Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tis the Season for Giving!

The Indie GoGo fundraising campaign for my film, Guests of a Nation, has finally been launched! If you can spare a few bucks, any contribution would be incredibly appreciated!
Thanks for your support!

For more information about the film, visit our Facebook page:

To donate, click below:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Interview with the Godfather: Vampires and Mobsters

Ok, yes, I am procrastinating...again. But, at least this time I am procrastinating in the library, which is inherently better than procrastinating in my bed. Wouldn't you agreed?

Anyway, anyone who knows me at all well knows that I love vampires and all vampire-related things and I find the Mafia and all Mafia-related things fascinating. In terms of explanations for these obsessions, I really don't have one expect that they are both dark and scary, but kind of sexy. Of course, the Mafia is not actually sexy. It is just depicted that way in American media. And I could definitely get into all that at a later time, but not even I can procrastinate that much. I can, however, procrastinate enough to tell you how the Mafia is similar to Twilight. Yes, yes, it can and will be done.


1. Vampires are dangerous. So is the Mafia.

2. Both the Cullens and the Mafia are a family. However, neither is a family that one is born into. The Cullens must be made into vampires and then adopted into the family. In the Mafia, people are made, or make their bones, before they can become a real part of the the family. Once they are in the family, vampires become blood-thirsty killers and, well, kill people. The same goes for new members of the Mafia. Of course, the Cullens are 'vegetarians' and eat only animals. I'm pretty sure 'vegetarian' mafiosi don't exist.

3. Like in Stephanie Myers' breathtaking saga (=/), there exist many different factions of vampires. There are the blonde ones in Alaska and the British ones in Italy and the [spoiler] hybrid mutant ones in the Amazon and oodles more that the Cullens are not closely acquainted with. Similarly, the Mafia has lots of different families -- the Gambinos and the Bonannos and the Lucchese and oodles more in cities all over the US and abroad.


4. The Mafia follows an honor code which includes Omerta, or the vow of silence. They are not supposed disclose the business of the family to anyone outside of the family. Likewise, the Cullens must move every decade or so to keep their identity secret from the human world around them.

5. Finally, the Cullens are to werewolves as the Mafia is to the modern American Witness Protection Program. Hear me out; I thought of this one when I was watching In Plain Sight. In Twilight, werewolves are not always werewolves. Many moons ago, the vampires came to the area in which Jacob's ancestors were living. Because the vampires came and posed a threat to the humans, the Native Americans magically became werewolves to answer the call and protect people. Many times, this means hunting down and killing the vampires. The protective werewolves came into existence because of the proximity of vampires. Similarly, in the 70s, the FBI wanted to hunt down and imprison all the mafiosi. To do so, they needed witnesses, and WITSEC had to come into existence. The purpose, obviously was to protect people willing to breach Omerta and roll on family members. That is, the protective WITSEC came into existence because of the indictment of the Mafia, because, for witnesses, any proximity with mafiosi is a bad thing.

So there you have it, and explanation of the Mafia through the lens of Twilight, so that 12-year- old girls everywhere may gain a better understand of a major international crime syndicate. I should probably do my work now and try not to daydream about a Vampire-Mafia movie.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Evidence of Things Not Seen

The West Wing, Season 7 (not 4, okay, but I like this picture)

This morning, while enjoying some finals-season procrastination, I re-watched my favorite episode of one of my favorite TV shows: The West Wing, Season 4 Episode 19, "Evidence of Things Not Seen." In case you are unfamiliar with this episode, allow me to illuminate you.

This episode takes place on the night of the Vernal Equinox. It opens with Josh and Leo preparing for an office poker game, while CJ is trying to convince Josh and anyone she else she comes across that, at the exact moment (and it must be the exact moment) of the equinox, you can stand an egg vertically. Of course, she is met with rampant skepticism by everyone, especially Toby. Nonetheless, the episode begins with the picture of a perfect White House night off.

A ginormous wrench is thrown in when an un-manned spy plane crashes off the coast of Kaliningrad. The spy plane was taking spy pictures, as spy planes are wont to do, and President Bartlett is forced to call Russia and ask for them back. This proves to be a fairly difficult task because, well, you know those Russians... Meanwhile, Josh is occupied interviewing a candidate for the associate counsel position left open by Ainsley Hayes. Midway through the episode, some guy shoots at the White House, causing the West Wing to go on lockdown.

Like all other West Wing episodes, this one entwines layered inter-personal relationships, fast-paced conversions (sprinkled with words I don't quite understand) and down-to-earth, personable characters I feel I can relate to. This episode is my favorite because it combines all of my favorite things about The West Wing. Allow me:

1. It is the Matthew Perry's first appearance as Joe Quincy, a candidate for the associate counsel position that Josh (Bradley Whitford) has to interview. Since I did not catch Perry's post-Friends, Lifetime-esque movie, this is the only time I have seen him in a non-comedic role. He is subtly humorous, smart, and adorable in his back-and-forth with Josh. This episode is the first of two featuring Joe Quincy. I wish there were more.

2. It takes place in the post-Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) age of Will Bailey (Joshua Malina). It's not that I dislike Sam, because he is smart, funny, and fun to look at. But I prefer Will. He is geeky, yet confident with a healthy dose of sarcasm, something every member of Barlett's staff is equipped with. Will also begins in the Vice President's office, and because apparently in WW USA, VP and P are not BFFs, he often gets intelligently combative with the Barlett staff, which is very entertaining.

3. There is ample Josh/Donna (Janel Moloney) flirty banter. The sexual tension and unspoken love between Josh and his assistant Donna is one of my favorite things about this show, and this episode depicts it excellently, as Donna explains that Joe Quincy might be thought of as handsome by others, but not her, "because you're the only one I think is handsome." After the shots are fired, her joking manner quickly turns to concern for Josh, who had long suffered from PTSD. In a similar fashion, the relationship between Barlett and personal assisstant/son-figure Charlie (Dule Hill) is highlighted when Charlie bursts into the Oval Office, apparently after zealously overcoming several secret service agents, to make sure that the President is alright.

4. CJ (Allison Janney) is definitely one of my favorite characters on TV, ever. She witty, sharp, and adept at taking names in a man's world. She also has a certain element of whimsy and optimism, which sets her apart from the male counterparts. This episode displays that unique whimsy in the form of trying to get her co-workers to believe in the impossible -- getting an egg to stand on its head.

