Monday, December 13, 2010

Love and Other Drugs, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series

Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal fall in love, get nude A LOT, try to cure one of them of Parkinson’s, break up, YOU CAN’T HANDLE MY ILLNESS, and then … well, you know what happens. The unexpected thing about this movie, and no it’s not the Parkinson’s, is the fact that this movie is getting pretty ok reviews and some critics are even touting it as a substantial movie rather than a mediocre romantic comedy, which it is – in my opinion.

I finally saw the last of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movies. I only read the first book, so I think that made me enjoy no. 2 and 3 more. The first two I saw on Netflix instant play, ok, but the quality was only so-so. I saw the third one in the theater and, as with all movies, that made the experience so much better. The Lisbeth is great in these movies and the stories are intriguing. I’m not a Steig Larson nut, like a lot of people, I know. I’m not really a mystery nut either, so that may explain why I not crazy about these movies, but I believe these movies are worthy versions of the books which is no small feat.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl who Played with Fire
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Morning Glory

You can’t help but compare Morning Glory to Broadcast News, the latest newsroom movie with Rachel MacAdams and Harrison Ford. Of course, this movie does quite live up to Broadcast News which was about serious news, but focused on Holly Hunter’s character, Jane. But the juxtaposition between serious news and fluff is still at work in Morning Glory, a movie about a slight morning show that rivals the Today show that is losing in the ratings. Rachel McAdams’ character Becky Fuller is given the task of raising the ratings of this silly show. Her co-anchors are played by Dianne Keaton (always funny!) and Harrison Ford, who she persuades to join morning TV even though he has only ever done serious news. The conflict between perky Becky and grave Ford’s character, Mike Pomeroy is one of the funniest things about the movie. Also, I loved the way McAdams bounced through movie with a cheerleader’s glee. I think she’s great in this movie and is what makes the movie worth watching. The downer of the movie is that fluff wins – the movie seems to celebrate the truly stupid of TV. Anyway, Morning Glory’s no Broadcast News, but pretty fun. Will it get added to some of my all time favorite newsroom movies (see sidebar?), probably not.
Favorite Newsroom Movies:
Broadcast News, Who's the devil?
His Girl Friday, Oldie but a goodie
Zodiac, spooky but good
Shattered Glass, answers the question What if I made it up?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Waiting for Superman

I had to mull over David Guggenhiem’s (the Inconvenient Truth guy) Waiting for Superman for a while. Waiting for Superman is about our nation’s failing public school system and while it asserts that charter schools are not THE answer, they may be an answer for some. And the other answer is better teachers -- it heavily puts the burden on teacher performance as a way to save our nation’s schools.

As a documentary intended to capture the audience’s attention and persuade them into a point of view, it definitely did that – it really makes you think, argue, wonder but also fear that you are being strongly manipulated. Guggenheim even uses cute, worthy, poor children to create the central dramatic tension of the movie. The resolution of the movie is when we find out if these kids get into some of the successful charter schools and are not forced to return to their squalid, worthless schools.

But is Waiting for Superman a credible source for information about the state of our educational system? I’m not so sure. Yes, there are some terrible schools in a lot of our major cities, and yes, a lot of teachers should be fired who aren’t because of the power of teacher’s unions, but is that alone going to fix the schools? And what percentage of schools need fixing?
Diane Ravitch in the New York Times wrote a scathing article slapping around Waiting for Superman and taking offence at the burden that teachers were given for fixing the problem of schools. Instead, she points out that poverty and other ills are more to blame:

“…research shows that nonschool factors matter even more than teachers. According to University of Washington economist Dan Goldhaber, about 60 percent of achievement is explained by nonschool factors, such as family income. So while teachers are the most important factor within schools, their effects pale in comparison with those of students’ backgrounds, families, and other factors beyond the control of schools and teachers. Teachers can have a profound effect on students, but it would be foolish to believe that teachers alone can undo the damage caused by poverty and its associated burdens.”

