Thursday, October 26, 2006

WTF is going on with "Babel"?!?!

Excuse me, but what the hell is going on with these reviews for "Babel"?!?! Alejandro González Iñárritu's masterpiece is the best film I've seen this year, and I thought it would easily be something critics would flip for, but so far the reaction has been on par to the ones given to "Flags of Our Fathers" and other fair-to-solid movies. At Rotten Tomatoes, it currently sits at 73%, largely due to pans by the likes of The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Newsweek and the Village Voice.
Frankly, I don't get it. I understand some don't like Iñárritu's style of filmmaking, but "Babel" has such moments of quiet power, features such stunning performances, and seems to rectify any problems people seemed to have with "21 Grams." To each his own I guess. We'll see what audiences think when this one begins rolling out in NY and LA on Friday.

"Running with Scissors," "Pan's Labyrinth," "Catch a Fire," "Tideland," "Fast Food Nation"

Sorry everyone. As expected, I've been totally inconsistent with this blog. Work and school have gotten the better of me, and each night when I get home at 2am I just crash. Tonight I have some energy though. Seen a nice amount of movies in the last week or so but don't really have the time or incentive to delve much but I'll give very quick takes:

"Running with Scissors"

I'm a fan of the book, but the movie's pretty dreadful to sit through. I don't know if the material just doesn't translate well to film, or if Ryan Murphy wasn't the man to do it. I'm thinking a little from column A, little from column B. Jill Clayburgh is pretty fantastic here despite getting no attention from the press, and I seem to be the only one who didn't like Annette Bening's performance in the least. Very "Acting!," very Oscar bait, and I don't think it'll pay off for her. None of the humor really works-- Murphy seems to be tone deaf-- and there's far too much melodrama. In the book everything was delivered with a snarky tone undercutting the tragedy, but watching everything depicted in front of your eyes, it just comes off as a horror show you feel too bad about to laugh at. C-

"Pan's Labyrinth"

I hate to jump on the critical bandwagon with this one, but I just fell in love with it, and I think a lot of people are going to as well. There wasn't as much "fantasy" elements as I was expecting (maybe about 30% of the movie), but it worked and blended perfectly. Completely and utterly beautiful, grotesque, haunting, touching, frightening; I couldn't believe how much this exceeded my expectations. I haven't been able to get it out of my head and I plan on watching it a few more times in the coming weeks. At least in my top 2 or 3 of the year at this point (and I haven't got much left to see) A+

"Catch a Fire"

Not a bad film at all, just didn't have the impact I was hoping it would. Like "Flags of Our Fathers," its head and heart are in the right place, it just didn't completely work for me-- though don't get me wrong, this a far more entertaining film than the endlessly meandering "Flags." I was never bored, but I was never fully compelled. Solidly directed by Philip Noyce and he keeps you relatively interested and entertained, but I never fully jibed with what he was trying to do here-- Derek Luke's (great here by the way) character was painted as a bit too heroic for my liking. The guy's acting as a terrorist for god's sake, you think they'd present him with a little more ambiguity. Also, with it's dominating (and admirable) anti-apartheid themes, it feels like a movie that should've been made 10 years ago. Sorry to come off as too negative, I actually sort of liked this movie, it just didn't carry as much power/weight as I think it could've. B-


Terry Gilliam's latest has been getting trashed like no other and it's totally easy to see why. This an incredibly ugly, deeply unpleasant mishmash of a film... but that's exactly what it's going for. There's just so much interesting stuff to chew on here, and so many cool ideas and filmmaking techniques-- no matter how repulsed I got, I was never less than completely engrossed. With the most twisted innards of any movie this year, and with an ending I couldn't stop thinking about, I'd urge anyone to see this just so I have SOMEONE to talk about it with. Granted, this is a movie that will probably appeal to about 5 people on the planet (maybe less), but hey, what can I say, I was one of them. B

"Fast Food Nation"

