Wednesday, November 30, 2011
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’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
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).
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!
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
The many Jakes:
Optimistic Jake: October Sky : Based on the autobiography of Homer Hickam, October Sky follows the dreams of a young Homer (Jake) whose life was changed in October 1957 with the launching of Sputnik into space. Although his coal miner father hoped he would follow him into the mines, Homer’s dream of the future was in the sky, not below the ground. Life is not easy for a poor kid from West Virginia but with perseverance and some luck, Homer is able to realize his dream.
Teenage Angst Jake: Donnie Darko: This is one weird, twisty, time-travellin’ film! (And in my top five all time favorites!) It is definitely a cult film that has people arguing over its meaning. What is Frank the bunny really doing in this film?? (A 6 foot bunny that only Donnie can see). Donnie (Jake) is a troubled teen that listens to the whacky things Frank tells him to do. Supporting Jake in this bizarre film are: Maggie Gyllenhaal as his sister; Noah Wylie and Drew Barrymore as his teachers; Mary McDonnell as his mother; Katherine Ross as his shrink and Patrick Swayze as a creepy motivational speaker. Love it or hate it one thing you can’t do is look away. Donnie Darko is the Everest of teenage angst movies!
Obsessive Jake: Good Girl: Jennifer Aniston plays a married woman with a very mundane life who starts an affair with a lost young man (Jake) who thinks he is Holden Caulfield (or at least wishes he were). They meet in the discount chain store where they both work. Boring jobs, boring lives, boring husbands or parents…nothing is very exciting about the lives of these two. And yet, it makes for a very watchable film. The choices that are made and their consequences are what make this good cinema. If you are looking for cheery happy endings, don’t look here. But if you want a film that does a spectacular job as a character study, this is the one to see.
Gay Jake : Brokeback Mountain : Some distill this lovely film down to just “it’s a gay cowboy film”! But if that is all they see, they are missing the real point of this film. It is a human, haunting story of two men born in a time when the must deny the great passion they feel for each other. This is not a gay love story; it is just a love story. Heath Ledger is Ennis and Jake plays Jack, two young ranch hands who take a job watching sheep in Wyoming. This is just the start of their lifelong passion for each other, even though they try to uphold a different façade with wives and children. The nuanced performances and the amazing direction of Ang Lee (winner of the Best Director Oscar) make this satisfying cinema.
Action Figure Jake : Source Code : Although Jake tried out his action figure status with Prince of Persia (Day After Tomorrow doesn’t really count as he was more left behind son than action figure. Also, even when freezing, it is hard for me to watch people burning books!), I think he really got his action figure “jones” going with this film. Jake wakes up in the body of a different man on a Chicago commuter train. As he finds out, he is there for only 8 minutes before he is pulled back to the present. The “present” involves a time traveling experiment to try and stop a terrorist that bombs the commuter train and threatens even worse. Jakes job: find out who the bomber is so he can be stopped. One unfortunate side note: Jake is really dead…..does he succeed in finding the bomber? Is he really dead? Only one way to find out…
Are all Jake Gyllenhaal films wonderful?? To answer that see Love and Other Drugs or Brothers…I don’t think Jake was the bad part of these films….now the writing…that’s another matter! And then, of course, there is Bubble Boy. Also one of my favorites but I think it is also on many people’s worse ever film lists. I look forward to seeing what quirky, action-packed or dramatic roles that will make up the future of Jake!
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Daniel Radcliffe: Probably the busiest of the main kids, has been hoofing it on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Even while involved with being Harry Potter, young Daniel was pretty active trying other roles (December Boys, My Boy Jack and Equus) His next role: The lead role of Arthur Kipps in the horror film, Woman in Black. The film and play (which has been running for 21 years in the West End of London) are based on the novel by Susan Hill. I guess the “powers that be” decided its theatrical longevity was an indication of popularity and therefore a great candidate to be made into a film. Time will tell…but we will have to wait until its release early in 2012 to pass judgment. Regardless, bravo, I say to Daniel Radcliffe for challenging himself and getting away from the Potter stereotype.
Emma Watson: Although poor Emma got taunted out of Brown University by her classmates, hopefully she will laugh at them….all the way to the bank. Our Hermione is worth millions, will easily get into another university (I hear in New York) and is also stepping out of her Potter comfort zone to play Sam in the upcoming The Perks of Being a Wallflower (based on the popular YA novel by the same name). Take that, you Muggles!
