Saturday, January 31, 2009


Milk is probably the most inspirational movie I've ever seen. Definitely the most moving story I've seen in a long time, and also the best thing I've ever seen Sean Penn in. He is transformed in this. It's remarkable to see such a famous and recognizable actor disappear so completely into a role (and without the aid of scary clown makeup).

A lot of people are going to avoid this movie because of the subject matter, and that's a shame. Because this isn't a glorification of homosexuality, as I've heard some people complain. This is a celebration of a brave individual who wanted equal rights for ALL people.

This is the first of the five Best Picture nominated films that I've seen, so it's too early for me to have a favorite. But it's easy to see why this would be Ebert's pick.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar Blah-minations (Get It?)

Once again, the Oscar nominations do not fail to disappoint. Without seeing every movie nominated my opinion may lack perspective. But here it is:

Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

I'm thrilled to see Richard Jenkins nominated, if only because I love him so much in Six Feet Under (he was also terrific in Burn After Reading). Ben Kingsley would have been nice for his work in Elegy.

Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet - The Reader

Of all the movies nominated this year, Rachel Getting Married is the one I'm most disappointed I haven't seen yet. Again, I think Elegy and Penelope Cruz is sadly overlooked.

Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

I actually think Downey Jr.'s nomination is kinda inspired. It certainly isn't the kind of performance you see very often. Hoffman was excellent in Doubt. I'm pretty certain at this point Ledger will win. The amount of praise heaped on him at this point is almost at ridiculous levels. I certainly won't be upset by his win, though.

Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

I haven't seen Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and I haven't really heard anything about it that would make me want to see it. But if Cruz got her nomination for this and not Elegy, maybe there's something there worth checking out. If I remember correctly, Viola Davis is only in one scene in Doubt. But it is the most emotionally charged scene in the whole film.
Did I say Rachel Getting Married is the film I wanted to see the most? Make that The Wrestler.

Kung Fu Panda

There should be no doubt about who is taking home the Oscar here. Kung Fu Panda was very entertaining, but you can't touch Pixar.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - David Fincher
Frost/Nixon - Ron Howard
Milk - Gus Van Sant
The Reader - Stephen Daldry
Slumdog Millionaire - Danny Boyle

Great. I haven't seen a single one of these movies.

The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) - Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath
Encounters at the End of the World - Werner Herzog, Henry Kaiser
The Garden - Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Man on Wire - James Marsh, Simon Chinn
Trouble the Water - Tia Lessin, Carl Deal

I've seen Encounters and Man on Wire. Both good movies, I hope Man on Wire takes it.

WALL-E - "Down to Earth"
Slumdog Millionaire - "Jai Ho"
Slumdog Millionaire - "O Saya"

Clearly I think "Down to Earth" should win (Peter Gabriel, baby!). But one of those Slumdog songs will probably win. People are shitting themselves over that movie, and with two songs nominated it has the edge.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

This may be the first year ever I haven't seen any of the Best Picture nominees. Nothing I have heard or seen about Benjamin Button would have led me to believe it would garner so many nods. I'm going with Milk at this point, because it's the only one I've heard nothing but good about. Maybe I'll re-post after I've caught up.

I continue to grow more apathetic about the Oscars every year. The trend continues. None of the movies I really cared about this year were really represented. In Bruges rightfully picked up a Best Original Screenplay nomination, but I'm almost certain it won't win. I'm happy to see Doubt pick up as many as it did, but Elegy was completely ignored. I have severe doubts about Slumdog, Benjamin Button, and Frost/Nixon all being that great. But I guess I can't talk until I've actually seen them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The American Future

The most recent episode of Bill Moyers Journal has an interview with Simon Schama, creator of the fantastic BBC series, Power Of Art. He discusses his new book and series, The American Future: A History. It sounds great.

Underrated Movies: Zelig

Why have I not seen Zelig before now? Why hasn't everyone seen this movie? Where is its place on the lists of great comedies?

Zelig is one of the best Woody Allen films I've ever seen. Granted, I tend to find his movies a bit hit-or-miss, but this is one of the funniest things he's done. The humor is absurd in the best way. It reminds me of some of his brilliant published material like Getting Even and Side Effects. It's a mockumentary that predates This Is Spinal Tap by a year. It successfully transplants modern performers into vintage film footage well before Forrest Gump won acclaim for doing the same, and does so without advanced computer effects.

