Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Movie Year-End Wrap Up

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Twenty-five films vie for my top ten of 2008, which I’ll announce tomorrow. Normally, I cull my top ten from my "must-sees" but since that number is sadly just seven, I'll have to pull from the eighteen "recommended" to make the final list. I’ve viewed 66 films theatrically this year; below are my one-line commentaries on each:

Must See [7]
1. Cloverfield. Great special effects and clever ideas: felt like being on a ride.
2. Frost/Nixon. Highly compelling piece is equal parts drama and character study; leads superb.
3. In Bruges. Perhaps just one coincidence too many plotwise, but this film succeeds where the former GROSSE POINT BLANK failed in capturing, brilliantly, the humor in a horrible world.
4. JCVD. Tarantinoesque stylistics detract, but concept and deliverly-- with a career-defining dramatic turn by Van Damme-- make for a one-of-a-kind experience.
5. My Winnipeg. Sleepinducing, but in a good way-- lulling the viewer into accepting its weird, wild ride.
6. Synecdoche, New York. Everything they're saying pro and con; a study of existence in the absence of hope, that has enough humor and style so as not to be depressing, but oddly comforting.
7. Wrestler, The. Some unoriginality in the relationships with the female characters does not dim the irrestible characterizations and performances.

Recommended [18]
1. Changeling. Solid and engrossing: it's driven mainly by it's basis in fact-- cold, but it stays with you.
2. Dark Knight, The. Great camerawork and a dramatically memorable performance by Heath Ledger keep you watching this relentless actioner
3. Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Will never be confused for a documentary, but not a dull moment laughwise; halfway between SUPERBAD and KNOCKED UP.
4. Gran Torino. A solid star turn by Eastwood is never outstanding but hardly dull (beware some poor acting by amateur ensemble players, particularly during the last [critical] section of the film).
5. Happy-Go-Lucky. Offbeat and fresh, if a bit random at times; hits the ring just outside of the bulleseye.
6. Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Eye-pleasing fantasy has a collection of appealing characters that make it worth forgiving the film's significant and frequent leaps of logic.
7. Iron Man. Outrageously unrealistic and light on set pieces, but has a solid cast and the Iron Man suit is way cool.
8. Milk. Engrossing and informative, although should have delved even deeper into the personal life of Milk.
9. Mother of Tears, The/La Terza Madre. Energetic and ambitious film delivers crowd-pleasing (albeit frequently misogynistic) shocks and suspense and a journey narrative that taps into our innermost desire for the horror image; not for the Dario Argento uninitiated, however.
10. Quantum of Solace. Movies are novels and this film is the equivalent of a short story-- but a helluva short story; solid performances all around to boot.
11. Rachel Getting Married. Despite the fact that it offers an experience that most moviegoers go to the movies to escape from, it's a well-mounted actors showcase, if it suffers a bit from familiar plot devices.
12. Religulous. Comicdoc that paints in broad strokes, but, after all, the canvas is vast.
13. Revolutionary Road. Distant to some extent, but many individual scenes are reminiscent of the work of the old cinema masters.
14. Shine A Light. Not a novel approach per se but it captures the energy of the Stones: great stuff.
15. Slumdog Millionaire. Visually stunning film is compelling, but fails to entirely convince in its central love story.
16. Tropic Thunder. Funny, funny, funny; not deep, but funny.
17. Twilight. TVish, but intriguing and defty cast.
18. Valkyrie. Eschews full-on character development to tell it's fascinating, exciting, and disturbing slice of history.

Skippable [39]
1. 10,000 B.C. Patently mainstream entertainment hits its cliched marks well and offers a few exciting set pieces.
2. Bank Job, The. Fast-paced and compelling plot is devoid of characterization.
3. Be Kind Rewind. Sweetly oddball, but unforgivably flighty.
4. Bolt. Very cute, with sharp voice work by the entire ensemble-- but can we finally retire the "lost animal has to get home" animation plotline that we've seem umpteen times?
5. Burn After Reading. People do the funniest things!
6. Cassandra's Dream. Good casting to nicely set-up genre piece, solves itself far too "mathematically" to be satisfying.
7. Choke. Mild filmization of the Palahniuk novel, may have been, despite its advertising, too tame to capture the spirit of the book.
8. Christmas Tale, A. Meandering tale is not without its cadeaux.
9. Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The. Lengthy, overambitious adventure is a crowd-pleasing popcorner, but much ado about nothing.
10. Class, The. Vivid storytelling that could have been great, but was desparately missing sweep.
11. Counterfeiters, The. Compelling plot lacks enough interesting dramatic beats and character depth to put it over the top.
12. Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The. Pleasant.
13. Doubt. Old-fashioned Oscar material, with above average story and ensemble.
14. Eagle Eye. First half is nothing; second half, following the "reveal" works OK as a (preposterous) no- brainer.
15. Get Smart. Everyone was game and it got better as it went along, but wasn't funny enough.
16. Hancock. Comedy and action are melded perfectly in opening, but last section of the movie isn't half as fun.
17. Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. Missing that extra something that put the original over the top, this entry is nonetheless funny and has its inspired moments.
18. Horton Hears A Who! Good voice work but story is padded by about an hour.
19. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. A nostalgic trip best seen as it was entered in at the Cannes Film Festival-- "out of competition."
20. Jumper. As if the screenplay was shaken and a few dozens pages fell out (including the ending), but they filmed it anyway; Bilson way cute though.
21. Kung Fu Panda. Visually sumptuous and enjoyable, but thematically trite.
22. Leatherheads. Benign, pleasant; the gals got MISS PETTIGREW the guys got LEATHERHEADS, but truth be told I think the gals got both.
23. Man on Wire. Compelling story and reasonably well done execution makes it easily worthwhile, but needed a shot-in-the-arm stylistically.
24. Pineapple Express. Live-action cartoon delivers what it advertises.
25. Reader, The. Glossy despite subject matter.
26. Role Models. Peaks at "average" on the laugh meter.
27. Smart People. I can honestly say I loved all the parts my mind didn't wander during.
28. Son of Rambow. Well-intentioned, but scattershot in all departments.
29. Speed Racer. Pumped-up, but going in a million directions; second half is best, but it seems this film will only truly connect with fans of the original show.
30. Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Unjustly maligned, if minor, Saturday morning-cartoonesque outing, suffers only from "franchise fatigue," but never lags, and fills in an interesting gap with many references to the other features.
31. Step Brothers. F-bomb ladden comedy does manage, admirably, to create enough laughs to sustain a feature length film from a one-joke premise.
32. Stop-Loss. Standard and amateurish, and takes far too long to make it's point.
33. Tell No One. Slow beginning and a final third that has you completely over it-- but a riveting middle section: so what does that leave?
34. Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Imperfect comedy-drama benefits from great cast-- in particular Penelope Cruz, who steals the show.
35. Visitor, The. Something to admire in central characterization of dull professor, but no real story.
36. W. Maddeningly odd character study can't decide what it wants to be; James Cromwell and Josh Brolin both deliver, however, as Bushes Sr. and Jr.
37. WALL-E. Paperthin plot is buoyed by imaginative visuals and sweet moments between lead characters.
38. Wanted. Takes every action film from the last decade and blends it up for a splashy and not-quite-completely formulaic ride.
39. You Don't Mess With the Zohan. Odd premise and some good laughs throughout will get you through this amuser, which is about a half hour too long.

avoid [2]
1. Ghost Town. Tired premise and jokes make for a dull and unfunny movie-- go figure.
2. I've Loved You So Long. Couldn't wait to see what "happened" next; pointless, with a copout ending.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

National Film Registry 2008 Announced

Below is the full list of twenty-five films selected. Just one of my picks made it (The Terminator)-- my push for Blue Velvet did not work (next year!). No new Hitchcock film on the list, even when such classics as STRANGERS ON A TRAIN has yet to be chosen. Also, I do think they should have had at least one film from the 1990s. All in all though, a good group.

