Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Nominations.

So the Academy Award nominations are in and I must say, I am relatively underwhelmed.

I won't rehash them for you as I'm sure those who are reading this have already seen the list, what I will say is one thing. I am so damn happy that The Dark Knight isn't up for Best Picture or Best Director. Everyone and their mother thought it was a lock, but I knew that if a black man can be the President than it's possible.

I'd like to thank my parents, my agent, and most of all the Academy voters for actually not making a similar mistake to the one they made with Titanic. Sure, I was really pulling for Wall-E and The Wrestler for best picture but at least something worked out to my advantage.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


As if my review, and every other review weren't enough, here is proof of all the overbearing Gump similarities found in Benjamin Button.

In other news, it seems my readers actually agree with me as WALL-E has barely edged out The Dark Knight for best film in my poll. That'll do pig, that'll do.

Monday, January 5, 2009

"Some things last." REVIEW

*This review is meant to be read backwards. Please go to the bottom and read up. Thanks.

That's really what The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button becomes. A string of wonderful scenes tied together by needless story devices that one might see in an amateur's screenplay when they are trying to get a grasp of different writing techniques. Ultimately the string grows weak and almost snaps, if it were not for it's source material, there's no telling where this thing would have taken us.

There really are moments of sheer brilliance though. My favorite scene of the film has to do with Benjamin Button as a baby, and it's truly transcendent in so many ways that I would like to see the film again, if only for that short scene. The film really ties itself together kind of well, in the midst of all it's messiness. There are even some nice short films thrown into this rather un-short film(almost 3 hours, not as bad a thing as some think it is). One involving a clock that ticks backwards, and wouldn't you know it, Eric Roth HAD to throw in a real life president just for kicks(Also seen in Gump). This short scene is actually quite moving, but this film didn't need it. Nor did it need any of the book end's with the older woman and her daughter reading the diary. I'll let you figure out who they are in the context of the film.

I'm not saying Eric Roth is incompetent. This film isn't bad, really, it's quite good. David Fincher(still wrenching over his Oscar snub for Zodiac) really brings it here with beautiful shot compositions and wonderful acting. It's a pity he couldn't have seen through a lot of Roth's grievances and allowed Fitzgerald's parable to shine through.

Let's not forget the women. Yes, Benjamin Button, despite his oddity, had himself a few women, as did Mr. Gump. But there was always that one woman. Jenny, I mean Daisy(Cate Blanchett) is just that woman. Of course fate forces them together in that funny way that fate works. Leaving someone unable to fulfill theirlife's dream just so the other person will get theirs.

This film works as if Eric Roth read Fitzgerald's story and said, "We've got something here but not enough for a full length." Amidst all the hustle and bustle of writing a screenplay he thought to himself, "What's the one film everyone remembers me from? Ah Ha! Forrest Gump! Well it's been 14 years, here's to hoping they don't have good memories."

As if Roth's attempt at Gumping up Fitzgerald's already wonderful story wasn't seen enough through a naive narration by an eccentric person who lived a long, event filled life. We are given a character by the name of Captain Mike(played well by Jared Harris) who's character resembles that of a Lt. Dan(Gary Sinise) in Forrest Gump. Tie this in with the lead characters infatuation with his mama, and extraneous details to add some whimsy to the story(here it's a hummingbird in the middle of the ocean, in Gump it's a feather).

Really? Enlighten us some more, please?

"My name is Benjamin Button, and I was born under unusual circumstances. While, everyone else was agin', I was gettin' younger... all alone."

Benjamin Button(Brad Pitt) is an odd child. Born old and aging younger. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the story after reading Twain's remark of how it is a pity that the best part of life was in the beginning and the worst at the end. Fitzgerald's short story isn't as elaborate as Eric Roth's script, nor should it be. Eric Roth added another layer to the story by having someone who shared Benjamin in a large part of his life dying as an old woman. Her daughter reads Benjamin's diary to her and we are thrown into the story with a Forrest Gump-ish narration from old Benjamin.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
is a "curious" film in the way it decides to take such an enriching story and a wonderful premise and do nothing but make a near waste of time. I say near because the film is beautiful and occasionally gripping.


