Drive

YEAR: 2011

WRITER: Hossein Amini (screenplay), James Sallis (book)

DIRECTOR: Nicolas Winding Refn

BUDGET: $15,000,000 (estimated)

GROSS: $21,417,373 (as of September 25th, 2011)

i'll admit that i haven't been as frequent a visitor to the local cineplexes this year as i was, say, last year. i say that because that might help explain why it has taken till now to find a film that has definite "top 10 of the year" potential. sure, anything is possible - and i do plan on catching up on movies i missed via the dvd route, but if Drive doesn't make my "best of the year" list this year i will be very surprised.

ryan gosling plays a nameless hollywood stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway driver for hire. he is a man without a past (at least not a past that we are ever told about). he is quiet and a loner. and then he meets his neighbor, carey mulligan, and her son. a bond begins to grow and when her husband gets out of jail and an event occurs that could threaten carey and her son, the driver must take matters into his own hands to protect them.

if the story and the characters sound simple and archetypal, that's cause they are. this is a "super hero" story. and it's funny (not funny ha ha, funny interesting) because just a day or so after i wrote this discussion i heard an interview with the director nicolas winding refn, in which he called the film a super hero story and a fairy tale.

while i get what he was saying about the "fairy tale" i personally kept coming back to the "super hero" thing. and even Unbreakable. now, while Drive doesn't take the same ode to comic books approach that Unbreakable does, both films are playing in that obvious and archetypal playground and doing it really well.

both films are genuine and earnest about it also. they aren't doing the ironic, winking or self-referential regular-guy-turns-super-hero thing like Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World or Super (all films that i like by the way).

i didn't think of it till a few days after i saw the film, but as the whole super hero thing and Unbreakable connection continued to play in my head another moment stuck out. in Drive's final act, as he goes after one of the bad men, he does so wearing this full prosthetic, pull-over face that he had used for some driving scene in a movie he was working on. you with me here? a MASK of course! this "ah ha" moment lead back to unbreakable and the poncho/CAPE that bruce willis is wearing when he finally realizes his climactic hero moment.

it's funny (again, not ha ha!) cause in the interview winding refn talks about his love for john hughes and such films from the 80s that were able to pull of corny and sweet. now, i wasn't thinking john hughes or pretty woman or any such films watching Drive. But it is impossible to miss the 80s reverence in the film. from the bright pink and cursive writing of the credits to the casio keyboard pop music of the soundtrack. ya, it is a little corny at times but winding refn knows it and owns it and is able to make it work.

if i was going to make any director comparisons it would have been michael mann. but not for the Miami Vice-like music and pink writing (actually, doing some web surfing made me realize that Miami Vice didn't have the cursive writing, but GTA: Vice City did - which is an ode to the 80s and Miami Vice so it counts right?). the mann comparison is most evident in how the film is able to capture l.a. at night and winding refn's use of quiet and his ability, one minute, to slow the pace of the film within an action movie and then, the next minute, create intense action and/or tension.

Drive is a film that, not only rises above the "action" genre, but above most other films you will probably see this year.

El Rey De La Montaña (King Of The Hill)

YEAR: 2007

WRITER: Gonzalo López-Gallego (screenplay), Javier Gullón (screenplay & story)

DIRECTOR: Gonzalo López-Gallego

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: ?

nope, this isn't a spanish live action movie based on the animated tv series. There is no football or chubby little kids or neighbors who talk in a mumbled speech. however, what happens to the characters in the film, while it might seem very surprising to most everyone, would probably not come as a shock to dale gribble - the most paranoid character on the show - who always thinks people are after him.

