Wednesday, March 31, 2010

FotM: Best Pictures of the Past - Casablanca

Casablanca, 1943
Originally uploaded by thefoxling
When we decided to look at best pictures from the past I knew I had to rewatch Casablanca. It’s been years since I’ve seen it and it’s one of those films that deserves every bit of praise it’s gotten since the year it was released. Casablanca has more than endured the test of time and will continue to be a great film even when it celebrates its hundredth anniversary.

For those that aren’t familiar with the history of Casablanca I’ll fill you in now. The film was released in 1942, and while I am sure it was partly intended to be a propaganda film to encourage Americans to support the war and those in Europe that were fighting the tyranny of the Germans it managed to be a film that instead captured the American & human spirit which is why it’s lasted so long in the hearts and minds of its viewers.

Casablanca was nominated for eight Academy Awards, taking home three: best director, best screenplay and best picture. The best picture award was quite an achievement as that year there were ten nominees for best picture including For Whom the Bell Tolls, Heaven Can Wait and In Which We Serve. I’m actually quite impressed with the list of films that Casablanca was nominated against, but I strongly feel that Casablanca deserved the win.

Like many films of the 1940’s part of what makes Casablanca so special is the writing. Outside of a film noir there is no sharper, quick, masterfully done dialogue in than in Casablanca. In Casablanca it’s better to deliver a quick remark that will be lost on you opposition than to threaten them with a weapon – with a weapon they can arrest you, but by outwitting them with your attitude and speech they can do nothing other than show their anger.

The world of the film is one of con men, innocent bystanders, law men, soldiers and thieves. No one is innocent or out for much more than what serves their interest but the single thing that unites the residents & refugees of Casablanca is a distrust of the Germans and a desire to see them overthrown & not to give up. It’s a spirit that captivated most of Europe and propelled us into the war and Michael Curtiz captured this perfectly in Casablanca.

I cannot say enough about this movie, and because of that I am going to force myself to stop or you will end up reading a ten page academic essay on the merits of Casablanca and not only do I not have time to write that, but most of you probably don’t want to read it. So I’ll finish with this. I was a fan this year of having ten best picture nominees because of films like Casablanca. This film not only pulled off beating nine other great films to win the top honor from The Academy, but it has proven the award was not marginilazed due to the number of nominees or a fluke; it’s been sixty-seven years since Casablanca won best picture and you will be hard pressed to find a film scholar, critic or fan that thinks this film isn’t a work of art.

I implore you to find a local video store or use your Netflix account to dig back into the best pictures from long before you were born and watch them. You will be surprised at the gems you will find.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Contrary to popular belief being a comic book geek does have its advantages. Sure we may never know the love of a good woman, we were stuffed into our lockers in high school, are laughed at by our peers and suffer from separated discs due to years of lugging our around our long boxes but it’s all made up for by the knowledge that we are on the frontlines of cool. Sure this has been a slightly more recent development but if you’re a life long comic geek like me you knew just how awesome stuff like HELLBOY, WATCHMEN and 300 were long before the movie going public at large embraced them. Well, as the resident comic book geek of this site I feel it’s my duty to make everyone aware of some potentially VERY cool stuff coming down the pike.

THE LOSERS: I’ve seen posters for this flick pop up at every bus stop seemingly overnight. I seriously couldn’t be more excited about this film but I’m sure many of you out there have absolutely no clue what it is. Allow me to enlighten you.

At first glance THE LOSERS almost seems like a rip-off of the A-TEAM. A group of black ops operatives gets burned by their bosses. They fake their own death then set about trying to bring down the people that double-crossed them; nefarious forces that threaten not only the future of America, but the world.

Rip-off, homage, whatever you want to call it THE LOSERS is one of the single most cinematic comic books I’ve ever read. I tore through the first trade paperback in a day and it left me hungry for more. The entire thing reads like a big budget, Jerry Bruckheimer action movie, one of those things that ala 300 that doesn’t really need to be tweaked, but just thrown up on the screen as is. Having seen the trailer it thankfully looks like the film makers did just that. As far as I can tell there’s not a single shot in the trailer that isn’t directly lifted from the comic book and that is a VERY good thing.

Peter Berg handled the scripting chores for the adaptation and he almost always turns in solid work whether it be as a producer (Which he also is on this film), director or writer. And while the choice of Sylvian White as director has me a little worried (His credits include STOMP THE YARD and I’LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER), they could not have picked a better cast. Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jason Patric are all pitch perfect bits of casting and they should knock it out of the park in their respective roles.

I’m not saying THE LOSERS is going to be the deepest, most meaningful movie you’ll ever see but if it’s done right it should be a hell of a lot of fun. A nice little sleeper hit that ingratiates itself to people in the theatres and probably even more so on DVD, that hopefully might lead to a franchise. Give this one a chance and I’m hoping THE LOSERS will prove they are anything but.

KICK-ASS: I really don’t know how else to say this and I assure you there’s no pun intended even though you may not believe me so I’m just going to come out and say it. Prepare to have your ass kicked. Mark my words; I’m calling the shot right now KICK-ASS is going to rock your freaking world.

Pound for pound Mark Millar may be one of if not THE most entertaining comic book writer out there today. Sure he’s not as deep as your Frank Millers, Alan Moores and Brian K. Vaughns but by God does the man know how to tell a ripping good yarn! For all intents and purposes Mark Millar is the Michael Bay of comic books only with more talent and less motion sickness. The dude knows how to tell MASSIVE, crowd pleasing stories that may be a little low on substance but are HUGE on flash and ass-kickery. I’ve devoured everything the man has ever written and to date I think his opus, the thing he will be remembered for in years to come, above all the other great works he’s contributed to (And there’s been quite a few) is KICK-ASS.

