Monday, February 26, 2007

Academy Awards Recap

First, let me say that in my annual Oscar pool, 23 people participated and someone who took the genius approach of providing only the name Chris took home top honors by correctly predicting 15 of the 24 categories. Hmmm...Chris....not a very popular name...and certainly not a name that could be used for a boy or a girl. In any case, congrats to you on your victory whoever you may be.

I will say that Poison Scooter made a strong showing with a Joolie coming in a close second with 14 right and me rounding out the top 3 with a weaker than usual showing of 13. I'll try to justify my off year in a moment, but first let's review the show.

Ellen Degeneres: Was it just me or did some of her jokes seem to fall flat on the crowd? I've always liked her, even before she came out as a lesbian and a closet dancer, but her style is very different and I'm not certain that it worked completely.

Melting Pot: As Ellen pointed out in her opening monologue, this year's field of nominees was the most diverse in the history of the presentation. Two African American men nominated for Best Actor, many tech awards recognizing the three strong films by the Mexican Amigos (Babel, Children of Men and Pan's Labyrinth) and Penelope Cruz getting a nod for Best Actress in a Spanish speaking film. The only downside was that as a result of this melting pot kind of night, it made for shitty television. 75% of the acceptance speeches were incoherent, thick accents and in the case of Ennio Morricone's honorary trophy, the man spoke Italian and we had to have Clint Eastwood awkwardly translate. Yikes.

Predictable: Chris Connelly kept talking about surprises on his back stage camera, but come on know...Whitaker, Mirren and Hudson were guaranteed winners before the night even started. And you think someone had a hunch about Director and Best Picture? Spielberg, Coppola and Lucas giving out the Best Director trophy and joking about winning one right before they read Marty's name off the card. Jack Nicholson presenting with Diane Keaton giving out the trophy for his movie The Departed. Lame. I will agree with Connelly on two surprises, Melissa Etheridge taking down powerhouse Randy Newman (19 nominations) and three tunes from Dreamgirls in the Best Song category. And how the hell does Pan's Labyrinth lose Best Foreign Film to a German copycat of The Conversation? You can't say Pan's had the best Art Direction, Make Up and Art Direction in all of film and then let it lose out to The Lives of Others. You just can't.

Acting? Awards: As far as the acting awards went this year, I was 4-4 on my predictions. Why then do I feel completely disappointed? Well, I hate awards going to people who are impersonating a real person (Idi and the Queen), is that really acting? And Jennifer Hudson's win is just stupid, although Supporting awards sometimes are this silly. (See Marisa Tomei or Cuba Gooding, Jr. as examples)The only person I was happy to see win was Alan Arkin and that makes me sad.

Politics: Al Gore did take home his prize for putting out the best Documentary this year, and in the course of the show he and Leo Decaprio made some fuss about how the Oscars finally went green. (It's 2007 for christsake!! What took so long???) And in the course of his two times on stage, the vibe in the room just got odd. I don't think people really want him to run for office again, but they seem to be forced into faining interest for the sake of television.

No Frontrunner: What killed my predictions this year was that there was no real frontrunner film out there. As mentioned, the top acting prizes, director and you could even say the screenwriting awards were slam dunks and did well to reward five different films across 7 categories. Couple that with a strong sense that Pan's Labyrinth would lead the field with technical awards (eventually taking home 3) and you pretty much leave the Best Picture race wide open and the only really interesting award this year. All of the films nominated won at least one trophy, but none won more than three until The Departed took home the prize and collected it's leader of the pack fourth award of the night. I can't recall the last time the film that won the most awards only took home 4 statues?

Is it over yet?: The final nail in the coffin for me, after I live with the fact that I don't care for many of the acting choices, hate Marty Scorcese getting a trophy because of a great script and incredible acting and seeing Children of Men shut out; was that this show would never end. Maybe it's because I had to get up for work at 6 AM, but I can't recall a show going on as long as this one in the last 20 years. Maybe they should trim things up by dropping those little movies by Michael Mann and Nancy Myers; but even then you are gaining maybe 8 minutes. I have no idea where the time went, why did this show seem to last forever?