El Rey De La Montaña (King Of The Hill) begins with a man stopping to get gas. he goes to the bathroom while he is filling up his car and in the bathroom he meets an attractive woman and they have sex. i know, it sounds like a good thing right? well, in this case it begins a chain of events that lead to him, and said woman, running through the woods being stalked by unknown snipers.

who are these snipers and why are they after them? we don't know (i guess calling them "unknown" snipers in the previous statement kind of implied that didn't it?). eventually we get a little info about what is going on, but it really is just cursory. and that's enough.

this is a thriller that gets its thrills from throwing these characters into a very scary situation and putting us there with them. until near the end of the movie we are just as scared and confused as they are. where do we run, how can we hide, what do we do? that is what creates the tension and it works.

for awhile i thought that maybe we would never know who the snipers were or why they were doing what they were doing. and part of me was kinda hoping that was the case.

many times films spend the bulk of their time building questions and giving away very little, only to throw it all at you near the end. i just find that, often, when not done properly, this leads to disappointment when the explained is bigger than the movie or when the explanation seems to negate a lot of what we had seen throughout the film and looking back it feels like they were even hiding the clues from us and the big "surprise" was all that mattered.

however, in the final act of El Rey De La Montaña (King Of The Hill), we do get a look at it from the sniper's side - and while this threatened to diminish the movie for me, it ended up being alright. just like the rest of the film that was simple and didn't rely on lots of back story or character development beyond what they go through because of the situation they are in, so too is the "sniper's story/explanation."

once you see the film you will probably immediately recognize the scenario/story from a number of other films that have done it (i would name them, but in so doing it would be a little spoiler). and i would have to say that El Rey De La Montaña (King Of The Hill) is the one that has done it best!

The Fast And Furious Series

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: 2001, BUDGET: $38,000,000, GROSS: $144,533,925

2 FAST 2 FURIOUS: 2003, BUDGET: $76,000,000, GROSS: $127,154,901

TOKYO DRIFT: 2006, BUDGET: $40,000,000, GROSS: $62,514,415

FAST AND FURIOUS: 2009, BUDGET: $85,000,000, GROSS: $155,064,265

FAST FIVE: 2011, BUDGET: $125,000,000, GROSS: $186,165,450 (as of May 22nd, 2011)

WRITERS:

1) Ken Li (magazine article "Racer X"), Gary Scott Thompson (screen story), Gary Scott Thompson & Erik Bergquist & David Ayer (screenplay)

2) Gary Scott Thompson (characters), Michael Brandt & Derek Haas & Gary Scott Thompson (story), Michael Brandt & Derek Haas (screenplay)

3) Chris Morgan

4) Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (characters)

5) Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (characters)

DIRECTORS:

1) Rob Cohen / 2) John Singleton / 3,4,5) Justin Lin

 

LET US BEGIN

i had seen The Fast And the Furious in the theatre when it came out and i had liked it. i thought it was a fun, summer car/action movie and i remember seeing ebert and roeper on The Tonight Show at the time arguing about the film (roeper wasn't impressed and ebert argued that it was, and i'm obviously paraphrasing here, a fun summer action/car movie).

but that was it. i hadn't seen any of the sequels that followed and hadn't been that interested in seeing them - until the trailer for the fourth film a couple years ago. i thought that the trailer was pretty cool. but, given that i hadn't seen the two previous films, i had to watch those before checking out number four (i have a bit of a problem/obsession with the need  to watch things in order). needless to say, i didn't get around to watching 2 Fast 2 Furious or Tokyo Drift at the time, so i never got to see Fast & Furious 4. but then a few months ago i started seeing the trailers for Fast Five...

and those looked even cooler than the ones for the fourth film. so, this time i went and got my hands on the first four films leading up to checking out Fast Five when it came out a month ago. and this is what i saw...

 

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS

watching this one again years later, i will say that it basically holds up. it is by no means a great movie. but it is a fun time with cool cars and, now having seen all five films, it is the second best of the series. what also surprised me a little, after seeing all the films, is how important vin deisel is to the franchise.

as i rewatched The Fast And The Furious i was struck by the dichotomy of the thoughts i was having. the fact was that, while mr. diesel was not giving a great performance, he was definitely carrying the film and a strong presence on screen (and i don't think it is only because he is a big guy). he was the leader of the crew and the leader of the film... and his value to the films and the franchise was only made more evident as i went on to watch the next couple films in the series...

