Thursday, January 31, 2008

Oh yeah well who's gonna save you JUNIOR?!

I've been doing a lot of thinking about Indiana Jones and the Bazooka of the Quantum of Solace (or whatever the ridiculous second part of the title is) and despite all press reports to the contrary, despite a press release through Lucasfilms, I STILL think we will be seeing the dessicated visage of Sean Connery at some point in this movie. I mean it makes more sense for him to show up in the movie then say...Sallah (though that would be AWESOME). SPOILER WARNING: Consider that if the movie is about a father and son relationship (that would be Indiana and Mutt[Henry Jones III?]) then why not drive this point home by showing three generations of Jones. SPOILERS END Besides it would certainly be better for Sir Connery to go out on this film then in the unapproved by Alan Moore League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

I'm not mad about these denials, if anything I'm appreciative. How often are savvy movie-goers surprised by cameos anymore? If it hasn't been spoiled on the internet (hello Ed Norton and Sam Jackson in Iron Man as the Hulk and Nick Fury respectively) or glaringly obvious (you mean Will Ferrel is going to show up in a VINCE VAUGHN MOVIE?!?!?! GASP) the audience rarely has a chance to rear up and be surprised. Lord knows my favorite part of the otherwise lackluster Pirate sequel was seeing Geoffrey Rush appear at the end. So kudos to Connery and the folks at Lucasfilms for perpetrating such a stunt (maybe).

And my God, if Abrams is secretly pulling this stunt with Shatner I will buy Cloverfield on DVD. I swear I'll do it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


In one of my favorite moments (well to be fair the whole movie is 115 minutes of favorite moments) Henry Jones Jr. surprises a nazi convoy schlepping the Ark of the covenant (with some Karen Allen in tow). The surprise is made all the more awesome by the fact that Dr. Jones is packing some serious heat, a bazooka! Sure the whole thing goes awry and some face melting ensues but the promise of a bazooka wielding Jones was clearly too enticing for senior Speilbergo to pass up again.

So courtesy of Empire magazine here is another enticing pic of the SPOILER ALERT Jones family SPOILER ENDS action. There is this nagging buzz in the back of my head to not let my expectations run away with me but come on...HOW CAN YOU IGNORE THE AWESOMENESS!

I mean it's not like George Lucas has ever let me down before.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Oh I Got Trouble!

OK so some of you may have noticed that there was no Monday Night Monologue last night, the reason for this being I came upon a terrible epiphany that the phrase "Monday Monologue" had burrowed its way into my subconscious by seeing it sporadically on Nate Rogers always excellent filmexperience blog. Damn. While Nate doesn't run the feature every week I don't want anyone accusing me of plagiarizing another site's feature. So I got trouble. Right here in Bloggy city. As such I will be trying out some new features and based on feedback (that means comments people) I will start a new weekly feature (or features depending on their popularity). I'm psyched and you should be too.

Oh and my good buddy over at Aaronology, had his first stand-up performance tonight and rocked...hard! So in honor of him (and another friend toiling away hard at scripting) here is a little celebration I think they'll both enjoy.

Monday, January 28, 2008

One word: Harrowing

Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is the new drama from Romania that was finally released in a limited run this past weekend. It is an intense movie and though there is hardly any blood, no explosions and no graphic depictions of sex to be found (I'm wary of saying as to whether or not there is in fact a murder) it will shake the very core of many a viewer. The story takes place in the final years of Nicolae Cearusescu and while I don't profess to being any sort of scholar on Romanian history I do know that this was not a good time to be Romanian. 4 Months revolves around the perils of a young woman attempting to procure an illegal abortion for her roommate under a corrupt communist regime. If the above description doesn't do anything for you I recommend you stop reading, no judgments here, check back later I'm sure there will be something about Amy Adams. But for you brave souls interested in a challenging, harrowing film-going experience read on.

What immediately strikes me about Mungiu's film is its unobtrusive but powerful style. Mungiu favors long static takes with medium shots. He firmly plants the camera and lets characters talk to each other for a while. He switches it up enough so that the proceedings never look like a play but he holds long enough for the viewer to get a sense of claustrophobia. It's a striking technique as the camera is always holding on our protagonist, Otilia (the marvelous Anamaria Marinca). By rarely letting Otilia escape the frame (and furthermore, rarely letting her escape the center of the frame) we get a sense of how trapped Otilia is by her decision to aide her roommate Gabita (Laura Vasiliu). The audience is trapped too. This head on approach puts in our line of sight all manner of things that many will try to look away from.

Otilia is beset by one mini-disaster after another, in addition to having to come up with the money for the procedure she must book the hotel room (many are full or the reception desks are suspicious and unhelpful), deal with the chillingly direct Mr. Bebe the man who will perform the abortion (Bebe is a contender for the most frightening man in film to go along with Anton Chigurh and Daniel Plainview), cope with a boyfriend who calls her away at a critical moment so she can meet his parents and an assorted variety of horrors she could never have conceived and I'm not entirely comfortable discussing as I am still haunted by them. The film provides a deep, dark dread, the kind found in only the best thrillers. This is not a movie looking for jumps. Mingiu doesn't cut wildly, swing his camera or rely on ostanato strings. He merely presents all manner of unpleasantness and lets the audience try to find their own way to cope. Mingiu doesn't come down way or another on abortion. Rather he presents the procedure in great clinical detail and lets the audience come to their own conclusions. As I watched the film I found the character of Gabita to be whiny and infantile, her poor decision making and immaturity putting her and countless others in danger. But as my time away from the film grows I've grown sympathetic to her unenviable position. Consider that the Romanians were hardly providing alternatives for birth control during this period. Otilia poses the question of "what if" to her boyfriend during a harried conversation and in the end while an huge taboo, there seems to be no other tenable alternative, though the cost is terrible.

4 Months
is a movie made with great skill and dedication that will disturb and force it's viewers to asking their own questions and I think this is a commendable thing. There have been several movies this past year which skirted the issue of abortion but none force its audience to look the topic right in its face and ask "what if?"
One final note: The title of the film refers to how long Gabita has been pregnant. Knowing this gives the audience an additional piece of information that makes the "interview" with Mr. Bebe even MORE tense.

The Very Moment I Became Old

The other day I brought my laptop to class (to get a little extra work done at work) and as the kids walked in one of them noticed my background, the poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. She remarked "what is that?" and I answered. Another girl pipped in with "Oh yeah, Indiana Jones, that's like National Treasure for old people."

National Treasure for old people.

Said student then remarked "Nicholas Cage's hair is so cool in that movie. It's all slicked up."


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Meet...the Devil!

I just snuck a look at Friday's box-office take and I am INCREDIBLY disappointed in you America.

I can't even make this up: here is the total for Friday for the number one film Meet the Spartans...ugh, I just threw-up in my mouth a little.

Get this: $6,660,000!!!




Don't believe me? See the Satanic truth here.

Oh Lucifer, you're getting sloppy. I could clearly see this was YOUR handiwork.

Friday, January 25, 2008

How She Link

Got some good ones for you this week, lets start with a pair of very interesting interviews.

Every year Time magazine does a pre-Oscar round table with several of the year's biggest stars. This year was a very impressive and fun grouping that included Daniel Day-Lewis, George Clooney, James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard. It's fun watching everyone interact; Jolie comes off as serious and aloof, Clooney and McAvoy just enjoy joking around, Page is awestruck by the company and everyone is blown away by Day-Lewis. If you click on any link from this week let it be this one HERE.

Also my good buddy Amir from and got interviewed like an actual famous person right below. I am super proud of him (and slightly jealous). But isn't that what all friendships are about?

This blog I discovered is completely amazing. It's all about the convergence of pop music and movies. It's amazing and once you visit you'll want to check back daily here.

The Coen's composer, Carter Burwell, has a pretty neat homepage too, right here.

In honor of Rambo:
Someone took the time to count the type and number of kills in all the Rambo movies here. My friend David and I once did this with all the Romero zombie movies and Shaun of the Dead. I think he still has it.

The rise and fall of the action icons of the 80's (the less famous ones anyway) here.

Because you're on THIS site:
Here is an old school Amy Adams interview where I culled a lot of information for my last post on her. Click here to adore her circa Catch Me If You Can.

