The Cabin in the Woods (2012) Review

The Cabin in the Woods
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchinson, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford
Directed By: Drew Goddard
Rated: R

Horror movies are a difficult genre to discuss. What’s scary and or entertaining for some is completely lost on another person. The stuff that will scare me in a horror film isn’t necessarily the same thing that will scare another person. What makes a horror movie typically memorable though is when it takes the conventional horror we are used to and flips it on it’s head. “Scream” took the tired slasher genre and made it’s audience and characters self aware of genre rules and tropes. The “Saw” franchise took the psychological thriller aspect of horror and added a twisted torture aspect not predominately apparent in most horror. “Cabin in the Woods” attempts this same kind of genre revision with the campy horror films where teenagers party in a cabin in the woods and are killed one by one by a malevolent force.

While I probably won’t go into heavy spoilers, it’s best to see the movie as fresh as possible. (Don’t watch the trailer, don’t listen to people talk about etc. and you’ll get maximum enjoyment out of it.)

The movie begins like most horror movies you’d expect them to. A group of friends are about to head out for a weekend of debauchery, sex, and a break from school. There’s the main girl Dana (an extremely cute Kristen Connolly), who had an affair with a professor that ended badly, Jules, her best friend whose dating Curt (an unrecognizable Chris Hemsworth), a football player, and his friend Holden, whose a potential set up for Dana. There’s also Marty, the classic sarcastic stoner. All of them fit a typical horror movie trope for a slasher or cabin in the woods genre horror movie. (The main girl, the whore, the jock, the nerd, the stoner) except theres a twist in this case. The opening also showcases two men (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) who are working in a mysterious lab that is actually surveying and controlling every move of the five teens. This side subplot gradually unravels itself and makes it the unique, fun aspect of the film that separates it from being a run of the mill horror film and a genre reinvention.

Like when Scream made the characters self-aware of the idiotic decisions people make in horror films and yet still follow the conventional slasher format, it was a breath of fresh air into a tired genre. Cabin in the Woods attempts to do the same thing and eventually throw everything but the kitchen sink into a mishmash of horror genres and tropes into an unexpected, over-the-top love letter to horror film fans. The movie does start off shaky but is refreshing to see such typical characters be unlike their typical horror roles and eventually slide into the cliched stock characters we are used to seeing. The real fun of the film is Jenkins and Whitford’s characters who are sarcastic, juvenile and in charge of the bigger side plot and an absolute joy to watch making bets on, and commenting on the film while it is going on. It’s almost like watching The Evil Dead with commentary by writer Joss Whedon and director Drew Godard. Jenkins and Whitford are the highlight but Kristen Connolly is a serviceable scream queen and a pleasure to watch on screen and carries the film well. Hemsworth is very good as the jock, Curt and easy to see how he would eventually become a star (this film was shot in 2009) but unfortunately doesn’t get the deserved screen time but it works for the story in the long run.  Fran Kranz as the stoner, Marty does fine and what he is supposed to in the role but for me became too much of a caricature of whom his character was supposed to be.

Don’t watch Cabin in the Woods expecting scares or even a typical horror movie but instead a mish-mash of genre elements from the past 30 years blended into a horror-comedy cocktail served to please the likes of most nerds and fans of the genre.

RATING: 8/10

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American Reunion (2012) Review

American Reunion
Starring: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Sean William Scott, Mena Suvari,
Eddie Kaye Thomas, John Cho, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy
Directed by: Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg
Rated: R

While not the same age as the characters, I grew up watching the “American Pie” cast grow up from senior prom to college to marriage and now the high school reunion. I can honestly say that I wasn’t too concerned about the future of Jim and the gang and needed to see what they have been up to. Unfortunately I did, and one thing it does capture correctly is being reunited with people from high school that you would have been better off never running into again.

