Predictions

Why We Should Care About Award Shows

It’s 3pm on February 22nd and if you are a movie fan then you will know that we are only hours away from the Oscars commencing; the crown jewel, climax or mother of all award shows.

If you are not such a movie lover and even if you are these days, it’s easy to feel fatigued from the never ending news cycles of Who is wearing what, Who will be presenting and what is in this years swag bag. However by the time it gets to the end of February, most people are wondering why they should even care anymore especially when you realize that this year’s cycle of film festivals and early predictions of next year’s Oscar winners is already underway with the first of the larger film festivals Sundance already over by the beginning of February.

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Award shows are important though, not only because they support a huge number of jobs in a variety of industries but also because they have a direct impact on the films you will want to watch. There is a reason why the nominations occur in mid January a full almost six weeks prior to the ceremony. Often this gives movies released earlier in the year a second wind and allow those that only had smaller openings to go mainstream once they receive a nomination ala whiplash or The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Before starting Moviewallas, we often used to find ourselves waiting for the nominations so that we could check off any of the movies that we hadn’t seen that were deemed to be noteworthy by those who knew. We too found ourselves in a long line unlike anything I had ever seen in 2009 waiting to get into Slumdog Millionaire, a film I hadn’t even heard of up until the day of the nominations. 

In subsequent years since having had the privilege of doing Moviewallas, we love the fact that films that we have only been fortunate enough to watch through a film festival or a screener catch fire and gain momentum and become available for everyone to watch. The most frustrating thing as movie reviewer is that often films we love and get to watch don’t either get distribution or get such a small release and only in major cities.

There is a notion that over the last few years there has been a proliferation of award shows and well, that there are just too many these days. Is it so wrong though for each association such as The Director’s Guild, The Hollywood Foreign Press, The Producers Guild and many others to celebrate and reward/award good work and recognize their own?

One could say that that ultimately award shows are just for entertainment and that’s ok in my book too. Ultimately whether you enjoy a movie more or less because it was nominated is not important, long after the award season is over you wont even remember whether those movies that had a lasting impact on you were nominated or not. What does matter though is that good movies (studio or independent) keep getting made, that we find out what they are and we have a means to watch them and if award shows help, I say the more the merrier. Now who do you think will win Best Picture this year?

Summer of Blood | Review

Halloween is upon us and with it comes a slew of scary movies; “Annabelle” “Dracula Untold” and “Horns” just opened or are about to.  However, if you are not a die hard fan of having your adrenaline levels peak in the dark or find that a good nights sleep escapes you after getting the bejeezus scared out of you then this may just be the movie for you.  Welcome to Summer of Blood

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Writer/director Onur Tukel turns in a hilarious performance as the monumentally lazy, socially oblivious and commitment-shy Erik Sparrow, who is dumped by his career-woman girlfriend (Anna Margaret Hollyman, White Reindeer) when he rejects her rather charitable marriage proposal. Feeling lost, he turns to a disastrous string of online dates that successively eat away at his already-deteriorating confidence until a lanky vampire turns him into an undead ladykiller. Soon, Eric is prowling the streets of Brooklyn in search of anything to satisfy both his maniacal sex drive and his hunger for blood.

Despite the fact that Eric is such a misogynist loser, Tukel shows skill in making the main protagonist incredibly likable; I couldn’t help but be on his side.  Helped by the witty dry comedy which runs through the movie both Eric and the rather ridiculous plot had me smiling and chuckling for the entire movie including a few belly laughs thrown in here and there.  The dialogue is hammy in places but mostly clever and smart and there is an interesting narrative about the lives we lead if you look for it. Anna Margaret Hollyman who plays Eric’s love interest plays her role perfectly, equally lovable and annoying all at the same time and is impressive in her ability to detest Eric so convincingly.

Summer of Blood is by no means as polished as other undead offerings like “Twilight” or “True Blood”  in fact at times at times this movie looks rather amateurish and even homemade, but that doesn’t make it bad.  I believe this hard working movie could turn into an underground cult classic in due course and I will certainly be lining up to watch this one again

Described as a horror comedy horror, this is more comedy than horror and definitely not a horrible comedy by any means.A collision of absurd, self-deprecating wit and existential curiosity, Summer of Blood is a hilarious horror-comedy with a clever bite all its own that starts with one of the best break up scenes ever right at the beginning of the movie and is definitely worth a watch

The film is releasing this Friday October 17th in select theaters and VOD.  Check local listings for a screening near you