Also apparently David Hyde-Pierce was going to play Nathaniel in Enchanted and Susan Sarandon has been attached to the movie since 2001. Weird. Also at one point National Treasure's John Turtletaub and Hairspray's Adam Shankman were attached to direct.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

De Palmusical

Last night I watched a beloved cult classic, The Phantom of the Paradise, and man oh man am I sorry I took so long to see this film. Reviled in some circles and beloved in others (and I can see why it falls into both categories) Phantom is many things to many people. It's a horror film, it's a musical, it's a savage satire of pop music, it's yet another De Palma meditation on Hitchcockian techniques and tropes. It homages a number of classic horror tales most notably Phantom of the Opera (duh), Faust and The Picture of Dorian Grey. That's a pretty impressive pedigree. It's music evokes a variety of styles including Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and is oddly prescient in it's rock-opera style of the Rocky Horror Picture Show (which would be released upon audience the following year of 1975). It also evokes the motif of birds constantly (either with names like Swan and Phoenix abound or the Phantoms birdlike crest/mask) linking it to the under seen Robert Altman film Brewster McCloud. With all these different styles and flavors in the mix one would think the ensuing stew would taste fetid and unpalatable. I'm happy to report nothing could be further from the truth.

The film as directed and written (I was shocked about the writing part) by Brian De Palma is excellently paced quickly setting up the world where an uber-producer known only as Swan is the be-all and end-all of pop music. He is the star maker and trendsetter that everyone wants to be a part of, but for a good chunk of the film he goes unseen. Swan is played by Paul Williams who also acted as the film's composer and supplied vocals for himself and one of the other characters.
Williams may not be immediately recognizable but the man is as prolific as it gets and I can practically guarantee you've seen or heard him before even if you don't think you have. He's worked with a variety of bands ranging from the Scissor Sisters to Three Dog Night. He is also composer behind another cult film Bugsy Malone (also a musical that I will now be rushing to see). He also collaborated with Ken Ascher to create the songs for The Muppet Movie. Yes, the villain of this film wrote "The Rainbow Connection" (he also cameoed as the piano player in the club where Kermit meets Fozzie). Oh and he was the voice of the Penguin on the legendary Batman: The Animated Series. Paul Williams is awesome and now you know.

Swan is riding high when the film begins but he's opening a club known as The Paradise and wants a brand new musician with a brand new sound to open it. When he hears the music of pianist Winslow Leach (De Palma regular William Finley) he loves it. However, he's not wild about the needy and nebbishy Leach. He steals the first part of Leach's score to a cantata based on the story of Faust and the shuts-out Leach completely going so far as to get him arrested on trumped charges of drug dealing. In prison Leach is forced into a program where his teeth are replaced with metal (?) and hearing Swan's top label performers, the Juicy Fruits, perform HIS song, the now mad with rage Leach escapes and tries to sabotage the records production. Leach's plans go wrong and half his face is smooshed by a record press (even crazier than it sounds). Leach somehow survives and becomes the Phantom of the Paradise vowing revenge. And THAT brings us to the end of Act one.

I haven't even mentioned Phoenix (Jessica Harper) the Phantom's would-be love interest or Beef, the Rocky Horror meets David Bowie meets shrieking queen, that Swan creates as a new star.
De Palma is extraordinarily economical in his storytelling, his edits are quick but not neck-snapping. His dialogue is broad, clear and concise, but at the same time has an odd pop-y cadence that presages Rocky Horror. Characters and relationships are quickly established. We're rooting for Leach but at the same time the audience (an audience I should point out has NOW been raised by American Idol) can see why Swan would just want his music and not the man. The film also makes some sharp jabs at pop music that still feel relevant.

Bear in mind that this IS still a 1970's rock opera and if any of the words scare you off this might not be the film for you. It can get quite campy (if that wasn't already apparent) and you really ought to have an appetite for this sort of thing. Rocky Horror fans should have a lot of fun though.

To give you a wee sampling here are two trailers. The first is the actual theatrical trailer from the 70's.

This one is a re-edited trailer someone posted on youtube and it's way classier and I think does a way better job selling the film. Ah the glories of editing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger 1979-2008

Where to even begin. I’m shocked. Like many of you, upon hearing the news I was sure I misheard or misread or it was just an urban legend that was getting out of hand. But no it is unfortunately true. I certainly didn’t know Heath Ledger but I had seen a good chunk of his work and a huge admirer of the man as a performer. He was well on his way to becoming one of the finest actors of his generation and for him to be taken like this, two years into fatherhood no less, is an absolute tragedy.

Ledger first came to my attention, as he did to a large chunk of his young American audience was as the brooding bad boy with a heart-of-gold, Patrick Verona, in the way wittier then it has any right to be 10 Things I Hate About You. In this Taming of the Shrew set in high school, Ledger played the Pertruchio analogue who was hired to woo the bitchy Julia Stiles. For the first chunk of the film I assumed Ledger was just a pretty boy hired for his looks. Oh ho, ho, never judge a book by their cover kids. Then this scene happened:

And that was the moment I fell in man-love with Heath Ledger. Oh man you can’t even begin to know how bad I wanted to bust this move on my high school crush. The scene is brilliant, he sings well enough to come off sincerely, but sings badly enough to make it genuinely cute and funny. It’s the first time the character smiles in the film too and when Heath Ledger smiles, well, damn.

I missed Ledger’s short lived Fox series Roar, but I’ve heard it was a solid enough sword and sorcery effort. But come on, it was a genre show on Fox and Ledger was bound for bigger and better things anyway (as was co-star Vera Farmiga).

Though he’s not in the movie for very long, Ledger made an impression as the idealistic Gabriel Martin, whose death inspires daddy Mel Gibson to fight the British in the lackluster The Patriot. What came next though was a horse of a different color.
A Knight’s Tale was and remains an incredibly fun movie. As William Thatcher, a humble stable boy who bucks the medieval caste system to become a knight with the help of probably the most fun group of sidekicks ever assembled (Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk and the brilliant Paul Bettany). Ledger is charming, stalwart and very easy to root for in this incredibly solid leading man role. While the film was not a huge success in theaters it has found a much beloved place in many DVD collections and cable airings.

There are many who dug Monster’s Ball and I am admittedly not one of them. Though lord knows there’s a lot of thorough and powerful emoting going on in the film and Ledger gives as good as he gets.

The Four Feathers, Ned Kelly and The Order put Ledger in a bad place career –wise for a while but I can certainly understand his signing onto any of the films. In the wake of Gladiator, Lord of the Rings and other epics one would figure that doing a big military story would do the trick. It didn’t. As for The Order it brings back a lot of the same creative team as A Knights’s Tale so it makes sense that Ledger would jump at the chance to have that kind of fun again.

Then came 2005. Ledger wisely ascribed Terry Gilliam as the reason for his career resurgence and he’s not wrong. Gilliam casting Ledger as Jacob Grimm in The Brothers Grimm showed audience he could do a lot more then play the handsome, dashing ample lead. Jacob is a bit of an odd-ball and geek, playing a fine counterpoint to the more roguish Will played by Matt Damon. The movie may not have been among Gilliam’s best but you’d be hard pressed to fault Ledger or Damon for that. Ledger gave a spectacular Val Kilmer impression in Lords of Dogtown. The fictional retelling of Dogtown and Z–Boys was a lot of fun and Ledger is a huge contributor to that. Of course what Ledger will ultimately be known for is his multi-award nominated work as Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain.

In his most layered performance to date Ledger gave the film it’s dark, mournful heart. Ennis is as laconic as they come and Ledger calls upon all his physicality to suggest volumes about Ennis’ inner-most desires and fears. Ledger has one wonderful intense moment after another. The moment where he defends hid family fiercely and then is framed separately from his family backed by fireworks is certainly one of the most gorgeous shots in Ang Lee’s filmography. Let’s not forget the film’s final moment where clutching his lover Jack Twist’s denim jacket barely spits out “Jack, I swear…” You’d have to be made of stone not to shed a tear at that scene. It was also on this film that Ledger met future lover Michelle Williams. On an additional note, I’m really pleased to see that after a year and a half of being a punchline, the film has really held up well, which is great considering it sadly now stands as one of the brightest spots on Ledger’s resume.
Ledger’s leading follow-up, the light and breezy Casanova, is sweet but forgettable. Besides, we already knew Ledger could swash-buckle well at this point.

