Saturday, January 26, 2013

I confess that I did not expect this...

What can I say, I have been procrastinating when it comes to getting posts in on time. It seems that academic Manfred is cutting into the presence of yours truly. Anyway, in much belated fashion, here is the beginning of "Best Films of 2012" list.

I am going to do this list in a different fashion since I missed several of the Oscar films (Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained, Lincoln) and split the list as top five and few runners up as a tease. Here for your viewing pleasure, what I like to call the "pleasant surprises" of 2012.

Pirates! Band of Misfits
Do not let the blatantly horrible (and Americanized) title fool you, this film carries a wit and intelligence not present in many films geared towards children. Frankly, it is not surprising that much of it was lost and I think my six year old was humoring me when she said "she liked." Aardmann has firmly entrenched itself as the number two animated production house outside of Pixar (in this writer's humble opinion) with its attention to detail, writing and choices in casting.

Also, Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists is a way better title.


I must confess that I did not expect too much from this film. Oddly enough, I am not too much into films that focus on a Princess... Surprising, I know. Yet, much like Pirates!, the reputation of the production company put in the seats. While it was not the greatest Pixar film in recent memory, it was an ambitious idea that was leaps ahead of the dreadful Madagascar and Ice Age franchises.


Outside of Bence, I doubt many people expected The Avengers to be "good." A serviceable superhero film maybe... Good... Not so much. Let's face it, the lead up to it was mixed. Iron Man II was to put it mildly, garbage. Thor was a half a good film and Cap was a solid effort. Then the trailers were released and wouldn't you know it, the film looked bad from all angles. Hawk and I quickly predicted doom and mediocre box office results. I have to say that I was wrong on both counts and that the biggest surprise (cinematic) of 2012 was The Avengers. Way to prove me wrong.

Up next... My top five.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

That's right ladies and gentlemen, we have a race: a look at this year's Oscar Nods

I know things have been sluggish around here, so if you're still here we appreciate it. I always have the intention to get back on the horse, in fact I have quite a few articles half started, but real life keeps getting in the way as it always has. But I've told you all this story before, you want to know why I'm here today...well plain an simple it's Oscar season. Not only that, for the first time in as long as I can remember the race is EXCITING. Surprises are happening everyday, and no clear winner is really the front runner. Week to week the ultimate fate of these films changes and I have had a blast following the journey. Now with the nominations finally announced I want to talk a bit about my thoughts on the whole. Rather than go through everything I'm going to run through the best picture nominees and hopefully cover the others in the process. Keep in mind these are my thoughts on the probability of these films winning, ill be back later with my favorite films of the year as well as my dream Oscar list.

Before we get to that let's talk about a huge snub. The Dark Knight Rises does not receive a single nomination. I'm not an idiot, at no point was there ever a chance for TDKR to be in the best picture race. But the technical awards are absolutely deserving. For it not to be nominated in production design and cinematography is a travesty. And in my mind Shore's best score of the three. Whatever your thoughts are on the film from a filmmaking standpoint it was a brilliant success. Annoyed by this one, I feel like the Academy wanted the Dark Knight II, rather than an evolution in story. Oh well.

Here's the nominees
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Zero Dark Thirty
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Silver Linings Playbook
Life of Pi

I arranged them in some sort of order as to what I think has the best chance of taking the big prize. But again what's so amazing about this year is that literally outside of Django and Les Mis it could be anyone's game. Right now I see Argo through Beasts of the Southern wild tying for third, Silver a close second, and Life of Pi and Lincoln ducking it out for the lead. A race this close I don't think I've ever seen.

Django was never was a real contender and with no nod for directing, this is probably the safest bet in the whole oscars, Django will not win best picture. But the academy loves Tarantino, so I could see the best original screenplay being his consolation. As for Waltz? He's in the stiffest category this year outside of picture. Everyone a return winner. Anyone's game there.

Les Mis was at one time a real contender in the heads of pundits everywhere, feelings on the film are not consistent enough to take the big prize home. No nod for Hooper was the nail in the coffin. But, industry wide people are saying Hathaway is a near lock for the win. Aside from that and the technical nods, Les Mis probably won't walk away with the big prize. It won the Golden Globe? You mean in the same category that The Tourist was once nominated? And against this years Salmon Fishing in the Yemen? Please. Again I can't say this enough this is an incredibly tight year and Django and Les Mis might be top dogs some other year but in this selection they'll have to settle for the honor of being nominated.

So I had said that Argo, ZDT, Amour and Beasts were probably neck and neck in terms of chances to win. Well Sunday might have changed that, while the win for Les Mis was cute, Argo's sweep of director and best picture Drama was reinforcement that Argo is still very much in the game. Argo burst onto the scene and immediately there were talks of Best Picture, Director and supporting actor. Then it went on to win various critics awards and it never lost steam. Even when ZDT came in and starting winning awards Argo was still a consistent force. Then the Academy decides to think outside the box and snubs Affleck and Bigelow and gives the directing nods to Haneke and Zetlin. Definitely not a good sign for Argo, but its appeal is widespread. Don't count any of these films out, just yet.