As I said, she faces no non-believer as rigid as Toby (Richard Schiff). This is one of the overwhelming themes throughout the show, which is also why this episode is, in my opinion, archetypal. Constantly, optimism must battle with cynicism, as the characters try to balance what must be done with what they wish could be done.

The writing and issues on the show keep the audience on a mental and moral high wire. If you haven't watched The West Wing, I highly recommend it, and when you get to Season 4, Episode 19, give me a call.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SUPER-Excited: Trailer of the Week

We all know I love Joss Whedon. We all know I love superheroes (or you do now). So, obviously, I am crazy excited for the upcoming Avengers movie.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I Object! the depiction of women in new lawyer shows.

Somewhere between my British TV kick and my SyFy TV kick, there was the Lawyer TV kick. You'll remember that two new lawyer shows came out over the summer. Actually, probably more did, but shut up -- I'm the blogger here. These two shows are particularly interesting because they are practically the same show.

They revolve around two hot, edgy, unorthodox, yet brilliant lawyers who have or form the perfect bromance while winning un-winnable cases. Yep, you guessed them! USA's Suits and TNT's Franklin and Bash. In the former, badass lawyer and cutie-pie Gabriel Macht takes fake lawyer and mini-cutie-pie Patrick J. Adams under his wing at a plate glass law firm in New York. In the latter, hetero-lifemates Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar join a cushy law firm in Los Angeles, where their frat-boy demeanor never stops them from winning a case.


At first, I was really impressed with these shows because they had women -- even women of color -- holding high ranking and seemingly significant positions. But, as I kept watching, I became more and more unimpressed.

Enter, The Good Wife. The Good Wife is an awesome show, currently in its third season, about Alicia, played by Julianna Margulies, who goes back to work at a big law firm after her politician husband is caught in a sex scandal. On The Good Wife, the main character is obviously a woman. One of the name partners in her firm is also a woman, played by Christine Baranski, as is the firm's investigator, Kalinda, played by Archie Panjabi.

Now, I'm no expert, but this is the first time I have seen an investigator play a vital role on a lawyer show. Seeing how well that worked out for The Good Wife, the others followed suit. And hey! Apparently all investigators are women! It's like they said, "See how important and indispensable Kalinda is. Well we have one and she's a woman too! Look, feminists -- important. indispensable. woman." And on F&B, she's even black! Yep, that will distract us from the bikini clad asses you zoom in on. Who cares if your main characters are misogynists -- you have a black chick.

On F&B, a high ranking member of the firm is played by Gabrielle Beauvais. Likewise, a name partner on Suits is played by Gina Torres (hmmm...I blog about Gina Torres a lot). And that is great. Images like these in the media make people recognize powerful women as normal. But it's not that great because, on both of these shows, these powerful women are just tools for the men on the show.

Again, Woah.
And...does it seem to anyone else that these shows are bundling their minorities so their main characters can still be white men?

Yes, if you met these women in real life, you'd never dare to question their authority. But you won't meet them in real life because they aren't real. As important as their positions in the diegetic world of the show may be, their depiction on the show is more important. On Suits, Gina Torres is badass, but she is still a means to an end for the male characters. Gabriel Macht is lagging so she whips him into shape so that he can go forward and win the day. The audience needs to know that he isn't completely cold-hearted, so he expresses his loyalty and gratitude to her. Suits also features a black female paralegal Rachel who, while better developed, does much the same thing for Patrick J. Adams as Gina Torres does for Gabriel Macht. PJA needs help so he can win the day, so Rachel goes into mega-research mode for him. Etc. Etc.

Likewise, on F&B, Gabrielle Beauvais sleeps with Bash (or was it Franklin?) in the first episode. I don't have a problem with women being promiscuous, because I call it being comfortable with sexuality. I have a problem with her promiscuity being a plot point and, consequently, a means of tension between two other male characters. And after a whole season, I know that she doesn't take shit (because she practically told me) and that she slept with Bash (or was it Franklin?) after dating the other lawyer. That's all I know about her. The black female investigator plays more of a role, but she is still unsatisfying.

Now, let's hear it for The Good Wife! Not only is the main character a smart, sexy, confident woman, but a couple of the supporting characters are smart, sexy, confident women too! And I know that because they have their own storylines. They actually make decisions for themselves and have unique voices, rather than cookie-cutter personalities. On this show, even Alicia's daughter, at 15ish, is a great character. She opinionated and open-minded.

Not only does The Good Wife have great female characters, but Kalinda is also bi-sexual. This depiction of a LGBT woman is getting props all over the place.

So, if you just love lawyer shows, tune into The Good Wife and, in the summer, pick Suits over Franklin and Bash. At least you won't hate yourself.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Little Anarchy: Trailer of the Week

I don't know a lot about punk rock, but The F Word looks really good.
It makes me wonder if Will Smith ever thinks he just don't understand.... (clever, right?! I know)

I Laughed...I Cried

The other night, I was doing some homework and participating in some good-natured procrastination. And somehow, I was simultaneously reminded of how much I love film and how much I hate a lot of current Hollywood. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not one those film buffs that thinks every commercial endeavor is crap. I like artless, shoot-em-up movies and predictable romantic comedies as much as the next gal. But there are some things that I hate (hate hate hate). In addition to snakes, mice in my bed, and natural disasters, I hate pointless remakes and book butchering.

We'll start with the former...I'm sure that you have heard about the remake of Footloose coming out. Why you would remake Footloose is a mystery, but why you would make it exactly the same is original is simply unfathomable. Yes, there are only so many original stories floating between studios. And when the stories run out, you must reuse an old one. Accepted. But, for pete's sake, do something new! For instance the recent Hairspray is, of course, a remake of John Waters' Hairspray, but the two films are very different. The original is edgy, with a lot of sexual humor, while the new one is pop-ish pulp. Footloose is not re-imagined. It just re-filmed. Observe:

Coming blood-curdling remakes include Taps and possibly The Thin Man. I'm angry enough about Taps, but I pray that The Thin Man never ever gets a reboot. There should never be another Nick and Nora Charles. Ever.

And the later...I feel the need to warn you that the following will be a passionate rant, which you may or may not appreciate. I can't keep it bottled up. While on a break from reading, I indulged in one of my favorite methods of procrastination, watching trailers, and I came across this one for One for the Money:

This movie is based on the first book of one of my favorite series -- Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. It is about an out of work Jersey girl, who takes a job as a bounty hunter in a pinch. Queue shenanigans. The books are hilarious and completely evoke what it is to be "Jersey." And now it's being turned into a crappity crap movie starring Katherine Heigl. Even if I didn't strongly dislike Katherine Heigl (which I do, becasue, well, she's Katherine Heigl), she couldn't play Stephanie Plum. Her impression of a Jersey Girl is horrible and kind of insulting. Beyond that, none of the characters were cast correctly, especially the 100% Italian American McSteamy cop Joe Morelli, who will be played by Dublin native Jason O'Mara. It's a damn shame... Ok, I'm ok. I'll cool it.