And so, the award season in film is officially over. In all fairness, I still have a few films to see before I make my final opinions about what I think were the best performances of the past year. I haven't seen The Queen, The Last King of Scotland or Dreamgirls...and a few others like Little Children and Notes on a Scandal. But, I think my top ten films of 2006 look a little like this:

1. Children of Men
2. Pan's Labyrinth
3. Half Nelson
4. Babel
5. Little Miss Sunshine
6. Borat
7. The Departed
8. United 93
9. The Devil Wears Prada
10. An Inconvenient Truth

...and all were at least nominated this year.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Spirit Awards

Film Independent's Spirit Awards were doled out last night and the two big stories were that Little Miss Sunshine took home pretty much all the trophies (Best Feature, Best First Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor) except for the one-two punch of Best Actor and Best Actress which went to the two leads in Half Nelson, Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps.

For me, the joy of watching the Spirit Awards is three fold. Sarah Silverman hosted last year and returned this year, and that woman is just super funny in small doses. Her opening filmed segment and monologue were pure gold.

Secondly, the musical tributes to the Best Feature nominees throughout the show are hysterical most of the time.

And finally, the films rewarded are always the best stuff out there. Little Miss and Half Nelson were both incredible and made outside of the studio system. All the actors at this show are relaxed and come across as real and as artists, something you loss with all the pomp and circumstance at let's say the Golden Globes or Oscars.

AMC replayed last night's live telecast this morning at 9 AM, and another opportunity to watch them is on IFC Wed, Feb. 28 at 06:30 PM EST. Set your DVR and give them a look see.


Alejandro González Iñárritu's Babel is a multicultural, interlocking story involing a Japanese business man and his teenage deaf-mute daughter, a wealthy American couple visiting Morocco and the Mexican immigrant nanny left behind in the States to care for their two small children. While Iñárritu plays with time structure, jumping through time within a 5 day period, you begin to anticipate what is going to happen, expecting it while not completely sure you know exactly how things will unfold.

The basic theme of the movie is loss, much like Iñárritu and writer Guillermo Arriaga's first collaboration 21 Grams a few years back. In their recent film, the loss of a child between Brad Pitt's Richard and his wife Susan (Cate Blanchett) send the course of events in motion as they try to reconnect on a vacation in Morocco and leave their living two kids in the care of their nanny who travels with them back into Mexico for the wedding of her adult son. A freak accident with a gun given as a gift to a Moroccan hunting guide by a visiting Japanese business man disrupts the lives of Richard and Susan and shifts the focus over to the sexually blossoming and depressed daughter of the business man, played with intensity and grace by Rinko Kikuchi.

Both Adriana Barraza as Amelia (the nanny) and Rinko Kikuchi are up for Best Supporting Actress at tonight's Oscar and it's a shame that the Jennifer Hudson express is pretty unstoppable this year. Barraza brings a voice to an illegal in this country, something that we have a tendancy to avoid thinking about as a nation. And Kikuchi is raw and fearless as a deaf mute that wants so depserately to be normal enough to be attractive to boys and wishes she could just tell someone to take her sexually. The awkward situations that Kikuchi's Chieko gets herself into allow the actress to put forth the most demanding performance in the film and from a relative unknown, well it's just a wow type of job.

This film completes the much triumphed trio of strong films from Mexican filmmakers in the past year. And I'll have to say when I'm putting together my own top ten of 2006, something I honestly need to do, Babel is up there in the top five with both Pan's Labyrinth (del Torro) and the much under rewarded Children of Men (Cuarón).

Friday, February 23, 2007

Oscar Fun

Sunday night the Academy Awards take place. I like predicting the winners. It's a long standing tradition. If you are interested in going head to head with me, then by all means join in the fun.

Enter your picks!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Departed

Dread. That was my feeling about this remake of Infernal Affairs that did well in the theater and is generating a lot of buzz for Martin Scorcese to take home a Best Director Oscar (finally.) Personally, I don't care for Scorcese's work. Perhaps one reason I avoided seeing this film in the theater. Secondly, as a fan of the original, I was disappointed that Marty was going to fuck with a really good movie and perhaps tarnish it.

Well, let me say that I was completely wrong. And for that, I'm sorry.

Yikes. For a movie that is 2 1/2 hours, it flies by. The story might even be better in this re-telling than the original, and the ending is literally breath taking. Stellar performances across the board, even by guys not getting much press like Alec Baldwin and Ray Winestone. I would like to point out that Marty shouldn't win Best Director on Sunday just because of that cheesy as hell final shot in the film, but something tells me he's going to finally score a bald guy despite my feelings.

