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!

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.

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!

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

Catfish

YEAR: 2010

DIRECTOR: Ariel Schulman & Henry Joost

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: $2,236,110 (as of October 10th, 2010)

it says it right there in all capital letters (so you know it has to be important) on the film's poster, "don't let anyone tell you what it is." so i won't. but, that doesn't mean i can't tell you that Catfish is a "must see film" - i love using standard film reviewer pull quotes sometimes (now, if only this was a film that would make you "laugh and cry" or take you on a "roller coaster thrill ride").

in 2007 (don't worry, i'm not gonna "tell you what it is") photographer nev schulman received a painting in the mail. it was from an 8-year-old girl who had done a painting of one of his photographs. this was the first of many paintings to come and began a correspondence with said girl, her mom and her very hot 19-year old sister via facebook, email, phone calls, text messages, etc.... a few months in, nev's brother ariel and their friend henry joost decide to start documenting the story and so begins Catfish.

the film is very relevant in how so much of the story plays out online, with facebook kind of at the centre of it all. i really do want to tell you more, but i won't. i want you to see this film with as little knowledge about it as possible. personally, once i read the tagline on the poster (i happened by it on my way between screenings at the toronto film festival) i avoided any information about the film. i didn't even read the the small write-up on my flixster phone app when i checked into the times it was playing at my local cinema.

ok, i am maybe a little over-geeky when it comes to movies and such. but there really is something nice about seeing a film fresh and without any knowledge of what it is about (which is in complete contrast to how we usually go into a film - after having watched the give-away-too-much trailer).

now, it should be noted that there is quite a bit of controversy over the film (i just spent the last 20 minutes reading message board arguments - and surprisingly most of them were actually pretty coherent and didn't involve swearing and mother jokes). i am not going to even tell you what the arguments are about.

so watch the film and then lets make the comments section for this post a spoilers-allowed zone where you can tell me and others what you think about the film and the controversy surrounding it.

i know Social Network came out a couple weeks ago, but given all the historical inaccuracies in that story, it could be argued that Catfish (depending on where you come down on the controversy) is the "real" facebook movie out now.

No Direction Home

YEAR: 2005

DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese

BUDGET: $2 million (estimated)

for my birthday last year my friend chrystina (some of you might know her as my co-host on the great Watch It television podcast) gave me the No Direction Home dvd. i was very happy when i got it and i added it to my dvd collection right away. however, as anyone with a large dvd collection can tell you, it is very easy for movies to get lost in there. and that is what happened with this one. recently, however, it popped its head out from the crowded shelf and caught my eye and so it was time to finally watch it.

No Direction Home is a martin scorsese directed documentary about the life and career of bob dylan. and i can say that after having watched the film i feel like i know a whole lot more about dylan and i might know him better. but i still don't know him. and i think that is the point.

in the book The Tipping Point, author malcolm gladwell at one point talks about how we define people. how it is a common tendency for us to always define people in simple and singular ways: "jack is a liar", "jane is kind", "bill is shy", "betty is stuck-up", etc... but, jack, jane, bill, betty and all of us are more than just one simple definition/characteristic. and that is where this documentary succeeds so brilliantly.

throughout his life bob dylan has been claimed by so many. the folk music scene, the anti-war movement, they have all tried to define him as one of them (just look at how angry people got when he "went electric"). but he has never wanted to be defined or felt comfortable in that role. in one clip from a press conference he is asked the question of whether he sees himself as primarily a singer or a poet and he responds by saying that he actually sees himself "more as a song and dance man." this gets a big laugh, but it is also very indicative of his real, almost animosity, towards any kind of type-casting.

to be honest, i don't know if he could even define himself. there are many moments throughout the film where dylan seems to contradict something he had said previously about his music, his lyrics, his life, the meaning behind things he has said and done, etc... at times it felt like he was just making stuff up and being contradictory on purpose.

genius, poet, shy, singer, rebel, song writer, voice of a generation, song and dance man... bob dylan is all that and more and No Direction Home is an excellent exploration of the man that will both answer questions and bring up many more - just as it should.