The Mule | SXSW 2014

What would make you carry twenty condoms full of narcotics in your stomach? My automatic answer to this question was “Nothing”, but what if your families’ life was at risk if you didn’t? Welcome to the movie The Mule.

the-mule-poster-404x600Written, directed and starring Angus Simpson with the help of a few others, The Mule set in an 80’s Australia is based on a true story that tells of an innocent rather stupid and simple man called Ray Jenkins (played by Angus Sampson) who gets caught up in a drug smuggling scheme after he wins a yearly award at his local football club

Swallowing around 20 condoms full of narcotics, Ray almost makes it home before he nervously loses his cool in front of security, landing him in a nearby motel so the drugs can flush out of his system. Under the watchful eyes of Detective Croft and Detective Paris, Ray struggles to keep his secret hidden, inflicting bodily harm by avoiding deification. Can Ray keep himself out of jail by swallowing more than his pride, or will the drugs make their appearance in the filthiest of ways?

Regular listeners of the Moviewallas podcast will know that some of my favorite movies are Australian; indeed I own my own copies of Strictly Ballroom and Muriel’s Wedding which are well worn by now. So it stands to reason that I was equally fascinated, disgusted and thoroughly entertained by the movie The Mule. Beware though; the toilet humor in this movie is like none that I have ever seen before and definitely not for the faint hearted.

Brilliant acting by an incredible cast including Hugo Weaving, Leigh Whannell (who also shares writing credits) and Ewen Leslie elevate this movie from a good black comedy to an incredibly smart and surprising dramedy which will have you sitting on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out how it will all end for poor Ray. The twists and turns are not predictable and the story is original, if it wasn’t based on a true story, I would think it was unbelievable. This mule is definitely worth a ride if you can get your hands on it. the-mule-slice

The Infinite Man | SXSW 2014

What would you do if you could time travel? This is a question I have often asked myself and even fantasized about many times, so when an opportunity presents itself to watch a movie about the subject, of course I’m not only going to be excited about watching such a movie but I’m also going to have high expectations about it.

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Disappointment then is definitely not a word I will use to describe the movie The Infinite Man which is written and directed by Hugh Sullivan and stars Josh McConville, Hannah Marshall, Alex Dimitriades and is about a man’s attempts to construct the ultimate romantic weekend. However when his plans backfire his quest for perfection traps his lover in an infinite loop.

Like all memorable Sci fi movies, at it’s core, this is a love story…well sort of; what I mean to say is that all great Sci fi movies reach elevated heights because they eventually become about mundane things that we can all relate to in our everyday lives despite the fact that they are asking us to buy into a totally implausible idea or concept.Well written, brilliantly constructed and exceptionally acted, I laughed, empathized and cried at some point during this movie but I was always entertained and enthralled unable to predict how this mess would end. The Infinite Man captures perfectly the feeling of being in love and that of being consumed by another whilst taking us to the brink of hysteria and obsession all within the perfect rules of the time travel world that it creates.

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How life actually is vs. what we believe or wish it to be is examined in such a smart, quirky and sweet way. Borrowing cleverly from movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Groundhog Day, Hugh Sullivan has created something tragic, memorable and incredibly romantic in one package. I believe this movie will stay with me for a long time and hope that it quickly finds it’s way to a general release

 

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year; Oscar Nominated Shorts | Review

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  No, I’m not talking about the holidays, I’m talking about the yearly ritual that us film lovers and movie geeks get to indulge in which requires taking a trip to watch the highly coveted series of Oscar Nominated Shorts at the local cinema.

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Oh I how I look forward to this annual treat where I go with my fellow Moviewallas and get to spend a delightful afternoon watching ten of the best shorts Animation and Live action Features; two separate programs with a short break in between.  This year a special pleasure for me, I got to watch five incredible documentaries too.

This collection of shorts representing filmmaking in 2013 is no different to any other year in that the Oscar nominated shorts is an opportunity to watch bite size nuggets of incredible film making from a variety of talented filmmakers from around the world.  Only I am shocked that year upon year the standard gets better and better.

In the live action category:

“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” (Director: Esteban Crespo, Spain/Spanish). Synopsis: Paula, a Spanish aid worker, has an encounter with an African child soldier named Kaney.

“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything) (Directors: Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras, France/French). Synopsis: Miriam has left her abusive husband and taken refuge with her children in the local supermarket where she works.

Helium” (Directors Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson, Denmark/Danish). Synopsis: A dying boy finds comfort in the tales of a magical land called HELIUM, told to him by the hospital janitor.