Films Selected for the 2008 National Film Registry (click here for press release):

- The Asphalt Jugle (1950)

- Deliverance (1972)

- Disneyland Dream (1956)

- A Face in the Crowd (1957)

- Flower Drum Song (1961)

- Foolish Wives (1922)

- Free Radicals (1979)

- Hallelujah! (1929)

- In Cold Blood (1967)

- The Invisible Man (1933)

- Johnny Guitar (1954)

- The Killers (1946)

- The Match (1964)

- No Lies (1973)

- On the Bowery (1957)

- One Week (1920)

- The Pawnbroker (1965)

- The Perils of Pauline (1914)

- Sergeant York (1941)

- The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

- So You're Old Man (1926)

- George Stevens' WW2 Footage (1943-46)

- The Terminator (1984)

- Water and Power (1989)

- White Fawn's Devotion (1910)

Monday, December 29, 2008

December Movie Watching

December is always the busiest month for film watching. I saw 12 films theatrically this month.

I saw I've Loved You So Long for the Oscar buzz on Kristin Scott Thomas-- it wasn't worth it! Dull as dirt. Then from one of the worst to one of the best...

Frost/Nixon was one of the best films of the year. Stellar in every aspect, and to my mind the most recommended "Oscar" film this season. It's easily one of Ron Howard's top films (maybe his best alongside Apollo 13). Howard will probably never make a "masterpiece" per se, but he can surely make some solid "Hollywood" films.

The Reader wasn't bad, but not great-- pretty much what the reviews are saying. However, the more I think about it, the more I feel that Kate Winslet will win the Oscar for Best Actress-- and it'll probably be for The Reader (unless this is considered "supporting"), which makes it kind of a must-see.

Three films benifitting from terrific old-timer male lead comebacks: The Wrestler, JCVD, and Gran Torino. I hope that Clint does stick to this as his last performance. Plus, I certainly wouldn't want him to win, but I would not be upset to see Clint placed in the Lead Actor category for an Oscar nomination (although I don't think I'd have room for him on my own personal ballot-- much too competitive year for Lead Actor, this year).

At a second-run theater, I caught up with My Winnipeg-- and I'm glad I did. So odd, but such a worthwhile experience. (And I was glad to have seen it mid-month just before Ann Savage's passing [on Christmas Day].)

Three entertaining films: Bolt, Benjamin Button, Valkyrie-- they certainly run the gamut.

Three so-close-to-classics: The Class, Doubt, and Revolutionary Road. The Class just couldn't get itself out of the ordinary and there was SO much good stuff in it-- in other words, why would I want to see the film again?-- a shame. Revoltionary Road had a lot of terrific scenes interpersed with the same old (plus the era finds itself in the long shadow of Mad Men these days). Doubt was the whole Oscar package, but not for the ages.

On TCM on saw Dreyer's Vampyr (laying on my DVR since October)-- interesting, not great. I also saw a couple of the Charles Laughton films from last month-- Rembrandt (mostly a showcase for Laughton) and The Barretts of Wimpole Street (well done, mostly an actor's piece).

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of the Year: My Picks

So, just for fun, here are my ten favorite songs of the year, off of and limited to Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Best Songs of the Year. Now, the Rolling Stone list certainly has its flaws. As always, there is the "share the wealth" mentality in which no single album has more than one track listed (except, this year, Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, managed two). The other thing is Rolling Stone's own top fifty albums aren't entirely represented by at least one song (a lot of them)— could an album that was one of the fifty best contain not even the 100th best song of the year? But hey, lists are never perfect and their top 100 is a pretty decent sampling.

My favorites (and their Rolling Stone rankings):

1.) "Viva La Vida"— Coldplay (#9)

2.) "Nine in the Afternoon"— Panic! At the Disco (#44)

3.) "Dying Is Fine"— Ra Ra Riot (#74)

4.) "One (Blake's Got a New Face)" — Vampire Weekend (#21)

5.) "No Sex for Ben"— The Rapture (#26)

6.) "Time to Pretend"— MGMT (#3)

7.) "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here"— She & Him (#64)

8.) "American Boy"— Estelle featuring Kayne West (#7)

9.) "Time the Conqueror"— Jackson Browne (#50)

10.) "Lay It Down"— Al Green (#15)

Also like: "I Kissed a Girl"— Katy Perry (#20) [I admit it!], and "Shells"— M.I.A. (#67)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Top Ten 1990s Films on My Movie Radar

The 1990s brought back the western, launched Pixar, and gave us the biggest moneymaker of the century-- Titanic. Here's a list of ten modern classic 1990s films that have managed to elude me so far, but they're on my radar:

Truly, Madly, Deeply - 1991

The Man in the Moon - 1991

Sleepless in Seattle - 1993

Exotica - 1994

Clueless - 1995

Citizen Ruth - 1996

Central Station - 1998

The Dreamlife of Angels - 1998

Pi - 1998

Free Money - 1999

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Presents Under the Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas!

Christmas has transitioned to the big MOVIE DAY for me, but that doesn't mean I don't like opening those Christmas presents. And lo and behold this year, I scored two DVD collections forever on my Amazon wishlist— the two Lubitsch box sets: the Eclispse set and the Kino set. Seen several of the films (eager to see again) and a few to discover for the first time.

Best Christmas wishes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Indiewire Poll 2008

The great Indiewire Poll of critics is posted on their website. They did go VERY odd with their #1 film, that's for sure!!! Definite proof that '08 was not a very good year for movies!

Link to the Indiewire Poll.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Vote for National Film Registry-- to be Announced 1/30

The National Film Registry Picks for 2008 will be announced on January 30th at 8:00 AM EST. There is still time to vote for what you'd like to see added.

Link to website.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Criterion To Release Truffaut's "The Last Metro" and Kurosawa's "Dodes'Ka-Den"

Criterion is releasing another Truffaut and Kurosawa, and I'm very happy about both as I've never seen them-- nice to know I'll be getting the best quality when I do view both. They also have yet another Rossellini lined up-- they're really hot on him these days.

Link to Criterion's upcoming releases.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Detroit and Utah Film Critics Announce Winners

Detroit Picks "Slumdog Millionaire" Best Film, and Utah Picks "The Dark Knight" Best Film, links below:

Detroit Film Critics Society.

Utah Film Critics Association.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dallas Fort-Worth Pick "Slumdog"; Austin Picks "Dark Knight"; and Toronto Picks "Wendy and Lucy"

The Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association joins the many critics groups who have chosen "Slumdog Millionaire" as Best Film. Austin went popular with "The Dark Knight." Houston picks upcoming "Benjamin Button." Toronto goes oddball in its pick of "Wendy and Lucy" as Best Film (although the film was on the AFI Top Ten and has gotten its share of acclaim).

Link to Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Assn.

Austin Film Critics Association.

Houston Film Critics Society.

Link to Toronto Picks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

TCM Obituary Reel 2008

Perhaps a bit over-the-top arty-farty wise (even for TCM), nonetheless sad to see many of these legends go....

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jerry Lewis Honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

It was announced that Jerry Lewis will be receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Oscar in January at the 81st Academy Awards. With the main reason for the award his yearly telethon, you wonder what took AMPAS so long to bestow the honor. Perhaps Lewis had to outlive his enemies!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Golden Globe Nominations Announced

There was the usual spreading of the wealth with the Golden Globe nominations. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Doubt, and Frost/Nixon are tied with the highest nominations count: five each.

