Friday, December 31, 2010

Movies Seen in 2010

This year was definitely busier than last year. How so? I'll show you. Here are all the movies I saw this year.

Raging Bull
The Prestige
2001: A Space Odyssey
Brokeback Mountain
The Shawshank Redemption
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Up in the Air
Crazy Heart
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Say Anything...
A Single Man
Seven Samurai
Sweet Smell of Success
An Education
Stalag 17
East of Eden
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Glengarry Glen Ross
Dead Man Walking
The Hurt Locker
Save the Tiger
High Fidelity
The Great Escape
The Sting
Taxi Driver
The Truman Show
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
The Lady from Shanghai
The Conversation
The Natural
Double Indemnity
Red River
In Cold Blood
Into the Wild
Bringing Up Baby
Easy Rider
Iron Man 2
The Searchers
You Can't Take It With You
Long Day's Journey into Night
In Bruges
Schindler's List
Public Enemies
The Last Samurai
The Hours
Strangers on a Train
Shutter Island
Bullets Over Broadway
Charlie Wilson's War
Adam's Rib
Wonder Boys
American Beauty
In the Heat of the Night
Revolutionary Road
Bull Durham
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Almost Famous
Lawrence of Arabia
3:10 to Yuma
Prizzi's Honor
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
The Deer Hunter
Gone Baby Gone
The Pianist
North by Northwest
My Own Private Idaho
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Minority Report
10 Things I Hate About You
Mulholland Drive
The French Connection
About a Boy
(500) Days of Summer
Coming Home
The Wrestler
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Boys Don't Cry
Carlito's Way
Matchstick Men
Bonnie and Clyde
The Illusionist
Wall Street
The Darjeeling Limited
Primal Fear
Lost in Translation
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Miracle Worker
The Defiant Ones
Little Miss Sunshine
The New World
28 Days Later
The Town
Thank You for Smoking
Death at a Funeral
North Country
Touch of Evil
Children of Men
Being John Malkovich
The Savages
Blood Diamond
The Social Network
The Player
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Two Lovers
Eastern Promises
Broken Flowers
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Sixth Sense
Boogie Nights
The Messenger
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Birdman of Alcatraz
The Squid and the Whale
Do the Right Thing
The Departed
The Constant Gardener
Sling Blade
Le Samourai
Near Dark
The Night of the Hunter
The Exorcist
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Rachel Getting Married
Paper Moon
Half Nelson
Gangs of New York
25th Hour
Black Hawk Down
The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Boston Strangler
Strange Days
12 Monkeys
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Hotel Rwanda
La Dolce Vita
The Thin Red Line
Far from Heaven
The Kids Are All Right
All the King's Men
Anatomy of a Murder
Requiem for a Dream
The Man with the Golden Arm
Judgment at Nuremberg
Ace in the Hole
American History X
United 93
The Night of the Iguana
Saving Private Ryan
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Donnie Darko
Garden State
The English Patient
His Girl Friday
The Killers
In a Lonely Place
The Last of the Mohicans
Witness for the Prosecution
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Malcolm X
Cold Mountain
Black Swan

Number of movies: 209

So how many have you seen this year?

Black Swan

Catching up on the classics is hard enough. Catching up on new releases is more of a challenge.

Ballet dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is given the lead role in Swan Lake, but she finds herself competing against new ballerina Lily (Mila Kunis) to keep the role.

I don't know why, but I kept thinking of Psycho as I was watching Black Swan. Not for the psychological thriller stuff, but more so for how similar Nina and Norman are. Both are a little on the mentally unhinged side and both have (ahem) "maternal issues". Once you think that over, it's true.

My God, Aronofsky. You are definitely making a name for yourself in Hollywood. Same goes to Portman. I think a lot of people will be pretty pissed off if she doesn't win the Oscar for her haunting work. Kunis shows really strong work as well (a far cry from That '70s Show and Family Guy, don't you think?). This didn't floor me as much as Requiem for a Dream did, but "oh my God" kept running through my mind. I have three words to describe the ending: out of nowhere. And I love it.

My Rating: *****

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Favorite Film Characters Meme

No, I'm not starting a meme. This was actually started by Squish almost two years ago. Being curious/bored, I thought I'd take a crack at it. The rules are simple: name ten (or more if you like) film characters you admire and state your reasons. This should be fun.

Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Redford), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The ultimate bromance. They get along just fine by their bank robbing skills and their DDG (drop dead gorgeous) looks. They're also not a pair you should mess with. I almost feel sorry for Etta, having to choose who to be with.

Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), The Night of the Hunter
One quote comes to mind to describe Powell: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." He may be a "preacher", but he's anything but a honest man.

Tom Ripley (Matt Damon), The Talented Mr. Ripley
He looks like a nice gentleman, but in reality he lies, swindles and eventually kills to keep his true nature hidden. He also takes the phrase "love someone to death" to a new level.

Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), Schindler's List
That quote for Powell can also go for Goeth. If you disobey him, you're dead. If you do something wrong, you're dead. Basically, if you don't do something to his approval you're dead.