Rupert Grint: I was quite interested to hear that Rupert’s (Ron Weasley) post-Potter project was starring as Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards in Eddie the Eagle (currently in post production). You might remember Eddie as the awkward British ski jumper from the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. Here’s hoping it gets US distribution so we can see how Rupert does in his AHP outing. (AHP= After Harry Potter).
Alan Rickman: Already a declared Alan Rickman fan, I can’t wait to see his AHP film release. Alan is currently working on a Coen Brothers film, Gambit. Expected out in 2012, he costars with Cameron Diaz, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci in a tale about an art curator who enlists the services of a Texas steer roper to con a wealthy collector into buying a phony Monet painting. Coens+Rickman+Firth=Magic!!
Ralph Fiennes: Yesssssssss! Lord Voldemort (or “He who shall not be named” …oops…too late!) Whether he is creeping us out as a Nazi in Schindlers List, playing a demented mobster in In Bruges (with fellow Potter player, Brendan Gleeson aka Mad Eye Moody)or being sweetly quirky in Oscar and Lucinda, Ralph is always an actor to watch. In his next film (slated for December 2011 release), he is playing the lead role of Caius Martius Coriolanus in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. Although Coriolanus is not performed as much as other Shakespearian plays, Ralph will now join the ranks of Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen; all who gave their own interpretation of the trouble Roman general! (Yes, but did the others have magic in their repertoire?)
Helena Bonham Carter: Probably the most interesting career choices that any of the Potter people have taken would be the ones of Helena Bonham Carter. Maybe her oddness comes from her close proximity to Tim Burton (they have been together since 2001); she is very convincing as the insane Bellatrix Lestrange. But then she amazes us with her regal turn as the Queen Mum in the Kings Speech! Her next project is once again directed by her boyfriend and father of her children, Tim B. It will also reunite her with the Mad Hatter himself, Johnny Depp. Carter and Depp are currently filming Dark Shadows, with Johnny as Barnabas Collins (the vampire that was winning young girl’s hearts way before Twilight was ink on a page!).
Who knows if Pottermore.com will ultimately be a site worth our time? I guess we will have to wait until October to find out. In the meantime, we can all look forward to the upcoming Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two (July 15th! Buy your tickets now!). Not to mention the continuing careers of the Potter players and some very interesting upcoming cinema fun!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Just those few words bring up images of skyscrapers and hustlers on the mean streets of New York. I was lucky enough to escape HBPL for a week and head to the Big Apple. Museums, pizza and Broadway theater! Much to my amazement, Harry Potter CAN sing and dance! (Got to see Daniel Radcliffe in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”). Roaming the city made me feel like I was in a Woody Allen film. Of course, Woody’s films ooze New York as do the following filmatic examples:
La-di-da, la-di-da …and if that means nothing to you, you haven’t seen Annie Hall. That catch phrase and her eccentric wardrobe (which consisted mainly of vintage men's clothing, including neckties, vests, baggy pants, and fedora hats) made Diane Keaton the talk of the town … and a Best Actress Oscar winner for this film. It was also the film that changed Woody Allen (who won Oscars as director, screenwriter and Best Picture) from a purely comic film director to a filmmaker with a little more substance. New York comedian Alvy Singer (Allen) looks back at his relationship with Annie (Keaton). His journey takes him through his memories of their relationship, trying to find out what caused them to part ways (maybe his neurotic banter?). La- di-da!
Need more neurotic New York? Try When Harry Met Sally or Moonstruck.
Sex and the City:
Woody Allen used to own New York but in the 21st century, the city belongs to the girls! New York is as much a character in Sex and the City as Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. Continuing on from the ending of the television series, Carrie’s finally going to marry Mr. Big….or is she?? Heartbreak and trouble swirls around the girls but they are always there for each other….dressed in designer clothes and Jimmy Choo shoes!!
For more girls and the city check out: Breakfast at Tiffany’s or The Devil Wears Prada.
Saturday Night Fever:
♫ Well you can tell by the way he uses his walk, he’s a woman's man no time to talk! ♫
John Travolta plays a disco dancing miva (male diva) is this 70’s classic. Nineteen-year-old Brooklyn native Tony Manero (Travolta) lives for Saturday nights at the local disco. In the disco he is king of the roost but in the light of day, he’s real life isn’t quite so great; dead-end job and a priest brother who is the apple of his parents eye. Tony meets Stephanie who has higher aspirations in life and through dance inspires Tony to look beyond Brooklyn and his “Saturday Night” claim to fame. Is this film dated? Sure, but for those that lived through the 70’s it is a welcome blast from the past. (Not to mention for the continually mystifying resurgence of BeeGee fans).
