Monthly Archives: January 2011

127 Hours (2010)

You know, I’ve been thinking. Everything is… just comes together. It’s me. I chose this. I chose all this. This rock… this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. It’s entire life, ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. In space. It’s been waiting, to come here. Right, right here. I’ve been moving towards it my entire life. The minute I was born, every breath that I’ve taken, every action has been leading me to this crack on the out surface.

Aron Ralston

After I was puzzled by the massive success of Danny Boyle’s last directorial effort, Slumbog Shit-in-there, I wanted to see if he could redeem himself with the 219th Film of All-Time on IMDb, 127 Hours. It recently received six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. I was happy that the movie expanded this weekend that I could finally watch it. It is a fantastic film.

Best Actor nominee James Franco plays Aron Ralston who penned the book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” after his ordeal. The setting takes place  in April 2003 where Aron is hiking in Moab, Utah where he slips trying to climb Blue John Canyon where he gets his right forearm crush beneath a boulder. As the title suggests, Aron is stuck in the canyon for almost a week with little food and water.

Aron tries in vain to remove the rock from sheer brute strength. Survival mode kicks in where Aron tries to chip away at the rock with a cheap pocketknife that eventually dulls it. As the hours drag on, Aron has to deal with the brutal elements of extreme hot and cold, malnutrition, dehydration and having the sense of claustrophobia. Feeling a sense of his impending doom, Aron uses his video recorder to document his harrowing journey to break free.

Slowly, his mind beings to drift away to his parents played by Treat Williams and Kate Burton, not being in his sister, Sonja’s wedding (Lizzy Caplan), recalling his fling with Rana (Clémence Poésy) and having a chance meeting with lost hikers, Kristi (Kate Mara) and Megan (Amber Tamblyn). Soon, Aron has to make a choice between killing a part of himself or killing his whole self.

I have never been so physically moved with a movie that would make me weak in the knees. That’s what this film has made me feel afterwards. It’s no surprise that there is an arm-cutting sense in this movie. I thought that it would more gruesome than it actually was. It was a brief bit of horror on-screen. The film actually made me want to throw up. That has never happened with a gory horror movie. That has to say something about Danny Boyle’s way of directing. His fernetic pace actually work here where Aron is slipping into a claustrophobic madness.

Judgment:  My faith is restored for Danny Boyle. Case closed.

Rating:  *****

The LAMB Devours the Oscars – Best Live Action Short Film

First of all, I would like to thank Jess from Insight Entertainment for the opportunity to write about the recent Oscar nominees. As everyone may know that the public will never see the five nominees for Best Live Action Short Film unless you find it on YouTube. Good luck searching. I am here to give you the inside scoop so you could win the company Oscar pool. You can thank me later.

The first nominee is the 15-minute Irish film, “The Crush” by first-time writer/director Michael Creagh. It tells the story of an eight-year-old boy who has an unhealthy infatuation to her teacher. To prove his love to her, he challenges her boyfriend to a duel to the death. The film was awarded Best Irish short at the Kerry Film Festival.

The next film is the 26-minute Estonian film by Tanel Toom, “The Confession” (Pihtimus), which tells the story of Sam, a reserved boy who is afraid of his confession. He is pure of heart and has no sins to confesses. With the help of his friend, Jacob try to have a reason to confess when tragedy strikes.

The third nominee is the 18-minute short, “God of Love” from director, Luke Mathney. It tells the story of a lovesick lounge singer/darts champion, Raymond Goodfellow who finds a package of love-inducing darts. He thinks his prayers are answered so he could get Kelly, the drummer in his band to fall for him. The problem is that she is already in relationship with his best friend, Fozzie, the guitarist in his band. He tries to get rid of the love triangle, but he learns a valuable lessons about unrequited love and his place in the universe.

The fourth nominee is the 19-minute Belgian film, “Na Wewe”, which means “You Too” in Burundi. It was directed by Ivan Goldschmidt that takes place in Kurundi circa 1994. In the middle of the civil war between the Hutus and Tutsis, a bus is overtaken by a band of rebels. During the chaos, everybody is uneasy about who is Hutu and Tutsi. Is the person next to you a friend or a foe?

The last nominee is the 24-minute film by Ian Barnes called “Wish 143.” It tells the story of a boy that has a terminal disease who wants to come of age before his time runs out.