Martha (Elizabeth Taylor), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
She's loud, brash, a drinker and just someone you don't want to be around (the complete opposite of Taylor). And yet, she makes you curious on what makes her tick.

Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), Psycho
Much like Ripley, Bates looks like a nice gentleman. He doesn't look like he'll harm a fly. But if you're not careful, "Mother" has a few things to say...

Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) and J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster), Sweet Smell of Success
J.J. is ruthless, remorseless, amoral and just downright cruel. Sidney isn't any better. Both will insult a person that's right in front of them, both have charm that's superficial. In short, they're sociopaths and they could care the less bit.

Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
With a list almost full of killers, liars and unpleasant people, it's a relief that a honest character shows up. Smith is one fellow who wants what's best for others. He won't back off when the going gets rough.

Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), On the Waterfront
He never thought much of the consequences but when Terry heard about the murder he unwittingly contributed to, one thing struck him: conscience. We see him fighting his troubled mind, something he used to do as a living (the fighting, that is). And when he does admit his guilt, it's a load off his back (and perhaps the audience's too).

Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt (Montgomery Clift), From Here to Eternity
Another innocent soul plunged into the harsh depths of reality. Prewitt is a soldier who has a sensitive nature to him. It isn't shown when he's close to the breaking point, but those closest to him know of it.

So there are my favorite movie characters. I'm not tagging anyone, but feel free to do it if you want.

Recommendation Blogathon

I would like to try something new for the new year. Not just me, anyone who wants to try it. What is it? It's this:

Movies are recommended all the time. Most people try to watch what they're recommended, but they never get around to watching. More recommendations start to pour in, only deepening one's procrastination.

So here's my suggestion. Try to catch up on some of those recommendations. Write a review and submit it here. This project will widen your film watching and, to some, get people off your back. Univarn, I know you're continually recommended Tokyo Story. This might help.

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cold Mountain

Anthony Minghella is known for three movies: The English Patient (which got him an Oscar), The Talented Mr. Ripley (my personal favorite) and Cold Mountain.

As the Civil War starts coming to an end, wounded soldier Inman (Jude Law) makes the perilous journey to get back home to Cold Mountain, North Carolina and his sweetheart Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman).

The performances from Law and Kidman are really good. I fail to see the backlash towards Renee Zellweger. I mean, she wasn't that bad though I gotta agree that she didn't really deserve that Oscar. The rest of the cast is just crazy. A number of notable names are in supporting roles or bit parts (Brendan Gleeson, Ray Winstone, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Giovanni Ribisi, Natalie Portman and Cillian Murphy to name a few). I also love the fact that most of the cast isn't from America and yet they speak with flawless Southern accents. The cinematography is lovely (well, what do you expect from a Minghella picture?). The rest of the movie? I thought the romance was a tad too gushy for my tastes (though Law and Kidman do have convincing chemistry). I also thought it could have been a little shorter. But still, I managed to like Cold Mountain enough to give it the rating I did.

My Rating: ****

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Malcolm X

It's hard to find a dramatic role from Denzel Washington's filmography since most of his movies are in the action genre. Fortunately, earlier in his career there were a bountiful number of dramas.

As he's serving time in prison, Malcolm Little (Washington) discovers Nation of Islam writings. Upon his release, now as Malcolm X, he preaches the teachings.

Boy, the Best Actor race for that year had to be tough. I mean, considering who was running that year it had to be a strain (or a pain) on the voters. That being said, Washington should have won that year. The rest of Malcolm X I like, though I think it could've been a little shorter. Spike Lee was definitely the right guy to direct this. I mean, who else could make a biopic about one of the most prolific African-American leaders so well as Lee?

My Rating: ****1/2

Monday, December 27, 2010

Witness for the Prosecution

I said before that Billy Wilder is one of the few directors who can do drama and comedy excellently. And with nine of his movies down the hatch, the claim has still held up.

Esteemed barrister Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton) has just returned to practice after suffering a heart attack and supposed to be put on a diet of bland bland civil suits. But the case of Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power), who is accused of murdering a wealthy widow, proves irresistible, particularly when Sir Wilfrid meets the accused's wife, the remarkable Christine Vole (Marlene Dietrich). Christine appears as a witness: not for the defense, but for the prosecution.

Witness for the Prosecution is a well-acted courtroom drama from Wilder. Laughton, Power, Dietrich and Elsa Lanchester (she play Sir Wilfrid's nurse) all play their roles excellently, Dietrich especially. She meets the criteria for a Wilder woman: dangerous and manipulative. The script is infused with Agatha Christie's wit and Wilder's humor. My opinion on the ending? Well, let's just say it reminded me of the ending for Primal Fear.

My Rating: *****

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Last of the Mohicans

The only movies I've seen directed by Michael Mann were crime-based (Heat, Public Enemies, Collateral). Growing interested on other genres Mann has done, I decided to check out The Last of the Mohicans.

As the English and French soldiers battle for control of the North American colonies in the 18th century, the settlers and the native Americans are forced to take sides. Cora Munro (Madeleine Stowe) and her sister Alice (Jodhi May) unwittingly walk into trouble but are saved by Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis), an orphaned settler adopted by the Mohicans.