This year’s I’m Not There brought back the Brokeback quality Ledger, playing Dylan, the artist whose family life is in turmoil. Acting against the luminous Charlotte Gainsbourg, Ledger portrayed the most human and vulnerable of the Dylan’s on display. Since there was so much going on in the film I look forward to revisiting it and giving Ledger’s section a closer look as it hits that fine line between drama and melodrama.

Ledger has one film completely in the can, his post-work is all finished and now all we can do is wait. The film of course, is the hotly anticipated Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight. Ledger plays the Joker and the advance word is incredibly strong. It appears from the limited footage we’ve seen that Ledger was skewing closer to the comics then Nicholson’s portrayal and I’m really excited to see Ledger play a genuinely worthy opponent to the caped crusader and play it damn scary.
It’s also a grim joke that Ledger was filming another Gilliam film, the fascinating sounding The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Gilliam has had catastrophes halt his films before but nothing like this. While the completion of a film is nothing in the face of a human life, given the choice between no new Gilliam film and an alive Heath Ledger I wouldn’t think twice, it’s still a bummer.

More bleak is to think of the career Ledger was on his way to having. A leading man not afraid to make unconventional, daring choices. Never you mind the fact the man was a father. A tragic, tragic loss.

My prayers and wishes go out to Mr. Ledger’s family and friends.

Sicks Osc Pix

Ok, so I went away and didn't tell anyone. It's bad I know but there was apartment non-blog related work to be done and darn it if it didn't get done. Yes I realized I missed a link roundup and a Monday Night Monologue but I think we'll all survive. But anyway the day we've all (yes I'm being generous) been waiting for is here, Oscar nommmmms. While Nate over at filmexperience and many of his fellow bloggers are deep into prognosticating these things I think it's ultimately a futile exercise because ultimately the really winners are movies that stick in your head for all time. After all some of the greatest movies of all time don't have a single Oscar to their name, meanwhile who has one nice thing to say about The Greatest Show on Earth or the incredibly white bread Chariots of Fire? Not nobody, that's who. Here is a run down of the nominees with my thoughts on deserved-ness, who will win and who got screwed.

Best Animated Feature

Surf's Up

Deserves to Win: Frankly either Ratatouille or Persepolis are more than deserving winners.
Will Win: I think voters will ultimately opt for the English speaking Ratatouille.
Screwed: Rest assured those surfing penguins will get a mighty skewering next season the Simpsons. It's just not fair.
General notes: Seriously, why isn't Simpsons on here.

Best Foreign Language Film
Beaufort (Israel)
Mongol (Kazakhstan)
12 (Russia)
The Counterfeitters (Austria)
Katyn (Poland)
Deserved Win: I don't know, none of the foreign film I saw this year showed up on this list
Will Win: The most despondent film should win so...Beaufort
Screwed: 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days and Diving Bell
General notes: Yet another bracket that illuminates why academy standards must be revised.

Best Writing: Adapted Screenplay
Joel and Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood
Ronald Harwood - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Christopher Hampton - Atonement
Sarah Polley - Away from Her
Deserved Win: Anderson's adaptation of Sinclair's Oil! renders the material incredibly cinematic.
Will Win: A lot of earlier awards have been handed over to No Country, don't see why that won't be the case here.
Screwed: Into the Wild's tender adaptation got left in the van.

Best Original Screenplay
Diablo Cody - Juno
Tony Gilroy - Michael Clayton
Tamra Jenkins - The Savages
Brad Bird - Ratatouille
Nancy Oliver - Lars and the Real Girl
Deserved Win: Cody is an exciting new voice in film and damn the backlash.
Will Win: They tend to give it to new voices (Quentin and Kaufman have one-natch) so why not get a super smart and savvy lady up on the stage.
Screwed: Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, would've been very cool to see either guy up there for Knocked Up or Superbad. Same goes for Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz but come on, that wasn't getting nominated.
General notes; A pretty good line-up this year and my not having seen Lars and the Real Girl I can't genuinely bitch about it.

Best Director
Joel and Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood
Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Tony Gilroy - Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman - Juno
Deserved Win: Anderson. Period.
Will Win: It's finally the Coens year, assuming we don't get a globes repeat for the solid work of Julian Schnabel.
Screwed: Tim Burton did some of the best directing of his life in Sweeney Todd. David Fincher got boned by Zodiac's early release. Sean Penn for Into the Wild who gave the film immense heart in spite of the warts-and-all lead character.
General notes: Another very deserving bunch.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton
Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
Ruby Dee - American Gangster
Deserved Win: Ryan or Swinton would make for lovely, deserved winners and the award would do a lot for their careers.
Will Win: But because everyone is lazy it'll go to Cate Blanchett's fun Dylan imitation.
General notes: What is Ruby Dee doing here. She's in the movie for like three minutes and made no impression whatsoever. Could be Garner's spot. Oh wait, Dee has never been nominated before...well...I guess...

Best Supporting Actor
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton
Hal Holbrook - Into the Wild
Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
Deserved Win: Holbrook is a killer.
Will Win: But Bardem did it with a giant compressed air gun.
Screwed: Paul Dano and Max von Sydow for their powerful performances in There Will Be Blood and Diving Bell respectively. Also I know there would be no chance but I would love to hear James Marsden's name read for Enchanted.
General notes: If I had to pick a second winner it would be Wilkinson who perfectly balanced crazy and sane in Clayton.

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard - La Vie en Rose
Julie Christie - Away from Her
Ellen Page - Juno
Laura Linney - The Savages
Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Deserved Win: Christie has the chops, the experience and the grace to make a great winner.
Will Win: I'm thinking Christie as the other nominees have years worth of great performances left in them.
Screwed: Amy Adams, AMY ADAMS and AMY ADAMS! Also Helen Bonham Carter.
General notes: Frankly I kind of hope Page doesn't win as young Oscar winners tend to bottom out early. Anna Paquin has been doing straight to DVD movies lately for goodness sake. Cate Blanchett's nomination for a movie that no one liked is pure laziness. If Cotillard wins I will throw something at the TV.

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
Tommy Lee Jones - In the Valley of Elah
Will Win: Milkshake?
Screwed: Milkshaaaaaaake!
General notes: I'm thirsty. In all seriousness it's incredibly cool that Viggo got nominated but he sure as hell ain't winning.

Best Picture
No Country for Old Men There Will Be Blood Juno Michael Clayton Atonement
Deserved Win: There Will Be Blood IS the best picture
Will Win: But it wasn't as accessible as No Country
Screwed: Zodiac, Into the Wild, Ratatouille, Once, I'm Not There
General notes: Comedies don't win so that cuts Juno, there is an hour of best picture in Atonement and then another hour, Michael Clayton may be too small for the win.

Oh and Enchanted got nominated for three of the song categories and Once got one too. WOOO! Please, oh please let there be a broadcast.

That's Our Clovie

Cloverfield, as I mentioned in my brief posting about the film, is not the world breaking, genre shattering, experiment that the hype would eave you to believe, nor is it a total wash. Shot in a rough documentary style (think Blair Witch meets Godzilla, yes I know I am far from the first one to make this comparison), Cloverfield does come at this sort of material in a new and potentially exciting way. I know I have certainly not been this eager to see the monster in a film for a long time and director Matthew Reeves knows how to tease just well enough that you keep tense, while at the same time satisfying the eager lookee-loos who are eager to look at this intriguingly designed beastie.

As is sometimes the case in monster films the creature is the most interesting thing going for it. This one certainly has a solid eye for Manhattan real-estate, goes right to Columbus Circle (good central-location) and he seems to have a real affinity for tracking down self-obsessed hipster douchebags. And thank goodness because while there are certainly some intriguing and exciting sequences I found myself hardly caring whether these characters lived or died. The problem stems from a bi-product of being roughly an hour and a half long. We don’t really get a chance to develop the characters. Though I doubt that even freed of the short running time we’d even want to. The central conflict here is the lead character Rob trying to get to his would-be girlfriend Beth who is trapped in her wrecked Columbus Circle apartment. While it certainly makes sense for Rob to go after Beth (their relationship is rather cleverly revealed by the fact that the main part of the film is actually being “taped” over a Coney Island outing between the pair) the problem is why on Earth wouldn’t the other characters evacuate the city. There isn’t enough character to really support a romance and survival is a more than adequate motivator in a film like this. Sill the film is willing to play fast and loose with its characters, which I would appreciate the novelty of if I was invested in a single one of them.

