Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Films to catch up with for Oscar time and beyond

Mike here. Yeah, don't want to look and compare how I predicted the Oscars nominations compared to how they were actually announced. I'd rather not look back at the carnage. I'd prefer to focus on what to catch up with. Oscars are a guide, but not the be-all end-all of what to see. If that were the case, I'd wouldn't have seen what I thought were the 2 best films of 2006, The Heart of the Game and Army of Shadows. Besides, on my AdSense section on Google, I have something called Midwestern lesbians featuring reviews from Dr. Dyke. From a combination of blogs featuring say, Judy Garland, Bob Dylan, City Lights, War and Peace, Otto Preminger, Oscar nominations, Lady Chatterly and Labyrinth, they came up with Midwestern lesbians. You have to be kidding me.

Anyway, it's getting to be time to form a top 10 of 2007. Critics have done theirs, it's time for us. We know full well that some of "the best" will go unseen by us until these nominations tell us we should go. And even then, some titles will slip through the cracks and remain unseen until DVD or cable. So I'll do my best to serve as a guide of what to catch up with. I'll break it down into several categories, including major nominees in theaters, minor nominees in theaters, major nominees on or coming to DVD, and minor nominees on or coming to DVD, plus what to catch that wasn't nominated, but it wouldn't 2007 without them. I consider major nominees to be Picture, Director, the 4 Acting categories, the 2 Screenplay categories, Documentary and Animated Film. Quick reviews for some of the films I caught. Here we go:

Major ones in theaters:

Atonement, There Will Be Blood,

Juno (great perf. by Ellen Page and good perfs. by the entire cast as a whole. Thumbs up, despite the fact that every character is too goddamn clever for their own good. I like The Office's Rainn Wilson, but I hated his cameo with a passion.).

Michael Clayton (will be out on DVD on Feb 19),

No Country For Old Men, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, Sweeney Todd, The Savages,

Charlie Wilson's War (good for Philip Seymour to get the nomination. He made Julia Roberts look like she was reciting lines. Entertaining, but to be blunt, it pussies out in the end. Knowing how the story ends, the makers claim to be subtle, and look like weaklings instead. Borderline thumbs up.),

Into The Wild, I'm Not There, Persepolis,

American Gangster (well done Ridley Scott film, almost operatic for a cops and robbers flick. Running out of time in theaters.),

Lars and The Real Girl (if you can still find it),

Beaufort (not for this year's list, but for next year. Nominated for Foreign Language film. According to the imdb plot line: "The story of a group of Israeli soldiers stationed in an outpost prior to the withdrawal of forces of 2000. Based on the novel by Ron Leshen. " Sounds like an Israeli Paths of Glory.)

Operation Homecoming: Writing The Wartime Experience (not for this year. Best Documentary nominee coming out in New York on Feb 9.)

The Counterfeiters (not for this year. Austria's nominee for Best Foreign Language film, comes out on Feb. 22.)

Minor ones in theaters: Enchanted, The Kite Runner,

The Golden Compass and August Rush (if you can find them.)

Major ones on DVD:

Away From Her (well done. The gentlest of storytelling, which at times packs the strongest of punches. Christie deserves all the accolades but the rest of the cast shouldn't be ignored. First time director Sarah Polley deserves her screenplay nomination.),

La Vie En Rose,

Eastern Promises (yes, it's playing in one theater still, but it's easier to see on DVD at this point. I'm pleasantly surprised that Viggo got some Oscar love. Good film overall, but you have to let some shit slide. If Naomi Watts' one-note character wasn't naive and/or stupid, we wouldn't have a film.),

In The Valley of Elah, Ratatouille,

Surf's Up (no I don't want to see the penguin surfing film. Good God, no.),

No End In Sight (the probable Best Documentary winner. Almost clinical and encyclopedic in its telling, but devastates nevertheless.),

Sicko (so the only way one can have affordable health care is to sneak into Cuba? Interesting . . . thumbs up.),

Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The Assassination of Jesse James . . . (Both on DVD on Feb 5),

Gone Baby Gone (on DVD on Feb 12)

Minor ones on DVD:

The Bourne Ultimatum, Once,

Norbit, Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (good luck making me sit thru those 2),

3:10 To Yuma (better than expected. But the audience I saw it with at Regal Union Square; the ones under 26 who kept saying "Why didn't Bale kill Crowe?" just didn't get the point of the film at all.),

Transformers (believe it or not, works better widescreen on TV than in the theater. The robot vs. robot action is much easier to follow, it's actually pretty funny at times, we will follow Shia LaBeouf anywhere the story takes us, and only takes itself seriously with both the fighting and the consequences of said fighting. Still, it's hard to love it after seeing Team America. Thumbs up.)

