Saturday, January 30, 2010

Link of Darkness

The best soundtracks and scores of 2009. Great picks.

The always clever and crotchety Devin Faraci just returned from Sundance and boy did he see a lot of movies. Many of them sound great. Can't wait.

Kim Morgan delivers a sharp, well written look at the influence of the late JD Salinger on film.

Miramax is folding, it's inevitable but sad. Here are several different tributes to the finest the company had to offer here and here.

An intriguing look at some unconventional Oscar picks courtesy of the House Next Door here and here.

Another tribute to Zelda Rubinstein here. Probably a bit less slapdash than mine.

Hey, you know When in Rome? Kristen Bell deserves better and here are some suggestions.

From the amazing folks who brought you the Robocop rap, here comes the Aliens rap.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Zelda Rubinstein RIP

It's been said but...

When I was a little kid the horror movie that scared me the most (even though i didn't atually watch it) was Child's Play. Ugh, creepy ass doll.

But the first movie that scared the bejeezum out of me was Hooper and Speilberg's Poltergeist.
I've since come to respect the film for it's ability to both terrify and yet still create a sense of awe in the unknown. Also cause of Craig T. Nelson's GLORIOUS freak out (YOU DIDN'T MOVE THE BODIES!).

But when conventional hacks are unable to effectively bust the ghosts, it's the diminutive medium with the bizarre voiced Tangia that gives the necessary haunting advice that ultimately saves the Freeling family. Zelda Rubinstein's odd vocal characteristics and stature immediately made her a horror icon. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about the lady and the world is a sadder place without this classy lady.

Go into the light.

All are welcome.

Zelda Rubenstein 1930-2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

No Shit, Sherlock

Fidelity to character. Whenever a major property is adapted to the big screen the internet seems to go up in arms or embrace whole-heartedly depending on how close to the source material the movie hews. When it was announced that stylist Guy Ritchie was going to be directing an action-packed remake of Sherlock Holmes with (gasp) American Robert Downey Jr as Holmes tongues clicked and message boards flamed. "Where's his deerstalker cap? His pipe? Holmes is no fighter!" people cried.

People are idiots.

If Downey's Holmes displays little resemblance to, say, Basil Rathbone's Holmes (and I really must protest, how many of my fellow bloggers have actually sat down and watched all the other iterations of Holmes?) he more than makes up for it to fidelity in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original print creation. The original Holmes is a scrapper, a master of disguise, frequently anti-social and more than willing to indulge in cocaine (reading the text it's his snuff packet that Holmes delves into more than his pipe). Above and beyond all this though is Holmes esire to match his boundless wit and logic against the most puzzling challenges the world of crime has to offer him. Downey's bold, manic energy works PERFECTLY for the character as originally conceived. He bristles at the mundane and domestic and in this film Holmes, the master of reason is placed against a seemingly supernatural foe.
If this film is comparable to any recent release I'd say that Ritchie, Downey and the team of screenwriters has captured the lightning in a bottle that endured audiences to Pirates of the Carribean. Both films attack what could be rather calcified genre pieces with energetic pacing and a modern sensibility. Ritchie finds a good groove as a studio director and makes good use of his speed-up/slow-down to turn Holmes action as an extension of character. Holmes approaches combat as yet another puzzle to solve. In voice-over Downey runs through exactly how to strike and block his opponent to ensure their defeat. It looks cool but doesn't sacrifice Holmes acting and behaving like Holmes. This modern sensibility carries through not only in action but in interaction.
There couldn't really be Holmes without Watson and Jude Law's control and slow-burn serve as an excellent counter-point to Downey's manic bluster. The two actors are fearless enough to play out the Holmes/Watson partnership very much as a bromance. They're not afraid to express their admiration and affection for one another, even when they're driving each other crazy. They're not constantly bickering, but they're definitely not always on the same page. The pot is stirred even further by the fact that Watson is trying to break up the partnership by getting married (a device that leads to a number of amusing scenes as Holmes tries to employ all his cunning to stop the engagement).
 id=Holmes is not without romantic entanglement, though his interest is as much intellectual as sexual. The screenwriters bring in another Doyle character, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) as the one woman who Holmes could ever be interested in because she is as cunning as she is. The character works but she's not as fleshed or fun as Downey and Law. Mark Strong makes an impression as baddie Lord Blackwell (though for once he's outclassed in a film rather than stealing it whole). It doesn't ultimately matter as the film hints at a much better known Holmes nemesis waiting in the wings for a sequel.

But perhaps Holmes biggest villains this time out are his detractors. One of the most common complaints I've seen leveled at this film is that Holmes doesn't do any mystery solving. I can't fathom what movie the people who are making this complaint were watching. While the true villain is never in question, the film more than tickles fancy as a how-did-they-do-it as opposed to a whodunit. Ritchie plays fair, having his camera pan on relevant clues throughout. He leaves a trail for those as observant as Holmes to follow and the solutions are quite fun. The film only really falters at the very end when it tries to give the thing a Michael Bay-ish set-piece with Holmes climbing a massive piece of construction after he and his cohorts race to disarm a bomb. It's a bit much and the climax is ultimately more interested in having Holmes reveal the nature of his deduction anyway.

The bottom line is Sherlock Holmes flat out works as entertainment that is smarter and more fun then it has any right to be. Why? Because explosions don't matter, it's character that counts.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Funny How Fallin' Feels Like Flyin'

In a splash of autumnal browns and golds the weathered visage of Jeff Bridges steps into some dive-bar spotlight, picks up his guitar and sings, barely out of a drunken stupor about how "fallin' feels like flyin'." It's an apt description for rookie director Scott Cooper's Crazy Heart. The film, which at its core about an alcoholic hitting rock bottom and pulling his life together, is never crushingly somber and often quite a joy to watch. The film, while small and simple in scope, is masterfully acted and manages to be pensive without ever becoming maudlin.
At the heart of the film is Jeff Bridge's Bad Blake, a country singer whose musical repertoire feels like a hybrid of Merle Haggard and Leonard Cohen. Blake, who was once a renowned songwriter and performer, has fallen on hard times and is now reduced to playing in bowling alleys and spending his nights either with floozy fans, booze, or more often than not, both. Blake is a masterful creation, a perfect synthesis of all the elements that have made Bridges the one of the most respected actor/stars of the past several decades. As Blake, Bridges has the wry likability of The Dude, the frustration of Duane Jackson and on stage the control of President Evans. Things slowly begin to turn around for Blake when he meets Maggie Gyllenhaal's reporter Jean. She's a single mom who is seeking an interview with Blake and the two quickly fall into an easy chemistry. At first Jean wants to maintain a professional distance, but she quickly gives in. They're too knowing to play the games of young lovers and Gyllenhaal brings a sinewy sensuality to her early scenes with Bridges. She doesn't just like him because it says so in the script, these characters work, even when they make bad decisions.
As the bond between Bad, Jean and her son deepens, Bad is moved to try to reinvigorate his career and reconnects with his new-country superstar protege Tommy Sweet (an always improving Colin Farrell). Of course the road to redemption is beset by all kinds of obstacles and while Bad does get his priorities straight, it is at great personal cost. If this is all starting to feel like a country music version of the Wrestler the comparison is apt. However, Cooper is a little less inclined toward melodrama than Aronofsky. He never pushes or manipulates and is content in keeping things as quiet as need be. The film takes its time and the viewing experience is richer for it. Cooper has an amazing cast of performers and lets them hold the stage, letting the audience enjoy genuine moments.