KICK-ASS is the seemingly simple story of a high school kid that decides he’s going to live out the comic books he’s obsessed with and become a masked vigilante. Much humor, chaos and blood soaked violence ensues as a result.

Like the aforementioned THE LOSERS, KICK-ASS was made to be a movie. The entire thing leaps off the page and from page 1 screams to be put up on the big screen. Luckily the more than capable Matthew Vaughn (The genius behind LAYER CAKE and STARDUST) realized this and decided to come along side Mark Millar and bring his vision to life on the big screen.

The last Mark Millar comic to be adapted to the big screen was the very misguided WANTED, a great comic book that was turned into a really ludicrous movie. Luckily this time out Mark Millar helped write the screenplay - at the same time he was writing the comic book. Basically what that means is that what I read in the KICK-ASS comic book miniseries is EXACTLY what will be up on screen because the movie and comic were being written at the exact same time by the exact same guy. Add into the mix the fact that the comic is being adapted by one of the most competent and capable directors in all of Hollywood and you have an absolute can’t miss.

Mark my words right now KICK-ASS is going to sneak up on everyone and do just that. It’s that awesome film that will come out earlier in the year by which you’ll judge everything else that comes out the rest of the year. Guaranteed THE costume of choice at this year’s Comic-Con will be Hit Girl. This is the kind of film that I honestly don’t think ANYONE knows quite what they’re in for that will come along and broadside EVERYONE with just how awesome it is. It’s the film that will give IRON MAN 2 a run for its money as well as maybe almost every other big budget blockbuster to come down the pike the rest of the year.

I know this all may seem like hyperbole right now but you’re going to have to trust me on this. I don’t want to give away too much because one of the joys of KICK-ASS is discovering the myriad twists and turns it makes. However if I had to describe it I would honestly say I think it’s going to be the SHAUN OF THE DEAD / HOT FUZZ of comic book movies. A film that skewers the comic book movie genre all while paying loving tribute to it by playing within the confines and the rules set up by that same genre. No joke I actually audibly cheered at the end of the next to last issue of the miniseries, it’s that well done.

Lions Gate Films has a bit of a battle trying to properly market this movie but if they do, if they can get people into the theatre to see this thing there is no doubt in my mind it will be huge. How huge? I’m seriously thinking THE MATRIX type huge. Yes, I really do think this might be the kind of film that no one really expects anything of that just comes out of nowhere and knocks them to the floor. So far it’s looking like I may not be too far off since Rotten Tomatoes is already tracking the stellar, nearly perfect reviews the film is getting and since test screening audiences and those lucky enough to see it at South By Southwest can’t seem to stop raving about it. Like THE LOSERS I’m asking you to take my word for it and take a leap of faith with KICK-ASS, if you do I can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

With these two movies rapidly approaching, GREEN LANTERN about to start filming and Chris Evans just announced as Captain America (Perfect casting by the way) it’s a pretty great time to be a geek. Now can someone find a good woman to help me out of my locker?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Well, it happened, that.

Reader, sometimes I wonder what you must think of us. The team behind this blog so often comes across as being of 2-3 different minds on almost every topic that comes up on the radar screen. I'm grateful that you take the time to read, whoever you are. The culture in which we find ourselves puts somewhat of an unfair premium on time and efficiency, and a web page that isn't interesting tends to be ignored or, even worse, skimmed.

I'm guilty of doing that myself all too often, but I wish that I didn't. It's almost as though I'm denying myself the opportunity to gain as much knowledge as I could just because something isn't eye-grabbing at first, or because it's long. Oooooh. Isn't that horrible? Something's LONG. Wow, I might just learn something if I read it. Billy Shakespeare probably said it best, "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"


How about them Oscars? To be honest, I am/was disappointed in the show. The opening musical number was out of place, although Neil Patrick Harris has a good set of pipes. I must admit that I felt some of its "appeal" was misplaced. Is it supposed to be incredibly ironic that a gay man is dancing between a couple of showgirls? Come on, it's not like no one's ever tried that kind of subtext before! I'd rather that we stop treating people like novelty acts over stuff like that. He's a talented actor and entertainer. Period. Let's stop treating folks any different. Why not take a page from Ellen's book when she hosted the show? Oh, wait, she was forced to cut a significant portion of her material because she was ticked off at the way she'd been treated after her coming-out episode and planned to come out of the gate guns blazing. Maybe we better not follow her example if we're going for "moving past the past."

As far as the opening dialogue went, Martin and Baldwin had some good material (loved Steve's bit about Christoph Waltz having hit the motherlode of Jews), but the way that they pitched to various things was incredibly stilted. Set-up, joke . . . "and here's so-and-so over here from such-and-such-a-film." (campy grin + forced applause = LAME) I heard someone say that the material would have worked better if it'd been performed as a monologue, and I have to agree. When one person is throwing the spotlight around the room at various people, you go with it. When two guys are trying to go back and forth and come across as strangely under-rehearsed, it's just too bad.

The awards themselves were a mixed bag. The major awards were incredibly anticlimatic. Every single one of the acting awards went the way I predicted. The Hurt Locker picked up Best Director and Best Picture. Yawn. This didn't exactly make for an incredibly exciting show. I'm not terribly upset about THL's victory, although I still think that Avatar was a more significant achievement. As for Bigelow being the first woman to win Best Director? Good for her. I would have voted for Cameron, but she did a fine job and it's a step up from recognizing Danny Boyle last year. I almost still can't believe that actually happened! I did feel sorry for her standing up there. She looked so nervous that she seemed like she might faint before it was all said and done.

I did find Mo'Nique's comments a bit strange in which she said she didn't want to make her speech a political one, and then promptly thanked Hattie McDaniels. I'm all for her thanking those that came before her and paved the way for her to stand there, but to say she wasn't going to do something and then do it anyway seemed strange. Personally, I'm a bit tired of all the talk of race at the Oscars. A few years ago, when Denzel and Halle won, it was a big deal. 2 years later, Jaime Foxx and Morgan Freeman dominated their respective races from top to bottom, and was their ethnicity mentioned once? Nope. It seems that we've moved past certain things now. Why must we keep bringing it up?

