Spotlight (Movie Review)

 

“We’ve come for all your Oscars.”

From directing one of the worst shitbags of the year (Look for him somewhere) to directing what looks to be the Best Picture frontrunner at this point in time. Thomas McCarthy has had a strange year, hasn’t he?

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My 2014 Oscar Predictions

Many tiny, tiny men were forced to give up their lives after being randomly selected for being made to stand in an uncomfortable upright position and having liquid gold poured on them. Their sacrifice will not go forgotten.

Ah, the Oscars! The award show where the old, rich, out-of-touch white men of Hollywood engage in the biggest circle jerk of the year and hand out golden, vaguely phallic trophies in order to congratulate each other for making pretentious, artsy films that the average moviegoer didn’t even think about before the eve of the ceremony!

God, do I love the Oscars. It’s right up there with my birthday, Christmas, Blue Jays Opening Day, Game 7 of the World Series and Edmonton Comic Expo Weekend in my rankings of my favourite days of the year. For somebody who loves movies as much as I do, it’s so great to see these movies that I’ve grown so attached to in the last few months that I’ve been scrambling to watch them. It’s nice to see them all gathered together where all of them can be celebrated for the joy they’ve brought to people.

And by “all of them”, I, of course mean “Boyhood“.

So, without further ado, let’s get my official predictions out of the way!!!

(Keep in mind that I haven’t seen 100% of the movies. Merely a lot of them. Don’t blame me, blame school.”

That, and the fact that I’m not allowed out of my house anymore after the unfortunate incident at a nearby Dairy Queen.

Visual Effects

Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees! And people say we monkey around…”

Winner: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

If I were in charge: Interstellar

Interstellar didn’t impress me as much as it did others in terms of story or plot coherence, but I can’t deny the visual majesty that Nolan’s space epic had. That said, when Dawn wins, I will not complain at all, because Apes On Horses.

Film Editing

TWELVE YEARS!!!! THIS TOOK TWELVE YEARS!!!! ITSOAMAAAAAAAAZZIIIINGGG!!!!!!!”

Will win: Boyhood

If I was in charge: Boyhood

Yeah, as burnt out as I am on hearing people call Boyhood the Citizen Kane of our era or some bullshit, I can’t deny the wonderful editing job done in the film.

Costume Design

Dear lord.

Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

If I was in charge: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Makeup and Hairstyling

And this is what happens when you party with Benecio del Toro.

Will win: Guardians of the Galaxy

If I was in charge: Guardians of the Galaxy

Cinematography

Gravity‘s got nothing on this.

Will win: Birdman

If I was in charge: Birdman

Emmanuel Lubezki. That is all.

Production Design

The symmetry alone, Jesus Christ.

Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

If I was in charge: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Sound Mixing

Theeeeenn, he swore profusely at me, Pa rum pa pum pum….

Will win: Whiplash

If I was in charge: Whiplash

Man, I’m not exactly being much of a contrarian, am I?

Sound Editing

Oh, there we go.

Will win: American Sniper

If I was in charge: Birdman

Original Song

Will win: “Glory” (Selma)

If I was in charge: “Glory”

Original Score

Just for the record, I would have given the prize to either John Powell or Joe Hisaishi for How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, respectively.

Will win: Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory of Everything

If I was in charge: Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game

Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film, Documentary- Short Subject, Documentary- Feature

I didn’t watch any of these. Why? I’m really, really lazy, in case you guys haven’t noticed.

Foreign Language Film

Are her eyes following anybody else? Just me? Okay then…

Will win: Ida

If I was in charge: Leviathan

Animated Feature Film

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

Will win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

If I was in charge: How to Train Your Dragon 2

While I still think that Dragon is the best animated movie of the year (Yes, even better than The LEGO Movie), I highly suggest any fan of animation to check out The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. You’ll thank me later, trust me.

Adapted Screenplay

Will win: The Imitation Game

If I was in charge: The Imitation Game

Original Screenplay

Will win: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Should win: Birdman

Supporting Actress

Yeesh, now that kids’ eyes are following me.

Will win: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

If I was in charge: Patricia Arquette

Again, I’m not a huge Boyhood fan. That said, I think I would’ve liked it more if it focused more on Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke.

Supporting Actor

Will win: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

If I was in charge: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Actress

“What the fuck am I watching?!?!”                    -Julianne Moore, seen here puzzling over Inherent Vice.

Will win: Julianne Moore, Still Alice

If I was in charge: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl

Admittedly, I haven’t seen Still Alice yet, but with all do respect to Julianne Moore, I don’t see how her performance could be better than Rosamund Pike in the movie that is the biggest Best Picture snub of the year.