There are millions of tiny, wonderful details that puts Bridges alongside Christoph Waltz and Colin Firth as delivering one the finest male performances of the year. First off, there is Bridge's appearance. Bad Blake is a wreck of a once attractive man, he has let himself go. Bridges looks like a wet muskrat; scraggy haired, salt and pepper hair, leading each scene with his gut. Yet underneath it all there are still traces and swagger of a star and the composure of a professional. Take for example a scene where Bad is playing as a warm-up act for Tommy and Tommy sneaks up behind him to the delight of the audience. A broader film would have a more stated reaction from Bad, perhaps chagrin or surprise, but Bridges always aware of the character has Bad give Tommy a quick tip of his hat to Tommy. It's such a tiny moment but it's gloriously authentic, Bad is functional enough and lived enough that he knows how to deal with this sort of thing. Another scene finds Bad and his friend Wayne (a majestic Robert Duvall) on a boat as Bad recovers from a nasty hangover. It's a quiet moment where the two men hold the screen with idle chatter, quiet singing and fishing. It's the type of moment that is generally absent from mainstream American cinema. The audience isn't bombarded with flash but instead is embraced by quiet.

Oh and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the sensational songs by T. Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton. Honestly, I defy you to see this movie and not want the soundtrack immediately after. Bridges may not have the prettiest voice in the world but he has the chops to pull off each song. I could see them fitting seamlessly into a country jukebox between Kris Kristoferson and Waylon Jennings. There is so much to recommend about this film. Though I'm curious to see if it's just the exceptional alchemy of the actors and their material or if Cooper really has the goods as a director.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Tooth Link

Do you have netflix? If you don't you should, ESPECIALLY because God's special gift to film lovers, Criterion, has put a huge chunk of their film archive online for instant streaming. These are spectacular films and they're available to you to watch RIGHT NOW. Here is a list of but a few of the new great films they've added.

The AV Club was on fire this week with several fantastic articles. First up was a list of tough guys appearing in children's films (in honor of Jackie Chan and the Rock's most recent cash-grabs).

Noel Murray wrote a wonderful piece about what he is dubbing "fogeyism" though its really more about what's going on with auteurs and the state of independent film.

I don't often agree with The Playlist but they've put together wonderful list of breakthrough performances from 2009.

iO9 has a nice short piece about how to build character through action rather than dialogue.

Joblo had a cute venn diagram about Denzel Washington.

Over at Topless Robot they put together a list of the coolest firearms in sci-fi.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And the rest is silence

Anything I post today could not POSSIBLY compete with this bundle of greatness. I believe it is from the folks who brought us the 100 Best Quotes from the Wire. Here, without any additional commentary is the 100 Cheesiest Movie Lines of All Time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In the Red: Public Enemies, Julie & Julia, Harry Potter 6

Some quick thoughts on what's been going through my q lately.

Public Enemies: Now I am a big Michael Mann fan. I think he belongs right next to, or maybe a foot down from, Scorsese as a great modern American auteur with a deep passion for film. In his latest film he makes a rather bold decision to shoot with a new digital camera and the choice doesn't really work. You can read a lot more about his motivation and the technology in question here. The problem with the digital is that it clashes a bit with the larger than life story that's being told. Despite Mann and his production designer's exquisite (borderline fetishistic) attention to detail, in digital it looks like actors in costumes and never really FEELS like period. Also at fault is the scripting which leaves both protagonist and antagonist in a lurch. Bale is too gruff and one dimensional whereas Depp never cuts loose. The viewer feels there's depth but it stems more from the fact that you're watching a Michael Mann film with Johnny Depp more than actually anything going on on-screen. It never manages to crackle with the cat and mouse dynamics of Heat and that's a real shame.

Julie & Julia: Unlike Public Enemies where the leads don't really work here Streep and to a lesser extent Adams are able to overcome the somewhat needless set-up of Nora Ephron's script. Much as I hate to say it there is absolutely no reason for this movie to not just be Julia. As Julia Child Streep channels the wit, vitality and vigor of the real woman and really holds focus. Adams can't help but look bad in comparison, not because she doesn't perform well, rather it's that her character is such a self-involved whiner with the same cycle of self-doubt and conflict over and over again. She doesn't like her station in life, she panics, she's inspired by Julia, rinse, repeat. It gets tiresome and isn't especially interesting. Streep gets to have more fun and overcome actual hardships. She also has winning chemistry with Stanley Tucci as her husband, Paul. The viewer becomes rather smitten with the two as a couple and refreshingly Ephron both as writer and director allows for Tucci to be more than just a support system for Streep. It's rare to find a movie where characters receive such genuine joy from what they do but on that level the film absolutely succeeds.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: I had doubted claims of a darker, more adult film, but sure enough the latest installment is indeed both darker and dare I say it, sexier, than the previous outings. It's also decidedly not for newcomers. With a bare minimum of exposition the film launches into it's business (primarily to set up the last film). Still, the wonderful performances from Michael Gambon and Jim Broadbent make the proceedings enthralling and I think Daniel Radcliffe has finally stepped up his game where he not only holds the screen but gives some mischievous textured work to the titular wizard. The rogues gallery of returning English greats also pleasingly fill the background (with Alan Rickman as the usual stand-out). David Yates composes the film in such a way that even the familiar grounds of Hogwarts seem darker and more imposing and Steve Kloves must once more be commended for effectively maintaining Rowling's original tone. I've no doubt once all the movies are done this will make for a very enjoyable marathon viewing where the films grew and develop as well as the original books did.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


A memes, the lazy bloggers mana.

As taken from Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule

1) Second-favorite Coen Brothers movie.