 

2 FAST 2 FURIOUS

although he really has never come close to matching what he did with his first film, Boys In The Hood, i keep being at least a little curious to see what john singleton does (although less and less so as he keeps disappointing). and 2 Fast 2 Furious did nothing to improve his post-Boys In The Hood track record... this thing is awful! the film feels forced – and this is something that i noticed not only in this one, but in all three of the middle films in the series.

look, we all know that these films are about the cars and the driving and the action therein – and that’s cool. but just don’t make it so obvious that you don’t care about anything else. at least make it look like you tried to have an original thought and write a good script. instead this film and the two that followed are all generic stories fitted into the Fast & Furious universe with excuses for car action that don’t always feel plausible.

In 2 Fast 2 Furious, walker’s character is caught by the cops and brought back in to go undercover. He brings in an old friend, tyrese, and you got yourself a buddy action movie. the cars come into play cause they go undercover as drivers and we even get a big car action sequence as the criminal boss man sends all his potential drivers out to retrieve a package in order to test their skills. okay, ill give it to them. the car stuff is plausible here. but that doesn’t save the film from being predictable, and poorly written. some of the dialogue and plot points felt so over used and obvious.

i heard that the studio had also commissioned a script for a scenario in which vin deisel returned for the second film. i wonder if that one was any better?

 

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT

Tokyo Drift is kind of the odd man out of the franchise. not only do neither of the series stars appear in the film (vin deisel has a 30 second uncredited cameo at the end, but that’s it), but there is no story connection to any of the other movies. in fact, chronologically, this movie actually takes place after the fifth film and probably any sequels that will come in the future (there is no way to know this, but for the fact that a character that appears in the fourth and fifth films actually dies near the end of the third one).

what you have here, with Tokyo Drift, is your standard “fish out of water” story: kid from the states is kicked out of so many schools that his mother sends him to japan to live with his dad (who of course was never there for him growing up). he has to adjust to a new country, and a new culture and a new kind of fast driving – drifting. and of course there is a girl and fighting over her, etc... did you see the Karate Kid remake with jaden smith? well, think of Tokyo Drift as the Karate Kid remake, just with fast cars and the yakuza instead of karate and an evil sensei! it is still better than the second film though!

as for car action: i will say that the use of the drifting as the driving style was a nice change of pace from the previous two films. these drivers are incredible and watching them drift around tight corners and along mountain roads is very cool. however, remember earlier when i mentioned how the films felt like excuses for the car action? well, the climax of Tokyo Drift is the most laughable example of this.

in said climax, the main character proposes a race to the yakuza boss. he will race his nephew and the loser must leave the country. the yakuza boss, angry at his nephew, agrees and tells his nephew to race! it makes no sense and isn't believable at all, but hey, they had to get a big car climax (like all the films have) and this was he best they could come up with!

 

FAST AND FURIOUS

for this one they went with a "revenge" storyline. vin deisel is back and on the hunt for the man who killed his girlfriend (michelle rodriguez) and nothing/no one will stop him (think Taken and Edge Of Darkness and about 100 other movies). paul walker is also back and hunting down the same guy for the fbi (cause we all know that the fbi regularly hires cops who, in the past, have aided in the escape of criminals they were undercover to apprehend).

of course the big drug guy just happens to be looking for drivers to traffic his heroin across the mexico-usa border and will select his final driver from the winners of a street race. this films excuse for car action harkens back to the second film and how that bad guy needed drivers and tested them out via a car action sequence as well. so, although it is plausible, the originality factor is zero - maybe it was meant as an homage? well i guess in a way it actually was, because it is almost as bad a film as he second one.

it is nice to have vin and paul back together again and mr. deisel does bring a weight to the film that is missing in the previous two. but it just really wasn't good. in fact, it is actually pretty boring between action sequences.

