Saturday, January 29, 2011

Missed Movies number 2

I might make this a regular feature, but here's a second attempt, with movies outside of this last year:


Burn After Reading

This is a movie that, by all rights, should not work. When I say 'sex based spy parody movie' what comes to mind? Maybe something in the vein of Scream, a movie that looks and acts just like what it's parodying but occasionally turns and winks to the audience? Well you're half right, and also all wrong.

See, what makes Burn After Reading work (besides you know, the Coen Brothers directing it) is that, on a fundamental level, it's NOT a spy movie. It's actually much closer to a screwball comedy, based around mix ups and character actions. But, and here's the catch, EVERYONE in it is convinced it is a spy movie and this overriding delusion, not only that they're actions are important to National Security or whatever, but that any of them have any idea what they're doing, is what fuels the lunacy behind the plot, when in fact, nothing of import is at stake.

As a mid-career Coen Brother movie, it's got some of their signature style around them, and it feels like a break between 2 much better but harder to watch films (No Country for Old Men and A Serious Man) although it doesn't come close in quality to their most accessible film O' Brother, Where Art Thou. (Side Note: If you haven't seen O' Brother go fix that. TRUST me, you want to have seen it, it's a full on masterpiece.)

Other than that, I can't say without spoiling, but I will say given that it's a Coen Brother movie, it's not for kids. The script is VERY R-Rated (I think they go past they're 1 allowed 'Fuck' in the opening scene), much of it is based around sex and trust me, anything can happen to anyone. Here's a good barometer: Do you like Dr. Strangelove or maybe The Big Lebowski then you should get along with this. It's unique in a way only the Coen Brothers can be and it deserves your attention.


Nightwatch

I should make a rule that one of my 'Missed Movies' movies has to be foreign each time, because it's likely to fall that way anyway. Nightwatch is, put mildly, a weird ass movie. A Russian horror film directed by Timur Bekmambetov (who some of you might remember as directing Wanted or having produced 9) it's half X2 half Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The premise is kinda weird but it works. There's the usual guff about witches and shapeshifters and vampires and all sorts of things being real (all falling under the heading of 'Others') with the twist that when you find out you're one of them you have to choose to be on one side or another of a big conflict that, due to an ancient mystical pact (because what other kind is there), neither side can technically win. Both sides have half their guys devoted to making sure the other side doesn't break the pact, and half devoted to trying to figure out to work around the pact.

All of that sounds like it's set up for a big showdown at the end as both sides figure out how to have it out in open warfare, but its actually devoted entirely to other things. It feels like it might be building towards a big confrontation, but due to being busy with other things, never actually gets there. It's a weird one, and I can't guarantee everyone will like it, but give it a shot, it might surprise.


Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical

This one has an odd history. Starting life as an impossibly shitting 30's exploitation film on the dangers of Marijuana (movie term of the day: Educational Exploitation Film. Go look it up. Bet you wish you could've watched that instead of Schoolhouse Rock), then moving on to a little seen satirical musical and onto a Showtime Original Movie, it's almost impossible that something good would come out it.

But it did, much better than it's so bad it's good original movie. It's based on the exceptionally weird musical version and it's no less weird in film form (it actually might be weirder) but it all works, because it hangs on it's own wavelength. It's all very clever in it's satirical way, with no attempts to clean it up or modernize it. It's nothing close to a classic film and it won't change your life, but if you get the chance, give it a look.

Oh and about the original exploitation film: It's in the public domain and therefore up on youtube and hulu, so if you're into hilarious over the top acting and cheesy moralizing, give it a look.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And the irritation

This post is not going to win me a lot of friends and it's not designed to. If you wish to spam my comment box with hate, please don't bother. If you have constructive criticism, feel free.


One of the reasons I don't like geek culture is because, at it's roots, it is a culture of whiners. Nothing is ever good enough, if it's getting better it's not getting better fast enough and even if it's perfect we can find something to whine or bitch about. Lord of the Rings, comes out, perfect film translation of it's legendary source material, best film of the year 3 years running, wins 11 oscars, breaks the fucking bank at the box office. So what do we do? We either bitch about Bombadil not being in it or we bitch back and forth about it vs. Star Wars.

