Archive for February, 2012

This!

Posted: February 29, 2012 in Movies, This!
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Fish Story

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The epic story of the greatest rock song ever written, the punk pioneers that recorded it, and the decades-long trip that song takes to save the world.

I highly recommend this film. It’s available on Netflix Instant Streaming right now. Go watch it and thank me later!

My Obligatory Oscar Picks

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Movies
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I love the Academy Awards.  Always have.  Always will.

I rarely agree with every winner.  Hell, I hardly ever agree with the nominees.  More often than not, I haven’t seen ALL the nominees despite my best intentions thus making my opinions on who SHOULD win uninformed or at the very least not fully informed.

See my thoughts on Oscars snubs here.

This year I have seen seven of the nine films ‘honored’ with a Best Picture nomination.  The two hold outs, if you will, that I will never willingly sit down to watch?  The Help and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.  My reasons are my own but suffice it to say that, even having not seen them, I find them both offensive and pandering in the worst Hollywood way possible.  I’ll leave it at that.!

I can’t leave it at that.  One takes advantage of the 9/11 tragedy in a manipulative, insulting manner and uses the likable Tom Hanks & Sandra Bullock to serve up its pabulum with a spoonful of sugar.  The other features white people once more coming to the rescue to lift up black people and help them realize their potential.  The year that Do The Right Thing came out, it was not even nominated for Best Picture.  It has since become regarded as one of the greatest films of all time.  I can’t disagree with this.  I saw it theatrically and when it was over I felt as though I’d been punched in the stomach.  It was a transformative film experience.  And those kinds of films are rare.  You know what actually won Best Picture that year?  Driving Miss Daisy.  Yeah.  That’s what I’m talking about.

        Radio Raheem ‘Love-Hate’                               Hoke ‘Yassum Miss Daisy!’

That bit of editorial out-of-the-way let us return to the reason we are here:  Winners!

I’m not going to discuss every category but where I do I will list the likely winner and those I wish would win.

Best Documentary

I have high hopes that Paradise Lost 3:  Purgatory will win.  I’m a huge admirer of the entire series.  I think it has everything to do with innocent men finally being released.  That said, I have a hunch that Wim Wenders’ 3-D dance pic, Pina will take home the trophy.

Best Foreign Film

I’ve got no dog in this hunt having seen none of them.  While I guess it would be cool if Austin’s own Drafthouse Pictures film Bullhead won, I would go for Iran’s A Separation.  It was Roger Ebert’s favorite film of the year and seems to be heavily favored here.

Best Animated Film

I’m just happy Cars 2 didn’t get nominated.  Pixar has owned this category and hopefully the exclusion of the sequel no one wanted will convince them that they should focus on quality films as opposed to cash grab follow ups.  Speaking of cash grab follow ups, I don’t see  Kung Fu Panda 2 or Puss in Boots winning here.  I’d like to see A Cat in Paris win.  I really want to see it and it seems a statue would ensure a domestic release.  Most like winner here is Gore Verbinski’s Rango.  I have no problem with that.  It’s a fun, surreal flick and definitely not just for kids.  Hell, maybe not for kids at all.

Best Adapted/Original Screenplay

For Original Screenplay, the Academy seems primed to once more award Woody Allen for his very clever work on Midnight in Paris.  The movie is not at all complex.  In fact, the story is shockingly simplistic and the message is hammered home in an obvious manner.  But the banter is engaging.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo win for their work on Bridesmaids but that is unlikely to happen.  The only thing that might keep Allen from winning is that it is well-known that he does not attend the Oscars.  Ever.  Hollywood likes their winner’s to be present but that didn’t keep them from giving best director to Roman Polanski a few year back so who knows?

For Adapted Screenplay, it seems unlikely Aaron Sorkin wins two years in a row (he took the trophy for The Social Network last year,) so Moneyball  is out.  The most likely winner is Alexander Payne’s The Descendants and I’m OK with that.  The movie is great and Payne is a bit of an Academy darling having won in the same category for 2005’s Sideways.  I wouldn’t mind at all if Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy won here, though.  The writers took an incredibly dense novel and parsed it into an incredibly dense film that is still easy to follow.  Not an easy job.