Where The Wild Things Are/Away We Go

Year: 2009, Writer: Dave Eggers & Spike Jonez (screenplay) Maurice Sendak(book), Director: Spike Jonez, Budget: $80 million (estimated), Gross: $62,650,379 (as of November 1st, 2009)

Year: 2009, Writer: Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida, Director: Sam Mendes, Budget: $17 million (estimated), Gross: $9,430,988

so, i just finally got around to seeing Where The Wild Things Are and it was great. And, as i sat there watching the credits pop up at the end of the film i saw the name dave eggers appear as co-writer. eggers wrote one of my favorite books, You Shall Know Our Velocity, and i had totally forgot that he had written the script for this film with spike jonez.

it did remind me however, that he had written another screenplay and while i couldn't think of it at that moment sitting in the theatre, when i got home i imdb'd it and remembered that it was the sam mendes film that had been released earlier in the year, Away We Go. so, i sat down a couple days later and checked that one out as well. and i gotta say... bravo! to both films.

while i, like most people of my generation, had a fondness for the Where The Wild Things Are book, i went into the film not having read or looked at the book in many many years. so for me it was pretty much a clean slate. And, to see what spike jonez does with that slate, i don't know how anyone can't like this film.

it is funny and sad and dramatic and it will make you cry and laugh and imagine. and it will make you feel and smile and wonder. it never talks down to us or to the kids that might be watching it. in fact, you may have noticed that the advertising for the film was mostly playing to a young adult crowed as opposed to children.

the wild things are incredible. the costumes and the voice acting and the way they all move creates such a believability to all of them. they are true characters and you will love some of them and not like others.

the set design and art direction and the world that jonez has created here is spectacular. you feel like if you walked into the woods and walked far enough you too might come across the wild things and their world. and, on that note, i thought it was great that the wild things world is never discussed as fake or imaginary.

max gets there by boat and leaves by boat, but besides that the film makers and writers didn't feel the need to explain it all to us (i will admit i don't remember how it goes in the book). it is about us believing in it all the way max does and that just makes his experience and his return home that much more meaningful.

i hadn't planned this segway, but now that i think of it, Away We Go has a meaningful return home as well. the film is a great little romantic dramady that takes our main couple (burt and verona) on a road trip of sorts, as they try to decide where to make their life with their baby that is due in three months.

sam mendes, known from much darker and dramatic fare (American Beauty, Road To Perdition, Revolutionary Road...) does a really great job with this film and the script from eggers and vendela vida (eggers' wife) is great.

what i found interesting about the writing was that, based on the novel of his that i read, eggers' writing is very modern and witty and quick and hip, but that isn't the case for both Away We Go and Where The Wild Things Are. for both films he, and his co-writer, were really able to write for the characters and the story, rather then fitting them into a writing style or attitude. not to say both films aren't smart and witty and such, but they are so in the ways that fit each experience and film.

and finally i have to mention the casting of maya rudolph and john krazinski as the leads in Away We Go. i don't know if they were the first choices or not, but i will say that they should have been. they are both great at the comedic stuff - as one would expect - but the drama and the rest didn't phase them either. they also had chemistry - which, given the fact that they are in 99% of the film together really would be a deal breaker no matter how good the script and the directing was.

i'm sure at this point you have all heard of Where The Wild Things Are and either seen it or want to see it or have decided that you don't want to see it. Whereas, Away We Go hung around in the theatres for a couple months, but didn't do much. however, besides both having dave eggers attached to their screenplays, they are both really good films that you really should see.

The Puffy Chair

Year: 2005

Writer: Jay & Mark Duplass

Director: Jay Duplass

Budget: $15 000(estimated)

Gross: $192 467

i thought i knew what to expect when i sat down to watch The Puffy Chair (unfortunately, not in a puffy chair.  those are awesome).  the title sounds kind of fun and light and the only description of the film i had heard was to the effect of: a guy drives cross country to deliver a birthday gift to his father.  that gift being the puffy chair.

sounds like a fun road movie.  and at 85 minutes long. a quick and easy one at that.  in fact, the only reason i decided to tivo it off my movie network was because i heard it referenced when talking about the most recent film from the duplass brothers, Baghead - which i unfortunately didn't get around to seeing when it was in the theater, but it sounded good and i had wanted to.  however, when i heard the brothers' first film was The Puffy Chair, the name rang some kind of random bell in my head and then low and behold it appeared on one of my movie channels not long after that.  i was meant to see this film...