I hope that you would find this post helpful for your company’s Oscar pool. I would place my bet on the “The Confession.” Anything that ends in tragedy is going to win. I don’t believe that “God of Love” or “Na Wewe” is going to win. I wouldn’t count out “The Crush” or “Wish 143.”

Good luck to all the nominees on Oscar night.

2011 Academy Award Nominations

Nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards

83rd Academy Awards Nominees

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
  • Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
  • Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
  • Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”
  • James Franco in “127 Hours”

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
  • John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
  • Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
  • Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
  • Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”

Actress in a Leading Role

  • Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
  • Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
  • Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
  • Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
  • Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
  • Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
  • Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
  • Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
  • Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Animated Feature Film

  • “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
  • “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
  • “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich

Art Direction

  • “Alice in Wonderland”
    Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
    Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
  • “Inception”
    Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
  • “The King’s Speech”
    Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
  • “True Grit”
    Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Cinematography

  • “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
  • “Inception” Wally Pfister
  • “The King’s Speech” Danny Cohen
  • “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
  • “True Grit” Roger Deakins

Costume Design

  • “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
  • “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
  • “The King’s Speech” Jenny Beavan
  • “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
  • “True Grit” Mary Zophres

Directing

  • “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
  • “The Fighter” David O. Russell
  • “The King’s Speech” Tom Hooper
  • “The Social Network” David Fincher
  • “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Documentary (Feature)

  • “Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
  • “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
  • “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
  • “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
  • “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Documentary (Short Subject)

  • “Killing in the Name” Nominees to be determined
  • “Poster Girl” Nominees to be determined
  • “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
  • “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
  • “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Film Editing

  • “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
  • “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
  • “The King’s Speech” Tariq Anwar
  • “127 Hours” Jon Harris
  • “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Foreign Language Film

  • “Biutiful” Mexico
  • “Dogtooth” Greece
  • “In a Better World” Denmark
  • “Incendies” Canada
  • “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria

Makeup

  • “Barney’s Version” Adrien Morot
  • “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
  • “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Music (Original Score)

  • “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
  • “Inception” Hans Zimmer
  • “The King’s Speech” Alexandre Desplat
  • “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
  • “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Music (Original Song)

  • “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
  • “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
  • “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
  • “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3″ Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Best Picture

  • “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
  • “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
  • “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
  • “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
  • “The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
  • “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
  • “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
  • “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
  • “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
  • “Winter’s Bone” Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Short Film (Animated)

  • “Day & Night” Teddy Newton
  • “The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
  • “Let’s Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
  • “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
  • “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois

Short Film (Live Action)

  • “The Confession” Tanel Toom
  • “The Crush” Michael Creagh
  • “God of Love” Luke Matheny
  • “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
  • “Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Sound Editing

  • “Inception” Richard King
  • “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
  • “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
  • “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
  • “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger

Sound Mixing

  • “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
  • “The King’s Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
  • “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
  • “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
  • “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Visual Effects

  • “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
  • “Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojansky and Joe Farrell
  • “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
  • “Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
  • “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
  • “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
  • “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • “Winter’s Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
  • “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
    Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
  • “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
  • “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
  • “The King’s Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler

Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

Yeah, I was faced with that terrible thing, when somebody shows you their work and everything about it is shit… so… you don’t really know where to start.

Banksy

I  heard about this documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop over the summer from some of my LAMB comrades and they seem to love it. I am a very artistic person and this movie is about the fine line between art and graffiti. I was glad that the movie was being shown on Hulu. I was intrigued by it.

Narrated by actor Rhys Ifans, this story was originally focused on the street art movement of the last nineties. An amateur filmmaker named Thierry Guetta filmed everything around him with his video camera. He taped anything and everything that was around. One day, he stumbled into this underground world of street art where Thierry was introduced to such characters as Space Invader, Zeus, André and  his cousin, Shepard Fairey (the one that made the Obama “Hope” posters) who was one of a few people who allowed their faces to not be obscured in the film.

Thierry documented the adventures he and his cousin went on when they scaled walls and climb on top of buildings. It wasn’t until the world got a taste of a mysterious ballsy street artist named Banksy who showed his subversive take on pop culture and turning art on its head. Banksy singlehandedly thrust street art into the mainstream.

Thierry made it his goal that he would befriend the elusive Banksy and follow his process. Fate crosses paths when Shepard asked Thierry to show Banksy around the prime locations in LA to display his art. Banky came to trust Thierry and let him in his world. The tables turn when Banksy wanted a lot of Thierry than he realized than to just tape him. He wanted Thierry to experience what he does every time he puts his art up; invading the police, watching his back for angry landlords, etc.

