Monday, February 28, 2011

Friendly Persuasion

I can't help but feel this tiny pang of disappointment in the wake of last night's Oscar ceremony, as my favorite movies of the year went home empty handed and the two major pictures "The Social Network" and "The King's Speech" proceeded to soak up nearly every award available. Every one of my predictions for the awards came true- except, oddly enough, my Best Picture pick. Although I knew that Speech was the front-runner from the get-go, I figured that the Academy would ultimately side with the jazzy modern flick rather than the archetypal Oscar bait, as it has appeared to be going younger for the past two consecutive years with its "The Hurt Locker" and "Slumdog Millionaire" picks...but again, I was just putting too much faith in the organization. Academy, I'm really starting to doubt your wisdom. Not to say that Speech wasn't any good though- it certainly deserves some accolades. Just maybe not all the accolades.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway did a tremendous job hosting the ceremony. I thought it was a particularly good one, definitely aimed at the younger demographic this year. This is their charmingly funny opening movie montage:

As for the BPC, I know that the show must go on. I have to wait another year before the Oscars come around again (which is pretty that grey-cloud feeling a little kid gets the day after Christmas), so I should really get cracking on those movies again before the next time they light up that Kodak theater. I jumped back into it tonight, though tired and strapped down with homework, by conquering A Man For All Seasons (1966).
Usually these old, bare historical pictures tug at my eyelids, but not this one. I found Seasons to be a rich, brilliantly acted, even suspenseful tale to remind us of the good old days of Hollywood. It was interesting to watch a regal Best Picture winner so soon after rolling my eyes at this year's British royalty victor...perhaps it's to these simpler cinematic times that the Academy was hearkening back when it selected Speech.
Anyway, I quite enjoyed this film (I imagined myself saying that sentence in a British accent in my head). Sir Thomas More astonishes us with his moral fortitude and unwavering piety, played to perfection by Paul Scofield, who undeniably deserves the Best Actor Oscar he received for this work. I also found Robert Shaw's bombastic King Henry VIII to be a real scene-stealer and I wonder why he lost out on the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in this year (though I haven't yet seen any of the other nominees' performances, so I guess I really can't judge).

A quick tally of my list tonight told me that, to date, I've watched 68 of the films on my long queue, leaving 417 movies to be watched in the 305 remaining days of the year. Much of that time must be taken out, too, considering that in the fall I will be headed to college and therefore unable to sit for hours on end and watch any movie I want. Thus, it appears that I need to step up my game pretty intensely if I want to finish up by the end of the year. Or perhaps I can use some friendly persuasion on my parents so they will allow me to drop out of school and take up movie-watching as my fulltime occupation. I guess we'll see what happens...

Saturday, February 26, 2011


So I had typed out a long, articulate page predicting each category of tomorrow's Academy Awards...and then my computer shuts down the internet. I'm about to fall asleep after a long day of trekking all over DC, so though I'm bursting with excitement for tomorrow's festivities and though I expect to be fully spellbound by the results, I'm going to make these predictions quick.
Keep in mind that this year is a tight race and no category is completely dominated, so these are just speculations.

Best Supporting Actor
Mark Ruffalo, "The Kids Are All Right"
John Hawkes, "Winter's Bone"
Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
Geoffrey Rush, "The King's Speech"
Jeremy Renner, "The Town"
Ok, so I don't have too much credibility here because I have yet to see some of these performances. Still, I'm going to put my money on Christian Bale. The buzz surrounding his work here is too loud to ignore, and you have to admit that his physical transformation for the role was pretty hard core.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, "The Fighter"
Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"
Jacki Weaver, "Animal Kingdom"
Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"
Helena Bonham Carter, "The King's Speech"
Bonham Carter was pretty good in her quiet turn as the queen and Steinfeld is young, new, and prime for receiving an award, but I'm going to go with Melissa Leo, again choosing to believe the rumors and jump on the bandwagon without havin seen the performance. She's a solid bet though, especially considering that many contend that she was snubbed for her work in "Frozen River", so this could be the Academy's chance to make amends.

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Javier Bardem, "Biutiful"
Jesse Eisenburg, "The Social Network"
Collin Firth, "The King's Speech"
James Franco, "127 Hours"
Jeff Bridges, "True Grit"
This one is hard because I'm basically in love with James Franco and was brought to tears by his mind-blowing performance, but I still know that the Oscars aren't always about what's technically better. Collin Firth's work was also very moving...few could pull off a loveable stutter as effortlessly as this guy, so he's my pick. The rest of the bunch fall shamefully short of Franco and Firth; the winner is sure to be either one of them.

