Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Movie Year-End Wrap-Up

Happy New Year’s Eve!

A mere eleven films vie for my top ten of 2009, which I’ll announce tomorrow (not too much suspense this year!) as well as my favorites among the year's acting, writing, and directing.

I’ve viewed 65 films theatrically this year; below are my one-line commentaries on each:

Must See [11]
1. Capitalism: A Love Story. Yet another sadly accurate look at us.
2. District 9. Somewhat unpleasant to watch in a way, but timely and true, with a staggeringly star-caliber performance by its unknown lead.
3. Fanboys. Despite potential nerd-only appeal and "franchise 'parody' fatigue," has a certain charm.
4. The Hurt Locker. Original setting and charismatic lead performance.
5. I Love You, Man. A comedy touchdown, particularly for Paul Rudd; many laughs that work-- many, many.
6. Inglourious Basterds. Outrageously entertaining.
7. Julie & Julia. Delightful instantly-ready-for-TCM classic, weaves its two stories together in a nice little package.
8. Nine. Spectacle over story, nonetheless a showcase for a (mostly) ready ensemble.
9. Paranormal Activity. Deceptively simple treatise on relationships— studyable; oh yeah, scary too.
10. Up. Sweet and inventive-- as well as, dare I say, upliftling?
11. World's Greatest Dad. Cynical as all hell, but just dead-on.

Recommended [15]
1. Adventureland. Satisfying and funny and well cast if perhaps missing a certain 'punch.'
2. Broken Embraces. Assuredly directed with some great twists although it outstays it's welcome a bit.
3. Coraline. Not deep, but created a world that was facinating to behold and where I couldn't wait to see what would happen next.
4. Extract. Skin-of-it's-teeth recommendation, has several (and just enough) laughs.
5. The Hangover. The only film that I can recommend and yet admit that the best part was the end credits.
6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Fully immerses the viewer in its imaginative (now pleasantly familiar) fantasy world, marred only by a "middle chapter" climax.
7. Me and Orson Welles. Safe but sure.
8. Monsters Vs. Aliens. Just barely pulls it off, mainly due to Seth Rogen's blob B.O.B. stealing the show.
9. Moon. More "Twilight Zone" than "2001: A Space Odyssey," probably won't be much on a second viewing.
10. Sherlock Holmes. Nice work in creating an updated Holmes/Watson without losing the 'elementary' mystery-solving, although it's too bad that this particular story wasn't more intriguing.
11. Star Trek. Light and fun, with exceptional ensemble.
12. Sunshine Cleaning. Not for the ages and just a mild payoff, but well cast and well played.
13. Up in the Air. Timely and funny yet its insistence on an epiphany for a broadly-drawn lead character leaves you cold; therefore a mild recommendation
14. Whip It. Formula well done with a perfect cast.
15. Zombieland. Runs out of steam, but mostly an enjoyable popcorner.

Skippable [29]
1. 2012. Its outrageousness is right on, but also gets to be unrelenting.
2. A Christmas Carol. Well done with a strong Jim Carey in the various roles-- its main problem is the hopeless familiarity of the material.
3. Amelia. Pleasant show, but little more.
4. An Education. Over-rated mishmosh; despite Carey Mulligan's reviews, Rosamund Pike steals the show.
5. Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Compelling subject matter, but despite a solid midsection, gets repetetive and has a fabricated third act.
6. Bad Lieutenant Port of Call: New Orleans. Entertaining and off-the-wall but still could've pushed the boundaries further.
7. Bruno. A number of Boratesque shocks, but an even thinner plotline and far too many obvious set-ups make it no classic.
8. Crazy Heart. Nice blend of character and story is derailed by a lazy third act.
9. Drag Me To Hell. Yes it was "fun"-- but at the same time it was also far too obvious.
10. Duplicity. Everyone works hard but the plot relies (as with Gilroy's "Michael Clayton") far too much on its ending than the journey.
11. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Visually exciting and amusing but thematically muddled.
12. Food, Inc. Has a number of interesting points, but strictly small screen stuff.
13. He's Just not that Into You. If a guy sat through this movie with you he MUST be into you.
14. Invictus. Unique approach to political biography is far too safe in its cinematic translation.
15. Jennifer's Body. Had all the elements but one: characterization.
16. The Messenger. Engrossing premise that allows it's actors to breathe; doesn't seem to have that element that would make it worthwhile on a second viewing.
17. Michael Jackson's This Is It. A nice tribute, but surface; however, the music alone makes it worth viewing— can't argue there.
18. New in Town. Hoped for charming and funny, got mild and harmless.
19. Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian. Barely squeaks by as anything entertaining, a timewaster at best.
20. Pirate Radio. Thin but enjoyable.
21. Precious. Doesn't give you much that you didn't get in the trailer; in other words too heavy on the message.
22. A Serious Man. When you get to the end of it, despite how much you liked it, the ends don't match; best seen as part of the Coen's oeuvre.
23. A Single Man. Ultimately, nothing we haven't seen before.
24. Terminator: Salvation. Coasts on the strength of its predecessors; never dull, but rarely made sense.
25. The Informant! Couldn't find its tone and felt longer than it was, even if I was amused by it.
26. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Not the disaster critics are making it out to be, nor the exciting popcorn flick its fanboys say it is either-- the preteen boy in me gives it a pass for its mindless excess.
27. Watchmen. Bit off more than it could chew and even got somewhat laughable by the end.
28. Whatever Works. Stagey and dated, miraculously saved by some terrific performances, particularly by Evan Rachel Wood and Ed Begley Jr.
29. X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Formulaic popcorn flick, with an all-too-obvious eye on future dollars by the introduction of new superflous characters.

