Alright, so maybe right off the bat this is a stupid article as everyone (including the thousands of Academy voters) will look at a collective group of films (hundreds released in 2008) and each would pick five different films that they think should be up for best picture. So yeah, to say THESE are THE five films that should’ve been nominated might sound pretentious and/or ignoramous; but bear with me here.
Like most internet pundits/readers/trollers, I was baffled by some of the choices that were nominated for best picture at the Oscars this year. Let’s put all of the other major categories aside as they can be debated endlessly and pointlessly. The Best Picture category however, is its own beast and can be looked at a little less subjectively. As soon as the nominees were announced, I (and thousands of others collectively) thought, “WTF?”. Instantly my mind reeled off several film titles that “should’ve” been nominated instead. And as I think about it, the more and more I think I/we are right.
Now this list isn’t just some fanboy listing off his favorite films of the year and crying foul. I want to make that very clear: these are NOT my personal choices for best pictures of the year. Got it? NOT a top five list. These are films of higher quality than those actually nominated and based on several factors, it is a fairly objective list. I thought about this quite a bit (meaning three coffees and a doughnut into my Monday morning) and came up with some reasonable choices for “proper” nominations using gut level instincts, a critical film eye and general Academy tendencies of years past.
Now having said that, anyone that bothers to do some research will see that three of these choices are in my personal top ten of the year and two of those are in my top three; hence I’m likely to hear cries of bullshit on my previous statements. So yeah, there is some subjectivity in here and of course that’s unavoidable; but these picks are still reasonable and as objective as possible with those reasons being explained below.
» Read the rest of the entry..
Alright; as promised we’re back with the list you’ve all been waiting for: our one shallow post of the year. Thanks to everyone for indulging us – as if you didn’t want this list posted. When I say “us,” I mean Andrew and Marina. We spent hours scouring Google images for the hottest stars (physically) working today. It’s really hard work but someone around here has got to do it; and c’mon, admit it… even you ultra-snobby film types like to work in the occasional ogle once in a while, so this post is for you too.
We did something a little bit different this year and decided that each entry on the list had to have starred in at least one major motion picture over the past year of 2008 (no television stars). Other than that, there is no criteria. The people ranked on these lists are there solely for their physical appearance; film quality, personality or acting prowess has no bearing on their rank (in general). So that’s enough babbling; let the voyeurism begin!
See all the hotties under the fold…
» Read the rest of the entry..
So I am apparently too easy on you guys. I haven’t stumped you for a little while now. I can’t decide if this one is near impossible or really easy. You’ll have to let me know. I’m hopping for the former.
I meant to post this up to continue on with the quiz but I was sick most of the last week. I’m now better and I’ll put you out of your misery by posting an image that might actually mean something to someone.
Joaquin Phoenix says he has retired from acting to pursue a music career. We’ve all heard that news. I had noticed that Casey Affleck had been hanging around Phoenix everywhere he has showed up since. He was with him on the red carpet when Phoenix announced his retirement (saying “I’ve been through that, I’ve done it. It seems like it’s Casey’s time now”) during an extremely awkward quick interview. He’s been spotted around with him here and there, including at a club where Phoenix took the stage to freestyle rap.
Well, file this under “What in the wide world of sports?” It turns out, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Casey (who, remember, is married to Joaquin’s sister) is going to be directing a feature documentary on Phoenix’s new career as a rapper – and apparently, Phoenix (or Fee-Nix, Lil’ Joaq, whatever he decides to go by) is working on his first album with the daddy of puff himself, Sean Combs. He is going to be giving his first public performance tonight at an unspecified Las Vegas club, which Casey will be attending to begin filming.
Umm… first off. Huh? Second of all… huh? Thirdly… nevermind. That’s all I’ve got. I’m at a loss.
Another of the five novels I wanted to see adapted is getting an adaptation (see, I knew you Hollywood producers were keeping tabs on me). This news is both delightful and disturbing and I will touch on both here in a moment. According to my really good and personal friends over at Variety, another adaptation of John Steinbeck’s magnum opus East of Eden is getting made for Universal Pictures.
Tom Hooper, who directed the very successful John Adams, is on board and Atonement and The Quiet American writer Christopher Hampton is helming the screenplay. They’re hoping to get into production later this year.
“There is an opportunity to show the sex, violence and darkness of Steinbeck’s work, along with the optimism and celebration of love,” Hooper was quoted.
