Saturday, February 10, 2007

BRIEF THOUGHTS: Little Children

Director: Todd Field
Starring: Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jackie Earle Haley
Plot: This sexual drama follows the lives of Brad and Sarah, each married, and their passionate affair and how it affects their lives. Meanwhile, their neighborhood struggles to cope with a recently-released sex offender who moves into the area.
Thoughts: Fuck. I'm not in the habit of cursing, but that is the only word that can adequately describe my thoughts when the credits began to roll on this film. This film is heavy. It's like a combination of Fight Club, The Woodsman and Desperate Housewives. There's so many themes being strewn around my brain felt like it was going to overload. Each of the main characters is tremendously flawed, and each is sympathetic in their own way. This film dares to go where most are afraid to go, and the result is the darkest character study of the year. Other than the occasionally annoying voice-over, pretty much everything in this film works. It's one of those films I would say is excellent, yet not the kind you find yourself wanting to go back to, unless it's to analyze all of the stuff the filmmakers are trying to communicate. Definitely not for everyone, but worth seeing if you're a fan of good directing.

Friday, February 09, 2007

LIST: The 2006 Academy Awards

With only a little over 2 weeks to go until the big night, here are my picks for who will win and who should win. Let's see how close I come to predicting the winners.

Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond)
Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson)
Peter O'Toole (Venus)
Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happiness)
Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)

Who Will Win: Forest Whitaker. This is about as definite as Philip Seymour Hoffman last year as Truman Capote.
Who Should Win: Whitaker. I haven't even seen the film, but I figured he'd get it ever since I first saw him in the film's trailers.

Penelope Cruz (Volver)
Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal)
Helen Mirren (The Queen)
Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)
Kate Winslet (Little Children)

Who Will Win: Helen Mirren's got it for sure.
Who Should Win: I've only seen two of those films, but I'm happy with Mirren getting it. Her performance was certainly worth a nomination.

Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine)
Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children)
Djimon Houson (Blood Diamond)
Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls)
Mark Wahlberg (The Departed)

Who Will Win: Eddie Murphy got the Golden Globe, but Marky Mark's been getting a lot of praise. It's a toss-up, but I'll go ahead and say Eddie.
Who Should Win: This is a tough one. For once, I've seen all of the nominated films with the exception of Dreamgirls. Alan Arkin was great, but his performance didn't strike me as Oscar-worthy. Djimon Houson is always fantastic, and showed some incredible acting chops in Blood Diamond. I feel guilty saying Marky Mark, since although he was fantastic and gave his best performance yet, his character was rather minor and not very three-dimensional. I think I'll have to go with Haley on this one. Although his take as a pedophile isn't as powerful (in my opinion) as Kevin Bacon's in The Woodsman, it really did require some talent. He managed to be both monstrous and sympathetic at the same time, which is hard to do.

Adriana Barraza (Babel)
Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal)
Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)
Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)
Rinko Kikuchi (Babel)

Who Will Win: No clue.
Who Should Win: No idea, since I've only seen one of the movies, and I don't think Breslin deserves a nomination. She was good, but not that good.

Happy Feet
Monster House

Who Will Win: Cars. No question.
Who Should Win: Cars. Although it's not Pixar's best flick, it's certainly better than all the other animated films that came out this year.

The Good Shepherd
Pan's Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Prestige

Who Will Win: I don't really know what's specifically meant by "Art Direction", but based on my general understanding, I'm gonna go with Pan.
Who Should Win: Pan's Labyrinth. The sets and art design were fantastic.

The Black Dahlia
Children of Men
The Illusionist
Pan's Labyrinth
The Prestige

Who Will Win: Children of Men. The Academy can be retarded at times, but to give it to something else would be beyond stupidity.
Who Should Win: Children of Men. This was by far the best cinematography of the year. There are two shots that must have taken ages to plan out and execute, and they really help suck you into what might otherwise be fairly standard scenes.

Curse of the Golden Flower
The Devil Wears Prada
Marie Antoinette
The Queen

Who Will Win: No clue. I'm gonna go with Dreamgirls, though, since it seems like people have a soft spot for it.
Who Should Win: Probably Curse of the Golden Flower, though I haven't seen it. Zhang Yimou films always have crazy costumes that work really well.

Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel)
Martin Scorsese (The Departed)
Clint Eastwood (Letters From Iwo Jima)
Stephen Frears (The Queen)
Paul Greengrass (United 93)

Who Will Win: Scorsese. He's been nominated a billion times but never won. I think this is his year. The only person who has a chance to steal it from him (again) is Eastwood, because the Academy seems to really like him for some reason.
Who Should Win: Scorsese. He's deserved it before, and he deserves it again. Although I did like The Departed, I didn't like it as much as everyone else. However, you can't deny the strength of the directing. Fantastic.

Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp
My Country, My Country

Who Will Win: This is a tough one. I'm gonna have to go with Deliver Us From Evil, simply because everything I've heard about it has been fantastic.
Who Should Win: A Lion in the House. It is quite simply the best documentary I've ever seen. I caught this 4-hour epic at Full Frame, and it had me in tears by the end. I don't know if it could have been nominated, but if it could have been, then it should have been. Of the nominees, the best of the ones I've seen is Jesus Camp. It's remarkably even-handed, and it manages a good equilibrium between seriousness and black comedy.

The Blood of Yingzhou District
Recycled Life
Rehearsing A Dream
Two Hands

Who Will Win: No clue. I haven't heard of any of these.
Who Should Win: See above.