Try as it might, Linklater's adaptation of Eric Schlosser's book just doesn't work. There's certainly plenty to like here-- the doc footage from 'the kill floor,' Bruce Willis's monologue in the best scene in the movie, Greg Kinnear's performance-- but there's just so much that doesn't seem to accomplish what it sets out to do, and the proceedings feel like such a missed opportunity. I was able to put up with the movie being heavy-handed and didactic since it was being heavy-handed with messages I agree with, but I don't even think it did a good job or saying what it wanted to see. And so many characters/subplots seem to serve no purpose in the least, nor carry any entertainment factor, that I'm convinced Linklater's friends just showed up on the set so he wrote scenes for them (Ethan Hawke's scene reeks of this). One of the biggest offenders is Avril Lavigne, who can't even deliver the few lines she's given convincingly. I love Linklater (I'll be interviewing him next week), but one can't help but get the feeling this is one of his lesser works, and one that could've-- with the right focus-- been one of his better ones. C+

That's all for the 1st timers-- but on the end of the multiple-time reactions:

"Little Children"-- 2nd time-- finally let go of my love for the book, and was able to dig the movie a lot more. I can't believe I had such a complete turnaround, and I'm so ashamed of it, but this time around, I was able to see it as a really solid piece of work, if still not quite great.

"Borat"--3rd time-- if anything, I loved this even more this time. Whether it lives up to the hype, or is a box office disappointment, it's becoming clearer and clearer to me what an innovative, ground-breaking comedy this is. Each time I watch it there's the sense of excitement of watching something completely different. Even if the grosses disappoint, the word-of-mouth on this is going to be dynamite from every demo-- smarties and stupids alike.

"The Fountain"--2nd time-- loved it again, things were much clearer this time around, and hit me on a more emotional level than when I saw it the first time. Following the screening had an interview with writer/director Aronofsky and being able to sit down with him and have a back and forth on the meanings of the movie and him explaining things and asking my opinions about the ending, the marketing, etc is one of the highlights of my journalistic career thus far-- fucking awesome dude. But I digress-- the movie-- honestly, out of anything coming out this fall, I can't wait to see how people respond to this. Hope to see this one a few more times to fully take everything in.

That's all for now children. In the coming days I'll be seeing "A Good Year," "Death of a President," "Saw III," "Shut Up and Sing" and "For Your Consideration." Take care.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"Flags of the Fathers," "The Prestige," "Marie-Antoinette," "Flushed Away," "The Grudge 2"

"Flags of Our Fathers"

Reaction's been all over the map on this one. Roeper and Variety have called it a masterpiece, Jeff Wells and Kris Tapley weren''t too hot on it and David Poland called it "not just a disappointment, but a bad film." I agree with Wells in that, with this one, Eastwood's head and heart were in the right place. I agree with what this movie's saying, and I admire a lot of the intentions behind it. But when it comes down to it, it's just not a good film in any way, shape or form.
For those who don't know, the film's narrative structure is that it cuts back and forth from the battlefield and the three main men touring across the U.S.A after the battle, being used to raise money for the government. I understood this approach at first, but it continues for the entire movie. By the last 30-45 minutes, the film drew loud sighs from the audience each time it cut back to the war sequences. It doesn't help that the war sequences seem like we've seen them 100 times before. It's not fair that every war movie gets compared to "Saving Private Ryan," but here it's inevitable with these battle scenes, and the comparison just kills them.
But whatever, the battle scenes are only half the movie, what about the other half? Well, frankly, they're rather dull-- the events are never involving and we don't really feel anything for the characters. Adam Beach does a good job with the only emotional role, but he's not given a ton to work with. Ryan Phillippe is fine with a threadbare character, and Jesse Bradford just sucks in everything I've ever seen him in, up to and including this.
I know a lot of people really WANT to love this movie. I did too-- "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby" were each in my top 3 of their respective years. But "Flags" just left me cold-- it didn't arouse any interest, emotion or strong feelings of any sort in me. It has the right spirit, but in the end, it just lays there for two hours. And do I speak for all of us that I'm sick of the bleached-out blue-gray look of all of Clint's films?
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Honestly, despite the hype, I don't think this will garner any major nominations, but if somehow it goes over well with Academy and they feel the need to reward Clint yet again, it could feasibly get nominations for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Adam Beach)