Seeing Cloverfield midnight on Thursday was definitely the way to go, the crowd was very excited and even having to watch half the trailers TWICE didn’t deter the energy in the room (though it did lead to some very inventive swearing-I love ya NY). People gasped and yelped in all the right places and it made for a fun time and contrary to other reports of screenings no one yelled “that’s it?” at the end. I certainly didn’t feel deprived of a solid look at the monster (who has the tenacity of the shark in Jaws: The Revenge when it comes to tracking down the film’s protagonists) and I appreciated the increasingly fatalistic tone as the film moved on. Lots of horrors stem out of national concerns (Godzilla came from the Japanese fear of nuclear fall-out, Gort is a creation of the Cold War) and “Clovie” (yeah that’s what I’m going to call him) is definitely a by-product of 9/11 anxiety; the thought of being helpless and unaware in the face of disaster. The film certainly has ample opportunity to say more but the most we get in terms of commentary is a brief moment once Lady Liberty’s head flies off into Manhattan and mere seconds after the dust has cleared people are taking digital pictures with their cameras and cell-phones. It’s admittedly a light moment and an intriguing one, but that’s about as far as the film goes in terms of depth about commenting on the state of modern affairs. Otherwise it’s just a lot of running and screaming and frustration. This is not a bad thing per se but it prevents the movie from reaching its full potential. This format is capable of telling a lot, I just wish there were more dynamic characters with more provocative things to say about what’s going on. Clovie is fun though and the film has buckets of atmosphere. I say this good for at least one rowdy screening and if I never see it again, oh well.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Late Night Reflections on Cloverfield (too tired for more clever title)

Lets get down to brass tacks, Cloverfield is neither the spastic mess I feared it would be, nor is it the ground-breaking classic some have touted it to be. It's a ride, pure and simple. Your mileage and excitement on this ride will vary. I can't foresee purchasing this film on DVD or even hitting it again in theaters, but I will say I'm glad I saw it opening night at midnight in New York City. It made walking out of the theater a few blocks from Columbus Circle (a very important locale in the film) kind of fun and taking the subway across the Brooklyn Bridge kind of terrifying. I will update with more later when I'm not exhausted.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

There Will Be Inevitable Spoofing

Love it today, be annoyed beyond belief that we're killing it tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cloverfield and the New York State of Mind

With Cloverfield but a day away, a whiny internet casts its eyes on the advance reviews of the film. Various reps from the likes of aicn and chud have checked in with very positive things to say, Jeffrey Wells seemed pleased and Dave Poland could care less. But all this is irrelevant in face of the most important viewer of all in regards to the film's overall success, the non-internet savvy population. The films mysterious nature (Was it a Godzilla film? Alien invasion? Cthulu? Irwin Allen homage? Rampaging Elaine Stritch?) baffled movie and genre geeks for months ONLINE and has whipped up a mighty frenzy, but is the public at large aware of this movie? My guess is no.

The fact of the matter remains that viral marketing campaigning only gets you so far. Wasn't Snakes on a Plane supposed to be huge (it certainly was in the theater I watched it in on opening day but the box office doesn't quite match up)? Same exact story goes for Grindhouse. Both those films had huge internet buzz and both belly flopped. You have to tap all your bases for a film like this and that means posters, TV ads, the talk show circuit etc. I don't see any reason why a quality monster movie can't do well, especially in a dry month like January but you have to get the word out there. With no stars and no look at the monster, joe schmoe has no idea what they're looking at when they see an ad for this movie. JJ Abrams has clout but for a lot of people you have to qualify his name with "the creator of Lost and Alias." I'll admit that I'm starting to see a lot more ads for the film on TV but they're kind of non-descriptive and forgettable if you haven't been informed ahead of time what you're looking at. "See, see!" I shout at my roommates "You can kind of see it walking past that building" or "If you study the frame carefully you can see that girl explode." They remain unmoved. It's the kind of teaser you need to be able to slow-down or pause to appreciate but for good or ill ads on TV exist to be fast forwarded through these days. I've asked many of my non-movie geek friends if they're excited about this film and I've been greeted with blank stares. Uh oh. I rebutt with "haven't you seen the posters with the Statue of Liberty" (in Manhattan they're damn near ubiquitous) and an answer I've now gotten back several times from multiple people was "Oh, I thought that was for I Am Legend" Hmmmm. Having a completely non-descriptive title like Cloverfield is probably not helping the matter. Is that the name of the company putting this headless Statue of Liberty movie out?

One other problem to consider and that is that the advertising showcases a wrecked New York and panicky New Yorkers. Now I am all for using films to get us to evaluate current events or help us process tragedy. I am NOT one of those "too soon" people. War of the Worlds did just fine evoking 9/11 imagery and a deserted New York certainly didn't put off anyone from seeing I Am Legend. But this is a horse of a different color. War of the Worlds did not feature scenes in Manhattan and the buildings remain intact in I Am Legend. This is a movie that specifically shows Manhattan; its infrastructure and citizenry, being menaced by something unseen and terrifying. While I certainly don't mind looking at that kind of very relevant fear through a genre based lens, will my fellow NYCers be as forgiving? As I walked past the Cloverfield poster at my work subway station noticed scrawled across it were the words "Why are you doing this?" It's rare when you get graffiti with proper spelling and punctuation, so I have to believe that this person is clearly troubled by what this film is evoking just from the poster. We're six plus years past 9/11 and while New York citizens still have every right to be upset and anxious about it, I personally don't think a movie is anything to get upset about. Still, it could be a cause for ticket buyers staying away.

Ultimately I won't lose any sleep over the success or failure of Cloverfield. I'd just like it to be a quality genre film. Matt Reeves has plenty of experience directing episodic TV but this is a different animal all together. Drew Goddard has penned some of my favorite episodes of Buffy and Angel (and some decent eps of Lost) but he has only two hours to establish these characters and make us invest in them. Can he do it? Can this film shows us something we've never seen before or it will be a frustrating, nausea inducing let down. Right now I'm approaching with low pulse, guarded optimism, but you can be rest assured I will be there opening night.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

And my love grows

Ok so during some late night Amy Adams googling (shut up) I learned several facts that make me like her even more.
1. She loves Mexican food (I love Mexican food)
2. She loves The West Wing (I love The West Wing)
3. She's kind of embarrassed by that about of Smallville where she plays an overweight teen who eats a deer (I've watched clips of that episode, probably more than I should)
4. She's not a naturalized American citizen, having been born on an army base in Italy (Italy according to Michael Showalter is the birthplace of spaghetti)
5. She was in Serving Sara something I had COMPLETELY forgotten (probably because I had no idea who she was at the time). But not only is she IN this famously gerund-y film, can we get a picture...
Mmmm, can we get another one (something with less Matthew Perry)...
...Oh wait, I had a point I was making, yes so not only is she in the film but who is she romancing in this film, who is the leading man that absolutely positively makes it certain that I will unquestionably love this woman forever? Who could be so awesome as to be a better romantic sparring partner than Leonardo DiCaprio, Lee Pace, Will Ferrell or John Krasinski?
Who I ask you who?!?!
Congratulations, you are now freaking out.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday Night Monologue: Mad as...something

There's a lot of things in the world to be mad about: the death of Benazhir Bhutto, the presidency of George Bush, the entertainment journalism of Billy Bush, the writers strike, Iraq everything, the president of Iran's visit to New York, the Spider-Man reboot, that kid who knocked over the table in class today (all my stuff was on there) and of course Marion Cotillard's Golden Globe victory over Amy Adams. Well Paddy Chayefsky, Sidney Lumet and Peter Finch have got your back angry internet reader.

Howard Beale: I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth. Banks are going bust. Shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's no one anywhere that seems to know what to do with us. Now into it. We know the air is unfit to breathe, our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had 15 homicides and 63 violent crimes as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad. Worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy so we don't go out anymore. We sit in a house as slowly the world we're living in is getting smaller and all we say is, "Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster, and TV, and my steel belted radials and I won't say anything." Well I'm not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad. I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crying in the streets. All I know is first you've got to get mad. You've got to say, "I'm a human being. God Dammit, my life has value." So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" I want you to get up right now. Get up. Go to your windows, open your windows, and stick your head out, and yell, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Things have got to change my friends. You've got to get mad. You've got to say, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open your window, stick your head out and yell, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Network is an odd duck because it was oddly prescient at the time it came out. Except now it seems that it just didn't go far enough, we're way, way past it. In today environment Beale seems embarrassingly tame compared to your O'Reilys, your Olbermans your etc. Media satire and criticism has morphed into a giant monster beast that render the movie tame and irrelevant. Still the acting and scripting are sharp especially given the context.

