Saturday, February 16, 2013

Let the Games Begin!

Well! Just when you thought I would never update this blog I am surprising you! Life here at HBPL has been ever changing and busy but I would be very remiss if I didn't at least post for the Oscars!!
Anyone who has read this blog knows I bet with a friend every year. We tend to vote after all the other awards and guilds are presented. This year, to make it interesting, we voted before all of that so we would have less insight into what was being celebrarted by the industry. are my picks for the Oscars this year:

Best Picture : Argo
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz
Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence
Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway
Animated Film: Brave
Cinematography: Life of Pi
Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Directing: Ang Lee – Life of Pi
Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man
Editing: Zero Dark Thirty
Foreign Film: Amour
Make-up: The Hobbit
Original Score: Life of Pi
Original Song: Skyfall
Production Design: Anna Karenina
Sound Editing: Skyfall
Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
Visual Effects: Life of Pi
Adapted Screenplay: Silver Linings Playbook
Original Screenplay: Django Unchained

I think this will be a year when one film doesn't win a ton of Oscars. I will say that my friend voted for Lincoln to win quite a few (including film and director) but I just don't think that will happen. Although I do think that Ang Lee has as good of a chance as any (and popular with Oscar voters) to win Best Director, it is probably my least confident category. Vote at your own risk!

Let the games begin!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Entertaining intrigue!

I’m baaaaaack!

Sorry for the lack of blog postings the past few months but….sometimes other work just has to take priority! Also, like many of you, I have become addicted to HBO’s Game of Thrones. So much so, that I have also spent the past few months reading the books. When, oh when, will George R.R. Martin give us book six?? For those who don’t have HBO, season one of Game of Thrones is available from our Media Department. And for those that just love 800+ paged books……I couldn’t put them down! But what’s that I hear?? After you have seen all the episodes and read all the books, what then??? Maybe one of these will help you get over running out of Westeros sword play and intrigue:

Willow: It is great to see the talented Peter Dinklage get his due as Tyrion (the Imp) Lannister in Game of Thrones. (Think he is good as The Imp, you should see him in The Station Agent…brilliant!!). But if you want to see another short actor in action, try Warwick Davis as Willow (he is also known as Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter films). Written by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard, Willow follows his adventures as he tries to return a baby to its own people. Along the way he meets up with the warrior Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), discovers the baby is really a princess that was sent away to save her from an evil queen and that even small people can accomplish big things. Although Willow didn’t get great reviews when it came out, I love it none the less.

Ladyhawke: You think Jaime and Cersei Lannister’s love affair has its problems, consider the issues that the stars of Ladyhawke have to deal with! Captain Navarre absolutely loves and adores Isabeau; but unfortunately so does and evil Bishop (who is also a sorcerer). When Navarre runs off with Isabeau, the Bishop places a curse on them that causes Navarre to be a wolf during the night and Isabeau to be a hawk during the day. Hence they can never really be together. With the help of a talented young thief (Matthew Broderick), Navarre attempts to break the curse to be with the love of his life (a Navarre always pays his debts!)

Excalibur: Okay, so what you really love about Game of Thrones is all that medieval intrigue and swordplay. If so, than this film will continue the thrill. Often touted as the best of the Arthurian legend films, Excalibur follows Arthur from his pulling the sword from the stone to become King to the unraveling of Camelot. In between there are love affairs, betrayal of friends and family, and battles (don’t forget to stick ‘em with the pointy end!). John Boorman directed this visually stunning epic which is never less than compelling.

The Mission: Talk about commitment to duty and missions that seem doomed from the start! We could be talking about Brienne of Tarth or the missionaries in this tale of swashbuckling Spanish Jesuits who try to protect a remote South American Indian tribe. Father Gabriel (Jeremy Iron) takes over a mission that is a place of sanctuary and learning for the Guarani tribe. However, due to a change of political views, the church wants him to abandon his mission and leave the Indians to the slavers. He and a recent convert priest (Robert DeNiro – need we say more about the swashbuckling…) decide to stay with the tribe and try and protect them from the coming assault. As the Maid of Tarth finds out, things don’t always go as planned…

Game of Thrones, season two is drawing to a close, only two more episodes left (ending June 3rd with episode 20- "Valar Morghulis”)! Season three is rumored to be coming the end of this year (just like winter, yes “Winter is Coming” – oh I do miss you Eddard Stark!). Until then here are even more films you may want to consider to get you through: Knight’s Tale, Gladiator, Rob Roy, Lion in Winter, Kingdom of Heaven, 13th Warrior and King Arthur (the Clive Owen version that also has our own Stannis Lannister (Stephen Dillane) as Merlin!).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Look into my crystal ball....