“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” (Directors: Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari, Finland/Finnish). Synopsis: Sini tries frantically to get her family ready to leave for a wedding, but her husband and two children are interfering with her efforts.

“The Voorman Problem” (Directors: Mark Gill and Baldwin Li, UK/English). Synopsis: A psychiatrist is called to a prison to examine an inmate named Voorman, who is convinced he is a god.

This a rare occaision when I am glad I don’t have to vote for a winner since If I had to pick one, I couldn’t.  I was fascinated by That Wasn’t Me, sat on the edge of my seat as the riveting drama of Just Before Losing Everything played, laughed at Do I Have to Take care of Everything, pondered existential questions whilst watching The Voorman Problem and even shed a tear or two during Helium

 I could have spent way more time with any one of these five movies given the deep well rounded characters and back stories each presented that merit full movies of their own.

For the Animated shorts, this season brings us:

“Feral” (Directors Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden, USA/Non-dialogue). Synopsis: A wild boy who has grown up in the woods is found by a hunter and returned to civilization.

“Get a Horse!” (Directors: Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim, USA/English). Synopsis: Mickey Mouse and his friends are enjoying a wagon ride until Peg-Leg Pete shows up with plans to ruin their day.

“Mr. Hublot” (Directors: Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares, Luxembourg/France/Non-dialogue). Synopsis: The eccentric, isolated Mr. Hublot finds his carefully ordered world disrupted by the arrival of Robot Pet.

“Possessions” (Director: Shuhei Morita, Japan/Non-dialogue).  Synopsis: A man seeking shelter from a storm in a dilapidated shrine encounters a series of household objects inhabited  by goblin spirits

“Room on the Broom” (Directors: Max Lang and Jan Lachauer, voices by Simon Pegg, Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon in UK/English). Synopsis: A genial witch and her cat are joined on their broom by several friends as they set off on an adventure

The animation shorts for me represent a vast array of style, story and genre even.  Whilst watching we are reminded by those super smart and talented people at Disney that there is always room in your heart to let in a fresh Mickey Mouse Adventure. In Get a Horse, Mickey and his pals return in this old/new caper.  This time however our eyes get to feast on incredible technology that combines black and white with color and 2D with 3D type animation.  Room on a Broom is a sweet modern day fable told in verse that had me smiling from ear to ear; a special treat for animal lovers.  Atypical subject matter for a traditional cartoon, in Feral and Possessions which to me represent more adult type themes and style and finally a cute futuristic tale called Mr Hublot  which at it’s core is represents a beautiful tale of a man who rescues a dog but realizes in the end that it is he who has been rescued.

Again, a wonderful gaggle of talent collected under the umbrella of animation and if you weren’t  lucky enough to catch The Blue Umbrella when it played as an appetizer to last year’s Disney/Pixar’s Monster’s University, it plays in the  “highly commended section” in this program.  Despite the number of times I see The Blue Umbrella, I can’t help but marvel at the human like emotion that is generously created by Pixar and I always have a lump in my throat when the credits run.

 

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I love the action shorts and the animations, but I am a documentary lover at heart and so the documentary shorts were an absolute treat for me to watch.  This year’s entries:

“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” (Directors: Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed, Canada/USA/UK – English). Synopsis: At 109, Alice Herz Sommer is the world’s oldest pianist…and its oldest Holocaust survivor. At the heart of her remarkable story of courage and endurance is her passion for music.

“Karama Has No Walls” (Director: Sara Ishaq, UAE/UK/Yemen – Arabic). Synopsis: When protesters in Yemen added their voices to those of other nations during the Arab Spring, the government responded with an attack that left 53 people dead and inspired widespread sympathy throughout the country.

“Facing Fear” (Director: Jason Cohen, USA/English). Synopsis: As a gay 13-year-old, Matthew Boger endured a savage beating at the hands of a group of neo-Nazis. Twenty-five years later, he meets one of them again by chance.

“Cavedigger” (Director Jeffrey Karoff, USA/English). Synopsis: New Mexico environmental sculptor Ra Paulette carves elaborately designed and painstakingly executed sandstone caves, driven by an artistic vision that often brings him into conflict with his patrons.

 “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” (Director: Edgar Barens, USA/English). Synopsis: In a maximum security prison, the terminally ill Jack Hall faces his final days with the assistance of hospice care provided by workers drawn from the prison population.