Not only did I enjoy the movie, but now I'm kind of pissed that Matt Damon isn't up for an Oscar. In fact, I would have probably nominated Leo, Jack, Mark and Matt.

Love Is a Mix Tape

Rolling Stone columnist Rob Sheffield's book Love is a Mix Tape will appeal to the cassette tape generation, those of us who communicated to each other via the perfect mix. Sheffield does a great job of capturing a generation of music fans, although he's a little to into Pavement when I was more of a Sebadoh guy, and explores the process of making and listening to a mix tape in this quick read. However, let me caution you that this book isn't a throwaway look at a bygone musical phenomenon. Nope, it's a wonderful love story, or rather a dedication to Sheffield's deceased wife Renee who died suddenly at the age of 31.

Rob and Renee are the typical indie rock couple from my memories of college. (For those who knew me then, I picture a Tim Murray and Theresa Madden type of union.) Renee is a wild child, Rob is more of a music nerd and they both DJ at a local Charlottesville college station. In great nostalgic detail, Sheffield recounts who they met, fell in love and does it all cleverly through chapters dedicated to various mix tapes he is revisiting that his dead wife made him. The passion behind Sheffield's writing about not only his love of music, but his grief over becoming a widow at a young age is very touching. I would suggest this book to you specifically if you ever had a love that you shared mix tapes with or if you were a music fan between 1981-1995. A sweet ode to music, a dead artform and a woman who sounds like an amazing person.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Half Nelson

Looks like Ryan Gosling's performance in this little indie film is legit. Gosling is a dark horse Oscar candidate this year for playing a crack addicted middle school History teacher and does a remarkable job of making his character incredibly likable with little more than a sideways smile or a tossle of his hair.

Gosling's Teach is an addict. We never know exactly how that happened, short of seeing glimpses of his folks towards the end of the film in full on drunk mode. Genetics at work? Depression over losing the love of his life? The strange thing about his addiction is that he never wavers from wanting to teach his students about history. All nighters take their toll on Teach, but he never misses a day of work.

The crux of the film is when a free basing Gosling is caught in the act by one of his students, the very capable Shareeka Epps, and is forced to formulate an odd friendship with her to avoid the inevitable, losing his right to teach due to his habit. Both student and teacher look out for each other, making sure that each is making the right choice.

What I found refreshing about this movie, aside from the performances, was the utter lack of judgment towards these characters. No one in the film is perfect, they all wear their flaws on their sleeve and you cannot help but respect them for that. Gosling as a crackhead seems like a better teacher than 90% of the teachers I had as a kid. Even the drug dealer's appear to be men just trying to make ends meet, which is more the reality than the way television and media portray the lifestyle.

This is for me, the male version of Sherrybaby. Stunning performance, gritty story and a simplistic approach to filmmaking. You don't need car crashes or big name stars to make a move touch you.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno)

My entire life I've loathed kid's movies. Not because I hate children, but rather as a child I was bored with their predictibility and niceness. I guess over time I just learned to gravitate towards darker fare as I hit elementary school. Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Return to OZ, these were the kinds of kid's movies I enjoyed. Not Disney crap like Flubber or Herbie Goes Bananas. I wanted the dark stuff.

Guillermo Del Toro has perhaps accomplished something rare and divine by making a kid's movie for adults with his universally acclaimed Pan's Labyrinth. This Spanish language film devotes equal time to both fascist Spain during war time and a mythical underworld where Ofelia, our child protaginist, spends her daydreaming time to escape from her brutal stepfather and the war going on around her.

The visuals are stunning, the creatures and fairies are at once scary but oddly endearing. Sergi Lopez, who was fantastic in Dirty, Pretty Things, is mesmerizing and terrifying as the brutal and authoritative Captian. But the real feather in the cap on this one is the storytelling. Wow. A perfect blend of history and fantasy, equal parts Diary of Anne Frank, Alice in Wonderland and the Princess Bride smothered in muted tones and espanol. Fantastic film.

American Idol

A month of build up is now behind us and America, you have your Top 24. Simon, Paula and Randy made some curious selections this year.

Check out the full contestant roster here.

My underdog pick of the year is mop top, Jack Osbourne doppleganger Chris Sligh. Chris just so happens to be from South Carolina, so should he pull of an unlikely victory like Taylor Hicks we would have another Idol from the South.