Hear, hear! Even as a teacher at a charter school, I feel the weight pressing upon me as if I alone am in charge of fixing all that ails schools. Believe me, we get this pressure enough of the time at school – now we are getting it in the media. And indeed the prevailing mantra about fixing schools is better teachers, better teachers! What’s wrong with those darn teachers? It’s enough to give one heart palpitations.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Up Series

In 1964, British filmmaker Michael Apted chose an assorted group of English 7-year-olds to film and chronicles their lives every 7 years. Now, those "kids" are 49 years old. I had seen some of these “episodes” many years ago but had never saw the 1964 version and certainly hadn’t seen 49 and UP. So over the last month or so I watched all the whole 7 and Up series. And, believe me, it is fascinating. You can’t wait to put in the next DVD and find out they are doing at 21 or 42. It’s reality TV at its finest. I think Apted had some preconceived ideas what he would reveal about England and the class system when he started the series, and while many of his hypothesis held true (like the upper crust will follow a plan laid out for them with private schools etc. and the East enders will never make it out of dead end jobs), the most fascinating revelations were those “kids” who broke out their mold.
The most successful lives were the ones who possessed a mixture of practicality and drive. And I am defining successful as those who had good marriages or raised happy children or were satisfied with their lives. One of my favorites was this scrappy little ruffian, Tony, who at 21 one said that all that mattered, “was mom and dad and love.” And I don’t want to give away what happens to all of them because that’s where the suspense comes in but Tony was an example of someone who has amazing resources and ambitions and a lot of love. Tony isn’t the only captivating character of the bunch. There’s feisty fellow East Ender Jackie, sad-eyed Paul, compassionate Bruce, and the future physicist Nick who ends up in Madison Wisconsin of all places. And the most, I don’t know the word, maybe heartbreaking or thoughtful, or unpredictable of all the kids is Neil, who at 7 skips across the street with glee.
One thing that is kind of annoying is the repeat of the earlier footage at each stage. I did some skipping of that when I watched it on DVD. I watched the last bit on Netflix instant play, so I was not able to skip ahead. Also, sure, Apted is a manipulative film maker, he presents the “kids” as he sees them, but I like how he occasionally gets called to task by one of his subjects. Jackie really gives him an earful in 49 and Up.
So if you’ve got some time on your hands and want to watch one of the most fascinating documentaries that I’ve ever watched, give The Up series a shot.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Social Network

After reading great reviews about the Facebook movie, The Social Network, I was eager to see it. Even though I had also read a New Yorker profile of Mark Zuckerberg that claims that the movie distorted some of the facts about Facebook’s inception, I was still persuaded to see the movie. And It was really good.

I liked seeing the world of Harvard and the amazing gifted and privileged students at Harvard and how these youngsters, future leaders of the world, create amazing start up companies in their dorm rooms. It makes you feel old and not so smart, but it is definitely something to see.

I also enjoyed the Winklevoss brothers (two of Zuckerberg’s “victims”)– the young wealthy twins who row crew and act as if there right out of Brideshead Revisited. Plus, Zuckerberg’s friend, Eduardo, who is Facebook’s co-founder, is another reason to see the movie – played by Andrew Garfield – he’s sweet and earnest and a good friend and the perfect contrast to Zuckerberg’s icy wit.

And of course, Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is great. He is downright mean but very funny throughout the movie, and it is especially pointed when he sheds some of that meanness at the end of the movie. I wondered if the real Zuckerberg is really that funny. The movie starts out as a profile of the brilliant world of Harvard with all its amazing possibilities and ends in the brighter but meaner world of California and throughout it is a great movie.