That said, there were a number of upsets in other categories that I wasn't prepared for. Both writing awards went to films I wasn't expecting, although I had started to get an inkling that THL might use its momentum to snag that one too. I was pretty ticked off that The Hurt Locker won in the Original category, instead of Inglourious Basterds. COME ON! Tarantino's script was virtuosic in its ability to accomplish so many different goals, sometimes at once, that it's a crying shame that he didn't pick up little gold man #2. As for the winner in the other Screenplay category, while I haven't seen the movie, having to hear "Precious . . . . . . Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" forty-five thousand times proved tiresome. Please, next time, find a better title! (or at least one that doesn't sound like a drag queen's lamaze class play)

Another BIG surprise was The Secret In Their Eyes beating out both Un Prophete AND The White Ribbon for Best Foreign Language film. Does the Palme d'Or mean nothing in America, people? Forget that. Did the Academy voters not realize that Michael Haneke is the guy who directed The White Ribbon? Have they never seen one of his films before? Did they not know about the crazy/twisted/sick stuff he thinks up for characters to do to each other in his movies? Have they installed new security systems and hired armed guards to stand watch outside their homes to protect themselves? Let's hope so.

Finally, I can't let the direction of the actual telecast off the hook. It was HORRIBLE with a capital AWFUL. If I was made to count each questionable choice . . . man, I'd run out of fingers real quick. Worst gaffe (besides all of the times the viewer saw stuff that we were never supposed to see): cutting to a super wide angle shot right after Bigelow won. Come on, she was sitting right in front of Cameron. Everyone wanted to see the two of them. Would he shake her hand? Would they hug? Would they speak at all? Instead, I was left to yell at the screen, calling out instructions to the guy at the switchboard who, sadly, couldn't hear me from so many miles away.

For my second and last finally, I have to point out the sheer strangeness of the so-called "tribute" to the nominated scores. Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to have a bunch of performers do an interpretive dance to the music? Oh yeah, whenever I hear the music from Up, I immediately think "Hey! Let's get a guy to do the robot!" Oh no. What is this? Are we back to the tap dance tribute to Saving Private Ryan? Some things are better left alone.


As for our scatterbrainededness and hornswaggling over everything that we write about . . . well, we like it that way. Besides that, we've done pretty well up to this point. That's just how it goes. Besides, every so often, it just so happens that we all think the same way, and that always ends up feeling so good.

This year, I think I'm going to read more thoroughly when I'm online. How about it? I think I'll watch Redacted before the year is up, and then read Zanzie's blog. ALL of it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bigelow Wins, the Red Carpet & the Dude Abides

I am immensely happy with last night’s Academy Awards. I think people like to pick everything about the actual ceremony apart and try to make it into something it’s not (The Grammy’s), but I for one thought Baldwin and Martin were great hosts, the changes were entertaining and while I didn’t agree with some of the presenters, I agree with the films and people that were honored.

Instead of giving you a recap of what I thought about the whole 3+ hour affair I thought I’d give you the highlights of the day for me, from red carpet to credits rolling. These are the things that caught my eye and made the night memorable for me.

  • George Clooney got out of his limo early & proved that he is the man everyone says he is. Instead of running through security to get on the red carpet he ran up and down the street greeting the fans that couldn’t even get in the bleachers.
  • I loved Zoe Saldana’s dress. I may be in the minority here, but it was fun, different and very youthful. I couldn’t wear it but I would want to.
  • I’ve decided that I don’t just want to meet Robert Downey Jr, I want to meet Susan Downey too. They were adorable on the red carpet and played off each other so well while being interviewed. I would love to work with Susan!
  • Jake Gyllenhaal talked to Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet and when asked about his sister’s nomination gushed so much that he admitted the pocket square would be used by him if his sister ended up on stage that night.
  • Neil Patrick Harris proved that he can pull off anything and he stole the show with an amazing opening number. I loved it right down to his glittery tux jacket.
  • John Hughes affected an entire generation, so much so the Oscars actually did a solo tribute to him and the most memorable stars from his most memorable films took part in it.
  • Sam Worthington wasn’t just cool enough to sit in the audience with his glasses on, he whipped them out on stage to read the teleprompter. Tell me how many other actors would be that unself-conscious?
  • Perhaps it was unrelated, unfortunate cutting but Monique won her Oscar then they cut to Samuel L. Jackson making a not complementary face. Hmmm…
  • Kristen Stewart proved she is completely uncomfortable with her career. She can’t do a red carpet or present without seeming angry and uncomfortable. It’s the Oscar’s honey, act like you’re glad to be there.
  • Sandy Powell won yet another Oscar for costume and gave a shout out to all the costume designers that the Academy doesn’t recognize because they don’t see their genres or time periods as challenging.
  • The crazy lady that interrupted the documentary short director because it was the “classy thing” for him to let her talk. The only thing classy about that was that he handled it with poise and didn’t shove her away from the mic.
  • Ben Stiller I love you. Dressing as a Nav’i was hysterical and I loved it. Especially when he admitted that Avatar couldn’t even have been nominated for best makeup.
  • Roger Corman won a lifetime achievement award. I could name 5-10 giant people off the top of my head that he helped start and the fact that the Academy found a way to honor Corman is huge.
  • Robert Downey Jr. & Tina Fey presented an award together and had some of the best banter of the night – especially if you’ve ever worked with actors or writers.
  • Jeff Bridges accepted the Oscar and proved that the Coen brothers may have helped along what was already there, but Bridges is inherently “The Dude”.
  • Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Oscar for directing. Not only could it not have gone to a better female director, but her reaction was priceless. I missed most of what she was saying and what happened because I was in as much shock as she was. I will be writing about this in depth once I pull my thoughts together and re-watch the moment online.
  • The Hurt Locker won best picture and Jeremy Renner and actors ran on stage and stole the moment in a great way. The three linked arms, shouted and basically grinned and laughed with joy the entire time the acceptance speech went on. Priceless.
  • After almost looking like she was going to pass out from both her acceptance speeches Kathryn Bigelow tried to exit the stage and Steve Martin & Alec Baldwin grabbed her and kept her on stage with them to extend her moment while closing the show.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I have a love / hate relationship with the Oscars. They are my very favorite thing to watch every year, yet at the same time they can be bloated, long and overly self-congratulatory. Sometimes I’m elated by the results and sometimes I’m pissed off beyond belief. Being a big fan of most of the nominees this year I figured it was a pretty safe bet that I’d be happy with this year’s ceremony and for the most part I very much am.