...and see this years Oscar picks. For many years I have made an Oscar bet with a friend from high school. We made our picks last night and for the first time since we started betting, we have the EXACT SAME PICKS! We usually have two or three different, but not this year. I hope that this just doubly proves how good these picks are:

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin
Best Actress: Viola Davis
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer
Documentary: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Foreign Language: A Separation
Animated Feature: Rango
Cinematography: Tree of Life
Make-up: The Iron Lady
Art Direction: Hugo
Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Costume Design: Hugo
Editing: The Artist
Sound Mixing: Hugo
Sound Editing: Hugo
Original Score: The Artist
Original Song: “Man or Muppet”

This Sunday night will show whether we have picked wisely or not. Let the games begin.....

Friday, February 03, 2012

They're baaaaaaack!

The Oscar nominations came out last week and overall they didn’t have too many surprises. Sure there were the usual snubs like the final Harry Potter not getting an Oscar nod for Best Film like the final Lord of the Rings. Many thought Albert Brooks should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Drive. Where are Steven Spielberg (War Horse) and Tate Taylor (The Help) for Best Director (especially Taylor as The Help will quite possibly take Best Film)?? Well, since the Academy can only nominate so many, someone is left out every year.
So, who will win?? I have been madly seeing as many nominated films as I can. Fortunately for you (and me!), many of these films are out on DVD and available at the HBPL Media Center!

Films with multiple nominations, currently in the Media Center on DVD:

The Help: I was pleasantly surprised that the book The Help was a charming, moving and thoughtful read. I didn’t expect it to be. I was a bit dubious of the movie but, like the book, it won me over. I am a bit surprised it didn’t get a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination but it did receive 4 others: Best Film, Best Supporting Actress for Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer and Best Actress for Viola Davis.

Moneyball: Until I saw “The Artist”, Brad Pitt would have been my pick to win Best Actor for his role in Moneyball. At least the Academy had the good sense to nominate him for Best Actor. Moneyball also got Best Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, Editing and Sound Mixing nominations. Plaaaaaaaaaaaaay Ball!

Midnight in Paris: I am a fan of Woody Allen’s early work; Annie Hall, Manhattan, Purple Rose of Cairo, Sleepers to mention a few. Lately I have not been his biggest fan but he has certainly redeemed himself in my eyes with Midnight in Paris. Charming! Funny! Totally Entertaining! Loved it! It has been given deserved nominations for Best Film, Best Director, Original Screenplay and Art Direction.

The Tree of Life: Many people walked out of this film and wrote scathing reviews. Others claim it is a visionary piece of art. It will be up to you to decide! Nominated for Best Film, Best Director and Cinematography.

Bridemaids: Really? Bridemaids? Comedies usually don’t fare well at the Oscars, so this one came as a surprise, at least to those that haven’t seen it. As a recent convert, I am happy the Academy saw fit to nominate Melissa McCarthy for Best Supporting Actress and to give it an Original Screenplay nod! You go, girls!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2: Snubbed for bigger things but thrown a bone with Makeup, Art Direction, and Visual Effects nominations.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon: I thought the first Transformer film was exciting and big on action. The next two, I didn’t find as compelling however, the latest still got nominations for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Editing.

Films with single nominations, currently in the Media Center on DVD:

Best Actor: A Better Life (Demian Bichir)
Best Supporting Actor: Warrior (Nick Nolte) and Beginners (Christopher Plummer)
Animated Feature: Kung Fu Panda 2 and Rango
Adapted Screenplay: The Ides of March
Visual Effects: Reel Steel and Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Costume Design: Jane Eyre and Anonymous (available 2/7)
Sound Editing: Drive

I will be posting my Oscar picks later this month. I have been betting on the Oscars with a high school friend for longer than I care to mention. I need to check all the guild awards and bet with him before I “go public”! Never fear, I will definitely post them sometime the week before the show (February 26th). So, get your popcorn, you have some research to do!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Animation Nation : Holiday Edition

I think last year at this time I was listing off inspirational films to help you get through the holidays. The holidays this year call for something more….more….more animated! Years ago when I worked at Disney Studios, the hold music for the phones would be whatever new film Disney had coming out in the near future. One particular year I seemed to be on hold a lot and I listened to the soundtrack for Beauty and the Beast…for….ever….! Despite that, to this day it is still my favorite animated film and one I could watch over and over and still shed a tear when the Beast becomes the prince (I certainly hope I am not giving the big ending away! If so, you need to get out more...).