Now as for Zero Dark Thirty, anticipation for Bigelow's follow up to Hurt Locker was huge and once it landed everyone applauded her for making an even better film. It too began winning some big bawards and then the Oscar's in a move which most will tell you is extremely sexist, denied Bigelow her second nod. Whether it is or not, her movie is brilliant and she absolutely should be up there, again stiff competition this year. ZDT still has a shot, and word is that a decent amount of the academy is upset that the directors branch denied her a nod and are going to rally behind the film. We'll see in a few weeks.

Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild are two amazing tales of success(the subject matter of both films is less uplifting). Both were released in the festival circuit, and both won their first festival appearance. Beasts had a lot of love early on with people calling it one of the first Oscar contenders of the year. But as often happens, talk of it died down as months past an heavy hitters like Lincoln and Argo came out to play. Amour, while being universally lauded as brilliant, was long thought to be a shoe in for the Best Foreign film and that that would be the end of its story. Well sometimes magic happens and on nomination day amour and Beasts get the best picture nod, original screenplay, best actress and BEST DIRECTOR . That last one being the key that puts these two back in the game in a BIG way. ZDT and Argo weren't able to pull a best director nod but these two small films filled with passion have achieved greatness. It'll be exciting to see what happens, because like I said this really is anyone's game. In fact I think Beasts could be the true upset here, since I feel zdt will take actress, Amour will take foreign film, Argo could take best adapted, life of Pi will take the technical awards. I think as the night progresses if Beasts nails best original and best director we might see them take the big one home.

Taking a look at David O. Russel's latest, we have a juggernaut of an actor's movie. The first movie to nail all four acting nods since Reds, and joining the likes of Billy Wilder Russel's film has a lot going for it. It's not a grandiose story of epic proportions like Life of Pi or as monumentally historical as Lincoln, but that has never stopped these more intimate pieces from taking the win. Last time Steven went up against Harvey(with Saving Private Ryan no less) he lost, we could easily see an upset here as well. David o Russell is a great director and has been building support in the academy since The Fighter. The guy can direct actors which was proven with these nominations. Cooper and Weaver are probably out of the running, but Lawrence stands a great shot of taking it away from Chastain. Unless the two of them split and it goes to Quvenzhane. Same for Deniro, his is a tough category but any of those men could take it. Even the young buck Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

As for Life of Pi, I have it currently tied with Lincoln. Honestly I've beaten this point to death, but if you can imagine a race where milliseconds separate the winner and losers, that's this race. You have to hand it to Ang Lee, the guy has such an understanding of humanity that he can go from Sense and Sensibility, to The Ice Storm, to Brokeback, to this. He cares not about geography, because to him the human condition is universal and he shows us heartbreak, and joy and bliss across cultures. He may not be my favorite director, but his range and fearlessness is to be applauded. That being said, this movie has a chance to sweep the technical awards, and if he manages to beat out Roger Deakins, and take home the statue for director he could end up with the big prize. My prediction is he takes both sound awards, visual effects, editing(although would love ZDT to take that) and maybe cinematography. Also I feel like we could definitely have a split from Director and Picture. That being the case I can see the academy giving Lee director and Spielberg best picture.

Which of course brings us to Lincoln. Hailed as Spielberg's best in a long time, I'm inclined to agree. But my opinion means nothing(I would much rather have ZDT or Beasts take the win), and more than that this film seems to be the epitome of Oscar bait. Why no backlash a la Crash? Because this is Oscar bait done well. This is actually a small film, epic in relevance but it really takes place over a short period of time, and is mostly an episode of Cspan but rewound to the end of the Civil War. Spielberg, with a lot of help from Kushner's gorgeous screenplay, brings you into this world and shows you the corruption and back room dealings and the blood sweat and tears that went into Lincoln's presidency and he shows you a damaged man. A man forced to play in the trenches for the greater good. Everyone loves Lincoln, a statement both true in history and true of the film. With the ever greatness of Kaminski constantly bathing Lincoln in natural light and backlit windows, he makes the man of a great stature seem like a legend come down to save us all. This has nothing going against it aside for, the greatness of the other nominees. Heed this, this will win an Oscar, maybe not the big one, but it will win something.

So there are my thoughts on the status of the Oscar race, I'm fervently trying to get around to seeing all these films that I've slacked on. Reviews will hopefully be up soon. As well as what my dream Oscar roster would be. So again these are my thoughts on the race, not necessarily what SHOULD win.