Actor

Yeah, no way I’m joking about this photo. I’m not a total asshole.

Will win: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

If I was in charge: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

The sentimental part of my brain wants Michael Keaton to win, as Redmayne’s still young, and we don’t know if Keaton will ever be nominated again, but I know in my heart of hearts that Redmayne was probably better.

Director

Meh.

Will win: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

If I was in charge: Alejandro G. Inarritu, Birdman

I LIKED BOYHOOD, ALRIGHT!?!? I JUST THINK IT’S KIND OF OVERRATED!!! AM I REALLY SO WRONG IN THINKING THAT?!?!

Picture

You know you want it.

Will win: Birdman

If I was in charge: Birdman

My gut actually says that Boyhood is gonna take it, but winning all the Guild Awards is pretty promising, so maybe Birdman has a realistic shot at winning the big prize?

American Sniper is going to sweep the awards now, just because I said that.

Birdman (Movie Review)

Pffft. Whatever man. This is Tuesday for me.

If you read my review of Boyhood, the presumptive favourite for the Best Picture award at the next Academy Awards, you know that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the movie (It’s great, just not the best movie of the year, in my opinion). Knowing this, you may be itching to think what movies I think are good enough to displace what some are calling the best movie of this current decade?

I’d say Birdman is a pretty solid bet (And Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America…).

Oh fuck, it’s Mothman!!!

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Produced by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, John Lesher,  Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole

Written by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone,  Alexander Dinelaris, Jr., Armando Bo

Genre: Black comedy

Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, Naomi Watts

Music by: Antonio Sánchez

Plot: Birdman revolves around a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. The play is being written and directed by Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton), who is also starring in the lead role. Riggan used to be one of the biggest actors on the planet, back when he was the star of the crowd-pleasing Birdman franchise, which he left after the third movie, languishing in obscurity ever since. His bid for newfound relevance is being threatened by prima donna actors (Edward Norton, Naomi Watts), his temperamental daughter (Emma Stone) and his own overblown ego.

Alejandro González Iñárritu has made a name for himself in Hollywood, directing weird, dark foreign movies that are nonetheless accessible for mainstream audiences, such as Amores Perros and 21 GramsBirdman is Gonzalez’s first entirely English-language movie, and has gained quite a bit of publicity since debuting at the Venice International Film Festival in August. In many ways, this is a turn towards more conventional storytelling for the director, as he sacrifices his trademark epic, non-linear. intertwining  storylines for what is essentially a frequently darkly comic character study of Michael Keaton (Kinda).

That doesn’t mean Gonzalez doesn’t try to put his own personal fingerprint on this movie, because it has his heavily stylized fingerprint all over it. The usual orchestral score music one would find in most award-bait movies is replaced by some maniac frantically playing the shit out of his drums, even making several appearances throughout the movie itself. Instead of conventional film editing, that is, carefully selecting shots and arranging them into sequences to create a finished movie (Like a loser) Gonzalez decided to go the really strange route of, through extremely clever editing, making the entire movie look like it was filmed in one continuous take, with no noticeable separation between scenes. It’s weird. It’s unconventional. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.

I FUCKING LOVE IT. 

The preceding sentence should always be read like Christian Bale’s Batman, for full effect.

The frantic pace of the music, editing (And the movie as a whole, really) really compliments the rest of the, relatively short, film perfectly. It’s very rare that the fact that a movie felt longer than its runtime is a compliment to the movie, but in this case, it absolutely is. This movie throws SO much stuff at you in its two hour runtime, which would get boring and/or exhausting if every. Single. Goddamn. Thing that happened on screen wasn’t so visually captivating, or if damn near every line of dialogue spouted by the fascinating characters wasn’t so interesting and/or intellectually stimulating.

I do mean that last sentence, by the way. As I was leaving the theatre, so many themes from the movie were swirling through my mind, and none of those themes felt tacked-on for dramatic effect. The dilemma of fame is brought up. The idea of staying relevant and the human desire for immortality is referenced abundantly. Blockbuster movies versus “high art” mediums too. Hell, even the usual theme of a parent-child relationship gone sour is fitted in among all this other stuff. And you know what? It’s all done fucking beautifully. As much as I loved 12 Years a Slave last year, and it was my favourite movie of 2013, and as much interesting things it had to say about the human condition, I can watch it maybe once every six months or so without getting horribly depressed and angry at humanity in general. What I’m getting at is: As great as 12 Years a Slave is, it doesn’t have very much immediate replay value. In fact, more often than not, I just want to put it out of my mind after watching it.

