Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Animated Movies Poll!

Animation is a grossly underrated genre. For many it calls to mind Disney flicks that are aimed at six year olds (although we definitely like our Disney over here!) but we know there are great animated films out there just waiting to be celebrated. In honor of our 1000th-ish post, we wanted to do another movie poll, this time on our favorite animated films! We're really excited about this one because our readers have great taste and we're always eager to watch new-to-us movies!

Submission is open to everyone! All you have to do is send us your own personal top 10 list of favorite animated films either as a comment on this blog post, as a comment on our Facebook wall or as a private message on Facebook by the end of Sunday February 22nd. The results will be posted on Wednesday, February 25. Can't wait to see your recommendations!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Crash (1996)

As I move deeper into my 30's, I increasingly find myself looking back on my early 20's as though it was a lifetime away. It almost feels like I'm remembering a different person altogether. Mostly I just see the fuck ups. So much regret. Why did I do all those things? Why did I hurt others? Why did I allow myself to be in positions where I could be hurt? The flowery and romantic answer is love. The blunt and cynical answer is sex. Either way, the things a human being will put themselves through for that connection are insane. We will deliberately hurt others and deliberately hurt ourselves just for the possibility of love/sex. Is it too much to imagine that the hurt can then become part of the overall experience? With all those different feelings and impulses swimming around at the same time it's easy for wires to get crossed. Is that how a fetish/addiction is born? And then suddenly it is the thing that rules you. Suddenly you can't have one without the other. Thankfully I was able to emerge from the wreckage of my 20's relatively unscathed. It's all in the rearview now, growing more distant each day.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Haunted House (1921)

Buster Keaton is a genius. Was that ever a question? In The Haunted House (1921),  the plot is convoluted, yet entirely beside the point. The reason to watch this gem of a short film is Buster Keaton himself, hilariously throwing himself around completely insane situations. Get this: Buster Keaton is a bank worker who spills glue on everything and spends a good chunk of the movie being covered in glue and money. Also there are robbers. And theatre actors. And a haunted house that's not really haunted. And counterfeit money. Can't make sense of it? Who cares! I was cracking up watching Keaton do his thing. "The Great Stone Face" was a legend for a reason. You can watch this on Hulu Plus or YouTube, where you can find any number of his short films. I can't wait to check out more!

Friday Quote: Funny Face

"We open the cocoon but it is not a butterfly that emerges. It is a bird of paradise!"

Funny Face (1957)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Selma (2014)

Throughout this film I found myself thinking about skin and I'm pretty sure this was intentional. In addition to being gorgeous, Bradford Young's un-Oscar nominated cinematography also serves an important narrative function. As a man of color, he knows how to light various skin tones in order to bring out all the texture and nuances contained within darker complexions. And as a filmmaker of color, director Ava DuVernay knew that highlighting said textures and nuances would be an important tool in telling this particular story.

We have all stared at our own skin and taken note of the little wrinkles, blemishes and scratches that make us who we are. It might come in different shades, but we are all covered in it. This is precisely what blackface and minstrel shows attempted to drive out. If you turn an entire group of people into pitch-black, red lipped creatures, then it is extremely easy to label them as not human, deserving of ridicule and unworthy of basic inalienable rights. They are no longer seen as human.

By taking the time to properly light the rainbow of skin tones that comprise this cast, the filmmakers are insisting upon the humanity of all involved. This way, when people are bludgeoned and murdered we as an audience feel it because we can imagine those things happening to us and to our skin. And perhaps most importantly, it reminds us that the great deeds in this film were not done by comic book superheroes sent to earth in order to save us. The battle in this film was won by flesh and blood human beings, just like you and me. And we can do it again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

I love a good movie about nothing. In this particular movie about nothing, sixteen year old Eva from Budapest meets up with her slacker cousin and his friend in 1980s New York, then later in Cleveland, and from there the three go on a road-trip to Florida. Like many of director Jim Jarmusch's characters, these guys are cool. They almost strut, they give zero fucks. What's amusing about the men in this film is that they're clearly trying really hard to give that impression. Eva is more authentic, walking straight ahead, carrying her radio playing Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" and showing no emotion on her face. 

The black and white photography is gorgeous, with each scene ending by cutting to a few seconds of black. It has this surreal View-Master effect, like I'm spying on someone else's life in tiny installments. I loved the sparse but beautiful score (which the Internet tells me is by star John Lurie! Thanks, Internet!) and its confident slow pace. I never thought I could be so enthralled watching characters sitting in a movie theater, watching a movie that the audience can't see. These characters are interesting in their listnessness. You want to know more about them, but the film keeps you at a distance and you become content to just watch and wonder.

I'm always game to watch and wonder. That's what this gig is all about. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

The New World (2005)

The title of this film is absolutely perfect. It isn't about the English discovering, "the new world" in America and it is also not about Native Americans discovering "the new world" of Europe. One "world" is not older than the other. They were two separate "worlds" that ran parallel to each other for centuries. The "new" world in question here is the one that forms when these two separate universes suddenly smash into one another. The editing at points is jarring with its jump-cuts, but that is because we are witnessing the collision of two cultures. Like forging something from iron, it is a jarring process, and the filmmakers have used the tools of cinema to reflect that. What is most clear is that there is no going back. Some things are forever lost on each side, but we must continue forward. The old world is gone.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday Quote: Hoop Dreams

"Y'know, four years ago, that's all I used to dream about was playing in the NBA. I don't really dream about it like that anymore. Y'know, even though I love playing basketball, but I want to do other things with my life, too. If I had to stop playing basketball right now, I think I'd still be happy."