Musical New York: West Side Story, The Producers and that great scene on the huge piano in Big
You talkin’ to ME??? Yeah, I know I used this to open this blog posting but it bears repeating. Other than Woody Allen, the director that is most associated with New York is Martin Scorsese (director of Taxi Driver). The gritty reality of New York comes in the form of Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro), an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran living in the City. By night he drives his cab around “the City” and by day he deals with his obsessions. The obsessions come mainly in the form of two women, Betsy (Cybil Shepard) and Iris (Jodie Foster). Bickle’s has a strong (over the top) sense of what is right and wrong with humanity and has made it his goal to make the world a better place. Well, a better place in the mind of Travis….to everyone else…a nightmare!
More New York grit: Gangs of New York, Mean Streets (two Scorsese flicks) and Serpico.
With any luck, you too can visit the Big Apple, the City So Nice, They Named It Twice (NY, NY), the City that Never Sleeps, Gotham City (or whatever moniker you use). But if not in person, the City is always available to you at the movies!
Thursday, March 17, 2011
I saw this film years ago at the Toronto film festival. It has a definite dark edge to it but like Pulp Fiction, it has scenes that are inappropriately funny. I found myself laughing at things that were just wrong. The setting is working-class Dublin but it is hard to describe the plotline as there are a dozen major characters whose lives intersect in romance, crime and farce. John (Cillian Murphy), Lehiff (Colin Farrell) and Oscar (David Wilmot) are mates who continue to make bad decisions regarding love and life. Colm Meaney plays Jerry Lynch , who has watched too many cop reality shows and is convinced that he would make a much better reality star. Bring in a whole slew of brown sauce references and you have a dark, dark comedy that is often unsettling…but it's also touching and startlingly original.
Crying Game (DVD)
Alright…who doesn’t know “the secret” of the Crying Game?? I remember seeing this when it first came out and how keeping “the secret” was as important as not giving away the ending of the Sixth Sense (Bruce Willis is really dead….oops!). The always excellent Stephen Rea plays Fergus, an Irish Republican Army volunteer who develops an unlikely friendship with Jody (the also always amazing Forest Whitaker), a kidnapped British soldier lured into an IRA trap. When things go terribly wrong, Fergus heads to London to look up Jody’s girlfriend, Dil. Another unlikely friendship develops and….well I guess you are just going to have to watch it, won’t you! You won’t be disappointed; this is a clever film that keeps you guessing and makes you care about the journey of the characters. (Did I mention that Bruce Willis is really dead in the Sixth Sense?)
Waking Ned Devine (DVD)
Irish boy musician meets Czech girl musician in Dublin and they go on to win an Academy Award. Ahhhhh, ain’t love grand? Once is a modern day musical about the dreams of a Dublin street musician to become a success and the Czech girl that inspires him. Or I guess I should say they inspire each other as they sing their way around the mean streets of Dublin. After spending time with this romance of a film and its original music, it is easy to see why it was winner of the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance (2007) and why its song, "Falling Slowly" went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song (2008).
So enjoy the day that makes it easy to be green or at least easy to be wearin’ the green! Instead of green beer or Irish whiskey, try these films to fill yourself with Irish spirit!
Thursday, March 03, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
My Oscar choices:
Best Film: King’s Speech
Actor: Colin Firth
Actress: Natalie Portman
Supporting Actor: Christian Bale
Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo
Original Screenplay: King’s Speech (Inception won the WGA award and could easily take this one).
Adapted Screenplay: Social Network
Directing: King’s Speech
Art Direction: King’s Speech
Cinematography: True Grit
Costume: King’s Speech
Editing: King’s Speech
Original Score: Social Network
Original Song: Coming Home (Country Strong)
Sound Editing: Inception
Sound Mixing: Inception
Visual Effects: Inception
Animated Film: Toy Story 3
Documentary: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Foreign Language: Biutiful
Fortunately, many of the Oscar nominated films are still in the theaters so you can experience them on the big screen. However, if you miss them, many are coming out on DVD in the coming months:
127 Hours: March 1
Black Swan: March 29
Tangled: March 29
The Fighter: March 15
Hereafter: March 15
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part one: April 15
King’s Speech: April 19
Rabbit Hole: April 19th
Oscar nominated films that are already available at HBPL:
Toy Story 3
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Alice in Wonderland
How to Train your Dragon
Restrepo (currently on order)
The Kids are Alright
The glitz and the glamour are just a few weeks away so get your ballots, get your friends, get your snacks organized and that champagne on ice! Hooray for Hollywood!