A few years back, I tried to read James Fenimore Cooper's novel. I was interested in the first hundred or so pages, but then I just stopped reading it. Unfortunately, I felt the same way about the movie but I stuck to my guns and kept watching the movie. The cinematography is lovely and the fight scenes are well-choreographed, but overall I wasn't totally blown away.

My Rating: ****

Saturday, December 25, 2010

In a Lonely Place

Humphrey Bogart: the original tough guy. One minute he's tough (the Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), next minute he's a softie (Casablanca, Sabrina). Sometimes he's both (To Have and Have Not). That is slick.

Screenwriter Dixon Steele (Bogart) becomes a suspect in the murder of a hat-check girl he took home the previous night. His neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) provides an airtight alibi to the police and Steele's friendship with her blossoms into a romance.

Throughout In a Lonely Place, Steele shows behavior that portrays him as not only a suspect but also as the culprit. One scene in particular shows that flawlessly. He has two friends, one of them a cop investigating the case, re-enact how the murder possibly took place. As he's describing it, we hear his voice and see his face change as though he's getting a sick satisfaction out of it. His behavior really gets under your skin.

In a Lonely Place provides an interesting take on film noirs. Instead of spending the whole movie on the crime presented early on, the murder is treated more as a subplot. Bogart clearly gives his best performance as Steele (Louise Brooks said she felt that Steele was the closest to the Bogart she knew). Nicholas Ray, who's better known for Rebel Without a Cause, gives an intense tale of love, scandal and Hollywood.

My Rating: *****

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Killers

I believe because of my interest in criminology, my appreciation for film noirs would soon follow.

Insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O'Brien) tries to uncover the case of Ole "Swede" Andersen (Burt Lancaster), a gas station attendant who was murdered by two professional killers. Reardon finds out that Swede had a shady past and his ex-girlfriend Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner) comes into question.

The Killers is best known now for containing Lancaster's film debut. It also contains Gardner's breakthrough role. Upon seeing it, it becomes very clear how their careers skyrocketed after The Killers. It's one of those rare noirs that has aged perfectly. It still has an edge even after sixty-four years of being in the public eye. It will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end where you finally get answers for this twisting mystery.

My Rating: *****

Thursday, December 23, 2010

His Girl Friday

I've been trying to catch up on the classics. Most of them were released in the 50s, 60s and 70s, only a scarce number from the 30s and 40s.

All Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) wants is to get married to Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy). But her ex-husband Walter Burns (Cary Grant), as well as a story about a prisoner awaiting execution, prevents her from doing that.

It's so annoying. Ever since I saw Some Like It Hot last year, I cannot take Cary Grant seriously anymore (even if most of the roles I've seen by him are comedic). Almost every time Grant speaks, my mind immediately goes to Tony Curtis' impression of Grant. Is it driving me crazy? You bet it is.

His Girl Friday has to be one of the smarter comedies I've seen. Grant and Russell have really great chemistry together. The dialogue between them and the other characters absolutely sizzles. Do I suggest that everyone should see His Girl Friday? Absolutely.

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Should I?

I've had this blog for over a year now, but I've been thinking about it now.

Recently, I've been thinking about changing the blog's name to something a little...shorter. 'Cause really, typing 'Life of a Cinephile and Bibliophile' is a bit of a strain.

So should I change the name or should I keep it the way it is? What are some suggestions you have?

The English Patient

There has been mixed response towards The English Patient. Some love it to pieces (like this fellow) while others are bored to death by it (a la Elaine from Seinfeld).

Count Laszlo de Almasy (Ralph Fiennes) is a Hungarian map maker who is employed by the Royal Geographical Society to chart the vast expanses of the Sahara Desert along with several other prominent explorers. As World War II unfolds, Almasy enters into a world of love, betrayal and politics.

I'll start off with the obvious: I really liked The English Patient, though I thought it was slow in some parts. The cinematography is GORGEOUS. The score is just beautiful. The performances from Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas and Juliette Binoche, as well as Colin Firth and Willem Dafoe, are top notch. There has been debate if The English Patient deserved to win Best Picture over Fargo. After seeing both of them, it's hard to say which deserved that coveted statuette since both are excellent, well-acted films. And to those who avoid The English Patient for its slow pace and length: give it a chance. You might like it. I know I did.

My Rating: ****1/2

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Coming Home

1978 had to be an interesting year for movies. I mean, you had a movie that was pro-Vietnam (The Deer Hunter) and another that was anti-Vietnam (Coming Home), both of which competed for Oscars. Both were victorious.

While her husband Bob (Bruce Dern) is serving in Vietnam, Sally Hyde (Jane Fonda) decides to volunteer at the local VA hospital. There, she meets paraplegic veteran Luke Martin (Jon Voight), with whom she has an affair with.

The work from Fonda, Voight and Dern is very good, so it's clear to see why they were nominated (with Fonda and Voight winning). Coming Home, much like The Deer Hunter, focuses on the effects of war on returning soldiers. But The Deer Hunter shows how far those effects will push a person to the edge; Coming Home only shows the minimal effects a soldier endures. But Hal Ashby (who's better known for the cult classic Harold and Maude) manages to provide a sensitive view on returning soldiers of the Vietnam War.