Something that made me laugh

According to who is in turn quoting the upcoming G.I. Joe movie will have Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Duke's best friend. The big twist being...the best friend character will turn into...brace yourselves 80's nerds...COBRA COMMANDER. HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA
Joseph Gordon Levitt playing Cobra Commander. Roll that around your mind hole for a minute.

What's next? Ben Foster as Serpentor? Zac Efron as Tommax and Xammot (thank you miracles of CGI)?

Don't get me wrong Gordon-Levitt is an amazing actor (Brick, Mysterious Skin and The Lookout providing ample evidence) but this looks waaaay too silly for him. But who knows? Could be a lot of fun.

Which member of young Hollywood you like to see play a G.I. Joe villain? Post in the comments please.

UPDATE: In an odd bit of blogging synergy Latino Review is posting that Dominic West himself (Jimmy McNulty himself, for you non-Wire watchers-he was the jerky politician in 300) will be playing Destro. Say what you will about this film but the villains are going to be played by way over-qualified actors.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of...The Golden Globes

For SHAME Hollywood Foreign Press! For f'ing SHAME! I will be adding to this post later but with little exception I am MOST displeased. I think you can all guess what I'm PARTICULARLY upset about.





Over This?:

What's that you say fictional Hollywood Super-Agent Ari Gold?

Updated with actual content (kind of):

The Good: Sweeney Todd's win may hopefully give it some award show traction which I wish to then turn into traction for a much deserved Burton nomination. But considering its opposition consisted of Across the (snicker) Universe its win is not so staggering, even in the face of the rising popularity of Juno.

Daniel Day-Lewis DRINKS YOUR MILKSHAKE Denzel.

Yay for Ratatouille a clear-cut much deserved win.

Julie Christie, again given the bracket, deserved the win. Same goes for Depp, considering the bracket. I'm not upset about Bardem's win but there were a lot of worthy nominees.

Good for Julian Schnabel as I do think the direction in Diving Bell was top-notch but potentially at the cost of Burton's nomination? I'm torn.

The Bad: MARION COTILLARD OVER AMY ADAMS! WTF!?!?!?!?!?!?!? I can't imagine her being beaten by a worse opponent oh my poor Amy. I hope this doesn't kill her traction. Hey you know who didn't do their own singing? Cotillard! You know who DID do their own singing? AMY ADAMS! You know who complained and bitched unconvincingly for two hours? Cotillard! You know who effectively portrayed a human incarnation of an animated princess discovering the perils and joys of being human? ADAMS!

I've started reading Atonement and it is a textured, wonderful novel but it only serves to underline how inconsistent the film was. Still, as was pointed out the best picture Globe winner is generally not an indicator of the winner (Babel anyone?).

Cate Blanchett's win is laziness, pure and simple. She's great but she's hardly earth-shaking. Swinton or Ryan would've been much worthier wins. Hell even Ronan would've given a good spee-never mind.

The mostly rote adaptation of No Country (Those lines everyone likes? All Cormac) over Juno, weak!

As much as I enjoy the soundtrack of Into the Wild (and I do) come on I defy you to tell me the lyrics of any Eddie Vedder song "Sabigsahhhhhh" Brilliance. Poor "That's How You Know."

Ugly: Spending an hour with Billy Bush and Nancy O'Dell. Awful. Thank god for beer, the great entertainment equalizer. And talking about winners and losers right after someone has won is all well and good when you're at home, but to do so during the ACTUAL broadcast. TACKY!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Some notes on what I missed

Many of you who have asked about why "such and such" movie was left off this or that list is for the simple reason that I missed that film (or it wasn't playing wide enough). I mean I did see over 80 films in theaters in 2007 (that's not even touching stuff I saw on DVD or on TV) so it's not so bad.

Anyway here's the biggies:
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days-Played at festivals and wasn't at those festivals (I will be checking it out when it opens at the end of the month).
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford-couldn't find anyone to go with and by the time my schedule cleared up it was already out of theaters. This is the one that really irks me as it looks right up my alley.
Cassandra' Dream-I already saw Match Point. I'll wait until DVD and netflix it then.
The Great Debaters-Ehhhh, Antwone Fisher was fine but forgettable, I can foresee watching this on a plane some time down the line.
I Am Legend-Heard good things about the first hour or so, I'll netflix it.
The Kite Runner-I won't make the Atonement mistake again, I'll read the book first.
The Kingdom-Currently on my netflix q, looking forward to it.
In the Valley of Elah-A Haggis war film? No thanks. I am grateful for the mileage I got out of the elah, elah, elah jokes.
Lady Chatterly-Saw this one on some of the snootier lists, netflix will do the rest.
Lars and the Real Girl-Too indie quirky even for me. Also, REALLY, everyone in town is going to go along with this conceit? Really? Still the completest in me will at least take a look at it on netflix.
Lions for Lambs-The terrible reviews kept me away and I will stay away.
The Orphanage-Looks kind of derivative. But I'll take a look on DVD, just not urgent.
Redacted-I was looking forward to it but there was some stuff in DePalma's promotional interviews that kept me away. Netflixing it.
Rendition-Looked nice and glossy but the reviews say otherwise. I'll check it out but I won't move it to the top of the q anytime soon.
Starting Out in the Evening-Got very good notices for its performance but it's small and I picked big. But the prospect of seeing Frank Langella (in a lead role) and part of my holy trinity of redheads (that would be Lauren Ambrose) together in a move will shoot this one up to number one on my netflix q.
Southland Tales-I still enjoy Donnie Darko a lot but Domino suffered from a serious case of awful. This could go either way and I'll take a look on DVD.
Youth Without Youth-Couldn't find where it was playing and the reviews were less then kind. But come on I won't skip Coppola, even if I have to catch it on netflix.

As for people wondering where The Host (very entertaining with one of the best monsters I've seen in a long time), The Lives of Others and Black Book (both amazing) are they are on my best of last year list as they're 2006 releases (which yes, I saw them in 2007) so they go on the 2006 list. Same goes for Away from Her which was a nice thoughtful film with wonderful performances, but there's nothing that particularly makes a lasting impact about it.

All right I think we can officially close the book on 2007 (with the exception of Oscar coverage...hopefully) and get ready for an exciting 2008.

Alright back to the grindstone.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I Link Your Milkshake!

Phew. Oh man, it's done. Now I get why people usually do ten. Good lord. Anyway here are this weeks links. There is kind of a Wire/There Will Be Blood theme going on here. If you don't know what The Wire is, stick around and I shall discuss it soon.

Wire Stuff:
Nick Hornby interviews David Simon, creator of The Wire here. I'm pretty sure this is the modern day equivalent of Mark Twain interviewing Ben Franklin in terms of awesome.

The House Next Door breaks down the anatomy of The Wire's opening title sequence here.

There Will Be Blood Stuff:
The IFC has compiled a list of critical reaction to the quick to legendary status "I drink your milkshake" scene here.

Internet I love you. See why by clicking here.

Misc. Stuff:
Film Threat has a list of the greatest "lost" films of all time right here. Intriguing stuff.

Here's something a bit lighter, Cracked, tells us all about the worst 15 James Bond one-liners here.

Read. Dance. Bliss. pointed me towards this bit of awesome here. This is the video for anyone who has ever watched an internet video.

Laura Katz is the reason I love most of the music I do (and have most of the music I do-but don't tell the record companies that). Her blog is as the kids say "teh sex", check it out here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I've Been Dreaming of A True Love List: The Sickness' Cinema's Top Twenty Films of 2007

Here are my top twenty movies. The criteria here is a combination “best of” and “favorite.” What I was really looking for were movies that were memorable, technically impressive, well realized and touched me in some way (sometimes not in a good way but provided a visceral reaction). So we’ll be starting at twenty and working our way up to number one. Now get ready:

20. The Savages-Nearly ten years after the fun Slums of Beverly Hills director Tamara Jenkins roars back onto the scene with a knowing, sharp dramedy that deals with subject matter that doesn’t regularly appear in movie theaters. There are no Hallmark moments here, no moment of redemption between Philip Bosco’s Leonard Savage and his screwy academic children who for all their intellectualism can barely keep their lives together. Alternatively touching, brutal and hilarious this is an above all honest drama with spectacular acting throughout.
The Sickness Scene: Jon (PSH) confronts sister Wendy (Laura Linney) in the parking lot of the upscale senior-care center.
The Sickness Performance: Hard to say but for this one, but I got to give it to Linney whose character runs the emotional gamut as she eventually inches her way towards personal and professional growth.