On the whole I'm not impressed with the girls at all. Gina Glocksen has that Kelly Clarkson charm, but I'm not sure she does much better than Top 5. The real talent appears to be on the male side of things, Sanjaya Malakar and Paul Kim are nice additions to the usual black and white world of idol, and I like them both.

Sundance Head, this year's Chicken Little or Scott Savol?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

While you were all out with your valentine, I was painting a piggy bank and posting to my design blog, je ne sais quois.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bonnaroo 2007

The lineup has been announced, and I can almost hear Joolie declaring "we're going!" which will no doubt happen tomorrow morning. Tragically, June 14-17 is the weekend before my long awaited family escapade to Disney and I will no doubt have to take a pass. Although, David Cross, Dave Attell and Lewis Black all on the same stage really gets me juiced. Musically speaking, I'm seeing a bunch of bands I wouldn't mind seeing...but perhaps not bad enough to put up with 3 nights of camping. Shit, I loathe camping. Let's see, Tennessee isn't too far from Orlando...maybe...

Full Line Up (Thus Far)

The Police
Widespread Panic
The White Stripes
Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
The Flaming Lips
Manu Chao
The String Cheese Incident
Franz Ferdinand
Bob Weir & Ratdog
Damien Rice
Gov’t Mule
Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers
The Decemberists
Kings of Leon
Michael Franti & Spearhead
Regina Spektor
The Black Keys
DJ Shadow
Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
Keller Williams (WMD’s)
Sasha & John Digweed
Old Crow Medicine Show
The Hold Steady
North Mississippi Allstars
Fountains Of Wayne
Hot Tuna
Hot Chip
Lily Allen
John Butler Trio
Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys
Aesop Rock
The Richard Thompson Band
Dierks Bentley
Xavier Rudd
Gogol Bordelo
Junior Brown
T-Bone Burnett
Mavis Staples
Cold War Kids
Dr. Dog
Paolo Nutini
Brazilian Girls
RX Bandits
The Nightwatchman
The Slip
Girl Talk
Railroad Earth
Martha Wainwright
Rodrigo y Gabriela
Tea Leaf Green
Sam Roberts Band
Elvis Perkins in Dearland
Charlie Louvin
Sonya Kitchell
Mute Math
Apollo Sunshine
Uncle Earl
James Blood Ulmer
The National
The Little Ones
Ryan Shaw

Lewis Black
David Cross
Dave Attell

Jackass Nuggets

Bam Magera's new show is almost as annoying as his bride's accent.

Entertainment Weekly reports that Johnny Knoxville is separating from his wife of 11 years which begs me to ask the question. Knoxville is married?

When are they going to box Jackass and Jackass Number 2 into one cheaply priced set? Damn already.

Top 100 Love Songs

In honor of Valentine's Day, the NY Daily News put together a list of the top 100 love songs of all time. Although I get the impression that not one song has etched itself into the fabric since 1989 based on this list, the classics of the 50's and 60's are where you will find the simple, yet powerful stuff and so I'm cool with it on the whole. But the ranking is all wrong to me. I highlighted my top ten on this list because I can.