Avoid [10]
1. (500) Days of Summer. Hopelessly self-conscious.
2. Avatar. Cliché-ridden and overlong, the sense of wonder is stiffled by a total lack of suspense.
3. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Cute just isn't good enough.
4. Is Anybody There? Barely worthy of a one hour television drama: no meat on the bone.
5. My Bloody Valentine (3D). Retro it is: 1960s Scooby-Doo plot, 1950s 3-D effects, and 1910s acting; and I could have lived with all of that, but ultimately, it just wasn't fun enough.
6. New Moon. Just needed one more scene with two characters talking to each other and it would have been perfect.
7. Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Embarassing, and just barely palatable despite all of Kevin James' (considerable) efforts.
8. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Pointless-- with little attempt to update the '74 original with '09 technology.
9. Where the Wild Things Are. Boring.
10. Year One. Uninspired going-through-the-paces execution.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

1990s Films On My Movie Radar

I saw four films off last year's list which leaves me with a full list of six (I'm continuing to bring my ten films-to-see lists down to six), but I'm scratching off Truly, Madly, Deeply and The Dreamlife of Angels for now since they're not readily available, leaving two open slot. The 1990s brought back the western, launched Pixar, and gave us the biggest moneymaker of the century-- Titanic. Here's a list of six modern classic 1990s films that have managed to elude me so far, but they're on my radar:

Quick Change - 1990

Cool Runnings - 1993

Exotica - 1994

Citizen Ruth - 1996

Central Station - 1998

Pi - 1998

Friday, December 25, 2009

Presents under the Christmas Tree

Christmas has transitioned to the big MOVIE DAY for me, but that doesn't mean I don't like opening those Christmas presents. This year, I scored a combo: DVD collection "Gaumont Treasures" & cinema survey of early French films (Richard Abel's The Cine Goes to Town)— hope to be a minor scholar on the subject before long.

Best Christmas wishes!

Monday, December 14, 2009

New York Film Critics, Broadcast Film Critics, Among Others to Announce Today

Another big day for Awards Season 2009-- always LOVE to watch the New York Film Critics Awards unfold "live" online.... generally happens between 8-10AM PST/ 11AM-1PM EST.

New York Film Critics Circle

Broadcast Film Critics (BFCA) Noms

San Francisco Film Critics Circle

Southeastern Film Critics Association

St. Louis Film Critics

Sunday, December 13, 2009

LA Critics, AFI, Boston Critics Among Others Announce Today

Today is a big day for Awards Season 2009. The following groups are scheduled to announce today:

Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.


Boston Society of Film Critics [Note: Looks like the Boston Critics are taking a page from the New York Film Critics and announcing each award "live" as they are decided on-- cool.]

New York Film Critics Online

"A Corner in Wheat" Celebrates Centennial

D. W. Griffith's film A Corner in Wheat was released on December 13, 1909— one-hundred years ago today. This social commentary was based on source material from Frank Norris (the novelist whose McTeague became 1924s Greed). A Corner in Wheat is shown in film school classes and currently resides as the #1 film on IMDb's list of 1909 films by total votes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Awards Season Begins with the Announcement of the National Board of Review's Picks

Another Awards Season has officially begun.

As with many bloggers and commentators, I agree that the National Board of Review's picks have more to do with what isn't included than with what is chosen.

Notable shut-outs include: Avatar, The Blind Side, Bright Star, Broken Embraces, Brothers, Crazy Heart, Everybody's Fine, The Hangover, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Informant!, Julie & Julia, The Last Station, The Lovely Bones, Michael Jackson's This Is It, Nine, The Road, Sherlock Holmes, A Single Man, The Stoning of Soraya M.,and The Young Victoria.

And the barely-there include: Precious (just breakthrough performance), District 9 (top ten independent films), and The Fantastic Mr. Fox (Special Filmaking Achievement).

The film that got a much-needed shot in the arm: The Messenger.

And the "seal-of-approval" shoo-ins, are now: An Education, The Hurt Locker, Invictus, A Serious Man, Up, and Up in the Air.

This has caused the following shift in my end-of-the-year movie watching plans (unless other awards groups switch things back)--

IN: The Messenger
ON THE BUBBLE: Crazy Heart, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Last Station
OUT: Everybody's Fine, The Lovely Bones, A Single Man

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Awards Season Schedule: Movie Year 2009