Zelig is delightfully silly. It's the story of a man who has developed the ability to transform himself to be more like those around him. If he is near a group of scientists, his behavior becomes that of a scientist, etc. He can also change his physical appearance, even mimicking various ethnic traits like skin color.

The movie is done in the style of a documentary. Since Zelig lived in the early part of the 20th century, much of the footage used is manipulated newsreel footage from the Depression through WWII. This is mixed with present day interviews with various scholars (Zelig came out in 1983).

I had heard of this movie before seeing it, but it isn't talked about nearly as much as some of Allen's other films. But What's Up, Tiger Lilly? is another one of my favorite Woody Allen movies, so I guess I tend to enjoy his less accessible work. I highly recommend finding this on DVD and checking it out, if you haven't already.

My Bloody Valentine 3D

If you're looking to have a good time at the theater than this is probably your best bet at this point. While all the studios are rolling out their deeply serious Oscar contenders, Lions Gate has released a movie that wants nothing more than to make you marvel at severed body parts that seem to fly right off the screen into your lap. What more could you want from a movie?

My Bloody Valentine never takes itself seriously. As far as horror movies go, it isn't terribly scary. It does contain almost everything you could possibly want out of a 3D horror movie. This digital 3D technology never ceases to amaze me. It's mostly been used in forgettable movies so far. But this movie uses it to the best effect I've seen. Yes, there is 3D nudity. That alone will be enough for some people.

My Bloody Valentine has a pretty dull story, but it never really matters. The movie captures the fun of walking through a haunted house. Characters and plot are really incidental.

Go with a group of friends and have a good time. I only hope that this technology gets transferred to the home market as soon as possible. It would be fun to watch this movie again, but without the 3D there really isn't a reason to.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Xavier: Renegade Angel

I recently got into the Adult Swim show, Xavier: Renegade Angel. It's an incredibly bizarre show about a wandering guardian angel.

Here's one of my favorite scenes from the first season:

You can watch all the episodes at Adult Swim.

Bloc Party - "One Month Off"

What childhood memory isn't vastly improved with explosions and senseless carnage?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm Officially Learning To Cross-Stitch

I've been thinking about this for a while, but now it's official. I'm going to learn how to cross-stitch. This is why:

I'll begin taking commissions this summer.

[via Boing Boing]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

January eMusic downloads:

1. Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
2. Beach House - Devotion
3. Son Lux - At War With Walls And Mazes
4. The Fireman - Electric Arguments

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas

Movies about WWII and the holocaust are about as rare as fresh air and sunshine. You begin to wonder if anything new can really be said about them. I know we need to never forget, but do we need to be hit over the head with the same story over and over? Show me something I haven't seen!

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, fortunately, is very original. The movie is subtle, and uses what we already know about the horrors of concentration camps to great dramatic effect. Everything is played off screen, shown in glimpses through the eyes of a young German boy who has no idea what terrible things are happening almost literally in his back yard.

It's an interesting twist on things to see the holocaust's decaying effects not only on the victims, but on the souls of those who were responsible for it. It's very well done. It's difficult to watch these movies, and sometimes it may seem easier to just skip it and watch something lighter. But this one is excellent, and deserves to be watched not just because it is important, but because it is so damn good.

Man On Wire

This is a great story about a guy who wire walked between the top of the World Trade Center towers. It's told partly through home movies, reenactments, and interviews with those involved. There is some odd footage at the beginning of the towers being built, with pieces slowly being crane lifted into the air. It's like watching them fall in reverse.

But the movie never even touches on 9/11. Instead, it's an amazing and whimsical story involving the buildings, that seems completely impossible except for the fact that it's so well documented. Phillipe Petit (the wire walker) is a charismatic storyteller, and some of the images are stunning. This is one of the best documentaries I've seen in a while.


Saw a few movies over the weekend. This was the first. Doubt is a simply excellent little drama. Phillip Seymour Hoffman has never been better. He can do more with less than anybody I can think of. Amy Adams was great. Meryl Streep is a little over the top. Her lack of subtlety next to Hoffman is a bit much. But she is otherwise excellent.

The script is very good, and has you flip flopping through the whole thing, ultimately leaving you with an appropriately ambiguous ending. Definitely one of the best movies of the year.