Best Supporting Actress/Best Actress

Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis from The Help are primed and heavily favored to win for Supporting Actress and Actress, respectively. 

The only real competition Ms. Spencer might face is from Bernice Bejo from The Artist with a possible ‘My Cousin Vinnie Marisa Tomei’-type left field upset for Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids.  Remember, weird stuff happens in the Supporting categories.

Ms. Davis’ primary competition is the always nominated Meryl Streep for what I hear (though will never see) is a fine caricature in the otherwise terrible The Iron Lady.  Streep has been nominated a record 17 times.  However, she has only won twice and the last time was in 1982 for Sophie’s Choice.  The Academy may decide it’s been too long since she won.

Personally, I really liked Rooney Mara in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Hers was a very elemental performance and she may actually be the best of the Lisbeth Salanders.  She ain’t gonna win.  Don’t look for any upsets here.

Best Supporting Actor/Actor

If there’s one lock on anyone’s Oscar ballot, it should be Christopher Plummer in Beginners  for his portrayal of a widowed senior citizen who realizes that he has been living a lie and embraces his homosexuality.  I’m a huge Nick Nolte fan and I loved Warrior and think it’s a grossly underrated film.  Nolte has never won an Oscar which is a crime but this ain’t his year.  Plummer has not won either and the Supporting trophy will often go to older actors as a nod to not just their nominated performance but also to their entire career (see Jack Palance, Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Don Ameche, Martin Landau, James Coburn, etc.)

George Clooney is the presumptive favorite here.  His work in The Descendants is wonderful as he plays against type as a bit of schlub cuckold.  His competition here is Jean Dujardin for his charming work in The Artist.  This one’s a coin flip in my opinion.  Clooney won for Supporting Actor a few years back for Syriana.  Dujardin is a French outsider new to the Hollywood scene.  Ultimately, I just don’t think the Hollywood elite will pass on the opportunity to once more anoint Mr. Clooney.  I honestly believe he may be the most liked and perhaps respected actor in Hollywood.  He’s gonna win.  I will secretly be rooting for Gary Oldman but he will have other opportunities.  And when he doesn’t win and Clooney does, I can’t even pretend I’ll be disappointed.  Because I like George Clooney.

For my thoughts on the TRUE best picture of the year you need only look at my year-end list of favorite films here.

Best Director/Best Picture

Considering the best picture of the year wasn’t even nominated, I’m a bit torn here.  But I have seen 7 of the 9 nominated films (my reasons for not seeing the other 2 stated above) and I’m prepared to award both trophies to the same film.

Michel Hazanvicius’  The Artist is a likable movie.  I was easily absorbed into the silent film when I saw it in the theater.  The performances are engaging.  There’s nothing to not like about the movie.  It just feels slight.  20 years from now, no one will think of this movie.  Hell, next year, people will be struggling to remember it won.  But it will win.  Why?  Because it’s a celebration of Hollywood.  A celebration of that nostalgic old studio system that the blue hairs and older members of the Academy remember so well.  The film pats Hollywood’s back and scratches behind its ear.  And Hollywood, the old desperate lap dog that it is, will return that attention and reward it with trophies for Best Director and Best Picture.

What do I want to win?  Of the remaining nominees I saw, I did rather enjoy Moneyball (too sporty), Hugo (too soon since The Departed), Midnight in Paris (too obvious), The Tree of Life (too dense), & War Horse (tried too hard).

But, I’d be over the moon if The Descendants somehow pulled off the biggest Oscar upset of the last 20 years.  Of all the nominated films, it seems the most relevant, the most personal, the most relatable.  It’s also seems to be too small.  And H’wood, doesn’t generally like small.

Well, that’s it. 