If interested, like I was, in a fact check of the movie, check out this site.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Temple Grandin and Get Low

I don’t know if others have had the experience of weeping through Temple Grandin, but this movie really got to me. Besides loving Claire Danes and thinking she is amazing in this movie, I cheered on her subject, Temple Grandin, a brilliant autistic woman who overcame her fears and achieved her goals. Because of her intuitive understanding of animals, she able to make cattle lots more compassionate for the cattle. She also has been able to explain what it is like to be autistic. This movie is definitely one that tugs at your heartstrings (which normally I hate in a movie) but the combination of Claire Danes’ great acting and Temple Grandin’s remarkable life, makes this movie well worth watching and a genuinely inspirational story.

I also saw Get Low about a grizzled hermit who emerges from the woods and declares he would like to plan his funeral and attend it. Robert Duvall is the crusty old guy; Bill Murray is the potentially shady funeral director; and Sissy Spacek is the old girlfriend. Holding the movie together and giving it some perspective is the young guy named Buddy played by Lucas Black who works for Murray’s character. For me, his reactions to the events of the movie was the most interesting part. The movie had a few genuine original moments but was mostly pretty forgettable.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Winter's Bone and Georgia O'Keefe

Winter’s Bone is a little movie about a group of impoverished people living in the Ozarks whose life is corrupted by a community of scary kin who cook meth. In the center of this mess is a girl whose father is missing and his failure to show up for court will lead to the family losing their land. Ree (played by previously unknown to me, Jennifer Lawrence) is responsible for her younger brother and sister and her mute and sketchy mother. This amazing girl, Ree, stomps through the treeless winter hills with a stubborn purpose while encountering some seriously freaky people, one of whom is her own uncle, her father’s brother. At first it is hard to tell whose side her uncle(played by John Hawkes from Deadwood), strangely named teardrop, is on. But Ree unflinchingly carries on – trying to figure out what has become of her father. I liked this movie for a couple of reasons: Ree is interesting to watch and it not obvious where this movie is heading– happily no Hollywood blueprint to follow.

I also recently saw the Lifetime TV movie, Georgia O’Keefe. You’d think a movie starring two heavy hitters like Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen would be impressive, but it was actually kind of bland. Still, I enjoyed learning about the artist and her older lover, the photographer, Aurthur Stieglitz, who according to this movie was kind of a jerk. Despite interesting fodder for a movie, Georgia O’Keefe fell flat.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

I was surprised by how much I liked this movie. I had read that The Kids Are All Right was trying to be too hip for its own good, and, yes, there is some of that. But, it is also funny, thought-provoking, and at times sweet about how hard it is to be married and raise a family. The family stability begins to unravel when the lesbian couple's (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) two teenage children go searching for their mothers’ sperm donor, and, Voila, they find none other than the super sexy Mark Ruffalo. Paul, Ruffalo’s character, causes all kinds of disruption, some good and some bad, but most interesting is that his impact on the family is complicated and the director leaves room for ambiguity. The kids, Joni and Laser, (Mia Wosikowska and Josh Hutcherson) seem like real kids with real teen age insecurities and interests unlike so many TV shows and movies these days where the kids are over sexualized and behave like adults. With great actors like Bening and Moore, you know you are going to get some great performances, and they do not disappoint. The Kids Are All Right is more than just allright.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Motorcycle Diaries vs. Eat, Pray, Love