"The Prestige"

I have no idea how critics are going to react to this one, but I thought it was pretty fucking awesome. The concept of "dueling magicians" was inherently interesting to me right off the bat, but I didn't expect it to make such a strong impression on me emotionally and intellectually (by the way, when a dueling magician movie is more emotionally resonant than a Clint Eastwood war movie, you know something's wrong). It provides Christopher Nolan his first real opportunity since "Memento" to delve into more complicated structural and mind-bending territories, and the results are superb.
I don't even want to delve into the plot at all, as the twists and turns the story takes are a big part of what makes it so much fun. That said, the film is not overly reliant on twists-- it's remarkably clever and entertaining all throughout, not just leading up to some lame twist (I'm looking at you Shymalan). The Nolans have woven such a clever, dark, sad screenplay here, filled with something that will make film lovers smile at least every few minutes.
Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as said magicians were fantastic, as they're asked to strike an incredibly difficult balance here that works completely. Our alliances keep shifting between them, and by the third act, we're not quite sure which one (if either) should be in our favor. While it's not a huge surprise to see a stunning performance from Bale, it's almost jarring to have seen the two best performances of Jackman's career at screenings taking place in the last week ("The Fountain" being the other). Variety's negative review has indicated that word-of-mouth won't be hot, but I couldn't disagree more. I think this is precisely the type of movie that will benefit from people telling their friends about it and being something they can have endless discussions about.
Michael Caine doesn't get to stretch much here but he's still great as possibly the only genuinely likable character, and well... how do I say this.... I DIDN'T hate Scarlett Johansson here. Maybe it's due to her small role, or her not being wildly out of her realm, but I almost liked her.
I didn't even know David Bowie was in this going in, but he ends up giving one of the best performances in the film as Nikola Tesla. Speaking of Tesla, I must give an advance warning. "The Prestige" is not 100% realistic, and for one to enjoy it, they need to be able to suspend disbelief and buy into this world of magic, with its own laws of ethics, norms and what's acceptable or possible.
I can't recommend "The Prestige" enough, and in a time when most movies seem borne out of repetitive ideas and premises, it's filled with revelations, complications, flashbacks-within-flashbacks and constant narrative intrigue.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Probably none, but possibly Best Adapted Screenplay


Sofia Coppolla's latest is the rarest of projects: a completely and utterly well-made film that succeeds at exactly what it wants to be, but I couldn't have enjoyed less. Though not worthy of the hate by Jeff Wells, or the boos at Cannes-- there's certainly some things of merit here-- "Marie Antoinette" is an utterly dull piece of work. It will no doubt enthrall a certain segment of film aficionados but it did nothing for me.
Someone needs to teach Coppolla how to make a movie about something more than just a mood, with some actual content in there. This approach worked with the phenomenal "Lost In Translation" because our interests in the characters actually built to something there, and we had a genuine attachment to them (more due to the performances than what was on the page).
I've seen this movie referred to as both "shallow" and "a film about shallowness," and I can only agree with the latter. Shallowness is it's subject matter, and as such, it's about something and going for a feel and some sort of content. But as a film about shallowness, it does leave you with a completely empty feeling and makes for a remarkably uninteresting, vacuous experience.
One of the positive things about it is that it spares me a plot synopsis, since there's none to speak of. The majority of it concerns how the title character, played by Kirsten Dunst, deals with how everyone hates her, both revels in and bemoans her life of privilege and how her husband Louis XVI (a one-note but trying hard Jason Schwartzman) won't have sex with her.
Much has been made about the use of pop songs in the film ("I Want Candy" is used for a montage of cakes and shoes), and while it works in theory, and I did enjoy the songs being played because it gave me something to be interested by, in execution it doesn't work at all. I get that it's supposed to make us draw comparisons to modern times, but it really just takes us out of the movie and doesn't mesh with the material in the least. I hate to say it, but the execution worked a lot better in something like "A Knight's Tale."
Dunst's performance in this is clearly coming from a sincere, emotional place and she's to be commended for the effort. But for each scene where her performance comes from a strong, honest place, there's another where she seems to not know quite what she's supposed to be doing (a probable result of direction).
On the plus side, the set design, score, make up, costumes are all very strong and most of them will likely (deservedly get Oscar nominations). We're also given relatively wonderful supporting performances from Rip Torn and Steve Coogan, and a surprisingly chemistry-filled pair, Molly Shannon and Shirley Henderson.
Coppolla hasn't made a bad film here, just a relatively vacuous, uninteresting one, which seems especially so following the release of the terrific "The Queen." To be fair, I'm really not this film's target audience. But in the interest of full disclosure, my screening companion who was eagerly looking forward to the film was left somewhat cold as well.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: All technicals, but that's all