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"
Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Michelle Williams, "Blue Valentine"
Jennifer Lawerence, "Winter's Bone"
Nicole Kidman, "Rabbit Hole"
Natalie Portman. I'd be pretty shocked if anyone else took the cake.

Best Director
Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech"
David Fincher, "The Social Network"
David O. Russel, "The Fighter"
Darren Aronofsky, "Black Swan"
Joel and Ethan Coen, "True Grit"
This category is tough to call because everyone did a good job. Again, I find my preference (here, Aronofsky) clashing with who I think will win (here, Tom Hooper). I fully expect King's Speech to sweep and I think that Hooper's easy style will help him be part of the broom. However, it is highly likely that David Fincher could jump in here and win with his groundbreaking, talked-about work.

Best Animated Feature
"How To Train Your Dragon"
"The Illusionist"
"Toy Story 3"
I'm almost positive that Toy Story 3 will be the victor here. The poignant close to the franchise totally deserves to be rewarded.

Best Editing
"Black Swan"
"The Fighter"
"127 Hours"
"The Social Network"
"The King's Speech"
The edgy editing style of The Social Network is my pick to nab the award in this category, although "The King's Speech" will surely be lurking in the shadows...this will be another super-close section where Network and Speech will duke it out.

Best Original Screenplay
"The King's Speech"
"Another Year"
"The Fighter"
"The Kid's Are All Right"
The King's Speech. It's all part of its sweep.

Best Adapted Screenplay
"127 Hours"
"The Social Network"
"True Grit"
"Toy Story 3"
"Winter's Bone"
Is this really a question? I feel as though no other movie stands a chance when The Social Network or Speech stand in its way.

Best Picture
We know the nominees. We know the frontrunners. We know my favorite (127 Hours, doomed to stay a nominee forever). Now all that's left is to pick a winner, and my guess is The Social Network. It's a defining film that many enjoyed(including myself, though I wasn't blown away) and I think it's a serious contender. This category, the most important one there is, will boil down to the final round of Network vs Speech.

Those are the only categories I really care about. Expect to see "Inception" grab the technical awards like visual effects (barring an "Alice in Wonderland" upset) and an epic showdown between a classic and a new wave; the uplifting and the bloodless; Speech and Network. Who's excited?? I am!!!!

Friday, February 25, 2011


It's not too often that a movie can come out of nowhere and surprise me, but The Kids Are All Right did just that. Last time I dismissed it as a second-rate story only nominated for its topical content, and expressed little interest in seeing it. However, after reluctantly agreeing to watch it with some friends on Wednesday night, I realized that I needed to say sayonara to my previous prediction of the film.
A family helmed by a faltering lesbian couple endures a shock when their sperm donor suddenly enters their life...and I loved every turbulent minute of their saga. The family drama takes on a new form in this raunchy, touching tale, owing some of its potency to the stirring performances given by Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and most especially, Annette Benning. Despite their deft efforts, the film's real power lies behind the daring storyline. When a comedy can force you to examine everything you thought you knew about love and family relationships, you know you've struck gold. The homosexual dynamic really makes for an endearing movie.

While Kids really grabbed my attention, Disraeli (1930) put me right to sleep again. An ancient biopic in grainy black and white, the film blandly tells the story of British prime miniter Benjamin Disraeli's acquisition of the Suez Canal...sounds like exciting stuff, right?? Wrong. I felt like I was in history class. Now I'm noy trying to bash a respected classic here or anything...but this one is the equivalent of an Ambien.

Just two more days are left until the Academy Awards...I literally cannot wait any longer. It's going to be a fantastic ceremony and an intense night...for those of us that care too much!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Right Stuff

It's true...I lost nearly a week of movies, and I have no idea how I'm going to make it up. Our school has this ill-placed week-long break stuck in the middle of February, and my family used the first part of it to go skiing in Breckenridge. I learned two things: that I'm not destined to be a skiier, and that next time I should pack a couple DVDs to save myself from late night cable. My whole body is sore from countless awkward falls into the powder, and I really can't stand to see one more episode of a poorly written cookie cutter crime drama.
Anyway, the point is that I lost a lot of time and I'm just about to lose some more. Tomorrow I leave for North Carolina, and Friday, I jet off to Washington DC and don't return home until Sunday. How am I going to recover all these days of missed movies? I guess I'll have to double up this summer...