I just rewatched Motorcycle Diaries and then went to Eat, Pray, Love the next day. One can’t help but make comparisons between these two movies, both about a member of the privileged class who goes on a “spiritual” (I’m using that word even though I think it is kinda meaningless) and an actual journey. Motorcycle Diaries is about journey of the young Che Guevara and his good friend from one end of South America to the other, through amazing scenery where the young Che learns to see this landscape through the eyes of the poor and helpless. You actually see his character changing as he becomes impassioned about his quest to unite the underclass of South America. Now, Eat, Pray, Love, on the other hand, is about a woman who left her husband without any real reason that the audience can tell (I didn’t read the book, by the way) and she is so distraught and apparently has enough money to say my only way to make myself whole again is to go to Italy, India, and Bali. Liz, played by the gorgeous how-can-life-be-tough-for-someone-that-beautiful Julia Roberts, mopes throughout the movie and then *poof* is happy again, in part when she crashes into the sexy Javier Bardem. Che was on a they, they, they trip while Liz is on a me, me, me trip. Of course, Eat, Pray, Love may be worth seeing for some beautiful scenery and some good bits by Javier Bardem and Richard Jenkins. And Motorcycle Diaries is definitely worth seeing.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Roman Polanski resurfaces with this Hitchcockian drama about a Tony Blair-like politician who’s writing his memoirs with a ghostwriter while on Martha’s Vineyard. Pierce Brosan plays the former prime minister and Euan McGregor plays the ghost writer. Now, I always like a movie with Euan McGregor, and in this film he is again witty and debonair while he tries to find his way in a world where he is in way over his head. Right as the ghostwriter begins working with Brosnan’s character he is accused of war crimes and the ghostwriter while happens upon some unsavory details about his subject. Overall, I found Ghostwriter to be an intriguing little mystery with good acting.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Movies 2010

Because I've been having too much time for fun like going to the beach and having margaritas with the visitors, I haven't been posting much lately. Of course, I have been watching some movies:

Alice in Wonderland: meandering fantasy with a few visually delightful moments but overall, yawn
The Last Station: this movie is a very enjoyable story about the followers of Leo Tolstoy during his waning years. It’s about the struggle between his wife and the Tolstoyans over his legacy. Tolstoyans are pretty interesting. They are devoted followers of Tolstoy with some strange rules thrown in like being celibate and refraining from killing bugs or some such things like that. There is a very sweet romance between two Tolstoyans, one played by the cute James McAvoy.
Whip It: Whip it is a fun coming of age drama with the likable Ellen Page. Her character, Bliss, defies her controlling mother to skate with some tough chicks in the Roller Derby.
Broken Embraces: the latest from Pedro Almodovar with the evervescant Penelope Cruz. The plot is hard to explain, but unfolds in the form of a memory from a blind film maker who tells of his love affair with Lena or the beautiful Penelope Cruz. Interesting but not as good as Volver.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Please Give

I’ve thought a lot about Please Give since I saw it. Am I one of those people? By one of those people I mean liberal, socially conscious, but down deep caught up in meaningless grasps for stuff: property, furniture,decorative items, spray tans etc. (Well, I know I am not interested in spray tans!) The movie revolves around a married couple who buy and sell used furniture, waiting for old folks to die and then visiting their New York apartments looking for treasures. Meanwhile the couple played by Elizabeth Keener and Oliver Platt hope to expand their New York apartment after a cranky old lady next door dies. Perhaps, the one genuinely giving person in the movie is one of the old lady’s granddaughters, Rebecca played by Rebecca Hall (you may recall her from her great role in Vicky Christina Barcelona) who cares for her grandmother despite having to listen to her demeaning comments every time she visits. All in all, Please Give is a very thought-provoking movie.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Young Victoria

Young Victoria covers about 5 years of Queen Victoria of England’s life when she becomes queen and meets and marries Prince Albert. If you like movies about the English monarchy (and I really do!), you will like Young Victoria. Not only is the romance very sweet, but also learning about the insular and rare world that Victoria managed to thrive in is fascinating.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Messenger

Why wasn’t Ben Foster nominated for an Oscar for his role in The Messenger? Woody Harrelson, who was nominated for best supporting actor, is good too, but wow, Ben Foster is amazing. The Messenger is a story about two soldiers whose job it is to notify family members about the death of their loved one in war. It’s just a story about two extremely messed up guys who have a very messed up job. Simple and well worth watching.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife

I had read bad reviews of this movie but still wanted to see it since I read the book. The Time Traveler’s Wife manages to take the exciting concept of time travel and make it boring. Even the ever radiant and cute Rachel McAdams, the time traveler’s wife, is not very interesting. In the book, the relationship between the wife and the traveler played by Eric Bana in the movie, is passionate, in the movie, enhhh. The best part of the movie comes when the cute little girl shows up, and that’s the last 20 minutes of the movie.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Hugh Dancy is Adam, a man-child who has aspergers. Rose Byrne is Beth, his new neighbor who is strangely fascinated by Adam and begins an awkward romance with him. A romance that starts with lines from Adam like, Were you sexually excited last night? The movie is funny and sad. I thought more sad than funny, but worth watching, mainly to see the great acting, especially Dancy. And I think the movie makers treated the difficult to understand condition of Aspergers with sensitivity and insight.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Noah Baumbach, maker of a The Squid in the Whale and Margot at the Wedding, gives us Greenberg, another look at and unhappy people and their ugly human qualities. While it’s not quite as funny nor is the plot as well-crafted as The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg, played by Ben Stiller, did get me thinking about aging and people’s futile grasps at meaning. Greenberg is so self-involved you want to slap him. He is house-sitting at his brother’s house while recovering from a nervous breakdown. He has nothing much to do but fills his day with meaningless tasks such as writing mundane complaint letters and making a dog house. He then decides to inflict his downer self onto Florence, his brother’s personal assistant, a victim who she allows Greenberg to verbally abuse her. Sounds fun, huh? Maybe not fun but revealing. The movie dissects a type of person who has no values, who is depressed, and lacks self-awareness, who may learn a little something at the end. If you like a character-driven movie, where the character is a jerk, then you may like Greenberg.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Movie Catch Up

I've been absent from my blog for quite a while. Some of that time I was in Ecuador and did in fact watch a lot of movies. A few on the airplane and a few of the unlicensed variety. Here's the recap:

Airplane movies: captive audiences who have nothing better to do than watch one the follow ennhhh movies!
Old Dogs -- This movie was actually shown TWICE on my way down and it is TERRIBLE! If I were Robin Williams or Jon Travolta I would try strike this movie off my resume. Super dumb!
My One and Only -- Renee Zellweger as aging beauty queen with two sons in the 1950s. This movie wasn't terrible but just kind of boring. I liked the sons played by Logan Lerman and Mark Rendell.
Hachiko, A Dog's Story: Richard Gere's character happens upon a cute little puppy from Japan in this heart warming tale about dog love. Right up my alley, not. But actually it wasn't that bad but it was no Marley and Me.

Movies from the streets of Quito, a.k.a pirated
The Blind Side: I can see why this movie is so popular. How can you not like that big guy Michael and root for his success?
Agora: The beautiful Rachel Weisz plays Hypatia, a Roman philosopher, astronomer, and atheist who studies at the ancient library at Alexandria. This movie was really fascinating and spurred a lot of Google searches.
The Lightning Thief: I enjoyed this "Kids" movie. Not having read the books, the teacher in me, liked the modern take on Greek mythology.
Invictus -- I forgot Invictus. The movie about a South African rugby team and Nelson Mandela. Very interesting and I enjoyed learning about what was going on in South Africa at this time. Morgan Freeman's Nelson Mandela is the price of admission. Not a great movie, I don't think but good.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Taking Woodstock and Wonderful World

Taking Woodstock
It starts pretty good. Goofy Demetri Martin as the beleaguered Jewish son to two nutty parents and owner of a rundown motel desperately tries to save his parents livelihood. You ask yourself, how does this kooky family become instrumental in the making of the great music festival Woodstock? The answer to this question intrigued me enough to want to keep watching until at some point, amid star cameos and drug induced hazy scenes, you realize this movie isn’t going anywhere -- the plot had gone seriously awry. It’s too bad really. So much potential, a movie directed by the great Ang Lee and about such an interesting subject. At least the beginning is pretty good.