By far, the most difficult category to judge, I was incredibly moved and inspired by The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.  Angered by an astonishing tale of the human spirit and the importance of revolution in Yemen’s account of the Arab Summer in Karama has no Walls, challenged and troubled by both Facing Fear and Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall which made me question my own prejudices and preconceived ideas and intrigued by the account of the environmental sculptor Ra Paulette and his cave digging antics in the aptly titled Cavedigger

So there you have it.  If you have never seen an Oscar short program, I strongly urge you to rush out and watch and if you love movies and have seen a Short program, I urge you to rush out and see this year’s nominees, given the standard is exceptional, in either case, you will not be disappointed, I certainly wasn’t and look forward to next year’s most wonderful time of the year again with baited breath

The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014 open nationwide this Friday, January 31st

In San Diego, the Live Action and Animated programs will open at the Landmark Ken, In Los Angeles the Live Action and Animated programs will open at The Nuart in West L.A. and in Orange County at the Regency South Coast Village 3.

Please see local listings or the link below to find a cinema near you

http://shorts.tv/theoscarshorts/dates-locations/

The Good Road | Review

Just what does it take to become India’s entry for the best foreign film category at the Academy Awards 2013?  Well, you have to beat out 21 other contenders as newcomer filmmaker Gyan Correa’s film The Good Road has done and in doing so is perhaps the first Gujarati film to have made it.  Produced by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) The Good Road albeit a little controversially has left behind strong films including “The Lunchbox”, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, “English Vinglish”, “Vishwaroopam”, Malayalam film “Celluloid” and Bengali film “Shabdo”.

Correa’s debut movie is an interesting intertwining of three separate stories all set on a highway in Gujarat that come together in a thought provoking climax.  A truck driver called Pappu (Shamji Dhana Kerasia) and his side kick (Priyank Upadhyay) are given a task which is not so legal, a middle class family from Mumbai (Ajay Gehi and Sonali Kulkarni) are holidaying in Gujarat with their young son (Keval Katrodia) and a young girl (Poonam Rajput) who is on her way to meet her grandmother unfortunately loses her way and finds herself lured into a roadside brothel.

What the film lacks in depth, is totally compensated for by the Colorful and often breathtaking cinematography care of Amitabha Singh; gaily dressed village women contrasted against a white salt plain, gaudily painted trucks along the highways & vibrant life-filled rest stops and stunning sparse vistas of the Gujarat which are all set to hauntingly beautiful acoustic Gujarati folk music

What I admired most about the movie though was the social narrative that Correa manages to evoke; child prostitution, the class system and the struggles of an often-stressed working class.  In addition, the tension created throughout the movie is often intolerable as we watch the decisions of each of the characters play out hoping that nothing too bad will happen to them.  Correa who wrote and directed the film also chose to cast locals in the movie, a great decision in my opinion since they add to the authenticity of the movie

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The Good Road may not win the Oscars, however it is a journey that will stay with you for some time

The Good Road will be the closing film at The South Asian International Film Festival, presented by HBO running from December 3rd through the 8th

 

Episode 170 – Hitchcock / The Hobbit / Hyde Park on Hudson

We are back following a short hiatus with reviews of:

hyde park the hobbit hitchcock

– Hyde Park on Hudson

– The Hobbit

– Hitchcock

Play

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Fancy One of These Wagers for the Academy Awards?

Not to be outdone by the categories of awards themselves, a betting company in the UK is creating their own inventive assembliges to incentivize anyone who wishes to gamble this year.  At Bodog.com (supposedly the world’s largest betting brand) instead of voting for the usual “Best Film”, “Best Director”, “Actor” or “Actress”, one can place a wager on the following:

  • How many of the big 3 award winners (Director, Actor, Actress) will visibly cry when receiving their award?
    • None: 4/7
    • 1: 3/2
    • 2: 5/1
    • All 3: 20/1
  • Oscars Specials – How many times will the word Thanks or Thank You be used in the acceptance speech of the Big 3 Awards (Director, Actor, Actress)?
    • Over/Under 20: 10/11
  • What will be the Predominant Color of Natalie Portman’s Dress at the Awards Ceremony?
    • Black 3/1
    • White 3/1
    • Blue 4/1
    • Cream/Beige 9/2
    • Pink 9/2
    • Red 5/1
  • Will Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds attend the Oscars together? Yes 6/1
  • Will any Oscar recipients fall on their way to the stage? Yes 15/1
  • Will Geoffrey Rush be wearing a hat? Yes 6/4

Dice

Now you may be asking yourself “why”? Well, apparently there is a feeling that the Oscars look even more predictable than normal this year (Colin Firth is 1/50 to win Best Actor!) so the categories were put togteher to help the long evening be a little more entertaining.  Perhaps our own moviewalla listeners could come up with a few inventive categories of our own???

