At Home By Myself... With you

YEAR: 2009

WRITER: Ramona Barckert, Kris Booth

DIRECTOR: Kris Booth

BUDGET: $CAD40,000 (estimated)

GROSS: ?

clicking away through netflix suggestions based on my ratings and previously viewed films and randomly browsing through genres i came across a bunch of titles that caught my eye, the first one of which was At Home By Myself... With You. i saw that it was a canadian film and feeling all patriotic i clicked play, streamed it to my tv and sat back on the couch...

now, don't let the "quirky" "romantic" netflix qualifiers scare you off. we all know that romantic comedies - quirky or not - are generally predictable by nature, not always that interesting and often not really that funny." but, it doesn't have to be that way, as At Home By Myself... With You proves.

also, i clicked the "quirky" link and saw that netflix had also tagged And Justice For All, Adaptation and Young Frankenstein with said tag. so, who really knows what "quirky" means to them?

romy is a women who, as we learn from the opening voiced-over animation, has many phobias. from opening boxes to going outside. and by "going outside" i mean literally taking one step out of her apartment - something she hasn't done for six years. then a guy moves in next door... okay, so you know where this is going. but, as predictable as the destination may be, the ride is enjoyable.

the filming style, the voice-overs, that opening animation, the score and the supporting characters all created a feel to the film that is like a children's story - or some kind of fairy tale? a story about the girl stuck in her apartment who falls for the charming and sweet always-on-the-go guy across the hall.

kristin booth (who you may have seen on a really good film i talked about a couple years ago, Young People Fucking) is great as romy. she is sweet and quirky (ya, i said it), but without becoming a caricature. it's interesting: romy is the "oddest" character in the film and yet she, and the guy across the hall, are what keep the film grounded in reality and make the emotional moments valid for the audience.

also, in case you were interested in the quirky-factor, but wasn't sure how it compared. it is a little quirkier than Easy Rider (another film that, for some ridiculous reason, was listed under my netflix "quirky" suggestions).

Wrecked

YEAR: 2011

WRITER: Christopher Dodd

DIRECTOR: Michael Greenspan

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: $4,821

 

Adrien Brody is a man who awakens to find himself in the passenger seat of a wrecked car at the bottom of a steep cliff. his leg is injured and there is a dead guy in the back seat.... it sounds like one of those brain teaser questions. you know the ones with answers like, "the doctor is his mother" or "he was standing on a block of ice.".... so, what happened? well, that's what we are going to find out over the course of the movie.

what i really liked about the film was how simple it is. the movie is basically brody and the forest. there are some flashbacks/flashes, but mostly we are in the present, in the woods crawling around as brody makes his way about trying to figure out who he is, what happened and just trying to survive.

before we even get to the crawling/limping around in the wood though we are in the car with him and we are there for awhile. the director michael greenspan and the screenwriter christopher dodd (i assume it was part of the script) make a pretty ballsy decision to spend the first 30 minutes of the film in the car with pretty much one solitary character.

while you might expect five or ten minutes like this, just to set up the character and the situation, 30 minutes is really taking a chance - and it is a chance that really pays off. i didn't even realize it was half an hour before he got out of the car until i went back after and checked the time. it really feels that it is as long as is has to be. and not as long, or should i say short, as they assume our attention span is these days.

to trust himself, the script, brody's ability to carry it and to not speed things up for a short-attention span audience i gotta give greenspan a nod to, what i like to call, some big cojones film making (check out my discussions of Hunger and Greenberg for definitions of "big cojones film making").

the end of the film does present us with answers and a bit of a twist on our assumptions, but not so much so that it feels ridiculous or forced. which is another way in which i meant the film is simple. amnesia/who-am-i films often feel the need to present us with this big elaborate story that the main character slowly figures out over the course of the movie with a bunch of twists and turns.

not to say that is always a bad thing, but in the context of this slow and quiet, basically one-man-play, it works so much better the way they did it. Wrecked isn't Unknown. and i appreciate the restraint. it makes the "ah ha" moment at the end of the film completely satisfying.

The Trip

YEAR: 2010

DIRECTOR: Michael Winterbottom

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: $1,090,768 (as of July 17th, 2011)

 

When The Observer asks steve coogan to tour the finest restaurants he asks his girlfriend to go with him. she can't, so he calls a bunch of friends and asks them to go. but none of them are available so he calls rob brydon and asks him.

now, if the names steve coogan and rob brydon mean nothing to you, than i can understand why maybe you haven't been as excited about seeing The Trip as i have. however, that shouldn't stop you from seeing it now.

the film is a very simple road/buddy movie in which steve and rob travel through the north of england while - among other things - eating great food, checking out the countryside and trying to one-up each other with their michael caine impressions.

i will admit that while i have been familiar with steve coogan for many years - since i discovered his brilliant tv show I Am Allen Partridge and then in films like 24 Hour Party People and Hamlet 2 to name a couple - i only became familiar with rob brydon when i saw him and coogan in Tristam Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story. in that film they have some great moments playing off each other and The Trip just lets them take that to the next level.

the film began its life as a series on the bbc which director michael winterbottom took and edited down into a 100 minute film. he took out much of what wouldn't be understood by a north american audience - like references and the like. and i think he did a good job with it.

i haven't seen the tv series, but i think the film stands on its own and the characters are defined enough that any audience, even those with no reference point to coogan and brydon, will get it. although, there are moments that might go by without recognition as they did for me (there was a Flight Of The Concords reference i missed and a couple celebrities mentioned that i had no idea who they were).

so much of the film is the two of them improvising while sitting and eating or sitting in the car. and while the first big laugh comes with the battling michael caines, the funniest scene has to be the two of them riffing on the line "we rise at dawn!"

beyond the laughs, the film is about these two friends who are about the same age, but at two different places in their lives.

brydon has a wife and a kid. coogan has an ex-wife and a kid. he still dates and chases women and is on a break from his girlfriend and lives alone in a lonely apartment. brydon is well-known in the U.K. and is content with his career. coogan is better known internationally but is still looking for more fame and recognition. you get the idea...

for those who are a little more in-the-know about these guys and the history of their work, their careers, etc, their relationship in the film might bring with it even more recognizable layers and understanding. but for the rest of us - like i mentioned earlier - it isn't an issue. you don't sit there thinking you are missing out on anything. the film is put together really well and the ideas are simple and universal.