Raising Arizona (following a Miller's Crossing, Big Lebowski tie)

2) Movie seen only on home format that you would pay to see on the biggest movie screen possible? (Question submitted by Peter Nellhaus)

Easy, Lawrence of Arabia. I got the itch when I saw a trailer for the restored print in front of Raiders. Everyone cheered including me. I've kept a lookout ever since.

3) Japan or France? (Question submitted by Bob Westal)

As of right now in my viewing history, Japan. But I plan to go deep into Rohmer and Godard soon so that might change.

4) Favorite moment/line from a western.

God is not on our side because he hates idiots also. -Blondie in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It ain't like it *used* to be; but it'll do. -Sykes, in Wild Bunch

5) Of all the arts the movies draw upon to become what they are, which is the most important, or the one you value most?

Which limb is the most valuable to you? Come on.

6) Most misunderstood movie of the 2000s (The Naughties?).

Speed Racer. Wait and see.

7) Name a filmmaker/actor/actress/film you once unashamedly loved who has fallen furthest in your esteem.

Harrison Ford. What happened man?

8) Herbert Lom or Patrick Magee?

Lom, Inspector Dreyfuss all the way.

9) Which is your least favorite David Lynch film (Submitted by Tony Dayoub)

No Lynch film I've seen I would consider bad, but I'm in no rush to return to Eraserhead.

10) Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

Willis. I think he was the first DP's name I ever learned and I've never forgotten.

11) Second favorite Don Siegel movie.

Two Mules for Sister Serra

12) Last movie you saw on DVD/Blu-ray? In theaters?

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The Messengers.

13) Which DVD in your private collection screams hardest to be replaced by a Blu-ray? (Submitted by Peet Gelderblom)

The Third Man.

14) Eddie Deezen or Christopher Mintz-Plasse?

I had to look up Deezen and he's certainly had a fuller career. But come on, McLovin actually has SOME game in the movie. Eugene has zero game in both Greases (Greasii?)

15) Actor/actress who you feel automatically elevates whatever project they are in, or whom you would watch in virtually anything.

It changes from year to year. Though right now I'd be hard

16) Fight Club -- yes or no?

Yeah sure, but not when frat boys are too into it and missing the point.

17) Teresa Wright or Olivia De Havilland?

De Hallivand has the superior CV but Wright's performances have hit me harder.

18) Favorite moment/line from a film noir.

Oooo many contenders but it's got to be the end of Double Indemnity what a perfectly brutal final moment.

19) Best (or worst) death scene involving an obvious dummy substituting for a human or any other unsuccessful special effect(s)—see the wonderful blog Destructible Man for inspiration.

That melty guy getting hit by the car in Robocop. Glorious.

20) What's the least you've spent on a film and still regretted it? (Submitted by Lucas McNelly)

Free screening to Fun with Dick and Jane. Hated every second of it.

21) Van Johnson or Van Heflin?

Van Heflin. I like more of his films. Simple as that.

22) Favorite Alan Rudolph film.

I suck, haven't seen any.

23) Name a documentary that you believe more people should see.

The Corporation is a must for navigating the twenty-first century. Also everyone should see Grizzly Man because it perfectly codifies what Werner Herzog is all about.

24) In deference to this quiz’s professor, name a favorite film which revolves around someone becoming stranded.

I haven't seen Moon yet so for now I'll say E.T.

25) Is there a moment when your knowledge of film, or lack thereof, caused you an unusual degree of embarrassment and/or humiliation? If so, please share.


26) Ann Sheridan or Geraldine Fitzgerald? (Submitted by Larry Aydlette)

Ann Sheridan-hello, Angels with Dirty Faces and The Man Who Came to Dinner

27) Do you or any of your family members physically resemble movie actors or other notable figures in the film world? If so, who?

My Dad has the bearing (but not the appearance) of Robert DeNiro.

28) Is there a movie you have purposely avoided seeing? If so, why?

Anything with the subtitle of Squeakquel.

29) Movie with the most palpable or otherwise effective wintry atmosphere or ambience.

Let the Right One In was pretty damn wintry. The Ice Storm is another solid contender.

30) Gerrit Graham or Jeffrey Jones?

Jeffrey Jones , I'll have to separate the art from the artist though. Yeesh.

31) The best cinematic antidote to a cultural stereotype (sexual, political, regional, whatever).

Can we count The Wire?

32) Second favorite John Wayne movie.

Rio Bravo (following The Searchers)

33) Favorite movie car chase.

Everyone talks about Bullitt and French Connection but for me it's To Live and Die in L.A.

34) In the spirit of His Girl Friday, propose a gender-switched remake of a classic or not-so-classic film. (Submitted by Patrick Robbins)

I'd like to see Humpday switched and not just for prurient reasons.

35) Barbara Rhoades or Barbara Feldon?

Long time Get Smart fan, so Feldon.

36) Favorite Andre De Toth movie.

House of Wax. Delightful.

37) If you could take one filmmaker's entire body of work and erase it from all time and memory, as if it had never happened, whose oeuvre would it be? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)

Todd Solondz. Sorry, I get it, but not for me.

38) Name a film you actively hated when you first encountered it, only to see it again later in life and fall in love with it.

Zoolander and The 400 Blows

39) Max Ophuls or Marcel Ophuls? (Submitted by Tom Sutpen)

Earrings of Madame de... gives it to Max.

40) In which club would you most want an active membership, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, the Cutters or the Warriors? And which member would you most resemble, either physically or in personality?

Warriors come out to play-ay. But I probably belong with the Deltas.

41) Your favorite movie cliché.

The meanest, grumpiest guy secretly has the heart of gold.

42) Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen? (Submitted by Bob Westal)

Argh. Don't make me choose. Ummm, ummmm, Minnelli. Gah. No wait, agh. Move on.

43) Favorite Christmas-themed horror movie or sequence.


44) Favorite moment of self- or selfless sacrifice in a movie.

Spoiler alert: 5 of the 7 Samurai

45) If you were the cinematic Spanish Inquisition, which movie cult (or cult movie) would you decimate? (Submitted by Bob Westal)

Fucking Avatards or Twi-hards.

46) Caroline Munro or Veronica Carlson?

Hmmm which bosomy Hammer regular? Ummm Munro, less of a butter face.

47) Favorite eye-patch wearing director. (Submitted by Patty Cozzalio)


48) Favorite ambiguous movie ending. (Original somewhat ambiguous submission---“Something about ambiguous movie endings!”-- by Jim Emerson, who may have some inspiration of his own to offer you.)

Does the Wrestler count?

49) In giving thanks for the movies this year, what are you most thankful for?

Christoph Waltz and Tarrantino finding his maturity again.

50) George Kennedy or Alan North?