Link to the HFPA website.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New York Film Critics Pick "Milk" as Best Film/ Detroit Film Critics Announce Nominees

Milk and Happy-Go-Lucky get big awards from the New York Film Critics.

Link to their site.


Best film
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire
The Wrestler

Best director
Darren Aronofsky for The Wrestler
Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire
Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight
Andrew Stanton for WALL-E

Best actor
Josh Brolin for W.
Leonardo DiCaprio for Revolutionary Road
Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn for Milk
Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler

Best actress
Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins for Happy-Go-Lucky
Melissa Leo for Frozen River
Meryl Streep for Doubt
Kate Winslet for Revolutionary Road

Best supporting actor
Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder
James Franco for Milk
Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight
Eddie Marsan for Happy-Go-Lucky
Michael Sheen for Frost/Nixon

Best supporting actress
Amy Adams for Doubt
Elizabeth Banks for W.
Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Rosemarie DeWitt for Rachel Getting Married
Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler

Best ensemble
Burn After Reading
Rachel Getting Married
Revolutionary Road
Tropic Thunder

Best newcomer
Rosemarie DeWitt, actress, Rachel Getting Married
Rebecca Hall, actress, Frost/Nixon and Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Danny McBride, actor, Pineapple Express
Martin McDonough, writer/director, In Bruges
Dev Patel, actor, Slumdog Millionaire
Catinca Untaru, actress, The Fall

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Los Angeles Film Critics Choose "Wall-E"; "Milk" and "Benjamin Button" Lead Broadcast Film Critics Nominees

The Los Angeles Film Critics announce their winners today and the Broadcast Film Critics announce their nominees at the following sites respectively:

Monday, December 8, 2008

St. Louis Film Critics Announce Nominees

2008 St. Louis Film Critics Awards Nominees:

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road)
Richard Jenkins (The Visitor)
Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)
Sean Penn (Milk)
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button)
Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married)
Angelina Jolie (Changeling)
Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road)

Josh Brolin (Milk)
Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder)
Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
John Malkovich (Burn After Reading)
Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road)
Jeffrey Wright (Cadillac Records)

Amy Adams (Doubt)
Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Viola Davis (Doubt)
Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button)
Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading)

Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)
David Fincher (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button)
Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon)
Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight)
Gus Van Sant (Milk)

The Class (Entre Les Murs) - France
I've Loved You So Long (Il Y A Longtemps Que Je T'Aime) - France/Germany
Let The Right One In (Lat Den Ratte Komma In) - Swedish
Slumdog Millionaire - U.K./U.S.A/India
Tell No One (Ne Le Dis A Personne) - France

Body Of War
Man On Wire
Pray The Devil Back To Hell
Shine A Light
Standard Operating Procedure

Burn After Reading
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Role Models
Tropic Thunder
Zack and Miri Make A Porno

Chicago 10
Kung Fu Panda
Madagascar II
Waltz With Bashir

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Speed Racer
Synecdoche, N.Y.
Waltz With Bashir

Roger Deakins (Revolutionary Road)
Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire)
Claudio Miranda (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button)
Wally Pfister (The Dark Knight)
Harris Savides (Milk)
Mandy Walker (Australia)

Simon Beaufoy and Vikas Swarup (Slumdog Millionaire)
Dustin Lance Black (Milk)
Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon)
Eric Roth and Robin Swicord (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button)
Nick Schenk and Dave Johannson (Gran Torino)

Cadillac Records
The Dark Knight
Gran Torino
The Visitor

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Speed Racer

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Washington DC Film Critics Pick "Slumdog Millionaire"

The DC critics picked Slumdog for Film, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Breakthrough Performance. (By the way: The DC Critics noted on their website that they would be announcing tomorrow at 9 AM, pulling a bit of a fast one with the early announcement-- oh well.) Below, a list of the main winners:

Best Film: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler
Best Actress: Meryl Streep for Doubt
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress: Rosemarie DeWitt for Rachel Getting Married
Best Original Screenplay: Rachel Getting Married
Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire

See the full list of winners at:

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Contenders

With the early returns of the Satelite Noms, National Board, reviews & buzz, here's a list of films to look out for with next week's critics picks and Golden Globes. Not a comprehensive list (and excluding docs and animated films) but a guideline:

Burn After Reading
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Frozen River
Gran Torino
Rachel Getting Married
Revolutionary Road
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire
Tropic Thunder
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
The Visitor
The Wrestler

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The National Board of Review Picks "Slumdog Millionaire" as Best Film

Traditionally kicking off Awards Season, the National Board of Review announces their picks today, below. Oddly, as with last year, their top ten does not include their #1 film. Does this make it a top eleven? That isn't a good precident for an historical analysis of their top tens going forward.

Film: Slumdog Millionaire
Director: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Actor: Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Actress: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Supporting Actor: Josh Brolin, Milk
Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Foreign Language Film: Mongol

Documentary: Man On Wire
Animated Feature: Wall-E
Ensemble Cast: Doubt
Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire
Breakthrough Performance by an Actress: Viola Davis, Doubt
Directorial Debut: Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Original Screenplay: Nick Schenk, Gran Torino
Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire and Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Spotlight Award: Melissa Leo, Frozen River and Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
The BVLGARI Award for NBR Freedom of Expression: Trumbo

Burn After Reading
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Gran Torino
The Wrestler

Link to full list of winners.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

November Movie Watching

November is the early Oscar film rollout month, with a couple blockbusters rolled in for good measure. This November we're one blockbuster short with the push of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to summer '09.

I saw seven films theatrically this month. First, I caught up with the barely-playing Synecdoche, New York. Ever since I heard that Charlie Kaufman had made his directorial debut I was dying to see it. It didn't get the best word-of-mouth from Cannes; although a friend of mine saw it and liked it. Then it got released and did very poorly review-wise and box office-wise. I couldn't get anyone interested in seeing it with me! Hence the delay from October. During the first third-to-half of the movie I was not loving this movie... then it really began to peak my interest and even though it did, to some extent, seem to go on and on, I found it to be very funny and to contain all these little nuggets of truth. And no, I couldn't explain to you entirely what was going on, but there was enough to hold onto even in an initial mystifying viewing to say that there was really something here. I can understand anyone who would like to dismiss it and never look at it again because of it's non-traditional narrative-- I feel that way about a lot of movies that "break the rules." But this one is an exception for me-- I eagerly await the DVD release and multiple viewings in the future. And Philip Seymour Hoffman was particularly good in it.

I saw an advance of A Christmas Tale and wasn't quite as enthused as the critics. It's a string of character study and plot is kind of all of the place. Despite Denueuve's review's, the film belongs to Mathieu Amalric. I think Amalric will reach the highest international status. Which brings me to my next film: Quantum of Solace. Yes, critically maligned, but I enjoyed it. I will admit that it's a bit of a break from the series-- but I think the series needed it. I'm glad they chose to develop the Bond character for a one-shot film. And the criticism that he doesn't act like the sophisticated character that we all know and love is groundless-- he just got his "00," he's simply a thug at this point. If anything, he was TOO sophisticated in Casino Royale.

In between, saw Role Models, which was moderately funny. Wasn't one I had really planned on seeing, but it was well-reviewed, and friends wanted to see it. I think it's not a stretch to say it would be a decent rental.

Also, caught Slumdog Milionaire. I liked it a lot, but wasn't too keen on the romance-- which, after all, is ultimately the whole movie. The "gimick" worked great, however.

