanski has made a thriller comparable to his own classics. The Ghost Writer more than succeeds in the genre of political thriller, a tough genre to master. It tells the story of a man hired to replace a Prime Minister's deceased ghost writer. Ewan McGregor aptly plays the unnamed writer as a man who seems to be on top of his game while never really seeming to know what is going on around him. Pierce Brosnan fits the mold as the slimy politician. Polanski keeps tension built with music, eerie landscapes, and ominous weather as McGregor begins to uncover both twists and political misdeeds. The pace can be slow at points, but the patient viewer is always rewarded with questions being answered as the story progresses. Yet in the end, we are not quite sure of everything, and the questions continue after the credits have rolled. Again, it is nice to see a great filmmaker on the top of his game.
I went into this film knowing a little about Hunter S. Thompson, not liking what I did know, and not wanting to know much more after the film has ended. This is Terry Gilliam directing his most drugged out and nastiest film on record, a film that I could only see as enjoyable by junkies. The plot (if you can call it that) consists of journalist Raoul Duke (played by Johnny Depp, Duke being a pseudonym for Thompson) covering a drag race in Nevada with his "lawyer" Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) and then going on a three day bender in Vegas, emphasis on bender. This is clearly a Gilliam film from the first frame, but it is also extremely unpleasant from the same starting point. Also, the film is meandering and incomprehensible and in the end this is one bad trip I wish I wouldn't have taken.