One last thought -

Here's my rundown as of now
Best Film Editing - ZDT
Best Costume Design - Lincoln
Best Visual Effects - Life of Pi
Best Makeup and Hairstyling - Les Mis
Best Production Design Life of Pi
Best Sound Mixing - Life of Pi
Best Sound Editing - Life of Pi
Best Original Song - Skyfall
Best Cinematography - Skyfall
Best Foreign Language - Amour
Best Adapted Screenplay - Tony Kushner
Best Original Screenplay - Django Unchained
Best Supporting Actress - Anne Hathaway
best Supporting Actor - ?.....maybe Tommy Lee Jones
Best Actress - Jessica Chastain
Best Actor - Daniel Day Lewis
Best Director - Ang Lee
Best Film - Lincoln

Lewis, and Hathaway and Skyfall for song, are the closest things to locks.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"What a Dump:" The Lorax

Worst Film of 2012: The Lorax

*Editor's note: Typically, I can rein in the vulgarity but I will release myself from those shackles for this article only. I apologize in advance for my language.

Where to begin? I am not going to mince words. The Lorax is a piece of shit. Pure unadulterated shit. From start to finish, there is nothing that is redeemable about it... Not one minute. The filmmakers took a classic piece of children's literature and systematically removed everything that made it great. So, it is not surprising that the creators of Despicable Me (Which is a horrible film in its own right) proceeded to take a stinking shit on a platter and named it The Lorax.

From moment one, I have voiced my opposition to this "film" and the filmmakers proved that my position was warranted. Honestly, if Theodore Geisel were still living, this film would have killed him. The book stood to create awareness about man's destruction of natural habitats and regardless of one's political position, we should be aware of our effects on nature. Does this message appear in the film? No, it does not. We (the audience) are treated to a collection of really moronic songs and dialogue that had to be written by two five years olds with access to a typewriter.

You know, I can deal with a crappy script and some phoned in voice work. What I cannot stand for was the usage of this intellectual property to hawk various wares and assorted crap. Look, the Lorax speaks for the trees, IHOP and Mazda! Seriously, Universal Pictures... Fuck you. There I said it. Boy, that felt good. There is nothing else to say about this movie. It has the name of The Lorax but it does not look, sound or feel like it. It is merely a poorly constructed imposter that should be avoided at all costs.

Rooney Rating:

Parting thoughts: I encourage anyone to find a mainstream animated film with a worst voice cast than this film. Also, why is Betty White allowed near a camera or microphone?

"May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor:" The Hunger Games

Worst Film of 2012 - Runner up: The Hunger Games

Year after year a bunch of films are released that make question why you wasted your time on watching them. This year is no different and the first of two films that are going to be examined is the The Hunger Games. Do not get me wrong, I read (and reviewed) The Hunger Games series, which was an alright series to read. However, the same cannot be said about the cinematic adaptation.

The film has the unique distinction of being one of the worst editing films that I have ever seen. If you read any of the other film reviews on this site, you know that we appreciate a quality edited him. Since the edit job was so blatantly piss poor, it made the first 75% percent of the film incoherent. Usually, this can be offset by a quality script and some good old fashioned acting. Unfortunately, neither occur within this film.

The Hunger Games seeks to appease all of the fans of the novel by cramming it full of plot points and information from the books. When this "attention to detail" is coupled with really poor choices in the casting department (How does Elizabeth Banks get acting gigs?), the viewer is left with a slow moving two hours. I think that this film cemented me never reading books aimed at a younger generation, let alone watching the adaptations of such works. Thankfully, this series became a "phenomenon" and we will have to suffer through two more sequels. Joy.

Rooney Rating:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"What did you expect? An exploding pen?": Skyfall

Editor's Note: This is a severely belated review of this film. Cheers. -Manny

Film Foray Cavalcade no. Soixante


When the twenty-third Bond was green lit, you would have been hard pressed to find someone more excited than yours truly. The long delay due to lack of funding did little to temper this enthusiasm. I must qualify that it had a lot to do with Quantum of Solace being a complete mess. Plus, when you add the Mendes, you can bet that I would be in a seat at some point during the opening day to view the return of James Bond to glory (hopefully).

Skyfall follows James Bond (Daniel Craig) as he seeks to recover a list that contains the names of MI6 agents undercover in terrorist organizations worldwide. The villain is a former MI6 agent from M's past bent on exacting revenge because of her neglect. This path of revenge eventually takes Bond back into his traumatic past.

Skyfall acts as an unofficial reboot to the franchise after the forgettable, Quantum of Solace. It is a return to basics, there is no grand scheme on the part of the villain. It is not a story of global domination but of revenge. Usually, when a film that seeks to remedy the issues of its predecessor, it overcorrects and the audience is left with two unfulfilling films. Mendes and company put together a Bond film that toes the line of nostalgia and being fresh.

The end result is a Bond film that is better than the preceding Craig films and leaps better than the Brosnan era. If there is one slight criticism, it is that they kind of put an end date on Craig's tenure as Bond by prematurely aging him. This is a shame since he has rendered his detractors speechless with his performances in the past three films. Of course, only time will tell if this choice will affect his future in the role. The main strength is that Skyfall is that establishes a strong foundation for the series barring another step back.

Rooney Rating:

Parting thoughts: Hot damn, I love me some Ralph Fiennes.