Kennedy because he gave Frank Drebbin his marching orders.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Avedah!: A day late "live" blog of the Golden Globes

You know what it is, I know what it is. I decided that I'll twitter the Oscars and not bother my legion of followers on a regular Sunday.

Ok so we start off with Gervais who is typically snarky and off the cuff and I like it even if it isn't barn burning material.

Mo'nique wins best supporting, not surprising. Thanks God, EQUALLY non-surprising. Frankly I think she should have won for Beerfest. Oh and how adorable does Anna Kendrick look. Looking forward to seeing more of her, especially in Scott Pilgrim.

Sophia Veraga looks hot and seeing Matthew Fox makes me really wish Lost was starting (also for a Speed Racer sequel).

I've only seen the pilot of US of Tara and wasn't enamored of it, though Cary heartily endorses it so I'll 'flix ot soon.

Hey it's Sheldon and his hair looks so delightfully puckish. The escort/presenter girl looks like a deer in the headlights.

Neil Patrick Harris is sitting right behind Mickey Rourke I really hope a project for some sort of project with these soon.

Wooot Lithgowpalooza! Though come on it should've been NPH. I am eager to catch up on Dexter and see what is supposed to be an amazing season.

Paul McCartney comes out to Yellow Submarine? Why? Cause it's raining in L.A.? Bizzare. "As I'm now known, that guy from rock band" is pretty damn funny. "Animation is not just for children, it's also for adults who take drugs."

Normally when animated films are nominated alongside a Pixar film they're pretty much also-rans but every single nominee was pretty damn great. Way to step up the game people. But of course there can be only one and I cried a lot during Up.

Bad form cutting off Pete Docter, he was giving a great speech.

Kate Hudson sure looks pretty shame she hasn't been in anything good (or good in anything) since Almost Famous.

Two of my favorite stage/tv combos. Jane Krakowski and NPH. I liked that you could clearly hear Alec Baldwin laughing.

John Hamm with a beard. He makes it work. Is it for a project or just cause he likes it?

How weird is it that Michael C. Hall is married to his show sister?

Every time I think to myself mehhhh Julianna Marguiles I remember she was the main flight attendant in Snakes on a Plane and all is right with the world.

It's fitting that Harrison Ford in introducing Up In the Air in that he's become filmic excess baggage.

It must be weird for Christina Aguilerra to walk next to Cher and see her horrid future.

Fuck I hate this dumb-ass Cinema Italiano song. Fuck I hate that stupid Avatar song.

Agh, really need to see Crazy Heart. And White Ribbon. And Sherlock Holmes. I will soon, promise. T. Bone Burnett is a pretty staggering musical talent though.

There were many deserving nominess for score, Horner's Avatar was not one of them. Michael Giachinco is well on his way to being the next young John Williams.

Amy Adams, love it, love everything about it. Very pregnant.

Hey apparently Tom Hanks is on twitter now and instead of saying "thanks" he says "hanx."

Stanley Tucci, awesome reaction,. I LIKE that guy. Hey readers, go watch the Impostors oh and Big Night.

You know when Colin Farrel says "Oh, once I was a cliche" I kind of almost sort of feel for him. Cause seriously the man has been stepping up his acting game considerably since In Bruges.

Sorry to get all girly on everyone but Meryl Streep in Julie & Julia is rather delightful. Actually maybe my favorite perf of the nominees. You know I don't think she needs to be in movies with these young ingenues, she really is strong enough to hold and lead a film all by herself.

Oop getting a little long and preachy.

Ugh why is George Lucas right up front. WHYYYYY?!?!

I'm pretty sure Dame Helen Mirren just quoted Ron Shortsweather.

Sam Worthington, god help us all, THIS is a movie star? I'll take Chris Pine thank you very much. Give me somebody who at least looks like he's having fun.

How come Kevin Bacon won't do Footloose type movies anymore. The people want to see you DANCE Kevin!

A fun Drew Barrymore drinking game. Shots whenever she says "love", "flowers", "yes" and "spirit."

Hey remember when Cameron Diaz looked like a human? Ironically it was in The Mask.

Fuck first-world white people problems.

"This next category is a bit of a downer. It's for writing." And of course they don't cut to a SINGLE writer.

Oh Jennifer Anniston and Gerard Butler, if there was an award for movie pairing that would ensure I would never watch it, you'd win it.

Oh wait, not so fast Jennifer Garner and Ashton Kutcher may have upset that last couple.

I like that QT is sitting next to Eli Roth. Would love to hear their conversation.

Oh Jason Riteman and Sheldon Turner, you wrote a movie. Yes Jason, we're ALL waiting for them to say QT's name.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, you're not getting introduced and this shit is RANDOM. Also you look like Skeletor. Actresses EAT SOMETHING!

I wrestled with making a very mean Precious joke after that last line.

Soon to be seen as Nick Furty in Iron Man 2...FUCK YEAH!

God damn I love evvvvvverything about Inglourious Basterds.

Sometimes I think that all the Sophia Loen hububb is cause she still looks good for her age.

It's kind of odd that the HFPA doesn't put more emphasis on foreign films, given that it's, y'know, the foreign press.

Hehe Michael Haneke hates you all. Other than Werner Herzog or Lars Von Trier I can't think of a director who seems like he belongs less at an excessive awards show.

Wait a minute Barrymore gets twenty minutes to blather on and they can't give Haneke one minute?

Mad Men is full of win. Rightfully so. Christina Hendricks-most beautiful woman in the world. Great actress too, a fact that is all too often overlooked.

Hey kids, Taylor Lautner, please watch our show. Ugh desperation is a stinky cologne.

How great is Jane Lynch? The answer is very. Alas, no award. Very disappointing.

I feel like Ben Chinn always has a really good story on hand about Chloe Sevigny.

FUCK YEAH CHRISTOPH WALTZ! YES YES YES! Just think a year ago nobody knew this guy and now he is just killing it. Cute and grateful speech. I await the one at the Oscar.

Scorsese montage. Greatness personified:

The opening joke would've been great if Bob (I get to call him that) hadn't botched his first line. The follow-up joke about sex with film was funny, then got weird and then remedied by the cut to a super drunk Brendan Fraser who found the whole thing HILARIOUS.

Lovely sweet words from DiCaprio and Scorsese looks genuinely humbled.

Fuuuuck so many good movies. I need to watch Last Temptation of Christ and Gangs of New York and Kings of Comedy and Age of Innocence all again REALLY soon. Shutter Island can't get here soon enough.

Wow. The only real legit thing that was missing was his appearance in The Muse "He's angry, but he's thin."

I love that he takes every moment to talk about the great films and filmmakers of the past. Beautiful.