When your shopping is done, all the presents are wrapped, the cookies are all baked and you have time to sit down and relax, nothing entertains like a good animated film!

Beauty and the Beast: Tale as old as time....*sigh*. Beauty and the Beast combines (at the time) cutting edge computer graphics with the musical delight of a Broadway play. Need some Busby Berkeley? “Be Our Guest” fills the bill. Need amazing song writing? I give you Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (Winners of the Oscar for Best Original Song and Best Original Score for this film). This version of Beauty and the Beast veers off from the original fairy tale but, as far as I am concerned, not to the detriment of the story. The massive ego of Gaston makes this film all the more enjoyable and his song pointing out all his amazing qualities (he especially good at ex-pec-tor-a-ting!) is one of my favorites. Most girls know a Gaston and most girls would love to find that tender Beast so get out your hankies and enjoy!

Need more Disney animation: Fantasia, Lion King, or Dumbo.

Nightmare Before Christmas: What’s this? What’s this? This is a brilliant bit of stop-motion animation that is a holiday classic in my household. Although Henry Sellick directed this marvelous film, the script came from the twisted brain of Tim Burton. Is it better at Halloween? Is it better at Christmas? That’s for you to decide but I think this film is so good it could easily be seen at either holidays (or both!). Jack, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, has grown bored with the confines of his holiday and wants to show the world an improved version of Christmas. Every inch of space is crammed full of delightful images that will either creep you out or fill you full of holiday good will. Not many films can say that!

Need more Burton? Try the Corpse Bride.

Spirited Away : This animated film is by Japanese master animator, Hayao Miyazaki (an animation God to most animators). Not fond of computers, Miyazaki draws thousands of frames by hand, and there is a richness in his work that comes from an artists eye. The story: a young girl named Chichiro embarks on a journey through a fantastical realm to save her parents. In this realm she interacts with a variety of imaginative characters, is surrounded by dazzling visuals, and supported by a rousing musical score. Although this is targeted toward children, adults will also be enchanted by the characters and situations. A charming tale about love, determination, and growing up.

More thought provoking animation: Howls Moving Castle, Iron Giant, Princess Mononoke, Persepolis.

Pixar Trifecta: Toy Story (1/2/3) * Up * Wall-E
Despite my utter adoration of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, I think that Pixar creates the best, most touching, most entertaining animated films available. The entire Toy Story trilogy is a masterpiece of animation storytelling, Up has one of the most moving and touching film montages ever created and Wall-E is a delight as well as a commentary on our future if we continue our sedentary lives. All of these Pixar films are ones that whenever I am swinging around the TV dial and land on one of them I go no further. Is Pixar perfect? Well, no one is perfect as is displayed by Cars 2 or How to Train Your Dragon, but a great many of their films are true genius so I still support them as the current kings (and queens) of animation.

Need more outstanding Pixar: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille

South Park: Bigger Longer Uncut: I was recently in New York and had the opportunity to see the incredible “Book of Mormon”. It is juvenile in parts and amazingly rude but it is also one of the most entertaining musicals I have ever seen (and I have seen ALOT of musicals!) This film was a pre-cursor to what Trey Parker and Matt Stone were capable of. Like the “Book of Mormon”, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is juvenile in parts and amazingly rude but it is one of the most entertaining animated films I have ever seen. Not to mention the fact the Trey Parker received an Oscar nomination for Best Song for the rousing “Blame Canada” ! The film follows the continuing escapades of Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny as they sneak into an R rated film. When the kids develop some new disturbing vocabulary, the parents and teachers decide to “Blame Canada” for leading their kids astray. Love ‘em, hate ‘em, but whatever you do, watch ‘em (just don’t let the kids watch with you)!

Need more juvenile animated fun: The Simpson’s Movie

Whether we are ready or not, the holidays are here. So in this season of giving, I give to you the permission to slow down, visit our Media Department and check out one of these wonderful animated films (all mentioned films available at HBPL).

May your holidays be merry and bright (and full of friends or chocolate or friends bearing chocolate) !!

Next post: They’re baaaaaack! The race for Oscar begins.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The People have spoken!

Toronto International Film Festival has ended and their awards have been announced. In the past few years, the winner of the People’s Choice award went on to be a major Oscar contender. Think Slumdog Millionaire, Precious and the King’s Speech. This year winner will have to go some to rise to that lofty level. The 2011 winner of the People’s Choice Award for feature film went to the Lebanese film, Where do we go now? This film takes us to an isolated village in war torn Lebanon. The local women decide to save their village from the inter-religious fighting that erupts after a television is installed in a neighbor’s home. This film, so far, does not have U.S. distribution but I assume that will change now that it has won this award. It will also be the official submission from Lebanon for best Foreign Film (many films are submitted as selections but only a few will get the nomination).