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. 3: The National Board of Review (generally announced by 3PM EST)
Dec. 5: Washington D.C. Area FC Noms
Dec. 7: Washington D.C. Area FC Wins
Dec. 12: European Film Awards
Dec. 13: Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.
Dec. 13: AFI
Dec. 13: Boston Society of Film Critics
Dec. 13: New York Film Critics Online
Dec. 13: St. Louis Film Critics Noms
Dec. 13: Alliance of Women Film Journalists Wins
Dec. 14: New York Film Critics Circle
Dec. 14: Broadcast Film Critics (BFCA) Noms
Dec. 14: Indiana Film Journalists Assn
Dec 14: San Francisco Film Critics Circle
Dec. 14: Southeastern Film Critics Association
Dec. 15: Golden Globe (HFPA) Nominations
Dec. 15: Austin Film Critics Assn.
? Dec. 15: Chicago Film Critics Assn. Noms
? Dec 15: San Diego Film Critics Society
Dec. 16: Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Assn.
Dec. 16: Toronto Film Critics Association
Dec. 17: Las Vegas Film Critics Society
Dec. 17: SAG Nominations
Dec. 18: Detroit Film Critics Winners
Dec. 18: Florida Film Critics Circle
Dec. 18: Utah Film Critics Association
Dec. 19: Houston Film Critics Society
Dec. 20: Golden Satellite Awards
Dec. 21: Chicago Film Critics Assn. Wins
Dec. 21: St. Louis Film Critics Winners
Dec. 22: London Film Critics Circle Nominations
Dec. 22: Phoenix Film Critics Society
Dec. 23: Oklahoma Film Critics Circle
c. Dec. 30: African-American Film Critics Assn
Jan. 1: One Line Review [this blog!]
Jan 3: Kansas City Film Critics Circle
Jan. 3: National Society of Film Critics
Jan. 4: USC Scripter Award Noms
c. Jan. 4: Vancouver Film Critics Circle Noms
Jan 5: PGA Nominations
Jan. 6: NAACP Image Awards Noms
Jan. 7: DGA Nominations
Jan. 7: Central Ohio Film Critics Association
Jan. 8: Art Directors Guild (ADG) Noms
c. Jan 8: Women Film Critics Circle Wins
c. Jan 9: North Texas Critics Association
Jan. 11: American Society of Cinematographers Noms
Jan. 11: WGA Nominations (film)
Jan. 12: American Cinema Editors Noms
c. Jan. 12: Vancouver Film Critics Circle Wins
Jan. 15: Critics Choice (BFCA) Awards
Jan. 17: 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards
Jan. 18: Visual Effects Society Noms
c. Jan. 19: Online Film Critics Society Winners
Jan. 21: BAFTA Nominations
Jan. 21: Cinema Audio Society (CAS) [Sound Mixing] Noms
Jan. 22: Iowa Film Critics Association
Jan. 22: Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) Noms
Jan. 23: SAG Awards
Jan. 24: PGA Awards
Jan. 28: Costume Designers Guild (CDG) Noms
Jan. 30: DGA Awards
Feb. 1: Razzie Awards Noms
Feb. 6: ASIFA's Annie Awards Wins
Feb. 6: USC Scripter Award Winner
Feb. 13: Art Directors Guild (ADG) Noms
Feb. 14: American Cinema Editors Winners
Feb 18: London Film Critics Circle Winners
Feb. 20: Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE) Wins
Feb. 20: WGA Awards
Feb. 21: BAFTA Winners
Feb. 25: Costume Designers Guild (CDG) Wins
Feb. 26: NAACP Image Awards Winners
Feb. 27: American Society of Cinematographers Winners
Feb. 27: Cinema Audio Society (CAS) [Sound Mixing] Wins
Feb. 28: Visual Effects Society Wins
Mar. 5: Independent Spirit Awards
Mar. 6: Razzie Awards Wins

Monday, November 30th [see NOTE below] 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.

NOTE: Either the Intn'l Press Academy announced one day early or Reuters jumped the gun, as the nominees for the satellite awards were posted in an online article on Sunday: link.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

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 1910-89, and included: Foolish Wives (1922), Hallelujah (1929), Sergeant York (1941), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), A Face in the Crowd (1957), Flower Drum Song (1961), Deliverance (1972), and The Terminator (1984). Also included were historically important films such as White Fawn's Devotion (1910), the earliest surviving film directed by a Native American; George Stevens WWII footage (1943-46); the amateur home movie of a trip to newly opened Disneyland, Disneyland Dream (1956); and Len Lye's experimental animated short Free Radicals (1979).

The National Film Registry started in 1989, and there are currently 500 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 The Killers and Johnny Guitar 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 (my choice last year as well) is Blue Velvet. Just one film I picked last year got in!... The Terminator (1984).

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 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)
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)
Election (1999)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Taking the Oscar Bait-- 2009

Thanksgiving week ushers in the first wave of the serious Oscar hopefuls, which run to Christmas Day. 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 of the upcoming releases, roughly in order of current "buzz":

1. Up in the Air
2. Invictus
3. Nine
4. A Single Man
5. The Last Station
6. Avatar
7. Crazy Heart
8. It's Complicated
9. Everybody's Fine
10. Brothers

Friday, November 20, 2009

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. I saw four films off last year's list which leaves me with a full list of six (I'm continuing to bring my ten films-to-see lists down to six). Here's a list of the 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 Pope of Greenwich Village— 1984

A Room with a View— 1986

The Last Temptation of Christ— 1988

Valmont— 1989

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Make Way" for the New Criterion Slate

Make Way for Tomorrow, Lola Montes, Howard's End and an Eclipse George Bernard Shaw box set are among the next Criterion releases. Not jumling out of my skin for these titles... will have to give Tomorrow a second chance someday. Link to Criterion's upcoming DVDs.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Heritage Galleries November '09 Auction Realized

Heritage Galleries' November movie poster auction ended this weekend with The Black Cat one sheet garnering an impressive $334,600! This ties it for fourth place for movie poster sales of all-time (see link below).

The next best showing among one sheets was $33,460 for an FN grade Citizen Kane.

Other top selling one sheets included several silent era posters that scored in the neighborhood of $20,000— posters for Fritz Lang's Spies, Griffith's True Heart Susie, and Scott Sidney's Tarzan the Ape Man.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Martin Scorsese to Receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced the recipient for this year's Cecil B. DeMille Award: Martin Scorsese. The press release was posted about 9:12 this morning on the HFPA website... glad they are prompt (even though it's PST, sorry New York).

Goodfellas is probably Scorsese's masterpiece for me (others would say Taxi Driver or Raging Bull). Of his recent films I think The Aviator and The Departed are his best (others would say Gangs of New York). My "favorite" Scorsese films are The King of Comedy and After Hours.