I won’t go into everything I liked and disliked but over all I was impressed and entertained with this year’s presentation. I’m not sure Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were quite as good as Hugh Jackman was last year but they still did a great job and brought plenty of laughs.

I think the producers did a pretty good job of trying to streamline the show and keep it at short as they could but as always there were plenty of things they could have cut out. I don’t mind them celebrating various genres or movies and the like but can’t we all just agree it’s time to cut out he dance numbers for the music categories? They did away with a lot of the fluff for the Best Original Song category but then threw in a completely needless dance number to the scores, that didn’t really feel like it related to them or was germane in any significant way.

I also love the groups of actors love fests but I don’t think it would hurt to tighten them up a little bit. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when it seems like it took them 30 minutes to present the Best Actor and Actress awards. Look, I know the Academy Awards are long, they’re meant to be long and they’re never going to be that short and that doesn’t bother me I’d just prefer if they kept things moving from one thing to another a little faster so they didn’t feel like they stalled out from time to time.

My only other MAJOR complaint was Taylor Lautner and Kristin Stewart presenting the tribute to horror movies. Great idea for a tribute, totally worthy and respectable but having the stars of NEW MOON present anything relating to horror is like having Pauly Shore present a tribute to war movies because he starred in IN THE ARMY NOW. I can honestly think of very few more sacrilegious or infuriating things I’ve EVER seen and as a resulted it’s multiplied my hatred of that insipid franchise even more and renewed my purpose in insuring that it is destroyed.

All that aside though I loved a lot about this years Oscars. The opening Neil Patrick Harris number was awesome as was the Ben Stiller AVATAR bit, the whole Robert Downey Jr. / Tina Fey screenplay presentation, and probably best of all the awesome John Hughes tribute. If anyone ever had any doubt about that man’s influence on an entire generation of not just artists but kids and teenagers in general that more than proved just how huge that man was in so many people’s lives.

Then of course there were the awards themselves. I’ve been saying from the moment the nominees were announced that I was going to be happy regardless of what won just because I was so thrilled by all the nominees. I was sort of hoping and expecting an upset with INGLORIOUS BASTERDS but it came as no surprise that THE HURT LOCKER took it all. While I’m bummed Megan won’t be the first woman to win Best Director Kathryn Bigelow was more than deserving and I’m ecstatic for her and for the fact that yet another glass ceiling has been shattered. The Dude, aka Flynn, aka Jeff Bridges has an Oscar and all is right with the world. Christoph Waltz and Sandra Bullock were deserving as was UP and so many others. I think perhaps my favorite win of the night however might have been by Michael Giacchino for his brilliant score for UP. The man wrote the two best scores of the year (The other being STAR TREK) and is hands down one of the three best composers in the industry at the moment so it was more than fitting to see him take home the prize. Not to mention he had one of the single best acceptance speeches of the night. I’m also elated because I can now say STAR TREK is an Oscar winning film which makes me uber-excited.

I could go on and on about the Oscars and that’s because despite they’re flaws, despite the fact that THE HURT LOCKER won Best Screenplay when it really should have been INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, despite the silly dance number and the superfluous bits I just love the stupid show. About the only thing I get more jacked up for all year is Comic-Con but even then I’m not sure anything fills me with a since of magic like this yearly awards show. You see the reason I love the Oscars so much, the reason I continue to watch them year after year is because they inspire me. This is the dance I want to be invited to, this is the world I want to be a part of and just like me at one point or another all of these people were nobodies, complete unknowns with nothing more than their dreams and loads of perseverance. The Oscars may be lots of glitz and glamour but they’re also the culmination of a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears. They’re the end game for people like me, a beacon in the night that drives us forward and spurs us on. For people like my sister and I they’re not an awards show, they’re a gauntlet that’s been laid down in front of us, a challenge to fight our way through it all to join the fun. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go continue trying to do just that. The Oscars are rocket fuel for my dreams and it’s time for lift-off.

Megan's Picks for the 82nd Academy Awards

82nd Academy Awards
Originally uploaded by chescasantos101
Just so I’m not left out I decided to post who I think should win in some of my favorite categories. These aren’t necessarily my predictions, but who I would vote for if I had access to a ballot.

By they way you can download a cool ballot at if you want to make predictions yourself or follow along.

Leading Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
Leading Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Supporting Actress: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Animated Feature: Up
Cinematography: The Hurt Locker
Costume Design: Nine
Directing: James Cameron, Avatar
Makeup: Star Trek
Original Song: The Weary Kind, Crazy Heart
Visual Effects: Avatar
Adapted Screenplay: Up In The Air
Original Screenplay: Inglorious Basterds
Best Picture: Avatar

No matter who you are pulling for, or if you're just tuning in for the gowns, have fun tonight!!!

You thought Superbowl Sunday was in February? Really?

