God help thee, poor monkey. - Macbeth

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oscar Nominations Announced!

As I believe I've said before, I love film awards shows, and Oscar night is one of my favorite nights of the year. So, here is the list of the nominees for the 2008 Academy Awards, and here's who I'll be rooting for:

Actor in a Leading Role: Viggo Mortenson, simply because I love him. I wouldn't mind seeing George Clooney or Johnny Depp snag the Oscar either.

Actor in a Supporting Role: I've always had a soft spot for Casey Affleck. I think he's a better actor than his brother and is very underrated. I would not mind at all seeing him take home an Oscar.

Actress in a Leading Role: I'm rooting for Ellen Page, although I doubt they'll give her the Oscar. I always like seeing young folk in the list of Oscar Nominees. You know they must be good to contend with the more seasoned actors. I also like Cate Blanchett and Laura Linney, so I wouldn't mind seeing one of them with an Oscar.

Actress in a Supporting Role: It's highly likely that Cate Blanchett will leave with at least one Oscar this year. I think it's cool that she took on the challenge of playing Bob Dylan. She always picks interesting movies to star in. However, I'm rooting for Saoirse Ronan because she came out of nowhere and blew everyone away with her talent. She's also starring in the movie "The Lovely Bones" which is due to come out soon. Despite the fact that she is somewhat of a newcomer to film, she's being picked for very challenging and interesting roles, which I commend her for.

Animated Feature: As I said before, I'm cheering on "Ratatouille", and I don't think it will have too much trouble winning, although I wasn't expecting to see "Persepolis" in this category.

Art Direction: Not having seen most of these films (I'm slipping this year!), I can't make a definitive statement in this category. However I will say that I don't think "The Golden Compass" deserves to win. It was an okay movie, but I certainly didn't foresee any Oscar Nominations. I don't think it was THAT good.

I'm not going to comment on many of the other categories because I haven't seen the films and, therefore, couldn't tell you who did a better job.

Film Editing: "The Bourne Ultimatum" is the only film I've seen out of this category, but I have to say that the film editing in it was spectacular. They did a great job editing to build suspense, and I definitely think it deserves the Oscar.

Makeup: Okay, seriously. "NORBIT" is nominated? Are you kidding me? That movie looked TERRIBLE. I mean, it's Eddie Murphy in a fat suit. No matter how good the makeup was, that movie does not deserve the recognition and honor of being nominated for an Academy Award. I will, of course, be rooting for "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." I'm a sucker for that trilogy.

Music (Score): Out of the films listed, I've only seen "Ratatouille", but I thought that the soundtrack was superb. I won't be broken hearted if it doesn't win, though.

Music (Song): "Falling Slowly" should win, hands down. "Once" was a fantastic movie, and that song was absolutely wonderful. I could listen to it over and over again. I'm glad that "Once" was recognized in at least one category.

Sound Editing: "The Bourne Ultimatum" definitely has my vote. Just like with the film editing, the sound editing did a superb job of enhancing the tension in the movie. That entire trilogy is fantastic.

Visual Effects: I'm definitely thinking that "Pirates of the Caribbean" has this one all wrapped up. I just can't see "The Golden Compass" or "Transformers" winning an Oscar. I think that this is probably a similar case to the one we had in 2006, where "Dead Man's Chest" was up against "Poseidon" and "Superman Returns." Neither of those movies were of Oscar caliber, but there had been a lack of special effects-heavy movies that year, and they needed some fillers.

I wish I could comment on the other categories, but I haven't seen most of the movies nominated due to a lack of time and funds. However, this was a very good year for movies. A lot of interesting looking films came out, and I will catch up on them just as soon as the DVDs come in at the library.

Fond Memories of Heath

Like the rest of the world, I was saddened and shocked to hear that Heath Ledger had passed away yesterday. However, I think that it is disrespectful to his family and to his memory to lament his death simply because he was a pretty face. I'm not going to pretend that I knew him personally, because I didn't, but I'd like to pay tribute to the person that I saw and the impressions that I got from him. The most important thing about him was that it was obvious that he loved his two year old daughter, Matilda Rose, more than anything else in the world. Every time he mentioned her, he spoke of her with such genuine happiness and pride. I don't think that anyone could question the fact that she meant the world to him.

