Because sometimes Oscar is just mean. And so if the world were a fair place, and if I were in charge, the following films would win at Sunday night’s Academy Awards show (as compared to those that will):
Posts Tagged ‘Movies’
When I was a kid, TRON stood out as one of those landmark movies that shaped the way I thought about some things. I imagined that if you could get inside a computer, that was pretty well what it might look like. And the film transported my young mind to an entirely different world. The emotional impact was deep enough that I’m pretty sure it had a hand in convincing me, much later down the road, that I wanted to be a computer engineer.
I was wrong, of course. I realize now that I was much more mesmerized by the aesthetics of that world than I was by any kind of actual science or technology. I haven’t seen the original in… who knows how long, and I certainly have no recollection now of what it was about. What stuck was the world, so completely alien, so mesmerizing back in the 80′s.
It’s about this time of year that people start shouting out what they believe to be the “essential” Christmas movies. What makes my list any more significant than anyone else’s? Nothing. And so I’ll begin. These are roughly in order from least Christmas-spirited to most Christmas-spirited. Enjoy.
Jim Carrey is a phenomenal actor who also occasionally chooses to star in great films. And though he’s recently had a string of duds, I Love You Phillip Morris — opening this Friday in some theaters — shows him back at the top of his manic-but-poignant game.
Based on a true story, I Love You Phillip Morris uses flashbacks to recount the wild, love-wrought life of con man Steven Jay Russel, played by Carrey. As the movie opens, the audience learns that Russel is apparently dying, and that long ago he was happily married, religious, and a cop.
After a car accident, however, Russel cuts the charade. He comes out of the closet as a gay man, moves to Florida, and eventually starts pulling insurance scams as a way of financing the opulent lifestyle he associates with homosexuality. At this point the film is still getting started, so of course Russel gets caught and sent to prison, where he meets the charming, even demure Phillip Morris, played by Ewan McGregor.
Most people don’t pay much attention to screenwriters. I don’t know why. There is no better indication of whether you’ll love or hate a film than who wrote it. It’s not foolproof, of course, since maybe it’s the writer’s first feature. And sometimes a good writer can write a not-so-good script. Even so, everyone ought to spend more time looking into writers, because here’s a fact: you can’t make a good movie out of a bad script. And almost as fundamental is the notion that a good script almost never gets made into a really bad film.
Why is all this important? It’s probably obvious I’m about to tell you that Aaron Sorkin is one of the finest screenwriters alive. He has a knack for bone-breakingly brilliant dialog and dizzyingly complex characters. His previous work is spare but indisputably significant. You’ve certainly heard of A Few Good Men (“You can’t handle the truth!”), and perhaps you’re at least somewhat familiar with the critical sycophancy that followed all seven seasons of The West Wing. This man can write in a way that few mortals can.
It’s July and, frankly, the summer blockbuster season has been a bit of a disappointment. Sure, Toy Story 3 was a tear-jerker. A-Team was loads of fun. And Iron Man 2 let us watch Robert Downey Jr. be Robert Downey Jr. for a few hours (always worth the price of admission).
All that being said, are any of these films remotely memorable? In 20 years will we look back and say, “It was a glorious time for cinema — Rampage Jackson resurrected the A-Team, Jackie Chan brought back karate kid, and that pale whiny bitch picked Cedric Diggory over that Native American kid who looked awesome with his shirt off”? For those of you who don’t understand the concept of a rhetorical question, the answer is “No.”
Then along comes Inception. The early reviews surrounding superstar director Christopher Nolan’s latest film were overwhelmingly positive, which of course was followed by the inevitable backlash to the frontlash (which will soon be followed by the backlash to the backlash of the frontlash). The buzz around the film has been incredible (every other tweet or Facebook status seems to be Inception related). I went into the film with incredibly high expectations — in fact, my expectations were so high I couldn’t imagine the film being as good as everyone was saying. To be honest, it wasn’t. It was better. Exponentially better.
“What did you think?”
I’ve never heard the question asked with such sincerity so often. People know I love movies more than almost anything. Also, I’ve been talking about this one for almost a full year. My anticipation for this film has been higher than it has since Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Return of the King.
The reason is Christopher Nolan. His record is perfect and inhumanly impressive: Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight. That lineup of films is an impressive life’s work, and he’s 40. It’s absurd. It’s also the only reason Inception had a chance.
This is the kind of movie that almost never gets made. Nolan worked on the script for 10 years and honed it into something that no studio would ever dream of adequately funding. It’s cerebral, complex and dauntingly unique. It’s not part of a franchise, or a remake, or anything else comfortingly familiar or easy to sell. And to produce it properly required hundreds of millions of dollars.
When Splice, which opens in theaters everywhere this Friday, first screened at January’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, two of our very own writers had the dubious honor of taking it all in.
Now, six months later and with the film’s distributor ramping up a massive ad blitz, we thought it would be as good a time as any to post their initial reactions to that original cut. For those of you planning to see the film, Kristin Clift’s spoiler-free version is directly below. For those of you who couldn’t care less, scroll down for Jon Schwarzmann’s spoiler-heavy review.