Tulpan

YEAR: 2008

WRITER: Sergei Dvortsevoy & Gennadi Ostrovsky

DIRECTOR: Sergei Dvortsevoy

BUDGET: €2,150,000 (estimated)

GROSS: $156,331 (as of August 30th, 2009)

i was trying to think of a way to describe Tulpan and the thought that first came into my head was that it was like Seinfeld. how can a film that takes place on the dry and dusty kazakhstan steppes be anything like Seinfeld you ask? well, one way to describe Tulpan would be to say it is a film about nothing - at least on the surface.

remember that episode of Seinfeld when george is pitching the idea for a show about nothing to nbc executives and he asks them what they did that day? one of them responds to the effect of, "i got up. brushed my teeth and had breakfast and came to work." and george enthusiastically responds, "that's a show!"

if george had been talking to the characters in Tulpan, they would have responded in russian and kazakh and they would have said something like, "got up. herded sheep, got water and supplies from the old truck that came around. protected ourselves from a dust tornado that swept over the deserted land. made food using elementary tools. sat around and had a meal with family. went to bed all aligned on the floor of our yurt." and george would have responded, "that's a movie!"

the camera takes us into their world almost as a documentary would. i don't mean that in the way that the camera work is, as some assume when the term documentary-style is used, all hand held. but rather in how the story is told.

the film is like a "day in the life" of these characters (actually it is more like a couple days). some scenes linger longer than they would in most films and some scenes portray very simple and daily tasks that might be easily cut out of other films. but not this one. because that is who these people are. that is how we get to know them and care for them and experience a culture and connection with their environment that many of us have never seen or experienced or considered.

on the surface Tulpan is such a simple film in its production and storytelling. but it is also completely engaging in the experience that when the main character has his big revelatory moment i felt the smile on my face and throughout my entire body.

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.

Easier With Practice

YEAR: 2009

WRITER: Kyle Patrick Alverez

DIRECTOR: Kyle Patrick Alverez (screenplay), Davey Rothbart (story)

BUDGET: $1,000,000 (estimated)

GROSS: ?

 

davey is an unpublished writer driving around new mexico with his brother giving readings of his short stories and trying to sell a few copies of his book. one night in his motel he gets a call from nicole. he doesn't know how she is, but they end up having phone sex - and so begins Easier With Practice.

as davey and nicole's phone relationship develops, he becomes more and more attached to her - even forgoing possible real girls and feeling like he is cheating on her if he does.

good performances, a good script and a nice soundtrack make this indie drama worth searching out. one of the things i appreciated about the film was that i wasn't sure where it was going. there were a couple times where i thought i saw where the story was heading and each time it didn't go there, or if it did, it went there and past it. the biggest example of this is the ending.

the obvious question that the film brings up is "who is nicole?" is she who she says she is? is she - as davey's brother jokes - an unattractive middle aged women with a bunch of kids who sells products over the phone? etc... (i'm sure we all have our own ideas of the possibilities right?).

well, for me this is the hardest part of the movie to get right. how do you end the film in an interesting and intelligent way, even though it might be exactly what some of the audience expects. well, they did it just right. the conversation that ends the movie is a really well written moment that feels original within a possibly obvious format and true to both characters involved.

Awful Normal

YEAR: 2004

DIRECTOR: Celesta Davis

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: appears to have never had a theatrical run

 

with a tagline like "what would you say to the man who molested you?" you can't get a more direct summary of what the film, Awful Normal is about.

when celesta davis and her sister karen were children they were each molested by her dad's best friend (who was married to their mom's best friend). now, 25 years later they have decided - after many years of talking about it - to confront him.

the most important thing to remember about this film is how personal it is. the specifics of the film making really aren't that important. the film feels very real and honest and almost like you are eavesdropping on your neighbors going through a hard time - except that with the voice overs and certain acknowledgments of the cameras, you know they want you to watch. that it's okay to watch.

as for the film making itself? it's fine. there were moments where i wanted more information and there was one or two editing/directorial decisions that seemed a little disjointed from the pace and tome of the rest of the film, but, that's okay.

the film is about capturing celesta and her sister and her mother on this journey towards some possible kind of resolution. and the moments leading up to celesta's confronting of her molester as well as the conversation that follows are tense, powerful and very emotional.

this isn't a reporter talking to a child molester for some news program. this is the child he molested talking to him. its almost a little surreal at times as the conversation begins with small talk before getting to the reason why she is there.

Awful Normal isn't setting out to solve the problem or explain why things like that happen. rather, it set out to with the sole purpose of telling celesta's story and allowing her to confront the man that molested her. Unfortunately, there are so many other stories out there that need to be told.

p.s. i would also recommend a better film, Stevie, which i discussed on the podcast earlier this year.