Across The Universe (if you can ignore such problems as Bono looking like Robin Williams from August Rush, the cheerleader lesbian number that starts well but then has the linebackers doing Fosse hands, the weak Mr. Kite number, the Vietnam scenes that look like they were shot outside the Beales home from Grey Gardens AND ESPECIALLY the limp ending, you still have an entertaining musical. Don't know which idiots decided to give director Julie Taymor 55 + million to shoot a cult classic in the making, but I liked it overall. Standouts include Joe Cocker, Evan Rachel Wood and especially Jim Sturges.)

Films one needed to catch up with from 07:

Zodiac, The Namesake, 300, Rescue Dawn, The Simpsons Movie, 28 Weeks Later, Lust Caution, Black Book, Lady Chatterly

The King of Kong (fun documentary on DVD, about a family man schlub-type, who runs into way too many obstacles in his pursuit of excellence in Donkey Kong. Bizarre world that makes you shake your head a lot. Thumbs way up.)

Knocked Up (second favorite comedy of the year. Much love to both Leslie Mann's work as the burned out perfectionist wife, and Kristen Wiig as the most passive aggressive co-worker ever.),

Hot Fuzz (funniest comedy of the year. Loves the action films it spoofs, as much as they love ripping into them.),

The Lives of Others (released in NYC last Feb, so it qualifies for a best of 07 list as far as I'm concerned. Won the Oscar for Foreign Language Film. If you haven't seen it, get up off your fat ass, put it on your Netflix, devote 2+ hours to it, and enjoy.),

Hairspray (pretty decent, at times good musical. Though it took the number where Travolta dances with Christopher Walken, one hour in, before I stopped thinking LOOK, it's John Travolta in hideous makeup and clothes. Also, too much jump cutting: its as though the director doesn't want us to think his cast can dance so he has to cover it up with editing, the Travolta-Walken scene not withstanding. Thumbs up anyway.),

The Kingdom (basically a CSI episode set in the Middle East, with a terrific 20-30 min. action sequence near the end. Strange that director Peter Berg copied a scene of an Arab policeman taking care of his elderly father, from his own Friday Night Lights, where the young quaterback takes care of his elderly mother. Almost shot for shot. Still, thumbs up.)

12:08 East of Bucharest ( kind of a Hungarian Christopher Guest-like comedy. On a Hungarian public access show, a Ted Baxter-esque host moderates what it was like when Communism ended and if there was a revolt or not. His two guest may or may not have been there; a professor who might not be sober, and an elderly man who seems to get easily distracted. Slow start but builds well. The taping, done in almost real time, is the payoff. Thumbs up.) .

I would list either Planet Terror or Death Proof, but unless it comes in the form of Grindhouse, complete with fake trailers, don't bother. It's not my fault that Harvey gave a ton of money to Tarantino and Rodriguez for something that would only appeal to a niche audience, THEN didn't have a clue how to promote it between the coasts. I enjoyed Grindhouse, but until it comes all together in what I would guess would be a 2 or 3 disc set, don't waste your money.

Also worth catching:

Killer of Sheep: It received the Army Of Shadows type of rediscovery this year, and is worth catching. You won't find it on my list, only because it already received a U.S. release back in 1977. Almost neo-realistic in its depiction of poor black families in L.A., struggling to get by in a post Watts riot environment. Fighting off the temptations of crime, but with no hope of rising above. Somewhat amateurish in terms of some of its performances, but with some stunning scenes as well. Now on DVD, rent it.

That's all for now. Later all.

1 comment:

Buzz Stephens said...
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