 

FAST FIVE

given how the series had been going and given how disappointing the fourth film had been, i was maybe not expecting as much from Fast Five as i had been before seeing the previous films leading up to it. but, this one turned out to be a good flick and the best of the series.

for this one they went with a "heist" movie premise and the classic "one last job then we're out" story - but unlike the other generic story lines of the previous three films, this one worked. it was like they actually put a little thought into this one

they brought back all the main characters from the previous four films, which was fun to see. the heist planning and executing (two things that are very important in the heist movie genre) were exciting and well done. casting dwayne johnson as the counter point to vin deisel on the other side of the law was a great choice also - and their big fight scene was great (so much better then the boring fight between the two wrestlers in The Expendables). and finally, the must-have climactic car action sequence in Fast Five is by far the best in the entire series.

this is a really good summer car/action movie - and as the previous three films proved - those aren't as easy to make as you might think. after three weak films, the franchise had fallen into a rut, but Fast Five has pulled them right out of it.

 

FAST AND FURIOUS 6?

everything about the fifth film seemed to suggest it was the going to be the last one. they brought back all the characters from the previous films. the heist in the film is supposed to be "their last one." even the credits at the end of the movie show images from the various characters over the course of the series as if to wrap things up. it all pointed to an end - until halfway through the closing credits. i won't tell you what happens, but let's just say that as i left the theatre a sixth film seemed very likely (and i have since read that it is pretty much a certainty). and i wouldn't be surprised if more are to come after that. let's just hope we don't have to wait another three films before we get a good one again!

Defendor

YEAR: 2009

WRITER: Peter Stebbings

DIRECTOR: Peter Stebbings

BUDGET: $3.5 million (estimated)

GROSS: $37,606

 

the last decade has seen the the super hero/comic book movie seemingly take over hollywood. every year they are releasing and rebooting more super heros and every company that can is delving into whatever comic vault they can find looking for a comic hero that they can turn into a movie (and hopefully a franchise of course).

as we all know, when a certain genre of film starts to get really big, what the next thing to happen is (after everyone trying to make a movie in said genre). first you get the parodies: Superhero Movie. then you get films that some might call post-modern parodies (although, i appreciate that that term, "post-modern" is somewhat overused and/or used incorectly).

these are films that take a reflective and self-aware look at the genre, deconstructing it while playing within it (the little pretentious man inside of me got very excited as i wrote that). the "everyman" superhero theme is a big one here and films like Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World come to mind. and then there is the film, Defendor.

woody harrelson plays arthur poppington. a man who comes to believe he is a superhero, Defendor. he has tasked himself with fighting the evil in the city as part of his large quest in search of "captain industry" - the man who killed his mother.

while films like Scott Pilgrim and Kick-Ass seem to be winking at us the whole time, as if to let us know how smart they are and how aware they are of what they are doing, Defendor never does that. and i say that to point out differences, not to, in any way, diminish those other films (Scott Pilgrim was on my best of the year list last year and Kick-Ass just missed the list).

what was unexpected about Defendor was how genuine it was. while there are some very funny moments, the movie is also quite dramatic, touching and real. from the questions of arthur's mental health, his friendship with a teenage girl and even down to the color scheme which plays in the darks and greys and cloudy skies. and these aren't comic book greys, or gothem city darks. it is just a cloudy city.

this is a concrete world. a world outside our window - not inside a comic book. and although there is the superhero element to it, peter stebbings (the writer and director) is more interested in the "hero" part then the "super.

Narc

YEAR: 2002

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Joe Carnahan

BUDGET: $7,500,000 (estimated)

GROSS: $10,460,089

about 3-4 years ago on the podcast/website i talked about a film called Blood, Guts, Bullets And Octane. it was director joe carnahan's first film, and with Smoking Aces having just come out, i decide to go back and see where he had started. however, none of that would have happened if it hadn't been for his second film - and the first one of his i saw - Narc!

it was because of Narc that i recognized his name when Smoking Aces was released and it was because of Narc that even though i wasn't that enthused with Smoking Aces, i wanted to see what else he had done. i recently watched Narc again to make sure it was as good as i remember it from back when i saw it in the theatres years ago. and it was!