Another thing that I admired about Heath Ledger was that he seemed very down to earth compared to many actors out there. He wasn't constantly engaged in scandals, nor was there a picture of him and his family on the cover of every issue of People Magazine and other celebrity gossip magazines. He actively tried to avoid the Paparazzi and to keep them away from his family. Occasionally his temper got the better of him when he was dealing with the press, but he always apologized and owned up to his mistakes later on. Besides, the entertainment media is so inconsiderate, I can't say I blame him for getting angry with their constant attempts to invade his private life.

The thing that always stuck out to me about Heath Ledger, though, was his dedication to his acting and his resolve not to get type cast as a Hollywood Heartthrob. He never played the same role twice, and he actively sought out characters that were complex and difficult to play, even if it meant pissing off producers in the process. Each character that he played was so different that sometimes I forgot that it was the same actor. Not only that, but his performances in his various roles were superb. He made me laugh in "Brothers Grimm" and cry in "Brokeback Mountain." At the 2006 Oscars, I cheered him on from my living room and was very disappointed when Phillip Seymour Hoffman took home the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role instead of him. I was looking forward to watching his career progress and seeing him win an Oscar sometime in the near future, and I am very sad that this will not be the case.

Finally, I would like to extend my sympathies to Heath Ledger's family, although I doubt that they will ever read this. I can't imagine how hard it must be for them to not only deal with the death of their beloved son/brother but also to have to deal with all the media attention. I am thoroughly disgusted with the coverage of this incident and wish that the media would respect the family's wishes to be left alone and to not speculate about the cause of his death. It's bad enough that the family found out about his death on the news. Spreading rumors about him is only adding insult to injury and is incredibly callous of the entertainment industry. I also am disgusted with the way that TMZ cornered Lindsay Lohan to try and get her to comment. Whether or not rumors are true and she and Heath Ledger were romantically involved, it was obvious that she was very distraught over his death. I don't particularly like Lindsay Lohan, but I think that she deserves more respect from bottom feeding celebrity gossip sites like TMZ especially in such difficult times. Whether she and Heath were mere acquaintances, good friends, or something more, she deserves time to process this event and grieve without having a camera shoved in her face.

Rest in Peace, Heath Ledger. You were an inspirational actor, and you will be missed greatly.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oh God, I'm turning into my mother!!

Since this weekend was Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, a lot of people went home to visit their families. My group of friends consists of me and two other girls and about ten guys. Both the girls went home for the weekend, so I was left all by my lonesome with the boys. It wasn't so bad, although I wouldn't necessarily call it exciting. My weekend consisted of watching Star Wars, watching the boys play Halo, and watching the boys compete in a Guitar Hero tournament. Since there were less people around, I ended up getting a lot closer with the boys who were still in the dorm. I also realized that my mothering instinct is starting to show. One of the guys has a really bad cold. He didn't have any cough drops, and he was drinking hot water to try and soothe his throat. I, of course, have a full supply of tea, honey, kleenex, and cough drops in my room, which I readily offered up to him. At least he made the tea himself. It makes me feel somewhat less motherly. Also, this weekend the guys learned that I make a lot of jewelry, and one of them asked me to make him a watch. (For those who don't understand, you buy a watch face and then make a band to match) I told him I would be happy to. Today, I thought of how my mom is always making things for people. The only difference is, she knits and I make jewelry and do metalwork. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that I'm turning into the "mother" of my friends. I don't mind so much. I like taking care of people. I just think it's funny how these things turn out.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"The Lord of the Rings" = Frankenstein's monster

I have come to realize, upon rereading Tolkien's masterpiece, that the film trilogy of "The Lord of the Rings" is a little bit like Frankenstein's monster. You see, it's made up of bits and pieces taken from different parts of the books and sewn together in a different order. Don't get me wrong, I think it works very well. Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens did a fantastic job with these scripts, much better than most screenwriters working on an adapted film. However, I find it very funny when I discover that well known lines from the movies are actually taken from very different parts of the books. As I'm only eight chapters into "The Fellowship of the Ring" currently, I haven't discovered all that there is to find. However, I've found many already, and I will share my findings with you.