The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button-2008-David Fincher

Friday, January 2, 2009

Best Of 2008

It is now the year 2009. 2008 is only a memory. Many amazing things happened in 2008, including the election of our first African American President. Though the economic situation has left many to wonder, "What's next?" I believe we can find hope anywhere we look, especially the movies. 2008 offered us a glimpse into the psyche of Batman, made us feel for a dirty little tramp of a robot, and allowed us to watch as one man seemingly defied gravity between the two towers that have defined this decade. Amongst all of these things, 2008 offered us hope. Even the most cynical of films had glimmers of hope waiting to burst at the seems.

2008 is the first year I have seen this many films and been able to write at length about which are the best in my humble opinion. With that being said, I was still unable to see the following:
The Wrestler, Doubt, Revolutionary Road, Che, Rachel Getting Married, Seven Pounds, The Reader, Gran Torino, Frost/Nixon, Happy Go Lucky, Let The Right One In, Trouble The Water, Hunger, A Christmas Tale, Ballast, The Band's Visit, The Fall, Frozen River, Shotgun Stories, IOUSA, Encounters At The End Of The World

I decided that I would go ahead and make my end of year list, although I had previously wanted to wait a couple weeks as a number of these films are opening around here in mid to late January.

Another thing, I went over my entire list of films I have seen many times, trying to make a top 5 actress column but was unable to come up with more than one, out of the films I have seen, that was above mediocre in a leading role. I found plenty of supporting actress'. I'm sorry to anyone out there hoping to see my opinion on that matter, but as you can see from my list of unseens, all the great female performances(at least according to the buzz) are to be seen in those films(from Frozen River to Happy Go Lucky to Rachel Getting Married) Anyways, without further ado.

Deadpan 'Don't Think Twice, It's Alright' Best Lists 2008!

Worst films of 2008(that I saw):

10. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull
-I won't lie, I did find a sense of enjoyment in this travesty. It was kind of fun, but only in the way watching a train wreck is, I guess. No, I am not talking about it's so bad it's good. I think this is a decent action film, but as an Indiana Jones film it is severely lacking in the area of, how shall I say, goodness?

9. Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
-I found the first Harold and Kumar installment to be a surprisingly funny film. This one, not so much.

8. Semi-Pro
-Will Ferrel, what is wrong with thee?

7. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
- CS Lewis is one of the great fantasy authors of last century and his series about Narnia and the four children it follows, is a wonderful and skillfully written group of books that has a rich, deeply thought out subtext. The films based on these books care about nothing more than putting the families butts in the seats.

6. Twilight
-Well, I wasn't sure if this one was going to be bad enough to make it on this list, but sure enough it is. Can someone explain to me why anyone thought Catherine Hardwicke was the right person for the job?

5. Hancock
-A very amazing premise turned into B-level material.

4. The Incredible Hulk
-Trying to right all the supposed wrongs of Ang Lee's Hulk(which I have yet to see) Edward Norton's testosterone filled meat-head fest does little for the brain besides make it backfire.

3. Vantage Point
- Here is a film that just doesn't even try, and with so many talented actors.

2. Strange Wilderness
- A new low in comedic cinema.

1. Jumper
- Another interesting premise brought down to B-level, hell, C-level material.


Top 5 supporting Actors:

5. Haaz Sleiman-Tarek Khalil-The Visitor
-Sleiman's performance as a Syrian musician who is unknowingly involved in a real estate scam and inadvertently meets Walter Vale(Richard Jenkins) is a wondrous exercise in optimism within defeat. He is constantly smiling while allowing the audience to see the sadness in his eyes.

4. Brad Pitt- Chad Feldheimer- Burn After Reading
-This isn't an awards worthy performance, or even something that will be talked about in any acting forum as a means of outstanding achievement. What this performance is is a beating heart to the Coen's lifeless film. Every other performance in Burn After Reading, while funny, lacks any kind of sympathetic appeal.

3. Robert Downey Jr- Kirk Lazarus-Tropic Thunder
-Mr. Downey is a wonderfully eccentric and charismatic actor whom I would watch in most anything. Here, his satirical take on method acting is utterly hilarious and carries the film through it's rough spots.

2. Heath Ledger-The Joker-The Dark Knight
- I will be wearing a bullet proof vest for the next few weeks when I leave my house because I'm sure that not putting this performance as numero uno grants me some death wishes. The truth is, I loved Ledger's performance so so so so much. It is one for the ages, but I can't get past the fact that the man's death has affected this performance. I simply do not know if I would be stark raving mad for it if he were still alive today. His 2ND place spot can also be attributed to the fact that one man surpassed him in his performance, in two totally different films.