Right after watching the matinee showing of Birdman, I was fully prepared to pay full price for an evening ticket, just so I could analyze the movie’s themes again. The only thing that prevented me from doing so was the fact that I had already spent all my money on comic books by the time evening rolled around.

I guess what i’m trying to say is that I think that a movie about the harrowing conditions that slaves faced in the United States before the civil war wasn’t as interesting to me as a movie where this happens:

I think I’ll just go ahead and let the majesty of this image sink in.

Admit it, you can’t take your eyes off of Edward Norton’s bulge either. It’s okay, none of us can.

Good storytelling can go to shit without good characters, though. Thankfully, this movie delivers on that front as well. All of these main characters are written so well that by the end of the movie, I genuinely like each of them, and want to see everything go well for them, even when they’re being the biggest collection of dickbags on the planet (Which is often). Zach Galifianakis erases my memory of his crappy turn in Are You Here with a great performance as Riggan’s lawyer and best friend, while Naomi Watts is also great as a first-time Broadway actress trying desperately to make something of herself.

The three performances that seem to be attracting the most Oscar buzz, however, are those of Keaton as Riggan Thomson, Norton as a superbly talented, yet pompous asshole of a method actor who could make or break the play and Emma Stone. As much as I hate mindlessly conforming the the general consensus, I’ve gotta say that I agree with everybody else. They’re all fantastic, and I would be more than happy to see them nominated come January.

However, while Norton and Stone seem to be facing some very stiff competition from their peers, Michael Keaton is straight up eating the competition alive. It’s great to see Keaton back doing prominent work again (Not that he was dead in the water or anything, it’s just he wasn’t as big of a name as he was back when he was doing Batman), and even better to see him totally owning a role that is pretty obviously meant to be portrayed by him, even if it’s not always a portrayal that most would consider flattering. Needless to say, he absolutely kills it in this movie. Even if I do joke that it’s basically Michael Keaton playing Michael Keaton, he still disappears into the role and breathes life into what could have easily been a pretty phoned in performance. The only real competition that I’ve seen so far that can really stand toe-to-toe with him is Eddie Redmayne, but more on him later.

Overall: Watch this movie. Do it. Drop whatever you’re doing, drive to whatever independent theatre is showing it in your hometown, pay full price, and plunk your ass down in the theatre seat to watch it. I guarantee you will not regret it.

Rating: 10/10

The Norton-Bulge commands it!!!

Movie Review: Batman (1989)

Here`s a challenge for you. Go to the twenty people closest to you and ask them who their favourite superhero is. I`m gonna go ahead and bet that around two of them said Superman, while about three more (Including me) said Spider-man. A couple more probably said Wolverine and maybe one said Wonder Woman. One of them probably said Hawkgirl. Disown that freak.

Goddamn, even Aquaman is cooler then her…. Maybe.

However, I would be willing to bet that the majority didn’t vote for Supes or Spidey, or the Harvey Birdman fetishist up there. No, the  majority probably picked a darker, more brooding superhero… One that doesn’t take bullshit from anybody and who does what is right, no matter what the consequences may be. I am talking of course of-

“Ant-Man! It`s Ant-Man, right?”

“Sure.”

I am talking, of course, about Batman.

Yes, the Caped Crusader, the Dark Knight. It is he who protects Batman from freaks and psychos, armed only with rich people powers and a bat suit, as well as a raspy-as-hell voice that is damn near indecipherable.

His only weakness is the one whose voice is even tougher to understand.

However, younger fans may be surprised to know that the Christopher Nolan movies are not the only live-action depictions of Batman that have been done. Setting aside the terrific animated series’, Bats has had a grand total of eight movies. Three have been directed by Nolan, two of them were directed by Tim Burton, while another two were directed by Joel Schumacher.

And in one, this kept happening.

However, even when a fan who knows of the Burton/Schumacher series will probably do nothing but seethe in rage once it is brought up, because my God, was that series a travesty? Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze? An overblown quota of special effects that does nothing to hide the terrible fucking script? Kid-friendly Batman?! Bat-Nipples???!!!

BAT-NIPPLES???!!!

While all these are definitely reasons to hate those films, I beg the fellow bat-brains to remember two things. First: Don`t blame Joel Schumacher for all of it. The studio bullied him into making the franchise more toyetic after Tim Burton and Michael Keaton left. Second: All those flaws are from Schumacher`s movies! 

People spend so much time rightfully hating on the Schumacher flicks that they forget that before those two eyesores, Tim Burton made a couple of pretty fine movies in  Batman and Batman Returns. So today, in honour of the fact that I felt like watching  Batman yesterday, we will be reviewing the 1989 movie.