Jim, Finch, Oz, Kevin and Stifler (Jason Biggs, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas and Sean William Scott) are all stuck in ruts in their early 30’s adult lives and decide to get the old gang back together for their 13 year old reunion (according to the film, the school couldn’t get their shit together and missed the 10 year. (*cue eye roll*) Yes, Yes I’ll admit it, I laughed myself silly watching “American Pie 2” and “American Wedding” in High School even though I didn’t particularly care for the original although I understood it’s cultural impact. It was a teen movie for a new generation of teenagers. Then I grew up and while I can still appreciate the childish gross-out humor I like to think my standards got a little higher which is less than I can say for the cast of “American Reunion” who is nearly all accounted for from the original “American Pie,” which begged me to wonder if they were all loyal to their characters or just in desperate need of some work.

I like think that underneath all the gross out gags and frat boy humor, the “American Pie” franchise still had a beating heart underneath with a message in each film about adolescence and growing up. The original was leaving high school and going to college, the second was the stress of facing adulthood after college, and the third was finally getting married and being an adult. Now that the trilogy wrapped up all we are left with is 30 something year old men who still act like high school boys and have seemingly never grown up which makes for more of a depressing study of middle aged men than a laugh out loud raunchy comedy. Moments that could have been more acceptable in the college and high school years like vandalizing and destroying young kid’s jet skis and partying with drunken half naked 18 year old girls now seem creepy and criminal than amusing. Besides many of the actors just phoning in their performances it doesn’t help that the screenplay by the “Harold and Kumar” scribes who also direct, give the main characters sitcom cliches to deal with that never make the rise above it’s juvenile roots and instead revert them back. Jim has a wife and child but him and his wife Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are both sexually frustrated after not having sex after the birth of their child. Stifler is stuck in a dead-end temp job working for an asshole nerd that is the type of person Stifler would pick on in High school, Oz is a sports show host who had an embarrassing run on a dancing with the stars type TV show, Kevin has an extremely hot wife but is reduced to being a housewife, and Finch returns home after supposedly being on a globe trotting adventure. Of course the series veteran,(including the direct-to-video sequels) Eugene Levy returns as Jim’s Dad featuring what could have been a mature step for the series in that his character is now dealing with his wife’s death, but is just as an excuse for Levy to meet Stifler’s Mom.

It sounds like I am being incredibly harsh on the movie but for a series that rejuvenated the R-Rated teen comedy, this film is a complete waste of time and effort and feels like nothing more than a cash-in by all the original stars. The jokes and gross-out gags no longer feel fresh or shocking. Like I mentioned before the cast is reduced to nothing but sitcom problems that are dealt with for the entire film and feel like they could be resolved in one simple conversation. Characters like Oz and Kevin are faced with prospects of their old high school flames and act completely immature and end up looking like complete tools instead of the once likable more moral characters of the original. An extremely awkward encounter of Thomas Ian Nicholas and his ex-love Tara Reid once again does the exact same storyline as the sequels where Kevin’s character immaturely can’t move on from Vicky and ends up accepting their friendship just like the previous films and ends with an extremely strange friendship between him, his wife, and Tara Reid. All the characters magically solve their relationship problems in the same sitcom eye-rolling fashion that shows that a troubled relationship or marriage just needs some sex or a brief conversation to miraculously solve all their problems like for Jim and Michelle whose bigger problem should be that they seemingly neglect and ignore their son in favor of being sexual deviants. Sean William Scott’s Stifler has long been a staple of the franchise but to seem him coast on his douche-bag personality and be in his 30’s, single, living at home and working a temp job should be more of a red flag and sign of an intervention from his friends. I would have actually believed or enjoyed it more if somehow Stifler had risen through the ranks to be a top snarky CEO than a depressing man-child.

Unlike the recent “21 Jump Street” which cleverly showed how older 20-somethings deal with being adults and how the high school that had carved their personalities has drastically changed in 2012, it’s more of the copy and paste bullshit that adds nothing new and doesn’t have any intention of going any deeper than dick and seamen jokes. What could have been a nice balance of raunchy comedy and drama of characters we know and love realizing that they are adult males in life crises would have been a far more satisfying movie. It’s a reunion that was completely unnecessary and seeing how they missed the 10 year made it less exciting than probably your own high school reunion. It is most interesting than a comedy that defined a generation has sunk so low into safe, childish, antics that we could care less about what was happening in the lives of the original cast. I am officially done with the franchise until they try a little harder, maybe something like “American Funeral.” All I know is that while I watched this in the theater, a man sat in front of me and every couple of minutes for the entire film, tried to open a message on Facebook on his phone but couldn’t due to poor reception. What was in that message he so desperately sought was more interesting and entertaining to me than a majority of “American Reunion.”