Sunday, February 27th is just four short days away...and I'm almost counting down the seconds. It's the biggest day of the year if you ask me...more exciting than Christmas and more meaningful than my birthday. That's right, this Sunday night marks the eve of the Oscar ceremony, a night when cinematic history will be written. I anticipate a lively and entertaining broadcast, as Anne Hathaway and my future husband James Franco are slated to host the event. The Academy better have made some wise choices, because there will be one angry kid out there if JFranc (like the nickname??) and 127 Hours go home empty-handed. I've listed them before, but in the name of simplicity, here are the nominees for Best Picture:

1. Inception Mind-blowing. How else can you describe it? This one achieves a rare double victory, pleasing the pickiest of critics and exploding into a box office success all at once. Though I'm skeptical that it has a chance amidst all these other attention-grabbers, I'd say Inception can still dream of gold (get it...dream?!).

2. The Fighter Still haven't seen it! I know, I know, I'm a major slacker. This one just didn't look all that good to me in the commercials. I just feel like the tough-Boston-down-on-his-luck guy thing has been way over done, and so has the whole boxing thing. I mean, we have The Departed (2006) (amazing flick) and Million Dollar Baby (2004) (still need to see this one!) what do we need The Fighter for?? Maybe just to see Christian Bale slim down to cancer-victim size.

3. Toy Story 3 Love it! But it won't win in this category...I'm 99% sure (though I'm just as sure it will take the cake in the Animated Feature category). This one really hit home for me because I'm also going to college in the fall, and I feel just like Andy, giving up my childhood and driving off into the sunset...I definitely needed the tissue box to make it to the closing credits.

4. Black Swan Interesting. Very interesting. I found it both haunting and wildly entertaining, and ended up heading back to the theater more than once to really digest this one. It's a very original piece of work, with brilliant cinematography and directing (though Darren Aronofsky is no Danny Boyle). Natalie Portman deserves the Oscar for throwing herself into this twisted ballet world.

5. True Grit Haven't seen this one either! If I had to base my opinions on those of my friends, though, this one isn't winning anything.

6. 127 Hours I can't say enough good things about this movie. This one is my favorite for sure. If you haven't seen it, GO NOW! I'm still reeling over the fact that Danny Boyle didn't get a director's nod for his highly original work here, and I will be reeling if JFranc doesn't win his Oscar (though he will find some tough competition in Collin Firth).

7. The Kids Are All Right So I haven't seen this one either...but from what I've heard and read, it's not that great of a film. It's only nominated because of its progressive subject matter...or at least, that's what I've gathered. I'll get around to seeing it eventually (it's on my list!) and have some sort of opinion to share.

8. The Social Network's alright. Quirky, cute, a little shocking sometimes...but Best Picture material? I don't think so. But although I don't think it's worthy of the golden man, The Academy may very well think it is come Sunday night. I guess we'll see.

9. Winter's Bone Ok, you got me...I didn't see this one either. So I'm not exactly qualified to be making all of these predictions. But here's another one I'm going to make anyway: The Academy won't be throwing this dog a bone (another pun?? I'm on fire tonight!). These Sundance-born indies still don't seem to have the wattage that a major studio film like Inception has.

10. The King's Speech I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this movie is overrated!! I'm not saying it's not good, because it is, but it's not the best of the bunch by any stretch (and I haven't even seen the whole bunch yet!). Still, if I was a bettin man, I'd say the odds are very much stacked in this one's favor.

So there you have it, a round-up of my current opinions as we head into the final days before the Oscars. It'll be a real nail-biter waiting to hear the verdict on these movies, with the top contenders (in my mind) being The Social Network, The King's Speech, Inception (maybe), and (I know it's probably just a pipe dream, but I'm gonna keep on dreaming) 127 Hours. The others, I think, are not nearly as likely to win. We'll see on Sunday night which film has the right stuff to become number one.

Now for the challenge, something I've been putting off lately. I watched American Beauty (1999) tonight and found it very...interesting. Despite being laden with graphic language and occasionally obscene images, the film felt poetic and graceful all the way through. Kevin Spacey, ever the acting savant, puts up a fantastic performance as a confused, aimless middle-aged man, and Annette Benning, a current nominee whose fate will be decided Sunday night, shines in her also-nominated turn as a repressed wife on the edge. Chris Cooper also surprises in his gritty portrayal of the homophobic neighbor. A twisted, sordid take on the American family deserving of pensive analysis.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Place in the Sun

Too tired to write STOP So I'm practicing my telegraph STOP Watched The Phantom of the Opera(2004) which is not on my list and therefore a waste of time STOP But I needed a free night STOP I have too much homework and I wish I was at the beach lying in a place in the sun STOP I also wish I could sing like Emmy Rossum STOP The play is much better than the film STOP How does one end a telegraph STOP I guess I'll give it a try and perhaps resume the challenge tomorrow OVER&OUT

Sunday, February 13, 2011

From Here to Eternity

So I've decided that I'm going to marry James Franco. This is because he is absolutely amazing in every way...I learned enough about him from his Wikipedia page, and of course, from drooling over him in every movie I've watched that features his perfect face. Naturally, that's enough for me to determine that he is actually my soul mate despite the fact that he's at least fifteen years older than me. Age is just a number.