This, by extension, is why I dread the Oscars approaching. See the Oscars, for various reason that I won't go into, do not favor the geek side of film, instead going for the Art side of cinema. This has created this massive divide between the art house side of film and the geek side of film, which is making us both poorer, making the douche middle of cinema richer and overall not helping anyone.

What's now starting to be odd is the Oscars and by extension the Art side of cinema, is starting to be more welcoming of the geek side of cinema. Some of this HAS to do with the incredible quality of some of the geek movies of late (Lord of the Rings, Pan's Labyrinth and District 9 for examples) but overall they've been getting nicer. This is creating the increasingly odd situation in which the geeks are starting to look more and more, in my eyes, like the problem (I had a conversation with a self proclaimed geek, who claimed that famous art film,  Fargo was 'boring' and had we been talking in a slightly less formal setting I would have slapped him). Don't get me wrong, the art side of cinema is still causing it's share of problems but overall it's been a lot more willing to let geek movies be considered good than the geek side is willing to let art movies be considered good.

This came to a head last year when, rather than celebrating the best film of the year's appearance on the nominated list (District 9) despite being a complete geek movie, many of the people I talked to were whining about Watchmen being shut out (despite it being a fantastic adaptation is did not stand alone as a movie, I'm sorry).

And it's happening again this year. Rather than celebrating some of the great movies atop the best picture nominees, all I hear is bitching about how Scott Pilgrim got shut out generally, Tron Legacy got shut out of the technical awards and how Inception didn't get a best director nod, with simultaneous bitching about how many awards The King's Speech is up for.

Geeks, as one of you, please listen to me: THIS. IS. OLD. Especially given how much the Academy awards have changed over the last 10 years, your insistence that you're 'shut out' and your mocking of the Oscar movie type is starting to look like simple bitching. Look at all these nominees and winners from the last 10 years: Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Lord of the Rings, Gangs of New York, Million Dollar Baby, Munich, The Departed,  No Country for Old Men, Benjamin Button, District 9, Inglorious Basterds. How do those line up with your 'Oscar' movie type?

And to the art house side (which I'm also technically part of): Stop giving them things. Half the problem with geek culture is it is the culture of the adult children, forever trapped in the 80's, unable to view the things they grew up with objectively. Stop giving them things and make them fucking work for the next concession. You gave up 10 nominees, a move specifically designed for the geek side of cinema and they barely mouthed 'Thank you' in between bitching.

So yes, I've just made a shitload of geeks mad at me. If you have a differing opinion, please voice it. If your opinion includes theories about my sexuality, appearance, intelligence or race, please be aware that no one is forcing you to read this blog. Also I hate you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

83rd Oscar Nominations





Best Picture:
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

All kidding aside, that's a great bunch of nominees. I'd entirely forgotten about The Kids Are All Right, which is a rather odd nomination choice, but not a bad one (quick version: Lesbian couple has some kids via sperm donor and the kids want to meet their biological father, family based drama ensues, very good).
Honestly, this one is a little too close to call. A lot, and I mean a LOT of these films have both critical acclaim and box office take to beat the band, although if last year taught us anything, it's that box office don't mean shit to the academy. I'd honestly put a lot of stock in The King's Speech or The Social Network frankly, but not TOO much. And don't count Inception all the way out either.

Best Director:
Darren Aronofsky- Black Swan
David O. Russel- The Fighter
Tom Hooper- The King's Speech
David Fincher- The Social Network
Joel and Ethan Coen- True Grit

Again, good bunch of nominees, but Tom Hooper? Really? I mean, The King's Speech was good and all, but that was due to the actors, and the director didn't really add a whole hell of a lot. Coen's are up, both here and for Picture, to remind everyone how great they are, they won too recently (2007) and too big (Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor) to win again.
Honestly, my money would be on Darren Aronofsky, since of the nominees he's got the most director based buzz and would be the most deserving win, though if Fincher takes it, expect a Best Picture for The Social Network.

