Friday, 23 January 2009

It's Not A Snub!

"The Dark Knight" did NOT get snubbed. Clint Eastwood did NOT get snubbed. Springsteen did NOT get snubbed.

They simply didn't get nominated.

Taken from New York Magazine

I just wish we could please, PLEASE stop using the term "snubbed" simply because a favourite artist, song or film doesn't get nominated. I suppose that some definitions of the word include "ignore" or "fail to recognize", but normally it's used to show a deliberate offence to someone or a humiliation. You can disagree about the choices and call the Academy members a bunch of horses' asses, but they didn't all get together and purposely decide to thumb their noses at your pick. There's archaic and complicated voting rules to abide by and only five slots per category - so after you include the Miramax push of the year, the nominations to make up for previous mistakes and the atrocious taste of many of the members, well there just isn't room for everyone's faves.

There. I feel better now.

Anyway, everyone knows the big snub this year was to "Synecdoche NY".

One Of Those Moments - "Finding Nemo"

Finding Nemo (2003 - Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich)

I really do try not to be so obviously a parent sometimes. OK, I suppose including The Boy in my profile picture doesn't quite mesh with that statement, but I did say sometimes...I try to hold my tongue and not blather about all the fascinating things my child does or says because I know they aren't really that fascinating to anyone outside of my immediate family (though they should be...).

And I especially never want to be one of those people who says "Oh, you just can't understand it unless you're a parent...". But being a parent has certainly clouded my perception of moments - you suddenly have empathy for parents of crying children on a plane, you smile to yourself when you see another child waddling towards someone and you get sucker punched by scenes in movies. Even animated ones.

I don't know which Pixar film is my favourite, but I do know which scene is:

After searching for his young boy Nemo, Marlin finally finds him (sorry if I'm spoiling it for ya there...) only to see him crushed at the bottom of a huge school of fish spilling from a net. As he rushes up to him, we cut to Marlin's point of view:

We've already seen little Nemo in his cracked egg earlier in the film, but when that same short sequence shows up again here it just makes me crumble every single time...It's a simple yet beautiful way of showing how most parents might feel when their child is in danger or hurt - a strong need to protect them just like when they were helpless newborns - and how we may always see them as our little wee ones to be picked up and nestled.

Ah dammit, I'm welling up again. You wouldn't understand though unless yo...Uh, I mean, um, so how 'bout them Oscars, eh?

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Random Notes #7

The Visitor (2008 - Tom McCarthy) - Any film giving due credit to Fela Kuti and Tony Allen (Kuti's drummer) is OK in my books. It also happens to have tremendous performances by its four main characters and a bittersweet story that occasionally upset me - simply because I couldn't do anything about the injustice being committed within it.

As my own mini tribute to Fela, I changed my sidebar random musical selections to feature a few of his tunes as well as some of the numerous bands that incorporate his influences.

The Passion Of Joan Of Arc (1927 - Carl Theodore Dreyer) - Finally got around to this classic of silent cinema after years of reading about it and knowing how highly regarded it is. So you'd think I would've been prepared for it...It's truly a stunning piece of work with all its Expressionistic sets, very careful framing and powerful performance by Maria Falconetti (which I found became greater as she understood her fate). I could screencap the film to death, so I'll just focus on one section of the film - the torture chamber sequence:

When the camera tilts down into that spinning spiked wheel, it feels like it's hooked you and is pulling you in.

Klimt (2006 - Raul Ruiz) - My first experience with director Raul Ruiz was not an overly successful one...The entire film defines the word pretentious - and not in any good kind of way. Even the few interesting ideas fail miserably in their execution. As does John Malkovich's performance.

Fortunately I also saw Ruiz's "The Hypothesis Of The Stolen Painting" shortly thereafter - though it's a frustrating experience at times, it's also incredibly original, occasionally enthralling and overall a much more interesting way to use film as a tool to examine art.

From DVDBeaver:

Danger: Diabolik (1968 - Mario Bava) - What a marvelously stupid movie. No seriously, it's great fun and beautifully shot with tons of bright colours and wild sets (that underground lair beats the BatCave hands down) and also incredibly stupid with the plot and set of situations that Diabolik gets into. That stupidity of course is half the fun of the film and it knows it. It flaunts it actually. The only downside for me was when Diabolik killed a few guards simply in order to get by them to steal an emerald necklace. This seemed odd since 1) there must've been a more enjoyable and possibly bordering on silly way for him to get around them and 2) it seemed awfully cold-blooded of him to kill them when he is only in it for the sport of the theft.

Magnolia (1999 - P. T. Anderson) - Revisited one of my favourites. 188 minutes never seemed this short. I know that many people thought the film was an exercise in showing off, but I found that the techniques used in the film perfectly brought the characters' intense emotions to the fore. That opening 10 minutes - the three stories of coincidences and the bang-bang-bang introductions of all the characters - is still some of the most breathless cinema I've seen.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

A New Year, A New Meme

Fox over at Tractor Facts was kind enough to tag me with one of the first memes this year. It was started by Adam at DVD Panache and is as follows:

  1. Post a list of nine movie-related resolutions for the new year. These can be as serious or light-hearted as you want them to be, and it also gives you a topic at the end of the year to post about when you take a look back at the resolutions.
  2. Tag five other people with completing this meme.
  3. Link back to my blog in your post so I can keep track of how many cool people are going along with this, and also for the purpose of compiling a list of the most interesting resolutions.

I'd always resolved not to do resolutions, but since I can't keep my resolutions I guess it's OK to break that one in order to make a list of new resolutions. Here are my 9 movie related ones:

1. See more films in the theatre. One of the great things about film festivals is that it forces me out into the theatres to see films. Otherwise, I like to nestle down in the comfort of my abode and watch DVDs. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd like to get to the theatre more often to share the movie experience with a crowd (I'm fortunate not to have come across too many of the inconsiderate slobs that others so often do) as well as get on top of current releases.