needless to say, i really enjoyed this film and it wasn't as light and puffy an affair as i had assumed from the description and title.  i also had these false assumptions that because the film was about a trip to bring his father the chair, that there was some kind of father/son relationship problems that needed to be worked out and that that was going to be the crux of the movie.

instead the film was about josh (the main guy) and his girlfriends relationship (she and his brother come along for the ride).  and, like another low-budget film i saw earlier this year, Young People Fucking, it hit on some really true notes about relationships, and yet it didn't feel stereotypical either.  these were two real people and their relationship felt completely true. i think that can be attributed to the script as much as the performances which were really good as well and felt almost improved much of the time.

if you look at the film from a budget-to-gross angel it was rather successful, making over 10 times as much as it cost.  however, given that it made less then $200 000 i am going to assume most, if not all of you out there, have never seen it.  let us change that.  go see it!

Death Race & Death Race 2000

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Death Race: Year: 2008, Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson(screenplay & screen story), Robert Thom & Charles B. Griffith (1975 screenplay Death Race 2000), Ib Melchior(1975 story Death Race 2000), Director: Paul W.S. Anderson, Budget: $45 million, Gross: $26 198 210 (as of September 4th, 2008)

Death Race 2000: Year: 1975, Writer: Ib Melchior (story),Robert Thom and Charles B. Griffith (as Charles Griffith) (screenplay), Director: Paul Bartel, Budget: $300 000 (estimated), Gross: ?

although technically the new film Death Race is derived from the 1975 film Death Race 2000, they are quite different films. its kind of like when a movie says it is 'inspired' by true events rather then 'this is a true story' or 'based on a true story'.  the one thing they do have in common though is that neither film is that good, but they are both a lot of fun.

i could sit here and sound off on the negatives for each movie...

Death Race: one dimensional characters, not the best script (the voice over at the end of the film is corny and totally unnecessary), lots of typical slow-mo shots of chicks and cars with music playing, etc...

Death Race 2000: bad b-movie acting, some poor special effect (the futuristic city background looks like a 2-dimensional drawing down with crayola crayons), laughable dialogue, etc...

so what made the movies so much fun?

Death Race: cool car racing, lots of action, lots of typical slow-mo shots of chicks and cars with music playing, one dimensional characters, etc...

Death Race 2000: lots of fast cars (although sometimes they looked like they were little hot wheels cars on a road built to scale), bad b-movie acting, some poor special effect (the futuristic city background looks like a 2-dimensional drawing down with crayola crayons), laughable dialogue, etc...

basically, what it came down to for me was that neither film took itself to seriously. when i say that, it isn't to say they both aren't making a point of some kind.  because they both obviously are:  that point being societies destruction, the power of corporations and the all mighty dollar, peoples lust for violence and ability to be controlled.  what i am saying is that the point is obvious and as such it works in the context of such fun yet empty movies.

it isn't like they are trying to do satire here, or make a subtle point.  if that was the case then it wouldn't have worked.  but, by throwing it out there and giving it to us in an out there and in your face movie, i was totally able to just go with it and enjoy the cars, the girls and the action in Death Race and the cars and the b-movie campyness of Death Race 2000.

Oscar 2008 Predictions

sing it with me... oscar, oscar oscar, who will win?  well here is my answer to that question:

MY SCORE: 13/24 (my worst showing ever. embarrassing)

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)
Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)
Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah" (Warner Independent)
Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises" (Focus Features)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros.)
Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War" (Universal)
Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)
Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal)
Julie Christie in "Away from Her" (Lionsgate)
Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse)
Laura Linney in "The Savages" (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page in "Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There" (The Weinstein Company)
Ruby Dee in "American Gangster" (Universal)
Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement" (Focus Features)
Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone" (Miramax)
Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.)

Best animated feature film of the year
"Persepolis" (Sony Pictures Classics): Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney): Brad Bird
"Surf's Up" (Sony Pictures Releasing): Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Achievement in art direction
"American Gangster" (Universal): Art Direction: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Beth A. Rubino
"Atonement" (Focus Features): Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
"The Golden Compass" (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners): Art Direction: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount): Art Direction: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Art Direction: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Achievement in cinematography
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (Warner Bros.): Roger Deakins
"Atonement" (Focus Features): Seamus McGarvey
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Janusz Kaminski
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Roger Deakins
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Robert Elswit