I'm BACK. After sleeping through the Oscars last year in a hotel bed in London, I am so glad to be back on American soil gearing up for the big night.

That said, I am an somewhat unhappy Yank. After last year's totally predictable set of winners, I'm sad to say that this year isn't shaping up to be much better. No less than 3 out of the 4 Acting categories are sure things, and I wouldn't be surprised to find myself 6 for 6 in the major categories. I realize that, if a film/nominee deserves the award, then it doesn't matter if it makes the show predictable. That said, I like it a little better when there's more variety.

Best Picture
  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up in the Air
Predicted winner: The Hurt Locker
If I was voting: Avatar
Possible upsets: Avatar

Analysis: 10 nominees means that the field is spread for a greater chance of an upset, right? Not even close. This race is between 2 films, folks. From a personal standpoint, while I admired The Hurt Locker, in the end, it seemed to me to be a really well-made war film, but nothing that terribly revolutionary or groundbreaking. On the other hand, Avatar was an accomplishment the likes of which I've never seen before. After its victory at the Golden Globes, I think Avatar seemed like a much stronger contender than it does now. The Hurt Locker has picked up a lot of momentum with major victories at the Producer's Guild Awards and BAFTA's. All of the signs right now point to a victory for The Hurt Locker, but Avatar is definitely lurking on the horizon.

Best Director
  • James Cameron - Avatar
  • Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker
  • Quentin Tarantino - Inglourious Basterds
  • Lee Daniels - Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
  • Jason Reitman - Up in the Air
Predicted winner: Kathryn Bigelow
If I was voting: James Cameron
Possible upsets: James Cameron

Analysis: Imagine this. The only two nominees with a chance in this category used to be married. Who would have thought we'd see that? Kathryn Bigelow has all the momentum right now, and, most importantly, the Director's Guild Award. Sadly, gender is playing a big role in this race, when it shouldn't even be an issue. The Academy has only nominated 4 women for this award in its history, with none of them walking off with Oscar. The pressure is on the Academy right now to change that. That said, I still believe that James Cameron's achievement is much more significant than Bigelow's, despite the fact that she definitely deserves her nomination.

Best Actor

  • Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
  • George Clooney - Up in the Air
  • Colin Firth - A Single Man
  • Morgan Freeman - Invictus
  • Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker
Predicted winner: Jeff Bridges
If I was voting: Jeff Bridges
Possible upsets: None.

Analysis: Jeff Bridges has won almost every major award leading up to Oscar night, and I think that tonight will be no different. There are some strong performances in this category, but I don't see anyone beating The Dude.

Best Actress

  • Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren - The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan - An Education
  • Gabourey Sidibe - Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
  • Meryl Streep - Julie & Julia

Predicted winner: Sandra Bullock
If I was voting: Carey Mulligan
Possible upsets: Meryl Streep

Analyis: If you would have told me last year that Sandra Bullock would be the favorite to win any major Best Actress award, I would have thought you were nuts. I don't think she's really got a ton of range to work with. That said, I think she's clearly the front-runner here. Ordinarily, I'm a big Streep fan, but don't think her performance as Julia Child is nearly as good as it's getting credit for. There were a number of times that I felt that it drifted into caricature, which is certainly not what she was going for. One question: what happend to Abbie Cornish? How did her work in Bright Star manage to fall off the Oscar map?

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Matt Damon - Invictus
  • Woody Harrelson - The Messenger
  • Christopher Plummer - The Last Station
  • Stanley Tucci - The Lovely Bones
  • Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds
Predicted winner: Christoph Waltz
If I was voting: Christoph Waltz
Possible upsets: None.

Analysis: This category is closed. No one else stands a chance. In a year defined by sure things, this is the surest of them all.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Penélope Cruz - Nine
  • Vera Farmiga - Up in the Air
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal - Crazy Heart
  • Anna Kendrick - Up in the Air
  • Mo’Nique - Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Predicted winner: Mo'Nique
If I was voting: Vera Farmiga
Possible upsets: None

Analysis: Mo'Nique is the heavy favorite here, and has won nearly every major award of the season. Personally, I absolutely loved Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air. Her presence in the film was effortlessly nuanced and confident in its maturity. That said, she has no chance here, as any opportunity that she might have had is undercut by the nomination of co-star Anna Kendrick, who is the winner of my own award for Least Deserving Nominee. I have no idea what people saw in her performance. Oh well. Congrats, Mo'Nique.

In closing, here are a few more picks for you. Quentin Tarantino/Inglourious Basterds for Best Original Screenplay. Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner/Up in the Air for Best Adapted Screenplay. The White Ribbon for Best Foreign Language Film, with a possible upset coming from A Prophet. Up for Best Animated Film. "The Weary Kind" for Best Original Song.

Here's hoping that Steve Martin (one of my favorite Oscar hosts) and Alec Baldwin ROCK the HOUSE.

Enjoy the show.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Megan's Film

Hello dear readers. I hate to make a personal plug but I do have a favor to ask.

As you know from my entires I am a director and Chris is a writer, we made a film we are trying to get seen called END. One of the important steps is getting fans. Well, now we have a blog, a facebook and a twitter. Please follow us or become a fan.

END Facebook
END Twitter
END Blog

Thank you all!


You’ll have to excuse us if it seems like we’re going a little crazy with the Oscar talk around here but you have to understand, if you’re a movie geek The Oscars is basically your Super Bowl. The last several months of awards shows have been the play-offs and tomorrow night is the big dance, so just consider all of this the pre-game coverage.