2. See more films from certain directors. I've seen at most a handful from the following filmmakers (in some cases, none at all) and I have to change that: Claude Chabrol, Aki Kaurismaki, Michelangelo Antonioni, Satyajit Ray, Peter Greenaway, Nicholas Ray, Eric Rohmer, Claire Denis. Of course there are tons more, but let's start there...

3. See more Canadian cinema with a particular emphasis on Quebec films. Quebec has a rich history of fine films and they continue to make entertaining and smart pictures. I'll be catching a few of last year's best (according to Cinematheque Ontario) towards the end of the month, so I'm jumping out to an early start.

4. See more Classic era comedies from the 30s and 40s. Every time I see one, I enjoy it immensely. No better reason than that I guess...

5. See more of those unwatched DVDs hanging around the house. "Amadeus", "La Dolce Vita", "The River", "Barry Lyndon" and many others have been sitting on my shelf for some time now. I should probably watch 'em.

6. See more films with my son. Last year we greatly enjoyed watching things like "A Christmas Story", "The Adventures Of Robin Hood", "The Princess Bride" and a variety of Buster Keaton and Marx Brothers clips with our little guy. Now that our home schedules are getting back to a semblance of normality, we're hoping to institute a regular family movie night.

7. See more "Microcinema". I'm lucky to live in a city like Toronto that has a wealth of options for seeing films. Along with the many festivals, there are also many smaller ventures that show free films, shorts and underground movies in lower budget locations. I'm also fortunate to have made some good friends through blogging who are also hoping to expand their reach and participate more in local cinema outings (Shannon has already posted this as one of her resolutions).

8. See more non-region 1 DVDs. Which would mean I need to get a region free player. Yeah, yeah, I know...They're cheap or easy to hack. Fine, fine...With the likelihood of favourites like "Survive Style 5+" (a terrifically funny, slightly insane and very colourful Japanese film) never reaching R1 and tons of others just not on anyone's radar (e.g. most of Kaurismaki's catalog), it's time I did something about it.

9. Don't tell people how many movies you watch. It only leads to grief...B-)

I'm tagging:

James at Toronto Screen Shots
Ryan at The Dark Of The Matinee
Sarah at Sarahnomics
Justine at House Of Mirth And Movies
Piper at Lazy Eye Theater (only because he whined last time I didn't tag him)

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Wingsuit: Ho-Ly Crap

As a teenager I remember reading a Robert Heinlein short story entitled "The Menace From Earth". The story takes place on the moon where the settled people have something called the Bat Cave - a storage tank of sorts for their air. Using special wings and other equipment, people could suit up and (in the moon's lesser gravity) go flying in the tank. Heinlein paints the pictures through his words so vividly that I could envision myself doing exactly what they were doing: soaring through the massive tank, skimming the walls and tumbling through the air only to regain control...

Apparently you don't need to be on the moon to do that:

Not only is this one of the more insane things I've ever seen a human willingly participate in, it's also one of the few extreme sport ideas that I would dearly love to do. OK, let's face it - I never will. But it doesn't mean that I can't almost feel that wind and feel like I'm "this close" to those cliffs...

It also shows that whatever amazing effects Hollywood has come up with to show Super Heroes flying through the air, they haven't quite got it yet. They need to capture things like the flapping parts of the wing suit, the roar of the wind, the shadows on the mountainside and that real feeling of speed.

Take that Hancock.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

I Need To Turn In My He-Man Membership

Yep, my days as a man's man, a bona-fide "guy" and someone that Spike TV and Budweiser would be proud to know have ended.

And it's all because I enjoyed "Mamma Mia!".

Oh, it's no masterpiece by any stretch and there are several missed opportunities - a few weak comedic moments, a bit of awkward slo-mo, etc. - but no one seems to want to discuss it based on what it is. The stage play was a tongue in cheek mash of a bunch of ABBA tunes (fine pop tunesmiths no matter what anyone says) where they were obviously trying to cram them into a fairly generic plot. The film does the same thing and simply lets its actors have fun. If you can't get a smile from Colin Firth in 1980s ABBA getup, then you have a heart of stone...

OK, OK, Pierce Brosnan is no crooner. Barely a singer. OK, he's not that either...But I've heard worse. Yeah, they're usually at a Karaoke Bar, but still - from the reviews you'd think that cats were yowling the world over because of what amounts to about 1-2 minutes of him singing.

But I've read the reviews. Apparently it's a "chick flick", "worthless" and something that no self-respecting guy could EVER possibly like.

So be it. I'll go hang with the ladies then...B-)

P.S. Uh, unless they're going to see "Bride Wars"...That looks downright terrible.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Charlie Brown As Impressionist

One of my son's Christmas gifts this year was the Peanuts Holiday Collection on DVD. At 8, he had never seen any of the Charlie Brown TV specials that I grew up with, so we thought it was time (I think I can actually be arrested in many areas of North America for not having shown these to my child before now).

I was surprised by a number of things I had obviously forgotten: the very episodic nature of the shows, the rather sudden editing and how very funny Snoopy is. But my biggest surprise was when we watched "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"...Just look at the backgrounds in these shots:

These shots really jump out when contrasted with the rest of the animation which is pretty basic and has a simple colour palette. I love the fact that someone (whether it was Charles Schultz, director Bill Melendez or some unnamed backdrop painter) felt that this family show should have these lovely impressionistic skies.

My son loved the shows by the way. He didn't mention anything about these shots though...