1. "My Girl" The Temptations
2. "I'll Be There" The Jackson 5
3. "Wonderful Tonight" Eric Clapton
4. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" Stevie Wonder
5. "You Are So Beautiful" Joe Cocker
6. "In My Life" The Beatles
7. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" Roberta Flack
8. "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" Elvis Presley
9. "Michelle" The Beatles
10. "I Can't Stop Loving You" Ray Charles
11. "Best of My Love" The Emotions
12. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" Simon & Garfunkel
13. "All I Have to Do Is Dream" The Everly Brothers
14. "You've Got a Friend" Carole King
15. "Killing Me Softly With His Song" Roberta Flack
16. "To Sir With Love" Lulu
17. "Sherry" The Four Seasons
18. "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" Queen
19. "Unchained Melody" The Righteous Brothers
20. "Save the Last Dance for Me" The Drifters
21. "Stay" Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs
22. "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" Carole King
23. "Up on the Roof" The Drifters
24. "He's So Fine" The Chiffons
25. "I Will Follow Him" Little Peggy March
26. "Chapel of Love" The Dixie Cups
27. "My Guy" Mary Wells
28. "Happy Together" The Turtles"
29. "Back in My Arms Again" The Supremes
30. "I Got You Babe" Sonny and Cher
31. "My Love" Petula Clark
32. "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration" The Righteous Brothers
33. "I Will Always Love You" Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston
34. "When a Man Loves a Woman" Percy Sledge
35. "Reach Out I'll Be There" The Four Tops
36. "Strangers in the Night" Frank Sinatra
37. "Baby Love" The Supremes
38. "This Guy's in Love With You" Herb Alpert
39. "Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet" Henry Mancini
40. "Higher Love" Steve Winwood
41. "Sugar Sugar" The Archies
42. "The Long and Winding Road" The Beatles
43. "Close to You" The Carpenters
44. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" Diana Ross
45. "Let's Stay Together" Al Green
46. "Heart of Gold" Neil Young
47. "Here, There and Everywhere" The Beatles
48. "Lean on Me" Bill Withers
49. "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" Stevie Wonder
50. "Let's Get It On" Marvin Gaye
51. "Midnight Train to Georgia" Gladys Knight
52. "The Way We Were" Barbra Streisand
53. "Love's Theme" The Love Unlimited Orchestra
54. "Feel Like Makin' Love" Roberta Flack
55. "Can't Get Enough of Your Love Babe" Barry White
56. "Then Came You" Dionne Warwick and the Spinners
57. "Lovin' You" Minnie Ripperton
58. "Shining Star" Earth Wind & Fire
59. "You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)" Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr.
60. "How Deep Is Your Love" The Bee Gees
61. "You're the One That I Want" John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John
62. "Love You Inside Out" Bee Gees
63. "Come On Eileen" Dexys Midnight Runners
64. "Time After Time" Cyndi Lauper
65. "Crazy for You" Madonna
66. "Take on Me" a-ha
67. "Moon River" Henry Mancini
68. "With or Without You" U2
69. "Vision of Love" Mariah Carey
70. "Kiss From a Rose" Seal
71. "Girl" The Beatles
72. "Chelsea Morning" Joni Mitchell
73. "P.S. I Love You" The Beatles
74. "Just Like a Woman" Bob Dylan
75. "Do You Believe in Magic?" The Lovin' Spoonful
76. "Still in Love With You" Al Green
77. "Somewhere" Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein
78. "On the Street Where You Live" From "My Fair Lady"
79. "Saving All My Love for You" Whitney Houston
80. "Always on My Mind" Willie Nelson
81. "Crazy" Patsy Cline
82. "Sexual Healing" Marvin Gaye
83. "Do You Want to Dance?" Bette Midler
84. "Fever" Peggy Lee
85. "Last Dance" Donna Summer
86. "Just the Way You Are" Billy Joel
87. "Songbird" Fleetwood Mac
88. "You Make Loving Fun" Fleetwood Mac
89. "At Last" Etta James
90. "All I Want" Joni Mitchell
91. "Natural Woman" Aretha Franklin
92. "A Man and a Woman" Anita Kerr Singers
93. "Someone to Watch Over Me" Linda Ronstadt
94. "Some Enchanted Evening" From "South Pacific"
95. "Do You Love Me?" From "Fiddler on the Roof"
96. "Alison" Elvis Costello
97. "How Can I Tell You" Cat Stevens
98. "Have I Told You Lately" Van Morrison
99. "When I Fall In Love" Nat King Cole
100. "Oh Girl" The Chi-Lites

Monday, February 12, 2007


The Silversun Pickups made me drift off of the road at least twice today. I would get excited about a song and completely forget that I was driving a car. Their sonorous sounds and muffled mouths will entrace you if you don't watch out. Carnavas, the band's first full length album, was released in the summer of 2006 and they have toured with one of my favorites, Wolfmother as well as the lovable and aerobic OK GO.

SSPU remind me of a disbanded troupe called The Anniversary, who played moog-heavy pop rock that could melt you in an instant. It is music like this that makes me think of crisp autumn days, a loved one reaching for your hand, a smile from a stranger. Less and less music does that these days and when a band like SSPU comes around it's best to get the most that you can out of it before it fades away like The Anniversary did.

My favorite tracks on Carnavas are "Lazy Eye", "Little Lover's So Polite" and "Melatonin"

Listen if you like: My Bloody Valentine, Jupiter-era Cave In and Sunny Day Real Estate

Jesus Camp

This Oscar nominated documentary will probably not be strong enough to unseed Al Gore's Global Warming picture as the odds on favorite this year, but I would suggest renting it and giving it a looksee.