Milk was my Thanksgiving film. I purposefully avoided looking up Harvey Milk up on Wikipedia, so I could see how much I "didn't" know. Turns out I knew next-to-nothing. I've heard of the Twinkie defense but did not know who it refered to; and as for Milk all I knew was that he was an openly-gay San Franciso politician of some sort. The movie works well as history lesson and drama. My one beef is that it didn't delve enough into the personal life of Milk. We see his lovers but little of their ACTUAL relationship. And he seemed only interested in running for something the entire time he was on-screen. Now I know this is the movies, but this is always a pitfall for movies that take place over a long stretch of time. Solution: concentrate on a specific moment in time.

Lastly, I saw tween-flick Twilight. I have to say it was quite good. If I had a tween/teenage daughter I would be happy that (a) I could take her to a movie that didn't have any sex in it and (b) that I could sit through and enjoy. The key to its success, really though, was a brilliant eye for casting-- not just the leads, but down the line. For the next one, they need a bigger budget for effects.

On TCM, I watched The Year of Living Dangerously, which I agree with the Maltin Guide, is much more of a "mood" piece than a fully-realized feature: but good on those terms.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Awards Season Schedule: Movie Year 2008

Here are the dates for all the film awards announcements— from The National Board of Review to the Oscars (dates with circa [c.] in front of them have not been set, these approximations are the dates they were announced last year [I'll update as new info is available]):

Dec. 4: The National Board of Review
Dec. 7: Washington D.C. Area Film Critics
Dec. 8: St. Louis Film Critics Noms
Dec. 9: Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.
Dec. 9: Broadcast Film Critics (BFCA) Noms
Dec. 10: New York Film Critics Circle
Dec. 10: Detroit Film Critics Nominations
Dec. 11: Golden Globes Nominations
Dec. 14: AFI
Dec. 14: New York Film Critics Online
Dec. 14: Golden Satellite Awards
Dec. 14: Boston Society of Film Critics
Dec 15: San Francisco Film Critics Circle
Dec 15: San Diego Film Critics Society
Dec. 15: Southeastern Film Critics Association
Dec. 15: St. Louis Film Critics Winners
Dec. 16: Phoenix Film Critics Society
Dec. 17: Toronto Film Critics Association
Dec. 17: Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Assn.
Dec. 17: Austin Film Critics Assn.
Dec. 17: Houston Film Critics Society
Dec. 18: SAG Nominations
Dec. 18: London Film Critics Circle Nominations
Dec. 18: Chicago Film Critics Assn. Winners
Dec. 18: Las Vegas Film Critics Society
Dec. 18: Florida Film Critics Circle
Dec. 19: Detroit Film Critics Winners
Dec. 19: Utah Film Critics Association
Dec. 23: Oklahoma Film Critics Circle
Jan. 3: National Society of Film Critics
Jan 4: Kansas City Film Critics Circle
Jan 5: PGA nominations
Jan. 7: WGA Nominations (film)
Jan. 8: Online Film Critics Society winners
Jan. 8: Critics Choice (BFCA) Awards
Jan. 8: DGA Nominations
Jan. 8: Central Ohio Film Critics Association
Jan 9: North Texas Critics Association
Jan. 11: Golden Globe Awards
Jan. 15: BAFTA nominations
c. Jan. 16: Iowa Film Critics Association
Jan. 24: PGA Awards
Jan. 25: SAG Awards
Jan. 31: DGA Awards
Feb 4: London Film Critics Circle Winners
Feb. 7: WGA Awards
Feb. 8: BAFTA winners
Feb. 21: Independent Spirit Awards

Tomorrow, another highlight of Pre-Awards Season, is the announcement of the Satellite Awards nominations, a sort of precursor to the Golden Globes. Link to the International Press Academy website.

Friday, November 28, 2008

One Line Review's Film Masterpieces Checklist: 2007

Six Film Masterpieces from 2007:

1. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (d. Seth Gordon) (****)

2. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (d. Cristian Mungiu) (****)

3. Away From Her (d. Sarah Polley) (****)

4. Into the Wild (d. Sean Penn) (****)

5. Juno (d. Jason Reitman) (*** 1/2)

6. There Will Be Blood (d. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Film Masterpieces Checklist: 2007:
Away From Her (d. Sarah Polley) (****)
* Control (d. Anoton Corbijn)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (d. Julian Schnabel) (** 1/2)
Eastern Promises (d. David Cronenberg) (***)
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (d. Cristian Mungiu) (****)
I'm Not There (d. Todd Haynes) (BOMB)
* In the Shadow of the Moon (d. David Sington)
Into the Wild (d. Sean Penn) (****)
Juno (d. Jason Reitman) (*** 1/2)
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (d. Seth Gordon) (****)
Knocked Up (d. Judd Apatow) (** 1/2)
No Country for Old Men (d. Joel & Ethan Coen)
No End in Sight (d. Charles Ferguson) (***)
Once (d. John Carney) (*** 1/2)
Persepolis (d. Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud) (BOMB)
Ratatouille (d. Brad Bird) (*** 1/2)
The Savages (d. Tamara Jenkins) (***)
Sicko (d. Michael Moore) (*** 1/2)
Superbad (d. Greg Mottola) (*** 1/2)
* Taxi to the Dark Side (d. Alex Gibney)
There Will Be Blood (d. Paul Thomas Anderson)
* This Is England (d. Shane Meadows)
La Vie en Rose (d. Olivier Dahan) (*** 1/2)
* Zodiac (d. David Fincher)

NOTE: Films that I have not yet seen are indicated with a *. I've rated the ones I have seen (using Leonard Maltin's BOMB and * 1/2 to **** star rating). If a film is listed without a * and without a rating, it means I've seen the movie but wish to re-evaluate it before assigning it a rating.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Time to Lobby the Library of Congress About the National Film Registry

Happy Thanksgiving!

In one month, the Library of Congress will announce the next 25 films added to the National Film Registry. Last year's list spanned the years 1921-90, and included: Tol'able David (1921), Now, Voyager (1942), Oklahoma! (1955), The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), Bullitt (1968), Back to the Future (1985), and Dances With Wolves (1990). Also included were historically important films such as Our Day (1938), a 16mm amateur film that depicts one family's day-in-the-life in a small Southern town; The House I Live In (1945), an Oscar-winning short dealing with religious tolerance; and Tom, Tom the Piper's Son (1969-71), a landmark experimental film.

The National Film Registry was begun in 1989, and there are currently 475 films on the list. Although the obscure films and historically important documentaries fulfill the mandate of the Registry, there does seem to be a movement, at least in recent years, to include those fictional feature films that are great films (more of a Sight and Sound approach) or cult films (such as In a Lonely Place and The Women last year) and not just historically or culturally important ones (there are still many Oscar-winning Best Pictures not on the list, for example).

You can e-mail your list to the Library of Congress and they'll consider your choices. Link to their website.

Below are my picks for what should be added to this year's list (I only do the 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 is Blue Velvet.