So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, give it up for:

Batman ver2.jpg

Directed by: Tim Burton

Genre: Superhero

Based on: Batman by Bill Finger and Bob Kane

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle (RIP) Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough (RIP) Jack Palance (RIP)

Legacy: Many, many more Tim Burton movies about dark, disturbed outsiders in dark, disturbed environments. God help us all. Also, as always, pissed off fanboys.

Quick plot summary:

Bruce Wayne, a millionaire heir from Gotham City played by Michael Keaton (Whose facial expressions include squinting and….Not squinting) had his parents gunned down in front of him by a mugger when he was just eight years old. Instead of spending his inheritance money on something useful like, say, extra help for his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Gough) Bruce uses his money to dress up like a flying rodent and beat up crooks.

Oh come on. Stop acting like it’s not exactly what you would’ve done.

Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) is a gangster and the right hand man of crime kingpin Carl Grissom (Jack Palance). However, Grissom loathes Napier, as Jack is fooling around with Grissom’s wife. To get back at him, Grissom sends Napier into a chemical plant and sets the cops on him. Batman gets wind of this and shows up too. While Napier`s men are getting shot, Napier is caught by Batman trying to escape. At some point (I kind of zoned out here) Napier falls over the edge and into a vat of acid. Later, somehow surviving the acid that would have killed anyone not named Jack Nicholson, he has to undergo plastic surgery. Unsurprisingly, he is left horribly disfigured. Apparently unhappy with his new look for some inexplicable reason…

“That`s hot.”

… Jack goes insane and murders Grissom and all the other crime bosses in Gotham, calling himself the Joker.

Along the way to the final confrontation, both Batman and Joker interact with other (not) so colourful characters, including Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) her poor, under-appreciated partner, Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) Comissioner Gordon (Who, with all respect to the late Pat Hingle, is no Gary Oldman) and Harvey Dent (Lando!). As Gotham City`s 200th anniversary creeps ever closer, so does the final confrontation between the two eternal rivals…

Overview:

I remember watching this movie with my dad (A big Jack Nicholson fan) back in the good ol’ days and absolutely loving it. Of course, I was like eight, and eight year olds are retarded, but even so, I kept this movie in high regard all through my teen years, and well I loved Batman Begins, I always thought that this movie was better, for the sole reason that i remembered loving it so  damn much.

Now, seeing it as a sixteen year old, I was somewhat dissapointed. For one, the acting is not as good as I made it out to be. Michael Keaton, whom I remembered as being actually a pretty good Batman (And MILES better then George Clooney) is, well, wooden. I can`t really think of another way to describe it but wooden. Very rarely does he display any emotion at all, and when he does, it becomes the hammiest scene in the movie.

Seen here: The ever patient, cold-blooded protector of Gotham.

As for the other actors, aside from Michael Gough, I didn’t really see any performances that stood out. Kim Basinger is a fine actress, but she seems to be on autopilot in this film. Robert Wuhl was just okay as Knox, Pat Hingle and Billy Dee Williams don’t really have enough screen time for me to give a shit about their roles.

Of course, you’ll notice that I didn’t include Jack Nicholson among those actors. That’s because Jack Nicholson is the Man.

Of course, I didn’t need to tell you that, did I?

Jack Nicholson absolutely KILLS it as the Joker. Granted, I wouldn’t say it’s as masterful as Heath Ledger`s Joker in Dark Knight,  but it’s really fucking good nonetheless. He steals every seen that he’s in, and was even nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical. This would be the first and only time that a Batman movie would be called a comedy.

Fuck, never mind.

On the other hand, some parts in the movie are just a big middle finger to the franchise. (Spoilers Alert) For example, the scene where Alfred leads Vicki Vale into the Batcave (!!!). What the hell??? That is a total break of character for Alfred, who is supposed to be extremely protectful of Bruce. Also, I don’t feel too hot about the scene where it is revealed that *Gasp!* Joker was the one who killed the parents a long time ago. Giving the Joker a clear identity is one thing. that`s part of what makes him terrifying in the comics, the fact that no one really knows why he does what he does. (Being batshit insane helps too.) Giving him a link to young Bruce just seems unnecessary. A low rate plot twist.

Also, Batman kills like twenty people in this movie. Including the Joker, who he kills in cold blood. Damn, Brucey.

Overall:

While the plot can be extremely iffy and the performances mediocre, a combination of  Jack Nicholson’s performance, Danny Elfman’s soundtrack and the creepy ugliness of Gotham City make this film at least worth a rental.

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