Best Actor:
Javier Bardem- Biutiful
Jeff Bridges- True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg- The Social Network
Colin Firth- The King's Speech
James Franco- 127 Hours

I really should make predictions on who's gonna get nominations, because this one fell down exactly, as I called it (except for Bardem but I left a slot open). Bridges is there because he was good enough to be there, but he won last year, he's not gonna win again. It's a 3 way toss up between Eisenberg, Firth and Franco; Franco deserves it the most, Eisenberg is the audience favorite, Firth is the Academy politics favorite, bet accordingly.

Best Actress:
Annette Bening- The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman- The Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence- Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman- Black Swan
Michelle Williams- Blue Valentine

Man they really pulled out all the stops in grabbing obscure movies for this nominations. I can't even remember hearing about Blue Valentine. It doesn't matter much, this one might as well already have Natalie Portman's name on it; She'll have to WORK to lose this one.

Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale- The Fighter
John Hawkes- Winter's Bone
Jeremy Renner- The Town
Mark Ruffalo- The Kids Are All Right
Geoffery Rush- The King's Speech

Awww, and just when you thought the Academy had entirely forgotten The Town. What is Best Supporting Actor nomination, the Academy's equivalent of a pity fuck? This one comes down to Geoffery Rush and Christian Bale, but I have no idea which of them is gonna grab it. Honestly upon reflection, probably Bale, which will make the advertising for The Dark Knight Rises fun.

Best Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams- The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter- The King's Speech
Melissa Leo- The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld- True Grit
Jacki Weaver- Animal Kingdom

HA suck it Universe, I TOLD you Hailee Steinfeld would grab a nomination. She's not gonna win, this one looks like it's already going to Melissa Leo, but it's nice to see here there. Almost nice enough to remove the sting of not seeing Barbra Hershey or Mila Kunis up for Black Swan. I have no idea what the hell Animal Kingdom is, nor do I care.

Best Original Screenplay:
Another Year
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech

Since MOST of the big screenplays are in Adapted, this year it seems like Original is gonna be a pity Oscar for a film that's nominated for a bunch of other awards but is unlikely to grab any. With that in mind, I'd say it's probably gonna be The Kids Are All Right. Inception MIGHT be able to grab it, but I doubt it; It has all it's technical awards to keep it warm.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone

Toy Story 3 is adapted? Alright. This one's probably going to The Social Network, if only to give it it's obligatory Oscar, but if another one pulls it off, expect a bunch of upsets in the big ones.

Best Animated Feature:
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 will take it home NEXT!

Best Foreign Language Film:
Biutiful
Dogtooth
In a Better World
Incendies
Outside the Law

Hey Sweden, how's that non-Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie working out for you? Oh and I told you Dogtooth would make it up. Honestly, I've never seen Biutiful but it's the only one with a nomination in another category so it's probably gonna make it. No promises though; Having a nomination in Best Original Screenplay AND being the best movie of the year didn't stop Pan's Labyrinth from losing. Dogtooth has a fair amount of buzz, so if you want to shock your friends and bet on the odd one, go with that, just don't blame me if you lose.

Best Documentary Feature:
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Gasland
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waste Land

I've only seen Inside Job of these nominees and I honestly expected Waiting For Superman to be up. Since it's not, expect Inside Job to take it home.



Speculating on the Shorts is mostly irrelevant cuz most people have never or will never see them; They mostly exist to give new filmmakers something awesome to put on their resume. Technical awards is a little wonky too, but expect Inception to grab a lot of them.