Scorsese was certainly among the most probable picks, and deserving. I thought they'd go with the older Coppola first (or Mike Nichols, Woody Allen, etc.), hence my guess, but maybe they'll eschew those others and get back to the actors next year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Who will Receive this Year's Cecil B. DeMille Award?

One of the highlights of "Pre-Awards" Season is the announcement of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe Award for lifetime achievement, the Cecil B. DeMille Award. The timing of the announcement has changed somewhat through the years, but recently has stayed firm at 9:00 a.m. PST on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving week. This year, it's slightly off that schedule and will be announced tomorrow, Thursday, November 12.

The Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Golden Globe was first given in 1952, to namesake Cecil B. DeMille himself. Producer/Director DeMille was one of the most successful filmmakers of Hollywood's Golden Age and in 1952 he made the film that would win Oscar's Best Picture, The Greatest Show on Earth. Who won the second DeMille award? Walt Disney.

In the early years of the award, the recipient was generally a producer/studio head, but starting with Maurice Chevalier (1959's recipient) performers have worked their way up, to the point that the award has been given exclusively to them since 1978 (with a few "hyphenates" among them, such as Clint Eastwood), until Steven Spielberg's 2008 win.

So, who do you think will be given this year's Cecil B. DeMille Award? The most likely candidate of the last several years has certainly been Meryl Streep. Streep is second in Golden Globe nominations only to Jack Lemmon (19 to his 22). She's had a string of high profile hits as of late critically and commercially, too.

Here is a link to the Cecil B. DeMille Award on the HFPA's website.

And here is a handy one-page list on Wikipedia.

What is your guess for this year's DeMille?

Notables who have yet to receive the honor include: Woody Allen, Julie Andrews, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Caine, Glenn Close, Tom Cruise, Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert DeNiro, Gerard Depardieu, Robert Duvall, Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks, Dennis Hopper, George Lucas, Helen Mirren, Peter O'Toole, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Roberts, Martin Scorsese, Sylvester Stallone, Meryl Streep, John Travolta, and Denzel Washington.

... My perennial guess is HFPA favorite (12 noms, 3 wins) Michael Caine. This year, though, in light of Spielberg's win last year, I'm choosing Francis Ford Coppola as my prediction for this year's DeMille Award recipient.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pre-Awards Season Begins 2009

The announcement of the National Board of Review's picks on December 3rd, as is tradition, will bring down the checked flag for the start of Awards season. Here at One Line Review, Pre-Awards season begins with the simultaneous publication in the first weekend of November of the Los Angeles Times's "Holiday Movie Sneaks," Entertainment Weekly's Holiday Movie Preview Issue [see note, however] (which contains their early guesses in Oscar's Best Picture, Directing, and Acting races), and Awards-Season Previews in the trades. Note: This year, The EW Holiday Movie Preview issue was pushed a week (presumably because it was the first FULL weekend in Nov.) I therefore delayed my blog entry to today. On Monday, I feel we can safely stand around the water cooler and say the word "Oscar" without fear of "already?" (These year-round Oscar websites, however, to me, are the equivalent of playing Christmas music in July.)

Going straight to the belly of the beast, I was struck yet again by how DISASTROUSLY STUPID the Oscars are in DOUBLING the number of Best Picture contenders. I APPLAUD EW for STILL only listing five predictions! I bet they originally had ten and then they saw how totally unwieldy the list was and went 'oh hell' and brought it back down to five. What's so sad is I think 2009 is a GREAT year for movies-- I could already put together a top ten-- and EW's predix for the top five Best Pictures-- Hurt Locker, Invictus, Lovely Bones, Precious, Up in the Air, make it look so deadly dull. I don't know, for some reason the magic is gone.

There are at least six acting "locks" it seems coming into the season: Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia), Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds), Mo'nique (Precious). Also with a big chance for an acting nom is Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker).

Films I look forward to— Oscar or otherwise— include: 2012 (don't pretend you don't too), Avatar, Broken Embraces, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Me and Orson Welles, Nine, and Sherlock Holmes.

Like I said earlier, I already have more than enough films to create a top ten from, so even if a few of the upcoming films turn out to be great, it will make for one heck of a movie year.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

One Line Review Turns Two

Happy b-day to my blog, two years old today. This blog has gotten over 16,000 views, so I hope that means some of the content has been worthwhile. I've enjoyed doing it these last two years. Hope to see it to year three in 2010.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween on the Boulevard: 2009

Living in L.A. means the opportunity to take part in the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval, on Santa Monica Boulevard between Doheny Drive and La Cienega Boulevard. It's a good opportunity to see what's big in pop culture. My report below.

Costumes of the moment:
1. Alice in Wonderland (a TON, everywhere, particularly Mad Hatters, Alices, and March Hares)
2. Where the Wild Things Are (a LOT), some very lazy Maxes among them (paper crown, long johns)
3. Watchmen (a few, but only one Dr. Manhattan [surprisingly for Santa Monica Blvd. not nude or semi-nude, but in a suit]
4. Lady Gaga (although it’s frequently hard to tell whether or not it was meant to be her!)
5. Indiana Jones. Yup, give ‘em an inch… the (hopefully last) sequel was last year, but these guys couldn’t stop themselves….
6. Sully Sullenberger- at least one
7. Bruno- didn’t think there’d be one, but there was one guy…
8. Up! There were three guys but one guy (the first one I saw) did it amazing. This first guy had the full rainbow-colored balloons with a miniature house, and his girlfriend was dressed as the little boy. The second guy was alone with a flat cut out of the house and the full balloons. The third guy literally had THREE balloons: completely missing it (lame!)
8. Balloon boy: would have been a little better say if it it didn't turn out to be a fraud!
9. Octomom.
10. SOOOOO last year award: Joker (hang your heads in same people!)

