My Guilty Pleasures

Those of you who read this blog know me. You know that I have snobbish movies tastes, and I judge people on their movie tastes. Someone once called me pompous when I spoke about my disgust for a TV show they happened to like. I am pompous. I don’t watch “Dewey Cox” or any of those movies, or “Transformers”. I feel that there are so many films that I need to see before I die. So, here are some of my guilty pleasures that I will defend to my death. I just thought it would be fun to divulge this secret to you. Not that all of these movies are bad or trashy, but you may find it a smidge odd.

“The American President”
– 1995. Dir. Rob Reiner. With Michael Douglas, Annette Benning, Michael J. Fox, Richard Dreyfus, David Paymer and Martin Sheen.

Bottom line this film is a sappy and corny love story. I love it! This was written by Aaron Sorkin who championed “The West Wing” television show which I love and think is the best show to have ever been on TV. The film centers around Michael Douglas as President Andy Shepherd; who is a widower who meets a lobbyist played by Annette Benning. He is quickly smitten – but wait – she’s lobbying for bill that he doesn’t agree with. Oh no! Enter Richard Dreyfus (in an uncredited role) as Bob Rumson, an evil GOP baddie who is running against the President for his reelection. Dreyfus’ character is obviously modeled off of Dick Cheney (who he later played to a T in “W”). Martin Sheen plays the President’s Chief of Staff, loyal companion and best friend. This movie is light hearted and corny, but I can’t help but watch it once a month. I am in love with it. Back in high school when my friend Phil and I would spend hours upon hours in his basement playing computer games, we would have the movie on VHS on a constant loop. I would always bitch to him about how there isn’t a Vice President in the film, and how Michael Douglas is “too Jewish” to be President. Oh those were the days…

Review: 9/10

“Cliffhanger” – 1993. Dir. Renny Harlin. With Sylvester Stallone, Michael Rooker and John Lithgow.

When I was in college I would smoke a lot of pot. I would make a night of it. I would then sit on my floor in front of my 300 plus DVD collection and I would look for a film that would blow my mind, something to tell me the meaning of life. I would look at “Apocalypse Now”, or “American Beauty” or “The Last Temptation of Christ” or some other hardcore art house films. I would sit there for over an hour looking for that one perfect movie. I always settled on “Cliffhanger”. I would watch it with director’s commentary on, and just be absolutely amazed at how they filmed a majority of the special effects with miniatures. I would love watching Stallone with his muscle shirt and cargo shorts scaling the side of mountain to try and get a suitcase full of money for the baddie, John Lithgow. This isn’t a great movie, but for those of you who have seen it – it is a solid movie.

Review: 8/10

“Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins” – 1985. Dir. Guy Hamilton. With Fred Ward, Kate Mulgrew, Joel Grey and Wilford Brimley.

This is nothing more than a fun 80’s movie. It was supposed to start a franchise starring Fred Ward as the super secret agent Remo Williams. Williams learns all of his Godlike skills from Chiun (Joel Grey) who is a master of martial arts and other gravity defying feats. He teaches Remo how to dodge bullets, to poke a man in his shoulder and have the man drop to the ground, and how to run on wet cement. There is one scene in the film that doesn’t scream “I’m an 80’s movie!”: it’s where Remo is practicing balance techniques on the Statue of Liberty that is under construction. Remo walks across beams and rails, practicing how to focus on concentrate on the task at hand. Remo is then attacked by the construction workers who are working on the statue. What makes this scene great is the fact that it’s shot on location at the Statue of Liberty while it was actually under rehab at the time. This movie is a goodie!

Review: 8/10

“Rocky IV” – 1985. Dir. Sylvester Stallone. With Sylvester Stallone, Carl Weathers, Talia Shire, Burt Young, and Dolph Lundgren.

Ivan Drago vs Apollo Creed = Creed’s death. Rocky vs Drago = Rocky ends the Cold War. ‘Nough said!

Review: 8/10

“Mr. Baseball” – 1992. Dir. Fred Schepsi. With Tom Selleck, Dennis Haysbert and Ken Takakura.

Tom Selleck plays Jack Elliot, a former Yankee whose career has slipped the past couple of seasons and is about to be replaced by a rookie (who’s played by Frank Thomas) and is about to be traded. When he’s told of this trade, he asks if he has to be traded, he won’t go to Cleveland. The only offer Jack gets is a team from Japan. Selleck delivers corny humor as he adjusts to his new life in Japan. He befriends a fellow American player (Dennis Haysbert) who shows Jack the ropes in Japan. Jack’s celebrity doesn’t hold the weight in Japan that it did in the States. The manager of the team (Ken Takakura) is no nonsense, and doesn’t put up with Selleck’s bullshit. He benches him if he wants to teach him a lesson. The plot thickens when Selleck falls in love with Takakura’s daughter. The tagline of the film just makes me laugh…”He’s the biggest thing to hit Japan since Godzilla!”

Review: 8/10

“The Muse” – 1999. Dir. Albert Brooks. With Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie McDowell, with Martin Scorsese and James Cameron, and Jeff Bridges.

“The Muse” is a pretty damn funny movie about an Oscar nominated writer (and everyone either mispronounces the title or hasn’t seen it) Steven Phillips (Albert Brooks) whose contract gets terminated by the studio he works for. He tries peddling his latest action script, but no one wants it. He tries to get a meeting with Steven Spielberg because he’s “old friends” with him. He thinks Spielberg will make the movie. He schedules a meeting and shows up to find Spielberg’s cousin Stan (played by the brilliant Steven Wright). Stan Spielberg is the ultimate loser who sits in a tiny office all day and plays with a slinky and other little knick knacks. Brooks then goes to his friend Jack’s house who is this successful and bumbling actor played by Jeff Bridges. He seeks advice from Bridges, and Bridges gives him the number of Sarah (Sharon Stone) who is a real life muse. Brooks calls her, puts her up at the Four Seasons hotel and buys her anything she wants so she will inspire him to write a great script. The film is a marvelous showboat of Brooks’ talent for writing and comedy. He is truly one of the funniest men in show business and you just laugh scene after scene. Brooks’ real life friends have cameos as themselves in the film. Once Sarah moves to Brooks’ guest house, he’ll arrive home from the store, or wherever and find James Cameron standing by his pool with Sarah, he’s whispering to her and giving her a beautiful piece of jewelry. Cameron asks her if he should make a sequel to “Titanic” and she tells him to “stay away from the water”. Another time Brooks comes home to Martin Scorsese pacing in his back yard. Scorsese scurries to Brooks and demands to know where Sarah is. Scorsese wants to remake “Raging Bull”, but this time “with a real thin guy…what do you think? Huh? Huh? Huh?” This is a movie much like “The American President” that my friend Phil and I would have on a constant loop on VHS. We had all the lines of dialogue memorized, along with the trailers of “Plunkett & MacClain”, “Rosetta” and the ad for the soundtrack before the feature actually started. This is just a very fun and extremely enjoyable film. Seriously, of all my guilty pleasures, check this one out! I can recite this film verbatim, try me.

Review: 9/10

Now tell me, what are your guilty pleasures?

Oscars: Predictions and Thoughts.

Best Picture Nominees:

I would first like to say that the fact the Academy decided to have ten Best Picture Nominees completely cheapens the award. I am disgusted that “The Blind Side” was nominated, but “Nine”, “The Road” and “A Single Man” weren’t. Also: “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”, “Antichrist” and “The Watchmen” are just as deserving but unrealistic. My theory for “Inglorious Basterds” winning the gold is that the Academy voters will split between “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker” and “Basterds” could eek by. If “The Hurt Locker” didn’t exist, “Avatar” would win hands down, and the same would go for “The Hurt Locker” if “Avatar” didn’t exist. I do also think that since that producer of “The Hurt Locker” sent out that mass email to the Academy voters saying they should vote for the small film instead of the 500 million dollar film will hurt their chances as with voters who had yet to cast their ballot. The Academy likes to be romanced and courted – not be told what to do. I just can’t see the Academy giving the most prestigious film award to a film that grossed a minimal amount of money. If “The Hurt Locker” does win, it will be the lowest grossing Best Picture winner of all time. “Basterds” is an interesting film, when I saw it in theaters I didn’t like it very much, I thought it was long and very extreme. It got mixed reviews at the time of its release too, but now everyone loves it. It won Best Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild which is a somewhat odd barometer for Best Picture. When I purchased “Basterds” on DVD, I watched it over and over again. It holds up well to repeat viewings and is so goddamned enjoyable. I think that many people feel that Tarantino is long overdue for an Oscar, even though he already as an Original Screenplay Oscar for “Pulp Fiction”, but let’s face it, “Pulp Fiction” should have won everything 15 years ago. But, if critics ran the Oscars, “The Hurt Locker” would win hands down.

What I think will win: “Inglorious Basterds”

What should win (that’s nominated): “A Serious Man”

My personal pick: “A Single Man”

Best Director:

I like the nominees for best director. If you want to know what the “real” Best Picture Nominees are, just look at the five directors nominated. In a perfect world where I had a say, the Nominees would have been: Tom Ford, Quentin Tarantino, Joel & Ethan Coen, James Cameron and Rob Marshall.

Who I think will win: Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): Quentin Tarantino for “Inglorious Basterds”.

My personal pick: Tom Ford for “A Single Man”

Best Actor:

Best actor seems to be a lock this year. The only upset I could see happening with this category would be Colin Firth. I am a HUGE Jeff Bridges fan, and I believe he is long overdue for an Oscar – but I don’t think he gave the best performance this year. The top four nominees had been set in stone with: Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Colin Firth and Morgan Freeman. The fifth, Jeremy Renner – who was very good in “The Hurt Locker” – isn’t as deserving for a Best Actor nomination as Daniel Day-Lewis (“Nine”) or Viggo Mortenson (“The Road”) or even Nicholas Cage (“Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”). Cage did win the Toronto Film Critics Circle, which should count for something – right?

Who I think will win: Jeff Bridges for “Crazy Heart”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): Colin Firth for “A Single Man”.

My personal pick: Colin Firth for “A Single Man”.

Best Actress:

This has been the most interesting category as far as tracking goes this year. Meryl Streep seemed to have it in the bag – until she was blindsided by Sandra Bullock (I’m sorry, I had to do it…). I think this is the weakest category this year; Streep gives a very good performance, but not nearly as good as her previous performance in “Doubt”. Carey Mulligan was good in “An Education”, but the film itself left me bored and waiting for it to be over. I have not seen “The Blindside” – nor will I. I refuse to be pulled into this celebration of mediocre filmmaking that rests itself on pappy crap. Helen Mirren seems like the odd nomination here considering everything I’ve heard about “The Last Station” is that it’s a train wreck of a film but is brilliantly acted.

Who I think will win: Sandra Bullcok for “The Blindside”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): Meryl Streep for “Julie and Julia”.

My personal pick: Charlotte Gainsbourg for “Antichrist”.

Best Supporting Actor:

This category lacked acknowledging a few performances I would have liked to have seen nominations for: Mathew Goode for “A Single Man”, Jackie Earle Haley for “Watchmen”, Robert Duvall for “The Road” and Colin Farrell for “Crazy Heart”. The only one of those I thought might have grabbed that fifth spot would have been Duvall for “The Road”. I know he had minimal screen time in “The Road”, but the Academy loves supporting performances from well respected actors, think about it: Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”), William Hurt (“A History of Violence”), Hal Holbrook (“Into the Wild”), James Coburn (“Affliction”) although I suppose this year it’s Christopher Plummer for “The Last Station”. I think Waltz is pretty much a lock, since he’s won every single award for his role in “Basterds”, but if anyone can beat him, it will be Plummer – and if Plummer does win, it will be strictly for merit for his long and distinguished career. One thing I would like to note is that Stanley Tucci is the only redeeming factor in “The Lovely Bones”, it’s a film that is wretchedly horrible. Tucci turned out two very good performances in “Bones” and “Julie and Julia”. I think his performances are equally as great, but he should have been nominated for “Julie and Julia” if only to be spiteful. I would have also liked to see Brad Pitt be nominated for “Basterds”.

Who I think will win: Christoph Waltz for “Inglorious Basterds”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): Christoph Waltz for “Inglorious Basterds”.

My personal pick: Christoph Waltz for “Inglorious Basterds”.

Best Supporting Actress:

This category has the lamest nominees, I’m sorry but it does. When Mo’Nique was acting like a diva a couple of months ago, and not promoting “Precious” and not showing up to collect her awards I thought for sure the Academy would resent her behavior and not award her the Oscar (kind of like Eddie Murphy’s behavior problems when he was nominated for “Dreamgirls”). I also thought that “Nine” would garnish two, if not three Best Supporting Actress nominations; but this was before it got a much unwarranted and undeserving backlash from critics. I think Cruz should not have been nominated for the film, if anyone I would have wanted Judi Dench. I thought Sofia Loren would have gotten nominated as well, considering she’s the last of the Golden Age of Hollywood, much like Plummer. I thought Loren would have followed in line with Lauren Bacall’s nomination for “The Mirror Has Two Faces” and Gloria Straut’s nomination for “Titanic”. I was wrong, very wrong. I think Julianne Moore was snubbed for “A Single Man” and Vera Farmiga’s nomination is undeserving, and she should have been nominated for “The Departed”. If anyone can upset Mo’Nique it would be Anna Kendrick. I think the other obvious Oscar snub is Melanie Laurent for “Inglorious Basterds”. Also remember, there have been previous Supporting Actress surprises before, Marcia Gay Harden for “Mystic River” and Tilda Swinton for “Michael Clayton”. Also: Maggie Gyllenhaal’s nomination for “Crazy Heart” is the one sleeper nomination I was telling everyone about, although my sleeper pick was Duvall for “The Road.

Who I think will win: Mo’Nique for “Precious” (I refuse to type the full title because that is contrived).

Who should win (that’s nominated): Mo’Nique for “Precious”.

My personal pick: Julianne Moore for “A Single Man”.

Best Original Screenplay:

This category seemed to be a lock for Tarantino, but the tides are slightly turning. The more weight that’s being pulled by Tarantino for Best Picture, is pulling “The Hurt Locker” closer to Best Original Screenplay. Face it, they have to award “The Hurt Locker” – even though Bigelow seems to be the frontrunner (with a possible upset by Cameron), the Academy still has to award this film another prominent award. I have always felt that this category is a runner up for Best Picture. I almost want to say if Tarantino wins for this award, “The Hurt Locker” has it in the bag for Best Picture, but if “Locker” wins this award it should give a slight edge to “Basterds” for Best Picture.

Who I think will win: “The Hurt Locker”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): “A Serious Man”.

My personal pick: “A Serious Man”.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

I have not seen “In the Loop” but I hear nothing but great things from my friends Kevin and Peyton. I will watch it before Sunday. I think this award is pretty much a lock for Jason Reitman since “Up in the Air” won’t receive any other major awards. I’m not sure how to feel about Jason Reitman. I thought “Thank You for Smoking” was very good and “Up in the Air” is phenomenal; as for “Juno” I couldn’t stand it. I thought it was contrived and smug and I couldn’t sit through it. Reitman is the greatest example next to Sofia Coppola of nepotism. The hard part is, they are two of the most talented filmmakers of our generation. How could Reitman not finance or be able to distribute his films? His father is Ivan “Ghostbusters” Reitman. I also think “The Road”, “Nine” and “A Single Man” should have been considered for this category too, especially “A Single Man”.

Who I think will win: “Up in the Air”.

Who should win (that’s nominated): “Up in the Air” – pending a viewing of “In the Loop”.

My personal pick: “A Single Man”.

Best Cinematography:

This and editing are my two favorite technical awards. I think this can help make a good movie great, or a great movie good. I haven’t seen any “Harry Potter” films, or “The White Ribbon”. I think that “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”, “A Single Man”, “The Road” and “Antichrist” should have been nominated, but what can I say… I will see “The White Ribbon” before Sunday as well.

Who I think will win: “The Hurt Locker”

Who should win (that’s nominated): “Inglorious Basterds”.

My personal pick: “Antichrist”, but more realistic: “A Single Man”.

Best Editing:

Editing is a tough category because it’s so difficult to be perfect. What’s distracting to me is when there are simple mistakes. Take for example “The Departed”, during the opening scene with Nicholson doing his voiceover monologue towards the end when we see him from behind, looking over his shoulder as he’s walking towards a young Matt Damon, Nicholson is talking and has a cigarette in his mouth. When the shot cuts to a point of view shot from young Matt Damon to Nicholson, he doesn’t have a cigarette in his mouth as he finishes his line of dialogue. Come on! That is so simple to fix! Why leave it? That being said, I looooove Thelma Schoomaker, Scorsese’s long time editor and friend. Its simple things like that, which can ruin certain parts of movies for me. A good way of watching for good editing is if a lot of characters smoke watch for the continuity of the length of cigarette, and the characters inhaling and then exhaling the smoke. A lot of movies fall victim to “magic cigarettes”, much like “The Usual Suspects” when the “suspects” all leave the jail after the famous line-up scene, Gabriel Byrne is outside on the steps smoking while his girlfriend is talking to him, and Byrne watches the other “suspects” and cuts between them watching Bryne, and Byrne watching them. There is no continuity of Byrne inhaling, and continuously exhaling the smoke. The director’s commentary is funny due to the fact of Bryan Singer making fun of the scene because Byrne is smoking a “magic cigarette”.

What I think will win: “The Hurt Locker”

What should win (that’s nominated): “Inglorious Basterds”

My personal pick: “Nine”.

Best Art Direction:

At least “Nine” got this nomination! Boo-ya! That being said, “A Single Man” should win, but once again it’s not nominated.

What I think will win: “Avatar”.

What should win (that’s nominated): “Nine”.

My personal pick: “A Single Man”.

Best Costume Design:

Here’s where my frame of reference starts to wear. I haven’t seen a lot of the films in the tech categories, so I shall do my best.

What I think will win: “Nine”.

What should win (that’s nominated): “Nine”.

My personal pick: “A Single Man”.

Best Make-up:

What I think will win: “Star Trek”.

What should win (that’s nominated): Anything but Star Trek.

My personal pick: “Watchmen”.

Best Original Score:

Once again, “A Single Man” was snubbed. I am actually really surprised it wasn’t nominated in this category, it was incredibly haunting, and filled with deep emotion.

What I think will win: “The Hurt Locker”.

What should win (that’s nominated): I can’t make a prediction since I haven’t seen most of the nominees.

My personal pick: “A Single Man”.

Best Original Song:

This is an easy one with very little competition. I really hope they go back to having each individual song performed by each nominee, but I don’t think it will happen.

What I think will win: “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart”.

What should win (that’s nominated): “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart”.

My personal pick: “The Weary Kind” from “Crazy Heart”.

Best Animated film:

Shouldn’t “Up” automatically win since it’s the only animated film nominated for Best Picture? I know there was an oddity at the BAFTA’s that my friend Kevin told me about, but seriously!

What I think will win: “Up”.

What should win (that’s nominated): Pending my viewing of “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”.

My personal pick: Pending.

For the rest of the categories, I believe “Avatar” will win all the sound and visual awards. As for short films, I haven’t seen any. And as far as documentary’s go, I’ve always seen “Food, Inc.” and from the best of my knowledge, “The Cove” is probably going to win.

I really hope the Academy goes back to showing clips of each actor for each category, but I’m not sure what the final word is on that either. What I am truly looking forward to is Alec Baldwin and Steven Martin hosting. What a treat that is! Please, please, please Academy! Don’t leave me bitter this year!

Let me know what you guys think. I will try and proofread at the best of my ability!

Accidental Genius: Roger Corman

“I’ve never made the film I wanted to make. No matter what happens, it never turns out exactly as I hoped.”

I was so pleased when it was announced that Roger Corman was awarded the Academy’s Life Time Achievement award. There are still others that are just as deserving: Stanley Kubrick, Peter Sellers, Sergio Leone, David Lynch (although her has time for a long overdue Oscar), the list can go on and on. Roger Corman picked up where Ed Wood left off, making nothing but B Movies. His filmography is filled with bizzaro titles and a bunch of lame movies but Roger Corman is responsible for the birth of the greatest generation of filmmakers. He was the only producer who would give people a chance to make films as long as they would stay within his extremely low budget. Corman directed a few films, most of them were mediocre cult films, but he does have a masterpiece, “St. Valentines Day Massacre” (1967) starring Ralph Meeker as Bugsy Malone and Jason Robards as Al Capone. The film also co-stars George Segal as Peter Gusenberg and two small parts for Corman players Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern. Corman also directed “The Trip” staring Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Dennis Hopper and it was written by Jack Nicholson. The film is essential about a group of people who embark on an acid trip. Corman reportedly took LSD along with Dern, Hopper, Fonda and Nicholson to “get the effect” of the film he was making. How cool is that? Corman is responsible for the careers of: Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Jonathon Demme, Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson, Peter Bogdonavitch, Ron Howard, John Sayles, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, James Cameron and Martin Scorsese. How impressive is that? Corman has had cameo appearances in “The Godfather, Part II”, Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13” and in every film Jonathon Demme has made.  I love how the filmmakers he gave a chance too, never forgot about him and still to this day pay much homage, and give him much credit.  This is a man who was notorious for shooting films as cheap as possible, and in the shortest amount of time. Corman remains bedrock of the 1960’s and 1970’s and was the father of the greatest generation of filmmakers. There is an excellent Corman Boxset you can get, and I would strongly advise the serious movie watcher to invest in it.