My choices for this go-round, by year:

1910s and 20s
A Tale of Two Cities (1917)
Male and Female (1919)
The Love Light (1921)
The Sheik (1921)
The Student Prince of Old Heidelberg (1927)

The Guardsman (1931)
Queen Christina (1933)
The Merry Widow (1934)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Holiday (1938)

Bambi (1942)
First Comes Courage (1943)
Lifeboat (1944)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

Strangers on a Train (1951)
Limelight (1952)
Stalag 17 (1953)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
The Killing (1956)

Lolita (1962)
The Birds (1963)
The Great Escape (1963)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The Exorcist (1973)
The Front (1976)
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)

Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Arthur (1981)
The World According to Garp (1982)
The Terminator (1984)
Aliens (1986)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Die Hard (1988)

JFK (1991)
El Mariachi (1992)
Husbands and Wives (1992)
Ed Wood (1994)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Before Sunrise (1995)
Sling Blade (1996)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Titanic (1997)
Rushmore (1998)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Taking the Oscar Bait

Thanksgiving week ushers in the first wave of the serious Oscar hopefuls. From Thanksgiving until Christmas the major contenders are released. They can turn out to be all hype, but it's still the case that the biggest Oscar films come out this time of year. Below is the slate of this year's major Oscar bait, roughly in order of current "buzz":

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
2. Frost/ Nixon
3. Milk
4. The Wrestler
5. Doubt
6. The Reader
7. Revolutionary Road
8. Australia
9. Gran Torino
10. Defiance

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Henry Vanderminden III Dies, Coined "Director's Chair"

As is so frequently the case, you learn about someone's claim to fame in their obituary. I had no idea that a furniture maker from upstate New York coined the term "director's chair," nor that it got its name as late as 1954. But thems the facts according to an Associated Press article.

Henry Vanderminden III, who has died at the age of 83, coined the term when he noticed that movie director's favored his family company's iconic folding wooden chairs. Vanderminden joined his family's company, Telescope Casual Furniture, after serving during WWII.

Link to AP obit.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Biography Book Corner #2: Luis Bunuel's "My Last Sigh"— Chapter 11: "America"

This is another in a series of ongoing irregularly posted entries highlighting individual chapters of biographies and autobiographies of film personnel. It's meant to be a blog version of grabbing a book off the shelf that catches your eye— at a friend's house or the book store— and reading a chapter of it. The summarising of the chapter below may inspire the reader to take a look at the book for themselves, or at the very least, it will supply some info on a classic film.

The "America" chapter of Bunuel's autobiography, My Last Sigh deals with his 1930 sojourn to Hollywood. It's a very bitter pill! But it's not without a sense of humor. Below a summary.

• Following his completion of L'Age d'Or, Bunuel screened the film for his surrealist friends. Additionally, a representative from M-G-M also saw the film at a private screening and as Bunuel says, "like so many Americans, was delighted to find himself on such good terms with the aristocracy."

• The M-G-M rep [L.L. 'Laudy' Laurence, according to John Baxter's Bunuel biography] met with Bunuel and told him he didn't understand the movie, however he proceeded to offer Bunuel a six-month all-expenses-paid trip to Hollywood to learn how American films were made. Bunuel accepted the offer and from December 1930 to April 1931 he lived in the U.S. [Baxter's book is suspect of the terms of the agreement as claimed by Bunuel and suggests that Bunuel was more likely hired to supervise Castilian versions of films and as a possible dubbing talent.]

• When he first arrived in New York, Bunuel instantly fell in love with America, "the styles and customs, the movies, the skyscrapers, even the policemen's uniforms." In L.A., he became part of the expatriate community, reuniting with such figures as writer Eduardo Ugarte.

• Bunuel's actual work at the studio, according to Bunuel, seems to have been limited. He tells a story of being thrown off a set he was observing by Greta Garbo (I've heard this story a million times: either people are "borrowing" it or she threw people off every day-- and therefore not a very interesting story). Bunuel also says he played a bit part as a barman in a Spanish language version of a film. When, after months of being at the studio, he was asked to watch rushes of Lily Damita to gauge her Spanish accent he refuses, and sends a message to Thalberg that he's there as a Frenchman, not a Spaniard, and he's also not interested in listening to a woman who sleeps around [in other interviews he admits to using the word "whore"]. Bunuel decides his time in Hollywood is over and quits the next day (so he says).

• Outside of badmouthing Josef von Sternberg and the whole studio system itself, vis a vis the auteur theory ("In fact, most of the directors I watched seemed little more than lackey's who did the bidding of the studios who hired them."), the most interesting part of the chapter is in regard to Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin had the Spanish contingent over frequently for dinner and was at the time editing City Lights. Bunuel says he felt Chaplin lacked confidence in his editing of the film but I think being in the prescence of the premier film artist of Hollywood might have made Bunuel a wee bit jealous, at least in retrospect. Bunuel does note Chaplin's graciousness and even said that Chaplin gave several screenings of Un Chien Andalou. Bunuel also states that he later heard that when Geraldine Chaplin was a little girl, her father used to frighten her by describing certain scenes from the film.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rex Reed Grumpy about Oscars '69

Flipping the dial so-to-speak on You Tube, I came across a bitch-and-moan session by Rex Reed on the eve of the 1969/70 Oscars. Despite his bitterness, of course, Oscar went ahead and picked Midnight Cowboy as Best Picture that year despite Reed's assurances that Oscar wouldn't dare be that hip. He gets every pick WRONG, except John Wayne. Here is the first two parts of his appearance on The Dick Cavett Show (below). Even Cavett can't take him. "Isn't this fun folks?" he says at one point to the audience. And best of all is when Cavett says to Reed regarding Reed's complaining that the right people aren't given the Oscar, "If they're so silly what does it matter who wins them?"

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Paste Magazine Posts Top 20 of 2008

Quickly become a favorite of Pre-Awards season for me is Paste magazine's first-out-of-the-box announcement of the best films of the year. Last year they posted fifty films [and it was a very good list], this year it's twenty films.

This year, it's a troubling list with 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days actually a film from 2007 and their top film is a January 2009 release! More evidence that 2008 wasn't exactly the best year for movies. No wonder they only did a top twenty. None of the later trumped up Hollywood releases are on it (Milk, Revolutionary Road, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button....)

The Full List (and link):

1. Firaaq [Nandita Das]
2. The Dark Knight [Christopher Nolan]
3. A Christmas Tale [Arnaud Desplechin]
4. Nights and Weekends [Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig]
5. The Visitor [Thomas McCarthy]
6. WALL•E [Andrew Stanton]
7. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days [Cristian Mungiu]
8. Momma's Man [Azazel Jacobs]
9. Son of Rambow [Garth Jennings]
10. Ballast [Lance Hammer]
11. Call+Response [Justin Dillon]
12. Man on Wire [James Marsh]
13. Vicky Cristina Barcelona [Woody Allen]
14. Rachel Getting Married [Jonathan Demme]
15. Kabluey [Scott Prendergast]
16. Paranoid Park [Gus Van Sant]
17. The Wrestler [Darren Aronofsky]
18. The Pool [Chris Smith]
19. Chop Shop [Ramin Bahrani]
20. Iron Man [Jon Favreau]

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This Year's Cecil B. DeMille Award Recipient: Steven Spielberg

One of the highlights of Pre-Awards season is the announcement of the Hollywood Foreign Press choice for its Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award. When last year's writer's strike caused the awards to become a "press conference," the HFPA decided to postpone giving the '07 award to Steven Spielberg until the following (now this) year. Therefore, the annual parlor game of guessing who'll get it has been spoiled for '08.

Below are links to my blog entries from last year, predicting who might get it and announcing Spielberg as the '07 choice.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Very Happy Return: Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2009

Last year, for the first time in many a year, Roger Ebert did not put out his movie review annual. Having not completed reviewing the year's movies due to illness, the book was never compiled. To make up for it, the new book, out today, contains every review Ebert has written from January 2006 to June 2008. Glad to see it back!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Criterion Offers 40% Off

The Criterion Collection is having a sale on their website: 40% off of all their titles until 11/25, when their new website launches. Check amazon before buying (I've noticed some titles are cheaper on amazon, even after Criterion's 40% off). Possibly that one you've been looking to buy is now affordable-- check it out.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Time Magazine Ranks the Bond Themes

Last week I rated the Bond themes, and lo and behold, Time Magazine has now ranked them on their website. Good to see that Time and I see eye-to-eye (although I surely would have included "Live and Let Die" among the best themes).

