Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two awards-season reviews and the Oscar snubs

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Though its visual achievements are extraordinary and there are a few beautiful moments in the film, it ultimately misses its many opportunities to make any statement on the nature of time and love. Instead the film revolves around Benjamin's and Daisy's attempts to have sex with each other, and when they do, it is the supposed climax (no pun intended). The final scene between them is borderline offensive, challenging the audience to find love and beauty in an adulterous act with a teenager. The cold, impersonal feel it gets from being shot in digital only enhances the movies distance from its audience. Although there are certainly enjoyable aspects to the film, its story's shortcomings are as curious as the character himself.
Dan-o-Meter: 6 out of 10

The Wrestler - Mickey Rourke gives a fantastic performance as a man who makes mistakes and is beaten down, yet still fights to overcome life's trials. He plays a wrestler who's career is put in jeopardy by physical heart problems, and who's relationships are in shambles due to emotional heart problems. It is a truly touching story of how he tries to mend his relationships, yet due to his own mistakes, as well as the bad hand of cards life deals him, he is unable to find meaning in anything except the life that put him where he is. Unfortunately, there is a gratuitous amount of sexuality/nudity that can hardly be called necessary to moving the story forward. Yet that is one of the few flaws in an otherwise moving film.
Dan-o-Meter: 7 out of 10

Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released their nominations for the Academy Awards. I am usually pretty excited by this, but the noticeable absence of two films/directors is simply mind-boggling and solidifies the Academy's reputation as a snobby, art-house loving film association that is easily seduced by films made simply to win a statuette. 
I will let the reviews speak for themselves, but suffice it to say that the Dark Knight is a cinematic piece of art that cemented itself as a classic by wowing 94% of critics and writing its name into box-office history. Yet Nolan, the film, and the script received a total of zero nods from voters. Other than a nomination for Ledger's already legendary performance, the Academy shoved the Dark Knight into the slots reserved for films that aren't artsy or depressing enough for the "real" awards.  The fact that the Dark Knight actually is a dark and culturally relevant film speaks volumes to the Academy's contempt for blockbuster films and their audiences.
Gran Torino and Clint Eastwood were also royally shafted. Was his performance inferior to that of Million Dollar Baby? And is the Reader, a film that barely registers a fresh on Rottentomatoes, really one of the top five motion pictures of the year? He also could have been nominated in the Original Song category, but again, the Academy missed the boat. Bruce Springsteen is also unavailable for comment.
The arrogance of Academy voters is astounding and will probably be reflected in the Oscar ratings in a few weeks. Although I think some phenomenal films and performances were nominated, I will always remember the '09 Oscars as the year when the Reader got nominated.

LA so far...

I arrived in LA a few weeks ago can't say there has been a moment I haven't enjoyed yet. The apartment is spacious and nice, the rest of the students are awesome, and the faculty/staff are amazing. The weather is fantastic. There have only been a few days where a cloud even appears in the sky and the temperature sits around 75 during the day. 

As far a sights around the city, I've been able to go to the Venice Beach (American History X), Santa Monica Beach (Iron Man), tour Kodak Theater (where the Oscars are held), go to Universal City Walk and see the studios of NBC, CBS, Warner Brothers, Disney, and Paramount. Our class also went to a taping of the sitcom "Till Death" which was a blast. Other places I've been are Sunset and Hollywood blvd., Redeo Drive ($8000 track jacket), InNOut Burger (delicious), and today the Hollywood sign, where a security helicopter chased us away. The Grove, an upscale, outdoor shopping mall is right across the street.

Since I'm here studying film, it's a given that I've watched a lot of movies since I've been here. The theaters are extremely nice, but also cost $14.50 a ticket, which sucks. But we've also watched a few in class, including Fight Club just recently and Swimming with Sharks - scary as heck - last week. I'm still waiting to hear about an internship, so I'm both excited and nervous about that, but its nice having the free time while I'm waiting.

I love the city so far, and if I can get a job in the Hollywood industry, at this point I would take it in an instant. Of course that could change as the semester progresses, but so far it's been awesome. Can't wait to really get started...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Best (and worst) of '08

Just like the title says. No long explanations or anything, just what I feel was best (and worst) this year about God, film, and the Yankees. Because God is obviously somewhat difficult to make a best of list for, I'll just write my top faith-related experiences of the year.

God (best of):
1. second chances - a car, a telephone pole, and downed power lines should've been shocking. Maybe there is an explanation, maybe not, but all four of us walked away.
2. the joy of the Lord - never fails.
3. Bromley 101 - encouraged me in ways they will probably never know.
4. worship - not only in music, but in everything: film, work, studies, friends... I have gained a whole new perspective on it this past year.
5. forgiveness and love - if someone takes your cloak, give him your tunic as well. Forgiveness is more than forgetting or moving past something; it is going the extra mile to repay evil with good. It's friggin hard too.

God (worst of):
1. Not knowing - it sucks.

Yankees (best of):
1. Jeter's farewell speech - taking the old memories and adding them to the new.
2. Yanks go to Virginia Tech - one of my proudest moments as a fan.
3. Mo and Jeter getting cheered at the All-Star game - yes
4. Paplebon getting booed at the All-Star game - He looked like he was going to cry too. Tool.
5. Yanks get Sabathia. And Burnett. And Teixiera. - the gifts didn't stop coming. When I made my earlier list, I expected one signing at the most, so all three big names was glorious.

Yankees (worst of):
1. Not winning it all - yes, the season is a failure when there aren't rings involved.
2. Not making the playoffs - minor roadblock to winning it all.
3. Third place - shoot. it was a bad year...
4. A-rod in the clutch - 0 for 634 with runners in scoring position.
5. Injuries - getting hit with the Plague didn't help the cause.

Film (best of):
1. The Dark Knight - "Why so serious?" A masterpiece.
2. Slumdog Millionaire - fills you with hope and joy, and makes you happy to be alive. To steal from Richard Corliss, it is a "buoyant hymn to life."
3. Boy A - powerful, challenging, and thought-provoking.
4. Iron Man - fun and engaging.
5. Cloverfield - eerily similar to 9/11 videos on youtube at some points. It is unique and well-made.

Film (worst of):
1. Quantum of Solace - it wasn't really the worst film of the year, just the most disappointing new release. It's also pretty much the only bad movie I saw all year...