Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Film Trailers: SOUND OF MY VOICE

The last trailer for the month of January is a shift away from Ingmar Bergman. I want to present the trailer for a little indie thriller from 2011 titled Sound of My Voice. The film focuses on a couple that infiltrates a cult in California in order to expose them by making a documentary film. They are in for more than they expected. The cult, being lead by a woman stating she is from the future, dives into the meaning of life and what is our purpose. Amongst other things. It is also a well made thriller with wonderful suspense and grounded performances, especially from co-writer and star Brit Marling. She plays the cult leader Maggie. Directed and co-written by Zal Batmanglij, the film also stars Christopher Denham (recently seen in Ben Affleck's Argo) and Nicole Vicius. Check out the trailer and the film contains an interesting, make-you-think ending which I truly enjoyed.

Animated Short: PAPERMAN

Here is the fantastic, spectacular Oscar nominated, animated short from Walt Disney Paperman. Really enjoyable.

Love and Old Age: AMOUR


Written & Directed 
Michael Haneke

     Old age is rough. We all know that our own mortality will catch up with us at some point. There is no questioning that, but to have someone you are connected to during that life is indescribable and beautiful. The hard situation is that this person, spouse, partner, friend sooner or later will pass away or you will, and the range of emotions will be over powering for each person. Michael Haneke's devastatingly magnificent Amour channels the depths of patience, heartache, pain, frustration, and profound, unflinching love. Amour is a master class in simple, graceful filmmaking and story telling. A film that is both difficult and mesmerizing in its approach to two souls coping with impending loss and enduring love.
     The film is about death and how it effects people. Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as aged married couple Georges and Anne. They are former music teachers and our in the remaining years of their lives. The film opens with police breaking into an apartment that has been sealed with tape around the doors from the inside. As police walk around you see them holding their noses since an unbearable stench is present. They open windows to air it out. Once a bedroom door is opened we see an elderly woman precisely placed, lying on a bed with a black dress and flowers dressing the outside of her body. We see the end result of this film and our gripped with the reality of death and the end of life. Haneke starts his film this way.
     Throughout the next two hours we witness the end of a relationship, of a life. The end of physical love, pain and emotion of a marriage and life that has come to an end. It is the hard truths of life. Haneke shows the love and despair of this relationship. Anne suffers a series of strokes and their bond and family is tested severely. Their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) lives overseas and visits to see how her mother and father are doing. She is frustrated and worried, but not as tested as Georges who, once Anne is bed-ridden, chooses to keep her at home and take care of her himself, with the help of a nurse. The first time Anne had a spell and after a stay in the hospital, Georges promises Anne he will not take her back. Anne asks Georges to never take her to the hospital again and her husband obliges. You can tell these two are deeply in love and have seen the joys and downs of life together.
     This film contains two of the more brilliant, fine tuned performances of 2012. Trintignant is subdued and challenged throughout the entire film. He is forced with aiding his debilitating wife and experiences a wide array of emotions. He exemplifies heartache, love and fear with aged eyes and movements. He is excellent but the real joy, being a difficult, almost guilty pleasure, is watching Emmanuelle Riva going through the stages of decline. She is faced with many challenges and Riva is at the top of her craft. She confronts the stages of dealing with death from having the right side of her body paralyzed to learning how to drive a mobilized wheelchair. Her acting is riveting and truly heartbreaking. It is as gorgeous as her beauty in Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon Amour, but when you see her eyes, the strain in her voice and her portrayal of the encompassing death that is creeping through her body is beyond words. She is truly mesmerizing and exhibits strength and the uncontrollable weakness that happens to our bodies and mind when life is being extracted from us. So thrilled for her Best Actress nomination and well-deserved.
     Michael Haneke's writing and direction is so crisp and filled with unbearable, sophisticated emotion. Shot softly, but with deep clarity by Darius Khondji, the film is, as many Haneke films, lensed with a motionless, stationary camera. He allows the actors and script to convey the correct emotive position within the film. Movements, words and actions lead to the viewers thoughts and interpretations of what is happening and does not make the camera convey that. The actors move expertly in the frame, but he knows when to have the camera move as well. In one scene, as is, with the final actions of Georges and Anne, is purely, visionary Haneke. I won't give it away, but it involves a scare that is gorgeously shot and follows Georges walking through a hallway. The moving camera adds to the tension and leads to a suspenseful action.
     Haneke has crafted undoubtedly one of the most challenging viewing experiences of 2012 and being a fan of his work, one of his most perfect pieces of filmmaking. It is not as graphic or chilling as Cache or either of his Funny Games films, but shows how talented and visually enthralling he is. A love story focusing on death has never been more profound as Amour is. It is truly a fantastic film, if not a difficult one to sit through. I have been a fan of his work for a long time and feel he is a filmmaker that challenges his viewers with not just intense stories and scenes, but with the ability to interpret and think about his films without giving explicit answers. I love filmmakers that make you think and allow the viewer to come up with their own interpretations. He is a ridiculously great director.
     The feeling I felt while wathcing this beautiful and challenging film ranged from emotions of love, fear and a profound caring for my wife and the one's I love. It is unbearable to think of the range of emotions that any of us will go through when faced with the death of a loved one. Shit, it is even harder to witness a two hour film that deals with death and choices, but it makes you think and turns out to be wonderful piece of art. Think of the decisions you will make when faced with death. The decision and hardships of life are terrifying, but we will all have to deal with it no matter where our status or finances are in life. We will end up one day alone and that is a frightening thought when we invest so much time with our loved ones. Even I do not feel like I could make the final decision Georges makes, but I knew what he was going through, even if I do not agree with his choice. It is heartbreaking and devastating, but I believe he kept his promise to his wife. It is love. The film is difficult and Haneke leaves the viewer to interpret the decisions these characters make, but that is the brilliance of his writing and directing.
     Michael Haneke's Amour is a mesmerizing, slower paced piece of filmmaking and still, very much a dark, engaging Haneke film. This elegiac love story is about what we do when our loved ones, especially our spouses, are on their death bed and in what ways we caress and care for them. A boundless love that is full of emotions, memories and frustrations. The performances are profoundly exceptional and exemplify the unbelievable talent and careers that have spanned generations. The film is difficult to sit through and shows an unflinching portrait of death but it an elegantly told, simplistic crafted film that shows the brilliance of Haneke as a viewer on life and as one of the top filmmakers in the world. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2013 Sundance Film Festival Recap and Must-Sees