"So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us." - In the movie, Gandalf says this line when Frodo has fallen into despair in the Mines of Moria. However, the actual line is taken from Chapter II of "The Fellowship of the Ring", when Gandalf is explaining the history of the One Ring to Frodo.

"Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement." - Another movie scene from Moria, when Frodo notices that Gollum is following them and expresses his disappointment that Bilbo did not kill him when he had the chance. In the book, this speech is also taken from Chapter II, "A Shadow of the Past", set in the kitchen of Bag End. Somehow, it's less inspirational when heard in a warm kitchen, isn't it?

"Hey ho, to the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe
Rain may fall and wind may blow
But many miles be still to go

Sweet is the sound of the falling rain
And the stream that runs from hill to plain
But better than rain or rippling brook
Is a mug of beer inside this Took" - Merry and Pippin sing this song in the Green Dragon in the extended version of "The Fellowship of the Ring." The first verse is pretty much correct, although it starts with "Ho ho ho" instead of "Hey ho." It is a drinking song that Sam and Pippin sing in Chapter IV, "A Shortcut to Mushrooms," that attracts the attention of one of the Black Riders. The second verse, however, is taken from the Bath Song that Pippin sings when they are in Frodo's new home in Crickhollow (not pictured in the movie). The verse actually goes, "O! Sweet is the sound of the falling rain, / And the brook that leaps from hill to plain, / But better than rain or rippling streams / Is Water Hot that smokes and steams."

"...turn the veil all to glass and silver, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise." - This is perhaps my favorite. It's taken from Chapter VIII, "Fog on the Barrow-Downs," and is actually a description of Frodo looking across the downs. Unlike the other three examples, whose meaning stayed the same even if the lines were in different places, this line is found in "The Return of the King," when Gandalf is describing death to Pippin. It is also found in the Annie Lennox song "Into the West" that plays during the credits. I find it hilarious that the beautiful, peaceful description that Gandalf gives to Pippin actually has nothing to do with death or the Undying Lands but is actually a description of a rather sinister place, the Barrow-Downs.

Yes, I know I'm a geek. So are all my friends, though. We were discussing this very subject last night, along with goofs from the movie, and cool camera tricks that were used in the films. What a fun Friday night. :-P

Movie Review: Ratatouille

What can I say? "Ratatouille" definitely deserved the Best Animated Picture in the Golden Globes. At my friend Jack's urging, a group of us got together to watch the adorable, hilarious movie today. Jack had been raving about it for months, telling us repeatedly that he had gone to see it twice in the theaters, it was that good. Naturally, I was a bit skeptical. I have lost all trust in Disney movies. Occasionally they come out with something good, but most of their recent movies have been, let's face it, pretty trashy. I like most of their collaborations with Pixar, but I am getting sick of the CG animation. It's good in small amounts, but almost every animated movie uses this style, unless it's an anime, and it's getting fairly old.

"Ratatouille", however, was a fantastic movie. The story followed the predictable Disney curve. An outcast finds a place that he fits in but must hide his identity in order to remain there. Everything is going well until someone discovers his secret. There is an argument with his one ally and everything falls apart. Just when things hit rock bottom, the main character finds a way to fix the situation and everything turns out okay in the end. As I said, it's classic Disney. It is not the plot that makes it a great movie, though.

The movie is full of jokes that, surprisingly, had me laughing out loud. I would have been surprised at the content of some of the jokes had I not become accustomed to Disney's habit of sneaking somewhat mature material into their children's movies. They always seem to pull it off, though, and rather than roll my eyes, I actually chuckled a bit. Also, the graphics were fantastic. While the characters were very cartoony, some of the settings could have been mistaken for photographs. Not only that, but the soundtrack was incredibly enjoyable as well. All in all, it was a great movie and I would highly recommend it, even to those who don't enjoy animated movies (coughMOMcough). I will be entirely unsurprised when it wins the Oscar for Best Animated Picture in February.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Nobody's Funnier Than the Marx Brothers!