If you do watch the telecast, I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it.  I hope at least one of your favorites wins or that you at least get to see a pretty dress.  Oh and if your tie-breaker is the celebrity who will be shown last in the death montage, I would go with this beautiful woman, shown here in her pre-Michael Jackson days.

RIP, Liz.

I like this stuff.  You should too!

Soundtracks

I loves me some movies. I love great acting. A sharp, clever script. A beautifully composed camera shot. Directors who can draw out performances from their cast that no one imagined possible. There are so many elements that go into making a great movie. And one of those is a great score.

The importance of a great musical score in a film was first illustrated for me by John Williams’ collaborations with Spielberg, Lucas and Donner.  He created main title themes that will NEVER be forgotten. ET. Superman. Indy. Vader. The Jurassic Park T-Rex. You know them when you hear them.  In the early 90’s, I had the scores to Dances With Wolves and Last of the Mohicans on heavy rotation in my car CD player.  In fact, it was the latter that was in the player one of the three times a stereo was stolen from my vehicle.

Now, it doesn’t have to be a score by a composer like Mr. Williams or James Newton Howard who has done fine work on Chris Nolan’s Batman movies. Sometimes, the soundtrack can be a collection of songs by a singular artist, perhaps written for the film. Aimee Mann’s collection of songs for PT Anderson’s Magnolia comes to mind.

I don’t buy much popular music but of late I’ve been picking up some soundtracks. I took advantage of my President’s Day holiday to check out Cheapo Discs here in Austin. They have a great selection of used soundtracks and I was able to pick up the scores to Luc Besson’s The Big Blue and Korean monster movie The Host. I also picked up the classic Ennio Morricone score for The Mission and Peter Gabriel’s work for The Last Temptation of Christ. I’ve got some good listening ahead of me.

The Iron Sheik

A semi-retired professional wrestler who came to fame in the early 80s as the foreign villain to Hulk Hogan’s Real American hero. 

Quick wrestling history lesson: 

The Sheik was the WWF Champion who one month earlier had defeated the popular but doughy goody two-shoes Bob Backlund, holder of the title for the previous 6 years.  Vince McMahon had decided to put the belt on Hogan but couldn’t have two good guys face each other.  So, he built up the Sheik as a rabidly Anti-American Iranian zealot who would come to the ring waving the Iranian flag and incensing the hometown crowd.  This is known as building cheap heat.  Hogan had been groomed to become the face of the company and on a fateful January afternoon in Madison Square Garden, Hulkamania was born.  The Sheik went on the varying degrees of success in the WWF and other organizations while Hogan went on to become the face of professional wrestling in the 80’s and later the narcissistic, leathery old bastard who refuses to give up the ghost that he is today.

Now, The Iron Sheik makes the occasional nostalgic non-wrestling appearance on WWE programming and was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame in 2005.  He is notorious for his vehement and vitriolic condemnation of Hulk Hogan, whom it would appear the man legitimately hates.  Now, he has a Twitter account.  And it is glorious.  He rants against the likes of former wrestlers Hogan, Tito Santana, Virgil and The Ultimate Warrior and current celebrities like Chris Brown and whatever sap is on The Bachelor.  He praises the beauty of Giselle Bundchen and Rhianna.  He threatens to perform something in the “old country way” upon those he deems inferior.  I don’t really know what the “old country way” is but I have strong suspicions as to what it may involve.  And, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to experience it.

Fair warning, The Sheikie is an equal opportunity offender but if you think you can handle it and you want a good chuckle, I highly recommend you follow him:  @the_ironsheik.

Nutella

It’s a chocolate hazelnut spread.  Says so right there on the container.  This delightful concoction was created in Italy in the early 60’s and eventually made its way overseas.  It can now be found in over 75 countries.  It’s good.  Seriously.  I would not lie.  Well, I would.  But not about food.  Never about food.  Yummy.

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead

This young lady first came to my attention as the cheerleader who gets left behind, missing out on all the Kurt Russell ass-stomping in Tarantino’s portion of Grindhouse, Death Proof.