     The 2013 Sundance Film Festival has recently come to a close and being an avid follower of film bloggers from numerous sites, I have been reading and following all the news from the current fest. The best news is always hearing about up and coming filmmakers and the remarkable vision they can bring to film culture. I would love to go to this film festival just once. Well, more than once. I'm sure it would be a blast and an enriching experience. Speaking to filmmakers, writers and critics would be almost surreal. Seeing films for the first time with a large audience of sincere film admirers and historians. The stories, the films and the craft of making and critiquing films would just be utterly amazing. Well, on to some films that I'm already excited to see and hope some of them are released this year.
     The two films that I am most excited about seeing is David Lowery's Ain't Them Bodies Saints, starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, and Shane Carruth's Upstream Color. The former, being an outlaw tale about lovers in Texas that revels in the styles and themes of Terrence Malick or Robert Altman. A man breaks out of prison to reconnect with his wife and the daughter he has not met. The film got positive reviews and seems to be right up my alley. The latter, from the writer, director and star of another Sundance entry Primer (2004), titled Upstream Color. The film has been roughly labelled trippy, a thriller of the mind and, once again, exquisitely photographed in the vein of Terrence Malick. A film that appears to be about a man, a woman and the illusion of the reality of life. Maybe... We will see when it opens April 5th. Here is the trailer and it looks fantastic:
     Another film that is high, high on my must-see list for this year is Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke's Before Midnight, recently picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics. The film is the third in the "Before Trilogy" that follows the relationship and conversations between Jesse and Celine (Delpy and Hawke), nine years since we last saw them, in the second film Before Sunset (2004), the first being Before Sunrise (1995). The couple has been living in Paris and travel to Greece where, as with the other films, they talk about life and relationships with, I'm sure, the usual sharp writing by all three collaborators, and exhibit the true passion of filmmaking. Linklater is the master of indie filmmaking and I can wait to see what they have come up with here. Where are Jesse and Celine now in their adult lives? Can't wait!
     I also am truly excited to see Park Chan-wook's first English language film Stoker, starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. The film is going to be lushly shot, well-acted and probably extremely violent. Park is not shy when it comes to violence in his films. See his "Vengeance Triolgy" for evidence. There is also The East, from director and co-writer Zal Batmanglij and co- writer and star Brit Marling. The film is the third collaboration between the director and actress, the first being the short The Recordist (2007) and the second being the cult induced thriller Sound of My Voice (2011). Good film. The film appearts to delve into confusion and deception, as well as the meaning of life and existence. It goes into espionage, corporate and eco terrorism, and the effects these choices all have. The film stars the aforementioned Marling, Ellen Page and Alexander Skarsgard. Here is a trailer for that film here:

     I have to say those are my top five most anticipated films, resulting from reading mini-reviews, twitter reactions and plot information, but here is a list of films I'm also very interested in seeing:
  • Mud (Jeff Nichols) -- Looks great. Directed Take Shelter (2011) & Shotgun Stories (2007) and starring Matthew McConaughey.
  • Don Jon's Addiction (Jospeh Gordon-Levitt) -- Porn addiction.
  • Fruitvale (Ryan Coogler)
  • S-V/H/S -- Sequel to horror film V/H/S (2012)
  • Blue Caprice (Alexandre Moors) -- Beltway sniper attacks
  • In A World (Lake Bell) 
  • Prince Avalanche (David Gordon Green) -- Return to form for Mr. Green??? Shot in Bastrop, TX.
  • Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
  • In Fear (Jeremy Loverling)
  • The Way, Way Back (Nat Faxon & Jim Rash)
  • Big Sur (Michael Polish) -- Kerouac.
  • Kill Your Darlings (John Krokidas) -- Young Ginsberg, Kerouac & Burroughs.
  • The Look of Love (Michael Winterbottom)
  • We Are What We Are (Jim Mickle) -- Cannibals.
  • Twenty Feet from Stardom (Morgan Neville) -- Story about backup singers. Sucker for music docs and this one is supposed to be great!
  • Muscle Shoals (Greg Camalier) -- Doc on the legendary music studio in Muscle Shoals, AL. Sucker for music docs.
  • Sound City (Dave Grohl) -- More music docs.
  • We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks (Alex Gibney) -- Gibney.
  • Inequality for All (Jacob Kornbluth) 
  • Dirty Wars (Rick Rowley)
  • Pussy Riot -- A Punk Prayer (Mike Lerner & Maxim Pozdorovkin) 
  • The Summit (Nick Ryan) 

Sunday, January 27, 2013


The Coen Brothers...enough said. Can't wait!!! Enjoy.

SAG Awards

Here is the complete list of winners, as announced, of the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

BEST ACTOR:  Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
BEST ACTRESS:  Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:  Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

BEST ACTOR DRAMA SERIES:  Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)
BEST ACTRESS DRAMA SERIES:  Claire Danes (Homeland)
BEST ACTOR COMEDY SERIES:  Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
BEST ACTOR TV MOVIE OR MINISERIES:  Kevin Costner (Hatfields & McCoys)


ARGO wins the PGA.

