Tuesday, February 16, 2010

1940s Films on My Movie Radar

The 1940s brought us two highly influencial films which have remained the only two to-date to top Sight & Sound's poll as the #1 film of all-time: Citizen Kane (1941) and Bicycle Thieves (1948). In between we had the war years, and the birth of film noir. And it was the decade of Bogie & Bacall, Tracy & Hepburn, and Abbott & Costello, too.

Here's the 1940s films that have managed to elude me so far, but they're on my radar:

The Sea Hawk- 1940

Blossoms in the Dust- 1941

The 49th Parallel/The Invaders- 1941

Day of Wrath- 1943

The House on 92nd Street- 1945

That Lady in Ermine- 1948

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies

My belated thoughts to Friday's Olympics Opening Ceremonies. Despite artistic director David Atkins' claim to deal with the individual, of course, 'bigger is better' still reigned, and really appropriately so: it's certainly expected. Donald Sutherland's narration was a bit "observatory star show-esque" but seemed to work nonetheless. I also liked that there was an intro, break with the Parade of Nations, then it went into the stage show (highlighted by the polar bear 'puppet'). The spectacle part had a garishness, that thankfully started with a much more subtle sequence (the runner in the 'electronic' fields [to "Both Sides Now"]). Good star wattage with the performers. Another unfavorable comparison: the Native-American section at the start and the poet at the end seemed a little "theme park" to me. Unfortunately caldron blunder may be the ceremonies lasting memory. On the whole a worthy follow-up to the Summer Olympics... although it will be many years before Li Ning's run across the top of the Bird's Nest in China is beaten for "single-most breathtaking opening ceremonies' moment."

On the death of the Georgian luger and NBC's coverage... I thought they handled it as best they could. I think I say this because I didn't feel the need to run to CNN or You Tube to be satisfied with the full story. [But: I do think saying "lugers" should be somehow avoided (I always here "losers" when it's spoken).]

I particularly liked NBC's facts-about-Canada section at the start (introduced by Tom Brokaw), and their package on the lengthy torch relay (45,000 kilometers).

In terms of the advertising, I liked all of McDonald's ads (such as the one where the parents grab the Happy meal back and forth away from each other so they can give it to their kid themselves), but hated the MARRIAGE REF promos... show looks terrible and the promos are just annoying: celebs tell middle Americans who's "right" in an argument because they are celebs and therefore have all the answers.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

New Classic Maltin

The new classic edition of the Leonard Maltin Guide is out! The fact that Maltin made good on his promise of updating every 5 years makes me happy in our uncertain (publishing and otherwise) world. It's considerably thicker than the first one and I suspect a larger size (width and height) might be required the third time around.

Most people I'm noticing feel the same way I do about this SECOND EDITION... we love the additions... but wish there were more. Ran across this blogger who lists some of the titles she noticed that were added (others that weren't): link to laurasmiscmusings.

As for me, I had hoped to see L'INFERNO (1911) in the new guide as it's (a) the oldest extant feature film and (b) readily available on DVD; but it hasn't made it yet. Films I've noticed that have made it into the new edition include the early Lubitsch titles (such as THE WILDCAT) and one of the four Best Picture nominees that had not previously been in either the classic or regular Maltin Guide: BAD GIRL (also, if I'm not mistaken the only Best Director Oscar-winner that had yet to make the Maltin Guide). So for Best Picture nominees that leaves (baring of course the NEW ones), three titles left: the two "lost" films which cannot be included unless they're found: THE WAY OF ALL FLESH (1927) and THE PATRIOT (1928); and EAST LYNNE (1930)-- which I thought only existed in a slightly incomplete form, but looking at the UCLA Film & Television Archive record it seems complete (and certainly extant, as it was shown in '93).

I'm glad too, that, following his introduction, Maltin has put out a new "25 Vintage Movies" to see list, and that it includes some foreign titles. (Even if THE WHISPERING CHORUS, which I recall as bad [!], is on it.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Best Superbowl XLVI (2010) Commercials

This year's Superbowl ads were pretty bad on the whole (don't I say this every year?). For once, the game was better than the commercials! I offer my favorite five (relative to the pack), below:

#1. SNICKERS: Betty White. Funny and clever! A one-two classic TV legend punch. Love Betty's delivery of: "That's not what your girlfriend says!"