19. Charlie Wilson’s War- Mike Nichols gives a very polished directing job to Aaron Sorkin’s buoyant comic script that keeps things fun but never completely lets the spectre of Afghanistan and the Taliban out of the room. Tom Hanks has loads of fun as the morally ambiguous, but exceedingly crafty senator who with a small team including heiress Julia Roberts and disgruntled CIA company man (PSH-AGAIN) manage to aide Afghanistan in defeating the Soviets. The film's ultimately delivers just the right amount of optimism as it looks toward an uncertain future with two simple words "we'll see." It's deceptively simple but oddly compelling. Why couldn't all the current-event inspired fiction films that came out this year be this much fun?
The Sickness Scene: Meet Gust Avrakotos, better hope you’re not a window.
The Sickness Performance: Philip Seymour Hoffman bulldozes his way through the film chewing scenery like it’s taffy.

18. No Country For Old Men- The Coen Brothers return to form with this excellent (but lamentably rote) take on Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic western. It’s thrilling to see McCarthy’s characters and bleak scenarios come to life and exhilarating to see the mastery at which the Coen’s create this world where a set I his ways sheriff must witness the ultimate evil as he tracks a hired killer (Javier Bardem) chase a good man (Josh Brolin) who has stumbled into a bad situation. The chase that follows is alternatively thrilling, terrifying, heartbreaking and on rare occasion quite funny. Brilliant performances abound across a landscape beautifully shot by Roger Deakins.
The Sickness Scene: Josh Brolin’s Llewlyn thinks he has a moment of rest at a hotel, then the light goes out in the hallway…then things get REALLY bad.
The Sickness Performance: Javier Bardem plays the embodiment of evil itself. Oh and evil has a Prince Valiant haircut, just FYI.

17. Beowulf- The breathtaking innovation of Robert Zemeckis made this a spectacle to savor in 3D, but what puts it on the list is the fiercely clever script by the unlikely duo of Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman. This is myth-making the way it deserves to look: big, impressive and bold to the point of ridiculousness. It takes the time to have its characters consider things like legacy, parenting, desire, religion and getting older. Even with the occasional technical gaffes (the ladies aren’t particularly accurate likenesses, except for Angelina) the film remains a remarkable achievement and by far gave me the most bang for my action buck of any film this year.
The Sickness Scene: Beowulf retells the story of how he lost a swimming contest and it’s AMAZING!
The Sickness Performance: Crispin Glover speaking in olde English despite looking like the spawn of a mole and a half eaten fish still gives an amazing performance as Grendel.

16. The Darjeeling Limited- People knock Wes Anderson at this point for his films being stylistically similar but I think it’s a fairly foolish criticism as filmmakers rarely have it so together by their fifth film. Anderson should hardly be penalized for having a recognizable voice and vision, especially when tackling something that he’s never dealt with before in his films, religion. Through the familiar prism of a family on the outs Anderson tackles has his brothers attempt to find spirituality and manage to find it in a variety of ways and modes. While the film may only be dealing with one specific sector of practice it nails the complex duality between the superficial practices involved in ritual and the depth that can be found in tackling these rituals in the right context.
The Sickness Scene: Got to be the pivotal scene on the bridge that prompted Terry Wunder to ask “Save a boy?”
The Sickness Performance: After working very hard to get me to find him completely annoying in Hollywoodland and King Kong, Adrien Brody remind me why I enjoy him in the first place. He’s capable of hitting the wry comedic beats and then seamlessly transitioning to devastating melancholy.

15. Zodiac- The style informs the content in David Fincher’s obsessive tale about obsession. Turning the standard police procedural on its head, Finchner’s film practically bombards you in minutiae getting you as invested in the case as the characters themselves. There’s so much material that one viewing may not be enough to absorb all the characters, scenarios and theories. The case starts and stops, goes cold and then resets itself making the proceedings sometimes seem rocky but I wouldn’t be surprised that each time I watch it my fondness for it grows. It may not be as fun as Seven but Zodiac certainly ramps up the thrills as well as its predecessor does. Its not often that a movie makes you feel smarter for having watched it.
The Sickness Scene: The Zodiac killer ruins a picnic way worse then any bunch of ants could.
The Sickness Performance: My heart says Downey Jr. but my head cries out for Ruffalo as David Toschi, who starts the movie confident (he is after all the model for Bulitt) but by the end is left a shaken hollow man.

14. Superbad- I know I’m hardly the only webmaster/blogger/hipster-d’bag on the web to sing hosannas to Judd movies. Guiding us into this wild night of growth are Michael Apatow but damn it the man just deserves it. He’s given me so much joy and so many laughs and he’s only the producer here. The real brain trust is Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg working with director Greg Mottola who made this the smoothest, best-looking of all the ApatowCera and Jonah Hill as believable best friends. The two work out their issues of co-dependence and independence (and learn a bit about the opposite sex). While their story is played in basically a real world with real consequences the film gets its zany fix from McLovin and his wild ride with Officers Slater and Michaels. While McLovin starts the film a geek and a joke he ends it a legend. It’s invigorating to watch each time you revisit it and gives the film a nice sense of balance. If I make this all sound fairly deep it’s because the emotions are, but the film never once lets you forget that it’s a comedy and you laugh from beginning to end and “That’s good shit, huh, Hiroki?”
The Sickness Scene: One word, three syllables (sing it with me) PAN-A-MA!
The Sickness Performance: The temptation is to put newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse who wears McLovin like a glove, but the real emotional weight, the heart of Superbad is Michael Cera who ushers the film into both its darker and sweeter moments.

13. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street- Like I said, on paper this thing looked like a mess. One of my favorite musicals of all time as interpreted by the man who has become the Hot Topic (the store, not the concept) auteur with a cast of non-singers. Blech! But Burton brings all his skill to the fore as he cuts and slices around the songs with the deft touch of his titular protagonist turning Sweeney makes rivers of sumptuous blood flow from the necks of his victims and its so much fun (in a dark, sick sort of way). The proceedings are most exhilarating when our odd-ball couple is on-screen as and into its own uniquely marvelous experience. In the monochromatic town where "the vermin of the world inhabit it." Depp and Bonham-Carter create a grand guignol sort of nuclear family unit along with newcomer Ed Sanders, that all falls to shit as secrets and lies are exposed on that all too convoluted path of revenge. The pair are so fascinating that when the film centers on their pretty boy Anthony and their dreary Johanna I found myself wishing to be back with Sweeney and co. Oh sure I'd have liked a slightly livelier rendition of "A Little Priest" but otherwise Burton makes good on the promise aided by his first rate material.
The Sickness Scene: Having just missed his opportunity to take out one of his enemies Depp brings all his singing skill to bear and Burton shoots the hell out of "Epiphany." The audience cheered.
The Sickness Performance: Shock of shocks I must give it to Helena Bonham Carter who upchucks my expectations and turns Nellie Lovett into the maternal wannabe from Hell. Her "By the Sea" is pretty damn delightful.

12. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters- There are documentaries that expand your world view and spark your interest in a subject or stimulate you intellectually or boil your blood until its bubbling under your skin (No End in Sight did all three) but how often does a documentary actually touch you? How often does a documentary put all your soul behind a guy who not only has the skill but is just a nice guy who keeps getting screwed? Sounds like the fodder for a pretty damn good sports movie doesn't it? Well this little gem is about the world of Donkey Kong players. Yes, Donkey Kong, the original, the widow maker of arcade games. As this doc explores the world of competitive arcade gamers your first instinct is to laugh, hard. But as the story of perpetual underdog Steve Wiebe and larger than life (more mulleted than life too) Billy Mitchell unfolds you find yourself sucked in and completely invested in the film's final outcome. Ever thought you'd find yourself clawing at your seat at the prospect of Mario narrowly avoiding a fireball? This is the movie that will have you standing up and cheering by the end. Or chuckling contentedly.
The Sickness Scene: Billy visits the arcade Steve is playing at AND NEVER SAYS A WORD TO HIM! Bastard! I'm still mad about it.
The Sickness Performance: That the producers want Nathan Fillion to play Steve Wiebe in the fictional version of the story speaks volumes about the guy's integrity, but the real heartbreaker is Mrs. Wiebe who wants to be supportive after years of seeing her love almost succeed time and again. Except, you know, he's playing Donkey Kong.