Last night Ben Affleck's smooth, intensely directed Argo took the Producer's Guild of America top prize for film. Does this lead the way straight to the Best Picture Oscar? Is Argo the front runner over Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook, and what should be Zero Dark Thirty? Can Argo become the first film to win Best Picture without having a Best Director nomination since Driving Miss Daisy did it in   1990? It is looking good right now for the Warner Brothers produced film on the creation of a fake movie to be filmed in Iran when the US and Canada are really trying to rescue and extract Americans out of a hostage situation in Tehran. Ben Affleck deserves the credit because his film blends comedy and suspense so well and he has crafted a brilliant piece of work. He has definitely turned his career around and has become a top notch director with real talent and sophistication. I'm still in the Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook boat but with Argo's wins at the Globes and PGA's who knows what will happen. There is still the DGA and I'm kind of rooting for Affleck. He deserves it and definitely deserved a Best Director nom at the Oscars. I really enjoyed Argo and it is a very polished, good film, so if it wins out, I won't complain.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Movie Trailers: FANNY & ALEXANDER

In my final film trailer looking at the expansive career of legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, I present his swan song masterpiece Fanny & Alexander. It is a culmination of all things Bergman: death, insecurity, family and meaning in this world. The film revolves around the Ekdahl family at the turn of the century, focusing significantly on ten year-old Alexander and his emotions, growing pains and doubts. The film was originally made for Swedish Television, but was edited into a theatrical cut and garnered four Academy Award wins in 1984, including Best Cinematography, Costume Design, Art Decoration-Set Decoration and Foreign Language Film. It was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. A masterpiece beyond words and a joy to cinema. And the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray contains both the theatrical and Television versions, as well as a making of documentary among the supplements, and is immaculate. Here is the trailer.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Now, I'm admittedly not the biggest Channing Tatum fan, but I'm wholeheartedly a huge admirer of Steven Soderbergh and know that whatever he directs will be worth my time. Side Effects, his new film, starring the aforementioned heartthrob of the moment Tatum, Rooney Mara, Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones, feels as if its right up the alley of his wonderful film Contagion. A relevant thriller, that is both cinematic and meaningful. Thought-provoking Hollywood. Rare these days. Soderbergh knows what he is doing and does not waste time with utter bullshit. He is a skilled craftsman and has the perfected knack of telling a story without diminishing it with lackluster nonsense. His new film deals with the effects of the pharmaceutical industry and appears to be a timely, suspenseful ride. Soderbergh knows how to make a thriller. Period. Here is the trailer.

New Trailer: STOKER

I'm, being a fan of Park Chan-wook's trilogy of revenge, excited to see his new film Stoker. The film stars Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode and Mia Wasikowska and feels, from the trailer and the synopsis, very much in the vein of Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt. Well, maybe a little a bit more dark. This is Park Chan-wook's first English language film and currently just debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. By the way, if you have not seen Oldboy (2003), do your self a favor and check it out. It's wild. Spike Lee is doing a remake of it as well, and that should be released this year, starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen and Samuel L. Jackson. Here is the trailer for Stoker.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Will and Suspense of the Manhunt: ZERO DARK THIRTY