The film is about the investigation of the murder of an undercover police officer. the investigation is stalled and the higher ups are desperate to put the case to bed. the investigation is passed to the cops partner (ray liotta) and an undercover narcotics officer (jason patric) who had recently been let go from the force after an incident during his last operation.

the film reminded me a little of the movie Training Day (it was released prior to that film though) in how the main characters are presented - at least initially. like ethan hawkes character in Training Day, jason patric appears to be the moral center of Narc. and like denzel, liotta is the larger-than-life, do-what-needs-to-be-done cop. however, unlike Training Day, Narc isn't as black and white (no pun intended).

although carnahan may present the characters to us that way in the beginning, you can't take them for granted. because the truth isn't so easy. using the cinematography, the colors, the characters and a strong script, carnahan creates a film that lives in the grey. whereas Training Day likes to think it presents the grey. but really, when it comes down to it, it's pretty black and white.

and one can't talk about this film without mentioning ray liotta's performance. he has done some great work, but this is one of, if not his best. he owns the screen. he is a force and a physical presence. not to dismiss jason patric, who is also great and more than holds his own against the force of liotta's character.

2011 Oscar Predictions

 

WILL WIN are in bold

DID WIN are  big

MY SCORE: 18/24

despite anne hathaway's efforts and enthusiasm, the 2011 academy awards will go down as one of the worst i have ever seen. not because of who won or lost, but i'm talking the show itself.

besides the funny put-the-hosts-in-the-movies opening, there was barely a laugh or moment of excitement to be found (except when i won the pool i was in of course). the remixed songs was fun and the bob hope part was nice (although, seeing billy crystal out there to introduce it just made it more obvious what a great host he was and how anne and james just couldn't match up). but other than that the show was pretty dull.

as for my predictions: i did ok this year. 18/24 isn't bad and i did get 2/3 in the shorts categories which is where many pools are often won or lost. however, there were a few categories that, looking back, i'm not sure what i was thinking. i think i got a little too into the idea that The King's Speech wave would sweep up other categories that i missed, the now-obvious, Alice In Wonderland in art direction and costume design. and those of you who listened to the prediction episode of the podcast know how close i was to going with the winners in editing, documentary feature and foreign film (but, alas i didn't). so 18/24 it is. one better than last year and my second best showing since i started doing the podcast. how did you all do?

 

BEST PICTURE
The King's Speech
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The Fighter

 

 BEST DIRECTOR
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams , The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Christian Bale , The Fighter
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo , The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

BEST ACTRESS
Natalie Portman , Black Swan
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Nicole Kidman , Rabbit Hole
Michelle Williams , Blue Valentine

BEST ACTOR
Javier Bardem , Biutiful
Jeff Bridges , True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth , The King's Speech
James Franco , 127 Hours

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Another Year , Mike Leigh
The Fighter , Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, and Keith Dorrington
Inception , Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right , Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
The King's Speech , David Seidler

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
127 Hours , Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network , Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 , Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich
True Grit , Joel and Ethan Coen
Winter's Bone , Debra Granik and Anne Rossellini

BEST FOREIGN FILM
Biutiful
Dogtooth
In a Better World
Incendies
Outside the Law

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Inception
The King's Speech
True Grit

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Black Swan
Inception
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King's Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Gasland
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waste Land

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan
Pamela Martin, The Fighter
Tariq Anwar, The King's Speech
Jon Harris, 127 Hours
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, The Social Network

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP
Adrien Morot, Barney's Version
Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng, The Way Back
Rick Baker and Dave Elsey, The Wolfman

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
John Powell, How to Train Your Dragon
Hans Zimmer, Inception
Alexandre Desplat, The King's Speech
A.R. Rahman, 127 Hours
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network

BEST 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 ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
The Confession
The Crush
God of Love
Na Wewe
Wish 143

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
Inception
Toy Story 3
Tron: Legacy
True Grit
Unstoppable

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
Inception
The King’s Speech
Salt
The Social Network
True Grit

