Thursday, November 26, 2015

My Picks for the National Film Registry 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

As is tradition, it's time for me to reveal my votes for this year's National Film Registry, due to be announced in about a month's time by the Library of Congress. We'll see how many of mine they pick! 

Last year's list spanned the years 1913-2004, and included: The Dragon Painter (1919), Down Argentine Way (1940),  House of Wax (1953), Rio Bravo (1959), Rosemary's Baby (1968), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), The Big Lebowski (1998), and Saving Private Ryan (1998).   Also included were the usual selection of obscurer, but no-less-deserving picks such as Please Don't Bury Me Alive! (1976) considered to be the first Chicano feature film.  A link to the Hollywood Reporter article from last year can be found here.

The National Film Registry started in 1989, and there are currently 650 films on the list.  Although there does seem to be less of a push for great films these days over those of "cultural" importance (Librarian of Congress James M. Billington has been quoted to say: "These films are not selected as the best American films of all time, but rather as works of enduring importance to American culture"), there is still at least an unconscious push for inclusion of those considered works of art.  If the selections were based entirely on cultural "endurance" over that of a quality assessment, why would such narrative films that made the list last year as The Power and the Glory (1933), Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), and The Gang's All Here (1943) [films hardly part of the contemporary zeitgeist] make it in over such perennial shut-outs as The Seven Year Itch (1955), The Birds (1963), and Grease (1978)?

Below are my picks for what should be on this year's list (I only do well-known narrative feature films: I'll let the Library of Congress decide on the obscure works).  To me, the film that most needs to be added above all (my choice now SIX years running!) is Blue Velvet.  Last year three of my picks made the list: Rosemary's Baby (1968), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), and The Big Lebowski (1998). 

My choices for this go-round, by year, are:

1920s-30s-40s (6 titles)
The Sheik (1921)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1934)
The Little Foxes (1941)
Lifeboat (1944)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

1950s (10 titles)
Father of the Bride (1950)
Harvey (1950)
The Red Badge of Courage (1951)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Limelight (1952)
Stalag 17 (1953)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
The Killing (1956)
The King and I (1956)
Auntie Mame (1958)

1960s (10 titles)
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
101 Dalmatians (1961)
The Misfits (1961)
Lolita (1962)
The Birds (1963)
The Great Escape (1963)
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
The Naked Kiss (1964)
A Patch of Blue (1965)
Seconds (1966)

1970s (10 titles)
Love Story (1970)
Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
The Poseidon Adventure (1971)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
The Sunshine Boys (1975)
The Front (1976)
Grease (1978)
The Jerk (1979)
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

1980s (10 titles)
Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)
Arthur (1981)
The World According to Garp (1982)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
Aliens (1986)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Wall Street (1987)
Die Hard (1988)

1990s (2 titles)
Apollo 13 (1995)
Titanic (1997)

2000s (2 titles)
Bad Santa (2003)
Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Best of the Year So Far: Mid-Year Top 5 2015

Time to post my top 5 of the year and it's slim pickings again: seems to be a trend in recent years. Here it is, with Mad Max way out in front, although I liked Avengers better than most:

My top 5 2015 so far (listed alphabetically)
The Avengers: The Age of Ultron
Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Sunday, March 8, 2015

One Line Review's Top Ten Movies and Noteworthy Achievements 2014

TOP TEN 2014 (alphabetical)
Edge of Tomorrow (d. Doug Liman)
Ida (d. Pawel Pawlikowski)
Interstellar (d. Christopher Nolan)
Locke  (d. Steven Knight)
Nightcrawler (d. Dan Gilroy)
Only Lovers Left Alive (d. Jim Jarmusch)
Selma (d. Ava DuVernay)
The Skeleton Twins (d. Craig Johnson)
Whiplash (d. Damien Chazelle)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (d. Bryan Singer)


Best Film:

Best Actor:
J. K. Simmons in Whiplash

Best Actress:
Caity Lotz in The Machine

Best Supporting Actress:
Rene Russo in Nightcrawler

Best Supporting Actor:
Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Best Original Screenplay:
Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Christopher McQuarrie and Jez & John-Henry Butterworth for Edge of Tomorrow

Best Director:
Damien Chazelle for Whiplash

Honorable Mentions:

Best Film: n/a (!)