But then, every once in a while, like those moments when you see an adorable little kid being adorable and you think that the world may not suck, I see something that makes me remember why I love movies so much. This time, it was examining the pure artistry that goes into different aspects of filmmaking and learning to appreciate the parts that aren't film at all, like the sound design. Sound design didn't really come up until the 70s, the first sound designer being Walter Murch, who worked on The Conversation in '74 and Apocalypse Now in '79, among others. Those are probably two of the most famous sound designs and I never really appreciated them. The things that sound designers mix together that most audience members will never notice is amazing. For instance in the final scene of Silence of the Lambs, Skip Lievsay increases the intensity by adding a low wolf growl under the other effects while Clarice is walking into Buffalo Bill's basement. You don't hear it but you feel it. And the sound designer for Star Wars, Ben Burtt, mixed the Tibetan, Mongolian, and Nepali languages to recreate "Ewokese." Would you think of that? Neither would I.

Things like these remind me of the artistry and innovation that has gone into films. Even if there are remakes of already mediocre movies or the slaughter of good books, there are also the classics and the wonderful new films that creep through. It's a beautiful thing. And it makes me thankful that I am (1) a film buff and (2) not planning to make a career in Hollywood.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Congratulations to Downton Abbey for winning 4 Emmys!!!
Outstanding Miniseries, Outstanding Directing, Outstanding Writing, and Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role for Maggie Smith.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Weathly and The Help: Downton Abbey

Lately, I've been into a very specific genre -- film and television (mostly television) that juxtapose the wealthy and their help. Whereas in many films/TV series, the upper and lower classes pass in and out of each others' lives, work together, etc., these people live together. They are constantly entwined in each others' lives, and yet always separate.

There are few aspects that usually appear in these films/TV shows. There is always a matriarch who holds onto the traditional ways, mostly those of being haughty, while a younger member of the aristocracy tries to mix with the lower class, either for fun or genuine interest. Many times, the aforementioned matriarch is played by the great Maggie Smith. Usually, there is also some sort of scandal in the aristocracy that inevitably must be cleaned up. In general, those in the lower class are nicer, although there are always the evil, conniving ones, while those in the upper class are either flaky, coarse, or stifled, showing that it ain't easy to be rich.

In my "research" I have found a few particularly good examples: Gosford Park, 2010 British Miniseries Upstairs, Downstairs, and my personal favorite, PBS Masterpiece Downton Abbey.

Downton Abbey is particularly interesting because it deals with many different issues. It's about with the family and estate of Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), who is married to an American (Elizabeth McGovern), and has three daughters and a bevy of servants. While "His Lordship" is relatively kind and always gives a hand to a friend in need, regardless of his station, his mother (but of course, Maggie Smith) insists that everything always be as it always was.

The first episode takes place on April 16, 1912. Anyone? Anyone? Right! -- the day after the Titanic sank. Soon we learn that (1) the family's cousins died on the ship, (2) that the eldest daughter was betrothed to the eldest cousin (erk), and (3) that this now means that the family fortune will go to another distant cousin, possibly leaving the daughters with nothing.

The last episode of the first season takes place on the day that England enters World War I. Throughout the season, the family and their staff have to deal with matters of inheritance, the heart, and social and political changes. Said distant cousin, aka Cousin Matthew, turns out to be a working class lawyer, who serves as a bridge between the upper class and the audience, as the customs of the aristocracy are as foreign to him as they are to us. Eventually, the youngest daughter gets into politics and women's rights, egged on by the family's new chauffeur, an Irish socialist. Perhaps, that could lead to dealings with the Irish War of Independence that we all know is coming in 1919. (cough - Guests of a Nation - cough. Ahem, sorry, itchy throat) Meanwhile, of course, there are a series of hijinks related to a dead Turk, scheming sisters, and the race to wed.

Through all this, in the bowels of the mansion, the servants are working away to make sure the house runs smoothly. They have to deal with their own relationships, whilst acting as surrogate family members to those above deck. What I thought was interesting was how some of the servants, particularly the butler, feel no resentment towards the family, indeed feeling a genuine connection instead. If the family is hurt, the staff feels the pain as well.

But if none of that interests you, watch it for the clothes. Oh, the clothes! The aristocrats' wardrobe will have you salivating. The style on this show is impeccable and the ornate dresses and jewelry the women wear are enough to send you reeling.

For all interested parties, both Gosford Park and Downton Abbey, Season 1, are on Netflix.

Film Thought

Which Cagney movie has Panama Smith in it? Hmmm [IMDb lookup] Oh, The Roaring Twenties -- that's the one where he dies in the end. Oh wait, he dies in The Public Enemy...and White Heat...and Angels with Dirty Faces......Ouch

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Whole Movie in Two Minutes! Trailer of the Week

The trailer to The Double, starring Richard Gere and Topher Grace. Yes, it seems like whole movie is jammed into this trailer, but at least it's exciting!!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Blog!

I recently, and by recently I mean ten minutes ago, started a new blog documenting the trials and successes that I experience on the road to being an adult. I will not, however, be neglecting this blog, especially since I am, at the moment, much more interested in movies than being an adult. Nonetheless, the new blog is gonna be good, so check it out!

The First Female Filmmaker

Yesterday in Editing class, I learned about Alice Guy Blache, who I had never heard of before. She was not only the first female filmmaker, but she also ran a film studio, The Solax Studio in Fort Lee NJ. Apparently (or, so my teacher told us), back in the day -- the day being the beginning-ish of filmmaking, circa 1910 -- anyone could make a film. Much like today, if you had a camera, you could be a filmmaker, no sweat. That is, until Hollywood monopolized movies in the 20s. Before that, people like Alice Guy Blache could make films easily. She made hundreds of short films over her career, though only a fraction of those remain today. I look forward to researching her further. And when I know more, so shall you. But for now, just enjoy her short film, Algie the Miner (also, plausibly the first depiction of a gay character).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A 21st Century Silent Film: Trailer of the Week

Trailer for Cannes breakout The Artist, starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, and James Cromwell.

In Other News...

My dad and I went to see Cowboys and Aliens (genre mash-up!) the other day. It was not horrible. The genre is both hindered and made more interesting by the fact that people in the Wild West haven't even the dialogue to comprehend aliens. This effort, however, bit off more than it could chew and seriously over-plotted. While there may be potential, I think the western/sci-fi hybrid has a ways to go.

And, sadly, Eureka got cancelled :(

Martha Marcy May Marlene and Me

This past week, I went to an advanced screening of Martha Marcy May Marlene. For months, the film world has been aflutter with news of this festival darling. It is one of the few films to be screened at the "Big 3" -- Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto (September 8-18).

Martha Marcy May Marlene is about a young girl, Martha, who escapes an abusive, cult-ish "family" and moves in with her sister and brother-in-law. Transitioning from the communal community that promoted living in the moment, to the excessive home of a yuppie couple proves extremely difficult for Martha, who went by Marcy May and Marlene in the cult. The title of the film describes it perfectly in that Martha and Marcy May/Marlene, two very different people, are bonded together. At all times, each one is trying to push the other out, but remnants of a past life are constantly forcing themselves into the present.

The film, written and directed by newb Sean Durkin, stars fellow novice Elizabeth Olsen. Upon entering the scene, Olsen was identified as the younger sister of twin moguls Mary-Kate and Ashley. However, after this film opens commercially, I very much doubt that her only claim to notoriety will be her famous siblings. Beyond "solve any crime by dinnertime," this was one of her first films and it was one of the best (if not the best) performances I've seen all year. Olsen flawlessly evokes the pain, embarrassment, and inner-conflict of Martha, and the confusion, devotion, and trepidation of Marcy May. Her performance is multi-faceted and refreshing.

Equally accomplished is Sean Durkin's screenplay and direction. In a Q&A after the screening, Durkin said that he researched several cults, including but not limited to the Manson Family, in preparation for this movie. The film is both believable and jarring. Due to brilliant editing and organization, the story moves seamlessly from the present to the past and back. Sporadically throughout the film there are episodes which may or may not be hallucinations. In the Q&A session, Olsen praised the film becasue "everything's left up to interpretation. Nothing's spoon-fed to you." Though this uncertainty upset some of my fellow audience members, it intrigued me because it added another element of mystery to an already unfamiliar situation.

Martha Marcy May Marlene, which also features Hugh Dancy, Sarah Paulson, and John Hawkes, is an excellent film and a launching pad for two very bright careers. I would especially keep an eye out for Ms. Olsen, who has several more titles coming out in the near future.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Ledendary Senna

Earlier this week, I attended an advanced screening of the new documentary Senna. This film, directed by Asif Kapadia, depicts the career of arguably the best driver in Formula One history, Ayrton Senna. Of course, some of the impact of this film is lost on those who do not follow F1 racing, and even more on those who, like myself, don't really know the difference between F1 and Nascar. However, it is a testament to this film that, even without any prior knowledge or interest, I was able to connect with and find inspiration in the documentary.

This documentary is a masterpiece. It is constructed like a fictional piece. There are no talking heads; Kapadia uses the audio of interviews over archival footage. The amount of footage collected for this documentary is amazing as is the variety of sources, from news footage to home videos to in-car footage that shows the audience exactly what Senna saw as he was driving. These combined factors made the film captivating; the unique footage was incredible and the lack of face-to-face interviews never disconnected the audience from the story, which talking heads often do.

I also say that the film is similar to a fictional piece becasue it does so much to build the character of Ayrton Senna, so that an audience of non-racing fans have something to grab onto. Senna, who looks like the test-tube baby of Tom Hardy and John Cassavettes, is an ambitious young driver from Brazil. Kapadia puts special emphasis on the relationship between Senna and his frenemy and foil, fellow racer Alain Prost. When Prost is all about playing politics, Senna is all about the racing. They begin as friends then turn into nemeses and finally seem to end up at a healthy "shaking hands and smiling for the crowd." It's a thread throughout the movie, a friend/rival relationship that we can all relate to.


Kapadia depicts Senna as a benevolent Achilles-type character. He travels around the world, but never forgets his roots. To the people of Brazil he is a hero, a glimmer of joy in a tumultuous political and social period. In his career, he always strives to be the best and almost always achieves his goals. But like Achilles, he eventually begins a race that he knows he may not finish (in that particular race, there had already been three accidents and one death due to new F1 vehicle regulations). And like Achilles and his un-dipped heel, Senna dies in a horrific crash with only one injury--a blow to the head, which would have been harmless had it hit six inches higher or lower. The similarities between the Greek legend of the battlefield and the Brazilian god of the racetrack are striking. When Senna gets in the car for the final time, you know he is not going to get out. And when he dies, you feel as though the world has lost a hero.

And this is from someone who knows nothing about racing...

A Period Piece with Vibrators: Trailer of the Week

Trailer for Hysteria starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Rupert Everett, and Jonathan Pryce

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Silent Magic of Sherlock Jr.

Last week, after a long day at work and a strenuous workout (due to the fact that it was my first in eons), I decided to take the advice of a magazine doctor, whose article I once read while in Sleepy's. He said that, in order to have a good night's rest, I should tell my body to calm down by drinking tea and and watching a movie to relax. Sounded good to be, so I got some tea and combed through Netflix. I came upon Buster Keaton's 1924 masterpiece Sherlock Jr.

I didn't know what to expect, because even being the cinephile that I am, I sometimes find silent films tedious. And, before this, my only Buster Keaton experience was Johnny Depp's impression in Benny and Joon. But this was fantastic! It was understated, sweet, and seriously funny.

I very much enjoyed Buster Keaton. His comedy can definitely be described at slapstick, but he makes it more than that. The jokes in the film, physical and otherwise, seemed smooth and natural, like dominoes, each action setting off the next in perfect time.

In the film, Keaton's character falls asleep and slips into a dream world. The sequence in which he is first in the dream is cinematic magic, the way cinematic magic was meant to be. Keaton double exposes the film to make a ghostlike version of himself climb out of his sleeping body. Today, we would do it with a computer without thinking twice. Then, he walks into the movie theater (he is a projectionist) and steps into the screen to interact with the characters. It's funny, beautiful and clever. In a world where entire films are made using green screens, this was a refreshing reminder of the pioneers of this industry we all hold dear.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Film Review: The Devil's Double

We all know the name Saddam Hussein. The name reminds my generation of a conflict that has engulfed much of the world for almost half of our lives. For others, it brings back memories of not only this war but also another in the early 90s. Much less known is the name Uday Hussein, Saddam’s eldest son. However, some say that Uday was just as dangerous, a veritable psychopath who played with anyone he chose. Uday became notorious for brutally punishing his friends, girlfriends, and even athletes who failed to perform. People closest to him report watching him rape and maim women on multiple occasions.

Enter Latif Yahia. Due to his resemblance to the President’s son, the Iraqi soldier was chosen to be Uday’s body double. As such, Latif had to melt into Uday’s life, not only bearing witness to Uday’s psychotic behavior without the power to stop it, but also becoming Uday in the public sphere. The new film The Devil’s Double, directed by Lee Tamahori, starring Dominic Cooper, and based on Latif’s book by the same name, tells the story of Latif’s life as Uday’s “twin brother.”

You may remember Cooper from Mamma Mia (2008) and The History Boys (2006). In this film, he plays three roles: Latif, Uday, and Latif pretending to be Uday, which is another character all together. For Cooper, this role was a huge jump from his past roles of brooding bad boy or jet-skiing golden boy, so I was skeptical at first. However, from the opening credits, it was clear that Cooper had risen to the challenge and that this would be a career-making performance. His portrayal of Latif is accomplished; his portrayal of Uday is outstanding.

One of the first scenes depicts Latif being delivered to Uday at his palace. The two stand face to face, one laughing manically like a hyena, the other staring soberly in disbelief. From there, Latif is jailed, beaten, forced to get plastic surgery, and made to relinquish all rights to his former identity. Much of what happens in the film seems over the top and extremely exaggerated. Uday disembowels his father’s friend at a party. The next morning, his henchmen dump the strangled body of a 14-year-old girl he had picked up as she was walking home from school. Later, he rapes and beats a woman on her wedding day, shaming her so greatly that she jumps off the balcony, dying on the patio in the middle of her waiting wedding reception.

These things may seem exaggerated, but, in fact, Uday’s actions are toned down for the movie. In the film, Latif survives two assassination attempts on Uday. In actually, he survived more than ten. In an interview with Latif after Uday’s death, he says that he once watched Uday mutilate a woman until she was a “hunk of meat.” Sadly the horrors in the movie pale in comparison to reality.

The world into which this film takes you is terrifying. In many films in which the content is foreign to Americans, the director must establish the rules of the environment, so that the audience can understand the gravity of what is happening. In this film, Lee Tamahori establishes that there are no rules, and that is why Latif’s world is so terrifying; accountability for Uday is virtually nonexistent with no safe haven for those he wishes to harm.

Latif’s is an amazing story and Tamahori’s is a wonderful film. Go see for yourself.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Genre Mash-ups

In any film analysis class, you learn about genres. Indeed, most people can discern different genres without ever having taken a single film theory class. There is comedy, drama, action, science fiction, etc. Each genre adheres to specific cinematic canon. For instance, horror movies are darkly lit, often use shadows, and always have those pesky noises on the porch that need to be investigated. For more details, see the Scream series and/or (preferably and) the short film above. In that same film class, you also learn about the genre mash-up which, in my text book, has a more a sophisticated and less Glee-inspired name, but, alas and alack, my textbook is in my room and I am on a Boltbus. Genre mash-ups, as I am sure you have guessed, are films that synthesize two or more genres and create a new type of movie. This is why we have been graced with the rom-com and the action/thriller. This is why Murder on the Orient Express + I Love You, Man = Guy Ritchie's bromantic mystery dramedy Sherlock Holmes.

I have been pondering this concept of the genre mash-up since I saw the fascinating Takers. I have finally written about it because it seems that there are a lot of new genre mash-ups coming out. The genre mash-up originated because using just one genre got tired. Now, that has happened again, and new mash-ups are being born. Of course, the most obvious never-before-seen mash-up is Jon Favreau's upcoming Cowboys and Aliens. I am not, however, going to discuss this movie because it seems extremely clear-cut: Tombstone + Independence Day = Cowboys and Aliens. I am not passing judgement before I see it because it may seem dumb, but it is new and I have faith in Jon Favreau. I'm just waiting to see if the genres mix like water and oil or water and Crystal Lite.

Other upcoming genre mash-ups include The Myth of the American Sleepover and John Carter. The Myth of the American Sleepover is a neo-John Hughes tale of adolescent trails in love and friendship, although it seems not to have any sing-alongs or adventures through air ducts. Indeed, it seems to capture the Hughes-esque insight into the American teenagers, but apply it to real teenagers -- ones that do not cut school to galavant around Chicago or get picked up in red convertibles. As such, and indieWIRE article called it John Hughes by way of Cashier du Cinema. Sounds good to me.

John Carter is even more puzzling. Like the surge in comic book hero movies, there has also been a surge in movies based on ancient warriors of the Greek or Roman persuasion, starting with Troy and followed by Clash of the Titans, The Prince of Persia (aight, not Greek or Roman, but you get me), and added to by the upcoming Conan the Barbarian and Immortals. So, when I started the John Carter trailer, I was understandably disappointed. You see this guy lying in the desert, then deck out in Spartacus-type clothes (so very little clothes). But then, this poignant bluesy music chimes in. It seems that there are aspects of time and/or dimension travel with Conan-type heroism and alien activity somewhere in there. To say I am intrigued is an understatement. I don't think I have seen so many genres mixed since Star Wars, and I think its very interesting that they made this movie (with was based on a book) in the midst of the hero-with-sword cycle.

The final film I want to talk about is Takers, the film that started this whole thing. CAUTION: SPOILERS. So, you may remember Takers; you may not. It was that heist film with Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, Jay Hernandez, Zoe Saldana, that girlfriend-beater, that singer, and that guy with the amazing eyes. Anyway, pretty awesome cast, so why don't you remember it? Because it was a bona fide genre mash-up and, by the end, you're like WTF was that?! It was, first and foremost a heist film. It goes how many heist films go -- successful heist, unwelcomed crew member returns, greed, unsuccessful heist, sadness. In heist films, we expect to see some creative crime, and a variety of face coverings (president masks, nun masks, ski masks, etc), but bank robbers and the like are supposed to be the good criminals, so there is seldom outright brutal violence.

And yet, it did have violence, in a very action movie sort of a way. By that, I mean that there are random fighting scenes after which you say "that could have been solved by talking calmly." There are also hints of a buddy cop movie, since much of the film is devoted to the cops investigating the robberies, which is odd becasue the cops actually knew very little about the criminals and vice versa, so there was no Pacino/DeNiro frenemy situation like in Heat, just a good cop/bad cop team dealing with their own personal crap whilst in the middle of an investigation.

Finally, and this is the oddest part, the last genre added to Takers was one seldom used in films -- that of the Greek Tragedy. I comes out of no where. Of course, the seeds of hubris are there early, but still the extent of WTFness is unexpected. One guy betrays all the others, killing another in the crossfire. Then the two brothers -- GF Beater and Green Eyes -- return to their nightclub only to find it sacked and Green Eyes' girlfriend shot for no reason other than to hurt him. Finally they vow that they would never go back to jail and run out of the club and are riddled with police bullets. Of the remaining two, one is shot and the other is driving him to the airport, though we are left to wonder how two fugitives, one bleeding on the car seat would get through security. Little did they know that the brothers would not make the rendezvous. So no one -- not even the cops -- comes out alive and well. Tragedy.

Though they may be confusing and cumbersome, genre mash-ups can also be very interesting and compelling. Some of them work well; others flounder. But it's always a respectable attempt at trying something new. Perhaps this is that answer to the doldrums of modern Hollywood. At any rate, I greatly anticipate the new mash-ups the summer has to offer.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The End of Childhood...

At midnight, the final Harry Potter movie comes out in theaters. I saw the first one when I was 11, the same age as Harry when he figured out he had magical powers. I saw it in the small dingy theater in my hometown which closed not long thereafter. It was so shabby that I could see my own silhouette on the screen, as could everyone else in the front row. But that didn't take away from the magic of the film. I was enraptured and from the very first minute, I was hooked. Ever since then, I have look forward to the books and movies every year. Though I am not as fanatic as some people, I do consider myself to have grown up with Harry Potter, is friends, and the actors that play these enchanting characters.

Obviously, I saw each movie at midnight. It was like a reference point for a whole year of life. I saw the first one on a girl scout trip with my two best childhood friends. Now, I saw the last one in an advanced screening for my internship and I will see it again in Toronto with two members of my college family. Over the years, I have gone to midnight shows with all different friends, who had different boyfriends (never me, since I am learned in the art of repelling men), while in the midst of different fights and tensions. Much of the magic of my childhood was due to Harry Potter, but, at some point, all childhoods have to end.

My friend and I decided that exiting the HP7p2 theater means crossing the threshold into adulthood. To be kind, we also decided that we would consider the June 15th showing as the "real" one, after which we have to be "real" people. I doubt that, when I first heard that tinkering music, I thought that these stories would stay with me as they have. Although I'm sad to say goodbye, I am happy to have had them.

Thanks for the magic.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

There May Be Hope Afterall

A friend of mine recently suggested that I start watching the FOX show Raising Hope, which just ended it's first season. I was resistant because I didn't know much about the show and I bear an unreasonable dislike for Martha Plimpton. You'll find I bear a number of unreasonable dislikes, but I must say, my snap judgments are always negotiable. My unsubstantiated dislike of Ms. Plimpton made a quick 180 after watching the pilot episode of Raising Hope. I very much enjoyed her. In fact, the entire show is delightful! It is funny and fresh with characters that are interesting, likable, and accessible (and you know how I feel about accessibility). And! One of the unique characters on this show is played by Cloris Leachman -- and who doesn't love Cloris Leachman?! So basically -- watch Raising Hope! It's not going to challenge you intellectually or having you coming up with Dharma conspiracy theories, but it is some good family fare, a great supper time alternative to Family Guy.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I Think I Hated That Movie

Over the past month, I have found myself walking out of several movie theaters with my final commentary on the film being "I think I hated that." The most vivid instances of this disdain were after seeing The Tree of Life, Green Lantern, and the recent Hanks/Roberts collab, Larry Crowne. Unfortunately, these were all movies that I had to pay for (whereas many, I see for free through the internship). My mom suggested that it may be karma evening the scales. Whatever it is, I don't like it.

1. THE TREE OF LIFE -- I saw The Tree of Life shortly after is came out in Philadelphia. I had no real idea what to expect because it had done so well at Cannes, but, from watching the trailers, I could not figure out what the film was about. Then I learned that the reason for that was that the film is hardly about anything. It was artsy to the extreme. There were metaphors, whispered lines, and Sean Penn really earning his money by sitting in chairs and looking out windows. I must say that it was a beautiful film. It showed the full capabilities of film and utilized a new storytelling style. The cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, should be crowned king of cinematographers. The film is very high art, which makes it extremely inaccessible to most people, which explains the "ugh" reaction from half the audience. I didn't really feel for any of the characters, which severely lessened my investment in the film. Further, Malick suggested a whole bunch of metaphors that he never wrapped up or connected to the other storyline. For these reasons, I appreciated The Tree of Life, but strongly disliked it.

2. GREEN LANTERN -- I disliked The Tree of Life becasue it was high art, an acquired taste, you might say. Green Lantern, I disliked for it's lack of taste. For one thing, I severely dislike Blake Lively, in no small part because of her annoying blonde leggy-ness. However, my adoration for Ryan Reynolds outweighs said ill-feelings. Though Reynolds was delightful, the film in general was just "too." Too many special effects, especially when it seemed that Reynolds was doing a "head-in-the-hole" picture becasue his suit and the background were both computer generated, too much make-up on Peter Sarsgaard, making him look laughable rather than menacing (although he did the maniacal act well), too many hokey morals, like when fear is literally ruining the world and courage is the only solution, and finally, too many butt and boob centric (and work inappropriate) outfits for Lively. Although the same could be said for Reynolds, since the studio could have saved millions on special effects by simply painting Reynold's abs green. I know that this common fare for super hero movies, but so many comic adaptations -- particularly X-men and Batman -- have added a little something extra. I wish this had too.

3. LARRY CROWNE -- In the credits for Larry Crowne, I learned that (1) Tom Hanks directed it and (2) Nia Vardalos co-wrote it. I took these as good signs since I enjoy That Thing You Do and My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and it's always nice to see mentor-protegee type teams staying together. But then the movie sucked. The only thing I liked from it was the scenes of the Vespa-gang, which I thought was cute. However, the rest of it was kind of horrible. Almost every character was annoying, most of all Julia Roberts and GuGu Mbatha-Raw. Even Hanks, who was fairly likable, wasn't someone you'd want to be friends with in real life. Further, the entire film was completely improbable, from the 24/7 yard sale hosted by Cedric the Entertainer and Taraji P. Henson (the best characters in the movie), to Wilmer Valderrama feeling threatened by Tom Hanks, to the Hanks-Roberts coupling even though they had zero chemistry and no more than three conversations. This movie will probably fade and finally disappear forever, which would probably be better everyone.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Eureka, Fez, Eureka!

Yesterday, I started watching the Sci-Fi show Eureka. For a long time, I tried to avoid anything on the SyFy channel so as to keep the last shred of cool that I had intact. But, I finally caved and while I cannot see myself watching Stargate any time soon, Eureka was a pleasant surprise. If you enjoy shows like Pushing Daisies, Chuck, or Buffy, I would strongly suggest checking it out. Three seasons are on Netflix.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's been too long...

Holy crow, it's been a long time. I apologize sincerely for my absence. The past few months have been busy but very exciting. Allow me to take a moment to get you up to speed...

1. I turned 21! Yes, this past May, I entered the realm of the legally drinking. I had gone to bars in Italy, so I thought that it wouldn't be a big deal, but I was wrong. Turning 21 is like pulling back the big red velvet curtain that had been blocking your view for the first two decades of life. It opens up a whole new world of socializing and drinking. I can't tell you how illuminating it has been to go out and see that Philadelphia night life is not just North Philly house parties. It has made the chances that I would stay here after college rise significantly.

2. I got an internship! I have been looking for internships since my freshman year. I now realize I started too early, but that did not occur to me then. Anyway, now I have one, and it's one that I love. It is at the Philadelphia Film Society, which hosts the Philadelphia Film Festival. Yes -- FILM FESTIVAL!!! I am the co-volunteer coordinator for the festival and, being that we work in such a small office, I'm sure that I will learn tons of other things about the workings of a film fest. It's incredibly exciting. I also work with a completely awesome group of people -- interns and "real people" alike. For the summer, we have various events and screenings at which I also work and see films. So, in addition to my volunteer coordinator responsibilities, I am seeing movies for course credit. The only thing better would be if I were also moonlighting as an ice-cream taster.

3. I am producing a film! This is my first foray into production. Usually I try just to sit alone, scribbling screenplays, but my writing teacher suggested that I produce last year's project. So I am! My teacher got me in touch with other students to direct and help produce, so I'm starting out with a great team that will hopefully be patient with me as I muddle through role of 'co-producer.' Anyway, the film is called Guests of a Nation. It is based on Irish author Frank O'Connor's short story about Irish soldiers and their British captives during the Irish War of Independence. The story is beautiful and we're doing all we can to make sure the film is too.
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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring Break Playlist

Last week was my much-needed spring break. I was going to head down to Mexico for some fun in the sun, but then decided it would be more fun to stay at school and chill at home. Luckily, that gave me plenty of time to catch up on my movie watching. Between schoolwork, seeing old friends, and an extraordinary amount of sleeping, I watched the following films...

Happy Ever Afters (2009, directed by Stephen Burke, starring Sally Hawkins)
This quirky British film depicted two weddings -- one, a marriage of convenience and the other, the second wedding of a dysfunctional couple -- and the shenanigans that ensue when their receptions turn out to be in the same hotel. There is not a whole lot more I can say about this movie because it was not very good. It was definitely fluff, but it lacked even the mainstays of trash cinema, such as chemistry between protagonists, good jokes, or a discernible style. Thumbs down.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011, directed by George Nolfi, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt)
The Adjustment Bureau was a lot better than I expected it to be. It was about Matt Damon and Emily Blunt trying to beat the odds to be together -- and by odds, I mean supernatural dudes in suits who manipulate peoples' lives in order to keep them on a pre-destined plan. The film utilizes aspects of science-fiction, romance, and fantasy make the audience believe in the obstacles that the couple faces and the existence of the "Adjustment Bureau." The agents of the Adjustment Bureau are played by Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, and scary-as-shit Terence Stamp, among others. They have the ability to be transported miles simply by passing the threshold of a doorway. On screen, the effect itself looks really cool and it brought a whole new dimension to the chase scenes, as agents would defy the laws of nature and pop up any ol' place. The ending was a bit hokey, but acceptable. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt were adorable together. I think this is my favorite of Matt Damon's performances because he was smart, cute and absolutely lovable. A very enjoyable film.

Middle of Nowhere (2008, directed by John Stockwell, starring Eva Amurri and Anton Yelchin)
I caught this movie on TV, though it is on Netflix, and I'd my eye on it for a while. It is about Grace (Amurri), who teams up with Dorian (Yelchin) to deal drugs for the summer in order to make money for college. It also deals with Grace's family -- her train wreck of a mother (Susan Sarandon) and emotionally neglected sister (Willa Holland). The film worked through issues well and broke conventions by not having Grace and Dorian get together. It was unexpectedly good and presented well-rounded characters. I would certainly recommend it.

Red Riding Hood (2011, directed by Catherine Hardwick, starring Amanda Seyfried)
Well, it seems that Catherine Hardwick is carving out a niche for herself. Unfortunately, that niche seems to be teenage love triangles with a sprinkling of danger, accented with birds-eye views of forests. Red Riding Hood presents a new take on Little Red Riding Hood. It presents a voluptuous, all-growed-up Red flanked by two smokin' hot villagers vying for her attention. Said villagers are played by Shiloh Fernandez as the dark and continuously brooding Peter (and the Wolf, get it?) and Max Irons as equally-cute village golden boy Henry. Oh, and there's a wolf -- a werewolf that is terrorizing the village. The citizens, with the 'help' of Scary Gary Oldman, must then figure out who the wolf is before he kills everyone. The film starts out weak but gets stronger as the story progresses. It has a good cast -- including Billy Burke, Virginia Madsen, and Lukas Haas -- who all give good performances. The best part of this movie is the cinematography. It's lit and shot like an old story book, utilizing shadows, candlelight, and distinct colors. My favorite part was definitely the cinematography and set design. Verdict: wait for it to get to Netflix Instant Play.