Other costumes:
Batman Family- very cute, Dad as Batman, Mom and young daughter both as Batgirl, little boy as Robin
Ghostbusters (of course). Now there is even a sexy girl costume version
Nightmare Before Christmas- a LOT. It’s quite boring at this point
Muppets- and always in a group—SOOOOO boring at this point
Rice Crispies in a “bowl” (inflated kiddie pool)—kind of a pain to walk around
I’m sure I’ve seen it, but a guy in a red hoodie, with a small bike and milk crate with ET in it is STILL a crowd pleaser—had to smile

Sexy costume for chicks this year: Snow White (don’t know why: lots of them), bumblebees/butterflies too
Fun costume—girl as Mary Poppins (loved it)
Surprisingly no one dressed like Michael Jackson (that I saw). His music was everywhere though. (No Adam Lamberts or Susan Boyles that I saw either)
Retire it already! Award: Captain Jack Sparrow (wouldn’t you be embarrassed to wear this?)

This year: WOW a lot of tourists!

Friday, October 30, 2009

What Will Be the Halloween Costumes for 2009?

Happy Halloween!

Halloween on Saturday, should prove eventful. What will be this year's big costumes (for us adults)? Some definites from the music world: Lady GaGa, Adam Lambert, Susan Boyle... and (really clever!) Michael Jackson.

What of the summer blockbusters? A lot of retread: Transformers, Harry Potter, etc. Bruno didn't do well enough for anyone to bother, I think. I expect some oldsters will try their hand at Up.

Other movie ideas: Anything Where the Wild Things Are, of course. And will anyone brave a Dr. Manhattan? Julia Child?

I can see "swine flu" getting some kind of treatment....

And TV? Have yet to really see it, but a group showing of 30 Rock or The Office seems inevitable. I wonder if It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has gained enough of a following for a group thing too?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

1970s Films On My Movie Radar

The decade that introduced the Hollywood blockbuster; the rise of "new" Hollywood: Allen, Altman, Ashby, Coppola, Scorsese, etc.; the maturation of several European greats: Bergman, Fellini, Truffaut, to name a few; plus Blaxploitation, disaster flicks, and outer-space! Having seen four of the ten from my list from last year, I'm left with six-- filling up this year's list (as with my '60s list from August, I'm continuing the reduction to a half dozen). These classic 1970s films that have managed to elude me so far, but they're on my radar:

The Conformist - 1970

Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Assssss Song - 1971

Bite the Bullet - 1975

Smile - 1975

Assault on Precinct 13 - 1976

The Tin Drum - 1979

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September Movie Watching

September, my least favorite movie month. I saw three films theatrically this month, plus one on-demand. I'll start with the best, which was World's Greatest Dad, the Bobcat Goldthwait directed-Robin WIlliams' starrer. I saw it on demand (it got a simultaneous theatrical and on demand release) because a friend forced me! And now I can't decide whether I'm glad I saw it at all (I might have skipped it) or whether I'm mad I didn't see it at the theater. It was a truly great film... if very cynical. I gotta tell ya though-- don't miss it. The script is just first rate and I truly hope word gets around and Goldthwait gets an Oscar nomination. Williams, too, by the way is very good and the casting was right on the money. DON'T go by the terrible trailer on this one.

I caught up on Julie & Julia and found it to be very enjoyable. And I didn't think the modern story dragged... don't listen to the old fogey Streep-lovers! In fact, I thought the two stories were woven together quite seamlessly. Streep (and Stanley Tucci) both deserve, and probably will get, Oscar nominations. I also predict that the film will find its way into the Best Picture category. Four reasons for this: a lot of people saw it, it's "prestige," it's well reviewed, and fourth and most importantly— with the Best Picture nominations expanded to ten, the Academy has to pick five films to be nominated without corresponding Best Director nominations, and they will have no problem keeping Nora Ephron's name off that list.

Jennifer's Body was not the box office success I thought it would be. And, although it had a nice screenwritery sense to the dialogue, dare I say it suffered from no character development. Right, I know, its a horror genre piece.... but I had no reason to follow the two female leads through their paces. And Megan Fox, although she sure got her close-ups, was never hot enough in this entire movie as in that one opening-the-hood-of-the-car shot in TRANSFORMERS (nor was she particuarly well used in TRANSFORMERS 2).

EXTRACT was a pleasant surprise. I laughed a lot. And although Jason Bateman just plays his Arrested Development character-- I like that character! And although I GROANED when I saw Gene Simmons name in the credits, he is HILARIOUS in his small part!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

1960s Films On My Movie-Radar

The 1960s in film was the decade influx internationally. Particularly in the US, when the Hollywood studio system crumbled and "new Hollywood" entered the fray. Here's a list of six classic 1960s films (making the change from ten as in blog entries past) that have managed to elude me, but I've got them on my radar:

Sons and Lovers— 1960

David and Lisa— 1962

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance— 1962

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow— 1963

Repulsion— 1965

A Man and A Woman— 1966

Friday, July 31, 2009

July Movie Watching

July is such a great month for movies, maybe because it's always the "lighter" fare.... you'll see them just to get out of the heat. Somehow, just saw four theatrically this month. It would have been five but I got sick from dinner a third into Public Enemies. This is only the second time in all my moviegoing years that I had to leave the theater and miss a movie (can't remember the name of the first movie but I do remember rushing home on the subway in NYC!). Never got around to seeing PE, but it kind of (and surprisingly) bombed. The little I saw looked just average.