How true, how true. Originally, I was going to do a review of the movie I watched in my Billy Wilder class, "Ninotchka," but it reminded me of the Marx Brothers, which caused me to crave their humor. So, an hour before the library closed, I took the shuttle down and rented two Marx Brothers movies. No matter how many times I watch them, the jokes never get old, and I've been watching them since I was about five years old. I loved the Marx Brothers when I was little, especially Harpo. His unique form of comedy, a blend of charades and slapstick (with a lot of wordplay thrown in), mixed with the fact that he was always the underdog made me grow to love him, so much that for a while I had an invisible friend named "Harpo."

The reason Harpo appealed to me as a child was that he was funny but intelligent. I never watched the Three Stooges, and once I finally saw one of their movies, I found them to be dull and repetitive. They were nothing compared to the Marx Brothers. The reason I compare them to Harpo is that out of the three brothers, his humor was the most stoogelike. There was slapstick and people getting hit over the head with hammers and all of that, but it was used in moderation and was mixed with a highly intelligent miming act that involved a lot of wordplay (example: he mimed the words "Bee" and "Twist" to communicate the name "Beatrice" to his brother, Chico). This was appealing to the my younger self because I could understand it. Most of Groucho's jokes went over my head, and Chico mostly interacts with the other two. His comedy comes from his interaction with other people rather than a solo act like his brothers. Granted, none of them would be as funny without the other two, but since Chico is a fast talker, he needs someone to play off of.

I think it is sad how few people these days have even heard of the Marx Brothers, specifically people in my generation. They were comic geniuses. They had trademark gags that were used in every movie, but their jokes were fresh and never got old. It wasn't like they did the same thing over and over again. Sure, the storylines of their movies were pretty formulaic, but the story wasn't the part that mattered. What mattered was the humor that the brothers brought to the film. So much in our culture has been affected by the Marx Brothers, and very few youngsters know the origins. For example, those plastic Groucho glasses, with the giant nose and the thick black eyebrows and moustache. Every child and young adult has seen them used somewhere, but none of them know who Groucho is. Or how about some of those famous Groucho quotes? "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know." Classics! Many people know these quotes, but a lot of them couldn't tell you where they're from. Or what about that classic scene from "A Night at the Opera"? You know the one I'm talking about. Chico, Harpo, and Allan Jones have stowed away in Groucho's suitcase, and his tiny room is very crowded. Suddenly, there's a knock on the door. The engineer comes in. More and more people knock on the door, and the tiny room is soon full of crew members, manicure ladies, waiters bearing food, housekeepers, etc. The boat is rocking back and forth, and everyone is being thrown from side to side. Harpo is, of course, managing to use this to climb all over the women. This scene has been imitated in many other films and tv shows. One day I was watching "The Disney Channel" and saw a parody of it on "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody." How much would you bet that none of the young actors had any idea what they were imitating?

One of the wonderful things about the Marx Brothers is that they are timeless. Very few of their jokes are dated. Audiences today find them just as funny as audiences in the 1930s (if they're actually taking the time to watch their movies). Although we've heard similar humor in other things, it's never quite the same. After all, to quote the Aaron Sorkin show "Studio 60", "Nobody's funnier than the Marx Brothers." It's true. No matter how much people try, they cannot capture the quirky charm that those men had. You can repeat their jokes, but they're not quite as funny without the personalities, are they?

The other thing that I love about Marx Brothers movies is that they truly are great family films. My parents were very wise in showing those films to me as I was growing up. Now, when I say that they're family films, I'm not referring to the bright, sugar-coated "family films" that you see today. Those are children's films, and are very rarely engaging to the parents. No, the Marx Brothers are true family films, meaning they appeal to people of all ages. Adults can enjoy Groucho's wit, sarcasm, and innuendo while their children laugh at the antics of Harpo and Chico. The best part is that Groucho's jokes, while adult, are subtle enough to go right over the children's heads. So while the meaning of the joke may be inappropriate for young people, it is so veiled in innuendo that there is no way that they will figure it out. This way, parents can enjoy side splitting adult humor without having to struggle to find a time when the kids are in bed. How often do you find a movie like that?