My James Franco preference became a James Franco obsession when I conquered Milk(2008) on Saturday and saw how effortlessly he pulled off a sensitive gay man's role even though by nature, he is a deliciously macho straight man. Even more impressive than Franco is Sean Penn, who practically becomes Harvey Milk reincarnated as he sinks into the role of a flamboyant homosexual politician. The mayor of Castro Street has never seemed more real to those of us born long after his tragic assassination.
Milk informs, inspires, and eventually devastates as it climbs towards those inevitable gunshots that simultaneously ended and began so much. I have to admit that I found myself reaching for the tissue box at the end of this one, crushed by the very personal loss of the enigmatic character we have come to love over the course of the film. A surprisingly engrossing biopic worth a second look.

Now maybe it's just my teenage bias against super old movies, but I just couldn't get into Gaslight(1944), though I had just survived two consecutive sleepovers so my sleep deprivation could have been a contributing factor to my inability to keep my eyes open. Sure, it was riddled with intrigue, mystery, twists, and all that, but the slow, wordy manner in which it was delivered did not spark my gaslight (get it?? punnny??). It just kept going and going...I thought the thing was going to last from here to eternity.
I don't think that sort of plot development is an inherent flaw of the film by any means...I just think that movies were made differently 75 years ago, and those of us who have never been exposed to such ancient methods have a hard time enjoying those old melodramas. At least, that's the case for me.

On an unrelated note, I think I've come to accept that as a general rule, I'm the only one who reads these posts. That's alright with me...I think I just use this blog as a way to keep me on track with the challenge and ensure that I actually think about the movies I've seen. However, if there's anyone out there who does read this, I'd appreciate any sort of contact...
When I started this blog, I envisioned some sort of Julie and Julia-esque success, through which I achieved international acclaim and got invited to host the Oscars and attend every premiere forever. That isn't going to happen, but I'm still halfway crossing my fingers!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Turning Point

I usually consider myself to be a cynic when it comes to movies; it's a rare occasion for me to go to the theater or flip on the TV and actually enjoy any of those sloppily-made films we're subjected to these days. I'm just not that easily entertained! Yet since I've started this challenge, I feel like a little kid amazed by everything it sees. The greatness which I thought rested in just a few movies across history apparently resides in nearly every film I've seen so far, and probably many of the ones I'm still to see. I think I reached the turning point in this challenge tonight: it's not so much a chore to watch one of these movies every night, but an exciting adventure into the rich world of cinematic history.

I actually almost turned on the waterworks during tonight's Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)...the emotions are that high. Expecting to tune into a comedy (though in hindsight, I don't really know what gave me that idea), I was surprised to encounter this pointed divorce tale, featuring young Dustin Hoffman in his Oscar-winning turn as Ted Kramer and young Meryl Streep in the performance that secured her second-ever Oscar nomination as JoAnna Kramer. Guided by a light hand, the film starts out as an endearing journey of father-son bonding, but eventually drifts into the heavy territory of a bitter custody battle. From tickling scenes of Billy's (Justin Henry) first bike ride in the park to the tense drama of the court room, Kramer makes sure to steal your whole heart before it lets up. Most of this is due to Hoffman's incredible presence as he flawlessly portrays a man's change from egocentric workaholic to father-of-the-year through his long string of parental mistakes and precious successes. Maybe this movie went over so well with me because, due to my own parents' divorce, I could relate...or maybe it was just a phenomenal film all on its own.

With so many more movies out there to watch, I find myself reaching blindly into the bag, so to speak, and pulling out a random film each night just to cross titles off my list. If anybody actually reads this and has any suggestions for what should come next, I'd be more than happy to take some!

