Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about his Father (2008)

When I sat down one unassuming Wednesday night with my wife to check out this film, I already knew what to expect from it because I had read a lot about it online: “It will break your heart.”  “It’s the saddest film you will ever see.”  “You will cry buckets.”  “The events of this story are completely unfathomable.”  And, although I usually believe everything I read on the internet, I dismissed these comments as mere hyperbole.  I mean, surely it can’t be sooooooo unbelievably heartbreaking, right?


If you haven’t heard of it, this story is basically a love-letter to the family of Dr. Andrew Bagby, who was murdered by his girlfriend Shirley Turner.  The filmmaker was a close friend of Andrew’s and he wanted to make it as a way for Andrew’s son, Zachary, to know his father through interviews of family and friends.  Doesn’t sound like it could be that sad, right?  Well, here’s a brief running diary of my emotions throughout the 90-minute film.                                        

0:20: Small lump in throat, not looking at wife because I know she’s already shedding a tear or two which will make it harder for me not to.

0:42: First inkling of a tear rolls down cheek.  Man card=REVOKED. 

0:57: Tennis ball-sized lump in throat, beginning to reach “death of my childhood dog when I was 12” status. 

1:10:  Tears accumulating in rapid fashion; beginning to flow steadily.  All bets are off at this point. 

1:25:  Pools running out of blood-shot eyes; blubbering; wailing; snot everywhere; hugging wife and dog.

1:30: Film ends.  Repeat above for 30 more minutes. 

So I think that paints a pretty accurate picture of what this film is capable of doing to you.  As far as the quality of the film, it’s not a prototypical documentary in that it’s not so much an investigative journalism as much as a home-video from one friend to the family of another; the editing is somewhat overbearing at some points and the music heavy-handed; but because of the personal nature of the story and the downright tragedy of the actual events, this is easy to forgive.  I highly recommend exercising your lacrimal glands and giving this one a shot. 

**Thanks to fellow film-buff Taylor S. for turning me on to this film.**

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sleeping Beauty Fail

So, This is Happening.

I've been a lazy bum the past couple of weeks with keeping up on here, and I have a lot of movies I want to get to, but I had to post about this in order to see if everyone is as enraged as I am about it.

As my wonderful sister and parents know all too well, I am obsessed with Disney's Sleeping Beauty.  I probably watched it 300 times from age 2 to 8.  It's still my favorite Disney movie of all time.  When it came out on DVD for the first time in the fall of 2003, I risked my manhood by informing my new friends at college that I would be purchasing it and watching it on a Friday night by myself, and I didn't care what they said or thought.  Long story short, I would be lying if I said I didn't have an emotional attachment to the film.  Judge me.

Despite this, I don't think my possibly concerning attachment is clouding my opinion that I think trying to make a movie centered around Maleficent is a mistake.  As it stands, Maleficent is one of the scariest and best Disney villains ever.  Part of what makes her so scary is that we don't know anything about her...we don't know why she hates the King and Queen and wants to kill their child, but isn't it better that way?

Moreover, I can't imagine anything worse than Tim Burton directing this film.  I haven't seen Alice In Wonderland yet, but based on all accounts of people I trust, it was despicable.  So he's already screwed up one classic Disney movie (and the trippiest, I might add).  He screwed up Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, another movie that didn't need to be touched.

Look, I'm not trying to be a stick in the mud, but can we really not come up with any sort of original idea every once in a while?  Moviegods, I don't ask for much, but please....just no.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Official 2009 Oscar Predictions

Listen up, Academy.  If you do the 10 Best Picture nominee thing again, I'm going to punch you.  And I will gripe and complain until I'm blue in the face, and threaten to not watch you again, but we both know that I will.  But maybe that's the problem AND the solution.  See, apparently the Academy's reasoning for expanding the Best Picture category was to open it up for more mainstream films to get in, such as this year's Up, The Blind Side (sorry, just threw up a little in my mouth), and District 9.  More mainstream movies getting a nomination = more viewership, as far as the Academy's concerned.  My theory is that this will not affect the amount of people who watch it.  People will complain and stomp around mad about who gets nominated/who wins, but they will always come back.  It's the Academy Freaking Awards, THE *end all and be all* of American film awards.  They lucked out this year anyway, with AVATAR making enough money to fill Texas.  The following of that movie alone will yield much higher viewers tomorrow night, but it would have been nominated in a field of 5 anyway.  But I digress.  Academy, just admit that this year was a failure and move on.  Anyway, here are my picks for tomorrow night; enjoy.  

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker

% Sure: 75

Comments: There has been a little backlash in the past couple of weeks surrounding The Hurt Locker, but I'm sticking with my guns here.  It's a two horse race between it and AVATAR (although some would claim Inglorious Basterds has a shot, but it doesn't).  The problem with AVATAR is that it has zero acting or writing nominations.  I think it's something like, zero, movies have ever won Best Picture without a writing or acting nomination (although if any movie was to break that mold, it would be that one).  The other major reason that I think Locker will win is because of the enormous amount of precursor awards going to it: Writers Guild Award, Directors Guild Award, Producers Guild Award, Editors Guild Award, and the BAFTA, to name a few.  The only thing AVATAR has won is the Golden Globe, which has not matched the Academy several times recently.  Anyway, I think it's Locker for the win, but I won't be surprised if I see James Cameron take the stage in Kodak theatre tomorrow night.  

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

% Sure: 95

Comments: Jeff Bridges has won every major award so far except for the BAFTA, and I don't think this will change here.  The other problem is that there is not another standout upset contender: Colin Firth won the BAFTA and not much else, George Clooney had a lot of early buzz but dropped off, Jeremy Renner wasn't even a lock for a nom but has gotten a LOT of buzz of late, and then there's Morgan Freeman playing himself, er, Nelson Mandella.  If anyone upsets it will be Renner, but you can feel pretty safe putting your money on Bridges.

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

% Sure: 40

Comments: Okay, here's the deal: the other acting categories this year are all locks, and there's almost always one "out of nowhere" winner (see: Arkin, Alan).  I think this will be the category that it happens in this year. Having said that, I'm still picking the frontrunner with Sandra, because there's not a clear 2nd banana with the noms.  Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan won the BAFTA (and it's my fav. female performance of the year), and Gabourey Sidibe has a lot of recent buzz.  Do not be surprised if any of those 4 women win.  Here's my %'s: Bullock = 40, Sidibe = 25, Mulligan = 20, Streep = 15, Mirren = 0.  

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds

% Sure: 100

Comments: Two things: First, I love that because of this movie, I'm allowed to say "Basterds" in my blog.  Second, you can bet your firstborn child on this win.  

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Monique, Precious

% Sure: 97.5

Comments: Monique will win.  And barring Gabby Sidibe pulling the upset over Sandra, it's the only award that Precious will take home tomorrow.  

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

% Sure: 99.5

Even if AVATAR wins BP, I think Bigelow wins best director.  As she'll be the first woman to ever take home the award, I think the Academy will do the politically correct thing here.  It's the right time.

Best Original Screenplay: Inglorious Basterds

% Sure: 70

Comments: It's either going to be this or The Hurt Locker.  My thinking is that the Academy will want to award Quentin Tarantino for this movie, which won at the Screen Actor's Guild awards for best ensemble performance.  

Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air

% Sure: 80

Comments: It's won almost everything so far in this category, and I think this will be the one award that the movie takes home.  Much like Basterds, the Academy won't let such an acclaimed and highly nominated film walk home empty-handed.  

Best Cinematography: Avatar

% Sure: 25

Comments: Okay, here come the technicals.  A few of them I have a really good idea on, and the others I might as well throw darts at a board.  This is one of those.  My original pick was for The White Ribbon to win, as it's a beautifully shot film, but if The Hurt Locker wins the major awards then AVATAR could very well sweep the technicals, so I'm switching my vote.  Don't count out any of the nominees on this one.  

Best Editing: The Hurt Locker

% Sure: 40

Comments: Best Editing many times goes along with the BP winner, and in this case, the editing was very important to the feel of the movie.  However, per my theory about AVATAR above, it could very well win also.

Best Art Direction: Avatar

% Sure: 45

Comments: Many times in categories like this, the BP nominee will take home the award against the other films not nominated for it.  My original pick was Nine, but others think Sherlock Holmes as well.  Who the heck knows?  I'll go with the movie that made 2 Billion dollars, thanks.

Best Costume Design: The Young Victoria

% Sure: 75

Comments: The Academy loves period-piece porn, and it's won a lot of awards already.

Best Makeup: Star Trek

% Sure: 95

Comments: No other good candidates. 

Best Original Score: Up

% Sure: 85

Comments: It's been winning everything, and the score in AVATAR just isn't very good, or else it would have a chance.

Best Original Song: “The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart

% Sure: 90

Comments: Good song, it's been winning everything, and the upset contender would be one of the songs from The Princess and The Frog, but since it has two noms it will split the vote.

Best Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker

% Sure: 45

Comments: Once again, two horse race between it and the blue smurfs movie.  If I had any brains I would pick the same movies for this and sound editing to increase my chances for winning one of them, but I just have a hunch.  

Best Sound Editing: Avatar

% Sure: 35

Comments: (See above)

Best Visual Effects: AVATAR

% Sure: 110

Comments: The other nominees are just glad to be there.  

Best Animated Film: Up

% Sure: 85

Comments: Strong, strong year for animated films.  I personally liked Coraline better, but Up was nominated for BP, and has been winning everything, so I don't really see anything else taking it.  Also, doesn't AVATAR qualify for this category?

Best Foreign Film: A Prophet

% Sure: 50

Comments: Haven't seen A Prophet, but it looks like the clear frontrunner.  The White Ribbon and The Secrets in Their Eyes could also win.  Not feeling too sure on this category.  

Best Documentary: The Cove

% Sure: 90

Comments: This one's pretty safe, but Food, Inc. could sneak in.  It's just too bad Capitalism: A Love Story wasn't nominated, Michael Moore is always entertaining.  And fat.

Not gonna attempt the short films; haven't seen a one.  That's it for my predictions, have fun watching everyone!