She next appeared as John McClane’s daughter in Live Free or Die Hard and as Ramona in Scott Pilgrim vs The World. She was delightful in the former and the only tolerable thing about the latter.

Before all that and unbeknownst to me at the time, she had appeared in Final Destination 3. Her presence in what has become my current favorite horror franchise cinches her street cred for me.

She has since appeared as the lead in the unjustly maligned prequel The Thing and is set to appear as the titular character’s dearly beloved in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.

Also, she and I have the same birthday.

She hasn’t been given much of a chance to stretch her acting chops but I’m holding out hope for that breakout role that lets her do just that. Until then, here’s a purty picture.

If you see this woman, tell her I love her!

Once more an earthquake has shaken the foundations of the social media world.

Twitter has changed it’s format!  Or so every third or fourth tweet in my feed says.  I wouldn’t know because mine still looks the same.  I’m sure it will catch up at some point but until then I can only imagine at what hideous things await me.

Damn you, Twitter!  Damn you for daring to change the site you own and for which you do not charge me!  Damn you for doing this without asking for my permission or for my input.

And while I’m at it go eff yourself Facebook!  Your movie sucked (it did NOT suck) and you think you’re all that.

World’s youngest soccer hooligan

Every time Facebook changes something, everyone gets all worked up.  I know people who religiously refuse to change to this new timeline hoo-hah they’ve got going now.  Well, time’s about up on that and soon they will have no choice.  Again, though what is there really to complain about?  In a few weeks, days, hours one will have forgotten what it used to look like and grow comfortable enough with the new format just in time for it to change again.

The greatest sin a website can commit is to become irrelevant and stagnant.  That’s why the Facebooks and the Twitters are always changing, trying to incorporate new bells and whistles that track our every movement, our every purchase, our every desire.  They’ve got to pay for themselves somehow, right?  Damn your eyes, social media!  Damn your eyes!

Hates the new timeline!  Won’t accept my friend request.

Now, I’m not planning on buying any shares of Facebook though I have to think that my opinion might matter a bit more if I had a stake in the company.  But then again, probably not.  I’m not sure how that kind of shit works.  I do know I’ll keep using Facebook and Twitter and that it will never matter what they look like.  I enjoy the interaction they provide while, at the same time, allowing me to maintain a distance from people and real human emotions.

And remember, while you are entitled to your opinion, Zuckerberg and J. Michael Twitterman (not his real name) could care less.  In fact, this is what they think of you.

The greatest middle finger ever?

That’s a rhetorical question.  It’s Johnny Cash.  The Man In Black.  The man whose legacy survived a shitty Joaquin Phoenix bio-pic portrayal.  Of course, it’s the greatest.

On an aside, all this talk of format changes made me think of MySpace.  I remembered that the dinosaur of social networking sites always allowed for a fair bit of customization to one’s profile.  It WAS always a hassle to visit a particularly busy page but there was that personal touch that FB and Twitter have never really allowed.  I hadn’t logged into my account in at least a couple of years so I figured I’d check it out.

Turns out that the second I stopped logging in to my page a band of wandering gypsies set up shop.  MySpace smelled vaguely of urine and stale pot smoke.  I won’t even tell you what I found in the corner mainly because I could not identify it by its rotting remains.  I did have one friend request but I’m pretty sure it was from the band that played my senior prom 23 years ago.

Also, it turns out the only person who still uses MySpace is Tim Doyle

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All Bird Pictures can be found in The Field Guide to the North American Bird

Ten Words About…Valentine’s Day

Posted: February 14, 2012 in Ten Words
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Don’t need a special day to say I…love…me.

This!

Posted: February 11, 2012 in Movies, This!
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Nude Nuns With Big Guns

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Everything I need to know about this movie is on clear display in the image above. It may not be great. Hell, it may not even be good. But it’s got guns. It’s got nuns. And they’re nude.

Available now on Blu-Ray and DVD.