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Hereafter
Inception
Iron Man 2

Runaway Train

YEAR: 1985

WRITER: Djordje Milicevic & Paul Zindel & Edward Bunker (screenplay), Akira Kurosawa (based on a screenplay by), Ryûzô Kikushima & Hideo Oguni (story)

DIRECTOR: Andrey Konchalovskiy

BUDGET: $9 million (estimated)

GROSS: $7,936,012

 

Runaway Train is one-third prison escape movie and two-thirds runaway train movie. after busting out of an alaskan maximum-security prison, manny (jon voight) and buck (eric roberts) cross a frozen wasteland and hop on a train. but, the engineer has a heart attack the train becomes a runaway train...

both voight and roberts were nominated for academy awards and golden globes and director konchalovskiy was nominated for a palm d'or at cannes. also, the film is based on a screenplay by the great akira kurusawa. given those last two sentences - how can you not be curious to see this film? i know i sure was. so how was it you ask? well, it was really good. but, it was good partly because of, but also, in spite of itself. allow me to explain...

the film plays big and in so doing it tries to walk that line of grand vs. over the top. but it keeps taking steps over that line. beginning with the performances. i honestly have no idea how roberts and voight got nominations.

i will say that i think jon voight is a great actor, but in this film i don't know if most of the time he can even see the line from where he is. his performance, and roberts' as well, is so big and theatrical - like he is playing to the back of a crowded theatre. sometimes he rains it in to "good big" levels, but then in the next scene there he goes again. and his performance is kind of a metaphor for the film itself. konchalovskiy seems to have a solid vision for the movie that sometimes gets away from him.

this inconsistency can also be heard in the films score. while some action moments were backed up with this typical 80s synth score, others were brought to life with a beautiful heavy dramatic sound that really brought the grand weight of the drama to life. there is definitely a shakespearian element to the script and the characters, highlighted by the quote from Richard III that closes the film.

Runaway Train deserves credit as a good thriller/action film. the train sequences are good (it looks like they did a lot of stuff with real trains), the film moves at a nice pace and the script provides us with enough information to care and understand what's going on without feeling the need for loads of exposition. and i gotta say that i really liked the ending - which is often where many of these types of movies end up failing. the big dramatic finale is an example of konchalovskiy walking right up to that "over the top" line but not crossing it.

The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus/Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

YEAR: 2009, WRITER: Terry Gilliam & Charles McKeown, DIRECTOR: Terry Gilliam, BUDGET: $30 million (estimated), GROSS: $7,689,458

YEAR: 2010, WRITER: Edgar Wright & Michael Bacall (screenplay), Bryan Lee O'Malley (graphic novels), DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright, BUDGET: $60 million (estimated), GROSS: $29,267,130 (as of Sept. 5th 2010)

while photography is pretty singularly a visual medium and books are a medium very much completely reliant on the words, film is an art form that spans mediums. the words are just as important a component to the success of a film (i mean artistic success - not commercial) as is how the film looks and what it does visually, both large and small (people who talk about film tend to sometimes forget that a low-budget film, or one that forgoes large sets and special effects, is still making a visual statement).

what is often the case though - and one of the reasons why i think so many pretentious film people tend to look down their nose at big-budget films and movies with lots of special effects - is that many film makers focus their attention on the visual aspect of film making but forget about how important the words/story/script are - which leads to films like The Transformers I and II, Terminator Salvation, Ecks Vs Sever and i could go on, but you get what i'm saying). i bring this up, because i recently watched two films with strong artistic visions that also remembered how important the text was as well: The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

no one familiar with terry gilliam's work could ever accuse him of not having a strong vision - but it could be said that sometimes that vision just doesn't always work beyond looking good - yes, i am talking about Tideland (having not seen it, i can't comment on The Brothers Grimm). what about Brazil you ask? well, that is another one of gilliam's visionary works, but it can be a little confusing to some.