 There is a debate about the merits of this movie whether it is a hoax. Personally, I don’t know if Banky and Mr. Brainwash are the same person. Who knows if Thierry Guetta is as eccentric as he is portrayed in the film? I did feel a sense that something is not right with Guetta and his motives about making a documentary or the way that he life was going? I cannot dismiss a movie just because some parts of it was supposedly falsified. That is not my call. My job is to gauge that I enjoyed the movie for entertainment value.

Judgment: Look beyond the conspiracy theories and see what this movie is trying to say.

Rating: ****1/2

FB Movie Book Smackdown: Water for Elephants (2006)

Water for Elephants

Written by Sara Gruen

Publication Date: May 26, 2006

Published by Algonquin Books

Genre: Historical Romance

Price: $14.95

Movie Adaptation: Directed by Francis Lawrence. Starring: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz. Screenplay by Richard LaGravenese. Release Date: April 22, 2011. Studio: 20th Century Fox and Flashpoint Entertainment

I watched the trailer for the film adaptation of Sara Gruen’s 2006 novel, Water for Elephants and I was mesmerized by the images that I saw.  Robert Pattinson’s in the movie. It does give me a red flag that it would suck, but I thought I would read the source material before possibly watching the movie. I have to say that I am afraid that I would hate the film more that I loved the book so much.

The setting takes place in Depression Era America where a young Cornell veterinary student named Jacob Jankowski has to face the realization of being out on his own when his parents are suddenly killed in a car accident. With no family left, he decides to run away. He stumbles on a traveling circus called Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth where he is not welcomed with opens. He is on the verge of being thrown out when a horse of the beautiful equestrian star, Marlena is sick. Jacob diagnoses the condition and tells Marlena that her horses cannot recover. This devastates her.

Uncle Al is manager of the show decides to take Jacob on as the show’s veterinarian since they have a hodgepodge of performers and animals from other defunct shows. They needed someone cheap to take care the animals in the menagerie.

Things get complicated when Jacob falls in love with Marlena. The trouble is that she is married to the ringmaster, August, who can be charming one minute and insane the next. During his time traveling with the circus, Jacob learns to grow up and be exposed to a world that he has never known.

I was sucked into this fantastical world of sequins, animals, illusions, rubes and performers. I would shut out the world and be engulfed in Gruen’s world that she has constructed. She did the book as a part of National Novel Writing Month, which is a “non-profit organization The Office of Letters and Light. Spanning the month of November, the project challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel in one month.” It’s impressive that a woman who has never seen a circus could be so real about this world.

The affair between Jacob and Marlena was a little melodramatic to my taste, bordering on soap opera level dialogue, but it all changed when a turning point with them changed everything.

Final K.O.: I have a feeling that the book will be infinitely better than the movie that I have seen yet. It is a heartwarming story that needs to be on everyone’s must read list.

Decision: *****

True Grit (2010)

Punishment comes one way or another.

The Coen Brothers are the bally-est directors that I have seen. Remaking the 1969 movie that won John Wayne the Best Actor Oscar is risky. Remind you that I haven’t seen the original one. That would be a good thing that I did not come into the #191 Movie of All-Time, True Grit with any perceived notions.

 The starts with 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Haliee Steinfeld) traveling from Arkansas to claim the body of her father who was killed by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) after a drunken bar brawl. She tries to the local authorities to help find Chaney, but they have their thumbs up their butts, because Chaney escaped in Indian Territory.

Mattie hears the tale of the ruthless bounty hunter by the name of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) who usually kills his bounty rather than bring them alive. She wants somebody to capture Chaney and bring him to justice. Mattie is surprised when she finds a lazy, filthy drunk. He tries to rebuke her hiring him to find Chaney.

A Texas sheriff named LaBeouf (Matt Damon) is also traveling to find Chaney, because he killed a Texas senator. LaBeouf and Rooster join forces to go into the Indian Territory to find Chaney with or without the headstrong Mattie tagging along.

 The movie overall was an enjoyable ride. It’s not the best movie that I have seen this year. Jeff Bridges as Rooster is hilarious. Hailee is fantastic in the film. It was surprised to see Barry Pepper in the movie.

The biggest disappoint that I had with the movie was Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney. He was great with his earlier collaboration with the Coens, No Country for Old Men. Here, he is supposed to play a simpleton and it feels like he was phoning it in.