Now, why do I find this news delightful? Well, every adaptation so far has sucked. Yes, even the James Dean version. While I will never be able to view the film without having read the novel first, it is barely even the same story (there are so many more layers and the film leaves out a good two-thirds of the novel, at least). Main characters are completely left out that (Lee) and themes and essential plot points that made the story so powerful are completely overlooked. Sure, James Dean is cool, but the movie is mediocre.
So, why does it disturb me? Well, adapting East of Eden is not only ambitious. It’s almost suicide. There is just too much to tackle in one feature film. I feel a lot of it can certainly be cut, but there are two essential story lines (the life of Adam, his brother and Cathy, then the life of his sons) that have to be focused on in order for the story’s ending to have meaning. As with Dean’s version, they left out the story of Adam before his children completely. Granted, this is a favorite novel, so there is some personal attachment to the story, but thematically, both story lines are needed to complement each other.
This is great news still. I remember quite a few years back, Ron Howard was on board to direct. Back then, I was all gung ho on a young Ryan Gosling playing the lead character of Cal (or even James Franco, I remember thinking, although the James Dean parallel was a little much to get past). Unfortunately, they are both way too old now. Regardless, Cal is the essential casting here, and not just because he is one of my favorite literary characters, but he is essential to the core messages of the novel. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is definitely too old, but he still looks young and has the chops – could he pull off being in a period drama like this?
I don’t know. Once again, there is a lot of personal attachment to the novel, so I’m going to naturally be very critical, although I am almost always forgiving of novel-to-film changes, as they are a necessity. It only becomes a problem when the changes destroy the core themes and messages of the original work that I get disturbed. And obviously, I’m hypocritical, because it is always only when it is novels I care dearly about – but aren’t we all that way?
East of Eden readers, non-East of Eden readers – what do you think of this news?
There are two free-floating ideas on the film blogosphere that I would like to call out as bullshit, and my hope is that the more they are recognized as bullshit the less people will cling to them. I see them as the ‘all or nothing’ approaches. They are as follows:
1) Film taste is wholly subjective, so nothing is debatable
2) Film taste is wholly objective, so everything is debatable
Nothing kills a thread faster than someone proclaiming that all debate is futile because ‘film is subjective’. By this logic, the forum that exists is just a depository of self-contained opinions that need not even brush up against each other, lest they be challenged in any way. On the flipside, you have the predatorial approach based on the assumption that ‘everything is debatable’ including how a person must feel about the film. Sometimes this is just trolling, but more often than not it is a genuine presumption of knowing how everyone must feel. These are the extremes and unfortunately they play out on occasion on Row Three, hence my desire to put a spotlight on them.
Despite the obvious subjective quality to personal taste, opinions can co-exist, healthy debate can happen. For some, this will be glaringly obvious, but take a look at any movie forum and time and again you will see that this farce does play out. Still it takes all kinds, and there is certainly a benefit when aggressive types stick their neck out for people to get agitated enough to join in (we at Row Three have a knack for doing that, i.e. the Signs water theory, the politics of Milk), but after the ball gets rolling things tend to fall apart because somewhere, someone neglects how exactly we relate to film, and how film relates to our lives. There are useful boundaries that we can hold to, to keep the insightful threads ricocheting into the hundreds.
First, lets do away with this fallacy that film is subjective and therefore everyone is right. This is not kindergarten. At its best, a film community can be a place to confront your feelings, articulate them, come to some conclusion that you would not have independently. While there are indisputable aspects to one’s opinion (i.e. your emotional response), the causes are not so indisputable and can and should be challenged. There is a tendency for people to get upset when told that they do not feel what they feel, and it’s usually the fault of the accuser missing their mark; what is meant is not that someone does not feel the way they do, but rather the justifications for why they feel that way rings false. » Read the rest of the entry..
Not much being mentioned about this around the web, so maybe it’s just me that takes offense. But during the Golden Globes on Sunday night, a couple of our readers mentioned immediately in the comment section of the live update post, that when The Hollywood Foreign Press showed the clip for one of the nominees up for best picture, Slumdog Millionaire (our review), they actually showed one of the film’s pivotal, climactic scenes. Had they left it at a cliffhanger all would be well, but they showed us exactly how the scene ends up.
To not give away a spoiler myself, I would liken it to a clip of Star Wars in which Luke Skywalker finally fires his proton torpedoes at the Death Star’s thermal exhaust port. With time and villainy against him, Skywalker races his ship as fast as he can, desperately trying to close the distance between himself and his target before it is too late. Will he make it? Will he not? Will there be some other surprise? Had this clip been shown at The Golden Globes in 1979, we would have seen exactly what happens (comparatively speaking; using their clip of Slumdog Millionaire as an example).