however, with Dr. Parnassus, he has created a gorgeous film that is a feast for the eyes and doesn't alienate the audience either. when characters are in the imaginarium it actually makes sense. you understand what is being represented and how it ties into the story. and speaking of the story, it is grand and interesting. gilliam isn't scared of grand story themes and here he takes on the classic deal-with-the devil scenario (in The Fisher King - my favorite of his films - he went with the holy grail).

what struck me about Scott Pilgrim, in regards to the graphic themes and ideas, was how well it used and stuck with the pop-up words and the video-game and comic book visual cues throughout the film.

there are so many movies out there that start strong when it comes to that sort of thing, but as the film progresses it fissiles out like it was just some kind of gimmick. but with Scott Pilgrim it is a core feature of the film and the vision of the film makers and they use it to full effect. and beyond that, the film is very funny, original and really fun.

although Scott Pilgrim and Dr. Parnassus are two very different films without any real connection, i couldn't help but think of them in the same discussion of visual ideas and the good and bad use of said ideas in movies. and these are two cases of good uses in very good films.

Equilibrium

YEAR: 2002

WRITER: Kurt Wimmer

DIRECTOR: Kurt Wimmer

BUDGET: $20 million (estimated)

GROSS: $1,203,974

 

some films i talk about on Filmed But Not Forgotten are films i come across randomly. others i know about through research or i check out because of the director or someone involved in the film. then others, like Equilibrium, are films that get recommended to me.

this film came out in 2002 and it has been recommended to me at various times by completely different people over the course of those eight years. i remember a friend of mine even had the poster up in their den back in '02 and at the time i had actually never even heard of it (which i am sure was/is the case for lots of people out there given the measly box office returns it generated upon its release).

so the other day i was dvd shopping as i love to do and i saw the blu-ray edition of the film on sale for about $15. i decided to get it (i also picked up Reservoir Dogs the 15th anniversary edition on blu-ray) and this week i threw it in my blu-ray player and checked it out.

Equilibrium is set in the future after world war III. society has realized that mankind won't be able to survive a world war IV. so the fascist regime as moved to eliminate what makes us human: feelings/emotions.literature, music and art are all being eliminated and society is on a drug called prozium which eliminates emotions. christian bale is cleric john preston. a top ranking government agent responsible for destroying those who resist the rules. but when he misses a dose himself, he begins to see things differently.

i knew from the dvd menu alone, and then once the film started, that the film had a strong visual style. however, we all know that visuals alone can't carry a film. and i was a little worried that the film was going to feel corny and melodramatic. a fascist future, a drone-like society, a resistance. if you watch any of these types of movies you know that those three things are almost must-haves for any dystopian future film.

and its obvious why. they allow for grand ideas and themes to be presented and for a positive look at the human spirit and how human nature can survive and win out against our evil and self-destructive nature (that has brought us to the point we are when these films begin). i get it. however, if you are giving us a grand presentation that we have seen many times before, you better do it well. and Equilibrium does.

there is also the beautiful cinematography and visually engaging fight sequences that all work together to create a world and a style that is more then just a pretty facade. and they did it all on a $20 million dollar budget which is incredible.

about half way through the film i started to get a little worried that it was heading down a very typical path and i wasn't sure it had given me enough to go there with it. but i stayed with it and it worked. sure, its a little predictable. but there are a couple nice little twists and turns which keep you on your toes and then there is just the really solid script that brings depth and emotion to characters and a story that could have been stale.

 

P.S. Equilibrium was kurt wimmer's directorial debut and he followed it up four years later with the also nice looking set in the future, but not at all as good (actually had it as #3 on my list of worst films of 2006) film Ultraviolet. but he has worked mostly as a writer on such films as The Thomas Crown Affaire (1999), The Recruit and Law Abiding Citizen. he also wrote the screenplay for the upcoming angelina jolie film Salt.