Wonderful World

In Wonderful World Mathew Broderick plays a cranky failed musician who is brought back to life by two Senegalese visitors to his unhappy life. Remind you of anything? If you saw the much better The Visitor, which about a crank who is revived by some musician Africans. Just see The Visitor if this plot intrigues you. Oh wait, there is one reason to see Wonderful World, and that is the small role played byMichael Kenneth Williams, also known as Omar from The Wire.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Swedish Auto and New York, I Love You

Swedish Auto
What happens if you are stalking someone and then you find out someone is stalking you so then you stalk that person. Swedish Auto answers this question … lugubriously (how do you like that word? :) Lukas Haas plays a sad sack auto mechanic who is in love with a beautiful violinist so what’s a guy to do but follow her around town, meanwhile an abused waitress fancies the mechanic and hovers outside his abode. The waitress is played by the beautiful January Jones of Mad Men fame and she hardly seems like she could be a stalker. If you think this movie might be a light-hearted and wacky (as I hoped it would be) you would be wrong. Rather it’s a story about a bunch of surly down and outs who try to find moments of happiness in a dreary life. Sound fun, doesn’t it?

New York, I Love
is a collection of short films directed by people like Mira Nair and Natalie Portman with a myriad of famous actors in brief pieces: Bradley Cooper, Andy Garcia, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman (acts and directs), Orlando Bloom, Ethan Hawke, Anton Yelchin, James Caan, Julie Christie, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf , Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn, and Cloris Leachman. This is part two of a series. Paris, Je T’aime which I wrote about was the first film. Like that film, this movie is a hodge podge of some good and some what the heck is goin’ on here? But I think Paris, Je T’aime seemed more connected to real people’s problems. New York, I Love You, begs the question: Why do I love you, New York? You are so crude and banal.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Oscar Picks, 2010 -- The Results

2010,was not my year. I got stomped on. Congrats Deb.
Deb 15/24
Mary 9/24

Winners in Bold

X marks my picks. Possible points: 24
Deb's picks = O

Best Picture
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker X O
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow The Hurt Locker X O
James Cameron Avatar
Lee Daniels Precious
Jason Reitman Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino Quentin Tarantino

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart O
George Clooney in Up in the Air
Colin Firth in A Single Man X
Morgan Freeman in Invictus
Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker

Best Actress
Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side O
Helen Mirren in The Last Station
Carey Mulligan in An Education
Gabourey Sidibe in Precious
Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia X

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon in Invictus
Woody Harrelson. in The Messenger
Christopher Plummer in The Last Station
Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz in Ingourious Basterds X/O

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz in Nine
Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air
Mo’nique in Precious X/ O

Best Animated Feature
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up X/ O

Best Film Editing
Avatar X/O
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds

Best Cinematography
Avatar O
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker X
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

Best Screenplay, Adapted
Neill Blomkamp and
 Terri Tatchell District 9
Nick Hornby An Education
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche In the Loop
Geoffrey Fletcher Precious
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner Up in the Air X / O

Best Screenplay, Original
Mark Boal The Hurt Locker X
Quentin Tarantino Inglourious Basterds O
Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman The Messenger
Joel and Ethan Coen A Serious Man
Peter Docter, Bob Peterson,
Tom McCarthy Up

Best Original Song
Almost There from The Princess and the Frog
Down in New Orleans from The Princess and the Frog
Loin De Paname from Paris 36
Take it All from Nine
The Weary Kind from Crazy Heart X / O

Best Original Score
Avatar X
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes
Up O

Costume Design
Bright Star
Coco Before Chanel
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus X
The Young Victoria O

Best Foreign Language Film
Ajami - Israel
The Secret in their Eyes - Argentina
The Milk of Sorrow - Peru
A Prophet - France X
The White Ribbon - Germany O

Best Documentary Feature
Burma VJ
The Cove O
Food Inc. X
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home

Best Documentary Short
China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province O
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
Music by Prudence
Rabbit a la Berlin X

Best Short Film, Live Action
The Door
Instead of Abracadabra
Kavi O
Miracle Fish X
The New Tenants

