Sunday, December 13, 2009

Twilight New Moon

Just saw Twilight New Moon with my sister. It wouldn't have been my choice, but Kaitlin wanted to see it a second time. And I wanted to cheer her up. My God, I have never seen a movie with so many dramatic pauses and sighs and pauses and sighs that never added up to anything. The movie could have been half as long, and then perhaps been a decent little fable. There were a good action sequence or two, and some appropriate moody moments. However overall, at nearly two and half hours, it was like watching a dental examination.
How is this the bestselling movie around the country? I just don't get it. A lot of young girls must be swooning the same way Bella swoons, but meanwhile us guys are sitting there getting antsy. Give me something on the level of the Hurt Locker again and I'll be a happy man.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mystery movies: a neglected genre?

I notice that Robert Downey Jr.'s about to star in Sherlock Holmes, and Ben Stiller has been talking about making a big-screen parody of the Hardy Boys, I've been thinking about the mystery genre in movies. It seems like mysteries really aren't nearly as big in film as they are on television screens. Everyone loves CSI and Without A Trace, but the crime thriller genre doesn't seem to translate as successfully to theaters as well.
Movies like Memento inherently set out to mess with our idea of the detective finding his clues and cracking the case, and in Zach Snyder's Watchmen about to arrive next week, Rorschach, the "detective" superhero in fedora and trenchcoat, is actually the most maniacal and homicidal character of his team. Is there something incompatible about Hollywood audiences these days and detective stories?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Young and impressionable

As much as film is a passion of mine, sometimes it can also be a handicap to get as engaged by films as I do. Yesterday was a good example: I woke up at 5 am, with no reason why except my body woke up, and I had no idea what to do except watch a movie I'd rented a while back called "There Will Be Blood." For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is Paul Thomas Anderson's take on the oil biz through the lens of a greedy competitive psychopathic oil tycoon named Daniel Plainview, played brilliantly by Daniel Day-Lewis. He won the Oscar for his portrayal, and the film was nominated for Best Picture along with a ton of other things. I thought it'd be worth seeing, although I expected it to be dark.

This is a film that often shows moments of great sweetness and love, especially between Daniel and his son H.W. and between H.W. and Mary, a young girl he befriends while his father works out in California. However, most of the film concentrates on the dark side of Daniel, and his conflict with a shyster preacher named Eli Sunday (Paul Dano.) It ends with Daniel a rich but bitter old man who's rejected his son and any possibility of love or friendship in his life.

After I finished watching this movie, I felt spiteful, bitter and depressed. I as usual had fallen into acting like the main character of the movie. It's something I need to watch in myself, a tendency to fall into the mood of the movie. If I see a great action movie, I tend to be really pumped for a while, as anyone might. If I see an uplifting film, it can make me look at the world differently. But a dark film, one that denies hope for its main character or has a generally cynical attitude towards life, can leave me in the pits.

I think I just need to be aware of my sensitivities. I wish I could watch any film and if it was well-made, be able to enjoy it on its merit and feel good. However, if a film is dark, it often reminds me of that quote that Jesus said, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness." Very often our body and soul begin to react to what the senses take in: it makes it that much more important to search out beauty and hope in our art, as much as in our lives.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I went and thought I'd just watch the opening, then I ended up staying for nearly the whole thing and was happily surprised this year. One of the keys to the ceremony's success was Hugh Jackman. He brought humor as have others, but more importantly Jackman is clearly someone who loves the movies and loves being a part of them. That's something sarcastic funnymen like Jon Stewart, Chris Rock, and Dave Letterman lacked, and it's what made them awful and unmemorable hosts. It seems like the Oscars are more fun when hosted by someone who loves showbiz, and Jackman clearly does. Whether it was the brilliant opening recession-style medley or the over-the-top musical sequence with Beyonce, you could tell Hugh was loving every minute. And the joy, for me, was infectious.

It also helped that the speeches were very quick and often moving- did the orchestra have to drown anybody out even once tonight? I noticed at that they have a "Thank You Cam" feature, which may be a great tool in the future for keeping on-stage speeches short and then allowing extended personal tributes via webcam. I was especially impressed by Sean Penn's humility, and his bold support for gay marriage. Good show sir. I didn't get the reference to "commie homo-loving sons of guns," but I wonder if it's a reference to the "signs of hatred" that Penn said were outside the theater.

One casualty of the awards tonight was the Oscar clip: the nominee's 10 second bit of intensity from their film. Instead, we had 5 actors each give tributes to the nominees. I had a mixed reaction to this. It was heartwarming to see the interchanges, especially Shirley MacLaine's lovely salute to Anne Hathaway. It came off as quite genuine and you could tell Hathaway was shaking in appreciation. This year this was a fun novelty, but if it's done every year, it could become quite dull, especially in years where winners are dead certain. It worked this year though and made for some emotional moments.

The one constant problem with the Oscars, evident this year as in most others, is something that Will Smith managed to point out in the "action" sequence: no one in America can find about a third of the pictures nominated! It can be a challenge to find The Reader or Slumdog, though most cities have art theaters in some shape. However, the short films, and most foreign and documentary films are hard to find even here in New York! Hollywood needs to find a way to make these films available, or the categories will seem very irrelevant and continue being a lull in the broadcast.

However, the producers cleverly masked that lull by adding on big emotional movie montages: the "action," "romance," and "comedy" bits (brilliant job by Seth Rogen and James Franco) were great for making the obscure awards easier to sit through.

I hope next year Jackman returns and brings with him some way we can watch more of these films, whether through a post-nomination DVD compilation or some theatrical means. If these films deserves the Academy's recognition, then we deserve the chance to see them close to our homes.

Finally, did anybody note that the lighting award was removed this year? I suppose the producers felt it was better to replace it with one of those montages. I wonder what the lighting designers would have to say about that...