Link to Time's rankings.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Criterion Spotlights Adds Two More Bunuels to Their Library

Luis Bunuel, one of the greats, and a favorite of mine, has been well represented by the Criterion Collection. They've now added two more titles: Simon of the Desert and The Exterminating Angel. This brings the Bunuel titles up to eight.

Criterion also adds another David Lean film to their ranks: Hobson's Choice— a good one!

Link to Criterion's "coming soon" page.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Film Review: Casino Royale (2006) Plus the Bond Films Ranked

With today's opening of Quantum of Solace, here is a review of the last James Bond adventure, which introduced Daniel Craig to the role of 007.

Casino Royale brings the James Bond character back to his roots and begins with a pre-title sequence that charts his first two "kills" earning him "00" status. The sequence is, boldly, in black-and-white and although his second job as assassin is a bit standard and awkward, the first man Bond kills ( who dies "not well") is shown in a kinetic and disturbing way: paving the way for Bond's characterization as a "blunt instrument." And off we go, into the clever title sequence which uses a design from a deck of cards as its motif and even includes a brief glimpse of Bond girl Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). I did miss the gunbarrel logo opening-- but it's expected to return in Quantum of Solace.

The opening action scene has Bond chasing down a bomb maker whom he has been tracking and from whom he needs to extract some information. A weakness of the film as a whole is in the first half we have no idea what mission Bond is on and, thereby, what's at stake. The series' formula gets this right: Bond sees M. and the mission is laid out at the outset-- this is missing from Casino Royale. And unfortunately, when we are given the mission it is patently uninteresting: Bond must beat Le Chiffre at cards in order that he doesn't use the money to further finance terrorism. The general plot is the same in the novel, except Le Chiffre is fleshed out so much more: we realize what taking him out means. In Casino Royale, the movie, he is far less sinister (even with the added malady of a eye that "weeps blood").

Getting back to the opening sequence-- its exciting, if "overproduced." The best part of it is the bombmaker's interesting way of eluding Bond: employing parkour (a running style for which the actor used here, Sebastien Foucan, is an expert) and having Bond find alternate ways to keep up with him (the bombmaker vaults through a high opening above a wall, and Bond crashes through the drywall). But there is a screenwriteryness to the proceedings: everything is laid out for the chase. Plus, the helicopter shots take the viewer away from the action, instead of adding to it.

Bond causes a disturbance (to say the least) at the foreign embassy in which the assaliant flees and ends up on the run from MI6 (although it's unclear why he has to be: supposedly, though, to clear things up and keep his job). Enter Judi Dench as M. After a rocky series of performances through the Pierce Brosnan films, Judi Dench gives her best performance yet as M. She bursts out of a meeting in which Bond's antics have causes her to be called to the carpet: "Who the hell do they think they are?" she growls, then: "I report to the Prime Minister, and even he's smart enough not to ask what we do." In her scenes with Bond she is tough on him (but that old glint of respect is there ["I knew you were you" she says at one point]); this is the M from the Bernard Lee days, the M. from the novels.

Next, Bond foils a plan (after some investigation in Nassau, Bahamas) regarding Miami airport and a prototype airplane, the Skyfleet S570. The sequence at the airport is exciting but a little too reminiscent of the truck sequence from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Plus, the bomber's plan seems hardly a well-thought out one: how many things could have gone wrong even without Bond there. Plus actor Claudio Santamaria plays the bomber pretty much like the Terminator: distracting.

Finally the main mission is clear. Le Chiffre is desperate to recoup monies he gambled on the stock market (in a plot foiled by Bond in the preceding) and must enter a high stakes card game and win; Bond, as MI6's best card player must try to beat him, supplied by the British government's money through representative Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). The two meet aboard the train to Montenegro and their verbal byplay, although occasionally unnatural ("How was your lamb?" "Skerwered."), gets their contentious relationship started while offering up some sexual tension.

The casino gameplay is probably the weakest part of Casino Royale. It comes across as confusing and uninteresting (on first viewing we never really know who's winning and why despite the distracting and uncinematic play-by-play by Bond's contact Rene Mathis [Giancarlo Giannini]). Rather than feeling suspense the audience just tries to keep up. Within the breaks of the game, are the most brilliant set piece in the film and the weakest. The weakest involves Bond getting posioned and going out to his car in which a antidote machine resides in his glove compartment (!)-- this has nothing to do with the plot nor the tone of the movie and belongs maybe in Roger Moore's Moonraker or Pierce Brosnan's Die Another Day-- but not here. The other set piece has Bond fighting two henchmen on a stairwell, with Vesper trying to get out of danger: it's nailbiting two-fisted excitement... and it shows exactly what Bond is up against and of what he's capable.

Following the card sequence, we're back on track... Bond ends up trying to chase Le Chiffre down and, in an improvement over the book, he is stopped. In the book, a set of spikes is laid out for Bond to run over; the movie uses something else, which I won't reveal-- but it's a terrific idea, and has the same result: stopping Bond dead in his tracks. What follows is straight out of the book-- the torture of Bond-- and the moviemakers absolutely excelled in depicting this scene. They even managed to put humor in it!-- chalk up another notch for Mr. Daniel Craig.

The final section of the film is slightly hard to follow and makes the film feel really long. The last set piece is contrived to say the least. Ultimately, we're left with a terrific debut by Daniel Craig, the first Bond film to properly exploit Judi Dench's thespian chops, and a major shot-in-the-arm for the 007 franchise.

Casino Royale: Acting is first rate in this James Bond series entry, that doesn't set itself up properly and slows down in the middle, but shows a full-blooded, fallible, yet unstoppable, Bond.

James Bond Films Ranked:

1. From Russia With Love— 1963 (*** 1/2)
2. For Your Eyes Only— 1981 (*** 1/2)
3. Thunderball— 1965 (*** 1/2)
4. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service— 1969 (*** 1/2)
5. Goldfinger— 1964 (***)
6. The Spy Who Loved Me— 1977 (***)
7. The Living Daylights— 1987 (***)
8. Diamonds Are Forever— 1971 (***)
9. Goldeneye— 1995 (***)
10. Casino Royale— 2006 (***)

11. Never Say Never Again— 1983 (** 1/2)
12. Octopussy— 1983 (** 1/2)
13. Die Another Day— 2002 (** 1/2)
14. Moonraker— 1979 (** 1/2)
15. Dr. No— 1962 (** 1/2)
16. You Only Live Twice— 1967 (** 1/2)
17. A View To A Kill— 1985 (** 1/2)
18. License to Kill— 1989 (** 1/2)
19. Live and Let Die— 1973 (**)
20. Tomorrow Never Dies— 1997 (**)
21. The World Is Not Enough— 1999 (**)
22. The Man With the Golden Gun— 1974 (**)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Quantum of Solace" Short Story Collection

To promote the new movie, Penguin books, this summer, put out a hardcover and softcover compilation of all of Ian Fleming's 007 short stories in one volume, calling it "Quantum of Solace." It turns out that the filmmakers used just the title in the new movie. The volume even includes the very short and obscure "007 in New York" from his book Thrilling Cities.

The hardcover is very nicely done. Here is a closer look at it's design: link.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rating the James Bond Theme Songs

The James Bond franchise has excelled in it's choice of theme song performers/composers. Three theme songs during the Roger Moore era even managed Oscar nominations as Best Song. Below I rate the Bond themes:

Dr. No-- "Calypso Theme"/ "Three Blind Mice" plus James Bond theme. The actual music that plays over the titles isn't much in the way of theme music (rating: **) but sets the tone for the film: danger underneath a veil of easygoing island charm. Of course on compilations, it's the classic John Barry Bond theme that stands in for Dr. No (4 stars, as if it needs a rating).