My Rating: ****1/2


I've only seen three boxing movies, all of which are "Oscar darlings". Those three are Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby and Rocky, the latter I shall review.

Small-time boxer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is given the opportunity of a lifetime when flashy heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) offers him a shot at the title.

Back when this won Best Picture, I would assume that a lot of people agreed with the decision. But now, I think those same people wanted Taxi Driver to win. Now don't get me wrong. I think that Rocky is really good. It's just after seeing three of the other nominees (All the President's Men, Taxi Driver, Network), I'm slightly questioning Rocky's credibility now. But still, the movie has held up after thirty-four years.

My Rating: *****

Monday, December 20, 2010

Garden State

I still find it weird that indie movies are always focusing on "close to home" subjects (death in the family, marriage, divorce, drug addiction, etc.). Maybe that's why nobody really watches them; they hit too close to home.

Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) is a semi-successful TV actor who returns home for his mother's funeral. He meets Sam (Natalie Portman), a girl who's everything Andrew isn't.

I liked Garden State, but it reminded me of Scrubs a bit (yeah, I've watched it). I like the performances from Portman and Peter Sarsgaard. As for Braff, he was good but again he reminded me of Scrubs. I thought that Garden State was a little too quirky for my tastes (this is coming from an admirer of Tim Burton and Wes Anderson). But still, I enjoyed it.

My Rating: ****

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Donnie Darko

I have seen some weird movies. Some that get on the list are Mulholland Drive, Memento and Inception. One of the more recent movies I've seen that gets on that list is Donnie Darko.

Troubled teen Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) receives a disturbing vision that the world will end in 28 days. With the help of various characters, including a 6 foot tall rabbit named Frank, he is drawn into an alarming series of events that may or may not be a product of his growing insanity.

As I was watching this, the same thought kept popping into my head: WHY THE HELL AM I WATCHING THIS? I knew why (how can you resist Jake's puppy dog eyes?), but I honestly wonder why I didn't turn off the movie when I got into "WTF" territory. I think whoever wrote the screenplay watched Harvey one too many times because really, you can't come up with the whole 6 foot tall rabbit thing without a little inspiration. I also felt a little gypped by the ending. Don't get me wrong. I liked Donnie Darko. I just thought it was really, really, really weird.

My Rating: ****

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

The Western was a big genre way back when, but after Unforgiven the genre rode off into the sunset. But since then, it has been making somewhat of a comeback with such movies like 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

At first, Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) admires outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt) when he joins his gang. But then he feels resentment towards Jesse and plots to kill him.

Other actors in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford include Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner and Sam Shepard, all of whom play their roles excellently. Having said that, Affleck gives the performance that stands out the most. His character is more human than the others. It felt a tad long in some parts, but the storytelling (as well as Roger Deakins' cinematography) keep the movie afloat. Once Ford does his deed, he enjoys his fame. But alas, he dies a nobody.

My Rating: *****

Saving Private Ryan

I said on my review of The Thin Red Line that there's debate on which World War II movie from 1998 is better: The Thin Red Line or Saving Private Ryan. And after seeing both, I now know. I'll tell you later on.

Shortly after the invasion of Normandy, Capt. John Miller (Tom Hanks) is ordered to find Pvt. James Ryan (Matt Damon) to inform him of his brothers' deaths. The task is daunting and, to some, life-threatening.

The most famous scene of Saving Private Ryan is the 27-minute long D-Day scene. We see war in a new light from this scene. We witness soldiers perish on the beach. We watch as they fight their way onto dry land. It's a scene that will forever haunt those who see it.

The work from Hanks is excellent, almost a departure from his earlier work. Steven Spielberg, who already left one hell of an impact on me with Schindler's List, deepened that impact with Saving Private Ryan. Damon, although he doesn't show up until the final third, was also really good. The scene where he is told of his brothers' deaths really impressed me. He takes the news with such stride.

So which is better: The Thin Red Line or Saving Private Ryan? Saving Private Ryan overemphasizes on violence (evident from the D-Day scene); The Thin Red Line emphasizes more on the characters. I had to turn away from several scenes of Saving Private Ryan (weak stomach, you know?); I was fully absorbed by The Thin Red Line. Both are well-acted, both depicted the horrors of war, both are just brilliant movies. So which is better? I apologize to some, but I believe that The Thin Red Line is the better of the two.

My Rating: *****

Friday, December 17, 2010


After seeing Inception, I got interested in other movies with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Since seeing it, I saw 10 Things I Hate About You and (500) Days of Summer, now Rian Johnson's directorial debut Brick.

After finding his ex-girlfriend dead, Brendan Frye (Gordon-Levitt) begins an investigation into her murder. He gets involved in an underground drug ring that may tie in the murder.

Recently I've taken an interest in film noirs, so it's no surprise that I really liked Brick. Gordon-Levitt gives probably the performance of his career (though my personal favorite of his is (500) Days of Summer). The mood throughout mirrors that of film noirs of the past. But I felt a little underwhelmed by it. But still, I liked Brick very much.

My Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, December 16, 2010

SAG Nominations

Okay, SAG nominations. Thankfully they don't suck like the Golden Globes nominations from earlier this week. Underlined means my prediction for winner.

Black Swan
The Fighter
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network

(No Inception? Wow.)

Jeff Bridges, True Grit
Robert Duvall, Get Low
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Hilary Swank, Conviction

Christian Bale, The Fighter
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit

So who do you think will win?

Blake Edwards: 1922-2010

Director Blake Edwards, whose works included The Pink Panther, Days of Wine and Roses, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Victor/Victoria, passed away Wednesday from complications of pneumonia. He was 88.
~July 26, 1922 - December 15, 2010~

The Thieves of Manhattan

A lot of the books I've been reading are well known by a majority of people. But I've been trying to read lesser known books, mainly ones that have recently been published.

Failed short story writer Ian Minot is fed up with rejections. He meets Jed Roth, who presents him with a manuscript that Ian can claim as his own. But after a little rewriting, Ian finds that the events of "his" book are coming true.

Throughout the book, there are references to authors and their trademarks (trains are called "highsmiths", cigarettes are "vonneguts", "fitzgeralds" and "faulkners" are drinks), literary characters ("gatsby", "golightly", "kowalski") and books themselves ("droogs" from A Clockwork Orange). The Thieves of Manhattan is a really gripping book. It's one of those rare books where you get completely swept up in the actions of the lead character. Definitely a must-read.

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Night of the Iguana

Frequently art imitates life. Whether it be a performance mirroring an actor's  own life or a piece of literature reflecting the life of a complete nobody, it's both interesting and kinda freaky.

When minister T. Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) is expelled from from his Virginia church, he travels to Mexico where he becomes a tour guide for a bus load of spinsters and teenage nymphet Charlotte Goodall (Sue Lyon), who is being chaperoned by the inflexible Judith Fellowes (Grayson Hall). Fellowes plots to have Shannon fired after catching him with Charlotte one time too many, but Shannon thwarts her plan. The group ends up at the secluded hotel of Shannon's friend Maxine Faulk (Ava Gardner), where Shannon meets the genteel Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr).

I read on a list that Burton's performance in The Night of the Iguana is an essential one. Upon seeing that, I felt compelled to see it. Did I agree with what the list said? Only slightly. He gives a really good performance, though I wouldn't dub it essential (that goes to his work in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). There is also good from Gardner and Kerr. The work from Lyon is pretty good, though it mirrored her role in Lolita more than once. The movie itself? It lags from time to time, but it still holds up most of the time.

My Rating: ****

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Golden Globe Nominations

So earlier today, the nominations for this year's Golden Globes were announced. Most of the nominees had people going, "WTF????" (me included) Anyway, here they are. Underlined means my pick for the winner:

Black Swan
The Fighter
The King's Speech
The Social Network

Considering it's taking the critic choice awards by storm, it's no doubt in my mind that The Social Network will win.

Runner-up: Inception

Alice in Wonderland
The Kids Are All Right
The Tourist

Is there really any competition here? Um, since The Kids Are All Right is probably the only one in this category that didn't get a "Rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, that's the one that's gonna win.

Runner-up: Uh, there is none. Trust me.

Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King's Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter

Tough call for this year. Lot of solid performances from what I've heard. Gunning for Eisenberg though.

Runner-up: James Franco

Halle Berry, Frankie and Alice
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine

I'm going with everyone else and say that Portman will win.

Runner-up: Jennifer Lawrence

Johnny Depp, Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp, The Tourist
Paul Giamatti, Barney's Version
Jake Gyllenhaal, Love and Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey, Casino Jack

Johnny, I love ya. But why did you get nominated for two crappy movies? Because of that, I'm going for the other hottie on the list, Jake Gyllenhaal.

Runner-up: Paul Giamatti

Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs
Angelina Jolie, The Tourist
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right
Emma Stone, Easy A

Nice to see that Bening and Moore got nominated. They were both good, but I liked Moore, well, more.

Runner-up: Emma Stone

Christian Bale, The Fighter
Michael Douglas, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

YES! Jeremy Renner got a nod! No shit, really. He kicked ass. But no Mark Ruffalo? Oh well. But despite what I said, I'm going for Garfield. He had the best performance in The Social Network.

Runner-up: Jeremy Renner

Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

Diverse list here. But since she's been getting all the accolades, my money's on Weaver.

Runner-up: Mila Kunis

Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tobe Hooper, The King's Speech
Christopher Nolan, Inception
David O. Russell, The Fighter

Damn, this one's hard. This one's anyone's guess, but I'm going for Aronofsky.

Runner-up: David Fincher

127 Hours
The Kids Are All Right
The King's Speech
The Social Network

You really gotta ask here? Well, yes since you have the most original screenplay in years (Inception) and the most clever screenplay in years (The Social Network). Going for the latter.

Runner-up: Inception


"Bound to You", Burlesque
"You Haven't Seen The Last of Me", Burlesque
"Coming Home", Country Strong
"There's a Place for Us", The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
"I See the Light", Tangled

Er, shot in the dark but I'm going for Country Strong.

Runner-up: Um, Tangled?