Judgment: There was nothing else with the flick that raised it as a western. The acting and action saved it.

Rating: ****

The King’s Speech (2010)

Because I bloody well stammer!

– King George VI

Colin Firth is coming into his own as an actor with his nuisanced performance in last year’s A Single Man. He is getting more notice for his latest movie, The King’s Speech. Personally, I thought the movie was going to be a boring movie about British people talking for two hours. It’s a lot more than that. Will it win Best Picture of the year? No. That doesn’t mean that the movie was horrible. It’s a solid movie.

Halfway through this movie, I did not realize that the story was about Queen Elizabeth’s father, King George VI (Firth). It deals with his struggle with a speech impediment that he has dealt with since he was a little boy. The movie starts in 1924 when he had to give a speech to his fellow countrymen. It does not go very well. He is embarrassed about his stuttering.

During the years afterward, Albert, Duke of York, before he was would be king, tried everything under the sun to get rid of his stutter, including smoking and stuffing his mouth with marbles. His wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) goes out to search for the perfect speech therapist to help out her frustrated husband. She thinks that she has found him in Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an over-the-hill Australian theater actor. She has to go under the pseudonym of Johnson to not distract their royalty status.

The Duke is skeptical about the unorthodox methods of Mr. Logue. Their first session together is a disaster when Lionel tried to be on a level playing field with The Duke. They wanted to be on a first name basis with the Duke calling him, “Lionel” and Lionel calling The Duke his family nickname, “Bertie.” Bertie reluctantly agree to one session with him and is surprised about what he could do. As their sessions go on, Lionel tries to pinpoint the exact cause of his stuttering.

I don’t know what it is, but I think I have a bias of British movies. Is it because it deals with the monarchy that I have no knowledge of? Is is the accents? The stuffy attire? Who knows? There were some bring points with the movie. Colin Firth is brining his A game here. I have never seen a photo of King George VI and I have no idea what he sounded like during his speech, but I felt fine that he exposed a flaw in the perfect monarchy. Geoffrey Rush’s quirky performance was the standout for me. I thought Helena Bonham Carter was nice, but her character didn’t have much gravitas. She was the doting wife and that’s it. Lastly, it was hilarious to me that Guy Pearce would be playing Firth’s older brother, David.

Judgment: It’s a solid movie about a part of history that we never knew. It tells the story of the unsung hero, Lionel Logue.

Rating: ****

FB Movie Book Smackdown: The Road (2006)

The Road

Written by: Cormac McCarthy

Publication Date: September 26, 2006

Published by: Alfred A. Knopf

Genre: Postapocalyptic fiction

Price: $7.99

Movie Adaptation: Directed by John Hillcoat. Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron and Robert Duvall. Screenplay by Joe Penhall. Release date: November 25, 2009. Studio: Dimension Films/The Weinstein Company

First of all, I want to say that when the next Movie Book Smackdown was going to be Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning 2006 novel, The Road, Kai B. Parker from The List and The MILFcast said that it was his favorite book of all time. That’s a big compliment. Comparing the book to the movie is like comparing Granny Smith apples to Washington apples.

This is a harrowing story about a nameless father and son trying to survive in a postapocalyptic wasteland. The Earth has died, but life still goes on in some aspect. Humanity has turned on itself. The father and son are traveling in a gray, desolate world where they have to watch out for robbers and cannibals.

Reading the book was a much different experience than watching the John Hillcoat movie. The book was an epic, chapter-less story about the survival of a father and his son. The reader goes through the trailers of finding clean drinking water, where their next meal is going to be, building a fire to keep warm from the gray, cold snow and rain. McCarthy’s words are simple, direct and unflinching, describing the horrific conditions of living after the world dies. The primary strength of the book is the father and son relationship. It was the anchor that made me wants to see what will happen to them, even thought it already revealed in the movie what happened.

It made it an uncomfortable experience to read about a black, dead, ashen world that wares on your patience. The run-on sequence of event made me uneasy. Having no quotation marks, no distinction between different characters made you disoriented. In the beginning of the book, the son annoyed the hell out of me with his redundant questions.

Final KO: The book and the movie have their strengths and weaknesses. The book had more establishment of the characters and reading McCarthy’s words made the characters feel like they were in more peril. The movie does some of the mental work for you. You see the desolation, the charred remains of houses, cities and forests. It’s a draw.

Decision: ****1/2

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