11. Enchanted- AHHHHHH! "Why isn't it higher?" cry the dozens of regular readers Well I'll let you in on a little secret. I can see the flaws in my great cinematic love of the year. Oh yes, I know the third act is hampered by an inconsistent CGI dragon and a performance by Susan Sarandon (who I typically enjoy) that doesn't match what else is on screen (and her dialogue gets almost Shrek-y in places). But now that's out of the way let's get to the heart of the matter. This film is pure bliss. I mean it, so well intentioned, so clever, so fun, so perfectly skewering the ridiculousness of being a fantasy princess while at the same time underlining what makes the fantasy so popular in the first place. Director Kevin Lima keeps things just as bright and colorful in the real world as he does in the film's gorgeous animated sequence and there is more then enough Disney minutiae to keep even super-fans looking like it's the greatest trivia challenge ever.
But this is a film about discovery, the exquisite Princess Giselle discovers that given the choice of perfect contentment as a princess finds that there is a much greater depth and reward in the messier adult world of New York City. But it's also a movie where the LARGE audience discovered the twin joys that are Amy Adams and James Marsden. These two are so perfect, so hilarious, so honest that it's difficult to remember the perfectly enjoyable supporting cast of stand outs including Timothy Spall, Idina Menzel, McWhatsisname, Rachel Covey and Pip (adorable). But come on, watch this movie and tell me that Adams and Marsden aren't perfect animated characters made flesh. God I wish I could run through the street shouting how great they are but the block captain of Underhill avenue has already given me a stern waring not to do that again.
The Sickness Scene: Can't I just say everything up until the moment after Marsden says, perfectly straight-faced, "I don't know what melodramatic means." Oh all right, I suppose it's a toss-up between the opening animated scene to "True Love's Kiss" (Haha! We shall be married in the morning!) and the amazing "That's How You Know." FACT: Watch the scene where the prince finally sees Giselle in the middle of "That's How You Know" right after he calls her name he half bites his fist. I laugh so hard every time (EVERY TIME) I see that because it is AWESOME! It's like "Oh man, I finally see her and now I'm going to bust the greatest most romantic move anyone has ever seen in song" and then he is hit by cyclists.
The Sickness Performance: Have you been paying attention at ALL?!?!?

10. Knocked Up- To say that expectation were high after the instant classic 40 Year Old Virgin would be an understatement. Did Apatow's second directorial outing meet expectations? Damn right it did. Using the same perfect alchemy of manly bonding, raunchy good times and emotional honesty Apatow delivered one of the two great comedies of summer. Seth Rogen as Ben Stone showed that he had the chops to lead the way for generations of "beta males" to follow as a night of passion forces him to grow up (slightly) a lot faster then he was planning. here has been plenty of hullabaloo that this movie advocates the couple's behavior but I am strongly of the opinion that the film gives no guarantees. Ben and Alison never have that big "I love you" moment but they are committed to each other and their child. It's actually a rather bitter-sweet pill to take, though the spoonful of sugar that helps this medicine goes down is that the movie surounding this rather desperate situation is devastatingly funny. Absolutely hilarious. It would be criminal to neglect the tremendous comic ensemble present especially stand-outs Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann's less than Hollywood ideal marriage. The film's run-time is hardly an issue as its such an incredible joy to hang out with these characters.
The Sickness Scene: "Fuck you, hormones!" everything that is great about this film in one simple scene.
The Sickness Performance: Leslie Mann, hey somebody ought write about that.

9. I'm Not There-Todd Haynes newest film is a bold, exciting portrait of an artist that swim in the possibilities of cinema. How anyone could ever go back to to watching conventional bipoics after this film is beyond me. Mercurical, avant-garde and exceedingly thoughtful, the film approaches it subject with the concept that no person is truly knowable, but in showing all the facets of Dylan the viewer leaves with a much broader picture of the artist then they did when they came in. With loads of inside jokes and references for Dylan-ologists, the movie may be difficult for some viewers, it doesnt hold your hand ad is sometimes deliberately evasive, but then again so is Dylan. The film's central conceit in having Dylan played by six wonderful, decidedly different actors works perfectly and as I mentioned before nicely underlines the film's thesis. This is solid heady stuff and one I will really enjoy returning to in order to scrape up new insights I missed the first time around. Having a soundtrack made up of some of the best songs in all of popular music probably doesn't hurt it much either.
The Sickness Scene: Jude (Cate Blanchett) is driving along, annoyed by the constant media hounding when who should show up but Alan Ginsberg (David Cross) on some sort of bizzare jalopy. It's a moment that is so surreal that even Jude can't believe it.
The Sickness Performance: Everyone has been going ga-ga over Blanchett (and rightly so) but I found myself incredibly moved by the tender, earnest work of Marcus Carl Franklin as "Woody Guthrie."

8. Juno- My friend Peter PERFECTLY summed up this movie when he caught it in an early
preview screening, "That movie gave me a hug." It's true, for all the criticism about the "cloying", "cutesy" dialogue this movie has a deep and earnest heart. The movie beautifully juggles two lovely stories both of which illustrate the maturation of Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page); the more obvious one is here giving her baby to the the too-good-to-be-true Lorings (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) and her growing awareness of her love of Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Both stories inform one another as Juno, for all her worldly wisdom and oratory savvy learns to let her guard down and let other people in. The movie has such a deep and abiding love for all its characters and this completely carries over to the audience which explains why people seem to be responding so strongly to the film, you can't help but connect to it. These aren't indie-quirky cartoons, they're people, maybe a little more interesting then average people but they are wonderfully written, dynamically performed people. And I can't wait to see them again, thank you so much Ms. Cody.
The Sickness Scene: "
'Cause you're, like, the coolest person I've ever met, and you don't even have to try, you know..." "I try really hard, actually." And the tears started flowing.
The Sickness Performance: Frank is right, for all the hoopla over Ellen Page, Michael Cera and Jennifer Garner, the unheralded stalwarts of this film are Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons as Juno's frustrated but supportive parents.

7. Persepolis- Marjane Satrapi's adaptation of her acclaimed graphic novel is a glorious emotional whirlwind and while superficially couldn't be more different from Juno the films does bear a thematic resemblance. Both films feature young women overcoming adversity to discover their identity. But to say that Marjane had to go through a BIT more to go through is an understatement. In a backdrop that regularly features revolutions and war, Marjane deals with family romantic relationships, fashion, assimilation, religion, art, ideology and finding a true home. In one beautifully animated scene after another, Satrapi and co-director Vincent Paronnaud tell heir story in a variety of moods in a deceptively simple graphic style that is capable of conveying a wide array of emotions. Persepolis is a movie that has you pulling for Marjane every step of the way. Beautiful.
The Sickness Scene: Marjane, after a difficult emotional period, decides she's not going to sit around and mope anymore and you will never look at "Eye of the Tiger" the same way ever again.
The Sickness Performance: There's a lot of powerful voice work here, but the person who made me shed my first tears in the movie was Catherine Deneuve as Marjane's mother.

6. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le papillon)- The story of Jean Dominique Bauby (played in the film by Mathieu Amalric) is overpowering stuff but not in the way one might expect. Under the careful eye of painter/director Julian Schnabel the true story of the Italian Elle editor who's stroke causes him to suffer from the incredibly rare locked-in syndrome. The once vibrant man in the prime of his life is rendered a parapelegic who can only move one eye but has his complete mental faculties. It would be simple for Schnabel to play this like a Lifetime movie that courts sympathy for "Jean-Do" but the film opts to be much more. The film begins with Jean-Do waking up from his coma and the film is shot from his POV and with us hearing Jean-Do's thoughts. We're not sympathizing Jean-Do, WE ARE Jean-Do. His frustration become the audiences frustrations, his desires become the audiences desires, we never pity him. We empathize, we don't sympathize. Also because of Jean-Do's limited range of vision the edges of the frame are blurred giving a good chunk of the film the feel of a water-color painting. When we do eventually see Jean-Do he is revealed gradually and even Jean-Do can't believe seeing his reflection "I look like something born in formaldhyde." As Jean-Do struggles to make even the slightest movements and re-learn to communicate we examine the totality of his loss and the new insight his condition has given him. It is in his mental exploration that the film gets his title. When shut-in he is like a man in a deep-sea diving suit, completely sensory deprived, unable to move, but through his limitless imagination he can traverse time and space he is as free as the butterfly. It's an amazing journey that everyone should go on.
The Sickness Scene: Jean-Do is taken to the beach to spend time with his wife and child. Jean-Do watches his children be strong and play for him as his wife watches appreciatively. Then the Tom Waits soundtrack kicks in. Devastating.
The Sickness Performance: Mathieu Almaric hindered by make-up and bound to his chair gives an amazing voice-over performance and tells the entire story with just a flicker of his eye. Though he doesn't get off easily cause Max Von Sydow demonstrates in a few short scenes why he's been a living legend of the cinema for over sixty years for his brief moments as Jean-Do's father.