2010 Oscar Predictions

WILL WIN are in bold 

SHOULD WIN (where i have an opinion) is underlined 

 Did Win are BIG 

 

 

 

MY SCORE: 17/24

well, the oscars have come and gone and i had an average go with my predictions this year. it wasn't my most impressive performance, but it wasn't awful either. where i messed up this year was with the shorts (animation, live action, documentary). normally i get at least one of those right and this time nothing. and then, missing both screenplay winners is just awful. but, i went  17/19 for the rest of the awards and a perfect on the top 6 categories which isn't bad.... so, how did you all do?

Best motion picture of the year
  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up In the Air
Performance by an actress in a leading role
  • Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
  • Helen Mirren (The Last Station)
  • Carey Mulligan (An Education)
  • Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)
  • Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia)
Performance by an actor in a leading role
  • Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
  • George Clooney (Up In the Air)
  • Colin Firth (A Single Man)
  • Morgan Freeman (Invictus)
  • Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
  • Matt Damon (Invictus)
  • Woody Harrellson (The Messenger)
  • Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
  • Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
  • Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
  • Penelope Cruz (Nine)
  • Vera Farmiga (Up In the Air)
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
  • Anna Kendrick (Up In the Air)
  • Mo'Nique (Precious)
Best animated feature film of the year
  • Coraline
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • The Princess and the Frog
  • The Secret of Kells
  • Up
Best Documentary Short Subject
  • China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
  • The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
  • The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”
  • Music by Prudence
  • Rabbit à la Berlin
Best Short Film (Animated)
  • French Roast
  • Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
  • The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)
  • Logorama
  • A Matter of Loaf and Death
Best Short Film (Live Action)
  • The Door
  • Instead of Abracadabra
  • Kavi
  • Miracle Fish
  • The New Tenants
Achievement in art direction
  • Avatar
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • Nine
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Young Victoria
Achievement in cinematography
  • Avatar, Mauro Fiore
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Bruno Delbonnel
  • The Hurt Locker, Barry Ackroyd
  • Inglourious Basterds, Robert Richardson
  • The White Ribbon, Christian Berger
Achievement in costume design
  • Bright Star, Janet Patterson
  • Coco before Chanel, Catherine Leterrier
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Monique Prudhomme
  • Nine, Colleen Atwood
  • The Young Victoria, Sandy Powell
Achievement in directing
  • James Cameron (Avatar)
  • Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
  • Lee Daniels (Precious)
  • Jason Reitman (Up In the Air)
Best documentary feature
  • Burma VJ
  • The Cove
  • Food, Inc.
  • The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
  • Which Way Home
ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP
  • Il Divo, Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
  • Star Trek, Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
  • The Young Victoria, Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore
Achievement in film editing
  • Avatar, Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
  • District 9, Julian Clarke
  • The Hurt Locker, Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
  • Inglourious Basterds, Sally Menke
  • Precious, Joe Klotz
Best foreign language film of the year
  • Ajami
  • El Secreto De Sus Ojos
  • The Milk of Sorrow
  • A Prophet
  • The White Ribbon
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
  • Avatar, James Horner
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox, Alexandre Desplat
  • The Hurt Locker, Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
  • Sherlock Holmes, Hans Zimmer
  • Up, Michael Giacchino
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
  • "Almost There" from The Princess and the Frog Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
  • "Down in New Orleans" from The Princess and the Frog Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
  • "Loin de Paname" from Paris 36 Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
  • "Take It All" from Nine Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
  • "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" from Crazy Heart Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Achievement in sound editing
  • Avatar, Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
  • The Hurt Locker, Paul N.J. Ottosson
  • Inglourious Basterds, Wylie Stateman
  • Star Trek, Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
  • Up, Michael Silvers and Tom Myers
Achievement in sound mixing
  • Avatar, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
  • The Hurt Locker, Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
  • Inglourious Basterds, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
  • Star Trek, Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson
Achievement in visual effects
  • Avatar, Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
  • District 9, Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
  • Star Trek, Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton
Adapted screenplay
  • Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (District 9)
  • Nick Hornby (An Education)
  • Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche (In the Loop)
  • Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious)
  • Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (Up In the Air)
Original screenplay
  • Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
  • Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman (The Messenger)
  • Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man)
  • Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy (Up)