Will the Annie Awards winner be a good predictor of “Best Animation” for the Oscars?

Which one is best “Toy Story 3” vs. ‘How to train your dragon” has long been a sometimes heated debate amongst the moviewallas.  With two of the wallas adoring “Toy Story 3” and the other backing the “How to Train Your Dragon” train all the way to the Oscars.  Needless to say, this will be a hard fight to the end since both animations are extremely good.  Methinks this could turn into a replay of the “Big Mac vs. Whopper” debate of Ye Olde time (PS, who won that by the way?).

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However at the 38th Annual Annie Awards held on Saturday, February 5 at UCLA’s Royce Hall a choice was made and DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon” won top honors as the Best Animated Feature. Often a predictor of the annual Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the Annie Awards honor overall excellence as well as individual achievement in a total of 25 categories ranging from best feature, production design, character animation and effects animation to storyboarding, video games, writing, music and voice acting.  (A complete list of the 38th Annual Annie Award winners can be viewed at www.annieawards.org.)

I decided to think of some of the merits of each of these terrific submissions to see if there was any way to separate the two:

Categories

Toy Story 3

How to Train your Dragon

Best Story

Winner

Most heart wrenching

Winner

Best rendition of a dragon that acts like a dog or Cat

Winner

Best story arc

Winner

Best ensemble cast EVER

Winner

The one that made me cry the most

Winner

The one that I would watch again and again

Winner

The one that I would watch if Toy Story 3 got worn out

Winner

So there you have it, both animations, both excellent and little to separate them.  Even in trying to rate the two against each other, I found the choice so difficult.  But remember, I loved “Toy Story 3” and sobbed uncontrollably at the end…for me I think what it comes down to was the familiarity and joy I felt seeing Woody, Buzz, Mr. Potato Head and the rest of the gang for the third time.  That intertwined with Pixar’s amazing talent to tell the story of a young boy all grown up and leaving home for the first time and the impact it has on all of those you leave behind.  Gosh, I’m tearing up just thinking about what a GREAT story this was as I write.  Whatever your preference, “Toy Story 3” or “How to Train your Dragon” what more could we ask for than two brilliant animations in one year that are both deserving of the title “Best animation”

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Oscar Nominations Tomorrow Morning – Am I the Only Excited One?

The Oscar nominations are announced tomorrow morning – is anyone as excited as I am?  I am not sure why I am so excited, I mean it’s not like I am waiting to find out if I get nominated or anything but I am really excited.  I can’t even imagine how I would feel if I had a dog in the race?  If I was in any jeopardy of getting a statuette, a gold-plated britannium on a black metal base which is 13.5 in (34 cm) tall, weighs 8.5 lb (3.85 kg) and depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style holding a crusader’s sword standing on a reel of film with five spokes, would I be even more excited than I am now; a mere watcher of films?

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If I was Colin Firth (c’mon I am British!) what would I be thinking tonight?  Would I be nursing my cup of cocoa reassuring myself that it doesn’t matter what happens tomorrow because “I know I did a great job?” or “I don’t need another statue to prove I’m a great actor – I just loved playing a stuttering monarch that no one ever talks about”

What if I was Annette Bening – Surely the fact that I played “same sex marriage” and made it look damn convincing vs. that little whippersnapper who just had to learn to dance is worth a nod?  C’mon guys you’ve looked me over so many times, everyone knows I am a GREAT actress!

And if I’m David Fincher, I mean I have a great body of work behind me already and I made a film about a networking website look like an exciting week in Ibiza – that takes a lot of talent

I am Christian Bale now – marveling at my ability to pull off the great Dicky Eklund.  I had to train just as hard as Natalie Portman and I’ve been around longer, wait, statues make great things to throw at people, no?  By the way, I wonder if Amy Adams or Melissa Leo will be nominated – wouldn’t it be great of we all got one.

Finally, what if I’m Toy Story 3 – I mean I totally deserve best film – just because I am rendered in code and not celluloid, should that be held against me?

Anyway, six hours to go, so I will just have to wait like the rest of them.  My own hopes for nominations in one form or another are – “The Social Network”, “Kings Speech”, “Toy Story 3”, “Blue Valentine”, “127 Hours”, “The Kids are All Right”, “True Grit” and of course, “The Fighter”.  Good luck all my faves of 2010!