Zero Dark Thirty

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Screenplay by Mark Boal

     Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty centers on the chess game that was the manhunt for Osama bin Laden. It has so many layers of intrigue, suspense, torture and the value of independent confidence and the resolve of a CIA Agent and her quest to catch this man. The film depicts the highs and lows of tracking down the most infamous terrorist in the world over a ten year period and the depleted effects it had on the agents that searched for him. Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal have created a film that is not only a visual expose of the events, but a constant suspense-filled thriller that never falls off the track. Zero Dark Thirty is the best film of the year and easily the most relevant.
     This is a true movie of the moment and is unflinching in its depiction of the events that occurred during this search. The film opens with a black screen and voice overs which consist of 9/11 recordings from victims, first responders and emergency 911 calls. Its a chilling and awakening way to open the film. It starts the search, or where the film will begin from, being that there were bombings before 9/11 in U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Yemen, and then delves right into a couple of years after that horrific day and into the torturing of detainees.
     The existence of torture cannot be ignored when confronting this film. It is unsettling and highly uncomfortable to see any kind of human being tortured. We see an Al Qaeda operative being held in a CIA Black Site in the Middle East and he goes through water boarding and box stuffing to secrete information on Al Qaeda and its top leaders, including Bin Laden. There as been a lot of critic and news commentary and reviews revolving around the controversy of torture being depicted in this film. It is there. It happened. I like the fact that Bigelow and Boal did not hide this aspect of history and the post 9/11 world we live in. It cannot be ignored. After Barack Obama torture laws changed but during the Bush years torture was a way to force information out of terrorists. I do not condone and I think torture is abhorrent. It brings us down and puts us on the same level as the terrorists and evil that is out there. But I do not have a problem with reality being portrayed on the screen. It should be as honest as possible and not shelter itself from the uncomfortable realities of hate and the dualities of espionage.
    The torture part of the film is presented in the first hour but the brilliancy of the film is the fact that this is a detective, procedural thriller. (On a side note, how much of this film is one-hundred percent accurate is up to the viewer, but the feel and process seems solid and true.) Its a hunt to the finish and a picture that states the attitudes and emotions of a nation and the world. It is a great and has some toned, sharp performances, especially from lead actress Jessica Chastain. Chastain plays Maya, a CIA Agent, equipped with the task of hunting down and killing bin Laden. She is cold, steely and full of competence in her ability and the task at hand. She plays Maya with strength and independence, but you can see the strain and exhaustion on her face throughout the whole film. She is excited and confident when she feels she has found where bin Laden is residing in Pakistan and extremely drained when a lead she has been following for five years possibly turns out to be going nowhere.
     In a scene where a meeting is set up with another CIA Agent Jessica (Jennifer Ehle), the meeting turns out be a disaster and goes completely wrong, Maya is sitting in a makeshift cubical, appearing to be sleeping, but is just so completed drained and disheartened by these series of events. Chastain exemplifies and expresses the hurt and exhaustion in every pore of her face. She is set on finding bin Laden, and will not give up, but the brilliance of her performance is in these expressions of complete expenditure and the drainage and toil it takes on her. She is fantastic in this role, owns it completely and should be a sure bet for all awards she is nominated for.
     As with the intelligent, intense performance from Jessica Chastain, the same can be said of director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal. Bigelow's direction is crisp, informative and fluid throughout. You can tell this is a confident filmmaker and one that knows how to create masterful suspense and action. Even the opening scenes of torture, which are disgusting but feel honest, are expertly crafted by this duo, who also created the wonderful action thriller The Hurt Locker (2008). You are exhilarated, uncomfortable and desperately wanting to know the outcome of the events. They have a created an excellent political thriller that, even though we know the end results, I was constantly entertained, thrilled and extremely satisfied with the execution and professionalism of this film. How Bigelow did not receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Director is an injustice and might show a weakness and evident sexism in the overtly male dominated Academy. Easily the best directing job of the year.
    Boal's script is strategically composed and the pacing created through his script with the wonderful editing done from editors William Goldenberg and Dylan Tichenor is excellent in its precise pacing throughout the film. The script makes you feel as if your watching a meticulous news time thriller unfold about the greatest manhunt in U.S. history. The score, from famed French composer Alexandre Desplat, does not really come until the last forty minutes of the film but with its heavy percussion and deep horns it adds so much tension to the actually mission in Pakistan to get bin Laden. The pounding of the drums is so right on and placed perfectly in the film.
     As Chastain is the star of the film, I cannot  go without mentioning the wonderful performance from Australian actor Jason Clarke. He plays Dan, a CIA operative who initiates the torture and communication. He is outstanding in this film, never once falling off course and on his game at all times. He plays Dan with confidence, resolve and sense of place. He expresses how the toil of doing his job has weighed on him like it as with Maya. The only exception is Maya never relents or wants to go back to DC for a desk job. She is in it until the finish, on the ground and will not stop her hunt. Her and Dan's hunt goes beyond the hunt for the most wanted man in the world, but their desire for completing the task and never giving up on there mission. They are confident, independent and forceful in their actions.
     Chastain and Clarke have the two main roles, but there are a series of supporting performances that aid in the flow of the film and show Bigelow's perfection at casting the right people for the right role. Supporting turns from James Gandolfini as CIA Director Leon Panetta, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Joel Edgerton and the aforementioned Jennifer Ehle. They are brilliant in each of their roles, especially Ehle.
    There is a scene in the film right after the two helicopters have left the base in Afghanistan, taking the troop of Navy Seals on the crucial mission of killing Osama bin Laden. We see Maya standing on the ground, alone, watching the choppers fly off to their tense-filled destination. The camera is behind Maya and the silence is so deafening it is chilling beyond words. Those men in the helicopters signify all her work, struggle and dedication. It has left with these men and she has to sit back and watch. Sit back and watch the world continue on while these soldiers are on a mission for a nation and her. It reminds you of the resolve it takes to keep fighting for your goal, but also that so many people, being protected or not, do not know the things that others are doing for security. That silence chilled me as it showed that whether bin Laden is killed or not, life goes on and we know that if he was not killed, Maya and her fierce strength would continue looking for him. She has to. That is who she is.
     Zero Dark Thirty is a truly effective detective story at its base. It is the best procedural thriller that I have seen since David Fincher's brilliant Zodiac. The search, the execution. But at its heart, it is a story about Maya, an independent, fearless, intelligent, badass woman who has to get through all the bureaucratic, political bullshit to achieve the results that have to be reached. Maya is a tenacious and exhausted agent, who at the end of the film expresses her relief and the fear of what comes next in her life and the countries. Chastain exemplifies the strength of her character and the undeniable strength of director Kathryn Bigelow. The team behind Zero Dark Thirty has made a film that is relevant and important, not just it then pure satisfaction of its suspenseful craftsmanship, but in the ability to get a job done at all costs and breaking down all the walls that come up along the way. Go see this movie. You want be disappointed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Movie Trailers: PERSONA

In continuing this month's theme of presenting some trailers from the great Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman, I'd like to post the trailer for his brilliant Persona (1966). The film is a cinematic classic and powerful character study of two women. A nurse (Bibi Andersson) takes care of an actress (Liv Ullmann) who has chosen not to speak. As the film goes on the nurse begins having the personality of the actress merge along with her own. The film also begins with a series of images that flash at the screen and are quite startling. Shot in beautiful black and white, it is psychological, mysterious and has magnificent performances from these two legendary actresses, both mainstays with Bergman. Check out the trailer.

Release Date for Cuaron's GRAVITY

Finally!!! Warner Brothers has announced an October 4th release date for Alfonso Cuaron's eagerly anticipated space film Gravity. The film, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, follows two astronauts on a standard space walk when debris crashes into them and sends them adrift into space, running low on oxygen. The film has been in post production for what seems like forever and supposedly as an opening 15 to 20 minute continuous shot, no cuts. There is not a poster, trailer, or even a still from the film yet. I've been waiting for this film since it was announced and with my over-the-top admiration for Cuaron's last film Children of Men, I can't wait. Here is a trailer for Children of Men and if you have not seen it check it out as soon as possible. You will not be disappointed. How can you be with Cuaron and his brilliant, and in my opinion the best cinematographer in the business, Emmanuel Lubezki behind the camera.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Golden Globe Winners as they are announced...