Achievement in costume design
"Across the Universe" (Sony Pictures Releasing) Albert Wolsky
"Atonement" (Focus Features) Jacqueline Durran
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age" (Universal) Alexandra Byrne
"La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse) Marit Allen
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount) Colleen Atwood

Achievement in directing
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Julian Schnabel
"Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production), Jason Reitman
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.), Tony Gilroy
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Paul Thomas Anderson

Best documentary feature
"No End in Sight" (Magnolia Pictures) A Representational Pictures Production: Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" (The Documentary Group) A Documentary Group Production: Richard E. Robbins
"Sicko" (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company) A Dog Eat Dog Films Production: Michael Moore and Meghan O'Hara
"Taxi to the Dark Side" (THINKFilm) An X-Ray Production: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner
"War/Dance" (THINKFilm) A Shine Global and Fine Films Production: Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine

Best documentary short subject
"Freeheld" A Lieutenant Films Production: Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth
"La Corona (The Crown)" A Runaway Films and Vega Films Production: Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega
"Salim Baba" A Ropa Vieja Films and Paradox Smoke Production: Tim Sternberg and Francisco Bello
"Sari's Mother" (Cinema Guild) A Daylight Factory Production: James LongleyS

Achievement in film editing
"The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal): Christopher Rouse
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Juliette Welfling
"Into the Wild" (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment): Jay Cassidy
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Roderick Jaynes
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Dylan Tichenor

Best foreign language film of the year
"Beaufort" Israel
"The Counterfeiters" Austria
"Katyn" Poland
"Mongol" Kazakhstan
"12" Russia

Achievement in makeup
"La Vie en Rose" (Picturehouse) Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald
"Norbit" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount): Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (Walt Disney): Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
"Atonement" (Focus Features) Dario Marianelli
"The Kite Runner" (DreamWorks, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment and Participant Productions, Distributed by Paramount Classics): Alberto Iglesias
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.) James Newton Howard
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney) Michael Giacchino
"3:10 to Yuma" (Lionsgate) Marco Beltrami

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"Falling Slowly" from "Once" (Fox Searchlight) Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova
"Happy Working Song" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"Raise It Up" from "August Rush" (Warner Bros.): Music and Lyric by Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas 
"So Close" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz
"That's How You Know" from "Enchanted" (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz


Best motion picture of the year
"Atonement" (Focus Features) A Working Title Production: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers
"Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production) A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production: Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.) A Clayton Productions, LLC Production: Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production: Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers

Best animated short film
"I Met the Walrus" A Kids & Explosions Production: Josh Raskin
"Madame Tutli-Putli" (National Film Board of Canada) A National Film Board of Canada Production Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski
"Même les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)" (Premium Films) A BUF Compagnie Production Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse
"My Love (Moya Lyubov)" (Channel One Russia) A Dago-Film Studio, Channel One Russia and Dentsu Tec Production Alexander Petrov
"Peter & the Wolf" (BreakThru Films) A BreakThru Films/Se-ma-for Studios Production Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman

Best live action short film
"At Night" A Zentropa Entertainments 10 Production: Christian E. Christiansen and Louise Vesth
"Il Supplente (The Substitute)" (Sky Cinema Italia) A Frame by Frame Italia Production: Andrea Jublin
"Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)" (Premium Films) A Karé Production: Philippe Pollet-Villard
"Tanghi Argentini" (Premium Films) An Another Dimension of an Idea Production: Guido Thys and Anja Daelemans
"The Tonto Woman" A Knucklehead, Little Mo and Rose Hackney Barber Production: Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown

Achievement in sound editing
"The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal): Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Skip Lievsay
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney): Randy Thom and Michael Silvers
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Christopher Scarabosio and Matthew Wood
"Transformers" (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins

Achievement in sound mixing
"The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal) Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney): Randy Thom, Michael Semanick and Doc Kane
"3:10 to Yuma" (Lionsgate): Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe
"Transformers" (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell and Peter J. Devlin

Achievement in visual effects
"The Golden Compass" (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners): Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (Walt Disney): John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier 
"Transformers" (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier

Adapted screenplay
"Atonement" (Focus Features), Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
"Away from Her" (Lionsgate), Written by Sarah Polley
"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

Original screenplay
"Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production), Written by Diablo Cody
"Lars and the Real Girl" (MGM), Written by Nancy Oliver
"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.), Written by Tony Gilroy
"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
"The Savages" (Fox Searchlight), Written by Tamara Jenkins