127 Hours
Alice in Wonderland
The King's Speech
The Social Network

No contest.

Runner-up: The Social Network

Despicable Me
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Shouldn't we know by now that Pixar dominates this category every time?

Runner-up: How to Train Your Dragon

The Concert
The Edge
I Am Love
In A Better World

You can't go wrong with a movie made by an acclaimed director featuring an Oscar winner, can you?

Runner-up: I Am Love

So those are my predictions. Let's see if any come true.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Vivien or Janet?

When I was becoming interested in movies, I'd tend to get Vivien Leigh and Janet Leigh mixed up. Now more aware of who's who, I thought this might happen to other rising movie lovers. Mind you, I'm writing this out of pure boredom not drunkenness.

Vivien: Born Vivian Mary Hartley in Darjeeling, Bengal Presidency, British India on November 5, 1913
Janet: Born Jeanette Helen Morrison in Merced, California on July 6, 1927

Notable Performance(s)
Vivien: Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire; both roles got her Oscars
Janet: Marion Crane in Psycho; role earned her an Oscar nomination

Prolific Marriage
Vivien: Laurence Olivier; marriage lasts twenty years (1940-1960)
Janet: Tony Curtis; marriage lasts eleven years (1951-1962)

Vivien: July 7, 1967, age 53
Janet: October 3, 2004, age 77

Again, I just wrote this out of pure boredom.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Man with the Golden Arm

Most movies that revolved around drug addiction were released in the 1960s and 70's, but one of the very first ones to cover the topic was released in the mid-1950s. The movie was The Man with the Golden Arm.

Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) has recently been released from prison after a six month stint. He was a card dealer and heroin addict before going to jail, now he aspires to be a drummer. But his past starts to catch up with him, as does his heroin addiction.

The highlight scene of The Man with the Golden Arm is where Frankie tries to kick his habit cold turkey. We see him become beyond dependent for the drug; he craves it, he needs it. The scene gets under your skin more than a heroin-filled syringe. In a time period when Hollywood was dominated by Method actors, the fact that a role this heavy is played by a non-Method actor makes it more harrowing. Makes a person wonder what the role would've been like had Marlon Brando signed for this role.

The rest of The Man with the Golden Arm is pretty good. I thought that Eleanor Parker, who plays Frankie's "wheelchair-bound" girlfriend, was a tad headstrong. She manages to present her character as though she was yanked from a Tennessee Williams play. There's also good work from a pre-Vertigo Kim Novak as a woman who helps Frankie overcome his addiction. It may be dated now, but just imagine the impact it had fifty-five years ago.

My Rating: ****

Saturday, December 11, 2010

United 93

The events of September 11, 2001 are ones that will forever be in the memory of the American people, much like the attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. To quote Franklin Roosevelt, it's a date which will live in infamy.

On September 11, 2001, four commercial airplanes are hijacked by terrorists. After two crashed into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon, the passengers and crew of the fourth plane decide to struggle against the four terrorists to take back control of the plane.

Since the movie was released not too long after the attacks, the events are still fresh in the public's memory. Paul Greengrass, who's better known to some for directing two of the Bourne movies, shows what happened on that doomed plane. Clearly the most emotional scene is when the passengers are calling family members to tell them that they love them. Heartbreaking. Is United 93 one of the best movies of the last decade? In my opinion, it's one of the most important but I wouldn't say the best.

My Rating: ****1/2

Friday, December 10, 2010

American History X

I'm starting to like Edward Norton as an actor. I liked him in The Illusionist, was floored with Primal Fear and was blown away with 25th Hour. And American History X only deepened my appreciation for him.

After three years in prison, former neo-Nazi skinhead Derek Vinyard (Norton) tries to prevent his brother Danny (Edward Furlong) from doing the same things he did.

When we're first introduced to Derek, out first thought is that we're supposed to hate him seeing that he's a smug, self-centered white supremacist. But after we see what happened to him in prison, we start to sympathize for Derek.

There's a great shot near the end of the movie. As he steps out of the shower, Derek sees in the mirror the swastika on chest, a symbol he one took great pride in now reduced to a symbol of humiliation of his past.

The flashbacks in black-and-white symbolize Derek's morality; the present day in color symbolizes his reformed life. I really liked American History X, even though the amount of racism made me a bit uncomfortable. The fact that Norton didn't win is obnoxious; who he lost to is more insulting. But either way, American History X is definitely worth seeing.

My Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, December 9, 2010

All the King's Men

Recently, I've been trying to catch up on the Best Picture winners. So far I've seen most of them, but not all.

Upon winning the election for governor, the once-honest Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) becomes amoral and corrupt, the very things he was accused of being.

The main points of All the King's Men are Broderick's performance and the screenplay. Crawford gives bravura for his work as Stark. Mercedes McCambridge, who plays Stark's tough-talking assistant Sadie Burke, also steals scenes she's in (hence the Oscar). All the King's Men is loosely based on the actions of politician Huey Long (no relation), whose life and career mirrors that of Stark's. Did this deserve the Best Picture Oscar? You bet.

My Rating: ****1/2

Ace in the Hole

Sunset Boulevard. Double Indemnity. The Apartment. Some Like It Hot. These are titles that most people associated with Billy Wilder. Sometimes, he has titles that aren't as well known.