5. Once- For all the big musicals that came out this year (a lovely sentence to be able to type)
the one that hit me in my sweet spot the hardest was this tiny independent film. Once is so simple, so straightforward that it seems surprising no one has done anything like it before. Think Before Sunrise with an alt-folk-rock soundtrack. But here the characters don't talk, the sing. This is a film about the joy of making art, specifically making music, even more specifically the joy that comes with finding that perfect collaborator. It's this rare idea that you don't often see in movies where one person's counter-point is just shining out of the other. It's the kind of thing that all the McConaughey-Hudson team-ups in the world never even get CLOSE to achieving. It's amazing to see the attraction grow into love and respect, especially considering these aren't professional actors. They are however amazing musicians. Glen Hansard's voice as this unforgettable keening quality that when he howls its with all the force of his soul and Marketa Irglova conveys such tenderness and precision. The film may be small but it takes up space in your brain and I can foresee it as a movie a lot of couples fall in love over.
The Sickness Scene: "Falling Slowly" in the music store just knocks you off your ass.
The Sickness Performance: This is a beautiful duet of two performers and I can't in good conscince pick one over the other, so props to both Hansard and Irglova.

Hot Fuzz- As naturalistic and free flowing as Once is Hot Fuzz is a tight, controlled comic
masterpiece. Exquisitely directed by Edgar Wright this homage to the glory days of American buddy cop action films is the ultimate gift to the ten year old boy in us all. Though the subject matter may be juvenile the handling is something for grown-ups to appreciate. Wright's script (co-written by star Simon Pegg) perfectly pokes fun at the tropes of the genre while at the same time underlining what makes them so fun in the first place (hmmm this is starting to sound familiar). The script also immaculately sets up its gags. There is no fat in these movies, EVERYTHING gets a pay-off and the more you sit up and watch the film, the more you are rewarded with laughs. Additionally, this movie has the most fun ensemble of any movie to be released this year, a joy for both anglophiles and genre fans (LOOK: JAMES BOND! BELLOQ! SGT HOWIE!). Everyone looks like they're having a ball. At the center of it all is the friendship/romance of Simon Pegg's Nicholas Angel and Nick Frost's Danny Butterman. These two men are best friends in real life and shows in every frame of this film. This film is pure fun from start to finish and I will never get tired of watching it. It makes you want to demand more from your comedies AND your action movies.
The Sickness Scene: Ugh, put a gun to my head why don't you? I guess when Sgt. Angel rides back into town.
The Sickness Performance: Simon Pegg steps it up as a sexy man-good as perfectionist Angel who doesn't know how to switch it off.

3. Ratatouille- Where to even begin? Should I sing the praises of Brad Bird's brilliant direction
that makes this film alternatively thrilling, thoughtful and hilarious? Maybe the sumptuous visual palette of the Pixar animators? How about the playful vocal work of the cast headed by Patton Oswalt? What about the exquisite scoring by Michael Giacchino? The way the film discusses art through the device of cooking, while equally giving the nature of criticism a good shake? My god, this movie is glorious. I realize that ostensibly Pixar films are family films that play to children but why do I feel they ultimately end up touching more adults? Especially Bird's material that not only demands the most of its characters but of the audience watching. Time and again the movie calls for raised standards but with the noted caveat that not everyone can be the best at everything. Linguini may be a nice kid, but he's a lousy cook and he suddenly doesn't become a great one by the end of the film. Not only that but there are consequences for his actions in the film and it gives the piece a real weight not often found in these types of films. Also its pretty amazing to think ina time where ration seems to be giving way to faith that we can find an exchange like this in a children's film: "This is the way things are; you can't change nature." "Change is nature, Dad. The part that we can influence. And it starts when we decide." Now that's some perspective for you.
The Sickness Scene: Ego's review. Breathless stuff.
The Sickness Performance: Peter O'Toole's Anton Ego is quite simply my favorite character of the year.

2. Into the Wild- As I mentioned way at the top of this article (seemingly days ago) that a large contributing factor in creating this list was how much I was touched by a given film. Had I been touched by Into the Wild anymore I would've had to taken it to court and shown on a dummy where it touched me. The film is guided with a propulsive energy by its director (Sean Penn), its star (Emile Hirsch) and its environment (breathtaking). In cracking open Jon Krakauer's account of the travels and end of Christopher McCandless, Penn reveals what made the wilds of America so appealing for young Chris. What's astonishing is that as beautiful as the scenes are Penn and Hirsch aren't afraid to let McCandless come off as less than likable from time to time. He could be stubborn, myopic, terse and extremely self-righteous. He may have some valid points about wanting to make his own way and find himself but his method is all wrong. The people he encounters along his way try to convince him, but he's not having it. It's what makes it so frustrating ut oddly compelling to watch. This fim is not about death but ultimately tells the story of a life, that if pushed a few inches in another direction, could have been extraordinary. In tapping into the potential Penn moves us (or at least me) to want to be something better, make something better, do something better then we did when we entered the theater. That is a truly rare and beautiful thing.
The Sickness Scene: Hanging with retiree Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook), Chris encourages the old man to go for broke and run up a hill. It may not sound like much but this scene is a killer that has to be seen for a master class in screen-acting.
The Sickness Performance: Hirsch brings the goods but Holbrook is heartbreaking in his limited screen time.

1. There Will Be Blood- I fought long and hard with myself before I went with this one. Anything you see between here and eleven was at one point or another a contender. At the end of the day though Paul Thomas Anderson's masterwork won out. The simple reason being is that ultimately the film is a boxing match between the two central character. A simple almost stage bound premise, but, because this is a film, from this simple premise out gushes a geysers worth of material. Like a Rorschach Test made of oil this conflict works on an infinite variety of levels. It can be seen as an allegory regarding our nations twin corrupt bulwarks: big business and religion. It can be seen as a haunting historical epic. It can be a story about fathers and sons, or one of brothers. A story of identity; about the masks we wear in public and the brutal truth that lies beneath. It's about consumption and capitalism, about madness and brilliance and ecah pair is constantly in competition. It is so many things (though unfortunately it is not a woman's story, though the story's LACK of women is very telling). One could even read this a text about our disposable society, wherein we cast aside that which is burdensome, bothersome or no longer pleases us. While the meaning is up for grabs the steadfast aspect is the work as a technical achievement. From it's gorgeous percision cinematography by Robert Elswit to the haunting Bernard Hermann-on-crack score by Johnny Greenwood this film is a feast for the eyes and ears. Then there are the performances, the central performances I should say (though Ciaran Hinds, Kevin J. O'Connor and newcomer Dillon Freasier do very fine work) the movie belongs to Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. Day-Lewis' Daniel Plainview is a monster in capitalist clothing. Beneath his convincing and confident manner lies a seething contempt for all humanity set to boil at a moments notice. He is a terrifying creation and we instantly get him. It is because that Day-Lewis opens up so immediately that you think you know how the character will react and it gives every scene a nice underlying tension. Except when Plainview bucks your expectations and goes completely nuts or bone chillingly cold. Then there is Dano, whose lithe frame belies a firey anger and frustratio that he too can call upon to alternatively rally or distance others. One look at this acting match-up and you'd think that Day-Lewis would wipe the floor with his scene partner ad bucking that expectation is part of the fun of watching these two work. Dano's calm, cool composure gives way to something as sinister as anything Day-Lewis can cook up. Though the end is never really in question (though it's execution is pretty jaw-dropping) there's only one way this thing is ending. Look to the title and the brace yourself for whatever Anderson is doing next.
The Sickness Scene: "I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!" My. God.
The Sickness Performance: Game. Set. Match. Day-Lewis.