Golden Globe Winners

Best Supporting Actor Motion Picture:  Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
Best Supporting Actress Series, TV movie or Miniseries:  Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey)
Best Miniseries or TV movie:  Game Change
Best Actress Miniseries or TV movie:  Julianne Moore (Game Change)
Best Actor TV Series Drama:  Damian Lewis (Homeland)
Best TV Series Drama:  Homeland
Best Motion Picture Score:  Mychael Danna (Life of Pi)
Best Motion Picture Original Song:  Adele & Paul Epworth (Skyfall)
Best Actor TV movie or Miniseries:  Kevin Costner (Hatfields & McCoys)
Best Actress Comedy/Musical Motion Picture:  Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Best Supporting Actor Series, TV movie or Miniseries:  Ed Harris (Game Change)
Best Supporting Actress Motion Picture:  Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
Best Screenplay Motion Picture:  Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained)
Best Actor TV Series Comedy:  Don Cheadle (House of Lies)
Best Foreign Language Film:  Amour
Best Actress TV Series Drama:  Claire Danes (Homeland)
Best Animated Feature Film:  Brave
Best Actress TV Series Comedy:  Lena Dunham (Girls)
Cecil B. DeMille Award:  Jodie Foster
Best Director:  Ben Affleck (Argo)
Best TV Series Comedy:  Girls
Best Actor Comedy/Musical Motion Picture:  Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
Best Motion Picture Comedy/Musical:  Les Miserables
Best Actress Drama Motion Picture:  Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Best Actor Drama Motion Picture:  Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
Best Motion Picture Drama:  Argo

Golden Globe Predictions: Who will win and who should.

Tonight is the Hollywood Foreign Press Associations Golden Globe Awards ceremony for film and TV. I'm going give my predictions who I think "will" win and who "should" win. I will also be live blogging the winners for both TV and film, but I'm just giving my predictions in all the film categories. Check out the predictions after the jump.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Academy Award Nominations

     The 85th annual Academy Award (Oscars) Nominations were announced this morning and I was in for a surprise when I saw the nominees. I waited all morning without checking my phone or the Internet until I got home from work. I'll start with the snubs, sorry, but Moonrise Kingdom not getting a Best Picture nom is upsetting. Also, the big surprises of Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow being left out of the Best Director category is really shocking. They were assumed to be shoe-ins. No nomination for John Hawkes (The Sessions) for Best Actor. He was at once the frontrunner but at least Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) got his just due nomination in that category. 
     I do however like Christoph Waltz getting the Best Supporting Actor nomination instead of  Leonardo DiCaprio in Django Unchained. They are both great but its Waltz who steals the film. Congrats to Michael Haneke (Amour) getting Best Director nod (I picked that one right) and the film getting a Best Picture nomination. Emmanuelle Riva (Amour) getting a Best Actress nod is great too as well as Benh Zeitlin getting a Best Director nod for Beasts of the Southern Wild
     Biggest surprise and snub is no directing nominations for Affleck and Bigelow, as well as no Best Picture nomination for the fantastic Moonrise Kingdom. Happiest nominee for me is Michael Haneke's Best Director. Hell yeah!  Lincoln led the field with 12 nominations and Life of Pi had 11. They seem to be the frontrunners as of now, but at least there was some excitement and variety in this years nominees. Oh yeah, way to go for the Silver Linings Playbook team. One of my favorite films and glad to see David O. Russell and four of his cast members get nominations. Should be interesting. Here is a full list of the Academy Awards nominations after the jump.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Movie Trailers: THE MAGICIAN

In the second of this months Ingmar Bergman film trailers, I'm bringing up his classic 1958 film The Magician. The gothic story is about Dr. Vogler (Max Von Sydow) and his travelling acting troupe, as they go through Sweden. It is an enigmatic film containing elements and themes ranging from funny, to drama and, as always, existentialism. In watching the supplements on the Criterion Collection's wonderful blu-ray release, noted Bergman historian Peter Cowie explains how Bergman was making a film that was critical of the audience response to his films. The mute Doctor being the director/writer himself and his displeasure and disapproval of the audience and, at times, critical response about his bleak work. It is about an artist shutting himself off from the outside world and dealing with his conscience and insecurities in his own way. It is a fascinating film and please check it out. Enjoy the montage trailer. I could not find an actual theatrical trailer.

ASC Nominations

The American Society of Cinematographers announced their 2012 nominees for best cinematography today. The good news is that Roger Deakins crisp, pristine lensing in Skyfall was nominated, which was also his 11th nomination. They also seemed to enjoy Janusz Kaminski's milky white lighting in Spielberg's Lincoln. But, what is up with the lack of love for Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and the perfect widescreen work of Mihai Malaimare, Jr. Damn. The awards for film and TV will be handed out on February 10th. The society was chartered in 1919 and is a non-profit association. Last year, the best cinematographer went to Emmanuel Lubezki (my favorite dp) for his expertly crafted work on Terrence Malick's Tree of Life. Here is a list of the film nominees.

