A Perfect World

YEAR: 1993

WRITER: John Lee Hancock

DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: $31,160,784

 

in 1992 clint eastwood directed the academy award winning film, Unforgiven. in 1995 he directed The Bridges Of Madison County, based on the ginormous best-selling book of the same name. however, what many film goers missed was the film mr. eastwood made in between those two. in 1993 he directed A Perfect World.

in the 1960s Butch Haynes (costner) escapes from prison and during his first few hours on the run, kidnaps phillip, an eight-year-old boy. the new travel partners head off with texas ranger, red garnett (eastwood) and his team searching for them.

not only is this a film that gets forgotten when people discuss eastwood directorial efforts, but the film provides one of kevin costner's best performances of his career (to go along with Bull Durham and Tin Cup). also, being 1993 it was pretty much right in the middle of that 10 year span in which costner was the king of hollywood. from 1987(The Untouchables) to 1997(The Postman - Waterworld was the first big hit to his reign and this one pretty much put an end to it).

the absentee fathers for both characters (haynes and the kid) and the rough childhood for haynes creates an obvious father/son bond between the two rather quickly. and both actors really do great work here.

phillip (t.j. lowther) is quiet and attentive and naive and curious. growing up in a secluded and restrictive jehovas witness household this new freedom that haynes allows him is exciting at first.

as for haynes, costner is able to play the edge really well. we know he would never hurt phillip (he is actually very protective of him and all children). but when any adults are in the picture, we are always aware that things can turn in a second.

while the pursuit is definitely a part of the movie (and an important one), the cops-after-criminals/cat-and-mouse game isn't what this movie relies on. eastwood recognizes that the film really does rise and fall with the relationship that develops between the young boy and costner's character during their time on the run. and that is why the film works as well as it does!

Loft

YEAR: 2008

WRITER: Bart De Pauw

DIRECTOR: Erik Van Looy

BUDGET: €3,200,000 (estimated)

GROSS: $7,075,161 (Belgium)

i found Loft during one of my browsing-through-netflix movie days. Except for the very brief synopsis i knew nothing about the movie besides the fact that it was a dutch-language belgium film. then it started playing and although there were subtitles, i understood what the characters were saying. did i speak dutch all of a sudden? was i like george in that episode of Sienfeld when he stops having sex and becomes a genius and is able to learn portuguese in a few minutes? nope, i hadn't somehow osmosised the dutch language into my vocabulary... they were speaking french. for some reason, netflix is presenting this dutch-language film, dubbed in french with english subtitles. go figure.

now back to Loft...

Loft is a mystery/crime/thriller about five married friends who share a loft that they use as a place to take their mistresses and female encounters. one day they find a dead women in the loft... what happened? well, i could tell you, but i won't.

the story is told mostly through flashbacks as the men are questioned by the police and the film does a nice job of revealing enough, but not too much too soon. and i will admit that i had certain suspicions, but until all was revealed, i wasn't able to figure out how it had played out. you will be trying to figure it out though.

the story is well put together and it isn't, as is sometimes the case with mystery/thrillers, so convoluted that when certain things are revealed you feel cheated. although, i wasn't sure who had done it, or why, as the pieces came together, i saw that the clues had been there and i had ignored them (actually, i had picked up on a few of them, but then dismissed them and allowed myself to be misdirected). the film builds nicely and the director does a good job of creating an ambience of tension with the score, the editing and the cinematography.

ridiculous language/dubbing issues aside, Loft is worth a look next time you are browsing through netflix wondering what to watch. although, if you could find it in it's original language with subtitles than of course go for that one.

p.s. it looks like there was a 2010 remake of the film made in the netherlands. and an upcomming, 2012, american remake that is being directed by the director of the original film, erik van looy

The Ides Of March

YEAR: 2011

WRITER:George Clooney

DIRECTOR:George Clooney

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: $3,450,000 (as of October 7th, 2011)

 

a couple years ago, after the box office failure of a few films, all the talk was about the death of smart, adult fare. how, no one was going to see these movies and studios were going to stop making them. well, i guess george clooney didn't get the memo, because The Ides Of March is a smart, adult film and a really good one at that!

while i wouldn't call myself a political junkie (what's a step below "junkie?"), i do enjoy politics. actually, i enjoy it and am often very frustrated by it as well. but all that to say a good political thriller is always something that will intrigue me. but notice the word "good" in that last sentence.

the problem with some political thrillers is that they feel the need to really push the "thrill" part and to do so they end up getting convoluted and going to far: a murder and a cover-up and then a leak leads to another murder which brings in a secret uncovered from many years ago, etc... The Ides Of March doesn't fall into that trap.

the film takes us into the world of this campaign and in there we understand how high the stakes are and how important everything is to those involved. and given that, even a small (and believable) transgression can take on large importance and thrills and cause characters to change their views of things and act in ways they might not have otherwise (we don't need two murders and a secret organization to keep us interested or believing).

it also helps that the film is populated by great performances from all involved (clooney, gosling, giamatti, seymour hoffman, evan rachel wood, jeffrey wright marisa tomei). the film is filled with about six or seven one-on-one scenes between these various actors/actresses that had me transfixed to the screen. the performances and the writing create a palpable tension whether it be flirty or suspenseful or confrontational.

and let us not forget the direction here. clooney is quietly becoming on of the better directors out there. with this film, Good Night And Good Luck and Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (i haven't seen Leatherheads) clooney has shows a real vision specific to each film in how he wants to tell the story and how he wants it to look. and with The Ides Of March he found in phedon papmichael a cinematographer to realize it beautifully.

i know the political thing will turn some people off. but, just to say... you dont have to be a political junkie or even a step below junkie to understand or enjoy this movie. so, don't let that hold you back.