Holy shit that Mel Gibson joke almost justifies the whole thing.

QT or Team Bigelow VERY deserving. Unfortunately this award decided to eat a bullshit sandwich. Oooo Jaso Riteman looks pissy.

Holy crap do James Cameron and Mel Gibson ACTUALLY live next door to each other. Where do they live? Douchebag Gated Community?

So I see we didn't learn anything from quoting from your stupid script a decade ago. Ugh no Na'vi speak

In a weak year for 30 Rock and an ok year for the Office I'm glad Glee won. Though I wouldn't have minded if Modern Family took it. Ahem, FUCK Entourage. Maybe Park and Rec next year?

Haha, so no Galifinakas? Given all the ribbons I like to imagine that this is to support Justin Bartha for being in Gigli.

Oh yeah, Reese Witherspoon, I forget about you.

I see were being populist with winners. Pssh The Hangover. Don't get me wrong, very entertaining movie but over say, In the Loop? No way.


I like that Elektra, Bullseye, Nick Fury and Whiplash have all presented awards.

Oh man Carey Mulligan was so good in An Education. More love please. None of this Sandra Bullock nonsense come Oscar time. I do like that Sandra Bullock gave a shoutout to Maker's Mark. I'd be happy to endorse this fine liqueur on the blog.

Sally Hawkins, we got over you fast.

Gah, really need to see Sherlock Holmes, maybe tomorrow after work. I really like everyone in this category but man does Daniel Day-Lewis have no business winning (first and last time I'll be saying that, promise). At least we get a Downey speech. Always good.

Heh. Most fun speech. You go Tony Stark.

Kate Winslet; beautiful, talented, charming.
Frankly a very worthy set of nominees. Still need to see Crazy Heart. Gah. That being said if he weren't there I'd want it to go to Firth who is PHENOMENAL in A Single Man.

Got to love that the bulk of the Iron Man cast has won awards. How do you not like Jeff Bridges? He's the Dude. No literally, the Dude.

Ugh Julia Roberts. Ughhhhhh.

Again Hurt Locker or Basterds are THE movies of this blog.

And again they're DENIED! Heh now QT looks pissed.

"Give it up for yourselves"? Fuck you times a million.

Goodnight everyone. Gervais was lovely but didn't do much. Yay for Waltz and Bridges and Downey Jr and the Scorsese Tribute and Glee. Boo the rest.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Life on Mars?

Screw links, if you're a nerd and you love movies today is a huge HUGE day.

Edgar Rice Buroughs is a name some of you may know, he created Tarzan after all (and if you're one of my many L.A. readers you know he lived in what is now Tarzana and the area is subsequently named after his creation). But Tarzan isn't his only famous creation. The other is John Carter of Mars who starred in a series of pulp novels (eleven to be exact) about a time and space lost Civil War soldier who became a barbarian hero on the fantastic landscape of Mars. The character and series has had a huge impact on sci-fi, influencing everything from Star Wars to Avatar. This property is one filled with dynamic and original visuals (many characters are at least ten feet tall and have multiple arms and are more multi-colored then a Benneton ad) that have, up until now, been incredibly difficult to capture on screen. Directors and producers have been trying to put these stories on screen for years (Bob Clampett, Ray Harryhausen, Robert Rodriguez and John Favreau are but a few of the names). We're talking about nearly a century of trying to bring these incredible stories to the screen. Now though, today specifically, is the day principal photography begins on the first of what we can only hope will be many Carter films.

Why should you care about a series you've probably never even heard of before? Especially two years before its release? Here's five reasons.

1. An incredibly accomplished director: Andrew Stanton
Can't place the name? You've seen it at the end of two of the best films of the past decade. I'm talking about Finding Nemo and Wall-E. As a high ranking creative at Pixar Stanton knows how to dazzle,thrill, move and most importantly entertain a mass audience. But unlike many of his blockbuster bretren this is a director who refuses to talk down to his audience. Stanton's first forray into live-action guarantees that story and character will be a top priority over effects, explosions and bloodshed (though there should be plenty of those two). Also, no worries about this being a toned down because Stanton's worked on family films. The film is rated a more adult friendly PG-13.

2. It's got an amazing cast.
Representatives from virtually every corner of this golden age of TV show up on this cast list. Dominic West from the Wire, Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad, James Purefoy from Rome and as Carter himself Friday Night Lights' Taylor Kitsch. That's not to say the film has skewed conventional film actors either; Willem Dafoe, Thomas Hayden Church, Ciaran Hands, Mark Strong, Samantha Morton and Lynn Collins (ok I'm a little sketchy on that last one). That's some serious talent behind the arms, tusks and tails that will be on display.

3. It's got a slick crew.
Production design from the man that brought us the rebooted Batman Nathan Crowley, Avatar costume designer Mayes Rubeo, viseual effects from Peter Chiang who did the same for Stardust and the Bourne Ultimatum and Star Trek's DP Daniel Mindel. If you don't know those names, you definitely know their work.

4. The script should be top notch.
In addition to Stanton, who's helped craft a lot of Pixar's content, noted novelist and occasional screenwriter Michael Chabon. Chabon has the remarkable of not only being a master of genre tropes but also is capable of creating multi-dimensional characters. These two working together is a very exciting prospect.

5. It's got a look that you haven't quite seen before.
Crazy no?

You excited yet? You have two years. I can't wait.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

3:45 Ass

I would not characterize this season of SNL as exceptional. I like Nasim Pedrad but the show has been going more for silly than sharp lately. That's not to say that there isn't good work coming from the likes of Jason Sudekis, Will Forte and the great Bill Hader. Heck even Kristen Wiig gets in a solid moment. Still the last two hosts; James Franco and Charles Barkley seemed to invigorate the writers and performers so hopefully we're starting to see a positive up-tick.

All that preamble is really just an excuse to show this clip. It features the aforementioned Wiig and Hader as well as Bobby Monihan (who has been quite fun too now that I think about it), some cast member who will go unnamed and host Gerard Butler.

This sketch has a lot to recommend. The only thing that could make it better? Gaston. Maybe.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Recommendations

Had a big presentation for work today which required a good sized drive so I'm pretty tired.

So in lieu of snark, reviewing or editorializing let me make some recommendations.

Some of the best movies of the past year are coming out on DVD and Blu-Ray today and you owe it to yourself to at least check them out. Among the titles available are:

The Hurt Locker-Team Bigelow's outstanding, tense yet subtle exploration of an IED squad's tour in Iraq.

The Brothers Bloom-Now available to purchase this fun and clever con-game from the director of Brick is equal parts funny and twisty.