#2. BUD LIGHT: Asteroid 2010. I know it was of the "juvenile" variety but this one struck me as funny.

#3. US Census 2010. Just love the "cast". And that classic Bob Balaban delivery!: "So just the 300 million people who are coming will know the location."

#4. BUD LIGHT: Light House: Kinda funny idea. "There's Bud Light in the fridge made of Bud Light."

#5. FLO TV: Don't miss a thing 2010 Super Bowl. OK.

I think all the movie trailers came off poorly, especially ROBIN HOOD (how do you screw that up?); the best would therefore have to fall to ALICE IN WONDERLAND by default.

Which movie would you rather watch right now....

Of the TV promos, I liked the short but hilarious Craig Ferguson ad at the top of the show ("Many people watch the Superbowl for the commercials... just like my show in fact.") The much-talked-about Late Show Leno/Oprah/Letterman ad would have been brilliant if (as initially conceived) it included Conan O'Brien, but what does Oprah have to do with it (other than a holdover from a much better previous ad taking on the Oprah/Letterman rivalry)?

Did you catch the Motorola: Megan Fox in the tub ad.... they used a hand model! Megan Fox notoriously has "toe-thumbs" (considered her only looks "flaw")....

Hand model!

The real deal.

see all the Superbowl commercials at this link.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oscar Nominations 2009: Interesting Facts

Just one last thought on the nominations. After the announcement I checked around the Oscar sites to see what people's predix were (I never look at these beforehand to allow for "some" surprise), and I noticed several sites put Diane Kruger as a possible Best Supporting Actress nominee for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. When I thought about it, I realized, that this one nomination may have been enough to peak my interest in this year's noms, since (A.) INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS was my film of the year and (B.) This would have given INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS 9 total nominations, and therefore be in a three-way tie with AVATAR and THE HURT LOCKER for most nominations. But alas it wasn't meant to be.

I must admit, a look through the nominations did not offer much in terms of compelling interesting facts. The most glaring thing is the fact that three of the Best Picture nominees have between 2-3 total nominations... BLIND SIDE (Picture, Actress), AN EDUCATION (Picture, Actress, Adapted Screenplay), and A SERIOUS MAN (Picture, Original Screenplay). I started to look into the last time a Best Picture got that few nominations, and then I bored of the search, partially in anger (again!) over the fact that I wouldn't have to have bothered if AMPAS didn't pull their 10 nominees stunt. And seriously, if your movie only gets a nomination for Best Actress does it deserve to be nominated for Best Picture? It just comes across as a sad "also ran."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Oscar Nominations 2009: My Thoughts

A major snooze this year. I think the overwhelming amount of prognosticating has finally caught up with us. If you open the Entertainment Weekly from Jan. 8, you'll see just about all of the nominees laid out.

The Academy's switch to ten nominees for Best Picture did little to make it worthwhile, but not enough damage (baring a weird winner) to have them switch it back. In fact, due to THE BLIND SIDE's Best Picture nomination as the only true surprise, I'm sure they're patting themselves on the back. But, if we just pull out the Best Director films as what might have been the top 5 Picture nominees: AVATAR, THE HURT LOCKER, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, PRECIOUS, UP IN THE AIR— it's a perfectly fine, well rounded list with big box office films too (clearly AMPAS' big concern following last year's THE DARK KNIGHT snub).

This year has easily been the least I've been excited about the Oscars since I started to follow them. I still can't quite get over how easily AMPAS doubled the Best Picture nominees with no public/Hollywood outcry, watering down the most important single award category in filmdom by a factor of 2. And yes the cottage industry that predicting the nominations has become is just crazy... I've tried to avoid it but it's utterly impossible now. Even the websites that devote themselves to that kind of thing seem to acknowledge that by the time the nominations come out it's the proverbial beating of the dead horse. This also has to do with the 2 week push back to Feb. for the noms (for the Olympics sake)... a Jan. announcement might have been less dull.

A slave to tradition, I offer my thoughts. I had to reduce my TOP TEN SHOCKS down to EIGHT because there just weren't any shocks!