Alright, that it's for me. The awards are on Febuary 27th, so we'll find out then.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Second Age Reviews: The Thing


Part of a series of brilliant box offices failures from 1982 and technically a remake of the fun, but inconsequential Howard Hawkes 1951 film, The Thing From Outer Space, John Carpenter's The Thing is part of the EXTRAORDINARILY rare (especially among horror film) subheading of remakes that are better than their original. But that shouldn't surprise any film buffs: John Carpenter is a master at taking movies that in the hands of someone with less care or skill would be fodder for 'So Bad It's Good' night at the film geek's house. But with real care to casting, screenplay, special effects and direction he manages to pull it off time and time again. It's no mistake that the best film from the ULTIMATE 'shitty' genre (slasher films) comes from Carpenter (Halloween if you didn't know, which I assume you did.)

The setup is simple but leads to complexity and could lead into spoiler territory so I'll tread lightly. A Norwegian helicopter shows up at an American base in Antarctica, with a man raving in Norwegian and trying desperately to shoot a lone dog, wounding one of the Americans in the process. They kill the Norwegian and take the dog in. What's bad is that the dog is a malevolent alien lifeform in the shape of a dog. What's worse is the alien can assimilate any living thing by touching it and turn it into a part of itself, that looks at acts just like the person it's imitating. What's worst is no one knows who was exposed to the dog or for how long. Soon people are accusing each other of being an alien in disguise and paranoia and mistrust are mounting.

The first and most important test of a horror movie is how scary it is; A horror movie can overcome a lot of flaws if it can scare you. So to answer the question of The Thing's scariness as gently but honestly as possible: IT WILL RIP YOUR MIND IN HALF! Easily one of the, if not THE, scariest movies of all time. There are horror movies out there with better direction (The Shining), better screenplays (The Exorcist), better casts (Silence of the Lambs) or more meaning (Halloween) but NONE of them approach the sheer horror The Thing can put you through. Some of the grotesqueries on display it must be seen to be believed.

Which allows me to segue awkwardly into the biggest selling point: The special effects. The special effects are not pleasant to look at, but are technically brilliant and still realistic to this day. It's a blunt reminder of why sometimes visual effect need to stay real and a reason why all of us cinephiles are more than a little worried about the same-name prequel due out later this year.

The screenplay is well written and nuanced, taking pains to establish each character well beyond the usual horror film cannon fodder and to establish relationships and friendships within the base, making it especially poignant when we watch those relationships break down under the weight of paranoia. All the dialogue is well written and natural, and the pacing keeps us on our toes, to say nothing of a fantastic slow building reveal early on and a denouement that still has viewers guessing and discussing to this day.

The actors are all doing a great job, featuring Carpenter favorite Kurt Russel in the lead role, backed by a fantastic supporting cast. The direction is all good in the technical details of course (the soundtrack is well used and appropriate and the cinematography does a great job establishing setting and mood, as well as being used to freak us out later on) but where it actually shocks me is how it keeps from falling into the well known traps of movies like this, and even turns a couple into strengths. The science is, of course, more than a little junky but by refusing to dwell on it even a little we never notice. The decisions of all the characters are all made naturally, discoveries on how the creature works or how to kill it are set up early on and therefore don't seem like leaps in logic. Hell even the lack of background on the creature or where it comes from are in keeping with the eye level of the characters.

I spent much of this time trying to come up with a flaw that I could point out in this movie, but I honestly can't, putting it in that exceedingly rare level of films that is, to a point, flawless. It's not deep or meaningful; Even it's coda and musings on paranoia only scratch the surface or are used to heighten the tension. But when a film is this successful and this well made in a genre which attracts more than double it's share of trash, I'm gonna say it can avoid being deep or meaningful. It's a massive scare fest and one of the best horror films ever made, so if you like horror, sci-fi or even just John Carpenter, get yourself out there and see it.

Next on Second Age Reviews: Five Fingers of Death

Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he continues to be mildly disappointed that the helmeted version of the creature from the movie poster never shows up.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Missed Movies number 1

Part of the problem with only reviewing films I see in theaters is that I don't get to draw attention to some films that I saw on DVD and that don't make it onto my top 10. So with that in mind, I figured I'd try a thing wherein I give a quick couple of sentences on a movie I didn't see in theaters to draw your attention to or away from it. So with that in mind, here are 2 movies I saw in 2010 that were really good but, for one reason or another, didn't get onto my top 10.