RATING: 3/10

“Let’s get the hell out of this movie.”

21 Jump Street (2012) Review

21 Jump Street
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Ice Cube, Rob Riggle
Directed By:  Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Rated: R 

 

There can’t be many television shows left to be adapted into big-budget Hollywood reboots can there? Maybe I’m speaking too soon. I was absolutely dreading the Hollywood reboot of the famed Johnny Deep teen cop-drama “21 Jump Street” especially since it starred Channing Tatum, who to me had the acting range of a cardboard box and Jonah Hill, who became weirdly skinny and I’d figure would suffer from Seth Rogen‘s problem in “Observe and Report.”

Well, well how surprised was I to walk out of “21 Jump Street” and thoroughly enjoy it. Not following in the footsteps in the sorta funny but not totally funny “Starsky and Hutch” but more in the style of the self-aware comedy of characters stuck in a different time period dealing with modern day like “The Brady Bunch Movie.” “21 Jump Street” succeeds on the chemistry of it’s two leads and well-written script that never goes overkill with it’s premise. The story is that in High School Jenko (Channing Tatum) was the typical jock/quarterback/big man on campus, while Schmidt (Jonah Hill) was the nerdy, outcast who had braces and bleach blonde Eminem hair. Being on complete opposite sides of the social spectrum, the duo reunite in the Police Academy and find a common ground when Schmidt is great at academics but needs help with the Physical training, while Jenko is in great physical shape but can’t past the exams. They become best friends and now cops/partners but after a botched arrest are sent to 21 Jump Street to go undercover as high school students to find the supplier of a new synthetic drug and caused a student to overdose and die, which is a major issue until I realized multiple characters took the drug and were perfectly fine afterwards.

The movie is nowhere near as bad as it could be, and actually excels at being a buddy cop action/comedy movie with the right amount of heart from its two leads.  Surprisingly, the chemistry and likablity of the relationship between the two leads is the best reason to see the movie. The movie also takes a nice twist on the buddy cop formula and instead of having two polar opposite fish-out-of-water characters learn to work through their differences, the script have them already as best friends who want to prove to themselves and other people that they aren’t screw-ups. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are both well cast in their roles and make fun of their typical movie personas. The movie also is a nice examination of modern day high school which has seemingly changed in the era of Facebook and Glee, where as Jenko and Schmidt had high school that’s traditionally remembered as being full of bullies and popular kids, the new generation of kids are more dangerous than ever, more conscious, unpredictable, and self-absorbed than ever before, the jungle of High School is now run by an entirely different breed of wild animals. Notice how Schmidt’s character is a nerd growing up, and is scared of failure but is heavily nurtured and loved by his parents, while the most popular kid/head drug dealer, Eric (Dave Franco) played with ample smugness has no parental guidance or authority and is full of self-confidence and entitlement. But, maybe I’m thinking too much into it.

Overall the movie doesn’t really add much to the now common satirical comedy of Buddy cop action movies. What I thought 2010’s “The Other Guys” did brilliantly was be a good buddy exaggerated version of the buddy cop movie without going overboard. “21 Jump Street” comes close to the same level and especially excels when in the high school scenes and accidentally have the two leads switch characters and essentially switch high school personas (Tatum hangs with the nerds, Hill hangs with the popular kids) however both of these characters had their own personal struggles in High School. The character of Schmidt wasn’t good with girls and was an outcast and got shut down for prom, while Jenko was the most popular kid but didn’t get to attend prom as prom king due to poor grades. Schmidt gets his redemption in the form of the love interest, Molly played with a surprising amount of sweetness and intelligence by Brie Larson. While Jenko takes a backseat and although he learns to appreciate nerds I never thought he got to have his moment in the sun, especially since the movie showed his popularity ruined his senior prom, and while the Jonah Hill-Brie Larson romance is extremely enjoyable although sometimes a tad creepy, Jenko’s character is given a love interest in the form of the the bubbly Ellie Kemper that never goes anywhere besides a few awkward scenes as his chemistry teacher. Many hilarious actors in supporting roles feel like they appear for a split second and don’t even extend the full potential of their comedic talents. Nick Offerman as a police chief, Jake Johnson as a principal, Chris Parnell as an eccentric drama teacher and the before mentioned Ellie Kemper are all reduced to minimal parts. Ice Cube as a stereotype embracing angry black police captain leaves a memorable mark on the film but disappears for long stretches and Rob Riggle as the school teacher has one or two short memorable scenes including the film’s funniest scene reminiscent of “Old School’s” blowdart sequence. 

The film leaves the door open for an unnecessary sequel and also suffers from the overlong third act that reminded me of “Pineapple Express” which made an awkward leap from raunchy comedy to gory R-rated action sequences. “The Other Guys” had a short, satisfying ending action scene that tied up things nicely. I’m not sure how other people feel but bloody gunshot wounds especially an unnecessarily violent injury to the film’s main villain felt excessive.

The film is far from perfect, but was a breath of fresh air in the R-rated comedy and TV show reboot genre. If anything, I now take Channing Tatum seriously as a legitimate actor and that if anything, is an accomplishment worth noting.

RATING: 7/10

The Hunger Games (2012) Review

The Hunger Games
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Elizabeth Banks,
Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz and Donald Sutherland
Directed by: Gary Ross
Rated: PG-13 

Like it or not, The Hunger Games is succeeding the popular and finishing franchises of Harry Potter and Twilight. Both franchises made oodles of bank in America and overseas and fooled a lot of teenagers. Now something has to take their place and what better than the best-selling young adult book “The Hunger Games.” It’s got a lot to please everyone, a futuristic setting, violence, a love story, and politics. Something for everyone in the family.

In the future, after a great war, the world is separated into 12 districts that look more or less like World War II concentration camps, if they had bakeries. Every year to keep the peace, the Capitol selects two “tributes,” a boy and a girl from each district by lottery to compete in the Hunger Games where 24 kids from 11-18 fight to the death. Everyone watches it and it’s treated like the Olympic games. This year, young Katniss Everdeen from District 12 has a particularly bad day when her younger sister randomly gets picked to compete and she volunteers to fight in her place. Also chosen is a baker’s son named Peeta who has long had a crush on Katniss, even though Katniss has the hots for a boy named Gale whom she hunts with. Confusing? I read the first book in the series and it still doesn’t make complete sense to me.

I enjoyed the first book in the Hunger Games series but did not love it even though the ending cliffhanger did make me want to read the second. I knew a big-budget movie was inevitable and my interest was peaked at the casting. Jennifer Lawrence is the perfect girl to pull off Katniss, tough but grounded, clever but moral. As long as a new franchise is being created at least the lead is an empowering character. She provides for her family, selfless, a bad-ass, and a far cry from Twilight’s Bella.  The whole cast is pretty exceptional actually. Liam Cunningham and Josh Hutcherson are good male leads. Hutcherson starts off as a pretty uninteresting character and gets a chance to develop. While Cunningham has a good chemistry with Lawrence that never goes anywhere and hopefully will in the sequel. Woody Harrelson is a standout as Haymitch, their mentor, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, and Wes Bentley are all serviceable in their roles that require nothing more to wear a silly wig, except Bentley who has facial hair that looks like Tony Stark’s pubes. I’d say he’s having a stellar year after doing nothing but being thrown out of a window in Underworld: Awakening earlier this year. Elizabeth Banks is also underutilized as Effie Trinket who looks more like a ghost-faced 40’s debutante. Actually while all of the districts wear leftover jumpsuits from Logan’s Run, the Capitol all dress like Drag Queens on Moulin Rogue night. Apparently after a major war we all dress like we are on Rupaul’s Drag Race. Although you will probably see the movie’s costume designer walk away with an Oscar.