The summer blockbuster season officially starts the first weekend of May, and this summer we got a bit of a nostalgic trip back to 2008, when the first Iron Man blew everyone away on that very weekend.
This year, Iron Man 2 rolled in with even higher anticipation because people had been left with sort of absurdly high expectations. The first one was just so darn good and the second, after all, had all the same people on board (except for our poor friend Terrence Howard, but… oh well) — same director, same actors and everything.
Even the critics seemed to like it quite a bit. Not as much as the first, but still quite a lot. And guess what? It was awesome. You forget, after a while, what it’s like to have a blast-and-a-half in the comfortable confines of a theater bucket seat, but man, did that film remind me. It was everything an Iron Man movie should be — exciting, hilarious, and generally awesome. I left the theater feeling like I’d gotten exactly what I hoped for: more of what I loved so much the first time around. Plus Scarlett Johansson. (Ahem.) ALSO Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, and Don Cheadle (sorry, Terrence) — all with efficient, clever dialogue.
I actually left declaring that the second might have been better than the first. Those were the words escaping my smiling face, and I kept saying it for days.
A lot of the time, real poetry gets a bad rap. It’s foisted on teenagers in high school English classes, most of whom have no idea why they’re reading it, and who are excited to put it permanently behind them. Or at least, that was my experience.
Poetry, however, doesn’t all suck. And in fact, this month is officially National Poetry Month, which celebrates the best works by both living and dead poets. (Yes, there still are people writing serious poetry — and it isn’t all penned by “anonymous” or ideally suited to church.) So if you haven’t read a poem since looking at “The Red Wheelbarrow” when you were 15, now is a perfect time to give it a second chance. Poetry, after all, may be a dying art, but knowing a thing or two about it can still make you look like a badass.
In celebration of National Poetry Month, what follows is a list of poetry-related movies. Maybe you’ve seen them, maybe you haven’t, but chances are you haven’t read everything by all the poets they depict. So this April, watch a movie, read a poem, and impress a girl or boy.
Dead Poet’s Society (1998) — Let’s just get this one out of the way. It’s a great film and drops the names of a bunch of poets. If you’re like me you’ve also probably seen the “carpe diem scene” dozens of times in school and church. If you haven’t seen this movie, crawl out from under your rock. It’s worth a watch, or a bunch of watches, but if this is the only poetry movie you’ve seen lately, try some of the others.
The Raven (1963) — This film is classic Vincent Price: campy, funny in a strangely knowing way, and macabrely delicious. The fact that it also stars the the legendary Boris Karloff is icing on the cake. It’s based, rather loosely, on Edgar Allen Poe’s long poem “The Raven, which you may have read in an English class. Or, you may be familiar with the poem from The Simpsons‘ episode “Treehouse of Horror,” in which it was read by the velvet-voiced James Earl Jones. In any case, Price’s version of “The Raven” provides a good introduction to two cultural essentials: classic poetry, and classic B movies.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) — Sure, you’ve seen this one, but were you thinking about “The Odyssey” while you were watching it? This Coen brothers film is indeed based on Homer’s epic poem, and also happens to be one of the auteur-ish duo’s most beloved works. Apparently, the Coen’s decided to base the film on “The Odyssey” only after they had started working on it and noticed the similarities between the two stories. Still, it features a great soundtrack, tragicomedy laughs, and manages to familiarize people with one of the greatest literary works in Western civilization.
I’m Not There (2007) — This movie could arguably appear on this list simply for being about Bob Dylan. However, as good as Dylan’s lyrics are, I’d argue that they’re still just that: lyrics. Instead, this film is here for its depiction of the seminal American poet, Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg is typically associated with the beat movement, and is accordingly still an icon of angsty, disaffected counterculturalism. His most famous work, “Howl,” was even considered obscene and put on trial (via obsenity charges against its publisher). In I’m Not There, actor David Cross’ depiction of Ginsberg — as a kind of ironic sage — manages to capture an artist’s poetic ethos as few films have.
Il Postino (1994) — I like all the movies on this list, but Il Postino might be my favorite. It’s the kind of film that’s unwaveringly committed to its story, while somehow also managing to be heartwarming and charming. The story depicts a chapter Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s exile, as well as the fictional relationship that he forms with an Italian postman. As the postman delivers mail to Neruda he learns about the power of poetry, first in love and eventually in politics. Neruda’s poetry is affective and simply amazing, and few films that include poetry are as overtly about it as Il Postino. However, and perhaps most importantly, Il Postino ultimately makes the argument that poetry matters as a force for good in the world.
A Knight’s Tale (2001) — With Heath Ledger’s death in 2008, this film will always be remembered as one of the star’s funnest and most adored works. Yet, it’s also important to remember that the film is possibly the most entertaining depiction of Chaucer in all of cinema. In the film, Chaucer is basically Ledger’s PR man, giving rousing speeches before violent tournaments. In real life, Chaucer is perhaps the first person ever to write poetry in actual English. He wrote The Canterbury Tales about a bunch of pilgrims, which along with his other works helped turn English into a formal, normalized language. Of course, none of that is shown in A Knight’s Tale, but the film at least portrays the poet as a man with a propensity for eloquence.