1. James Franco-Scott Smith and Saul Silver-Milk and Pineapple Express
- I remember seeing this guy on Freaks and Geeks before I knew who he, Seth Rogen or Judd Apatow were. Now I am watching him grow into a formidable force as an actor. Mark my words, this name will be synonymous with the name Oscar.

Top 5 Supporting actresses:

5. Freida Pinto-Latika-Slumdog Millionaire
-I just really thought she was wonderful.

4. Samantha Morten-Hazel-Synecdoche, New York
-In a film like Synecdoche it's hard to get past the oddity of it and really grasp each performance. Morten really understands her character and goes for it wholly. She will be overlooked for sure, but this is a wonderful performance that helps carry a beautiful film.

3. Isamar Gonzales-Isamar-Chop Shop
-This girl has never acted before? Really? She just seems so real. Chop Shop is a film that doesn't manipulate in anyway. We simply get to watch these people live their lives.

2. Mila Kunis- Rachel Jansen- Forgetting Sarah Marshall
-I never would have thought the worst actress on the show That 70's Show would give us a Lauren Bacall-esque performance in a comedy produced by Judd Apatow. There I go thinking again I guess, as she is outstandingly gorgeous and truly becomes Rachel Jansen. A guy can't help but fall in love with her on the screen.

1. Marian Seldes-Barbara-The Visitor
-Alongside Richard Jenkins, this woman's chemistry is top notch. Her quiet sadness while her son is being detained is so disheartening and one of the things that really makes this film work.

Top 5 Actors:

5. Sean Penn-Harvey Milk- Milk
- Over the top? yes, but Harvey Milk himself was over the top. Sean Penn, yet again, shows that he is one of the greatest actor of his generation.

4. Josh Brolin-George W. Bush- W
-Without becoming an impersonation or a caricature, Brolin really captures the essence of what and who Bush is. I applaud his performance, not only because it is noteworthy, but because it transcends the film itself.

3. Phillip Seymour Hoffman-Caden Cotard-Synecdoche, New York
-Hoffman could very well play any role that Sean Penn could, but maybe not quite as well. With that being said, I am not sure that Penn could play any role that Hoffman could, in particular this one. His melancholic tone throughout allows for everything he says to sink in and become something tangible.

2. Chiwetel Ejiofor-Mike Terry-Redbelt
-I am still a little unsure of what to think about Mamet's latest film, but Ejiofor's performance at least allowed me to sit back and enjoy skillful acting.

1. Richard Jenkins-Walter Vale-The Visitor
-Shortly after this film's release there was so much buzz surrounding this performance, just month's later everyone seems to have forgotten about Jenkins and the film. There is so much strength in the subtlety that Jenkins and the film exudes. They compliment each other.


5 Disappointments:

  • The lack of awards buzz for Synecdoche, New York
  • Final 45 minutes of The Dark Knight
  • In Bruges
  • W.
  • American Teen

5 Surprises
  • Role Models-2ND funniest film of the year.
  • Young@Heart-Sweetest film of the year.
  • Religulous-Funniest film of the year.
  • Chop Shop
  • Mila Kunis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall

5 favorite Quotes

''No, venti is 20. Large is large. In fact, tall is large and grande is Spanish for large. Venti is the only one that doesn't mean large. It's also the only one that's Italian. Congratulations, you're stupid in three languages.''

—Danny Donahue (Paul Rudd) in Role Models

"You wanna know how I got these scars?"
-Joker(Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight

" I know who I am! I'm the dude, playing the dude, disguised as another dude."
-Kirk Lazarus(Robert Downey Jr) in Tropic Thunder

"It's impossible, that's sure, so let's start working."
-Phillippe Petit in Man on Wire

"There are millions of people in the world, and none of those people are an extra, their all leads in their own stories."
-Caden Cotard(P.S. Hoffman) in Synecdoche, New York

Top 5 Characters

5. Aldous Snow(Russell Brand) in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- Hilarious yet poignant.

4. Harvey Milk(Sean Penn) in Milk
- A moving and hopeful portrayal of a man with a lust for life.

3. Will Proudfoot(Bill Milner) in Son Of Rambow
-Endearing and charming.

2. Saul Silver(James Franco) in Pineapple Express
- No matter what you think about the rest of the film, this is a wonderful cinematic character.