Saw Year One (it was a free screening!). My friends bemoned how awful it was and I wasn't about to argue. The makers didn't try too hard on this one. It was one of those movies where the only time spent after coming up with the premise was on the casting.

Bruno was, unfortunately, a letdown. It did have a few scattered laughs and shocks, and it at least proved how brilliant Borat was in retrospect. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher were in the theater when I saw it, that was cool.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was, to me, the best Potter after the (brilliant) Prisoner of Azkaban. Although I like the series, these two are also, unfortunately, the only really good ones: it'd be hard to pick third place from the rest. So, it's nice they pulled this one off. The only bad thing about it is was the conclusion, which only works at a mid-chapter level. What I liked best about the movie was that I really felt like I was a part of the Potter world while watching it. A bit lengthy, but not too bad.

Lastly, I saw Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Again a free screening, but I gotta tell ya, within minutes I was wondering why the hell I went to it. I guess since I haven't seen the other two (theatrically or otherwise) I felt compelled. Ugh. And it's yet ANOTHER IN AN ENDLESS LINE OF ANIMATED MOVIES ABOUT A LOST FRIEND THAT NEEDS TO BE RESCUED!!!! ENOUGH ALREADY ANIMATION PEOPLE. GET A NEW STORY LINE!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Heritage Galleries July '09 Auction Realized

Heritage Galleries' July auction ended this weekend with wacky 1923 Hollywood one sheet (grade: FN/VF)--I love this one!-- going for $89,625. Too bad this silent film no longer exists....

A grade FN+ Gilda went for $33,460; a grade FN/VF Broadway Melody went for $31,070; and-- a steal at $5,078.75-- was a VF Vertigo, possibly the greatest poster of all time (I'm actually glad that so many copies of it exist that, conceivably, I could own one someday!).

I was surprised that the foreign posters didn't get big numbers, per se. The Seven Samurai-- a great poster (grade: VF)-- went for $13,145.

If I were bidding, I would have had my eye on the Trader Horn poster (grade: VG/FN), which went for $11,950-- an odd but interesting poster and an underrated film.

There were many noteworthy items in this auction. Just to name one more, a lobby card from Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail (a VERY rare item), went for $14,340.

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

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

2010 Leonard Maltin Guide's Ratings of Last Year's Award Winners

The Leonard Maltin Guide, for better or worse, sets a standard for how movies are ranked in later years. Although there are many examples of aberrations (for example Unforgiven, which frequently lands on best-films-of-all-time lists, is rated just *** out of ****) the guide has had influence in general in accessing films for future generations.

With that in mind, here are the films that received the main awards from critics, guilds, etc. from last year and where they placed in Maltin's rankings.

AMPAS Best Picture Nominees:
MILK (*** 1/2)
THE READER (*** 1/2)
SLUMDOG MILIONAIRE [winner] (****)

Best Actor: Sean Penn for MILK (*** 1/2)
Best Actress: Kate Winslet for THE READER (*** 1/2)
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger for THE DARK KNIGHT (**)
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz for VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (*** 1/2)
Best Director: Danny Boyle for SLUMDIG MILIONAIRE (****)
Best Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for MILK (*** 1/2)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (****)
Best Foreign Film: DEPARTURES(***)
Best Animated Film: WALL•E (** 1/2)
Best Documentary Feature: MAN ON WIRE (*** 1/2)

Multiple Oscar winners (features):
MILK— 2 (*** 1/2)

Golden Globes Best Motion Picture Drama: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (****)
Golden Globes Best Musical or Comedy Film: VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA (*** 1/2)
Golden Globes Foreign-Language Film: WALTZ WITH BASHIR (*** 1/2)
Golden Globes Animated Film: WALL•E (** 1/2)

BAFTA Best British Film: MAN ON WIRE (*** 1/2)
BAFTA Best Foreign-Language Film: I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG (***)
BAFTA Best Animated Film: WALL•E (** 1/2)

PGA Best Animated Motion Picture: WALL•E (** 1/2):
PGA Best Documentary: MAN ON WIRE (*** 1/2)

SAG Ensemble Award: SLUMDOG MILIONAIRE (****)

DGA Award: Danny Boyle for SLUMDOG MILIONAIRE (****)

WGA Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for MILK (*** 1/2)
WGA Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (****)
WGA Documentary Screenplay: Ari Folman for WALTZ WITH BASHIR (*** 1/2)

Online Film Critics Society Best Picture: WALL•E (** 1/2)
OFCS Best Foreign-Language Film: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (*** 1/2)
OFCS Best Documentary: MAN ON WIRE (*** 1/2)
OFCS Best Animated Film: WALL•E (** 1/2)

Broadcast Film Critics Best Picture: SLUMDOG MILIONAIRE (****)
BFCA Best Action Movie: THE DARK KNIGHT (**)
BFCA Comedy Movie: TROPIC THUNDER (** 1/2)
BFCA Best Documentary Feature: MAN ON WIRE (*** 1/2)
BFCA Animated Movie: WALL•E (** 1/2)
BFCA Foreign-Language Film: WALTZ WITH BASHIR (*** 1/2)

Nat’l Society of Film Critics Best Picture: WALTZ WITH BASHIR (*** 1/2)
NSFC Foreign-Language Film: n/a
NSFC Non-Fiction Film: MAN ON WIRE (*** 1/2)

New York Film Critics Circle Best Picture: MILK (*** 1/2)
NYFCC Best Animated Film: WALL•E (*** 1/2)
NYFCC Best Non-Fiction Film: MAN ON WIRE (*** 1/2)
NYFCC Best Foreign-Language Film: 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS (*** 1/2)