  • Seamus McGarvey (Anna Karenina)
  • Danny Cohen (Les Miserables)
  • Claudio Miranda (Life of Pi)
  • Janusz Kaminski (Lincoln)
  • Roger Deakins (Skyfall)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Moonrise Kingdom

Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola

     Wes Anderson's newest film Moonrise Kingdom is one of his most mature and passionate projects to date. It is magical and is without a doubt in the realm of being in the Wes Anderson world of quirkiness, revolving solely around the characters that are in this world. The freshness and beauty of young love in this film can bring anyone back to their childhood with happiness and nostalgia. The film is a story of desire, resourcefulness and the search for love in the midst of youthful experience. Moonrise Kingdom stays away from the heavily-laden, depressed characters of Anderson's most recent films, with the exception of the playful and exceptional Fantastic Mr. Fox, and focuses on the tender, impulsiveness of juvenile love.
     The film follows teens Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who have become pen pals for a year and abscond on their own adventure. They begin to explore there feelings, love and tackle their anxieties. Taking place in 1965 on an undisclosed New England island, with an impending tropical storm merely days out, we see our two teens go on an adventure on-the-run through the island.  It is melancholic and sweet to see these two individuals begin to evaluate existence away from normal life. Khaki Scout Sam goes from foster parent to parent and Suzy struggles with the boredom and uneventfulness of her parents Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and three brothers. The kids are rebellious, but at the same time are lost and in search of a grown up life they know little about. The main point is at this point in their young lives they want each other and are willing to throw caution in the wind to achieve their youthful passion for one another.

     The two young, unknown actors are perfectly cast. Their innocence is portrayed elegantly by these two and show a director with a knack for brilliant casting. The turmoil of their innocent young life played against the backdrop of the oncoming storm and the search conducted by the local police, parents and scout leader ensues. Their hidden place, later titled with Moonrise Kingdom, is a cove where these young teens experience and express their young love for each other. They dance, kiss and Suzy reads here unreturned books that she has basically stolen from the library to Sam, continuing with his stoic approval. Their rebelliousness is shown through flashbacks where Suzy gets into a confrontation at school and Sam has continued trouble at foster homes. Their compassion is shown in a scene where they have been separated and Sam's scout members rescue Suzy from her parents home. She reconnects with Sam at Captain Sharp's home in a gorgeously choreographed scene looking down a chimney at Sam. Its beautiful, magical and heartwarming. Its a personal story that speaks to the drive, innocence and blind love that is so adored and chased after when your with your first love.
     The details are so key in an Anderson film, and although he is described as having too much style which outweighs the substance, such as his films The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited, this film does not fall into that category. The film starts with dolly shots that examine the rooms of the Bishop's home, but as the film unfolds we see a filmmaker tell a story that intricately focuses on the relationship between these two characters. This is not at all to say the quirky details are not there in the dress, Bill Murray's vivid, checkered pants and the stop motion maps that show where the kids travel to on the island and where the search groups goes in search of them. To me, it felt has if Anderson rolled back on the style and the substance and harken back to his first two films Bottle Rocket and Rushmore. It is funny and heartfelt. Poignant tales of oddballs and adventure seekers going through the heartaches and joys of life.
     The supporting cast in the film is phenomenal as always. You have the staples, such as the aforementioned Bill Murray, his fifth collaboration with Anderson, as well as Jason Schwartzman, but with Wes Anderson newcomers Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel and our narrator Bob Balaban. They are all fantastic but in my opinion Norton and Willis stand out the most. Norton plays the Khaki Scout Master Ward with a sweet tenderness but also a man in search of acceptance with the Scout leadership. Bruce Willis is great in role of lonely police officer Captain Sharp. It is contained and full of a man who wants more but is stuck in the malaise of weakness,but finds his courage later in the film. Outstanding work from both and they are men in search of growth and family. It also appears that all of the characters are envious of the innocent love that Sam and Suzy possess. They wish that they had or could find that love again or for the first time themselves.

     The work of composer Alexandre Desplat, his second collaboration with Wes Anderson, the other being Fantastic Mr. Fox, adds to the magical, fairy tale feel Anderson has achieved in the film. It does not over do it and places the right tones, in the right places, without forceful action. I also enjoyed the use of Hank Williams songs accompanying Bruce Willis' police officer Captain Sharp, which gave a deep sense of loneliness to his character. As well, Anderson decides not to go with the classic pop and rock songs (Rolling Stones, The Kinks, etc.) and sticks with the brilliant score and some suave French music, mainly Francoise Hardy's melancholic "Le Temps De L'amour."
     Once again Anderson works with the director of photography he has worked with on all of his pictures, except Fantastic Mr. Fox, Robert Yeoman. His strategic dolly movements and precise blocking is delicately composed and the golden tint gives a dreamlike feel to this fantasy on the island.
     Moonrise Kingdom is definitely a Wes Anderson film. It is very funny, but poignant and lonely. It revolves in a detached reality that still focuses on the human emotion and creative, awkward experience of first love. The film is for adults looking back on the magic and awkwardness of that first romantic kiss and experience. Wes Anderson took us back to our childhood and all the humor and agony that goes along with it. It is as if we got a glimpse into Anderson's first romance and the excitement and neuroses that were experienced along the way. Oh yeah, it happened in a very stylized way and with Wes Anderson, it is the way it has to be. I'm an unabashed Anderson fan and loved every second of this film. I highly recommend it and think he has taken a turn to a more focused narrative where the style does not take control over the substance. Although I like that style a lot. 

DGA Nominations

The Directors Guild of America announced its 2012 nominees for best director and there are some insane omissions. I understand Affleck, Spielberg and Bigelow. I'm fine and content with that, but Lee and Hooper seem to be safe bets. Come on. They could have picked David O. Russell, obviously, Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson or Michael Haneke. Damn, even Quentin Tarantino. It is kind of a joke, but it is what it is. Just seem to avoid those great auteurs. Here is a list of the nominees.

  • Ben Affleck (Argo)
  • Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)
  • Tom Hooper (Les Miserables)
  • Ang Lee (Life of Pi)
  • Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

National Society of Film Critics goes for AMOUR

The National Society Film Critics announced their winners for the film year of 2012. The group, which was founded in 1966 in New York City, consists of 60 of the nations top critics and writers on film, mainly in newspapers.  Last year they voted Lars Von Trier's Melancholia as best film and usually are not into "Joe Popcorn" saturated films. It is exciting to see them go with the great Austrian-German director Michael Haneke's Amour for best film, as well as much appreciation for Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. This is the last big critics awards of the season and although it usually does not bare too much on Oscar outcomes, its nice to see solid, usually non-commercial films get there proper attention. I guess its not that much of a surprise when it comes to critics groups. Here is a list of all the winners with the second and third runners-up listed, as well as the number of votes received.