I'm almost done, but I'd just like to mention something about the music. As I said, Marx Brothers movies are intelligent. They always involve some sort of musical number, often sung by the male romantic lead, but there is always that part of the movie where Chico plays the piano and Harpo plays the harp. Now, when Chico plays, it is fun and energetic. He never took piano lessons seriously, so while he is incredibly talented, playing piano is something of a joke to him. His form is terrible but very fun to watch, and it is more of a spectacle than a showcase of an amazing piano piece. My favorite part, though, is when Harpo sits down to play the harp. Even as a child, I loved this part. I think it's because Harpo is such a clownish character that it's nice to see him being serious for a few minutes. It grounds him in reality and shows the viewers his humanity. You see, Harpo was always the music lover of the family, but Chico was the one who got to take piano lessons. So Harpo taught himself to play the harp and became incredibly good at it. Whereas Chico's piano playing is sort of a continuation of the humor in the film, Harpo's harp solos are beautiful and moving. He is concentrating intently, and you can see in his face how much he loves playing. It's enough to bring tears to your eyes, and it's a nice little break from laughing so much. A Marx Brothers movie without Harpo playing the harp is no good. (As a side note, never watch "Room Service." I thought it would be good because it was a Marx Brothers movie with Lucille Ball, but it was terrible. She wasn't given any funny lines, and none of the Marx Brothers' regular gags were used in the movie. They didn't even play any music!!)

So if you want a good, family friendly laugh, go rent a Marx Brothers' movie. I would especially recommend "A Night at the Opera", "A Day at the Races", and "Horse Feathers." Also, if you want a really funny one with almost no plot but a lot of great jokes, watch "Monkey Business." It'll crack you up.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Movie Review: The Core

I'm pretty sure the only thing that I can say about this movie is "WTF?!" It's a sci-fi movie about a fictional scenario where the outer core of the earth stops spinning threatening our very existence and a team of scientists and astronauts has to build a ship to go in and restart the core. All the science in it is completely faked and there are so many errors that it's not even funny. Well, actually, it's completely and utterly hilarious. The movie stars Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart, and the acting is absolutely horrendous. You could basically boil it down to people looking serious and occasionally screaming, "I'M IN EMOTIONAL PAIN!" Well, not really, but that's how it comes across. Also, the errors are just hilarious because they're really basic things that could be fixed simply by looking the information up on Google, such as listing incorrect latitude and longitude coordinates for the United Nations, placing it in Belize City, Belize, or informing the audience that the Marianas Trench is located in the South Pacific rather than the North Pacific. I have to say, though, my favorite goof is this:

"At about 9 minutes into the film, when the pigeons are all dying, the people run from Trafalgar Square into a building with large windows at the front. Moments later, we see several birds striking and breaking the windows. If you watch carefully, you will see that at least two of the birds that hit the window are, in fact, fish."

That's right, folks. They threw fish at the window and tried to pass them off as birds. I mean, HONESTLY. This is one of the worst movies I've ever seen, but it's worth watching if you want some good laughs.

For more goofs, check out imdb. They're pretty funny.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Golden Globes Cancelled!!!

That's right, the Golden Globes have been cancelled. Rather than having a huge banquet and ceremony, they will be announcing the winners at a press conference on January 13th. I believe that this has something to do with the writer's strike, although I will have to do more research to confirm that. I only just read it on their site a few minutes ago. I have to say that I am very disappointed. I'm one of those weirdoes who actually enjoys watching awards shows and will sit down and watch them straight through. I was really looking forward to the Golden Globes, and it was a blow when I found out that they had been cancelled. I still support the writers, though, and feel that my disappointment is a small price to pay for their cause. However, I am really hoping that the Oscars will not be affected. I wait all year for them and will be incredibly unhappy if they are cancelled as well.

For more information, check out the official Golden Globes website.

