Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Oscar predictions

"At this moment of awards-giving and back-patting, however, we can all agree to love movies again, for a little while, because we're living within a mirage that exists for only about six or eight weeks around the end of each year."

That's from Mark Harris' great article in the Feb. 2011 issue of GQ, The Day The Movies Died, and it rings pretty true.  He's right when he talks about the difficulty of original concepts getting a greenlight when studios are looking for pre-packaged concepts, though I don't think the outlook is as bleak as he suggests.  Trends eventually fade out and there will always be an audience for something that isn't based on a comic book or toy.  Though with movies coming based on Battleship, the Ouija board, and Monopoly, that trend may not be dying out fast enough for some of our tastes.  And like Harris says, sometimes you do get a gem out of these properties (I can't argue with his choices of Iron Man and The Dark Knight) but sometimes we just keep convincing ourselves that these movies are better than they are.  Let's face it - the Harry Potter films are pretty weak and will ultimately be negligible in film history.  (The best of the bunch, The Prisoner of Azkaban, is very good but by no means great, and the others float between mediocre and horrendous.)

And even though I have my problems with awards season and the politics behind it all (the move to 10 Best Picture nominees being the most recent focal point of my anger), I still love to play along with the Academy Awards and do the annual guessing game.  After all, I did make it a point to go about seeing every Best Picture winner in history, and that reveals a certain concession on my part to legitimize the power of the Oscar. (I've seen 9 of this year's nominees too, and will likely catch The Fighter - the one missing film - before the ceremony on Sunday.)  So below you'll find my picks for each category.  Also remember that there are a few contests out there that have some solid prizes for picking the winners, like up to $100,000 for trying to best Roger Ebert, or a stay at the Four Seasons in LA, so you may want to think about playing along too.

Best Actor - Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Best Supporting Actor - Christian Bale, The Fighter

Best Actress - Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Best Supporting Actress - Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech

Best Picture - The King's Speech

Best Director - David Fincher, The Social Network

Best Foreign Film - Incendies, Canada

Best Animated Film - Toy Story 3

Art Direction - Inception

Cinematography - Black Swan

Costume Design - The King’s Speech

Best Documentary - Exit Through the Gift Shop

Best Documentary Short - Strangers No More

Best Film Editing - The Social Network

Best Makeup - The Wolfman

Best Original Score - Inception

Best Original Song - We Belong Together from Toy Story 3

Best Animated Short - The Gruffalo

Best Live Action Short - God of Love

Sound Editing - Inception

Sound Mixing - Inception

Best Visual Effects - Inception

Best Adapted Screenplay - The Social Network

Best Original Screenplay - 
The King’s Speech

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

pet peeve

Ok, so this sounds like a very cool video about how babies adopt language.  It's actually worth watching, if you can get through it all, which is what I'll discuss in a moment:

Now, can you guess what my problem is?  It's the sounds the speaker makes while talking.  What is with that horrible mushy/pasty sound that she makes as she speaks??  I realize there is bound to be saliva as we talk, but magnified like this it just becomes disgusting to listen to, and takes me right out of the presentation.  Truth be told, I don't know whether the fault lies in the speaker or in the sound technician perhaps having the microphone too close or too loud.  Whoever is responsible needs to do something about it though, because like I said, I end up distracted from the presentation and end up hearing those repulsive sounds instead.  And that's a bit ironic when you're trying to give a presentation about how you are heard.

sharing is caring...

whoever took the time to program this is genius:

The Great Gatsby for NES

Monday, February 14, 2011

read one thing today

Since the budget is the big topic in DC right now, here's a good article debunking an old but persisent myth about the effect of taxes on the rich:

How tax hikes affect productivity

Thursday, February 10, 2011

quick update

I realize I haven't posted anything in about a week, and I am trying to decide if that's good or bad.  I don't want to post just to post; it's really when I find something interesting or noteworthy for discussion that I am looking to use this as an outlet.  But at the same time, I know there are plenty of things I want to mention or share that I haven't yet, and perhaps I don't need to expand on everything I post about.  It's still early for this blog and I am feeling out how it's going to always work.  I am thinking of resurrecting my Wednesday Morning Short Film Club, which may play better here than on Facebook.  Maybe also a daily or weekly suggested read, and the Hollywood roundup kind of thing too.  Like I said, still feeling this out...