So am I justified in feeling a little upset or am I missing something and just feeling the effects of the crack I just smoked? Admittedly I’m not that broken up about it, but I know if I had not seen the movie yet, I might be a little perturbed at knowing how an important, intense, edge of your seat scene is going to play out.
To read the spoiler scene I am speaking of, click this link:
I realize that there is more to Slumdog Millionaire than just this pivotal scene and the story continues on even after this sequence, nevertheless it still is important to the audience in terms of getting enjoyment out of the film.
What do you think?
I was pretty skeptical when I first heard about The Winning Season, a dramedy starring Sam Rockwell, Emma Roberts, and Shareeka Epps about a has-been coach who is asked to coach a local high school girl’s team. Still, Sam Rockwell has a knack for picking some of the best scripts out there, so I figured there had to be something unique and exciting about the film. Being directed and written by James C. Strouse who wrote the great Lonesome Jim (his feature directorial debut being last year’s Grace is Gone) gave me a little more confidence as well.
While I am still not entirely sure what to expect, a new clip has been released promoting its Sundance premiere which I think confirms my hopes that this won’t just be a child-friendly Bad News Bears meets girl’s basketball rip-off (c’mon though, did I really think Rockwell would sign up for such a movie?). I had a good chuckle at least. Check it out, courtesy of Trailer Addict.
I just checked out the film’s Sundance page and found this description:
James Strouse, who brought Grace Is Gone to Sundance in 2007, where it won the dramatic Audience Award and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, once again displays his talent for storytelling—and his deft touch as a director—in this superbly wrought tale, The Winning Season. Sam Rockwell stars as an alcoholic ex-basketball star who is currently occupied busing tables. When he is handed the reins of a girl’s varsity team by the school’s principal, what ensues is tempestuous and trying for all concerned.
The course of this wonderfully heartfelt drama is both unexpected and full of the kind of rich oh-so-human moments that marked Strouse’s earlier work; the result is a completely gratifying cinematic drama. The battles to be won or lost—of a coach and his team, of a father and a daughter, and of a man struggling with his demons-are complicated by the mundane, yet real, dilemmas of life. This seemingly ordinary basketball drama resonates with wit and truth, attitude and sharp dialogue, and perfectly toned performances. Rockwell is spot on with his depiction of the scruffy, conflicted coach/father/teacher, and Strouse’s work is full of humor and poignancy, insight and fun.
Strouse is a director who transforms the unexceptional into wry dialogues about our humanity. His effectiveness as a filmmaker marks him as one of the most talented of a new generation of American independents.
Nice. Now I’m just waiting for some more word on Rockwell’s Moon. By the way, if you have a love for Rockwell, don’t forget to check out his Row Three Rank ‘Em.
This Sunday night is sort of like the spring training for the Oscars. A lot of the winners tonight could solidify their positions as Oscar contenders. Some are already rock solid, but some are on shaky ground.
We like our lists around here and in some strange way these Award Ceremonies are the way Hollywood makes its own top five. So while The Golden Globes mean little compared to the Oscars and most of us around here prefer the Independent Spirit Awards (MUCH) more, I do like the format of this show much better; and to the stars, The Globes are becoming increasingly more important for their Oscar hopefulls.
So RowThree will be keeping tabs on the Globes tonight and updating the winners live as they happen starting at about 7:15 (well, in between scotch and popcorn refills). Stay tuned for all the winners and feel free to chat about this reason to have a get together in the forum below…
– - BEST MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
– - BEST MOTION PICTURE, MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Burn After Reading
Vicky Christina Barcelona
– - BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road
– - BEST DRAMATIC ACTOR
Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
– - BEST DRAMATIC ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kristin Scott Thomas, I’ve Loved You So Long
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
– - BEST ACTOR, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Javier Bardem, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Colin Farrel, In Bruges
James Franco, Pineapple Express
Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges
Dustin Hoffman, Last Chance Harvey
– - BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Frances McDormand, Burn After Reading
Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia!