Hoop Dreams (1994)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oscar Umbrage 2015!

Well it’s that time of year again. Time for me to ramble off my random knee-jerk reactions to the Oscar nominations! Of the eight Best Picture nominees I have only see three, but that is not going to stop me from being able to go “full umbrage” here. As it stands I’ve seen 74 eligible films. Sure a lot of them were either fluff and/or downright bad, but there was also a LOT of good films that went either completely or significantly unheralded. It’s very early in the day and I might miss a few observations here and there. I’ll probably edit this piece as the day goes on to include them and make me look like I was a genius all along. Well enough with all of this intro business, here we go…

Best Picture
-American Sniper? I’m aware that Rotten Tomatoes isn’t the be-all and end-all but that film is currently sitting at 73%. That’s 6% lower than fellow nominee The Theory of Everything (which I did unexpectedly like). And even before the usual whisper campaigns of Awards Season had a chance to begin, people were digging into this film's accuracy and questionable quality.
-Though I haven’t seen Whiplash it is HIGH on my to-see list and I’m glad that a film that small can still make it to the big game without a huge machine behind it.

Best Director
-Ava DuVernay where are you? We saw this coming with the snub from the DGA earlier this week, but still… 
-I love me some Bennett Miller and with three great films under his belt I see him as a, “director to watch”, but with Foxcatcher’s lack of a Best Picture nomination I see him as merely taking up space. Space perhaps that could have gone to a woman. Perhaps a woman of color. Perhaps a woman of color who directed a historical EPIC with relevance to modern day social issues. Just sayin…

Best Actress
-No Amy Adams?

Best Actor
-No Raph Fiennes?
-No Jake Gyllenhaal?

Best Supporting Actress
- I get that they campaigned Arquette as Supporting Actress and I’m really glad to see her here, but I am decidedly on the side of the LA Film Critics Association in thinking that she was at least the co-LEAD in Boyhood. Ellar Coltrane was the male lead, and she was the female lead. Had the film been released with its original title of 12 Years (scrapped due to its similarity to 12 Years a Slave) this would have been a whole different conversation.
-Of course Meryl Streep, because why not?

Best Supporting Actor
-Oh yeah there was a movie called The Judge this year…

Best Adapted Screenplay
-Yay Inherent Vice!
-Glad to see that The Academy’s weird decision to classify Whiplash as an adaptation (since 15 pages of the EXACT SAME SCREENPLAY had been made into a short film last year in order to get investors interested in supporting the feature-legth verion) didn’t derail it from getting recognition.

Best Original Screenplay
-Yay Nightcrawler!
-Where's Obvious Child?

Best Documentary Feature
-No love for Teenage. I guess a lot of it was re-creations so it’s in a weird in between category. Still worth seeking out. Currently streaming on Netflix.
-But where is Life Itself? There is absolutely nothing that should have or could have excluded this moving portrait of a man who was and is so tied to the industry giving out these awards.

Best Animated Feature
-No Lego Movie?

Best Song
-Lego Movie! Spaceship! EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!
-But seriously we all know this is going to "Glory", right?

Best Original Score
-No love for Under the Skin. Of course.
-Did love the EPIC organ use in Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar score.

Best Cinematography
-Gonna spit if the film that finally wins Roger Deakins an Oscar is Unbreakable rather than any film in the decades of amazing work that preceded it.
-Ida is pretty gorgeous
-How is this the first time Robert Yeoman has ever been nominated?

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
-Guardians of the Galaxy's entire cast! Vs. Steve Carell’s nose and Channing Tatum’s ears! Vs. Old Tilda Swinton! – IN A BATTLE TO THE DEATH!!!!!

Best Animated Short
-Feast is ADORABLE!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Golden Globes 2015

Okay, I know if I was a good blogger I would've had this little recap up sooner, but Craig just HAD to post his write-up on Safe yesterday. So here we are (JK honey I love you sorry sorry sorry).

Anyway! Like all awards-show loving movie nerds, we watched the show in our finest pajama pants and slipper socks sipping from wine glasses filled with root beer, talking during commercial breaks about who we thought would take home the prizes and shushing each other when it came back on. Tina and Amy were great emcees as always, although I would have liked to see even more of them (it's their last year, people, COME ON.)

*Tina and Amy, Tina and Amy, Tina and Amy. Nobody was spared, and the infamous Bill Cosby jokes in particular were both cringeworthy and hilarious.
*Wins for Jeffrey Tambor and "Transparent"...this is first and foremost a film blog so we don't write about TV shows here, but this show is excellent and we can't recommend it enough.
*Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig presenting with "famous movie quotes." I love these two.

*Eddie Redmayne! Amy Adams! Julianne Moore! Michael Keaton! Unfortunately I'm a little behind on my movies and haven't yet seen Birdman, but I can assume these awards were all well earned.
*Lots of great heartfelt speeches, praising more roles for women and more visibility for the trans community and other minority groups.
*Boyhood and Grand Budapest Hotel taking the top awards. I have to roll my eyes when people complain about how movies today are crap...if you pay attention, there are real gems every year and these two films in particular made 2014 very special.
*Je Suis Charlie.

As award season comes and then goes, what would we like to see in 2015? More roles for women, written by women, directed by women, let's keep it going! And I'd like to see even more diversity in terms of ethnicity, age, etc. This is a great big world and I'd like to hear everyone's stories. 

Onward to the Oscars! Who do we think will take the big prize?? *cough* Boyhood *cough* probably *cough*