If you’re a movie geek of any kind and most of the time even if you’re not, you make predictions as to who will take home the statues and then compare them with your friends to see who gets bragging rights for the rest of the year. I’m no different but this time I’ve decided to call my shots for the entire world to see. Below you’ll find my picks for what I THINK will win and what I WANT to win. The bold, italicized titles are what I think will win and the normal, non-bold or italicized titles are what I hope will win. I can honestly say I’ve NEVER had as much difficulty figuring out what I think will win for some of these races or been so torn over what I hope will win which once again speaks to the brilliance of the Academy’s choices this year. In fact in the Best Adapted Screenplay category you’ll see I’m equally torn over wanting 3 different candidates to win just because they’re all so brilliant, yet completely different from one another. Right or wrong I’m standing by my predictions and I think tomorrow night is going to be one heck of an interesting and entertaining night so once again bravo to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, good on you!

























Friday, March 5, 2010

If I Go to a Steak House Do I Have to Try the Fillet Mignon? or Why I Can't See "Precious: Based on the Novel 'PUSH' by Saphire"

Precious (movie)
Originally uploaded by BraveNewPhotos
I love going into the Oscars having seen all the best picture nominees – absolutely love it. The Oscars are one of the favorite events of the year right up there with Comic-Con. On top of this, as I’ve already blogged, I am super excited about the ten nominees. So it might come as a surprise to you all that I have only seen nine of the ten nominees and I very recently decided I won’t be seeing the tenth. The nominee I will not be seeing in the theatre is Precious.

From everything I have heard about Precious and the bits I’ve seen I do believe that Precious deserved its nomination. It is a relevant, striking film with great performances and exposes an area of life that most people would prefer to ignore. All of this is admirable. I am not avoiding Precious because I have something against the film or it’s filmmakers, but I do have what I think are good motivations to not see it in the theatre.

I have a friend who tells people she is very self-aware and knows her limits very well and is almost always right in what she can handle and what she can’t or her responses to things. One could say that I have the same awareness in terms of films. In my life I have seen so many films that I can usually predict from the trailer alone if I will enjoy a film or find fault with it, and if the film is even my cup of tea – usually I am right on the ball. There are some exceptions to this; I was excited about The Mist and now that film is on my list of all time hated films and I expected nothing out of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and now it’s one of my favorite films. However, the exceptions are few and far between; I know myself as a film viewer and I cannot escape it.

Frankly put, I know Precious is not my cup of tea. While I think the subject matter and the film are valid I don’t think I can sit in a theatre and watch a film about a teenage girl impregnated twice by her father and abused by her mother and come out the other side well. It’s too dark for me and once I see it I will not be able to “unsee” it. It will affect me and not in a positive way.

I am a director and an artist and among the many qualities that ascribes to me one of my trademarks is that I am an incredibly visual person. So much so that my film professors used to comment on it. My memory is visual and on seeing a movie once I could recount more accurately moments, shots or small details in the film than most of them could and my professors had usually seen the films repeatedly. I’ve always been that way and I can’t shut it off. Therefore, I sometimes am very careful about the films that I see because once I see it parts of the film will be stuck in my mind, queuing up in front of my eyes, forever.

The movie that comes immediately to mind when I think about films I can’t “unsee” is Monster’s Ball. I am not a person who walks out of movies, I believe in sticking through to the end because in most cases the end redeems the movie. That being said, I should have walked out of Monster’s Ball. The movie disturbed me and even though it did have a good message I did not like the means that were used to get to that message. I still see images from that film in my head when I think about it and I really wish they weren’t there. For me, I am afraid Precious will be another Monster’s Ball.

The safest bet for me is to wait for the DVD to come out, Netflix it and watch that way so if the film gets too intense, or if I just can’t handle any more I can send it back as I’ve already stated I tend not to walk out on a movie in the theatre, even when I think I should. I will try to see Precious, just not before the Academy Awards on Sunday.

This blog has been a bit heavy I know, but I hope you all at least got something out of it. And the message I hope it left you with is to appreciate good work, but understand that just because something is good it doesn’t mean the film is for you. That doesn’t devalue the film, that doesn’t mean you disagree with its popularity, it just means you as an audience member and a viewer have a palette and you know what is good and bad for that. Just because you go to a steak house known for its fillet mignon and you order a hamburger does it mean you think their fillet mignon isn’t worthy of its praise? No, it just means it’s not something you wanted to eat for any of a dozen reasons. This is my reason for not seeing Precious.

Now let’s get geared up for a great awards show on Sunday! I hope you’ve all have your favorite films and are prepared to cheer like it’s the Super Bowl if they win!


So none of these movies could have come out last year? After what may very well have been the worst year for Best Picture nominees in the history of the Oscars comes what may very well be the best year for Best Picture nominees. I guess the old adages is true, you really do have to go through hell to get to heaven.

Originally this post was going to be about how I simply have been unable to pick which film I want to win Best Picture (Hence the Monty Python inspired title). I’ve seen 9 of the 10 Best Picture nominees and in many ways almost every single one of them is deserving. What’s great about this years nominees, yet makes it so difficult is that they are all totally different from one another. For the most part the Academy picked 10 films that best represent every kind of story and story telling method one could possibly imagine and how do you whittle all those films down to the most deserving candidate? How do you judge a heart warming tale like UP versus the cold, bitter realities of war and the men who fight it as displayed in THE HURT LOCKER.? Quite simply, you can’t. It’s just not possible. Having come to realize that it dawned on me that I would have to judge by my own strange standards as filtered through my own strange mind. This doesn’t mean its right but when faced with such insurmountable indecision as this what other choice do I have than to embrace my own madness and have some fun with this whole thing? Below you’ll get a small glimpse of the strange twists and turns my brain took to come to this decision. Be afraid, be very afraid.

PRECIOUS: The only Best Picture nominee I couldn’t be bothered to see. I won’t go into the reasons why here, but that makes it the only one that’s automatically ruled out.