The peek you get into the brainwashing of children in the Evangelical religious sect is both disturbing and educational. Pastor Ted, the guy who in recent months was exposed as a homosexual, meth doing liar and hypocrite, got denounced and recently announced that he was now 100% heterosexual, even makes a small, telling appearance in this and it's probably the funniest part of the whole thing.

Some scary information I gleaned from this includes the tidbit that if Evanglicals (born again Christians like George W. Bush) choose to vote in any election, they can essentially pick the winner. And here's another one, 75% of all home schooled children are Evangelicals and they are all being taught that science is a fraud and creationism is fact. Yikes.

This is a camp like none that I've ever seen. Children are focred to repent things like Harry Potter and smash mugs with words written on them all in the name of the Lord Almighty. And this is before you get to set eyes on a very gentle looking 8 year old speak in tongues and cry relentlessly. Perhaps the scariest movie I've seen in the last year.

The Grammys

Eh, does anyone really care about these awards? Instead of focusing on the awards given to Mary J. Blige, Ludacris and Red Hot Chili Peppers, all multiple nominees and winners last night, let's zero in on the lesser buzzed about winners. That's where I feel safe and somewhat normal...

Oh, yeah before I get to that, let me say that I'm kind of happy the Dixie Chicks won 5 trophies. Rick Rubin clearly pulled something cool out of them this year, and I was thrilled to see Dan Wilson from Semisonic accept a songwriting trophy with the gals. I'm a closet Dixie Chicks fan. Don't tell anyone.

Technical Awards that I found cool:

Engineered Album, Non-Classical: "At War With the Mystics," the Flaming Lips and Dave Fridmann, engineers (The Flaming Lips).

Remixed Recording, Non-Classical: "Talk (Thin White Duke Mix)," Jacques Lu Cont, remixer (Coldplay).

Sorry Weird Al:
Best Comedy Album: "The Carnegie Hall Performance," Lewis Black.

We Got Married In A Fever:
Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media: "Walk the Line," Joaquin Phoenix and Various Artists.

Um, shocker?
Short Form Music Video: "Here It Goes Again," OK Go.

Not my favorite track, but I'll take it:
Best Male R&B Vocal Performance: "Heaven," John Legend.

How fun?
Best Hard Rock Performance: "Woman," Wolfmother.

Best Metal Performance: "Eyes of the Insane," Slayer.

And finally, if I have to choose mainstream artists that I admire and that don't annoy me 100% of the time...I can live with both of these.

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance: "Ain't No Other Man," Christina Aguilera.

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance: "Waiting on the World to Change," John Mayer.

Mayer of course is a Grammy favorites, but I'm torn on him as a person right now. Dating Jessica Simpson? That's messed up. But his forray into stand up comedy shows bravery and a sense of humor. Why does he look like crap in every picture I see of him though?

And Xtina, well the girl can sing. And that tune is catchy as hell.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Is Howard K. Stern the New O.J. Simpson?

There is no doubt in my mind that Howard K. Stern killed both Anna Nicole Smith and her son. The guy is creepy. Seriously. I've always thought he was just around to supply Anna with medications so that she never had a clue what was going on.


This movie is a downer with a capital D. Not that I am suggesting it isn't good, because it is quite a stand out performance by Maggie Gyllenhal, but prepare yourself for some pretty horrific stuff.

The basic plot outline pretty much gives you an idea of what to expect. Sherry is released from prison and attmepts to get back into her young daughter's life, stay away from herion and transition back into society. And let's just say, the path isn't an easy one. Some of the scenes are pretty shocking, especially considering Maggie's resume up until now.

Gritty, sad and tragic.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Silly Rodriguez.

Seriously, Michelle? Seriously? I definitely would have chosen pants to cover the ol' police issued "accessory"...

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

What a strange and oddly moving film this turned out to be. First of all, it was made in Bucharest, not exactly the Mecca of foreign cinema and the cinematography portrays every location as if it reeks of piss. Gritty. The realism doesn't stop with the visuals. No, we are dragged into the health care system of this dark, dank city in real time as we slowly watch Mr. Lazarescu get bounced from hospital to hospital as he slowly suffers from the effects of a hematoma in his head and liver problems caused by alcoholism.