"Flushed Away"

With its minimal trailers, and my seeming to be the only person on earth not enthralled with "Wallace and Gromit," I was completely blindsided by how taken I was with this, the latest Aardman animation production. Not only was the animation (carefully CG'd to keep the claymation look) beautiful and the voice work (by Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet and Ian McKellen) perfect, it'll probably end up as one of the funniest movies of the year. There are certainly funny animated films, but very few in which I laughed as hard at as I did with "Flushed Away." There's an endless amount of funny lines and I delighted at every moment featuring the slugs, who often serve as a Greek chorus.
"Wallace" fans should be warned that the humor on display here is of a (mostly) different breed-- meaning actually funny and clever, rather than just cheeky and mildly amusing.
I know it's not exactly high praise, considering that the only other animated film this year I even liked was "Over the Hedge," but this is easily the best animated film so far this year, and having not yet seen "Happy Feet," I'd bet on this one winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
This is a wildly entertaining 80 minutes, and is completely hilarious and enrapturing enough to spend ten bucks on, even with no kids to tote along.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Best Animated Feature

"The Grudge 2"

This really doesn't deserve my time or energy to write about it, let alone you going to see it. Ponderous, non-sensical, not scary in the least, and exceedingly dull. An endless string of 10-minute sequences that go nowhere and than lead up to a 5-second-long "scares" that no one in my packed audience screamed or jumped at. A giant waste of time, and quite possibly, the most bored I've been at a movie this year. (FYI, I am a fan of the first "Grudge")

Just an added note: while home in New York this weekend, I took a third look at "The Departed" with my dad, and a second one at "The Queen" with my mom. I'm really astonished how well these movies hold up on repeat viewings, and I'm beginning to see each one more and more as locks for Best Picture.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"The Queen," "The Departed," "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Man of the Year," "The Fountain"

I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who may bother to check this blog semi-regularly. It's sort of devolved into a weekly encapsulation of what screenings I've been to lately, rather than a regularly updated blog. I'll try my best to do a better job in the future-- please bitch away at me, any comments are appreciated. In the coming days/weeks, I'll attempt to be a bit more insightful/bloggy and less bland. I saw five films this week, on top of two interviews in DC (John Cameron Mitchell and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)-- three yay, two nay.

"The Queen"

This Stephen Frears project, a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the interaction between Queen Elizabeth (Helen Mirren) and Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) in the week following Diana's death, is a movie I completely expected to "respect" but not actually like or enjoy. I tend to not be too interested in the monarchy or any film with as bland and cold a title as "The Queen."
Much to my surprise, I was completely enraptured in the goings-on here, all anchored in what has to be the best female performance of the year, by Mirren. The regal actress (who's never won an Oscar) is justifiably getting all the attention, but Sheen is pretty fantastic as well. While the film humanizes the queen, it never attempts to make her outright sympathetic. We see she's a real person with feelings and we understand why she does what she does, but she'll still come off to many as a cold, bitter bitch. It's this profundity that makes her such a fascinating character to watch, and I was never even slightly bored during the film's brief 97-minute running time. I'll go out on a limb and call this the most surprisingly entertaining (and beautifully directed) film of the season. Now, if "Marie Antoinette" (which I see next week) entertains me, than all bets are off.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (Helen Mirren), Best Supporting Actor (Michael Sheen)

"The Departed"