  1. Amour   28
  2. The Master   25
  3. Zero Dark Thirty   18
  1. Michael Haneke (Amour)   27
  2. Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty)   24
  3. Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)   24
  1. Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)   59
  2. Denis Lavant (Holy Motors)   49
  3. Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)   49
  1. Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)   50
  2. Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)   42
  3. Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)   32
  1. Matthew McConaughey (Magic Mike & Bernie)   27
  2. Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)   22
  3. Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)   19
  1. Amy Adams (The Master)   34
  2. Sally Field (Lincoln)   23
  3. Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)   13
  1. The Gatekeepers   53
  2. This Is Not a Film   45
  3. Searching for Sugar Man   23
  1. Tony Kushner (Lincoln)   59
  2. Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master)   27
  3. David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)   19
  1. Mihai Malaimare, Jr. (The Master)   60
  2. Roger Deakins (Skyfall)   30
  3. Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty)   21

Friday, January 4, 2013

WGA Nominations

The Writers Guild of America announced their screenplay nominees for the 2012 film year. Many screenplays were ineligible for a variety of reasons. The awards will be announced on February 17, 2013. Here is a list of the Original, Adapted and Documentary screenplay nominees.

  • Flight, written by John Gatins
  • Looper, written by Rian Johnson
  • The Master, written by Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Moonrise Kingdom, written by Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola
  • Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal
  • Argo, screenplay by Chris Terrio; based on a selection from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired Magazine article "The Great Escape" by Joshuah Bearman
  • Life of Pi, screenplay by David Magee; based on the novel "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel
  • Lincoln, screenplay by Tony Kushner; based in part from the book "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower, screenplay by Stephen Chbosky; based on his book "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
  • Silver Linings Playbook, screenplay by David O. Russell; based on the novel "Silver Linings Playbook" by Matthew Quick
  • The Central Park Five, written by Sarah Burns, Ken Burns & David McMahon
  • The Invisible War, written by Kirby Dick
  • Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, written by Alex Gibney
  • Searching for Sugar Man, written by Mark Bendejelloul
  • We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, written by Brian Knappenberger
  • West of Memphis, written by Amy Berg & Billy McMillin

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Addendum to most anticipated list

Here are some more films that I'm really interested in seeing this year, in addition to my most anticipated films of 2013 list, that is if they are released this year. Enjoy.
  1. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch)
  2. August: Osage County (John Wells)
  3. Labor Day (Jason Reitman)
  4. Oldboy (Spike Lee)
  5. Out of the Furnace (Scott Cooper)
  6. The Zero Theorem (Terry Gilliam)
  7. Anchorman: The Legend Continues (Adam McKay)
  8. Lowlife (James Gray)
  9. Map to the Stars (David Cronenberg)
  10. Venus in Fur (Roman Polanski)
  11. Untitled David O. Russell Film (David O. Russell) ***if released in 2013
  12. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson) ***if released in 2013

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

PGA Nominations

The Producers Guild of America has announced their nominees for theatrical motion pictures and television programming. The big surprise, or at least to me, and I believe it is going to miss out at the Academy Awards also, is the dismissal of Paul Thomas Anderson's intense and confounding The Master. The film is a challenge and who really knows what it really is about, but its high quality and level filmmaking by a true auteur. The winners will be announced on January 26. Here is a list of nominations for all film related categories.

  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained 
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Les Miserables
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Skyfall
  • Zero Dark Thirty
  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • ParaNorman
  • Rise of the Guardians
  • Wreck-It Ralph


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson & Guillermo del Toro

     I'll start kindly by stating that I did not outright hate this film, but it is hard to find an overt amount of enjoyment. This probably is not the best way to start a review of a film and, a film made from the writings and story of a much loved book, but I have to be honest. The film is just not inspiring and lacks the heart and majesty that Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy possessed. This is a film so drowned in CG effects and a muddled, thinly expanded story, with acting that feels confused and forced. The only saving grace to Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the glorious, pristine 48 frames per second high frame rate which is really the only reason to enjoy and savor this bogged down mess of a film.
     The film, based on J.R.R. Tolkien's legendary book "The Hobbit" and from the same team that brought us the Lord of the Rings films, focuses on the halfling Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and his "unexpected journey" through Middle Earth. The cautious hobbit is swept up in an expedition with thirteen dwarves led to him by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan). He reluctantly embarks on this journey to aid in helping the dwarves reclaim there mountain home and fight off the dragon Smaug who has stolen it. The journey also leads him to the creature that will change his life forever when he meets Gollum (Andy Serkis) and the ring that changes his life and the course of Middle Earth permanently. And its a long, long exploration that has been spread out into three films, each roughly around three hours long. And this is only the first film in the unnecessary trilogy. It's too much and too thin. Jackson has completely over did it this time around.
     The films opening hour involves mainly a series of dwarves arriving at Bilbo's home Bag End. They eat all of his food and drink his ale, much to the chagrin of Mr. Baggins. He does not want them there and not until Gandalf arrives at states their purpose for being there, to have Bilbo aid them with his size and innocence on a journey to the Lonely Mountain and the dwarves leave early the next morning after Bilbo decides not to go with him, does he realize he needs change and excitement in his life. The film begins to drag with this scene lasting way too long and part of that is because there are thirteen dwarves and it is extremely hard to keep track of who is who. It is in tune with the book and the right amount of dwarves but it is so many names and faces, so fast, that even by the end of the film I could only single out two or three of the dwarves.
     I must have shifted in my seat more than thirty times. The movie dragged and dragged. Once I got to the scene where the group is travelling through a mountain pass and two sides, or ends, of the mountains come to life and begin to fight I really began to become uninterested. It seemed like just filler to extend the story that did not need to be there. Then the journey through the mountain pass and the fight against the goblins was seemingly endless and then the finale where the group is trapped at the edge of a cliff with one tree basically hiding them from the head goblin and wargs that are trying to kill them lasts forever. I mean forever. There is little storytelling and just an extensive saturation of special effects and meandering action. I also thought the riddle challenge between Bilbo and Gollum at the underground lake just lasted far too long. Get to it already. I'm sorry, but its just too much and I did enjoy his Rings trilogy thoroughly, but this is just CG gimmickry that kept the story going on far too long then it needed to be. Well, only two more films and six hours to get through the rest.

     Martin Freeman does an admirable job as Bilbo but just seemed uninterested or exhausted, principal photography lasted 266 days and with assured reshoots will have more shooting. Freeman is an excellent actor, just see his work in the fantastic show Sherlock, but just does not have the heart and passion that kept me invested in his journey. I know Bilbo was hesitant to invest in this expedition and at the last minute jumped into to it for some excitement from his comfortable, possibly boring existence, but I just was interested in what was happening with him on screen. The saving grace was Ian McKellan as Gandalf who brought his intellect and affection to the role of the wise wizard. Also, Richard Armitage who plays the heroic dwarf warrior Thorin Oakenshield brings brute force and  energy to the role.
     The main reason to see the film is the glorious, pristine quality of the film being shot at 48 frames per second. I was floored, excited and completely engrossed in every shot. The high frame rate is a new, exciting technology and gives the visual appearance close to what we see every day. The shots of grass were so beautifully natural and textured perfectly. I felt as if I was looking at grass outside on a sunny day. The one thing I did not like is that to see the film in the high frame rate it had to be seen in 3D. It is an annoying gimmick and myself, having to wear eyeglasses, then to have to put 3D glasses on over that was a distraction. I still was amazed by the clarity of the image being projected but I despise 3D and it did not add anything to the viewing experience. I did not have any problem with the high frame rate though. I did not feel or notice any blurs and I did not have a problem with noticing some of the make up on the characters faces, specifically the opening scene of the older Bilbo (Ian Holm). I loved this new clarity that can be presented and it could likely be the end of film in the future. The high frame rate is the way to see The Hobbit without question.
     Peter Jackson is a talented director but he definitely does not know how to just end a film. I enjoyed his third film in Rings trilogy, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, but that went through four different endings and was saturated with over sentimentality. I hope that Jackson, who has made graphic, funny and challenging films, such as Dead Alive and Heavenly Creatures, needs to go back to the basics. Get away from the huge budgets and CG coated films. I'm sure spreading this book into three films is going to bring huge money to Jackson and the New Zealand based digital design company WETA, but it feels like the reason to spread this 300 plus paged book out into three exhaustively long films is based in making money. Well, at least he is breaking ground with filming it in the beautiful 48 frames per second high frame rate. The CG is designed with precise detail, as well as the production design, costumes and makeup are all top notch but the storytelling is heavily lacking. I wish he would take a break and come back and make a more personal, gritty film like his earlier films and stay away from the franchises. Go back to the basics of storytelling and not forcing the emotion and over extension of the story. Maybe if Guillermo del Toro would have stayed and directed this film it would have turned out better. I'm sure it would have, but glad he moved on to other projects.
     Overall, I have to recommend seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, but not because of its content or storytelling. It's all about that engaging high frame rate. I could not stop musing about how beautiful every shot looked and how, at least, the 48 frames per second saved this film from being a total misfire. Peter Jackson is a better filmmaker than what he has managed to produce here. I've seen it with his other Middle Earth venture in the Lord of the Rings and the fantastic Heavenly Creatures. But, this over bloated attempt back into Tolkien's world is weak with an advanced technological that is fascinating to see and the future of cinema.

Movie Trailers: THE SEVENTH SEAL

     During the month of January I will be watching at least fifteen films from the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. I have seen seven of his films and have admired all of the them. I own Fanny and Alexander, The Magician and his powerhouse film The Seventh Seal. I actually think I have seen The Seventh Seal at least five times. Bergman's a true master and his films deal heavily with God, life and death, dreams and reality, and are place in the world and our families. His films are unflinching, moody, dark, lovely and pristine works of a true intellect. I got into Bergman once I watched a TCM short documentary where Woody Allen spoke of his admiration for Bergman and named his favorite film from him as the The Seventh Seal. It is a film that deals with one man's search for meaning and purpose in this world. A Knight returning to Sweden from the gruelling battles during the Crusades encounters Death on a beach and challenges him to a game of chess. The movie is like no other and paved the way for European Arthouse Cinema to flourish, not only in Europe, but change filmmakers and viewers heavily in the United States. Enjoy the trailer and if you have not seen the film make sure you do. You will not regret it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Oscar Nominations Predictions

     The upcoming 2013 Academy Awards Nominations will be announced on January 10, 2013. There are a few films I have not seen, waiting for them to open in theatres here in Austin, but I'm going to do my best to prognosticate the upcoming nominations. The Oscars are the big awards ceremony and even though there are always politics involved, campaigning, studio parties and likability, or lack there of with certain entertainers, its always interesting to see who gets in and who is left out. The Best Picture nominees can range from five to ten nominees depending on how many first place votes a film gets and it must at least receive 5% of the first place votes. The Academy Awards will be hosted by "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, how many references and skits will be from those characters, and the ceremony will air on ABC, Sunday, February 24. Here are my predictions of the main categories after the jump.