From Russia With Love-- Apropos ballad is quite dated but fits the bill (2 1/2 stars).

Goldfinger-- Audacious and timeless; part of why Goldfinger continually ranks as the best Bond of them all (4 stars).

Thunderball-- Corny, but works. And you have to give credit for even attempting to write lyrics around the title Thunderball (2 1/2 stars)!

You Only Live Twice-- A sweeping, melodic piece that isn't over the top in setting a Far East tone (3 stars).

Casino Royale-- Would have never listed this spoof herein if it's theme song, Oscar nominee "The Look of Love" (3 stars) wasn't the only good thing about the movie.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service-- The instrumental theme is exciting and stylish, and has that austere quality that commands attention (3 1/2 stars)... of course Louis Armstrong's "We Have All the Time on the World" is the song (3 stars) for which the movie is known.

Diamonds Are Forever-- Works as a throwback as well as a solid decade-opener and retains a classic quality (3 stars).

Live and Let Die-- Easily one of the great Bond themes and one of McCartney's best post-Beatles efforts. Remains timeless despite belying by it's instrumentation. Fast, exciting, with a dash of playfulness-- Bond incarnate. (4 stars)

The Man With the Golden Gun-- Feels out of place in context and isn't much standing alone (2 stars).

The Spy Who Loved Me-- "Nobody Does It Better," the best Bond theme of all (4 stars) is perfect in every respect and came at the right moment in the series: an indication that Bond was here to stay.

Moonraker-- Slow-moving but seemed to fit the film well (2 stars) and, again, as with Thunderball, some credit for making a song called "Moonraker."

For Your Eyes Only-- Sheena Easton's take on "Nobody Does it Better" also ushers in it's era well. Although a product of it's time, a classic of sorts (3 1/2 stars).

Never Say Never Again-- Silly but catchy (2 1/2 stars)

Octopussy-- "All Time High" is certainly better than trying to fit Octopussy in the lyric and I like Rita Coolidge fine, but this song just doesn't seem to represent the movie or the world of 007 (1 1/2 stars).

A View To A Kill-- As with For Your Eyes Only, very '80s, but classic nonetheless (3 1/2 stars).

The Living Daylights-- Underrated theme is just a notch off the preceding (3 stars)

License To Kill-- Hopelessly bland theme is the nadir of the themes (0 stars). Very '80s forgettable.

Goldeneye-- Tina Turner's Bond theme is everything the previous Gladys Knight theme wanted to be. It's bold and brassy; Shirley Bassey for the 90's (3 1/2 stars).

Tomorrow Never Dies-- Pretty cool, and also a throwback (3 stars).

The World Is Not Enough-- Classical, with a timeless quality... Not great but pretty good; it's biggest detriment is it's not terribly memorable (2 1/2 stars).

Die Another Day-- Madonna rose to the challenge and although dance music is more her than Bond, a good theme nonetheless (2 1/2 stars).

Casino Royale-- "You Know My Name" has a Bond vibe and, if it doesn't date too badly, could become a classic (3 stars).

Quantum of Solace-- "Another Way to Die" I like more as a song then a Bond theme, but a modern song was required and was delivered (2 1/2 stars).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Celebrity Sightings/ Name Dropping!

One of the benefits of having lived in New York and Los Angeles is the opportunity to see/meet some of your favorite film and TV legends.

When I first came to Los Angeles, I worked in Beverly Hills. While eating at Johnny Rockets (a '50s-style chain restaurant) I was shocked to see, one table over, none other than Billy Wilder. The people I sat with thankfully knew who he was and complimented me on my eagle eye sighting-- but how could you miss him? I soon discovered that Johnny Rockets was a favorite of his. The staff would serve him and greet him by name. Finally, after seeing him about four or five times I got up the courage to talk to him as he exited one day. We exchanged the usual pleasantries (none of which I remember!) but I do remember being shocked at his thick accent. Now, I'd seen interviews, and I was surely aware of his background-- but nonetheless it was shocking to hear his voice in person, the man who was responsible for some of the wittiest films in the English language. After we chatted, off he went, looking pretty good at 90+, walking with his cane down the sidewalk. That was the last time I saw him at Johnny Rockets-- can you imagine how I would have kicked myself if I hadn't talked to him! I did subsequently see him one last time when he was given a tribute at the Motion Picture Academy shortly before his death. I had an older friend who told me she saw John Huston in person and I was like "oh wow!" Now I can tell younger people-- I met Billy Wilder!

Here comes the name dropping! Among the many luminaries that I've had the occasion to meet, and have a pleasant experience meeting are: Alan Alda, Julie Andrews, Mel Brooks, Steve Carell, Glenn Gordon Caron, John Cleese, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Roger Ebert, Ricky Gervais, Charlton Heston, Hal Kanter, Martin Landau, Angela Lansbury, Norman Lloyd, Carl (and Estelle) Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Martin Scorsese, Jerry Seinfeld, William Shatner, Betty White, Robert Wise, Jane Wyatt, and the aforementioned Billy Wilder. There are many others, but those stand out the most.

Among the big names that I'm glad I've at least seen in person are: Robert Altman, Lauren Bacall, Pierce Brosnan, Glenn Close, Sean Connery, Olivia de Havilland, Kirk Douglas, Harrison Ford, Katharine Hepburn, Nicole Kidman, George Lucas, Jack Nicholson, Sidney Poitier, Steven Spielberg, and Peter Ustinov. Again, there are others, but these come to mind.

The person I most regret having not met would probably be Marlon Brando. Of the classic film personalities I'd most like to meet are: Jane Fonda and Woody Allen (I've never met or seen Elizabeth Taylor, but she seems so frail these days) [and of course there's Paul McCartney, who I suppose counts as a film person] and of the contemporary I would say Anjelina Jolie and Bruce Willis.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Heritage Galleries November Auction Realized

Heritage Galleries' November Auction ended this weekend, resulting in the sixth-highest amount of money ever paid for a movie poster-- the $239,000 fetched for the Flying Down to Rio one sheet. Interestingly, the biggest seller at July's auction was the Flying Down to Rio two sheet and window card.

The next biggest seller in the November auction was the 1925 one sheet of Phantom of the Opera, which garnered a not-too-shabby $155,350, putting it as the #11 seller of all-time. The third biggest seller was a Moon Over Miami three sheet which sold for $47,800. The next biggest selling one sheet was a 1938 re-release of Dracula; the next highest selling original movie poster was a 1926 Faust one sheet which sold for $23,900.

An impressive auction for Heritage (especially considering the state of the economy).