Splice:
Splice is a film that, by all rights, probably deserved a spot on my top 10, but what can I say? It kept getting pushed down and down until it fell right off. It was admittedly an intensely unique Sci-fi horror, a genre which has been strangely lacking for...well a long while now (guys, trust me I know The Thing is a hard standard to live up to, but seriously, you're just not trying anymore).

Boosted by a significant lack of junk in it's junk science and some great special effects (to say nothing of performances) Splice doesn't hold together as well as some films this year but it's filled with big ideas and vision, which is more than I can say for most horror films. Unfortunately it gets overshadowed by our second movie...

Dogtooth:
If you've heard of this movie, congrats, you're well connected to the international movie scene. If not, don't worry it's...more than a little obscure. What with none of the Girl movies as Sweden's nominee for Best Foreign Film (Are you fucking kidding me Sweden? You had The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and you didn't fucking nominate it? The fuck is Simple Simon?) it's a heavy favorite for being in the 5 nominees simply because it has some press, even if it's going to have trouble making it to the finish line because it's well outside the Academy's comfort zone (for more information on fantastic foreign films that failed to win due to this, go watch Pan's Labyrinth. Or go watch it anyway, because it's incredible.)

So what kept it off my top 10 list if it's so good? Well the same thing that keeps it welllllll outside the Academy's comfort zone: It's ROYALLY fucked up. Oh don't get me wrong. It's easily one of the boldest most unique films of the year and the writing and technical skill on display are without question. But I'm still not certain how I feel about it. It's exceptionally twisted in ways a lot of people aren't gonna see coming and I can think of at least a couple kinds of people it would scar for life.

Again, it's a good film, and if you think you can stomach it it's worth seeing. But I couldn't throw it on the list because I have to nail down my feelings for it first. As I said, it's actually got some buzz in America so it's got a solid chance of getting up the to starting gate. Of course, you have to have seen all the movies in a category to vote on it, which is probably gonna wreck it's chances right there.

Anywho, the Oscar noms are due tomorrow and the lists themselves are out on the 25th I think. Assuming Dead Space 2 lets me go for more than a few hours (or classes let up for a little bit) I'll try to throw down a commentary and prediction. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shameless Cross Promotion

Regular visitors to my site may occasionally wonder why I chose the movies I do for Second Age Reviews (a question that's going to get asked repeatedly over the coming couple of months) so I figured I'd take the opportunity to answer it; I don't.

The movies that I review at Second Age Reviews are the movies shown at Cult Classics at the Avon Theater in Stamford, Connecticut. I attend every 2 weeks (or every week during the summer) with a close friend. So you're now wondering why I'm telling you this?

Well, mostly to say, if you live within reasonable distance of Stamford, you should really stop by sometime. And notably, unlike the place where I saw Rebel Without a Cause, they don't just pop a DVD in and hook it up to the projector. No, every film I've ever seen at the Avon was shown in it's original 30 Millimeter prints, which admittedly limits what they can show, but who gives a shit? I'll be linking to it at the bottom of the page, so if you're in the area stop on by. You might get to meet me, Elessar.

Of course I won't identify myself. Or respond to that name. And if you try to guess who I am by shouting I'll probably run away. But then, is anyone here really a fan enough to want to meet me? Probably not. Anywho.

The Avon

Despite me, you should really come.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Just sad.

Shootout in Arizona, 6 dead, 12 wounded

For those of you who haven't heard, there was a shootout outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. Among the wounded was Representative Gabrielle Giffords and among the dead was Chief Judge John Roll of the US District Court of Arizona. A 9 year old girl was also slain in the shooting. The shooter has been caught but police are not releasing any details.