I hate to go along with a crowd consensus, but this one is as great as you've heard. Martin Scorsese is fucking back with a vengeance. I've seen this one two (and a half) times now, and it just fucking goes over like gangbusters every time. Audience are dead quiet when they should be, each death and/or burst of violence elicits audible gasps (one drew cries of 'No!'), and all the humor works also. I honestly laughed a lot more here than I thought I would-- the dialogue (screenplay by William Monahan) is phenomenal, with Alec Baldwin a standout in that department.
Seriously, amazing performances all around-- DiCaprio and Damon are as solid as they've ever been, Nicholson blew me away combining his known persona with one significantly more terrifying.
Two and a half hours long, but easily one of the quickest sits of the year. This could easily be classified as a brutal, dark guy movie (and it is), but it also hits emotionally if you're susceptible to it. What's so great about "The Departed" is it doesn't try at all to be Oscar bait, but ironically, I could easily envision it being a major contender. Though it's a shame that the studio is pushing Nicholson for Best Actor (in what's clearly a supporting role), thus denying DiCaprio some recognition for his work here-- even if he'll still likely get one for "Blood Diamond."
In full disclosure, my gay and female friends haven't responded to the movie as well as others, but I seriously would recommend this fucking thing to anyone. Here's hoping for Marty to finally get his golden boy!
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson)

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning"

I really don't feel the need to devote more than a couple of lines to talking about this one. Bottom line: it's a massive piece of shit. I actually consider myself a fan of the remake that came out a few years ago, and this one tries to emulate it at every turn. Grossness for the sake of grossness, wonton sadism-- yeah yeah those are to be expected in a movie of this type-- but none of it's justified because there's simply no scares to be had.
This is a cash-in on the original in every respect, not to mention fucking dull and more than a few Republican ideals (likely suggested by R. Lee Ermey) are represented; we're meant to view the murder of a draft-dodger as rightful comeuppance.
Friends of mine know that I'm actually a pretty big fan of horror films when they're well-executed-- we've been treated to a few solid ones this year ('Hostel," "Slither," "The Descent," "The Hills Have Eyes"). But for them to work at all, they've got to be scary, interesting or both. This is just a shit out money-grubbing sequel/prequel, and anyone who pays to see this deserves what they'll get. It's rare that a movie actually depresses me-- this was one of them.
Fuck America for giving this turd almost as big a weekend gross as "The Departed," and fuck Harry Knowles for cumming all over it.

"Man of the Year"

Hey, have you seen the ads for the new comedy with Robin Williams where he plays a Jon Stewart-type figure that gets elected President? Yeah, me too. How about the new drama/political thriller starring Laura Linney as a woman who's fired and then harassed by her company for exposing mechanical glitches in voting machines? No? Well, that's the movie you'll get in "Man of the Year."
I'm generally okay with movies being more dramatic than advertised. This summer alone, I thought it worked with "The Break-Up," and somewhat worked with "Click." So the fact that "the new Robin Williams comedy" turned out to be a complete and utter drama didn't inherently bother me, except that it can't even manage to be entertaining or interesting.
The Williams storyline, which had such potential for a fascinating movie, is given such short shrift here and kept so apolitical and dull, you'll want to walk out. Williams only gets a few moments of comedy-- the ones viewed in the trailers where he performs on his show-- and even those aren't funny (Baltimore-based director Barry Levinson relies heavily on crowd reaction shots). He doesn't seem to know quite what to do, as for the most part he's instructed to play it straight, but occasionally is encouraged to mug like crazy or participate in an out-of-place paintball sequence.
Normally I'd be begging for more Laura Linney but her storyline here (the bulk of the picture) couldn't be less interesting; Levinson just doesn't know what to do with her.
The Hollywood Reporter review is pretty dead on for a change; and shame on any filmmaker for wasting Jeff Goldblum, Lewis Black and Christopher Walken. Trust me-- it may have a nice opening weekend, but word-of-mouth is going to sink this one like a stone.