Here is Learn About Movie Posters compilation of top sellers of all-time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

One Line Review's Film Masterpieces Checklist: 1931

Six Film Masterpieces from 1931:

1. M (Ger./ d. Fritz Lang) (****)

2. Little Caesar (US/ d. Mervyn LeRoy) (****)

3. City Lights (US/ d. Charles Chaplin) (*** 1/2)

4. Dracula (US/ d. Tod Browning) (***)

5. Frankenstein (US/ d. James Whale) (***)

6. La Chienne (Fr. /d. Jean Renoir) (***)

Film Masterpieces Checklist: 1931:
A Nous La Liberte (Fr. / d. Rene Clair) (** 1/2)
The Champ (US/ d. King Vidor) (** 1/2)
La Chienne (Fr. /d. Jean Renoir) (***)
Cimarron (US/ d. Wesley Ruggles) (**)
City Lights (US/ d. Charles Chaplin) (*** 1/2)
Dracula (US/ d. Tod Browning) (***)
Frankenstein (US/ d. James Whale) (***)
The Front Page (US/ d. Lewis Milestone) (**)
The Guardsman (US/ d. Sidney Franklin) (***)
* Hippolyt, the Lackey (Hun./ d. Steve Sekely)
* Kameradschaft (Ger./ d. G. W. Pabst)
* Limite (Braz./ d. Mario Peixoto)
Little Caesar (US/ d. Mervyn LeRoy) (****)
M (Ger./ d. Fritz Lang) (****)
Le Million (Fr./ d. Rene Clair) (** 1/2)
Maedchen in Uniform (Ger./ d. Leontine Sagan) (** 1/2)
Monkey Business (US/ d. Norman Z. McLeod) (**)
Night Nurse (US/ d. William Wellman) (***)
The Public Enemy (US/ d. William Wellman)
* Der Raub der Mona Lisa (Ger./ d. Gezavon Bolvary)
* The Road to Life (USSR/ d. Nickolai Ekk)
Street Scene (US/ d. King Vidor) (***)
Tabu (US/ d. F. W. Murnau, Robert Flaherty) (** 1/2)
* The 3 Penny Opera (Ger./ d. G. W. Pabst)

Friday, November 7, 2008

The 30 Best Films Not Yet on DVD (Region 1)

This is a list of the best films I've seen that you can't get on your Netflix®, so check your TCM listings or rustle them up on video, because they're all classics.

1.) Greed
(1924; d. Erich von Stroheim)
2.) Napoleon
(1927; d. Abel Gance)
3.) The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg
(1927; d. Ernst Lubitsch)
4.) The Last Command
(1928; d. Josef von Sternberg)
5.) Street Angel
(1928; d. Frank Borzage)
6.) The Wind
(1928; d. Victor Seastrom)

7.) Westfront 1918
(1930; d. G. W. Pabst)
8.) La Chienne/ The Bitch
(1931; d. Jean Renoir)
9.) The Guardsman
(1931; d. Sidney Franklin)
10.) The Mouthpiece
(1932; d. Elliot Nugent, James Flood)
11.) Red Dust
(1932; d. Victor Fleming)
12.) Waltzes From Vienna
(1933; d. Alfred Hitchcock)
13.) The Merry Widow
(1934; d. Ernst Lubitsch)
14.) They Won’t Forget
(1937; d. Mervyn LeRoy)

15.) Night Train To Munich
(1940; d. Carol Reed)
16.) Man Hunt
(1941; d. Fritz Lang)
17.) The Magnificent Ambersons
(1942; d. Orson Welles)
18.) First Comes Courage
(1943; d. Dorothy Arzner)
19.) Five Graves To Cairo
(1943; d. Billy Wilder)
20.) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
(1945; d. Elia Kazan)
21.) The Search (1948; d. Fred Zinnemann)

22.) Los Olvidados
(1950; d. Luis Bunuel)
23.) The African Queen
(1951; d. John Huston)
24.) The Big Sky
(1952; d. Howard Hawks)
25.) El/ This Strange Passion
(1952; d. Luis Bunuel)
26.) Five Fingers
(1952; d. Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
27.) The Incredible Shrinking Man
(1957; d. Jack Arnold)

28.) Chimes at Midnight
1966; d. Orson Welles)
29.) Antonio das Mortes
(1969; d. Glauba Rocha)
30.) Fedora
(1978; d. Billy Wilder)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

007 Villains Watches

Among the myriad of Quantum of Solace tie-ins, the most ambitious has to be from Swatch. Swatch is marketing 22 individually-designed James Bond watches for each villain of the official series of films. Some of them are pretty clever; pictured is the Live and Let Die Baron Samedi one. Who knows how they'll do-- but they're certainly conversation pieces: here's the link.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Line Review's Film Masterpieces Checklist: 1930

Six Film Masterpieces from 1930:

1. The Blue Angel (Ger./ d. Josef von Sternberg) [photo, above] (****)

2. All Quiet on the Western Front (US/ d. Lewis Milestone) (****)

3. Westfront 1918 (Ger./ d. G. W. Pabst) (****)

4. L’Age d’Or (Fr./ d. Luis Bunuel) (*** 1/2)

5. Hell’s Angels (US/ d. Howard Hughes, James Whale) (*** 1/2)

6. People on Sunday (Ger./ d. Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer) (*** 1/2)

Film Masterpieces Checklist: 1930:
L’Age d’Or (Fr./ d. Luis Bunuel) (*** 1/2)
All Quiet on the Western Front (US/ d. Lewis Milestone) (****)
Animal Crackers (US/ d. Victor Heerman) (**)
Anna Christie (US/ d. Clarence Brown) (***)
* Anna Christie (Ger./ d. Jacques Feyder)
Big House, The (US/ d. George Hill) (** 1/2)
The Big Trail (US/ d. Raoul Walsh) (***)
Blood of a Poet (Fr./ d. Jean Cocteau)
The Blue Angel (Ger./ d. Josef von Sternberg) (****)
City Girl/ Our Daily Bread (US/ d. F. W. Murnau) (**)
The Dawn Patrol (US/ d. Howard Hawks) (** 1/2)
Earth (USSR/ d. Alexander Dovzhenko) (**)
Hell’s Angels (US/ d. Howard Hughes, James Whale) (*** 1/2)
* I Flunked But… (Jap./ Yasujiro Ozu)
Morocco (US/ d. Josef von Sternberg) (***)
People on Sunday (Ger./ d. Robert Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer) (*** 1/2)
Prix de Beaute (Fr./ d. Augusto Genina) (***)
The Royal Family of Broadway (US/ d. George Cukor, Cyril Gardner) (***)
* Seamen’s Wives/ Zeemansvrouwen (Neth./ d. Henk Kleinman)
* Three Good Friends (Ger./ d. Wilhelm Thiele)
* Two Hearts in Waltz Time (Ger./ d. Geza von Bolvary)
Under the Roofs of Paris (Fr./ d. Rene Clair) (** 1/2)
Westfront 1918 (Ger./ d. G. W. Pabst) (****)
With Byrd at the South Pole (US/ d. unknown) (**)

NOTE: Films that I have not yet seen are indicated with a *. I've rated the ones I have seen (using Leonard Maltin's BOMB and * 1/2 to **** star rating). If a film is listed without a * and without a rating, it means I've seen the movie but wish to re-evaluate it before assigning it a rating.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

One Line Review Turns One

Today is the Presidential Election in the U.S.-- and a big one it is, following the 8-year presidency of George W. Bush. But today also marks a personal milestone-- the one year anniversary of The hardest job in keeping a blog going is to make none of it seem like work. It's been difficult to do so, given everyday challenges, but rounding that one-year mark is like rounding home base.

This blog has received over 7,500 visits and 10,000 page views.... Hope it's meant something to those who've stumbled across it. Despite my recent computer woes, I'm hoping to keep this blog going-- looking forward to chiming in year two in '09.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Top Ten 1980s Films On My Movie-Radar

The decade of blockbusters and sequels; the rise of the independent film; the last gasp of many of the classic Hollywood directors; and such popular genres as: slasher films, raunchy comedies, and films of teenage angst. Here's a list of ten classic 1980s films that have managed to elude me so far, but they're on my radar:

Absence of Malice— 1981

Das Boot— 1981

The Year of Living Dangerously— 1983

The Pope of Greenwich Village— 1984

A Room with a View— 1986

Empire of the Sun— 1987

Evil Dead II— 1987

The Last Temptation of Christ— 1988

Mississippi Burning— 1988

Valmont— 1989