Best Short Film, Animated
French Roast X
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)
A Matter of Loaf and Death O

Art Direction
Avatar X/ O
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria

Il Divo
Star Trek O
The Young Victoria X

Sound Editing
Avatar X/ O
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek

Sound Mixing
Avatar X O
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Visual Effects
Avatar X / O
District 9
Star Trek

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The September Issue and Into the Storm

On the face of it, The September Issue is a documentary about the months it takes to put together Vogue’s huge September issue, but really it is a glimpse into the real scary calm rule of Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor, known to most of us nonfashion followers as the woman who Meryl Streep played in The Devil Wears Prada. I kept seeing Streep’s portrayal throughout this movie, without the over top behavior liking flopping the coat on her assistant’s desk, such as the stare of disdain. You know really, the movie isn’t just a portrayal of Wintour, the movie plays up the conflict between the decisive Wintour and the creative director, Grace Coddington, who seems to be the great talent of Vogue magazine. The two of them, women of a “certain” age, go to head to head, while never directly confronting each other. They do try to strong arm the other – of course, Wintour usually way wins, but it is definitely a battle that is fun to watch: reality drama at its finest.

I also watched Into the Storm – another portrayal of a real person: Winston Churchill. The segment of his life we see in the movie is during WWII, and it shows his strength in leading England through one if it’s most difficult times. We also see a quirky, petulant, brilliant side to Winston Churchill, a man I knew little about it before I saw this movie. It was an interesting but probably but not exciting movie for most. My dad, a big Winston Churchill fan, would probably really like it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Funny People

For starters Funny People is not funny. It is at times dismal, at times pathetic, and at times really crude. It’s about horrible unlikable people or comics, (I guess) who say horrible things to each other. It’s another one from the Judd Apatow comedy factory – you know the maker of 40-year-old Virgin, Super Bad, and so forth. In fact since 2004, he’s made more than 10 movies: a mixture of very funny ones and real duds. This one has one of his favorite actors Seth Rogen who is the only actual “real” person in this movie. Adam Sandler is the famous comic who is no longer happy with his riches and fame. He goes searching for a woman he loved. It’s so blah and unrealistic that I stopped caring about this movie somewhere during the last sentence.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Hurt Locker and Crazy Heart

It just so happened that I went to two movies in one day (I had already gone to The Hurt Locker and got an invitation to go to Crazy Heart) which forces me to compare these two movies: one intense and stressful, and one slow and drowsy.

The Hurt Locker
Before going to Hurt Locker, I had a knotted muscle in my back and believe me this movie did not help me de-stress. I was tense throughout the movie and my face held a cringe. Even though it is not the type of movie I usually see – it has all the elements I usually like to avoid: war, blood, macho men with guns – I was too intrigued to miss it, especially when it can be found at our new independent theater. In its simplest form Hurt Locker is just three guys who go from one potential deadly threat to another, diffusing the situation or in some cases creating some added drama. Their leader and the man who wears the padded bomb suit, is Will James played by Jeremy Renner, and he is a reckless adrenaline junky but incredibly skilled at what he does. He says nutty threatening things and then says, “Just kidding” in a way that makes him seem crazy – but you can’t keep your eyes off of him --he is interesting on screen except when his team member Sandborn, played by Anthony Mackie, is onscreen – he also gives an amazing presence. Do I recommend this movie? Yes, I think for the performances and the intensity, but no if you don’t want to be freaked out and make your back get even more knotted up.