The film moves at a pretty trim pace and keeps for the most part on par with the book besides omitting a few R-Rated changes. People unfamiliar with the book should have an easy time catching up with the story as it plays out. When it comes time to the actual Hunger Games, boy was I underwhelmed. In the book, the Hunger Games are dragged out for weeks and disease, cold, and hunger kill off many, while in the film  it seems more or less like a few days and isn’t nearly as morbid or gruesome as the book or one might imagine. Blood is shown is quick jump cuts, hunger is never really a problem, and disease/injuries are magically fixed. While the book had a social commentary on our bleak future, I felt like the movie tried to be more appealing and safe for a mass audience than a shocking, depressing morality tale. Director Gary Ross does good with the material but I can’t forgive for the shoddy camerawork. I felt queasy with a lot of the shaky cam which seemed to appear even when people are having a regular conversation. The shaky cam, out of focus shots, and some terrible green-screening (the shot of Katniss and Peeta on the chariot comes to mind) is hard to swallow in a big budget action film. It felt cheaper than it should have been. The intimate feel it was trying to capture even came off as cold.

Overall, I’d like to see how the franchise continues. Jennifer Lawrence is a great on-screen presence that I can watch in anything, the supporting cast is well-cast, the story is for the most part faithful, and some action sequences are well-shot but overall I was left (pardon the pun) hungry for more. Nah, actually I just think I was hungry.

RATING: 6/10

“This is gonna be one awkward three-way.”

Contraband/Chronicle (2012) Review

Both of these reviews are long overdue and I honestly forgot about both of them so I just decided to combine them into two mini-reviews.

Contraband
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, J.K Simmons
Directed by: Baltasar Kormakur 
Rated: R

Here’s a movie that is such major wasted opportunity, the fact that it’s the remake of a foreign film is even more depressing. Mark Wahlberg stars as Chris Farraday, reformed criminal and family man who used to be the world’s best smuggler. Once his young brother-in-law blows a job for the ridiculously cajun-accented Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi) he must perform one last job. (Cue eye roll) I’ll give Wahlberg the benefit of the doubt and defend him as an actor because when he wants to be, he’s charming, likable, and a believable badass, but in movies like Contraband, his character is as flimsy as a sheet of cardboard. His character might as well be named Mark Wahlberg.  The movie is so A to B you know exactly what’s going to happen at the end in Act 1, which leaves the rest of the film devoid of tension and suspense. Wahlberg’s character is so good at what he does and so infallible that I never doubted that everything would work out for one second, even at the end of the film everything works out and Wahlberg walks away unscathed with all his problems solved, no repercussions and coming out ahead even richer than before without even knowing it. Must be nice. Even when there’s a shocking moment involving what might be a lead character’s death, it turns out they are actually perfectly fine. ugh. The movie is so afraid to not please it’s audience it takes no risks and tidies everything in a nice little bow and then bakes a cake on top it. Even the movie ends on the song “Boom Boom Boom Boom.” The film is a remake of the icelandic film “Reykjavik-Rotterdam” starring the director of Contraband. Maybe on a smaller scale with unknown actors the story flourishes but with a bigger budget, and well-known actors the story is just running through the motions. Even with a cast of extremely talented character actors like Foster, Ribisi, J.K. Simmons, Lukas Haas, and Diego Luna, it’s sad to see their teaming up led to something so mediocre and unoriginal. My biggest complaints? I seemed to be the only audience member to recognize a Jackson Pollock painting in the film, and Central America should really get some good sporting goods stores because those duct-tape face masks must be a pain-in-the ass to remove.

Rating: 4/10

Chronicle
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
Directed by: Josh Trank
Rated: PG-13

It was just a matter of time before the found-footage genre broke away from horror films and tackled other sub-genres.  The superhero genre only seemed like a logical choice. An original superhero story mixed with the found footage aspect by using the excuse that kids document everything is a legitimate reason that works for a majority of the time. Cleverly dissecting superhero and modern teenage archetypes is a testament to Max Landis’ Large scale story told on a smaller budgeted scale. The use of practical effects, the simplistic storyline, and the likability of the three relatively unknown leads is what really pumps the heart of this film. DeHaan as the outcast Andrew and Jordan as the ultra-popular Steve are standouts and actually create a believable friendship between the three leads, making it feel realistic from the discovering of their superpowers to their inevitable downfall. The characters gain telepathic abilities that give reason for the camera floating around at different angles along side them but my biggest question was why? Obviously the film is footage recorded from a digital video camera so you can get away with creative low-budget CGI, but I thought the story was compelling enough on it’s own then always wonder the reasoning for a camera recording an intimate conversation. The last action set-piece is vicersal and clever but becomes too contrived in trying to discover different ways of having footage recorded from obscene angles. Smaller intimate moments like when the three friends pull pranks telepathically and when Dane’s character pulls a spider apart with his mind is when the movie has it’s brightest moments. I enjoyed Chronicle way more than I should have and surprisingly really enjoyed the three leads and where the story went, and serves as an interesting experiment, but please: No sequels, although I wouldn’t have minded a longer cut of the Jessie J – Price Tag singalong.

Rating: 7/10

Oscar Predictions 2012

 

If you know me it’s not uncommon that I wait till the last minute for everything. I love the Oscars despite their long stretches of boredom. I like to think I have the Academy Awards figured out (old, rich, jewish, white men). I’m pretty damn good at predicting the winners usually. Last year, I even outguessed Ebert by one and surprisingly picked the Best Foreign Language film pick despite it always being a name out of a hat.

2012 Oscars Nominations 

Best Picture
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”
“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
“Hugo”
“Midnight in Paris”
“The Help”
“Moneyball”
“War Horse”
“The Tree of Life”

Who Will Win: The Artist
Who Should Win:  The Artist
Dark Horse:  The Descendants

A couple months ago this race was anyone’s game, hell even Tree of Life had a chance but nothing can derail the powerhouse train of “The Artist” beloved by some, overhyped by others, The Artist is a black & white silent gem winning the hearts and prizes of a majority of all the film awards this year. Don’t expect it not to go empty handed tonight.

Best Actor
Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”
George Clooney, “The Descendants”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Gary Oldman, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
Brad Pitt, “Moneyball”

Who Will Win: Jean Dujardin
Who Should Win:  Gary Oldman
Dark Horse: George Clooney

A great category that always has a completely out of the blue random pick (Demian Bichir) but this category belongs to Dujardin who has also been sweeping up awards like nobody’s business. Clooney and Pitt turned in great performances and I’d love to see Oldman get recognized finally but this is no doubt the year of the french.

Best Actress
Glenn Close, “Albert Nobbs”
Viola Davis, “The Help”
Rooney Mara, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Michelle Williams, “My Week With Marilyn”

Who Will Win: Meryl Streep
Who Should Win:  Viola Davis
Dark Horse: Viola Davis

Another tight category full of great performances that will no doubt be given to Meryl Streep’s performance as Margret Thatcher. While I think she is undeserving of a win, statistically she has been racking up more best actress wins this year than any other. I wish Viola Davis would finally get recognized for her talent, but there’s a reason I suppose that Meryl Streep has more nominations than any other actress.

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, “My Week With Marilyn”
Jonah Hill, “Moneyball”
Nick Nolte, “Warrior”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Max Von Sydow, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Who Will Win: Christopher Plummer
Who Should Win:  Christopher Plummer
Dark Horse: Max Von Sydow

Another tight category that becomes a one-on-one for lifetime achievement between Plummer and Von Sydow. Both are extraordinary actors and deserving but Plummer has been cleaning up in his performance for “Beginners” and I see him picking up the Oscar as well.

Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”
Jessica Chastain, “The Help”
Melissa McCarthy, “Bridesmaids”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Octavia Spencer, “The Help”

Who Will Win: Octavia Spencer
Who Should Win:  Octavia Spencer
Dark Horse: Berenice Bejo

A stronger category than the Best Actress one, this category has long since belonged to Octavia Spencer’s wonderful performance. I wish all of the ladies here could get recognition but Spencer is going to be tough to beat.

Best Director
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”

Who Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius
Who Should Win:  Terrence Malick
Dark Horse: Martin Scorsese

A tough category to predict since the directorial awards have been all over the place. It is more or less between Hazanavicius and Scorsese and usually Best film and Director go hand-in-hand which is why my money is on the Director of the Artist.

Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”
JC Chandor, “Margin Call”
Asghar Farhadi, “A Separation”
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, “Bridesmaids”

Who Will Win:  Midnight in Paris
Who Should Win:  Midnight in Paris
Dark Horse: The Artist

Tough to predict but Midnight in Paris was highly acclaimed and I don’t think The Artist had enough of a script to warrant a win.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash, “The Descendants”
John Logan, “Hugo”
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, “The Ides of March”
Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, “Moneyball”
Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughn, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”

Who Will Win: The Descendants
Who Should Win:  The Descendants
Dark Horse: Hugo

The obvious choice. The Descendants is 2nd to The Artist for Best Picture and this is usually the consolation prize.

Best Animated Feature
“A Cat In Paris”
“Chico & Rita”
“Kung Fu Panda 2”
“Puss in Boots”
“Rango”

Who Will Win: Rango
Who Should Win:  Rango
Dark Horse: Puss in Boots

I haven’t seen any of these films but Rango seems the most distinct and likable by most Award ceremony’s and critics to beat the other nominees.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Bullhead (Belgium)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)

Who Will Win: A Seperation
Who Should Win:  A Seperation
Dark Horse: Bullhead

An impossible category to predict. Usually the most obvious choice is never the winner but A Seperation has a lot of momentum behind it. Still the most well-known foreign film never wins so it’s anyone’s game.

Original Score
“The Adventures of Tintin,” John Williams
“The Artist,” Ludovic Bource
“Hugo,” Howard Shore
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” Alberto Iglesias
“War Horse,” John Williams

Who Will Win: The Artist
Who Should Win:  The Artist
Dark Horse: Hugo

Tough category but I think that The Artist is so much music to carry it that it’ll probably topple any other contender.

Best Original Song
“Man or Muppet,” The Muppets; Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
“Real in Rio,” Rio; Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Who Will Win: The Muppets
Who Should Win:  The Muppets
Dark Horse: Rio

50/50 shot. I chose Muppets over African Birds.

Best Achievement in Art Direction
“The Artist”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Hugo”
“Midnight in Paris”
“War Horse”

Who Will Win: Hugo
Who Should Win:  Hugo
Dark Horse: The Artist

Best Achievement in Cinematography
“The Artist”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“The Tree of Life”
“War Horse”

Who Will Win: Tree of Life
Who Should Win:  Tree of Life
Dark Horse: The Artist

If Tree of Life doesn’t win, I give up on the Academy Awards.

Best Documentary Feature
“Hell and Back Again”
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory”
“Pina”
“Undefeated”

Who Will Win:  Paradise 3
Who Should Win:  Paradise 3
Dark Horse: Pina

A hard category to pick. Pretty much anyone’s game. 

Best Documentary Short Subject
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement?”
“God Is the Bigger Elvis”
“Incident in New Baghdad”
“Saving Face”
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom”

Who Will Win: The Barber of Birmingham

Random pick.

Best Animated Short Film
Dimanche/Sunday
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Who Will Win: La Luna

Best Live Action Short Film
“Pentecost”
“Raju”
“The Shore”
“Time Freak”
“Tuba Atlantic”

Who Will Win: Raju

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“Hugo”
“Real Steel”
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

Who Will Win: Harry Potter
Who Should Win:  Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Dark Horse: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Harry Potter seems to be the fan favorite and also the top choice. I won’t complain.

Best Achievement in Costume Design
“Anonymous”
“The Artist”
“Hugo”
“Jane Eyre”
“W.E.”

Who Will Win: Jane Eyre
Who Should Win:  The Artist
Dark Horse: W.E

Always pick the period piece. W.E. may have a chance though. eh.