And before anyone asks, no, I have no political commentary, finger pointing, social analysis or morbid humor. Just gonna call this what it is: Depressing, sick and sad.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Second Age Reviews: The Dark Crystal

1982 was a good year for movies, but not a good year to be those movies. We had scores of worthwhile movies, some of them great (The Dark Crystal, The Thing, Blade Runner) some of them good (Poltergeist, Conan the Barbarian, Tron) some of them kind of silly, but a lot of fun (Creepshow, The Beastmaster, Cat People). But in the end it didn't matter because, with a couple exceptions, they all got swallowed at the box office by E.T. With that in mind, here is The Dark Crystal the magnum opus of technical wizard Jim Henson, best known for creating the Muppets and an unfortunate box office disappointment.

The story is concerned with a Gelfling named Jen, living in a fantasy world. 1000 years earlier the titular dark crystal was damaged, creating the gentle Mystics and the evil Skeksis, and rather jerkily, putting the Skeksis in charge. As his master lies dying, he tells Jen that he must fulfill a prophecy; find the missing shard of the crystal and return it to the crystal, before the 3 suns align or else the Skeksis will rule the world forever.

So the plot amounts to the rather well worn fantasy story of 'Take magical object A to location B and everything will be fixed,” with the 3 suns thing adding a timer. But it's well worn for a reason and the alterations to the formula keeps things fresh, with a unique world and well written characters.

That world part is one of the primary draws of the film. The entire world, from characters, to animals to a good portion of the sets themselves are realized entirely through puppetry. No human once appears on screen, despite some creatures reportedly requiring 5 to move them. The level of detail on each individual puppet is astounding, as is the sheer amount of care and attention put into making sure they moved smoothly and realistically. And the environments and animals are realized with such uniqueness and detail that it would make Avatar blush and leave the room.

The story is fairly straightforward but it's well written and well paced. The dialogue is mostly well done, with a couple of exceptions, and all the characters have richly detailed personalities. It takes a lot of work to make puppets have physical ticks but The Dark Crystal does it. The hints at the larger worlds and cultures surrounding the main story add a sense of depth rarely seen in movies like this.

It's not quite a perfect movie. Two of the more important races, the Podlings and the Mystics, don't really get a whole lot of detail, some of the Skeksis and Mystics abilities are kind of vaguely defined (I'm still not sure if they have actual magic or what), a couple action sequences are confusingly cut and it starts to feel a bit rushed near the middle. But somehow all of that ceases to matter when you're actually watching it, as it lets you get lost in the story and the universe it inhabits.

So that begs the question; Why was it a disappointment at the box office when it's so good? Well, the primary reason for so many good movies being box office disappointments or outright failures in 1982 had a lot to do with E.T. which swallowed a lot of movies at the box office (some of which, like The Dark Crystal are much better than E.T.). But with Dark Crystal I think the problem runs deeper.

At the time Henson was, and still is frankly, primarily known for creating the Muppets, but as the speaker at this showing said, he had always wanted to graduate to being a director, like his associate Frank Oz has done to great success. But because of the attachment to the Muppets, many people assumed this would be a kids movie, but were disappointed to find this darker fantasy story in it's place. Oh and on that note; No it's not a kids movie. It's not inappropriate for kids (no movie which has something like Fizzgig can be) but it's a little darker than the usual kid's movie. You can show it to them, but don't expect The Muppet Movie.

At the end of the day, minor annoyances aside, The Dark Crystal is an incredible technical and artistic achievement and if you haven't seen it before you really should. So you do that, and I'll see you next time.

Next time on Second Age Reviews: The Thing

Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and his desire for a pet Fizzgig is second only to his desire for a pet Tribble.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Waste of time

So with no reviews to do till thursday, my Oscar article taking longer than expected (not on the nominees, that's later when they're announced) and me desperately trying to find a way to make checking this blog worth my readers time, I figured this would be an interesting enough couple of paragraphs.

So anyone who follows the news will be aware that the new Republicans have been making loud noises about repealing the Health Care bill. I'm going to leave aside the fact that I think it should stay and that I have yet to hear the Republicans plan to fix all this shit and merely comment on that fact.