In the Loop-Probably the year's funniest movie. I may even be so bold as to call it my generation's Dr. Strangelove. A biting satire on international relations, war and miscommunication from the man who gave us Alan Partridge.

Three I'm eager to check out are Moon, Big Fan and Passing Strange all of which are also available today. Moon is a powerful piece of cerebral sci-fi, Big Fan is writer Rob Siegel's directorial follow up to the Wrestler and Passing Strange is Spike Lee's recording of the wonderful Broadway show of the same name.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Reboots a web, any size

Today Mike Fleming, who has just recently joined Nikki Finke's army, broke this story that Sam Raimi and Toby Maguire are done with Spider-Man franchise (not surprising considering the rumors of Raimi's arguing over the script) and that Sony has plans to reboot the franchise.

Granted there are many ways this scenario could have played out but this is, to paraphrase Voltaire, the worst of all possible worlds. I could live with Raimi and Maguire walking, not because I disliked Spidey 3, which I think is a better film than people gave it credit for, but because after three films it's to be expected that both creatives would want to do other things with their careers. Maguire just completely knocked it out of the park in Brothers (in a performance that is being sadly underrated) and Raimi's Drag Me to Hell belongs on everyone's best of '09 list. Raimi could do great oddball films for the rest of his career and I'd be thrilled. Hell if you want big movies he's attached to the World of Warcraft film. I'd rather both of them not turn in a mediocre film especially if their hearts aren't into it. Though I'd rather they had stuck around and gone forward with whatever they had been fighting then deal with...

A reboot.

This is not to say that a reboot is a bad thing. Star Trek certainly bears this out, as do the recent Batman and James Bond franchise reboots. But keep in mind, all of those reboots were coming off massive critical and box office failures. Spider-Man 3 made, according to box-office mojo, 336 million dollars in the US and 500 million more internationally. Which more than makes up for its budget. I'm sorry but a film that makes 800 plus million dollars internationally (and that's not even getting into ancillaries) is not in need of a reboot. The franchise is understood and still has good-will attached to it. Mind you the latest entry is not perfect and it's certainly not as good as Spidey 2 but there are giant elements of the franchise that just plain work. In large part this is due to Raimi's considerable fidelity to the material. Now remember, the Spider-Man film rights are currently owned by Sony and that means there isn't really anyone in the administrative infrastructure who CARES about the character the way a fan would other than Raimi (or perhaps his writers). This is not like Marvel Studios who bring in the comic writers to creative meetings and design stages. This is money-making pure and simple. Of course, I'm not so naive to realize that making money isn't a studios primary job. of course, we the public win when the movie is good. I want a good movie and Raimi has a track record of good movies.

But here's what worries me. Sony is committed to a 2012 release date. That's two years from now. This is not to say that a big tentpole film CAN'T be made in two years, but it's a challenge. Sony has said it wants to start again with Peter Parker in high school and they're working from a draft by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, The Rundown). Could be good, the man certainly knows how to write thrilling moments and compelling action beats. However, these Spidey films are notorious for being re-written. There is no director attached. Is Sony casting pretty faces and trying for a tone akin to what's popular in the teen market right now? Almost certainly. Does this mean dark, broody vampire-pale Peter Parker pining after confused, clumsy Mary-Jane? I wouldn't be surprised.

A lot of production is going to have to be crammed into a short amount of time. The studio knows it can make money just off the name Spider-Man and isn't really obligated to find a director who won't bring his own vision and investment into the characters. No reason to not get someone who can churn out product quickly. No reason to not quickly cast whatever pretty faces walk into the casting room. It's not an ideal scenario. Right now people are going to be getting a Spider-Man movie for right now and I'd rather wait longer for a better movie. Or maybe, just maybe three Spider-Man movies are enough. Maybe let's put all that money and energy into several smaller, original movies by new directors and writers with new material.

There are no reasons for a reboot of this franchise. Push forward with a new director and new stars but come on, it's barely been a decade since the franchise started. People haven't forgotten where the character came from or what his motivations are. Continue or stop, but there's no reason to reboot.

When you get right down to it though here's what REALLY gets to me. No more JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. Oh and it sucks for Dylan Baker too, who we can now officially say got Billy Dee Williams'd on this one.

Alright commenters, who do you think should be the new Spider-Man? Let me throw out the following names:

Joseph Gordon-Levitt - got the physicality (see the dancing 500 Days) and the versatility (Brick)

Michael Cera
- Can bring the funny, looks like a teen and wait until you see Scott Pilgrim, trust me

Anton Yelchin - the best thing about Terminator 4 and a delight in Star Trek, would love to see him have a hit with him in the forefront

Anna Kendrick - she's very versatile

Zach Gilford - the put upon QB Matt Saracen of FNL would totally work as perpetually put-upon Peter Parker. While we're at Jesse Plemons would be pretty good too.

Emile Hirsch - has the chops (Into the Wild, Milk) and knows how to work around special effects (Speed Racer)

Amir Blumenfeld - the young up and comer from Jake and Amir, Pranked and the College Humor Show can play sad, nerdy and easily throw wise-cracks at villains. Hell I hear he does marathon training so he could probably rock the harness too.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Squeakquel

If you've been living under a rock (or for some reason have some sort of ability to selectively tune out absolute crap) you're aware of the recently released Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. The film introduces the Chipettes to the live-action world of Alvin and his brothers (much to the delight of perverts and David Cross' real estate portfolio). Perhaps the most notable thing about the film is the "so stupid it's brilliant sub-title "the Squeakquel", which has to rank right up there with "Electric Boogaloo" and "The Quickening" as the greatest sequel title ever. But this got me thinking about a variety of other films that could take "The Squeakquel's" lead.

For your consideration:

Let's follow the adventures of everyone's favorite abusive mother in...Precious 2: The Mo'Niquel

Are you a Carrie? It's not too late for them to change the title to... Sex and the City 2: The Boutiquel

Post-Crystal Skull it might as well be... Indiana Jones and the Antiquel

I never saw the original but I'd be sure to check out... The Cookout 2: The Barbequequel

Think nothing can top the original? How about... Showgirls 2: The Burlesquel

And finally, the brilliance that could be Toque 2: The Torquequel

Thank you everybody. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I also toyed with Link in Revolt. Also Link Year.

The film-experience is doing a ton of decade related lists. Here are the best male and female performers of the decade. Also a run-down of the hundred best films of the decade here, here and here.

Kim Morgan put together a best of the year list. Clever and thoughtful as always.