"The Fountain"

How great is "The Fountain?" So great that I could easily imagine the mass critical consensus being that it's "a disaster" or "misfire."
I was elated at the initial review on of this latest Darren Aronofsky venture, basically calling it one of the greatest movies ever made. Then the festival reactions came in, with reports of mass booing. I figured "The Fountain" would be a love or hate it movie no matter what, but still it lowered my expectations a tad. Coming out of the MPAA screening room on Thursday, I was pretty blown away. Aronofsky has crafted an astonishing movie here, and as such, it's probably not going to be embraced in the way it deserves until a decade or so down the line. It's wildly different, and openly, unabashedly emotional and earnest in a way that may get mocked by some. In fact, I'd recommend going to see it in a time/location you'd imagine would be as non-crowded as possible.
For those who don't know, "The Fountain" features Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz as a couple in three different periods of time-- one 500 years ago with Jackman as a Spanish conquistador and Weisz as a queen, one is present day with Jackman as a scientist and Weisz as his dying writer wife, and thirdly, 500 years in the future with a bald Jackman living in a (literal) bubble with a tree and hallucinations of Weisz as his only company. I don't want to give much more detail than that-- and as great as the trailer is, I'd recommend not watching it. It ruins a lot of the movie's astonishing imagery.
The "'2001' with emotions" description isn't an wholly inaccurate one. For the majority of the movie I was thinking "this really isn't as big as a mindfuck as I'd heard-- it's relatively easy to follow what's going on," then the third act came. The third act is so gloriously beautiful that I was tremendously moved, even as I wasn't 100% what was taking place. I have some theories, and I hope to solidify them when I see the movie again in a little over a week, before I interview Aronofsky.
Jackman is astounding here. I've always liked the guy, but this is the first time he's been truly great and impressed me to this extent with a performance. Weisz is solid as well, but basically just serves as the object of his affection who stands around looking pretty a lot.
This is a really ballsy venture-- it's almost a shame it's being funded by a big studio because it's really an art film at heart, and is almost sure to confound the mainstream audiences it'll surely be sold to. A filmmaker even attempting someone like this so rarely happens, so even though I'm sure a large segment of you may hate it, I urge you all to at least check it out to get an opinion on it when it opens on November 22nd.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Probably just technicals, though Best Actor (Hugh Jackman) could happen if the Academy is a little open minded. In other words, probably just technicals.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Brief takes on "Scotland," "Infamous," "Shortbus," "Borat," "Babel," "Little Children"

FYI: For all my reviews from hereon in (just for Oscar season), I'll be listing what Oscar nominations I think the film could reasonably potentially get.

"The Last King of Scotland"

Everything you've heard about Forest Whitaker is true. I don't know if it's the best male performance of the year, but it's up there, and if I had to call it now, I'd say he's the Oscar winner for Best Actor. James McAvoy ("Mr. Tumnus") does a solid job but this is Whitaker's movie through and through. He make a terrifying Idi Amin although he's only slightly better defined that Hannibal Lecter-- sometimes we don't need to understand a character's every backstory and heartbreak. I initially resisted the film's structure (how it doesn't let us know Amin is a madman until McAvoy finds out-- about 2/3 into the film), but ultimately, it lends the last act a lot more power than it would have otherwise. I knew about Amin's history, so I was expecting violent/disturbing imagery, but there's a torture sequence late in the film that's absolutely horrifying. Seriously, I was averting my eyes and I don't do that-- for me, it was worse than "The Passion" or either of the "Saw" movies. You'll know it when you see it. All in all, I was taken aback by how compelled I was by this flick.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Best Picture, Best Actor (Forest Whitaker), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay


Given my passion for "Capote," I wasn't eager to see another version of it, though I admit, it's a fascinating potential term paper. But "Infamous" takes a completely different approach-- more "entertaining," more melodramatic-- and it worked for me. It's a more "fun" movie than "Capote," though not as deep or intellectually rich. It delves more into the supposedly gay relationship between Truman and Perry Smith (Daniel Craig, miscast but good) and makes Capote MILDLY more sympathetic. Sandra Bullock does fine as Harper Lee, but it just made me appreciate Keener's performance more. I'd say it's worth spending your money on, but don't expect another "Capote."