Best Achievement in Makeup
“Albert Nobbs”
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”
“The Iron Lady”

Who Will Win: Harry Potter
Who Should Win:  Harry Potter
Dark Horse: Albert Nobbs

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
“Drive”
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
“Hugo”
“Moneyball”
“Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
“War Horse”

Who Will Win: Hugo
Who Should Win:  Hugo/Drive
Dark Horse: Transformers: Dark of the Moon

F*** Valentine’s Day Movie Guide Vol. 2

F*** VALENTINE’S DAY MOVIE GUIDE VOL. 2

Last year I posted a list of films that I thought were good alternatives to the usual run-of-the mill chick-flick fodder and after it being one of my most successful posts I decided to follow up with another year’s worth of good relationship-based films that would be alternatives to Ahem, The Vow with Channing Tatum. Cue the vomiting.

Blue Valentine
(For those staying together for the kids) 

A movie that appeared on my top movies of 2010 list and still stand by it being an amazing motion picture that is an emotional roller coaster about Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) as a couple who fall in and out of love and give powerhouse performances in the process. The movie is an equivalent of getting a hug from someone and then following it with a punch into your gut. While I haven’t had a kid yet, so I can’t understand the complications of it in a relationship, it is still a universal feeling to realize it’s “too little, too late” in a relationship.

Like Crazy
(For those in a long distance relationship) 

Blue Valentine” for the college age is just as authentic and heartbreaking look at falling in and out of love and trying to reignite the dwlinding flame in a failing relationship. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones give amazing performances and improvise what feels like a completely truthful and honest relationship. Where as “Blue Valentine” had the issue of a child in the mix, this film replaces it with the issue of a long-distance relationship between countries and the politics of immigration. One of my favorite movies of 2011 that unfortunately left me shaken at how real it felt to be in your 20’s and in love.

My Bloody Valentine ’81/’09
(For those with bloodlust towards happy couples) 

A wild card. Maybe sappy romance isn’t for you and maybe you don’t want a “love conquers all” chick flick or a emotional roller coaster “Blue Valentine” but just want to see couples get mutilated and slashed to pieces. There’s a plethora of horror and slasher films to wet your appetite but why not go for the one related to the titular holiday. The 1981 version and 2009 remake both deal with a pick-axe wielding miner who comes to a small town on a murderous rampage after a Valentine’s Day mining accident. The 81 version is a slasher classic and now can be seen unrated and the 09 version is more brutal and unapologetic but can also be seen in 3D! Take your pick. Both are good for some cheap thrills.

True Romance
(For the couples with dreams of new lives together) 

One of Tony Scott‘s best films (Yes, even better than Top Gun) is this Tarantino written 90’s gem with literally one of the greatest casts ever in a film. It stars Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette as a young couple (comic-book nerd/call-girl) who fall in love seemingly overnight and when he murders her pimp they decide to run to Hollywood to sell his suitcase full of cocaine. What sounds like a grim/dark crime drama is actually a sweet, dark-comedy full of stellar cameos, witty dialogue, and genuine romance ending in the best mexican standoff ever filmed. Many people will remember scenes like the Christopher Walken-Dennis Hopper showdown but Clarence and Alabama are two movie characters so charming that a movie about them would be fantastic even without the gangsters.

Sid & Nancy
(For the couples constantly fighting) 

One of the most famous tragic love stories our time. The true story of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb give fearless, emotionally over-the-top performances as the doomed lovers who drank, smoke, shot-up, and swore through the England punk rock scene and led to the demise of the Sex Pistols and the murder of Nancy. The film is a great look at the London punk scene and is also great fun to see Oldman and Webb play off each other and see how their reliance on each other was also the cause of their own self-destruction. Even the modern day celebrity couples that self-destruct still don’t have the love and commitment that Sid & Nancy had.

Let the Right One in
(For the anti-Twilight vampire romance) 

This swedish horror film based on a book and remade into the 2010 “Let Me in” is a horror masterpiece in mood, lighting, and acting. Oskar is a 12 year old boy who is constantly bullied and discovers his new next door neighbor is actually a young female vampire. The film has a cheesy 80’s sounding concept that is a surprisingly dark and heartfelt drama about young adults who find solace and understanding in one another. Their relationship feels entirely real and never too Hollywood or dramatized. Their friendship and care for each other is the spark of the movie and it’s rare to see children actors portray a love and friendship that most adults in Hollywood films couldn’t make believable. I have not seen the American remake but the “swimming pool” scene is among the classic scenes in cinema history.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!  ❤