The House Next Door continues to crank out wonderful entries on the most important auteurs of the decade. Here you'll get a run down of Miyazaki and Pixar. Here, you'll get Charlie Kaufman and David Chase.
Drew at Hitfix has a lovely review of X, the Man with X-Ray Eyes with lots of great links to pieces about Roger Corman.

Devin at CHUD has two fun pieces from this week; a look at several ways to improve the theatrical experience and geeky musical projects.
The Lorax as a grindhouse film? Sign me up!
Hey ever wanted to reminisce about fictional eateries? Want no more.
And of course, the one that I feel I saw a thousand times this week, The Big Lebowski as a Shakespeare play.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Did You Get My Message?

At the strong recommendation of my friend Cary I saw the Messengers a new film by Oren Moverman. I was reluctant because of the film's premise, which follows a young soldier who after his field duty he is drafted to be part of a two-man team who are given the supremely unenviable task of informing families of deceased soldier's of their passing. Rough material to say the least. The film however has several aces up its sleeve; sharp writing, brilliant performances and subtle direction.

Moverman, a writer who has worked on some very clever, adult (in terms of maturity, not content) scripts (Jesus' Son, I'm Not There and Married Life) serves as a co-writer here with Alessandro Camon. The script, aware of the challenging subject matter is carefully not to turn the proceeedings into a desolate mire through the most depressing depths of the human condition. What could easily be an exercise in miserablism is surprisingly brisk and darkly funny. The comedy comes largely from Woody Harrelson who is continuing a banner year with his role as Captain Tony Stone. Stone is the type of professional who works hard and plays hard. His training of new recruit of Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (a consistently reliable Ben Foster) vacillates with moments of stone-faced sincerity to gleeful needling. Both Stone and Montgomery are well devised characters with struggles and motivations that are clear, but not unbearable.

The two leads are not the only performances worth savoring. Samantha Morton plays a widow who has a considerably surprising reaction to the news and forms a morally challenging bond with Foster's character. Additionally Steve Buscemi and Steve Friedman show up as other informed family members and do a great deal with limited screen-time. Moverman could easily make this one episodic encounter after another and just drag the audience down with his characters. It never happens. Instead the characters grow and learn from each encounter along with the audience.
The film shares something in common with another excellent 2009 Iraq war film, The Hurt Locker. The film does not force a view point on the audience, rather it allows for the viewer to watch and make decisions without any sort of lecturing or posturing. While the film does convey a very humanist take on the cost of war it is also content in showing an enormous amount of respect for soldiers and their codes of conduct. The film is a small one but it has a large impact and I urge you to not let the premise halt you from seeing one of the year's best character pieces.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Human Calculation

In the buzz and critical fervor that passes through with each new Eastwood film it would be easy for film fans to dismiss his work as deliberate, discardable award-bait as opposed to the well constructed story-telling pieces they are.
Eastwood remains a talented story-teller who keeps his destination insight at all times. He uses the story of the South African Springbokks rugby team as an accessible means to demonstrate and effect social change. When I initially heard about the film Damon as protagonist seemed frustrating (ANOTHER film where a minority is saved by a kind, benevolent white guy?), but in fact the story remains centrally Nelson Mandela's, (Morgan Freeman) who realizes that all the oratory in the world won't change minds until he can point to concrete examples of social agency.

Hmmmm. Interesting.

Freeman does sterling work here. Like his director, it's so easy to put Freeman in a simple box. He is all too often the sage, almost magical black man (Shawshank Redemption the Almighty movies etc). Here we see that all to rare sight of Freeman the actor. His voice, his physicality, his mannerisms are all a perfect representation of one of the most recognizable men in the world. This doesn't feel like coasting or award grubbing. My one gripe with the Mandela of this film is that the movie goes out of its way to have one character say of Mandela "He's a man, not a saint." However, Freeman's Mandela is so eloquent, charming and thoughtful you'd be hard pressed NOT to think of him as worthy of canonizing. As Francois Pienaar Matt Damon has radically transformed his body back to the peak physical condition it was at pre-Informant! As the heroic team captain Damon is not pushing himself into new territory, though his accent and physicality feel spot on.

While heavy handed and frequently predictable, Peckham's story is able to have it's cake and eat it too. He retains the serious gravitas of a story that is both historically relevant (South Africa's struggle is as much cultural as it is racial) and yet framed in a sports context feels comfortable, conventional and is able to hit the expected beats. Sure it's predictable but Eastwood knows these elements and knows how to milk them for all they're worth. Will the all-business secret service agent bond with his new rugby loving partner? What do you think? Sure it all feels predictable but Eastwood and his actors make it work. For all its predictability Eastwood knows how to make those familiar tropes hit audiences right in the gut. When we finally get to that essential game winning moment that literally has the entire country watching I defy you not to get choked up. It's cheesy, but it works.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Tale of Sound and Fury that Some Idiot Went and Told

Oh Nine. Nine, Nine, Nine. What happened?

Long time readers of this blog will know that I am a huge fan of musicals and if you know The Sickness as a film student you know I love me my Fellini. So what happened? How did Rob Marshall who just a few years ago looked like he was ready to re-introduce the movie musical to the mainstream assemble such a total mess?

I have some theories. For one, it's difficult to convince people to go see musicals without stars. Nine has stars in spades. Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson and Dame Judi Dench to name a few. All excellent actors but none of them really belong in a musical (yes, I haven't forgotten Moulin Rouge! but Kidman gets a lot of help). So you've got stars.

But does it have performers? Good singers? Not really. Technically the most proficient singer in the film is pop-star Fergie is supposed to play the overweight prostitute Saraghina who awakens young Guido Contini's sexuality. Except her number "Be Italian" and her wardrobe is fairly chaste and Fergie hardly packed it in on for the role so it kind of misses the point. This emblematic of the film's larger problems. In attempting to be accessible the film feels like a muddle. The conceit of having characters dream their musical numbers in Chicago worked, but why establish this artifice in an already extremely heightened reality of a film set? When Fellini made 8 1/2 his style was frenetic, with scores of people bombarding Guido (and furthermore, the audience) as the camera gently panned across the magnificent Italian vistas. Here Marshall cuts when he should hold, a cardinal no-no for musicals where one wants to showcase performances. Marshall's film has another problem and that is the man has forgotten how to stage a dynamic musical number. He falls back on the blocking he used in Chicago only now it has a distinct air of "been there done that." How many times can we see woman step purposefully through darkened doorways and march into the foreground? We all liked "Cell-Block Tango" but what else you got? Even when he does shoot in wide he never holds it for more than a few seconds.