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Touch of Class

Tonight I conquered a film unlike any other I'd seen- one that had me captivated from start to finish and sent me off to bed (and to my laptop) with my mind still reeling from the cinematic brilliance I'd just witnessed.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb(1964) is able to do what movies of late seem to be unable to accomplish: satirize subtley, and taunt with a touch of class. Rarely does a film, old or new, require such a deep mental analysis and express its message in such a cleverly veiled manner.
Only Stanley Kubrick's twisted mind could create satisfying humor from the dark tale of a nuclear accident. Surely, this film is a testament to his genius. The deliberately impersonal, precise manner in which he presents his story demonstrates how firmly Kubrick must have held his anti-Cold War sentiments, and his efforts build to a perfect tragicomic ending worthy of intense praise. Watching Slim Pickens as Major TJ King Kong ride that bomb down to Earth like he was riding a bull made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. I think Kubrick was actually aiming for this emotional paradox, as it is representative of the entire nature of mutually assured destruction.
A fantastic,fantastic film.
Peter Sellers is incredible as well. He brings something different and intriguing to each of the three roles he plays, especially lighting up the screen as the flamboyant, flailing Dr. Strangelove himself. I'm amazed that he didn't win the Oscar for these performances...yet another unbelievable snub to make me question the Academy's wisdom.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Room at the Top

Another weekend passes by with barely a free minute to fit in a movie. Tonight's move viewing was further hindered by the Super Bowl, which is pointless entertainment if you ask me, but I sort of felt obligated to watch it lest someone find out that I'd rather spend my nights at home watching old movies by myself than go out to a SuperBowl party and be a normal kid. Anyway, congratualtions, Green Bay Packers, that was quite a win.

If all Westerns turn out to be as good as my first one, then I sure have been missing out on a fantastic cache of films my whole life. Dances With Wolves(1990) is a sweeping, epic, breathtaking look at Indian-American relations during the Civil War, but the story goes so far beyond that. It's a story of the human capacity to love, to hate, and to make ultimate sacrifices for the the things they believe in. Kevin Costner's directorial debut impresses and inspires...though in hindsight, it feels strikingly similar to Avatar (2009), with which I was sadly underwhelmed. This version of the reluctant-foreign-acceptance story is much more enjoyable.

This latest film reaffirms my deep love for really good movies. With all my heart, I wish I could grow up to be someone who is involved with the industry that creates such art. Specifically, I dream of becoming one of those critics that everyone must consort with before they form their own opinions about movies, like Pauline Kael or Roger Ebert. Though it must be difficult to get noticed in the sea of criticism out there, I hope that one day there'll be room at the top for me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

I skipped two days of movie watching in the name of sleep and endless homework...a dangerous habit to get into if I want to finish by the end of the year, but I keep telling myself that I'll have plenty time to catch up in the summer. Let's hope so.

Sunday night I fit Up(2009) in during those ungodly hours after midnight. I didn't expect much from an animated children's film, especially since those of my friends who told me it was "sooo good" are the ones who also think Twilight and The Last Song are bound to be classics. However, in this one special case, they turned out to be right. Who knew a computer-generated little man could be so endearing? I wanted to leap through the screen and give Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Edward Asner from the Mary Tyler Moore Show) a hug throughout the movie, but unfortunately, I could only watch his heartbreaking story of love and loss unfold from my seat on the sofa. Sure, a few silly parts get thrown in there to make the film kid-friendly, but all in all it's a poignant parable to remind us how precious our loved ones truly are. Kudos, Pixar.

Tonight I tuned in to something a little more grown up. I watched Moonstruck(1987) when I should have been studying for my environmental science test, but who really needs to know about the environment anyway? Definitely not me. I actually really liked this one, even though nobody actually talks like they do in the movie and Cher's sex noises sound like a geriatric having a heart attack. It was nice to see some old-fashioned Italian sterotyping that didn't include prolific obscenity, since all we get to see today of pigeon-holed Italians are the muscle-bound, fake-tanned likes of Jersey Shore and such, although I'm not convinced that the Situation didn't steal his boisterous tattooed style from Ronny Cammareri. I barely even recognized Nicholas Cage, and even though he sounded like he was drunk the whole time, it was pretty cool to see him in a serious role when my generation knows him as the guy from National Treasure. Moonstruck had a ton of stuff I like in it: predictable yet still exciting love story, strong female lead, big 80's hair, thick Italian accents, slapping (one of the most famous movie slaps at that), fake appendages, old people love, cheeseball lines, and of course, my very favorite, a happy ending.

After watching these two bubbly little movies, I am reminded that it's a wonderful life we get to live. I'm also reminded that trying to finish this list in the remaining eleven months is probably going to cause me to become a crack addict, because there aren't many other ways to go whole weeks without sleeping, and that's exactly what I'll need to do if I want to finish.