THE BLIND SIDE: One of the movies that’s surprised me the most in recent memory. If you remember I lambasted this movie when it first came out because I figured I would HATE it. Well, having seen it nothing could be further from the truth, in fact I kind of love this movie in a lot of ways. This is an interesting story told in an old fashioned, no nonsense kind of way. I’d almost love to see this win just because it would make all the snobs choke on their own vomit. Ultimately though I think there were still 10 better films that came out last year.

AN EDUCATION: One of the best “coming of age” stories I’ve seen in recent memory. I honestly can’t say why this shouldn’t win Best Picture I just liked some of the other films better.

A SERIOUS MAN: One of the most fascinating explorations of religion, sin and Jewish traditions I’ve ever seen, told in a way only the Coen Brothers could. There is a cadence and pacing to this film, and such an odd sense of humor to it all that made me immediately fall in love with it. In some ways I’d love to see this win Best Picture just because I think it would be one of the greatest upsets in the history of everything and the uncomfortable applause amongst the gathered elite in the Kodak would be priceless.

THE HURT LOCKER: One of the best war movies I’ve seen in recent memory and probably the best war movie since SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. This film is superb at every level and if it wins I’ll be more than ecstatic. Seriously there’s no reason this film doesn’t deserve to win. It really is as good as everyone says it is.

AVATAR: One of the best sci-fi films in recent memory (Are you noticing a pattern?). My colleagues have already said everything I could say about this movie and more. James Cameron’s film is a testament to the power of movies and why it is the greatest story telling medium of all time. This is the kind of film that captures a world’s imagination and deserves to be recognized for that. Also how cool would it be if the first science-fiction film to ever win Best Picture was made by one of the three greatest science-fiction directors of all time? My only issue is that I don’t think it was the best sci-fi film of the year.

UP IN THE AIR: One of the most topically resonant and poignant films I’ve ever seen. A perfect snapshot of our times over flowing with universal truths that will echo through the ages. If one thinks that a Best Picture winner should represent the year that it was released I can think of no better film.

DISTRICT 9: One of the best sci-fi films in recent memory. How cool would it be to have a first time director’s scrappy, violent little South African set sci-fi film win Best Picture? I also think this film probably had the single best character arc of any film I saw in 2009. The one issue though is while I think this is a better film than AVATAR, I don’t think I like the idea of some upstart beating out one of the three greatest sci-fi directors of all time for the Best Picture award. If someone’s going to be the first by God it should be James Cameron. Of course this film was produced by Peter Jackson so… Do you see why this is so hard?

UP: The best movie of the year and my second favorite film of 2009. If this movie wins justice was truly done. Having said that though we all know this film will most likely win Best Animated Feature so if this film picks up Best Picture as well that’s a missed opportunity for another movie to be honored and recognized. Besides, while I love Pete Docter and all that he did I’m not sure it’s right if he wins a Best Picture Oscar before Brad Bird.

INGLORISOUS BASTERDS: And that leaves us with Quentin Tarantino’s opus. Why this film, why is INGLORIOUS BASTERDS the one I want to see win out over all of the other obviously VERY qualified candidates? Simply because it would amuse me. Sure Tarantino’s film is well made in every aspect, heck out of the entire crop it is probably the single most masterfully made film of them all but that’s not why. At the end of the day it all boils down to this. How awesome would it be if a FANTASY WWII film done in like 6 different languages that ends with them KILLING HITLER actually won Best Picture? All the critics are so wrapped up in how brilliant the film is it’s like they sometimes forget that the movie is a WWII Spaghetti Western that is also every Jew’s wet dream! As you should be able to see by my meticulously insane breakdowns of all the other films, each and every one of them is worthy in some way but them winning doesn’t bring about the most awesomely surreal real-life ending ever as a bunch of peace loving hippies and dignified sons and daughters of Abraham all sit around in their Sunday best applauding and awarding one of the greatest, yet most insane revenge fantasies of all time! I mean if INGLORIOUS BASTERDS can win Best Picture then from this point forward ANYTHING can!

Either way, the outstanding field of nominees pretty much guarantees regardless of the outcome I’ll be a happy boy come Sunday night.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

FotM: Adam's vote goes to . . .

Look, I still don’t like the idea of 10 nominees for best picture. I never have, and probably never will. That said, choosing who I would vote for if I were a member of the Academy was surprisingly simple.

Currently, I’ve seen 7 out of the 10 nominees. There are at least 4 or 5 pretty good films in the bunch, with 2 that I’d say come the closest to being “great.” I’ll come right back to that . . .

I guess that you could say I’m an intellectual sort when it comes to films. I like films that try to tackle big themes, cover new ground, and communicate that elusive something. While I love being entertained, I don’t consider the having of a good time to be the ultimate goal of a film, or the chief sign of its quality. There have been a number of films (Fight Club, anyone?) I’ve seen that I didn’t necessarily enjoy that I consider to be examples of true craftsmanship, and I’m glad I watched them. Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that my way of looking at films is the “right” way of doing it, and that other approaches are wrong.

That would be stupid.

My point is this. I don’t normally go for the popular choice. When people were proclaiming The Dark Knight the single greatest thing since the dot got put before the com, I was one of the few pointing out what I thought were flaws. When people went nuts over Star Trek, I . . . well, you remember.

So, having said all of that, making my choice for what I would vote for as the Best Picture of 2009 was surprisingly simple.


Nothing I saw in 2009 equals the experience I had with James Cameron’s juggernaut. The only other film that I considered for this slot was Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, but, as great as IB is, (and it is one of the best films an already venerable filmmaker has ever made) I don’t think that anything released between 01/01/2009 and 12/31/2009 comes close to the monumental achievement that is Avatar.

I’m astounded at the fact that almost everything I saw at key points on the screen was created by a computer. Watching it for the first time, I was skeptical of the idea that the incredibly lush world of Pandora was digitally generated. I mean, come on, obviously those blue guys were fake, but what about that tree? The water in the lake? The wind from the helicopter blades moving through the grass? Surely that had to have been real. No computer can make something look that good, and that authentic. There’s no way it could have been left up to processors and microchips.