Now I'm not a political expert. I follow politics loosely, have a subscription the NY Times, watch the Daily Show, etc. But I seem to recall hearing that you need 2/3rds majority to repeal something like that. Now they should be allowed to try, they're the elected officials and that's fine. But what's bothering me is this:

See, if they DO need the 2/3rds majority, then they do NOT have the votes in the House, I think (I haven't checked the numbers). Doesn't matter, they don't even have the majority in the senate. Even if they had a small majority in the senate or could strongarm a few Democratic votes, they won't have a veto proof majority and odds are Obama will veto it the second it hits his desk.

On some intellectual level they have to be aware of this, if only mentally. This represents something ugly to me. Because if they haven't all denied reality so hard they are capable of ignoring all these facts (don't rule it out) then they HAVE to know that they are wasting everyone's time. The medias, the House, the Senate's, Obama's, just to score some cheap political points.

Does that bother anyone else?

Monday, January 3, 2011

RIP Pete Postlethwaite

Pete Postlethwaite Dead at 64

Yes, yes I don't do these very often, but I feel like I should for him. Sure, we all know him from Inception The Usual Suspects but for my money (and clearly, the Academy's), his best performance was in In the Name of the Father as...well the father. In the Name of the Father is an exceptional movie that got kinda buried, because the year it came out was the same year that Schindler's List and The Fugitive came out. But it was a great movie, devoted to the true story of the Guildford 4, 4 people wrongly imprisoned for the Guildford pub bombing. Given my Irish heritage (I've rather a lot of it) it's a movie that really speaks to me. If you feel the inclination, you should definitely give it a look.

Rest In Peace Pete.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review: The King's Speech

The King's Speech is period drama devoted to the true story King George VI who took the throne after his older brother abdicated to marry a divorced woman (as the King of England and thus head of the Church of England, he wasn't allowed to do that) and was thus King during World War II. Despite all this he had a massive stutter and had incredible difficulty giving even short speeches. As a result he goes to a speech therapist who tries to not only give him physical remedies for his stuttering but also to try and treat the psychological issues at the heart of the stuttering. It resembles nothing so much as the result of someone crossbreeding Good Will Hunting with Thirteen Days and then transplanted it to England. But leaving all that aside, it's a good if not exceptionally unique movie.

As with most period dramas, the acting is at the heart of it. Colin Firth does an excellent job as King George VI (initially the Duke of York) managing to capture several different aspects of the person without turning him into a cliché. It's a great performance, though not QUITE good enough to pull away the top male performance of the year away from James Franco (though enough to give Robert Duvall a run for his money in second place). On the sidelines is Geoffrey Rush giving a fantastic performance as the speech therapist and the real powerhouse performance of the film. And along the way the film manages to pull an Aviator, IE getting a bunch of long proven performers in minor roles as historical figure cameos, such as Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter or Derek Jacobi. Oh and Timothy Spall is in it. Because wouldn't it be weirder if he weren't?

The script is rather excellent, keeping the plot engaging, even while it's not exactly concealing how it's all going to turn out. All the character beats and reveals come up organically, and while the story wouldn't have to strain to be touching, what's most surprising about it is that it's often very funny. What I find most interesting, at least from a historical perspective, is it's treatment of the romance between the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson. While most historical dramas treat as an incredible romance (him abdicating the throne for her), The King's Speech seems to regard it more as a selfish act, a fling that went too far.

The music is nice, if exactly what you're expecting from a movie like this. The camera work and lighting are fine, if bland, but I guess that's better than being shitty. All of it is kind of cliche, but it all works and is well made enough to be worth it on it's own. The cliches are there for a reason; they work. I don't know what else to say about it. It's a nice story, well told at a brisk pace, even if it's exactly what you're expecting from a movie like this. It really is very touching, so if you're inclined, go give it a look, if only so when it wins a bunch of awards in a few months you can say you saw it beforehand.

Elessar is a 20 year old Alaskan born cinephile and if half of this is as true as it says it is, he wonders how it took this long to get made; It practically writes itself.