The People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary went to The Island President. In this political documentary, Mohamed Nasheed wins the presidency after a 20-year battle for democracy in the Maldives, only to face a bigger challenge: to save his island nation from global warming and rising seas.

Toronto is finished for another year…but never fear! This festival ends, another will soon begin!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Never Too Late for a Festival Wrap-Up!

Okay, so I have been very busy this year with all the reorganization of duties. I seem to have been remiss on writing about the big film festivals...all the majors have gone by this year without a word from me. Alas Alas. It takes the Toronto Film Festival going on (and me not being there) to remind me of that fact! So in case you missed them, here are the top awards that were given at the big film festivals this year:


Sundance Film Festival: or Bob’s Show as they used to call it. Started in 1978 by Robert Redford, the main focus of Sundance was to conduct a competition for independent American films; to highlight the work of filmmakers who worked outside the Hollywood system. Many complain that it isn’t as “independent” minded as it used to be but it is still one of the major festivals in the world.

The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to How to Die in Oregon, directed by Peter D. Richardson. In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. This film tells the stories of those involved with the practice today. (no release date currently)

The Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to Like Crazy, directed by Drake Doremus. A British college student falls for an American student, only to be separated from him when she's banned from the U.S. after overstaying her visa. (This film has an October 2011 release date.)

The Audience Award: Documentary was presented to Buck, directed by Cindy Meehl. A real-life “horse whisperer”, Buck shuns the violence of his upbringing and teaches people to communicate with their horses through leadership and sensitivity, not punishment. (Had limited release in June of this year, coming to DVD in October 2011.)

The Audience Award: Dramatic was presented to Circumstance, directed and written by Maryam Keshavarz. A wealthy Iranian family struggles to contain a teenager's growing sexual rebellion and her brother's dangerous obsession. (In theaters now, Irvine and Los Angeles)


Cannes Film Festival (Festival de Cannes): Cannes was started in 1946 as a rival international cultural event to the Venice Film Festival. (originally was to start in 1939 but had to wait until after WWII to have the first festival).

Palme D'Or : Terrence Malick's The Tree Of Life. According to reports, many actually walked out of this film at Cannes. That’s Malick for you. People love him, people hate him but it seems the former were on the award committee this year! This impressionistic story of a Texas family in the 1950s follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father. (released in May in theaters, coming out on DVD in October).


Venice International Film Festival: Started in 1934 as a non-competitive film event, it is the oldest film festival currently still running. In 1949, the Golden Lion was first given as award for the festival.

Golden Lion for Best Film (Leone d'Oro): Faust, directed by Aleksander Sokurov (Russia). A version of the German legend in which a man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge (no current U.S. release date).


Toronto International Film Festival: Started in 1976, TIFF is second only to Cannes in availability of high-profile films, stars and distribution deals. This year’s festival runs from September 8th to September 18th. I have not been to the other festivals but have been to Toronto several times. Each time I have seen amazing films, many that will never get U.S. distribution. Such is the value of the festival for film aficionados. Sure, having bragging rights about seeing high profile films first at the festival is definitely a bonus, but the real benefit is seeing great film that you would not have seen otherwise.

Toronto lacks a jury and is non-competitive; it doesn’t have a Golden Lion or Palme D'Or. Its highest honor, the People's Choice Award, is given to a feature-length film with the highest ratings as voted on by festival attendees. Last year’s winner was “The King’s Speech”. What will win the top honor this year?? The top forerunners this year seem to be either The Artist (Michael Hazanavicius’ mostly-silent ode to the death of silent film) or The Descendants (Directed by Sideways’ Alexander Payne, George Clooney plays the head of a storied Hawaiian family as they are forced to decide what to do with their last, vast parcel of land.) It could be either one of these or who knows? Some film that hasn’t even been screened yet may take the festival audiences fancy! I guess we will have to wait until next week to find out! (Check back as I will post the winner when it is announced).

For those that aren’t able to travel to these festivals, don’t forget the smaller festivals that happen closer to home. AFI Fest in Los Angeles is coming up in November (Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar starring Leonardo DiCaprio will open this year’s festival). Palm Springs International Film Festival is in January and Newport Beach Film Festival is in the spring. Need it smaller and even closer to home? The SoCal Film Festival will be here at the Central Library from Sep 28th to October 2nd.

Whew! I now feel like I have fulfilled my major cinematic festival duties for the year! Now get out there and take chance on a festival film!