Blood Diamond
Children of Men
The Departed
United 93

Who Will Win: Either The Departed or Babel. The Departed was great, but Babel manages multiple storylines, which Hollywood usually loves.
Who Should Win: This is a tough one. Given that I haven't seen Babel, I'm going to have to go with Children of Men. Wonderful pacing and ordering of shots.

After the Wedding
Days of Glory
The Lives of Others
Pan's Labyrinth

Who Will Win: I've only seen Pan's Labyrinth, and the only film that has a chance of beating it is The Lives of Others, which is getting rave reviews. I'm gonna go with Pan.
Who Should Win: Pan. Although it was different from what I was expecting, and not the kind of movie I'll watch again any time soon, it was still good. It deserves to win for the creature design alone.

Pan's Labyrinth

Who Will Win: Pan again. It's gonna get a lot of the technical stuff.
Who Should Win: Pan. Apocalypto had some good make-up, but not even close to the visual grandeur of that eye-hand guy. I don't even know how much of Pan was CG and how much was make-up, but screw it, it deserves it anyway.

The Good German
Notes on a Scandal
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

Who Will Win: Babel. It's the Brokeback Mountain of 2006, in that it's going to win things like Best Score in order to make up for the fact that it's not winning Best Picture despite the Golden Globe win.
Who Should Win: Clint Mansell and his score for The Fountain. The music for this film is so incredible that I had to have the soundtrack. Beautiful. Of the nominees, I have no idea.

"I Need To Wake Up" (An Inconvenient Truth)
"Listen" (Dreamgirls)
"Love You I Do" (Dreamgirls)
"Our Town" (Cars)
"Patience" (Dreamgirls)

Who Will Win: One of the Dreamgirls songs. I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know which.
Who Should Win: Probably one of the Dreamgirls songs. At least they're important to the film (at least that's what I'm assuming since it's a musical), unlike most of the crap that gets nominated in this category. For the love of God, stop performing these nominations at the ceremony! It's pointless!

The Danish Poet
The Little Matchgirl
No Time For Nuts

Who Will Win: I don't know anything about any of these. No clue.
Who Should Win: See above.

Binta And The Great Idea
Eramos Pocos
Helmer & Son
The Saviour
West Bank Story

Who Will Win: See the above category.
Who Should Win: See above.

Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Letters From Iwo Jima
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Who Will Win: One of the Eastwood war films. Probably Letters.
Who Should Win: The Fountain. But since that's not nominated, I'm gonna go ahead and guess Letters From Iwo Jima even though I haven't seen it. Sound is key to a good war film.

Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Who Will Win: Probably Flags of Our Fathers, since again, it's a war film.
Who Should Win: Blood Diamond. Very good sound mix, from what little I remember.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Superman Returns

Who Will Win: Pirates, no question.
Who Should Win: Pirates. Although I thought the film was just so-so, Davey Jones is the best CG character since Gollum.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

Who Will Win: The Departed.
Who Should Win: Little Children. Amazing script.

Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

Who Will Win: I'm going to go with Babel. However, the Little Miss Sunshine script was also excellent, despite being more conventional than the other nominees. That has a chance of stealing it.
Who Should Win: The Fountain. There's not a lot of dialogue, but the dialogue that is there really serves a purpose. And the description has to have been fantastic. Of the nominees, I'm gonna go with Little Miss Sunshine, because it made me feel good.

The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Who Will Win: Although Babel won the Golden Globe, I don't think it's widely considered by people to be the best film of the year. This is Scorsese's year. The Departed.
Who Should Win: The Fountain. Of the nominees, probably The Departed.

We'll see what happens...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

REVIEW: Blood and Chocolate

Interspecies relationships make for good films.

At least, that's what the studio executive who green-lighted Blood and Chocolate must have thought. And, while the film does has a plot that might sound interesting on paper, the result is a cinematic mess from start to finish that feels like it was written by an angsty teenager caught in the throes of adolescent rebellion fantasies.

The film follows Vivian (Agnes Bruckner), a 19-year-old girl struggling to come to terms with who she is -- namely, a Rugharou, or shape-shifter from French legends. Think werewolf, but with the ability to transform at will, and only into an actual wolf rather than a superhuman hybrid. If you think it's not as scary as a traditional werewolf, you're right.

Vivian is only one from a secret society of Rugharou living in Romania. Desperate to avoid being hunted, the Rugharou kill any human who discovers them and tend to keep to themselves. So, it comes as no surprise that when Vivian falls in love with a human graphic novelist named Aiden (Hugh Dancy), the other Rugharou are less than supportive, opting to kill him before he learns of their secret.

Indeed, hardly anything comes as a surprise in this outing by German director Katja von Garnier. For a werewolf movie, there's very little blood, and the plot is remarkably dull. It feels more like a made-for-television or straight-to-DVD film rather than a full-fledged Hollywood production.

The directing ranges from bad to mediocre. There's only a single scene in the entire film that feels somewhat professionally made, and it's over far too soon.

The acting is exaggerated and unintentionally funny, particularly that of Olivier Martinez, who plays the principal villain. Only Bruckner's performance in the lead role proves tolerable, though it is undermined by inept and uninspired dialogue.

Even the editing is lacking, with instances that had the potential to inspire any sort of emotional response from the viewer being ruined by awkward cuts and over-stylized effects. The opening scene feels more like a trailer than an actual movie scene, with more gratuitous slow-motion shots than John Woo on crack. The film doesn't proceed to get any better. The romance is as sappy as it sounds, and the two lovers lack any sort of chemistry that might make it believable.

The bottom line -- if you're looking for a halfway decent werewolf film with elements of Romeo and Juliet, rent Underworld. Unlike this film, it probably won't be found in the Wal-Mart bargain bin for $2 any time soon.