Saturday, February 27, 2010

Making More Progress

Last night I managed to sneak in the feature length documentary "The Cove" and today my backside is glued to the theater chair for "The Young Victoria" and "The Messenger."

Later this evening, I've still got "The Hurt Locker" and "Coco Before Chanel" to view.

I'm trying to decide if this challenge is work or self-indulgence.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I am not kidding, this movie opened up in Yiddish with English subtitles. I almost couldn't take another subtitled film, but I persevered in the name of my Oscar Challenge and eventually discovered that the film was in English.

Lovers of movies with a plot will not like this one. It's really just a message or a lesson on film. I knew the key was to parallel the dad's experiences with the son's, but I missed a key message from the third Rabbi and only put the final pieces together after watching the "Making the Movie" bonus feature on the DVD. I was grateful to be reminded, however, that the answers we seek in life are as simple as the Rabbi's message and if we aren't paying attention- we miss them.

Once I understood all of the elements that were in play I loved the way this story unfolded. Michael Stuhlbarg was brilliant at portraying a frazzled Larry Gopnik who just could not take one more misfortune or uncomfortable circumstance, and just wanted to know 'why.' "I don't want it to just go away! I want an answer!"

My favorite part of the film was how it faded out after giving visual representations of the cliché thought that none of the things we take so seriously in life matter for a moment in the face of something graver. And it takes you back to the quote that opens the film- a quote from the medieval French rabbi Rashi- "Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you."

Glorious Inglourious

I really liked this movie. Again, not up there with my favorites of all time, but I really and truly liked the script and the acting and the pace of the film.

The problem for me was I was in my head too much as I watched it. I had my politically correct filter on and I kept thinking "This has GOT to be offending somebody." I have to admit, though, that I did love Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine. "When you join my command you take on a debit..."

I don't think I've whined on my blog yet about all the subtitles I've had to read in my quest to see all the Oscar nominated films. I have never had to read more movies in my life. If I thought I was safe with "Inglourious Basterds," I thought wrong. This movie switched languages in the middle of conversations. After a while I could have sworn I was reading French and hearing English.

I'll look forward to watching it again in the following conversations with friends I have who I know for a fact LOVED this movie.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Half-Time Report

So, with 12 or so days until the Oscar ceremony my score is as follows:

I began the month having only seen 4 of the 58 nominated films. I have added 20 to that count for a total of 24 out of 58. I have 5 (possible 6) films waiting in the wings.

After some research done by my husband we have found that many of the remaining films are no longer in the theatres around here, and don't come out until April on DVD.

I'm trying to decide if my challenge is worth scouring for boot-legged copies at the flea market.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


All I had to do was issue myself an ultimatum... and Voila! I FINALLY saw "Avatar" today.

I wouldn't dub this my favorite movie of all time, but I definitely loved it. I took everyone's recommendation and saw it in 3D... and it was so gorgeous to watch. I was breathless as he flew through Pandora... wishing I could fly like that, or at least vividly dream of it.

At a couple of moments during the film, I found myself harkening back to Titanic, when strains of the Avatar's score echoed the earlier film and when I realized that the hero in Avatar was named Jake while Titanic's hero was Jack.

However, once the movie really got going, I couldn't help but get lost in the story and feel frustrated at its accurate portrayal of those in power who feel that every gift of nature is there for the strongest's taking... that peace is second in line to making money... and that those who use force to 'keep peace' are only doing what they feel is right. Will there ever be an answer or resolution to the quandry of two sides to the same coin?

In other themes, the film does work to inspire reconnection to nature and reconnection to faith in something bigger than ourselves... an energy, an awareness that connects us all. In fact, my favorite image from the movie was the one in which Jake was accepted into the clan, and the first Na'vi laid their hands on him, and then others laid their hands on them and so on and so on until every member of the tribe formed one big interconnected chain. I was also moved by the fact that their greeting, their highest form of respect, was to tell one another "I see you."

Being seen and being heard reminds us all that we are connected, loved and important.

Live Action Shorts

Let's hear it for Sweden! I absolutely adored "Instead of Abracadabra." If I was a voting member of the Academy, I would be waving my wand over ther ballots and shouting "Chimay" (the word he uses instead of... you get the idea) so that this film would win. Perhaps it won't need my magic though, it was so uplifting and funny it must be winning people over in all corners of the world.

All of the live actions were beautiful, but Abracadabra was the only light-hearted offering.

My second choice would be "The New Tenants" (Denmark) which was darkly hilarious.

The other three were "Kavi" (India), "Miracle Fish" (Austrailia) and "The Door" (Ireland). Each of them touched on poignant and heartbreaking themes and each of them had children in tragic situations. I hate to watch children suffering, scared and sad.

My prediction for this category (which is much different from my pick) would be "Kavi." It sought to seek awareness and inspire change in a situation that seems huge and hopeless: modern day slavery. I also felt like it was a short follow-up to last year's "Slum Dog Millionaire."

Animated Shorts

This weekend turned into one big opportunity to reach my goal. I got the chance to see ALL of the nominees for Best Animated Short and Best Live Action Short... something I thought I wouldn't get the chance to do!

Out of the animated shorts, my pick would be "Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty (Ireland)." Perhaps it's because I'm partial to the Irish sense of humor or maybe it's because I have a strong affinity for the elderly. Whatever the case, this one tickled my funny bone and made me thoughtful all at the same time. It was a satirical commentary on society's tendency to forget those who have given their lives to us... and need our love and compassion more than ever in their aging years.

My other favorites were "French Roast" (France) and "The Lady and the Reaper" (Spain). Those two illustrated (no pun intended) that language isn't necessary to tell a funny, touching and meaningful story.

I didn't care for "Logorama"(France) at all. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't care for extreme profanity in my animation.

My prediction for the category would be "Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death." (UK) It was the longest offering and it was so clever. They also have an established following.

But if I had my way, Granny O'Grimm would be hobbling up to the podium to accept this award. To view her reaction to being nominated visit:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Even If It Kills Me....

I WILL see "Avatar" this weekend. Oh yes (said a la "Wayne's World").

Even if I have to go to a 2am show.

I could do that.

I'd just go to bed at 7pm and wake up at 1am.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Blood and Guts

I don't know if I can keep going...

I'm afraid the theme of blood and guts will be in more movies (Inglourious Basterds?). It was definitely prevalent in "District Nine." The gore was hard to stomach at times. Some of it because there was just so much... the rest because it was so severe in nature (guts splattering the camera lens). Completely obliterating humans, no matter how evil they seem, just never appeals to me.

This story is very Kafka-esque, with the main protagonist turning into a 'vermin' or in this case alien. The allegory of becoming something you've despised and mistreated was not lost on me. One could also draw comparisons between the 'aliens' of District 9 to immigrants in slum areas of various countries... and the hostilities that exist towards them from the citizens of their new home, as well as the seemingly hopeless situations they find themselves in as they search for a better life.

The movie left me feeling sad, and showed me images I can't 'unsee.' Peter Jackson was a producer on this and so I'm imagining it has a shot to win one Award at least. It is nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing and Visual Effects. Since it's up against "Avatar" in all but one category, if it wins anything, I would think it would be for Adapted Screenplay. Although in that category it's up against "Up in the Air" which won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, so maybe not.

That being said, I may have seen this movie for nothing.

Kidding. Horizons were broadened...seriously.

Sweet Coraline

I would like to be mysterious and dark and say I ADORED this film... but I am not a fan of this type of abstract/stop-motion animation.

I did, however, love the story and I think Dakota Fanning did an awesome job voicing Coraline. I loved all of the characters and definitely loved the moral of the story (what parent wouldn't love the idea of a "be happy with the parents you've got" storyline?) I might even consider seeing it again in 3D because some of the imagery was so innovative.

But both my 8 year old and I were disturbed by the button eyes and the characters expressions being frozen by being sewn. We also jumped at various parts surrounding the ghost children and the dolls that spy on you. I was also a tiny bit put off by the gigantic stop-motion animated breasts on one of the characters, covered only by pasty-style stars.

I've seen 3 of the 5 nominated Animated Feature Films... and definitely feel this one is the front-runner. While it is nice to have a new Princess, "Princess and the Frog" didn't strike me as an award winner. And while I adored "Up," it also seemed simply another adorable offering from Pixar.

But stop-motion photography that breaks boundaries and is originally shot in 3D with a story that has punch and characters that you come to adore... that should win something, especially Best Animated Feature.

Progress and Politics

Yesterday and today, sick in my bed, I was able to make some progress on my movie goal. Three more movies down, bringing my total to 12 out of 58... a little over 1/5 of the movies nominated for the 82nd Oscar Awards.

In the last couple of days I have watched "Il Divo," the story of Italian politician Giulio Andreotti. They called it the Italian "Nixon" which didn't help me since I'd never seen "Nixon." Also, it was all in Italian, so it was another movie to 'read.' I don't mind reading, but it makes it difficult to get all of the nuances and subtleties of what is being said and portrayed. To top it all off, it is a political movie, and I will be the first to tell everyone that I do not have a great political mind. One thing I did catch was a quote that has had me thoughtful: "To fight corruption, evil is the best tool." I am paraphrasing, but something to that effect was stated by the main character. I wonder if that is true, or if catching flies with honey is a better bet that nobody has been brave enough to try.

This movie was only nominated for makeup, so I guess I'd have to research what the actor looked like and how close they came to making him look like Andreotti to see if the makeup was Oscar-worthy. I now only have to see "Young Victoria" and I could make an 'educated guess' as to who might win the Oscar in this category (Star Trek being the third nominee).

But again, if the vote is in any way influenced by politics of an industry I am not a part of, I will be lost for sure.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

French Loops

Not a movie you can put on and work on a project to, since it's subtitled. This movie was nominated for Best Song, but it's up against Disney and hasn't Disney won in this category for the last 82 years or so?

The movie itself was okay. I'm afraid Moulin Rouge has spoiled me for amazing love stories, and I just couldn't get deep enough into the love story of this movie. I did appreciate the element of the father loving and missing his son, however. It was portrayed very tenderly.

I'm no expert, but it just seemed like there were 8 too many story lines going on, and none of them were fully developed. Maybe the French threw me for a loop.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Food, Inc.

This film is nominated for Best Documentary: Feature Length. I haven't seen the others in this category yet, but this one should win... and probably won't if lobbyists or politicians or lawyers or corporations or anyone standing to lose money if people start making better food choices have anything to say about it.

It should win just not for its own body of work, but to make up for the other pioneering film "Super Size Me" losing in this same category. I can't remember, did "An Inconvenient Truth" win the year it was nominated? The same people behind that movie are behind "Food, Inc." and they did such a remarkable job.

I recommend anyone seeing this work. It is at times gross and at times very sad, it is eye-opening and damning all at once. Yet it ends on a hopeful note giving the 'average Joe' tools for making a difference. (

I view Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Robert Kenner (Food, Inc.) as the Upton Sinclair's of our time. All pointing out that food shouldn't be 'engineered' and eating healthy and well shouldn't make the divide between rich and poor a matter of life and death.

Failing Grade

I don't know if I get the failing grade on this, or if the movie does. I tried to watch "Tranformers: Revenge of the Fallen" twice and fell asleep both times. I made it through 3/4 of the movie and gave up.

Maybe it's because I don't like the images of little robots going in through someone's mouth and coming out their nose, or maybe it's because though I agree Megan Fox is HOT to look at, I just couldn't get any kind of vibe on her performance. Ditto Josh Duhamel. Or perhaps it's because I found myself preferring the animation of the 80's cartoons to the CGI of the film... I'm not really sure.

It was nominated for Sound Mixing, which if I knew more about the category I would probably agree with. It did have great sound effects.

Though not good enough to keep me awake (twice).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Snail's Pace

It has taken me two nights to get through Star Trek, which is nominated for 4 Academy Awards. Two of the award categories are Make-up and Visual Effects. I like the makeup and appreciate that it's so well done, the futuristic alien world looks plausible. Visual Effects are great, but does ST really have a snow ball's chance in hell against Avatar in the same category? I've not seen the latter yet, but going on all the raves, I'd say no.

The other two categories Star Trek is nominated in are Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. I don't know much about what it would take to win these awards. I'll do a little research and visit this discussion again. (Can it be a discussion if I'm the only participant?) Of course, will research be necessary when I note that again in these categories it's competing with Avatar, and now The Hurt Locker as well? From what I am reading, those two movies have the potential to sweep on March 7. More film viewing and more learning is definitely in order.

The major thought provoker this evening is this: If I am only getting through 1 movie every two nights... am I going to get anywhere near making a dent in the goal?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oscar Party

Following a view of my blog... a friend started talking about Oscar parties. It reminded me of this one my husband threw me for my 30th. It was a tiny little taste of what that winter night might be like. Of course, the room we were in was SWELTERING, so the winter part was a little off!

If you were required to dress as a celebrity for an Oscar Night Party... who would you dress up like?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bright Star- directed by Jane Campion

This movie dramatizes the love affair that occured between John Keats and Fannie Braun. It was a lovely story and informative to boot. I had no idea Keats died at 25 feeling he had failed as a poet.

Like the geek I am, I sat with my poetry book at the ready so that I could follow along as they recited his works. "A Thing of Beauty" has always been my favorite of his, but the title poem "Bright Star! Would I Were Steadfast as Thou Art" was given new meaning.

The only nomination for this film is for Costume. I wonder if it's obligatory that every period piece gets nominated in this category?

Other nominees include "The Young Victoria," which I fear is just another period piece thrown in for good measure. I am most looking forward to finding and viewing "Coco Before Chanel" and "Nine." They just might offer something unique with which to compete!

Unforeseen Obstacles which should have been Foreseen

When one thinks of movies, one thinks of the expense it incurs to treat oneself to seeing something new. Going to the movies costs an arm and a leg, and the popcorn costs the remaining limbs.

So why it did not occur to me that this challenge was going to be expensive is beyond me. I'm going to chalk it up to the fervor of Oscar nomination day.

The silver lining is I am well on my way to making great progress in my quest! With help and permission from my husband, here is what I have in the wings:

Waiting on my DVR: "The Hurt Locker," "Inglourious Basterds," and "District 9." (At $5 a pop, that is $15 that will appear on our next DISH bill.)

DVD's lined up next to my rocking chair: "Bright Star," "Star Trek," "Transformers 2," "Paris 36," "Il Divo," "Food, Inc.," and "Coraline." (These gems cost us $50 at Blockbuster, but put us well on our way to earning a free movie on our rewards card... yippee!)

It was also pointed out to me that to fit every film in, I'd have to watch at least 2 a day during the challenge. Interesting and rational point. But as you can see from this challenge, I'm not so much into rational thinking at the present time.

So... $65 before I've seen the first film, and before I've ventured out to a theatre, in addition to wondering when on earth I'm going to fit all this in definitely gives me pause... I cannot lie.

But doing something just a little left of center gives my spirits a tiny thrill and sets my soul to smiling.

The First Challenge

I'm not a movie junkie. I cannot recite dates and quotes off the top of my head like baseball fans can quote stats. Don't get me wrong, I can recall famous lines and remember actor names from favorite films and blockbusters, but I am not a walking IMDB.

That being said, I ADORE Oscar season. My calendar has notes pencilled in: "Oscar Nomination Day," "Academy Awards- NO OTHER EVENTS," and "Apply for Bleacher Seats." I've never gotten the bleacher seats, but it's been a long time since I've missed the televised event.

I don't watch it for the dresses. I can't stand the pre-shows. I don't really watch the wrap-ups either. I like the ceremony itself... full of people who, at one point, sat in their bedroom and had a dream of doing something BIG. And no matter how famous they've become, or how jaded by their industry, or how political their nomination may have been... that dream is right down in the soul of it all.

I imagine this is how a sports enthusiast feels about the Superbowl or the Olympics.

So, since I have missed out on my bleacher seats for the 5th Consecutive year, and inspired by a movie that only got one Oscar Nom... I issued myself a 2010 Challenge. Here it is, a la "Julie & Julia:"

I am going to (try) to see EVERY movie
that's been nominated this year.

Do I think I'll do it? Perhaps not. There are a lot of them... and the foreign films will really present a challenge. The point is, though, I'm going to try. Which is a lot more than I've done in the past.

If my spreadsheet is correct (those of you who know me are not surprised by a spreadsheet), Here is where my count stands as of Oscar Nomination Day, 2/2/2010:

Out of 58 nominated films in 24 categories...

I have seen 4.

Holy popcorn, Batman... this is going to be interesting.