The film's running time is 2 and 1/2 hours, but feels like 7 hours. And that normally would rub me the wrong way, but here was rather engrossing. Scenes unfolded so horribly slow that you can helped but be riveted and forced to digest what is happening. The doctors are either incompetent, disinterested or just plain assholes. In fact, even Mr. Lazarescu is a bit of a prick. Everyone is kind of unsavory come to think of it. But again, this works to make this film feel like it's a documentary rather than actors working from a script. Truly fascinating.

I'm probably not doing this film justice with this review, but if you read just the highlights here on you will see that it was revered as one of the best films of 2006. I'm not certain that I would give it that kind of status, but it does make me think about what we spend our money on making here in the US. Epic Movie?

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is a simple movie that is made for barely nothing in a country that hardly matters to America. It's a scathing indictment on a collapsing health care system doesn't provide many belly laughs but stings us with it's very dark humor, and in my opinion is what filmmakers should be striving to make here in the US. Furthermore, movies like this need to be seen by the public. Quit paying $35 on a Friday night to see an unnecessary remake of The Hitcher.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Knocked Up

From the team that brought you The 40 Year Old Virgin...



This Film Is Not Yet Rated

Having studied film during the rise of the dreaded NC-17 rating, I was well aware that receiving this rating from the Motion Picture Association of America rating board is the kiss of death for a film. Theater chains are hesitant to carry a film with this rating due to low profitability, larger DVD and Video chains like Blockbuster don't stock NC-17 on the basis of morality and generally the public can be off put by the rating assuming it's going to be hard core porn. Afterall, NC-17 did replace the X rating back in the late 80's.

Kirby Dick having viewed numerous films over the years, much like me, came to the only conclusion one can make about not only the NC-17 rating but ratings in general. They make no sense. Sharon Stone can show her complete vagina in Basic Instinct and it's an R rating. Maria Bello shows a patch of pubic hair in The Cooler and it's NC-17 territory. Huh? Well, everyone kind of knows that the modern studio system probably plays a part. Basic Instinct is backed by one of the majors and The Cooler was an independent film. Maybe the studios have more access to the ratings board? That's a good start anyway...

And so Kirby decided to make a documentary about the ratings board of the MPAA.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated attacks not only the inconsistencies in the ratings bestowed by the board, interviews with impacted directors like Kevin Smith, John Waters and Atom Egoyan abound, but goes after the fact that the board members are anonymous and shrouded in secrecy. All we, the public, are told about these 10 people who control who can see what film is that they are all parents of children under the age of 18, a criteria put in place back in the late 60's when Washington put Jack Valenti in place to monitor and rate films for public consumption as head of the MPAA.

Dick cleverly hires a private investigator to track down the identities of the board members and films the progress over a period of a month. In the end we learn that the board is full of people whose children are grown and have been rating movies well beyond the 3-5 term that is outlined in the MPAA propaganda. But even more humorous than using a lesbian PI to hunt down everyday citizens is Dick's decision to reveal them in this documentary and submit this very film for a rating through the board he exposes. Clearly, he is slapped with an NC-17 rating.

Dick does a wonderful job of pointing out the stupidity of the process a filmmaker has to go through without boring the crap out of everyone. The film is funny, but you have to wonder what the hell are we doing with this stupid system in place in 2007?

Well, the good news I suppose is that I just read this article on Yahoo and it looks like some changes are under foot thanks in no small part to the work of Kirby Dick.

Highlights include:

Board members must now step down after their children are grown so their decisions reflect the concern of current parents of young children.

Most CARA members will continue to be anonymous, but the association will describe the board's demographic makeup on its web site.

There will be a formal training program for rating board members so they understand their charge as board members.

The MPAA also will shed some light on how the board decides which rating a film receives on the MPAA web site, along with information about the appeals process filmmakers must pursue if they disagree with a rating.

As a proud viewer of NC-17 films, I think that this will help some artists get their movies more viewings by mainstream America. If a filmmaker knows what to cut to get an R, they are given an opportunity to play ball in this messed up system. It's not perfect, but it's at least something. My one argument would be the byproduct of allowing board members with grown children on the board the last 10 years is that perhaps movies have been getting softer ratings since the raters are out of tune with the youth of America and that making the board stick to a membership of parents with school age children might make the board actually a little stricter. I guess time will tell.

The good news is that it's always cool to see the power of an idea. Kirby Dick had such an idea and it's creating change. And seeing this film in that light makes it much more enjoyable. Imagine if watching Fahrenheit 9/11 would have led to the end of this silly war we are in?