On the stage, especially in its most recent stage incarnation, Nine is a dazzling performance showcase. In the film, Guido's mistress Carla (Penelope Cruz) shimmies sexily among sheets as she calls and sings to her lover in "A Call from the Vatican." It's hot but it doesn't really dazzle or illuminate the character. Compare this to Jane Krakowski on stage who dances along a vertical sheet that dangles a good twenty feet above the theater stage defying gravity and still enticing while singing in full voice. There is no reason for stage to be outdoing the limitless, boundary-less world of film. With a massive budget and imagination this scene could have been amazing, instead it's entirely pedestrian. Sure it's sexy, but it's also forgettable. The same goes for Judi Dench's rendition of "Folies Bergere" which on stage featured Chita Rivera blowing away audiences with the dance moves of a woman two decades her junior. The film version, by contrast has Dench walking across the stage. Ooooo.

Then there is the Daniel Day-Lewis problem. Now on paper Day-Lewis is one of, if not THE greatest actor of his generation. I've been a fan of his work under countless directors but man is he not right to play Guido. He doesn't so much sing as huff and puff his way through "Guido's Song." Compare this to Raul Julia or Antonio Banderas who start the show a real kick in their bold renditions. We want to empathize with a lead but while he claims to be blocked, Day-Lewis come off as passive and whiny. You want to scream at him to just sit down and do his work damn it! We're constantly told how tortured and conflicted Guido is but it's just a lot of telling, not showing.

Does anything work in this film? Surprisingly, Marion Cotillard, whom I have not been a fan of in the past, sings quite ably and her character arc is refreshing and sympathetic (if a bit tidy). Otherwise this film is a slog. I have to fight tooth and nail to get many of my friends to watch or try musicals. Nine is the sort of film that makes me have to work THAT much harder to make my case.

Oh and one last thing that drove me nuts. In Kate Hudson's song "Cinema Italiano" (which was created for the film) she sings about how she loves Guido's neorealism. This would be fine if the character were not based on Fellini. Unfortunately, he is and you'd think for one moment they would stop and realize that Fellini was not a neorealist. Many of his contemporaries were and one could make the argument that La Strada and I Vitelloni have ELEMENTS of neorealism in them but Fellini was too intrigued by the fantastic, the sublime joys found in dreams, sex, the circus and women to ever be completely mired in the neorealist doldrums of Rosselini and De Sica.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Single Na'vi

Coming into the next decade we'll no doubt be seeing both filmmakers and exhibitors trying a variety of ways to keep the increasingly fractured audience in theaters. Right now, Cameron's Avatar unquestionably dominates the landscape with it's innovations in 3D, facial motion-capture and CGI texture and shading. The film looks goregous and it can rest quite comfortably on its spectacle. However, at the other end of the spectrum (in terms of scale anyway) is another film that shows that the most powerful effect of cinema is powerful ideas need not be mutually exclusive to exacting visual precision.

At this point there is nothing I can really say about Avatar that you haven't read or thought of yourself. It is certainly a spectacle of the first order and will probably influence a generation of young film-goers and may even create some filmmakers much the way Star Wars did several decades ago. You can say, without much argument, that the story isn't particularly original, the dialogue tin-earred and the characters are one dimensional ciphers. The film also cleverly evokes a lot of feelings and imagery from American history; the futile attempts to influence the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese, the Trail of Tears, 9/11, Bush's shock and awe and so on. Both simultaneously deep and shallow. The action, editing and pacing are second to none (this has never been Cameron's problem). He has also, with great help from WETA f/x supervisor Joe Latteri has created a fully realized world complete with well considered flora and fauna.

Once the thrill is gone from those visuals though, Avatar feels a little hollow and I think I've sussed out why. Avatar, for all five of you who haven't seen it, revolves around marine Jake Sully who by the fluke of his scientist twin-brother's death is a genetic candidate for the avatar program. This would give the handicapped Jake his legs back in the form of a Na'vi body. These ten foot tall, blue, cat-like aliens live in perfect equilibrium with the natural world (following a number of noble savage tropes) and their culture is permeated with the idea of seeing beyond what you see. The film consistently brings out the trope of seeing beneath surface exteriors and seeing the genuine interior. Zoe Saldana's Netyiri falls in love with Jake because she sees the nobility and courage under his moronic thug exterior. Jake needs his avatar to connect with the Na'vi culture but also to feel whole. As the film progresses Jake is constantly questioning what is the actual experience, is he the grunt in the box or the noble alien warrior? Without the experience of sacrificing his old body, of subsuming his brother's place he is empty and purposeless. When we first see him in the movie his ragged appearance evokes memories of Voight in Coming Home and Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July. Jake Sully is confused and purposeless in the film. Is he depressed? An alcoholic? Cameron never really lets us know, he's more (understandably) interested in getting to the exotica of Pandora. But the hole in Jake is filled through his new connection and stepping outside of his old damaged self. The problem is that we never really know the other side of Jake, the damaged incomplete soldier.

Similarly in Tom Ford's A Single Man the protagonist George (a masterful Colin Firth) begins having lost an integral piece of himself. His lover Jim (Matthew Goode seen only in flashbacks) has died in a car accident. Ford's film revolves around George learning to cope with his loss. He too struggles in a world beset with the threat of annihilation, in his case it's the nuclear paranoia that still lingers in 1962 Los Angeles. George too puts on an avatar himself. Under Ford's direction composition and wardrobe are wielded like the space marines pulse weapons or the Na'vis wild beasts under Cameron. When George wakes in the morning with suicidal thoughts, Firth goes through a poignnat monologue as to how he "becomes" George in the morning. Every hair in place, his suit pressed, his glasses perfectly fitting his face. The George that goes in to lecture is a cover, his real self back in bed.

Like Jake, George is pulled into a newer reality and is made whole through a new love. His relationships pull him forward and a new self emerges. As a new director Ford has a very percise control of the frame and everything that inhabits it. As a former designer for Gucci as well as his own label it's little wonder that Ford is such a natural with aesthetics. The world of A Single Man is where wardrobe is armor and weaponry to keep the outside world from penetrating the characters. As George's friend and sometime lover, Charlotte, Julianne Moore looks like the very paradigm of a swinging spinster. Yet a few drinks and the once together woman becomes disheveled and she and George are hurtling barbs and hard truths at each other. George is arguing with her not only for the legitimacy of his past relationship but the pain that society will allow him to show grief for. The pain is palpable and both actors connect in a palpable way that doesn't feel award clip showy, rather its a devastating out pouring of emotion that both endears the audience to the characters as much as it discomforts.

Chances are there isn't going to be a lot of cross-over in the audiences of both films, though I would heartily recommend A Single Man for film-goers feeling as though they haven't really seen the whole picture of loss and coping that Avatar leaves them with.