Crazy Heart
Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart plays a broken down alcoholic country singer. This movie is a character study and the character, Bad Blake. His performance basically IS the movie and the movie may be worth going to if only to see his performance, I guess. But it is also pretty plotless and too slow-paced. It was like they tried to slap a pretty clich̩ plot structure around a great character and some good songs and performances. Giving him a love interest of the beautiful and way too young Maggie Gyllenhall seemed all wrong. Bad Blake is gross Рwho but a star struck drunk fan would want to kiss him? And the ending definitely falls flat. After hearing an interview on Fresh Air with T. Bone Burnet who produced and wrote some of the music for this movie I had high hopes for this movie, but maybe because my expectations were too high, I was disappointed.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Sugar is either a baseball movie about a Dominican or an immigrant movie about a guy who plays baseball. After training in the Dominican Republic, Sugar leaves his family and a simpler life to strive for his dream of playing baseball with the Yankees. I won’t tell you the ending, but it is not predictable. The movie spotlights what it must be like for a non English speaker to come to a place like Iowa (where he plays on a minor league team) and try to assimilate. The boy/ man who plays Sugar is a real Dominican played by Algenis Perez Soto, and he’s very charming and is able to show his sense of displacement with just a look. We get to experience America through his intense stares. There are moments in the movie where you almost don’t want to watch it anymore because you fear the worst for Sugar and you want the best for him, but I’m glad I made it to the end. So, baseball fans, and fans of a quality American made movies in Spanish, I think you would like this movie. By the way, the directing/writing team behind this movie were also behind the great movie Half Nelson, a favorite movie of mine.

I also saw Beauty in Trouble, a Czech movie about a troubled marriage. The fact that it was a foreign movie and was supposed to be pretty good did not make it so. Another movie that I watched so you don’t have to. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Answer Man

I decided to see this movie because A. we were having a snow storm and I didn’t have a movie to watch so I sloooowly fired it up on Netflix watch instantly … and B. it had Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls fame and I like her and C. it was a romantic comedy and sometimes I'm just in the mood for one of those. The Answer Man, played by Jeff Daniels, is an author of self-help books with a cult following whose personal life is a mess. My findings of this so-so weirdo romantic comedy, are that it was interesting enough to hold my attention, and odd enough to be unpredictable, and an overall unique premise, good actors, but in the end kinda cheesy and kinda enhhh with no chemistry between the two leads.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In the Loop

In the Loop, the sometimes hilarious British political satire, makes politicians out to be ridiculous boobs. Tom Hollander as Simon Foster is hilarious as the foot-in-his-mouth minister to the Prime Minister and his boss, played by Peter Capaldi, swears a blue streak and is mean in a very funny and belittling way. The action moves to Washington where we get a look at some boobs on the other side of the pond. They are all trying to start a war or stop a war or be neutral on the war. You definitely hope that our political system works a lot better in real life.

At times In the Loop is a little bewildering -- the British accents and the political maneuverings move around in circles -- but it is well worth seeing if for nothing else than for some good laughs.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Update on Movies I Still Want to See, and more

December Movies I saw and liked:
Up in the Air: George Clooney and Vera Farmiga spend a lot of time in airports.

Me and Orson Welles: One of my favorite actresses, Claire Danes is part of this ensemble piece that is set during the 30s and directed by Richard Linklater. A period piece/character-driven movie. Now that’s right up my alley.

Still want to see but haven't yet -- from earlier list:
The Messenger: Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster are two army officers whose job it is to deliver the news to families about the death of their soldier.

Broken Embraces: Another movie from the great Spanish director Pedro Almodovar with the beautiful Penelope Cruz

Movies I am adding to my list
In the Loop: British political satire that has been around for a while, but I can't get my hands on it.

The Hurt Locker: A movie about a bomb diffusing squad in Iraq that has gotten great reviews. At first this movie seemed too violent for me -- but now after seeing it on many best movies of '09 lists, I gotta see it.

The Young Victoria
: a story of the first few years of Queen Victoria's rule played by Emily Blunt. (I love stories about the English Monarchy and period pieces, so of course, I want to see this movie)

The Single Man: I heard this movie, about a gay professor in the 50s who has to hide his grief over the loss of his partner, is very sad. But I love Colin Firth and apparently this is an Oscar-worthy performance, so I want to see it.