Los Angeles Film Critics Assn Best Picture: WALL•E (** 1/2)
LAFCA Best Animated Film: WALTZ WITH BASHIR (*** 1/2)
LAFCA Best Non-Fiction Film: MAN ON WIRE (*** 1/2)
LAFCA Best Foreign Language Film: STILL LIFE (n/a)

National Board of Review Top Ten Films:
DEFIANCE (** 1/2)
MILK (*** 1/2)
WALL•E (** 1/2)
THE WRESTLER (*** 1/2)

NBR Best Foreign Film: MONGOL (***)
NBR Best Animated Film: WALL•E (** 1/2)
NBR Best Documentary: MAN ON WIRE (*** 1/2)

AFI Top Ten
IRON MAN (** 1/2)
MILK (*** 1/2)
WALL•E (** 1/2)
THE WRESTLER (*** 1/2)

Indiewire Top Ten
2. A CHRISTMAS TALE (*** 1/2)
3. WALL•E (** 1/2)
6. PARANOID PARK (** 1/2)
7. STILL LIFE (n/a)
10. WALTZ WITH BASHIR (*** 1/2)

Village Voice Top Ten
1. WALL•E (** 1/2)
4. STILL LIFE (n/a)
5. A CHRISTMAS TALE (*** 1/2)
6. WALTZ WITH BASHIR (*** 1/2)
7. MILK (*** 1/2)
9. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (*** 1/2)

2008 additions to They Shoot Pictures…. website Top 250 Films of the 21st Century:

54. A CHRISTMAS TALE (*** 1/2)
55. WENDY AND LUCY (***)
68. WALL-E (** 1/2)
73. STILL LIFE (n/a)
78. MY WINNIPEG (*** 1/2)
79. PARANOID PARK (** 1/2)
84. HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (***)
86. WALTZ WITH BASHIR (*** 1/2)
116. SILENT LIGHT (n/a)
118. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (*** 1/2)
127. THE LIVES OF OTHERS (*** 1/2)
144. HUNGER (*** 1/2)
153. MILK (*** 1/2)
159. THE WRESTLER (*** 1/2)
172. HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE (2004) (*** 1/2)
196. MAN ON WIRE (*** 1/2)
197. BALLAST (***)
219. WOMAN ON BEACH (n/a)
220. REPRISE (** 1/2)
223. CHE (**)
231. CHUNHYANG (2000) (**)

Monday, July 27, 2009

2010 Leonard Maltin Guide: Actors and Directors Index Adds

With the new Maltin Guide comes the addition of new names to the star/director index (plus the inevitable axing of others). Since putting the guide together every year and making editorial decisions is no easy task, let's not be too harsh on the deletions (although considerable this year: 21), including: Ann-Margret, John Barrymore, John Belushi, John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Irene Dunne, Douglas Fairbanks, Laurence Fishburne, Lillian Gish, Jeff Goldblum, Helen Hunt, Anjelica Huston, Al Jolson, Ashley Judd, Kevin Kline, Hayley Mills, Mary Pickford, Eleanor Powell, Kurt Russell, Winona Ryder, Rudolph Valentino. Instead, let's take a look at the "graduating class" of 2008/09.

New "Faces" added to the Leonard Maltin Guide 2010 Index:


Penelope Cruz

Robert Downey, Jr.

Ed Harris

Anne Hathaway

Viggo Mortensen

Seth Rogen

Mickey Rourke


Guillermo del Toro

Baz Luhrmann

Sam Mendes

Christopher Nolan

Gus Van Sant

Sunday, July 26, 2009

2010 Leonard Maltin Guide Is Out!

Every year I greatly anticipate Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide (as usual, out at the bookstores way before its Amazon street date). His capsule reviews and ratings set the standard for how a film will be seen by future generations. Of late, the **** rating was practically unattainable for new releases, but last year, both the Iraq War doc No End In Sight and the Apollo space program doc In the Shadow of the Moon received the coveted ****; this year I noticed at least three films were **** rated: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, and Slumdog Millionaire.

Here's how my top ten 2008 stacked up against the Maltin Guide's ratings:

Synecdoche, New York (**) [My #1, rest alpha]
Cloverfield (***)
Frost/Nixon (****)
In Bruges (***)
JCVD (***)
The Mother of Tears (* 1/2)
My Winnipeg (*** 1/2)
Rachel Getting Married (***)
Religulous (** 1/2)
The Wrestler (*** 1/2)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Top Ten 1950s Films On My Movie-Radar

The 1950s was the era of Technicolor, VistaVision, 3-D,... and samurais. The musical was one of the most popular genres in Hollywood. Other genres exploited by Hollywood auteurs included: melodrama, Nicholas Ray's territory; western, a favorite of Anthony Mann, and sci-fi, notoriously explored by Ed Wood. Internationally, the beginnings of the French New Wave put Godard, Truffaut, etc. on the map. I caught six films off of last year's list. Here's a list classic 1950s films that have managed to elude me so far, but they're on my radar:

The Gunfighter - 1950

Above and Beyond - 1952

Ikiru - 1952

The Earrings of Madame de... - 1953

Ugetsu Monogatari - 1953

The High and the Mighty - 1954

Robinson Crusoe - 1954

The Rose Tattoo - 1955

The Burmese Harp - 1956

The Nights of Cabiria - 1957

Thursday, July 16, 2009

61st Annual Emmy Nominations

The Emmy nominations were announced, and it was the annual love fest for 30 Rock and Mad Men. I'm a big 30 Rock fan, but it seriously does NOT deserve this many nominations-- at 22, a record (breaking its OWN from last year!). I mean, is it better than Cheers and Seinfeld? It also appears that, if you're old, and you guest star on 30 Rock-- automatic Emmy nomination. The saddest thing is that 30 Rock got 4/5 comedy writing noms (the fifth: Flight of the Conchords) and Mad Men got 4/5 drama writing noms (the fifth: Lost).