But it was, and, while it was beautiful, there was even so much more to it than that.
See, Avatar is the kind of thing that George Lucas wanted to make with his Star Wars prequel trilogy. What he didn’t seem to realize is that mere visual trickery isn’t enough to make an audience invest in something. Our brains may enjoy the sight of a superbly created digital world, but our hearts want something to hang their proverbial hats on. I was sold on this thing, man. I wanted to see the Na’Vi triumph over the invading human scum, and I wanted Jake and Neytiri to end up together so desperately.
What Cameron’s done here is truly remarkable. He didn’t just demonstrate a mastery of CGI that no one to date has equaled. He made a film in which, even as your mind is marveling at what it’s watching, you partially (even totally) forget that what you’re seeing is created by a computer. Your heart simply sees a man and a woman standing side by side in a gorgeous place that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

So, with respect to Quentin Tarantino & Kathryn Bigelow, on Sunday night, Best Picture (and for my money, Best Director) should go to James Cameron for Avatar.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

FOTM: Megan's Vote Is For...

Let me tell you I am a fan of having ten nominees for best picture. Instead of devaluing the award, I think it almost means more – your film had to fight it’s way past nine other great films to pull out the top honor. In fact, this blog has been really hard for me to write because I am so excited about the films that received nominations this year that as underwhelmed as I was by last year’s nominees, I seem to be making up for it this year by being beyond excited to see who will win and what surprises are in store.

When I sat down to finally write this post I actually surprised myself. Instead of going with my immediate gut instinct I decided to take the list of the ten nominees and come up with reasons why each one of them would deserve my vote (if I had one) for best picture; my factors were qualities like acting, technique, craftsmanship, enjoyment, aesthetics, and even my own drive to see the film in the theatre – basically I wanted the film that I thought had the greatest artistic merit and compelling draw to it. I thought for sure when I put it all on paper that my initial gut reaction would be correct and I would be writing about Up In The Air which is the film that probably moved me the most out of any film I saw this year. While Up In The Air did score higher on my criteria than The Hurt Locker & Inglorious Basterds there was one film that I scored high above all of them…one I didn’t think I’d vote for despite my love of the film.

So I sat. I thought about all of my qualities as a director, as a lover of films and as a critic and what I think the best picture Oscar is for. It’s then I realized if I truly wanted to award the film that I think will do the most for the craft of filmmaking, the art of storytelling and last with audiences for years to come I would have to cast my vote for Avatar.

Why Avatar? I’m going to start with the obvious – technology & innovation. I have a quote on my wall from James Cameron which he received from Stan Winston before his death: “…once you’ve shown something is possible everybody can do it.” James Cameron likes to try the impossible and for some reason he usually succeeds. For Avatar he ignored the naysayers and decided he wanted to create an entire alien planet and nine foot tall blue aliens that would actually be played by real actors and he did it – he even re-imagined how 3-D works for the film. Because Cameron was able to accomplish this we are now seeing an even larger influx of 3-D films and I guarantee you people will be using and pushing the technology Cameron used for Pandora & the Nav’ii for years to come. He made something new.

However, technology isn’t enough. They have the sci-tech awards for that. This leads me to another quote on my desk, this one from Spielberg that reads “We try to understand as filmmakers through empathy…because you can’t understand the human motivation without empathy.” Arguably the most powerful & well respected filmmaker of our time, the point Spielberg is making is that if you can’t feel your characters motivations & emotions and effectively put those on screen then the audience has no hope of connecting with your characters or your story. Think about it carefully – it’s hard enough for us to find some humans in films as empathetic, likable characters, but somehow in Avatar we are caught in the emotional journey of Jake Sully, Neytiri and an entire race of giant blue aliens. That is commendable and brilliant, a sign of true talent and a great story.

I’m also not one that tends to put a lot of stock in box office numbers, but with Avatar you can’t ignore the fact that the film smashed records worldwide and was in the top spot on the box office charts for almost two months. That tells me that Avatar is a film that managed to draw in an audience and do the most important thing – keep them. Unlike most of the best picture nominees almost everyone I’ve spoken to has seen Avatar and out of those the majority of them adored it. I have myself seen Avatar in the theatre three times – I haven’t seen any of the other films more than once. That tells me the film has a massive draw and appeal, and the sheer span of its reign in the box office tells me it’s not just because it had a budget behind it, an advantage the smaller films didn’t have to reach their audience. It is much more typical for a large budget film to have a huge opening week and then have a 40-70% drop for every week thereafter, but Avatar broke that model. In the U.S. alone box office actually went up after the first weekend.

There are even more things I could pull out about Avatar but I’ll wrap it up with something personal. Up In The Air may have been the film that connected with me on an emotional level I didn’t expect, but Avatar connected with me emotionally too. Avatar reminded me why making films is my passion. It reminded me about the powers of imagination, the exhilaration a great film can provide and what it looks like to produce something that no one has ever seen before. It reminded me that no matter what story you are telling there is always a unique and fresh way to tell it and if you have a passion for the story you are telling that passion will show up on screen. James Cameron is a master of his craft and with Avatar he managed to reinvigorate the cinema lover inside me again, which is quite the feat as I am already an enthusiastic lover of cinema. Cameron proved that he has a supreme talent to work with actors, artists and transfer a story to the screen.

Even with all the support and adoration I’ve laid out for Avatar (and I could keep going) I still think that awarding one film over another is as futile as choosing your favorite shade of blue, but what I do believe in is supporting good work. All of the nominated films this year were great works and each deserved the best picture award for very different reasons – I will enjoy it no matter who wins and have reasons to think each deserved it. However, I think if I ever do get a vote in the Academy I might just have to pull out this technique again and cast my vote that way.