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

I Think We're Alone Now/Facing The Habit

YEAR: 2008, WRITER & DIRECTOR: Sean Donnelly, BUDGET: ?, GROSS: ?

YEAR: 2007, WRITER & DIRECTOR: Magnolia Martin, BUDGET: $100,000 (estimated), GROSS: ?

the main characters in both these documentaries have something in their lives that they are obsessed with/addicted to. for jeff turner and kelly mccormick it is 80s pop star tiffany and for dave, it is heroine.

I Think We're Alone Now takes us into the world of jeff and kelly - both obsessed with tiffany. jeff is a 50-year-old man with asperger's syndrome who has been going to tiffany concerts since the late 80s and who feels that he and the singer are meant to be together (this seems to somewhat change during the film as he begins to call her just a friend and seems happy with her marriage to an englishman named ben). kelly is an "intersexual" who claims that tiffany came to her when she was in a coma following a bike crash - thus saving her life.

in Facing The Habit, we meet dave. he used to be a millionaire stock broker. but now he is a heroine addict who steals to pay for is addiction. he has spent years trying to get clean and has tried everything, but nothing has worked. now he is set to try an experimental treatment using ibogaine (a drug made from the west african iboga root).

i had thought there was a chance that the film would be like an episode of Intervention. but, that is not the case. although we do get to see how dave lives these days and how he feels about being an addict and what heroine has done to his life, the film doesn't do a lot of historical analysis as to why dave is in this position. rather it is just as concerned with dave as it is with ibogaine. there are also interviews with others who have used the experimental treatment.

I Think We're Alone Now spends more time with its main characters talking about their lives and what has brought them to this point. there is no analysis from experts on stalking or anything like that. rather by listening to them tell us about themselves and a little insight from their friends, we are left to our own devices in understanding who kelly and jeff are. this may be why some have called the film exploitative. but, i don't see it that way.

sure, both kelly and jeff have some mental issues, but the movie isn't laughing at them or holding them up in some kind of exploitative way. rather the film is just taking us closer to people that maybe we don't understand and any snickering or exploitative thoughts towards them are from the specific viewers themselves and how they feel about these people rather then what the film is telling us what to think.

although, a more philosophical argument could be made that the act of filming these people for the documentary is exploitation in itself. that the documentary form is exploitative by nature and that turning the cameras lens on an individual is exploiting them for the purpose/gain of the film. but i digress...

dave's attempt at recovery and the other stories of recovery and failure that make up Facing The Habit are interesting and uplifting and heartbreaking. but it was also really interesting to see ibogaine at work. the before and after is incredible. although, as great as it appears to work in curbing the addiction, the film also makes it clear that that is only the first step to full recovery.

these are both short documentaries (61 minutes and 49 minutes) so you can go ahead and do what i did and make it a double feature night.

Micmacs (Micmacs A Tire-Larigot)

YEAR: 2009

WRITER: Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Guillaume Laurant

DIRECTOR: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

BUDGET: €27,000,000 (estimated)

GROSS: $1,260,917 (USA)

 

few directors take full advantage of the medium in which they work like jean-pierre jeunet. one of the premier directors around, jeunet is one of those film makers for me, whose name on a film is reason enough to go see it. and Micmacs is yet another example of him at the top of his game.

when he was a boy, bazil's father was killed by a landmine in morocco and years later by a completely random turn of events he himself was shot by a stray bullet. he survived but lost his job and ended up on the street - there are some brilliant scenes during this part of the film that harken back to classic silent film and both the scenes and the performance by dany boon (bazil) would make buster keaton and charlie chaplin proud.

while on the streets he meets an eccentric junk yard dealers who take him into their "family" (you got a contortionist, an ex convict, a math genius, a human cannonball, etc... you get the idea). one day, by complete chance, he stumbles upon the two weapons manufacturers that built the landmines that killed his dad and the bullets that hit him. with the help of his friends he begins an intricate plan to destroy them both...

while there are obviously many ways this story could be told. but, imagine it in the hands of the director of Delicatessen and Amelie. well, it is even better then you imagined. Jeunet is at the top of his game and the film is a brilliantly conceived and accomplished dark comedy/quirky/fable that is more than just a feast for your eyes. i have talked about this idea before, but it bears repeating in the context of this film...

unlike other film makers who can create a great visual experience, jeunet is able to bring all the pieces together to make great films. the characters and the script and the complete originality had me engaged and excited watching this film - it had my eyes and ears glued to the screen.

i was excited by every scene and i was excited to see where the film would take me... and speaking of the visual style: it isn't a gimmick here. it encompasses the characters and the story and the way the story is told. it all works together perfectly.