And just when you thought Emmy was showing restraint, the expansion to six nominations per best series category resulted in both comedy and drama series with 7 noms due to ties!!



Family Guy

Flight of the Conchords

How I Met Your Mother

The Office

30 Rock


BEST DRAMA SERIES nominations:

Big Love

Breaking Bad



House M.D.


Mad Men

Other reactions:

Last year I said, "from what I've heard, and based on these noms, I think Damages is probably the best show I'm not watching." I caught several episodes of Damages and found it overrated, truth be told. Now the best series I wasn't watching ACTUALLY turned out to be Breaking Bad-- I have now seen every episode and jees, it's GOOD! Happy to see it get a series nomination. I've seen at least one episode of every comedy/drama series listed here except Big Love... wonder what I'm missing there.

Further proof of the Emmys' irrelevance is the fact that four of the main categories resulted in record-breaking or tying situations: 30 Rock (22 noms-- most for any comedy series in one year), Grey Gardens (17 noms, a tie), SNL (13 noms, a record for variety series), Dancing with the Stars (10 noms, a record for nonfiction series). Now, were any of these four considered by ANYONE the best of the best of TV history? If anything they were the best of the so-so, and not even the best seasons of their own shows!

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia: 0 noms again! The best show on TV can't get no respect.

Miniseries= two nominees— retire this dated category already!

As I noted last year, SNL will eventually become the most nominated series of all-time. This record is currently held by ER (124 noms— only 2 more in this, its final season). SNL with its 13 noms this year now has 114, so it's likely to take the record next year.

Was shocked to see no nomination for Hugh Jackman for hosting the 81st Annual Oscars! And the show managed ten nominations....

On the plus side, here's the nominees I was most pleased seeing: Bryan Cranston Lead Actor Drama (Now I know why he won last year!), Drew Barrymore for LEAD (as she deserved) for TV Movie Grey Gardens, Jack McBrayer Supporting Actor in Comedy for 30 Rock, William Shatner for Supporting in Drama for Boston Legal, Aaron Paul for Supporting Drama for Breaking Bad, Kristin Wiig for Supporting Comedy for SNL, Ernest Borgnine Guest Star ER, Michael J. Fox Guest Star Rescue Me, Reality Host Phil Keoghan for The Amazing Race.

Link to full list of nominees.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Best of the Year So Far: Midyear 2009

A few years back I realized that I had trouble diferentiating between the movies I liked and the movies I loved from the early part of the year. Roger Ebert has always suggested that this was true of the Academy and why the Oscars have such "short attention span." He recommended a midyear ballot to go along with the end-of-the-year ballot combining both to create the nominations list.

For me, I decided a top 5 usually works. I wait until July 15, since the first few weeks of January are generally a wash for new releases, and so 7/15 is a little closer to the mid-point. This year has had a number of promising films after a pretty lame first few months.

I have eleven "nominees" for my top 5 this year— four at the top: Fanboys; The Hurt Locker; I Love You, Man; and Up— plus, Adventureland, Coraline, The Hangover, Monsters Vs. Aliens, Moon, Star Trek, and Sunshine Cleaning.

My top 5 2009 so far (listed alphabetically):
The Hurt Locker
I Love You, Man

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy July 4th! Time for a Classic TV Marathon

There's a lot of hours in between the BBQ and the fireworks— best spent with a little classic TV! I offer, Moonlighting Season 3. Moonlighting remains one of the relatively few classic shows that managed to get the whole run out on DVD, based on the efforts of an avid fan base. Season two remains the series best season; but the single greatest series episode, “Atomic Shakespeare,” would make its appearance in season three. Other classic episodes of season three include: “Yours, Very Deadly," "All Creatures Great... And Not So Great," the Stanley Donen musical show "Big Man on Mulberry Street," "It's A Wonderful Job," "Blonde on Blonde," "I Am Curious... Maddie," and "To Heiress Human." I’ll be revisiting Moonlighting over the next few blog entries and reviewing these episodes. Below is my ratings of each season three episode based out of **** stars. My rankings for seasons one and two are here.

MoonlightingSeason Three
24. "The Son Also Rises" (aired:09/23/86) ** 1/2
25. "The Man Who Cried Wife" (aired:09/30/86) ** 1/2
26. "Symphony in Knocked Flat" (aired:10/14/86) * 1/2
27. "Yours, Very Deadly" (aired:10/28/86) ***
28. "All Creatures Great… And Not So Great" (aired:11/11/86) ***
29. "Big Man on Mulberry Street" (aired:11/18/86) ***
30. "Atomic Shakespeare" (aired:11/25/86) ****
31. "It's A Wonderful Job" (aired: 12/16/86) ****
32. "The Straight Poop" (aired:01/06/87) **
33. "Poltergeist III— Dipesto Nothing" (airdate: 01/13/87) * 1/2
34. "Blonde on Blonde" (aired: 02/03/87) *** 1/2
35. "Sam and Dave" (aired 02/10/87) ** 1/2
36. "Maddie's Turn to Cry" (aired: 03/03/87) **
37. "I Am Curious... Maddie" (aired: 03/31/87) ***
38. "To Heiress Human" (aired: 05/05/87) ***