Journalist Charles Tatum (Kirk Douglas) has recently taken a job at a small New Mexico newspaper. Not a lot of big news come through, so it's almost a relief for Tatum when he becomes aware of a store owner of a nearby town getting trapped in a cave-in. Tatum turns the story into a media frenzy.

How in God's name was Douglas ignored for an Oscar nomination? He handles the role with such intensity it almost hurts. His role of Charles Tatum adds to the list of Billy Wilder anti-heroes (other great examples include Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity and William Holden in Sunset Boulevard). At least Wilder's screenplay got nominated. Like Douglas' performance, the dialogue is so tense it almost hurts. To think the ironically named Ace in the Hole bombed upon its release. Now it's considered a must-see. Go figure.

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Judgment at Nuremberg

As well as the social dramas The Defiant Ones and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Stanley Kramer is also known for the star-studded courtroom drama Judgment at Nuremberg.

Retired American judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) has the task of choosing the fate of four German judges who used their offices to conduct Nazi sterilization and cleansing policies.

There were three performances in Judgment at Nuremberg that really impressed me. First off is Maximilian Schell as the defense attorney. He has dialogue that draws the audience to him. He literally commands the movie when he's on screen, so it's safe to say he rightfully earned that Oscar. The next one is Montgomery Clift as a victim of the Nazis' actions. He's only in the movie for one scene, but he floored me with that scene. The third actor is Burt Lancaster as one of the Germans on trial. He has a great speech towards the end that both deepened my appreciation for him and wondered why he wasn't nominated.

Along with the actors mentioned above, the cast includes Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland. There's also a pre-Star Trek William Shatner in a supporting role. Even though it's over three hours long, Judgment at Nuremberg enthralls the audience from beginning to end. Kramer provides, pun intended, testimony on one of the most important trials of the 20th century.

My Rating: ****1/2

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Requiem for a Dream

After seeing The Wrestler, I wanted to see what else Darren Aronofsky had to offer. That was found in his most prolific (and disturbing) work Requiem for a Dream.

Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) is a lonely TV-obsessed widow who has recently started taking diet pills. Her son Harry (Jared Leto) and his friend Tyrone Love (Marlon Wayans) make a living by selling heroin. Harry's girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) is a suffering cocaine addict. Their lives are connected through addictions and downward spirals.

My God. The climax of Requiem for a Dream had me moved to tears, something that never happens when I watch a movie. I knew that Aronofsky can get intense with his movies just from seeing The Wrestler. Requiem for a Dream practically puts the intensity of The Wrestler to shame. I don't know what's more of an insult: Burstyn not winning the Oscar or Burstyn being the only thing that got Requiem for a Dream Oscar recognition. There are so many things from the movie that should have gotten some recognition but didn't. Jay Rabinowitz's editing, Clint Mansell's score, Aronofsky's directing, the screenplay by Aronofsky and Hubert Selby, Jr. (whose novel the movie is based on), all of these got no love from Oscar. Requiem for a Dream has been dubbed as a movie you can't watch twice. Who knows? I, for one, might watch it again.

My Rating: *****

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wait, What?

Do you ever catch some small things mentioned or shown in a movie? I do almost all the time. Here are a few that I've noticed.

Dog Day Afternoon
When Sal is asked why he doesn't smoke, he explains that he "doesn't want to get the cancer". Ironic since that's what claimed the life of John Cazale, who plays Sal, just three years later.

Some Like It Hot
Spats Columbo gets into a disagreement with another gangster and grabs something off the table to shove into the other gangster's face. What is it? A grapefruit, a direct reference to The Public Enemy.

12 Monkeys
James says to Kathryn, "All I see are dead people." Not exactly "I see dead people" from The Sixth Sense, also with Bruce Willis, but close enough.

Pay attention to the movie Laurie and Tommy are watching. They're watching the 1951 version of The Thing, a movie that John Carpenter would remake four years later.

Bull Durham
In his now-famous speech, Crash says, "I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone." Three years later, Kevin Costner would portray Jim Garrison, who tried to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone.

Count how many time Mills fires his gun at the end of the movie. Freaky, huh?

Those are the ones I've noticed. What about you?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Anatomy of a Murder

Some of the more prolific courtroom dramas are 12 Angry Men, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Verdict. Another acclaimed but not as well known courtroom drama is Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder.

Former District Attorney Paul Biegler (James Stewart) is approached by Laura Manion (Lee Remick) to defend her husband Frederick (Ben Gazzara). He has been charged for murdering a bartender who raped Laura. Paul must try to find solid proof that Frederick was temporarily insane at the time of the shooting, as well as fighting the case against Attorney General Claude Dancer (George C. Scott).

Like what I said on my review of Laura, Otto Preminger is renown for introducing touchy subjects to the world of cinema. In Anatomy of a Murder, it was rape (as well as words never uttered in a movie before at that time). I really like the performances from Stewart, Remick (who was a newcomer at the time) and Scott. I also love the score by Duke Ellington. If you haven't seen Anatomy of a Murder, you so should.