TOP EIGHT BIGGEST SHOCKS (NOMINEES)— Not necessarily because I did or didn't like them, just surprising
1. THE BLIND SIDE for Best Picture
2. THE SECRET OF KELLS for Best Animated Feature
3. Maggie Gyllenhaal in CRAZY HEART
4. Penelope Cruz in NINE
5. DISTRICT 9 for Best Picture
6. THE MESSENGER for Best Original Screenplay
7. PRECIOUS for Best Film Editing
8. THE HURT LOCKER for Best Original Score

TOP TEN BIGGEST SHOCKS (SHUT-OUTS)— Again, not necessarily because I like or dislike them, just surprising
1. INVICTUS for Best Picture
2. Clint Eastwood for Best Director for INVICTUS
3. (500) DAYS OF SUMMER for Best Original Screenplay
4. Marion Cotillard in NINE
5. Julianne Moore in A SINGLE MAN
6. Sharlto Copley in DISTRICT 9
7. 2012 for Best Visual Effects
9. JULIE & JULIA for Best Adapted Screenplay
10. Christian McKay in ME & ORSON WELLES

1. Quentin Tarantino for Best Director INGLORIOUS BASTERDS
3. Christoph Waltz in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
4. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS for Best Original Screenplay
5. Meryl Streep in JULIE & JULIA
6. THE HURT LOCKER for Best Picture
7. DISTRICT 9 for Best Picture
8. Penelope Cruz in NINE
9. CORALINE for Best Animated Feature
10. Christopher Plummer in THE LAST STATION (didn’t see it, but he’s never been nominated)

1. Sharlto Copley in DISTRICT 9
2. Marion Cotillard in NINE
3. JULIE & JULIA for Best Picture
4. Christian McKay in ME & ORSON WELLES
5. JULIE & JULIA for Best Adapted Screenplay

1. WORLD’S GREATEST DAD for Best Original Screenplay
3. Robin Williams in WORLD’S GREATEST DAD
4. I LOVE YOU, MAN for Best Original Screenplay
5. Rosamund Pike in AN EDUCATION

Monday, February 1, 2010

My Oscar Ballot: Movie Year 2009

The 82nd Annual Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow at 5:38 a.m. Here are all the nominees I'm rooting for:

Of the nominees that appear to be "locks":
Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Best Actor: Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker
Best Actress: Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds
Best Original Screenplay: Inglourious Basterds
Best Director: Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
Best Animated Film: Up

Of the nominees that have a good chance:
Best Picture: Inglourious Basterds
Best Picture: Julie & Julia
Best Supporting Actor: Christian McKay in Me and Orson Welles
Best Supporting Actress: Marion Cotillard in Nine
Best Adapted Screenplay: Julie & Julia
Best Animated Film: Coraline

Of the "dark horse" variety:
Best Picture: District 9
Best Picture: Nine
Best Actor: Sharlto Copley in District 9
Best Actor: Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Rosamund Pike in An Education
Best Director: Pedro Almodovar for Broken Embraces
Best Original Screenplay: World's Greatest Dad

No chance, but how cool if:
Best Picture: Paranormal Activity
Best Actor: Robin Williams in World's Greatest Dad
Best Supporting Actor: Ed Begley, Jr. in Whatever Works
Best Original Screenplay: I Love You, Man

What Film Will Get the Most Oscar Nominations?

Tomorrow morning at 5:38 AM PST, the Oscar nominations will be announced. It's time for the annual parlor game: What is your guess for the film that will get the most nominations? Last year it was THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (garnering 13 nominations).

Here are the possible choices for this year:

AVATAR: A picture/director nominee lock, plus writing, song & score and ALL of the technical stuff; however, no costume, acting, or make-up prevent it from matching BENJAMIN BUTTON's nominations haul.

THE HURT LOCKER: Will easily nab Picture/Director/Best Actor, plus writing and all the technical stuff but not art direction, costume, music, or visual effects.

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, INVICTUS & PRECIOUS: Will each get a bunch of the "big" nominations, but will falter in the technical areas.

UP IN THE AIR: Also will get a number of the top noms, but will get little of the others, outside of music and editing. Its three likely acting noms, however make it a considerable contender.

JULIE & JULIA: Dark horse for a possible slew of noms, it will not likely get director, and certainly no techy stuff.

My pick is AVATAR, with THE HURT LOCKER and UP IN THE AIR in a tight battle for second place.