Best Actor: Bradley Cooper in American Sniper; Michael Keaton in Birdman; David Oyelowo in Selma; Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel; Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler; Bill Hader in The Skeleton Twins; Tom Middleton in Only Lovers Left Alive; Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything; Miles Teller in Whiplash

Best Actress: Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything; Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive; Agata Trzebuchowska in Ida.

Best Supporting Actor: Marco Perella in Boyhood; Tyler Perry in Gone Girl; Tom Wilkinson in Selma.

Best Supporting Actress: Sofia Vergara in Chef; Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer; Jennifer Lawrence for X-Men: Days of Future Past; Mia Wasikowska in Only Loves Left Alive.

Best Original Screenplay: Paul Webb for Selma.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Damien Chazelle for Whiplash.

Best Director: Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

2014 Movie Year-End Wrap-Up

30 films vie for my top ten of 2014, which I'll announce tomorrow. As I didn't have over ten films in my "must-sees" this constitutes a weak year (in my opinion a VERY weak year).

As always, I've viewed 60 films this year; below are my one-line commentaries on each:

Must see [7]:

Edge of Tomorrow. Rare film where you enjoy the ride while you're wondering about the mystery (rather than just waiting for the end).

Ida. Beautifully shot film that gets more interesting and complex as it goes along.

Interstellar. Slow (and very M. Night) start leads to some fascinating places.

Nightcrawler. Kooky, creepy character piece.

Only Lovers Left Alive. Tonally fine and quite funny at times.

Selma. Excellent production, manages to successfully layer in several points of view.

Whiplash. Composed brilliantly in multiple senses of the word.

Recommended [23]:

American Sniper. Solid filmmaking, if much seems to be left out of what is clearly supposed to be a character study.

Big Hero 6. Nice visuals and an enjoyable character in Baymax.

Birdman. Worth it for the way it captures theater life/art, but the material is well-worn.

Boyhood. Ambitious and unique, although it misses the bullseye and often seems forced (particularly with the cultural references).

Chef. Formulaic, but a nice change of pace summer movie that's sure to please most.

Fury. Never dull but pretty standard fare.

Imitation Game, The. Seems to relish in dramatic license.

John Wick. Loved the reloading, which you never see; decent actioner was overrated because no one expected it to be anything.

LEGO Movie, The. Multilayered (but not deep) enjoyment, with many cute moments.

Locke. Artistically satisfying.

Lucy. Sure the science is nonsense, but it's an easily palatable ride with a modest running time.

Machine, The. Lead actress Caity Lotz distinguishes this little film that, to its credit, packs a lot into 90 minutes.

Maleficent. Well-mounted Disney production.

Neighbors. Pretty funny but basically a 30-minute movie replayed three times.

Non-Stop. Surprisingly entertaining high concept film.

Obvious Child. Nice to have on in the background while you read your Sunday New York Times.

Raid 2, The. Ambitious, with two solid action sequences at the end, but pretty gory and less organic than the first.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. As with the 300 sequel, Eva Green supplies the goods (in more ways than one), but unlike the 300 sequel the style here still has a freshness if the film itself gets repetetive.

Skeleton Twins, The. Slight dramedy with two actors who are brilliantly compatible; and quite a few laughs throughout.

Snowpiercer. Farfetched, but one of the easiest movies to recommend this year.

Theory of Everything, The. Beautifully shot and scored, with fine performances, but lacks in creating enough dramatic tension.

Under the Skin. Handled less "artistically" it might have been more effective, as it does have merit.

X-Men: Days of Future Past. Another clever installment in the franchise, with a standout Jennifer Lawrence.

Skippable [26]:

22 Jump Street. Summer movie fun.

300: Rise of an Empire. Eva Green adds spark, but the novelty of the original is gone.

Amazing Spider-Man 2, The. Decidedly mainstream entertainment is well done on that level.

Bad Words. Mostly a missed opportunity.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I counted two great action sequences and far too many scenes explaining what was going on.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Great effects, but straightforward, with quite a few treacly moments.

Divergent. A mad-dash through all of the book's plot points.

Draft Day. Good cast but dramatically mild.

Fading Gigolo. Very New York Film Festival.

Fault in Our Stars, The. Slavishly adapted from the novel, it's appealing, but no classic.

Godzilla. Good effects, but standard fare all the way.

Gone Girl. A much better book.

Grand Budapest Hotel, The. Weakly plotted with an amateurish lead performance in the young lobby boy.

Guardians of the Galaxy. Good-natured.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, The. A few sparks here and there but mostly exposition for Part 2.