My Rating: *****


Fritz Lang is best known for two movies: the sci-fi classic Metropolis and the film noir M.

In a German city, a child murderer is on the loose. The crimes are so horrific, the local criminals are willing to find the culprit. But who's responsible for these crimes? That would be Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre).

Heavy stuff here. M is considered to be the very first serial killer movie, so it's clear that M had an influence on later movies of the sort. Lorre shows both a vulnerable yet horrifying nature of his character. The speech Lorre gives for why he has an impulse to kill has to be one of the more chilling speeches I've heard. If you can only watch one foreign movie in your life, make it M.

My Rating: *****

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Crazy Heart

I realize that there are two roles that are bona fide parts for Oscars: the hooker for women and the alcoholic for men.

Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) used to be a prolific country singer. But years later, his status has diminished to a few small gigs. Enter Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a newspaper journalist who sees the man behind the musician.

Bridges gives an impressive performance as Blake. I was happy that he finally got that elusive Oscar, though I think it was a "sympathy Oscar" (IMO, Colin Firth should have won). Gyllenhaal was also good, but I think I'm in the majority that was surprised when she got nominated for Crazy Heart. This is Scott Cooper's directorial debut and he manages to provide entertainment for most of the movie. The parts that weren't could've been trimmed down a bit.

My Rating: ****

Friday, December 3, 2010

Far from Heaven

I've been vocal about this before, but Julianne Moore should really have an Oscar by now. She has become one of my favorite working actresses and I consider it an insult that she doesn't have solid proof of how great an actress she is.

Cathy Whitaker (Moore) is living the ideal life, one that makes most women envy her. But Cathy's dream life comes crashing down when she sees her husband Frank (Dennis Quaid) kissing another man and rumors about her start to spread that she's getting a little too acquainted with her gardener Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert).

Far from Heaven feels like it's actually from the 1950s, not just set during that time period. A contributing factor for that is the Elmer Bernstein score. Moore and Quaid give career best performances, making the fact that an Oscar eluded Moore and a nomination eluded Quaid more derogatory. It's kind of appalling that 1950s behavior was probably like that. Homosexuality was considered a disease? A white woman seen with a black man causes scandal? Good Lord, they must've been trying really hard to preserve the "perfect image". To quote Some Like It Hot, nobody's perfect. Anyway, before I get sidetracked, back to what I was saying. Far from Heaven creates a excellent atmosphere of the 1950s, a past which covered the truth with artificial smiles.

My Rating: ****1/2


Jean-Luc Godard. He is considered one of the pioneers of the French New Wave. He has been named an influence by many directors. But what has he done to be called one of the greatest filmmakers that ever lived? One word: Breathless.

After shooting a police officer, small-time thief Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) gets back together with Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg), a former flame.

I didn't have much expectations for Breathless, so it's safe to say that I very much liked what I saw. Godard is definitely a vibrant storyteller, meaning I look forward to other works by him. At first I couldn't understand how a movie with a plot that simple left such an impact on the movie industry. But after watching Breathless, I now know why.

My Rating: *****

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

In recent years, homosexuality has become more common in movies. Not that I have a problem with it. I'm just pointing it out.

Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) are a lesbian couple raising two teenagers, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and Laser (Josh Hucherson). Both Joni and Laser are curious on who their father is, so after a little research they find their father: Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Joni, Laser and Jules welcome Paul into the family, but Nic is uncomfortable with the new addition.

Shortly after I finished watching The Kids Are All Right, I got into a discussion with a few people. One of them didn't like it at all, saying it was "anti-male". A comment like that intrigued me. But after thinking it over, a few scenes were. But ultimately, I told him it's because The Kids Are All Right was more aimed at women.

I really admire the performances from Bening, Moore and Ruffalo. Could this be their ticket to an Oscar? A nomination perhaps, but I doubt a win. The dialogue is smart and funny, and the plot is light and sweet. But as the movie was coming to an end, there were some bittersweet moments. Still, The Kids Are All Right is one of the year's best movies.

My Rating: ****1/2

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

BOOK VS MOVIE: East of Eden

I've only read three works of John Steinbeck (Of Mice and Men, The Pearl, East of Eden), but I know enough that he's one hell of an author.

In Salinas Valley, California in the late 1910's, Cal and Aron Trask both desire the attention of their father Adam. Aron gets most of the attention since he's the good son while Cal's the black sheep of the family. But Cal doesn't stop trying.

There's one part in the book and movie that made me get a lump in my throat. Cal gives his father a large sum of money he had earned. Adam refuses to accept the gift, asking Cal to be more like Aron. The refusal crushes Cal, failing to win the love of his father.

I actually connected with Cal since I could relate with him. Like him, I vie for the love and attention of my parents. But since my siblings are more active than me, I feel a little hurt when I don't get any recognition from my parents when I do something good. In fact, I started up this blog as a way to get more attention. But alas, it hasn't worked enough.

I love what Steinbeck said upon seeing James Dean ("Jesus Christ, that IS Cal Trask!"), and no surprise really. Dean's performance is riveting. As for the book, it's a brilliant piece of literature.

What's worth checking out?: I'd go with the book.