-Easily chosen.

Top 5 Villains

5. Ourselves in WALL-E
- Yeah, that's right. Watch yourself because yourself is gonna get you.

4. U.S. Immigration System in The Visitor
-If you aren't careful, they'll deport you.

3. Dan White(Josh Brolin) in Milk
- A sympathetic and sad man who just couldn't find hope anywhere, even when it was right in front of him.

2. Death in Synecdoche, New York
- It's inevitable. The only killer who hasn't lost a victim.

1. Joker(Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight
- Wanna see a magic trick?

top 5 moments in film(2008):

5. Forgetting Sarah Marshall-Nude Scene
-Jason Segal's full frontal scene in his latest film was at once hilarious and artful. His reasoning for being naked, as the films underlying theme, really helped the film transcend the usual slacker comedy fare.

4. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button- Baby Realization.
OK, so the moment where, as a baby, Benjamin Button is looking at Cate Blanchett's character right before he dies was so incredible in it's sheer simplicity that I would rewatch the film just for that brief moment.

3. The Visitor- The Ending
As Tarek is sent back to Syria, Walter finds himself saddened by what has happened but also forever changed by the experience he has been through. He goes down to the subway, where Tarek was first taken away and plays his drum, faster and faster and faster as the train continuously passes by.

2. WALL-E- Spark Kiss
- My jaw dropped when WALL-E and EVE went to kiss and do so by causing sparks between their faces. It isn't something revolutionary just an absolutely brilliant idea that kept me smiling for weeks.

1. Man On Wire- Walking between the towers.
- As Ty Burr of the Boston Globe stated, "The sight is magical and heartbreaking in equal measure. Look, the movie says: Where so many would fall, a man walks on air."


Finally now, my Top 12 films of the year.

12. Young@Heart
-Such an elegant and overlooked film. A film as much about death as Synecdoche, New York, but as much about life and love as WALL-E.

11. Milk
-Harvey Milk's message is needed so badly today it's not even funny. Van Sant allows for us to see the message crystal clear.

10. Transsiberian
-Hitchcockian in it's use of trains and suspense. The film's mcguffin, drug smuggling, allows for an excellent thriller that doesn't tell the audience a thing. We must simply figure things out on our own.

9. Slumdog Millionaire
- I shouldn't like this film, I just shouldn't, but I cannot help it at all. It's charm is rarely outmatched.

8. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- Apatow isn't rolling on all cylinders as he was in 2007 but this film is so unlike his usual films that it's hard not to like, although I enjoy many of his better ones. Nick Stoller directs this film where we see a man naked, not just for the fun of it though, but for a purpose.

7. The Visitor
-Thomas McCarthy's follow up to The Station Agent, carries that films sense of truth and honesty. The characters are so endearing and real that you can't not feel for them, not matter if you agree or disagree with their ultimate decision's.

6. My Winnipeg
-A man goes back to his hometown and hires people to play himself and his family while he films them in the home he grew up in reenacting moments from his life. Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg is a film unlike any other. The real life Synecdoche, New York.

5. Paranoid Park
-Gus Van Sant had a wonderful year with two excellent films, but the one garnering less attention is the one that I found the most gut wrenchingly painful and beautiful.

4. Man On Wire
- If there ever were a fairytale story to pass on to your kids, this is it. Oh wait, this really happened? Wow.

3. Snow Angels
-Talk about underrated, David Gordon Green's film from earlier this year that follows three couples at different stages in their relationship is so incredibly thought provoking with a sad but hopeful touch that I would recommend it to anyone.

2. Synecdoche, New York
- Charlie Kaufman may well be the best screenwriter working today. While many leave this film bewildered and left asking more questions than find answers, what they don't realize is that is the point. Kaufman isn't moralizing to us, but simply allowing us to find our own conclusion in this life.

- My love for this film is due wholly to how exceedingly amazing WALL-E truly is. Yes, all the critics are saying that now, but honestly, why shouldn't they. This is the best film of this year, last year and maybe even the decade.


Those are my favorites of 2008. I feel these lists are very personal and deeply subjective so I want to here some feedback on where you think I was wrong or right. Thanks.