Into the Woods. Just beautiful and bland enough to nab a Best Picture nomination.

Maze Runner, The. For once a genuine adaptation of a popular book, although the result is not much more than a "B-movie."

Monuments Men, The. Mild, nearly Disneyesque in its approach.

Muppets Most Wanted. Harmless; many fun cameos, references, and songs.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. About a millimeter deep.

November Man, The. Nice pairing of Pierce and (gorgeous) Olga, but pretty dull stuff otherwise.

Other Woman, The. Uber-chick flick falls apart in the second half after a promising start.

Ride Along. Grows on you, but only a little.

Robocop. Intellectualized remake is a noble effort.

St. Vincent. Cute kid, cute cat, Bill Murray.

Wild. Sincere, but flat.

Avoid [4]:

Foxcatcher. Goes nowhere, except apparently in tricking Academy voters.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Using old-time movie reviewer parlance: a turkey!

Magic in the Moonlight. Woody these days bounces from masterpieces to catastrophes: this one put the audience I saw it with asleep, and I was at a matinee!

Still Alice. Barely passable as a TV movie with A-listers, with outrageous product placement.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Top Ten on March 1

Well, I'm certainly behind this year! I'm hoping that Selma comes to town this week as expected and then I'll have my list together. Either way, I'm giving it until March 1 (a week after the Oscars) and will definitely announce then. Hope to have my annual Oscarcast review out soon as well.

UPDATE: I'll announce on 3/8 (wow, has this year been delayed for me!)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dick Poop's Oscar Nomination

Last year after the Oscar nominations were announced I blogged the following: "As for the reading of the nominations? When will the Academy ever learn NEVER ever ever to have the Academy president be a part of the broadcast. Love that reading of "you may know them better as U2"-- what feeling!"

Now we have the Dick Poop dealy. Let me guess: next year the Academy Pres will still read the nominations-- prepped this time like crazy-- and will STILL flub something.

My favorite wise-ass online comment was the person who said: "Honestly this wasn't Dick Poop's best work. Feels like a career nomination." HILARIOUS!

Close second, the Twitter comment: "Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Dick Poop."

Honorable mention: "Richard Poop seems overly dignified."

Oscar Nominations 2014: My Thoughts

Yesterday, I put together a list of my predictions for Best Picture nominations and I thought that Into the Woods might find its way on the list (it didn't and I'm glad) and that Mr. Turner might also make it (would have been a nice "surprise," although I haven't seen it and can't actually judge if it ought to have been [someone I know who saw it deemed it "boring"]). I predicted that The Theory of Everything and Foxcatcher, both widely predicted to be nominated but movies no one seemed to be satisfied with would get the boot-- was right about Foxcatcher. I also predicted that Nightcrawler would be deemed too "creepy" for a Best Picture nomination-- was right about that too. Was at least expecting some acting nominations for it though.

Although I didn't get around to making my usual blog post on most-nominated film my prediction was Birdman (which tied Grand Budapest with the most nominations at 9).

The "really lame" award goes to nominating Meryl Streep for Into the Woods. Please compare Rene Russo's performance in Nightcrawler to Streep. Even Meryl would tell you it should have been Rene in there. In fact that whole category is a joke except for Patricia Arquette who is a SLAM DUNK to win. Start writing your speech Patricia. Actually the entire acting race is wrapped up: Michael Keaton, Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons. They should all write their speeches today, it's over.

The bad decision to expand the Best Picture nominees to up-to-ten strikes again: Selma nominated for Best Picture and Best Song. Which would suggest it's Best Picture nomination makes absolutely no sense. Except it is supposed to be really good.

Yesterday, I was also thinking that Birdman would take home Best Picture and Boyhood would get Best Director and that's looking a little more solid after the nominations. I thought American Sniper had a chance at maybe a Best Picture upset if Bradley Cooper got a nomination-- he did, but Clint was out, making that possibility highly improbable.

Still don't understand The Grand Budapest Hotel love. It will probably win for its only truly deserved nomination: Art Direction.

I haven't seen Whiplash but by all accounts it's the one to see. I hope to have my top ten movies and noteworthy achievements out soon, but can't guarantee a date because I need to at least see American Sniper, The Imitation Game, and Whiplash (and for acting: The Theory of Everything and Still Alice) before I can post it. Only American Sniper appears to be opening in town this week.