Hunger (directed by Steve McQueen, starring Michael Fassbender)
I'm working on project about the Irish War of Independence, so my professor suggested that I look into this film. Although my piece and this film are set sixty years apart, many of the same issues appear in both. This film depicts the prison conditions in Northern Ireland and the treatment of convicted IRA terrorists (or freedom fighters). The film is artistic, poetic even in the way that it frames characters and holds shots longer than necessary. The film is shot with a lyricism that distinctly conflicts with the subject matter. Hunger pulls no punches with presenting the struggles of the prisoners, as they are brutally beaten and forced to lived, literally, in shit. In terms of narrative, the film is strange. It follows three storylines. The first introduced is of a prison guard. He says little to nothing, but still becomes familiar to the viewer. The second is of Davy Gillen, a new prisoner. Through him, the audience sees the lives of the average IRA prisoner. About half way through the film, his story abruptly ends and we pick up with Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), a seasoned prisoner who is preparing to begin a hunger strike. The rest of the film -- about a half hour -- watches Bobby deteriorate into a shell of a man and finally pass away. It is strange because the only complete story we see is the prison guard's. The others either end early or begin late. This is my major complaint because I wanted to know what happened to Davey and I wanted to know Bobby better. Fassbender was very good, and proved himself to be in the Christian Bale league because he lost 30 pounds, going down to 130 pounds to play the emaciated, near-death Sands. Overall, it was not a great film, but certainly very interesting for the subject matter and style.

Drive-In to Dine-In

In the past, Drive-In theaters were an average way to see new movies. Today, they are few and far between, but attractive for their simplicity and the sense of nostalgia they inherently exude. In contrast, Dine-In movie theaters are attractive for their luxury and may become a norm in the future...but I hope not.

As you may be have guessed, I recently lost my Dine-In theater virginity. I went to see The Adjustment Bureau with the parentals at a local theater, which was recently transformed into a luxurious Dine-In theater. Since I unfortunately have months before I turn twenty-one, we had to go to the "Fork and Screen" theater (rather than the super kushy "Cinema Suites," where alcohol flows like a river and each guest gets a private tray and a barcalounger; I imagine it was designed with a schematic of Heaven in mind). In this kiddie theater, there were four seats grouped together behind a common table, somewhat reminiscent of the setup at Medieval Times if you have ever had the pleasure of going there. The seats were nice; they were super comfy and reclined. All that was peachy.

The food was average. I had expected the food to be mediocre and over-priced, and that's what it was. For food from a movie theater, it was okay, but it wasn't movie theater food. That is, I would have preferred the classics -- popcorn, nachos, or possibly a hotdog -- to sandwiches and pizza margarita. Further, in order to have table service, one must also have waiters, who walk around and talk through the movie. I may be more sensitive that the average movie-goer, but that bugged me.

So, the Dine-In theater was a cool experience and nice as a treat, but I wouldn't make it a habit. For one thing, it was much more expensive than a regular theater and it disrupted my movie-going experience. When I got to the theaters, I want to gobble down popcorn and focus on the movie without distractions like servers or tea-lights on the table. So take it or leave it, but I'm pretty satisfied with the get-your-own-crap state of most of today's movie theaters.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Film is about art – art of acting, art of directing, and art of writing, among other things. Hollywood is about glamor. And one night a year, the epitome of Hollywood and film come together to celebrate the little golden man named Oscar. I love the Oscars. Let’s just get that out there. There are countless other awards out there for films nowadays, but it still holds true that it ain’t over til the fat lady sings and nothing sounds better before an actor’s name than “Academy Award Winner.” So let’s hear it for the Oscars. I enjoyed this year’s show very much and here are a few things I learned from this year’s Academy Awards...

1. Jesse Eisenberg is actually as awkward as Mark Zuckerberg.
I caught one of Jesse Eisenberg's interviews on the red carpet and realized that his portrayal of the socially inept Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network may not have been all that much of a stretch for him. His speech was hesitant just like his character in the film and some of his answers were just plain awkward. Even during the show, he often looked pained and rarely smiled. Why so serious, Jesse?

2. Kirk Douglas rocks.
Unlike Eisenberg, Kirk Douglas, who walked onto stage at 95 years old, was a hoot. He commented on Anne Hathaway's appearance, wondering where she was when he was making pictures, and on the reaction of the audience to the Best Supporting Actress reel, pointing out that Hugh Jackman was laughing, but Colin Firth was not -- he's English. Then, when it came time to announce the winner, he kept looking at the card and then making another comment to psych out the Supporting Actress nominees. He was simply delightful, a lively old man who has obviously not let a stroke or anything else get in his way. It was a tremendous treat to see him.

3. Dear God, I hope I look like Helen Mirren when I'm a senior citizen.
jk -- already knew that...

4. Technology never ceases to amaze me.

Mid-way through the show, legendary Oscars host Billy Crystal appeared to introduce another legendary figure and host, Bob Hope. Seeing as Bob Hope has been dead for some time now, this may seem impossible. However, the theater lights dimmed, an old-timey podium was rolled out and an film clip of Bob Hope at the Oscars was projected just above the podium, so that it looked as if he was standing there, addressing the crowd. I realize this is a fairly simple task of projecting a video, but the ingenuity and precision with which this was done was amazing. Following this marvel was the presentation of the award for best special effects, when films like Harry Potter, Inception and The Wolfman showed us just what magic Hollywood special effects technicians can make.

5. I love the memorial montage.
I apologize if this sounds morbid. I don't want to bum anyone out, but I really do love the memorial montage. I didn't just realize it this year; I watch it intently every year, but this year, I'm writing about it. The montage depresses me, but in a good way and it forces me to look to the past -- to the golden age of Hollywood and remember some of the figures that make cinema what it is. This year, Lena Horne, who became an inspiration to women of color everywhere when she broke racial barriers, was honored. Pioneer of the post-studio age, Easy Riders/Raging Bulls era Dennis Hopper was also included. Other figures we remembered this year were actor Tony Curtis, who I love, and director Arthur Penn.

If fact, I particularly like this year's Academy Awards because it focused so much on remembering and honoring Hollywood history. I suspect this was to ensure that, even with all the steps that were taken to draw a younger crowd (ex. Hottie McHosts), an appreciation and a respect for the past were not lost. This was especially evident through Kirk Douglas's appearance, the spotlight put on the Governor's awards, and the references to classic films such as Gone with the Wind. I remember thinking that last year’s Oscars were a bit boring, but this year’s were a success. Can’t wait for next year!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Just yesterday, my friend was telling me about viewing Guess Who's Coming to Dinner in her race class. This 1967 film was obviously groundbreaking in its depiction not only of an interracial relationship, but also of a black man who does not fit black stereotypes. However, over forty years later, "Where is equal racial representation in Hollywood?" is still a question unanswered. The New York Times published an article examining the dearth of diversity in this year's Oscar nomination party. You may want to check it out: