Daily Film Beauty: Hugo

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Hugo — Robert Richardson (cinematographer) & Martin Scorsese (director).

The whole film is beautiful, but here we have humor and beauty. Look at those crab guards!

An awesome film within a film shot from Hugo.

An awesome film within a film shot from Hugo.

Daily Film Beauty: Star Wars

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Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope — Gilbert Taylor (cinematographer) & George Lucas (director).

This is a particularly great shot for a few reasons. First, there are no human characters on screen. There is the humanoid Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and the super-droid acting Anthony Daniels as C-3PO. In front of them is a special effects shot with several unique, moving elements. The set looks lived in. The color contrast shows up well with good the lighting. Plus it looks pretty funny too.


The Interview

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Dave Skylark (James Franco) & Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) in The Interview, © Sony 2014.

Dave Skylark (James Franco) & Kim Jong Un (Randall Park) in The Interview, © Sony 2014.

I never really liked that Katy Perry song, which has been stuck in my head going on seven f’n days now, until this movie. I like Katy Perry and I wish I liked more of her music, but she seems incapable of not sabotaging each song she releases. They sell great and never get critical acclaim, but they should be somewhere in the middle. I never got the power and fun of the song until I saw James Franco—as talk show host Dave Skylark—and Randall Park—as leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un—tear ass in a tank and fire a shell like a boss.

James Franco and Seth Rogen got all the attention for this amusing Kevin Smith-but-with-a-budget action-comedy. Forget that noise. The focus here must be on Randall Park, who I just realized is starring on “Fresh Off The Boat”, which now makes me want to give that ABC sitcom a shot. That is because Park delivered an almost impeccable performance. Watching him cry for a couple of minutes was extremely awkward and I doubt if Anthony Hopkins could have done a better job of it, but that was the only blemish. He was the only main character who I thought of as their character and not just as Seth Rogen, James Franco or Lizzy Caplan. And he was the only one playing a real person, pretty fairly too for most of it.


My Reaction to the 2015 Academy Awards

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This is my live-diary from watching this year’s Oscars. Again. So relive it with me…

Great race joke to start it off!

One man song to start, was it like that last year?  Nope! And now there is Anna Kendrick, so it’s not a one man show! Jack Black brought the intensity too! That was really good, I immediately like Neil Patrick Harris better than Ellen Degeneres.

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons is a great actor and was on #2 my underrated list from a couple of years ago. I guess he is officially no longer underrated! And Jared Leto, last year’s winner for Dallas Buyers Club did do a good job.

Liam Neesom was introduced with irreverence by NPH, which seems like his tone, and it seems a bit rude. But it makes me chuckle, so maybe it’s worth it. The Grand Budapest Hotel — I hate the previews for this film, but it was a great movie. American Sniper — very well done preview for the film.

Adam Levine sang and stuff. Glad that is over.

Costume Design: Milena Canonero for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Instead of commenting on the costumes, I will hum the song “Canyonero” from “The Simpsons”. Also, I love Chris Pine’s beard!

Makeup & Hairstyling: I hate you Reese Witherspoon. At least I hate you in every movie that you have been in. The Grand Budapest wins again? Over Guardians of the f’n Galaxy? Pshaw!

Foreign Language Film: Ida looked like a good movie, so now I will have to see it! Bonus thought: Chowetel Ejiofor & Nicole Kidman: It is nice to hear their real accents.

Boyhood just looks so boring. I am sure that it’s great, but I could not bring myself to watch it. Ditto for The Theory of Everything. Re: Birdman, I now root against it for not knowing that it had a long, awful subtitle, which means I got a question wrong at trivia.

“everything is awesome” was and is amazing. Even with insane portions from Lonely Island. And it turns out that Will Arnett looks like Adam Scott in a Batman costume. I wonder how that makes Amy Poehler feel?

Live Action Short: Some day, yes, some day, I will watch these before hand. The Phone Call — I wonder if this is just one side of that Colin Farrell classic Phone Booth?
Documentary Short: I can find time to watch those 30 for 30 shorts, so why not these? Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 — but those are women up there?! This must be some sort of a mistake! Haha! Get it? Because the Academy tends to be quite sexist! Oooh! AND my favorite Oscar moment—when the wrap it up music hits JUST AS the speaker mentions something super depressing and serious, like suicide!

Other award winners: Hayao Miyazaki is the best. Not a year goes by that I do not feel guilty for watching more of his amazing movies.

There’s the f’n Rock! Dwayne Johnson! Oh yeah, and NPH has some nice crowd work going.

Glen Campbell? Documentary? Tim McGraw? All I know is that his father was a pitcher for the Mets. Also, big black hat with your tuxedo is a bold choice! He has a nice voice though. And he was the right answer to a trivia question years ago that I got correct, so I like him better than the movie Birdman.

Scientific and Technical Awards were done on the cheap I see…no offense to Margot Robbie and Miles Teller.

Sound Mixing & Sound Editing are DIFFERENT! I do not know how, but how could there be two awards if they were not different!? Whiplash gets one another award, so that means it definitely has a shot at Best Pic. Craig Mann and two other people, who are probably excellent at their jobs. And American Sniper beats The Hobbit and Interstellar. Boo. Alan Murray and Bob Asman. You did a good job, but it was boring that you won.

Supporting Actress: I bet Patricia Arquette was good, she was so good in “Medium”…haha oh jeez, that was hard to say with a straight face! Laura Dern is a very good actress, and she was in Jurassic Park! Keira Knightley was very good in The Imitation Game. Everyone should love Emma Stone! And sweet lord was Meryl Streep not good in Into The Woods, at least they chose her best moment in the film. Arquette won, which means that now Boyhood is definitely going to win Best Picture.

I wish Rita Ora were doing “Black Widow” instead of this “Grateful” song from…I missed it, presumably a movie that was released last year.

Visual Effects: All were very worthy nominees. Interstellar had wonderful special effects. Paul Franklin, et al… I would watch that movie again, it had an amazing score.

Best Animated Short: It was nice that Anna Kendrick finally had an escort shorter than her. Feast! which has a cute little puppy in it. He is going to make himself sick by eating that much. Guess I need to watch to see if he gets sick in the end!

Animated Feature: Yeah! Lego Movie needed to be nominated. I heard that Big Hero 6 was pretty good and this is some validation for that. Yup. It was an amazing year for animated films? Haha! Oh that is rich!

Production Design: Oooh, Grand Budapest deserves this. Imitation Game was fine too and Intersteller was also very good. Into The Woods was below average and I did not know that Mr. Turner had come out yet. And Grand Budapest wins! It’s going to win for Best Picture, I guarantee it!

Cinematography: Ida got nominated! That is pretty damn impressive for a foreign film. Congrats to Birdman, also, I remember his voice from last year’s Oscar win for Gravity.

Is there a better time for an AARP commercial than during the Oscars? Short answer, no.

In Memoriam: The ones who made me saddest were James Garner, Geoffrey Harder, Richard Attenborough, Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, Eli Wallach, Bob Hoskins, and Maya Angelou.

Film Editing: Tom Cross for Whiplash, now it is totally going to win Best Picture.

Whiplash and Selma and Imitation Game…described by an out of it Terrence Howard. Awk-ward!

Documentary Feature: Citizenfour, looks like it’s a movie to watch. I wish I knew more about Edward Snowden.

“Glory” from Selma: John Legend and Common? Could be a winning combo. This sounds good.

Best Song: This was an excellent category for the first time in a while. Glory! I guess everything is awesome for them!

The Sound of Music? I haven’t seen it since I was a kid. Let’s see what Lady Gaga does…and she killed it.

Score: Alexandre Desplat finally won! Good for him, even though I as rooting for Interstellar. Desplat has never been particularly flashy, but I suppose that he was due. Especially since he was also nominated for Imitation Game.

Original Screenplay: Birdman wins it! So it is clearly going to win for Best Picture. Congrats to Sr. Alejandro Iñarritu.

Oprah Winfrey comes out to “Nobody Does It Better”…the theme from The Spy Who Loved Me. What. The. Fuck? And she is here for Adapted Screenplay. Interestingly enough, the novel of The Spy Who Loved Me involved a British Canadian girl who gets attacked in seasonal motel near Lake George, NY. Being from near Albany, that amazed me. As you can tell, it was adapted very differently! Also, Imitation Game won. Not too shabby. And a tasteful speech from the screenwriter, which was not cutoff! Good anticipation by the director not to hit the music right as someone mentions suicide this time!

Director: Uh oh! Iñarritu just won #2 on the night. He is also up for Birdman as Best Pic. It’s in the bag, I called it.

Best McDonald’s commercial in about 15 years. Perhaps their bet with Burger King—where Burger King got to run all of McDonalds ads and McDonalds thought it would still out sell BK—has finally ended!

Actor: Carrell seems creepy. Cooper seems crazy. Cumberbatch seems quirky. (All C names…) Keaton seems unhinged. Redmayne seems afflicted and enlightened—which is bullshit, since the film skipped over everything Hawking taught. But he was different! And thus he has been rewarded. Less than two years after he first appeared in Les Mis. Good job on the speech bringing up ALS and those suffering with it.

Actress: I have seen none of these movies, except Gone Girl, and SPOILER ALERT! Jeeeez Oscars, that better win for f’n best picture after that! Julianne Moore has been a very strong actress for years and I believe that this is her first win, so I am happy for her.

Oooh that was some Oscar magic from NPH with his predictions.

Best Picture: Let’s see if I called it…Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) won. It was one of my many predictions! I wish I had seen it, just like I wish I had seen 12 Years a Slave, but I did enjoy that episode of Poirot I watched this afternoon instead. Hopefully I take of checking this out soon!

Daily Film Beauty: The Deer Hunter

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The Deer Hunter — Vilmos Zsigmond (cinematographer) & Michael Cimino (director).


Michael (Robert DeNiro) hunting deer in The Deer Hunter.


Daily Film Beauty: Murder at 1600

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Murder at 1600 — “an address that changes all the rules.” Steven Bernstein (cinematographer) & Dwight H. Little (director).

Instead of a typically great shot, I have gone for some wardrobe wonder! From left to right we have a track suit for Dennis Miller, unzipped halfway down, Diane Lane with an amazingly shoulder-padded suit jacket, and Wesley Snipes in a leather coat that Blade would never don. Glorious!

MURDER AT 1600, Dennis Miller, Diane Lane, Wesley Snipes, 1997, (c)Warner Bros.

MURDER AT 1600, Dennis Miller, Diane Lane, Wesley Snipes, 1997, (c)Warner Bros.

Into the Woods

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I was raised to be charming, not sincere.

This movie’s fate rests on the usually steady shoulders of Meryl Streep. Even as the movie bounds off with the excellent “Into the Woods” song, her appearance as “Witch” jarred and quickly disappointed me. Her singing was okay, particularly in her song to Rapunzel—Mackenzie Mauzy—”Stay with Me”. But even then her bi-polar shift by banishing Rapunzel was done exceedingly poorly. The thing that I have heard more than anything was that the Baker—James Corden—acted wonderfully. Great performances do not come across as “acted”, which was how Streep came across several times. Either she has gotten worse as an actress or Rob Marshall–Chicago–made some terrible choices. And Corden was very good as the Baker, which explains how he got the leading role in a sea of more famous co-stars.

The Witch (Meryl Streep) holding Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), in Into The Woods, © Disney 2014.

The Witch (Meryl Streep) holding Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), in Into The Woods, © Disney 2014.

But I have gotten ahead of myself and begun to review this as if everyone has already seen it. The story of Into the Woods is an amalgam of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Bean Stalk, and Little Red Riding Hood. The addition of a Baker and a Baker’s Wife tie all of these stories together. Then in Act II we see how misleading “happily ever after” can be.

Returning to the opening song, the voice that impressed me most belonged to Daniel Huttlestone’s Jack. This should not have been the case, as I had already seen him as Gavroche in Les Misérables and my girlfriend Megan told me this before seeing the movie. Well I have not seen Pitch Perfect, but Anna Kendrick demonstrated here how she got that leading role by singing and bringing Cinderella to life. Her step-family—Christine Baranski, Lucy Punch and Tammy Blanchard—were all fine, but she was probably my favorite fairy tale protagonist in the movie. Her love interest, or her prince, was played by Chris Pine—new Star Trek’s Captain Kirk. He gets the award for best overall performance. His singing, looks, humor and longing were all great. I had heard the song he shares with his brother–Billy Magnussen–called “Agony” and found it cloying. Seeing them perform it made me laugh out loud and engaged my interest through the end of Act I.

Billy Magnussen, left, and Chris Pine singing "Agony" in Into the Woods.

Billy Magnussen, left, and Chris Pine singing “Agony” in Into the Woods.

Well, it engaged my interest until either Streep’s performance or Marshall’s mismanagement of pacing knocked me out of it for a moment, despite the climax of the movie coming right about then—which was an interesting change from most movies. Act II suffers more from this than Act I. Chris Pine and Emily Blunt’s “Baker’s Wife” share a good scene that is followed up by a dragging song that simply does not fit into the tense feel. It was like un-comic…whatever the opposite of relief is. And Emily Blunt was very good through most of the movie, too, which made that scene, “Moments in the Woods” so disappointing.

This makes giving Into the Woods a rating very difficult. I have many damning criticisms, but the good definitely outweighed the bad. For guidance I looked to my ratings of Les Mis and Phantom of the Opera. Those musicals shared similar flaws to this. They each had one excellent song, in addition to several other fine ones. The production values on Les Mis, and even Phantom, were far higher than here. There were more times that this felt like a play than a movie. But neither of those movies engaged me as fully and coherently as this did, at its peak. ***½

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