Movie Review: I Am Legend

I'm not a huge fan of the zombie movie genre, but I watched "I Am Legend" tonight, and I have to say that I was impressed. It wasn't so much a movie about zombies as a movie about the survival of Dr. Robert Neville and his struggle to find a cure to the terrible disease that caused people to begin behaving that way. Zombies isn't even the right term for them, actually. Rather than being the living dead, they are people who have been infected by a mutated measles virus and turned into vicious creatures who can only come out at night. Despite the fact that this premise comes across as a horror movie, it was a very emotional film. It was engaging and suspenseful, and there were several times that it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Overall, I thought it was a fantastic movie. I would not recommend it for children or people who are easily disturbed, however. It contains some fairly horrific themes and parts that are difficult to watch. Still, I enjoyed it immensely.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Billy Wilder

So one of the classes that I'm taking this semester is a class examining the works of film director Billy Wilder. Now, when I signed up for the class, I had no idea who Billy Wilder was. It just sounded like an interesting class. When I told my mom, though, she said, "Isn't he the guy who directed Some Like It Hot?" THAT got me even more excited. I watched Some Like It Hot with my best friend several years ago because I'm a Jack Lemmon fan, and I thought it was hilarious. In fact, according to the American Film Institute, it's the #1 comedy of all time. Billy Wilder is incredibly good at writing witty dialogue.

Not only is his writing funny, though, he himself was very funny in person. We watched a film called "Billy Wilder Speaks," where his friend and fellow director Volker Schlöndorff set up a camera and interviewed him at his office for two weeks. It's not a very professional interview, which in a way is good because it gives you an idea of what he was really like. In the video, he was very honest and relaxed, never too insulting about the actors he worked with, but also never patronizing. I wish I'd had the sense to copy down some of the things he said, because he made me laugh pretty hard. However, I do have some quotes from imdb, so here they are. Enjoy! (and check out his movies).

"Anyone who doesn't believe in miracles isn't a realist."

"It was a very tiny little thing. All of his theories were based on the analysis of very short people!" (Upon seeing Sigmund Freud's therapy couch)

"They say Wilder is out of touch with his times. Frankly, I regard it as a compliment. Who the hell wants to be in touch with these times?"

"A director must be a policeman, a midwife, a psychoanalyst, a sycophant, and a bastard."

"Breasts like granite and a brain like swiss cheese." (On Marilyn Monroe)

"Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else's."

"France is the only country where the money falls apart and you can't tear the toilet paper."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Hooray for Viggo Mortenson!

Being a huge Lord of the Rings geek, I have had a soft spot for Viggo Mortenson since the movies came out. He's a fantastic actor who completely dedicated himself to the role of Aragorn. Talent aside, I often find myself disappointed in actors. They have so much money and influence in this country, yet so few of them use it well. In my mind, actors have an obligation to use the resources that the rest of us lack to really make a change. Rather than simply donating to charities or saying that, yes, this is an issue that needs to be dealt with, why don't they step up and take some more action? It's not like they lack the funds. However, from the very beginning of his stardom, Viggo Mortenson has been the exception. When the U.S. went into Iraq, he was one of the most vocal celebrities, using his Lord of the Rings press conferences to express his views on the situation and signing the Not In Our Name petition. A couple of years later, he joined Cindy Sheehan in Texas as she camped outside Bush's ranch for a month in protest of the war. Now, he is fighting the corruption and injustice in our election system, protesting the fact that Dennis Kucinich was kept out of the last democratic debate, and throwing his weight behind the movement to impeach Dick Cheney. He gained my respect years ago, but it has increased immensely with this latest act. He is a truly inspirational person, and I hope I get the chance to meet him and tell him so someday. I also hope that other actors follow his lead and begin fighting for what they believe in.

Here is the article on his latest activism, if you have any interest in reading it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

I'm Back!

Sorry I haven't written in a while. Things have been very busy. They're still busy, in fact, so to tide people over, I'd like to post another review of "The Golden Compass," which I saw again last night. I got many positive comments in response to my review, so I'd like to direct people to another review that I found to be spot on. This is a review from a paper in Madison, WI, that I found online. It pretty much captures how I felt about the movie and does it very eloquently. Enjoy!