Friday, June 26, 2009

Academy unleashes 10

There will be no 5 Oscar contenders this coming year, instead they have raised the stakes and made it a field of 10. Shocking news ? somewhat, but remember last year the academy completely dropped the ball by NOT nominating Wall E and The Dark Knight- two very fine mainstream movies made by competent directors. unworthy fare such as The Reader, Benjamin Button and Frost Nixon were instead nominated and the academy was the joke of the town. Even worse, ratings were down. No Dark Knight, No viewers. Question is, will there even be 10 worthy films in this -so far- mediocre year? Forget about the Oscars for a sec, I'm more inclined to follow the annual New York film critics awards which nominates and rewards the worthy filmmakers, writers and actors + you don't have to watch it for 3 long hours- results get posted on their web site the very second they are announced. Sure beats Oscar.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Has there ever been a more devastating loss in the music industry than Michael Jackson's death? Artists like Michael Jackson come far and few. There was Elvis Presley, John Lennon and now The King Of Pop. I can still remember listening to Thriller for the first time -not a bad tune on an album full of great ones, Heal The World at summer camp, You Are Not Alone on Top 40 radio. He defined what a musician can and cannot do and then broke the barriers with everything he was gonna do next. Forget about the controversy and think of the talent. Remember the moves, forget the accusing. Remember the songs, forget the wrongs. He was one of a kind and no matter how many imitators, there is only one innovator.

Suffice to say Farrah Fawcett's untimely death was completely overshadowed last night by The King Of Pop. She didn't have much of a film career and was most notably known for her role on Charlie's Angels and in an Iconic 70's poster but I'm reminded of a woman that fought the battle hard and long. She was brave, courageous and undeniably strong in documenting her long, arduous battle with Anal Cancer. So much so that she agreed to air it as a documentary on ABC just a month ago. If her film career had always fizzled, I'm reminded of one of her last roles in the late Robert Altman's Dr. T And The Women. She only shares the screen for but a few minutes but it's a comic and silly thing to see her dancing naked in a shopping mall- long after she's gone and the main characters settle in, her presence is still deeply felt in the film.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

'Bloody remake'

I'm a self proclaimed 'Coen-head'. There's nothing wrong in admitting it, Joel and Ethan Coen have created some of the greatest movies of the past 3 decades. Now here comes news that completely stunned me. Renowned Chinese director Zhang Yimou is remaking their classic Blood Simple in his own language- renaming it San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi (The Stunning Case of the Three Gun Shots) I'm so used to seeing Americans remaking Asian Cinema (The Ring, The Grudge, The Eye) that it's astonishing to see a great Asian filmmaker remaking an American film. That's why I'm somewhat mixed with this idea of a remake, why mess around with something that's already great ? or it could just be total ignorance on my part and this turns out to be highly watchable.

This is where the Coen Brothers' journey in cinema started, it is their first and most horrifying film. In fact, I'd go as far to say that it's almost as good as their future masterworks No Country For Old Men and Fargo. There are many influences here, including french cinema and also -quite heavily-film noir from the 40's. Not many people have seen it, which is a shame and is a perfect opportunity for you to get your ass to the video store and rent the director's cut of this incredible 1984 film noir. Tout de suite !

Monday, June 22, 2009

'Too weird to live and Too rare to die'

"We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, laughers, screamers... Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls."

Watching Fear and Loathing with a buddy a few days ago got me thinking. Have I ever seen the film sober? It's just that kind of movie, a hallucinogen all in itself and a film some folks can only GET if under the influence of something. I do believe it's a great movie and what director Terry Gilliam has done is absolutely brilliant. It's become a cult classic- a movie perfectly suited for the midnight crowd. It's Gilliam's most misunderstood picture and is -to this day- still highly snubbed by te mainstream. "I want it to be seen as one of the great movies of all time, and one of the most hated movies of all time" exclaimed Gilliam before the film's release. It's definitely not a perfect film- in fact it's quite messy and has no real structure, but there's ambition in that statement and it's that same ambition that makes me like it.

Depp plays Gonzo Journalist Hunter S. Thompson, whom in 1970- as the Vietnam war was headed to its prime- went on a road trip to Nevada with his Attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta. Thompson was supposed to cover a motorcycle race and bring back a 500 word piece with mostly photographs- instead he goes to Vegas with Acosta and uses every possible drug known to man. Trippy doesn't even begin to describe the film- it's more than that, it's a document of a time far gone and a surreality that most of us will never get to. It's a social document of a time when America was it's worst and was assaulted with paranoia by its government- still sounds relevant to this day.


Finally my thoughts on Pixar's latest. It's one hell of an imaginative romp and touching as hell. There's a montage scene near the beginning that's as good as any montage scene I've ever seen the last decade. It's become quite redundant to say that -yes !- pixar has created yet another terrific film, so much so that you wish they would just cough up a bad one. Glenn Kenny said it best in his review a few weeks ago-

"I'm almost reminded—and this is gonna sound weird, but bear with me—of a certain period in the career of the reliably dyspeptic post-punk band The Fall, whose run of albums from the early '80s to 1990 was so staggering that by, say, 1985's This Nation's Saving Grace, one ceased to be quite so staggered."

It's a perfect description of what's happening with Pixar this decade. If movies are on a total downfall, the animation these wizards are creating is at an all time high -yes, even better than Disney in the 40's and 50's. With Up they've managed to have an 80 year old geriatric as a hero and a 10 year old boyscout as his accomplice. They've managed to sneak in hilarious talking- collared dogs, a weird lookin' colorful bird, a helium flown balloon house and one mesmerizing action sequence after another. My praise cannot be high enough and although there's that customary happy ending that you expect, that also feels right.

So what's the best Pixar movie this decade? I personally cannot choose. Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, WALL-E, Cars and Ratatouille have all become classics and exhort a powerful hold on me. The weakest one -Monsters Inc.- is still an indelibly made romp. Up next is Toy Story 3 and I highly doubt that one will be a failure. The last 10 years of film have been dominated by pixar animation, the next decade looks to be the same.

Image Of The Day 6/22/09

First still from Tim Burton's Upcoming Alice In Wonderland remake with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. It's Burton's first film since the fabulous Sweeny Todd 2 years ago, this movie is due out in 2010. Thanks to USA Today for the image.

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