In the meantime, this trailer for X-Men: First Class popped up today.  I like that we are getting to the point where comic book movies are going in some new directions.  The four comic movies this summer - this, Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern - may not all end up as winners, but each one of them is trying something a little different than what we've typically seen from past Marvel films.  Captain America is still the one I find most intriguing, but this trailer bumped this up on my radar.  Take a look:

Friday, February 4, 2011

source material

The backstory of Star Wars is pretty common knowledge at this point.  Yes, George Lucas was inspired by Joseph Campbell's The Hero With A Thousand Faces, and the influence of Kurosawa and Flash Gordon is a standard talking point as well.  What a lot of people probably don't realize though is just how detailed Lucas was in his references.  This is not laziness or theft or a rip-off.  As Kirby Ferguson shows in the latest installment of his series, Everything is a Remix, this is an intentional mix of all his favorite elements from other sources into something totally new.  Check out the video below and watch just how closely Lucas matches shots.  (Watch past the credits - there's even more.)

And of course you can't talk reference and homage in film without considering the current king, Quentin Tarantino.  QT has been dealing with the homage/rip-off debate ever since Reservoir Dogs (which was influenced by City on Fire), but if you can't tell by now that he's doing a lot more than stealing wholesale from others, watch this clip. (If you followed my advice and watched the full clip above, you saw this part mentioned.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hollywood roundup

Superman - The Movie (Four-Disc Special Edition)Since the biggest thing in Hollywood for the past decade has been comic book movies, the biggest news seems to inevitably revolve around that genre.  But the comic book movie really got its start back in 1978 with the original Superman, so it makes sense that the big story this week was the casting of Henry Cavill as the latest incarnation of the Man of Steel (which also seems to be the working title for the new movie).  Teenagers at this point are probably not as familiar with Christopher Reeve in the role, so it's a good time to sell the character to a new generation. (I'll give Brandon Routh credit for doing a decent job in the otherwise forgettable Superman Returns.)  I've never seen any of the work Cavill has done, but I am willing to trust that Zack Synder (director) and Chris Nolan (producer) know what they are looking for.  Ultimately it will come down to those two taking the character and story in a new direction.  They know the comic book movie pretty well - I thought Synder did a fantastic job with Watchmen, and obviously Nolan has done alright by Batman with his two movies.

Speaking of which, the rumors online (or maybe just the wishful thinking) for awhile now have had Joseph Gordon-Levitt as The Riddler in Nolan's next Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. Once the announcements of Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle and Tom Hardy as Bane came out, those rumors seemed to die out.  But those fires seem to be rekindled with the report that Gordon-Levitt is in talks with Nolan to join the cast of the The Dark Knight Returns.  Nobody is saying what his role would be, and with two villains already announced, it seems unlikely that The Riddler would be the part, but it will be interesting to find out exactly how he fits into the mix.

The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut (Signet)I don't think the original mini-series of Stephen King's The Stand was perfect by any means, but I am pretty sure the problem wasn't that it was too long.  It's a heavy, intricate book with a lot of great ideas and subplots, and it naturally seems like something that is better told in long form.  So while I am not surprised that a studio would be interested in going back to the source material, I find it a little puzzling that they are looking at it as a feature film.  Warner and CBS both have ties to premium cable channels where the story could play out as another mini-series (with an increased budget and no broadcast restrictions like the original ABC version had).  If a book like Band of Brothers can be turned into a 10-hour event, something like The Stand could easily go the length of a standard cable season (13 hours or so).  Beyond that, there is plenty of material there to expand it into a regular series, even without tapping into the expanded material that has come from the Marvel comics series.

Long form is the direction that Stephen King's other magnum opus, The Dark Tower, is headed.  We're all still waiting to hear if Javier Bardem is going to accept the part of the gunslinger, but that's not the only choice Bardem is facing.  It seems that he's also being enticed to take the part as the next bad guy in the Bond series.  Not too much is known about this next installment, but Sam Mendes is an intriguing choice as director, and whatever he told Bardem seems to have gotten him intrigued as well.  Between those offers and Bardem's surprise nomination for Biutiful, he's certainly becoming an A-list name in 2011.

Book club: Blood Meridian discussion

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the WestSo this is just a spot for the book club to discuss our latest read, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.  Post your thoughts or questions on the book in the comments section below.

And again, if you are not in the club but want to be, just let me know and I'll add you.