Emma Thompson, Last Chance Harvey
– - BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
Ralph Fiennes, The Duchess
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
– - BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Kate Winslet, The Reader
– - BEST ANIMATED FILM
Kung Fu Panda
– - BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE PICTURE
Baader Meinhof Complex
I’ve Loved You So Long
Waltz With Bashir
– - BEST SCREENPLAY
Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
David Hare, The Reader
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
– - BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Clint Eastwood, Changeling
James Newton Howard, Defiance
Hans Zimmer, Frost/Nixon
A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
– - BEST SONG
“Down to Earth” (performed by Peter Gabriel, written by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman), Wall-E
“Gran Torino” (performed by Clint Eastwood), Gran Torino
“I Thought I Lost You” (performed Miley Cyrus and John Travolta, written by Miley Cyrus and Jeffrey Steele), Bolt
“Once in a Lifetime” (performed by Beyonce), Cadillac Records
“The Wrestler” (performed by Bruce Springsteen)
Television nominations can be found taped under the seats…
» Read the rest of the entry..
New Year’s Day is a quiet one in our household. A family day if you will. And with the boy, we decided to grab a cheap puzzle game for the Wii gaming system via their online “WiiWare” client. The bright bubbly graphic and fun problem-solving nature of World Of Goo was apparent from the quick blurb there, so it was a snap judgment, but quite a lucky one too. Now really, this is a video game, so what is it doing on Row Three?
Well, besides a potential no-brainer film adaptation (which could make it one of the first truly good video game adaptations, another discussion which does not interest me so much), the raw cinematic nature of this video game is often breathtaking. This is in no small part due to a rich soundtrack (best video game soundtrack ever?) and visuals are clean and simple yet also silly and epic. Showing clear influences from Tim Burton and Dr. Seuss (and perhaps a bit of Neil Gaimen and Dave McKean) there is a narrative here that goes beyond puzzle solving and great game play. Taking more-than-just-potshots at consumer culture and the recycling of ourselves into ourselves (reminiscent of the designer soap in Fight Club) malaise of youth and beauty obsession, World of Goo takes a big page out of The Lorax with its anti-corporate, growth-for-growth sake message. It also reminds of the gooier Bartholomew and the Oobleck.
The game has a story (of sorts) that follows the downfall of civilization via consumer products in four chapters (Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring) and an epilogue. There are similarities to Pixar’s Wall-E in that a man-made thing evolves out of consumer waste to a point to both collect and replace human endeavors. This makes for the third post-apocalyptic narrative aimed at the younger set (although City of Ember didn’t really light any fires in the pop culture) with enough wit to attract adults as well. A chapter where the ‘goo’ go through the evolution of computers from NASA gravity simulations to social networking is particularly inspired both in terms of what can be done with puzzle game-play but also how diverse science and capitalism and human endeavor can play off one another in exciting ways. Kind of like the game itself. In terms of video game culture, I am no expert, but I know art when I see it. It is curious that this is a full ‘independent’ video game, rather than one of the monster video game studios (Electronic Arts, Blizzard, etc.). I find it most exciting that a game can be fun, deep, subtle, breezy full of sly wit all at the same time.
In accordance with the upcoming morePOP section of Row Three, this article will be cross published there as well. The strong cinema element to this particular game encouraged a little sharing.
I am currently compiling my list of top films from 2008 and one movie that might just make it on is the Finnish horror film Sauna (My Review, Kurt’s Review). The movie is a bleak journey through the wilderness where the sins of soldiers come back to haunt them. It is one of those smaller films that win you completely over with great atmosphere and style.
Since I am making the list of best films of 2008 I thought I would do a bit of browsing to see if I could find some more information on some of the movies I have seen. I headed over to the official site and then to the Bronson Club blog. While browsing around and reading about the film I discovered a post from December, 8th entitled “Sauna” opened to an empty theater in Loviisa. The director AJ Annila, producer Jesse Fryckman and Kari Ketonen, who plays Musko all showed up at the screening to discover that no one was coming out to their movie. I could go on about what a shame this is as Sauna is a terrific movie that really should be seen and experienced but really I am mostly mentioning the post because of the questions which were asked of their readers:
Ok so, I would love to hear peoples thoughts on this. What went wrong? Should movie companies only promote in the big cities? How can we get people to go see more films in theaters? Etc.
I can appreciate the questions and I understand not wanting to go through an evening like that but I would hate it if the smaller movies were only released in big cities. I already have to deal with a lot of good movies not showing up in my city which has a population of just over 200,000. Unfortunately I have no answer either as to how more people can be driven to theatres in smaller towns and cities for films which are not directed by Bay or Spielberg, produced by Bruckheimer or starring Wil Smith, Brad Pit or George Clooney. I guess the main thing I can do is continue to inform people of these hidden gems which truly deserve to be seen by a larger audience.