John Cameron Mitchell's follow-up to "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" has gotten most of its publicity from its use of real sex-- understandably-- but what sets it apart from the other real sex movies ("Nine Songs," anyone?)-- is that it's actually entertaining and would still be a funny, touching (though not in the conventional way) film without the sex. Though Mitchell sometimes takes the easy way out (a character is suicidal, though the movie never bothers to explains way), he writes great dialogue and manages to build sympathetic characters while also staging interesting (and HOT) straight and gay sex scenes. Some actors are notably better at looking pretty than they are at acting, but Soon-Yin Lee is great as pre-orgasmic sex therapist Sofia. It's going to be a must-see for certain communities, and most certainly will become a cultural phenomenon. And c'mon, a guy singing "The Star Spangled Banner" into another guy's ass is just fucking funny.


There's not much to say without ruining jokes, but this is easily one of the funniest movies ever made. Not only does Sacha Baron Cohen take eveything fans love about the character and expand on them, it's also one of the most stunningly poignant and disturbing social commentaries to be committed to celluloid (watch out for the frat boys and the chief guy at the rodeo). But for those who just want laughs, you will get them in droves. I can't imagine laughing harder at anything this year.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Best Actor (longshot, but more feasible than people think)


Currently the best movie I've seen in 2006, and I can't foresee something topping it. I'll delve much more in a longer entry.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actress (Rinko Kikuchi), Best Supporting Actress (Adriana Barraza)

"Little Children"

This was my most anticipated movie of the year, and the novel is by far my favorite I've read in years. The spot-on casting and phenomenal trailer had me confident. That said, I can't remember the last time I've been this disappointed in a film. I know reviews have been stellar but this one just left me depressed-- and at the execution, not the subject matter. I hate purists who bemoan every change to the "Harry Potter" movies, but the changes here are deadly. Director Todd Field ("In the Bedroom") drops some of the most interesting story elements from the book, and takes things in different directions to cater to his darker sensibilities. As a result, numerous characters, like Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) and Richard (Gregg Edelman) lose much, if not all, of their definition, and story elements are made LESS interesting/cinematic. What's most upsetting is it seems like an effort was made to make the proceedings as distant and cold as possible. What's sad is it's still not a bad movie, it's almost/sort of a good one, but given the inspiration, it had all the potential to be the best movie of the year. On the performance end of the spectrum, Winslet is great, Jackie Earle Haley (as sex offender Ronnie James McGorvey) is fantastic-- best perf in the movie, and I haven't quite made my mind up yet about Patrick Wilson's performance. I'm seeing this one again later in the week so maybe I'll appreciate it a bit more, but any way I look it, this movie was a big disappointment.
OSCAR POTENTIAL: Best Actress (Kate Winslet), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Jackie Earle Haley), Best Supporting Actress (Phyllis Somerville)

The Blog Is Back!

Hey All! I don't know if anyone is still noticing this blog after my nearly two month absence, but I finally got my computer back! The lovely folks at Gateway (obvious sarcasm-- seriously, never buy one; they're awful) have had it for a while and since my cracked screen apparently wasn't covered by my warranty, I was a bit fucked. Anyway, I have it back now.

Things are so tremendously crazy with The Towerlight and attending classes and screenings and days in DC and my living situation, but I will try to update the blog as often as I can. I've seen pretty much everything that's come out up until now, but upcoming movies I've seen since we last talked include "The Last King of Scotland," "Borat," "Shortbus," "Infamous," "Babel," and what was my most anticipated movie of the year, "Little Children."

I'll try to dish out my opinions about them throughout the week-- though it will be very busy screening wise. My screenings this coming week include "The Queen," "The Departed," "The Fountain" and (possibly) "Flags of Our Fathers," plus an interview in DC with John Cameron Mitchell ("Shortbus," "Hedwig"). It'll be crazy, but nonetheless, it's good to be back, and I'm hoping things get back to normal real soon. I feel lucky how early I've been getting the see these movies because it's giving me some sort of idea how certain Oscar races are gonna go (i.e.: Forest Whitaker winning Best Actor).

Okay, I must head to bed-- I will try to update after production day tomorrow night. And please, PLEASE check the video clip of Borat's impromptu press conference in DC on Friday: