The “G” Word

There’s a tiny little movie that was released earlier this week that I think you guys should take the time to see, it’s called “The Avengers”. What? It made over $200 million domestically in its opening weekend and been praised both amongst the critics and fan boys alike? Well, I’m a little late to the party aren’t I? Originally planning on writing a review for Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” I realized there wasn’t much that I could have said that hasn’t already been. It’s good, pretty damn good in fact; it combines the Marvel superheroes with such grace and realism that it’s not just “hey, lets get all these guys in the same movie”, every character has a reason to be there. For future reference, this is what a summer blockbuster should be like. With all this many people are declaring it the greatest superhero movie made to date. This is where I take issue. Greatest? What makes it so easy to declare as better than any of its predecessors? More importantly, what is people’s obsession with declaring the greatest when it comes to film?

“The Avengers” is an excellent addition to the superhero genre, a tip of the hat to Marvel Studios for being able to create all of these stories within the same universe so that they can combine like this. That alone is a feat that makes it different than other superhero films. However, isn’t it entirely possible that this is just a heat of the moment issue? In July “The Dark Knight Rises” releases and it will have it’s own reasons unquestionably as to why it should be considered the greatest superhero movie of all time. “The Amazing Spider-Man” probably would like to stake it’s own claim as well.

But it isn’t just the heat around “The Avengers” that have brought about mentions of the infamous g-word. A hot topic among many online critics, including one Roger Ebert, is the greatest films of all time. Right now it feels like some sort of pissing contest between people: “Those are what you consider to be the greatest films ever made, ha, I’ll show you what a real greatest list looks like!”

The worst part of all of this is that we will never be able to determine what the greatest film is; it’s just not possible. This isn’t sports; Wayne Gretzky is considered the greatest because no one before or since has been able to match his stats, Barry Bonds is considered the home-run king (I know, I know, steroids, but just trying to make a point) because he has hit more than any other baseball player in history. These are definitive, set in stone, facts about these players that put them in a higher pantheon than anyone else. That is not the point with movies.

The great things about movies, and all art for that matter, is that every single film made could potentially be the greatest film to someone because it simply appeals to their tastes, their personality, that mysterious instinct in our gut that tells us that we like this more than anything else. It doesn’t matter how much money it made, how many awards it has won, or how innovative the film is, somebody out there may be willing to fight for tooth and nail on why it is their favorite film.

That’s the point. Film is art, and you debate art, it’s merits, it’s faults. You debate it amongst friends, family, in a classroom, and moments after the credits roll. “The Avengers” may be the greatest superhero movie ever to some people, it may be the greatest movie ever to some others, and good on them for thinking that. But the discussion is never ending.

Maybe an element of the sports world can be taken and put to use here. Many fans of baseball believe that Bonds’ record should be marked with an asterisk to mark that there is a difference between what he did and the likes of Ruth and Aaron did. How about any time critics use the word greatest to describe a film there is an asterisk by it to denote “in my opinion”.

Final Oscar Predictions

The 84th Academy Awards are tomorrow and so I present my final predictions on what films and actors will take home the little golden man in all 24 categories.

The short subject awards are ones that I haven’t even tried to pass off as things that I have any knowledge on, so these are just straight guesses from looking at what other pundits have been predicting:

Best Short Film (Live Action): The Shore

Best Short Film (Animated): The Fantastic Flying Books of Mrs. Lessmore

Best Documentary Short: Saving Face

Everything else however, I have some educated knowledge on, so these will be the real test of my predicting skills:

Best Sound Editing: Hugo

Best Sound Mixing: Hugo

Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Best Make-Up: The Iron Lady

Best Costume Design: Jane Eyre

Best Art Direction: Hugo

Best Original Song: “Man or a Muppet”, The Muppets

Best Score: The Artist

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation

Best Documentary: Undefeated

Best Animated Film: Rango

Best Film Editing: The Artist

Best Cinematography: Tree of Life

Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer

Best Actress: Viola Davis

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Best Picture: The Artist

Let me know if/where you guys differ?

Coming Attractions: The Amazing Spiderman

The box-office for this young year has already proven to be an improvement to last year, and by the looks of things it’s only going to get better. We have the end of a mega-franchise (no matter what you think of it, it has to be described as such) in Twilight, the start of another potential one in “The Hunger Games”. And then three of the most anticipated super-hero films in a long time with “The Dark Knight Rises”, “The Avengers” and “The Amazing Spiderman”. The latter just posted their newest trailer just after the crack of midnight out here on the west coast, and color me impressed. I was a little underwhelmed with the first trailer that came out a while ago that featured a point of view shot from Spiderman as the main selling point. But the newest one goes deeper into the story, how it is different from Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire’s version, and just how awesome Andrew Garfield may turn out as Spiderman.

It’s clear they’re not going with the exact same mythology that most people have come to know of Spiderman and have rather optioned for a darker background to the hero and the death of his parents. Maguire’s Spidey was the nicest guy in the world; it looks like this time Spidey’s got a little more edge when he is in the suit, which I think could really work well. And the Lizard looks pretty good from the limited stuff we get so far. And an added bonus, but I could be wrong because we still only get about one scene from Martin Sheen in both trailers, it looks like Uncle Ben may just stick around longer than five minutes this time. Oh, one more thing, is it just me or is anyone else thinking Emma Stone might just prove to be the better girlfriend from the two series with how she comes off in the trailer.

I didn’t think we needed another Spiderman just five years after the last installment, despite how bad that certain film was, but if the film can deliver for audiences what it did for m, than I can’t blame them and say kudos for bringing back one of the most popular superheroes to the forefront. Check the trailer out below:

We have all the big superhero trailers now for this summer, which of them are you most looking forward to?

Does Jean Dujardin’s Poster Scandal Make Him a Lock for Best Actor?

This isn’t the viewpoint that most articles are given this most recent news story featuring “The Artist” star, Jean Dujardin. The reaction to a controversial poster for his next French film “Les Infideles” has many pundits and journalists worried that the Frenchman may now lose his chance at having his named called up onto the, probably soon to be renamed, Kodak Theatre stage. But I disagree. I think this is a classic example of the old adage, “any press is good press”.

If we remember just back to last year’s Oscar race, around this time there was another controversy that was being placed on the front-runner “The King’s Speech”. News had surfaced that the set that had been used for the speech therapy sessions between Colin Firth’s character and Geoffrey Rush’s had been used before by another movie, one of the pornographic nature. Some thought this was a blow to the film, that it would somehow be seen as a slight that the feel-good movie of 2010 was somehow related to a porno. But what happened when Oscar night came, what most expected. “The King’s Speech” walked away with four awards, including Best Director and Best Picture, just as they were expected to prior to the controversy.

Now back to this year. Jean Dujardin pulled a surprise win a couple of weekends ago by taking the SAG award for Best Actor over presumed front-runner George Clooney. That catapulted him very much into the conversation, as the actors are the larges branch of the Academy, as well as the fact that “The Artist” is the clear favorite among the industry right now and poised to be a monster come the ceremony. On top of that he has proven extremely charming in his two major wins this year, back at the Golden Globes and at SAG, with his acceptance speeches, and even back stage talking with the press. Just check out this video after he wins his SAG:

And now we have this new story where suggestive positioning of a woman’s legs threatens to derail the momentum that he has been building up. But as I said, I’m in the opposite camp. Why? Because I’m writing this article about it as are hundreds of other journalists and Oscar pundits. It popped up on Deadline and in the Hollywood Reporter, two of the industry’s biggest sources. Because it keeps Jean Dujardin fresh and in the minds of the public and voters rather than let us forget about him until he walks down the red carpet. Because any press is good press and a little controversy can shake things up just as much positively as it can negatively.

Has there been a major story on George Clooney since the announcement of the nominations? No. Clooney has been silent, which isn’t a bad thing; George has never been one to stir up too much controversy. But since losing at SAG the actor at the forefront of everyone’s minds has been Dujardin. From the upset win to this new story, he has been the main headline out of all the nominees, and Clooney has almost fallen into the shadows, hoping his fantastic performance will speak for itself, which it still very much could, but it could definitely use a boost to challenge the Dujardin train that is starting to roll. Even fellow nominee Brad Pitt, who didn’t win a single pre-cursor award, is starting to gain momentum over Clooney with interviews on talk shows like “The Daily Show” and “The Today Show”.

What we also have to consider is that the controversy isn’t something involving the actual film “The Artist”. The poster is not a For Your Consideration” for Dujardin, it is for his next film, a French comedy about the infidelities or men. Considering the subject matter and the fact that it is a French film, who I think we all have to agree are a little more lenient in their censorship then mainstream American cinema, the poster isn’t really all that surprising. Like “The King’s Speech”, the controversy wasn’t directly related to the film, it was a different movie that just happened to use the same space. This doesn’t have to ruin “The Artist” for anyone, it is still a fantastically charming movie that people love, and it doesn’t lessen Dujardin’s performance in it.

One final thing that we have to consider in this grand chain of events is who might actually be pulling the strings on all of this. And it would be none other than the master of Oscar spin himself, Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein’s ability to make a film an Oscar favorite has been legendary since “Shakespeare in Love” upset “Saving Private Ryan” in 1999. And should it come as any surprise that “The King’s Speech” was also a Weinstein film last year. I’m not saying that Harvey Weinstein is the reason that these images of the poster made it onto the Internet; it is extremely possible that they surfaced on their own. But I think not considering that the level of coverage this story is getting for a film that will not even be released in the US could be a play by The Weinstein Company to keep their strongest horse in the race in all categories would be ignorant of people who are aware of the idea that, once again, any press is good press.

As for me, I’ve been sticking with Clooney this whole time, but always saying that something had to happen for the likes of Dujardin or Pitt to dethrone him. Well that something has happened in my opinion, and unless Clooney makes a late charge, I’m changing my pick to Dujardin to walk off victorious in three weeks time.

Coming Attractions: February Releases

Happy Leap Year everybody. The universe has decided to give us an extra day in the month of February this year and confuse people what happens to kids who actually are born on Feb. 29th (or maybe it’s just me who finds that really interesting). But all that is besides that point, after 2011 was a year where the box-office was down, 2012 has been quite the turn around to that with January being one of the most successful starts to a new year’s box-office in a while. Hopefully February can keep it going and what films might be key reasons in that.

Chronicle

Found footage films have become a trend ever since “The Blair Witch” came out. A staple in the horror genre, it has pretty much run its course and become clichéd by this point. But then you have “Chronicle”, a found footage superhero movie. It seems to be a refreshing look on two traditional types of films, the found footage and the superhero origin. It’s been getting really positive reviews, having already come out just yesterday (2/3), so the word of mouth on this one is only going to grow.

Safe House

Denzel Washington is one of the most charismatic actors in Hollywood right now. Whenever there is a trailer for one of his films it is nearly impossible to be drawn in by him in some way or another. And he’s at it again in “Safe House”, hopefully the trailer isn’t just the best of for him in the film and there’s more gold throughout the running time like the “I’m already in your head” line. Plus he has a solid cast around him with Ryan Reynolds, Brendan Gleeson, and Vera Farmiga. But let’s be honest, if we’re going to go see this film, it’s because Denzel is going to be kicking some serious ass.

Act of Valor

Like “Chronicle” this is something different than what we normally see, and that’s why it’s peaked my interest. With real Navy SEALS as the characters the suspension of disbelief that we would have to probably have in a film like this otherwise is going to be completely gone. Everything they do is stuff that they had probably already done in real life. The question is, is it going to feel more like an hour and a half promotional video for the military or is it going to be a movie that we can actually invest in on a deeper level than just saying “wow that’s cool”.

These are the films that I’m most interested in seeing what comes of out of this month. What about you guys? Anything else that you’re really excited to see that’s coming out this month?

Review: The Grey

If all audiences are able to take one thing from “The Grey” when they go and see it, it will not be a unanimous verdict of whether it is a good or bad film, but that there may not be a bigger bad ass in Hollywood right now than Liam Neeson. It may not be “Taken” Liam Neeson destroying the underbellies of Paris, but the presence and gravitas he brings to his character still make him a man you don’t want to mess with. When it comes to the movie though itself it will all come down to whether or not you can look past the fact that it isn’t the action adventure the trailer promises, but rather a more inward looking experience of people dealing and coming to terms with life and death. I personally can say that I enjoyed the film maybe a little more for this reason, though at times it could be heavy-handed, because the “we’re being chased by wolves” angle was a bit one dimensional until the end.

The look of “The Grey” is an element in itself that should impress anyone. It is beautifully shot by Masanobu Takayanagi, the film captures the harsh elements of the Alaskan wilderness the story is set in, the chaotic and terrifying moments where the characters run for their lives, but also the beauty of the wilderness and the warmth of the character’s memories that are shown at times in flashbacks. Also, Joe Carnahan has a clear vision of the story, which isn’t the one the ads would have you believe, but from the first minutes of the film the tone is set and Carnahan doesn’t waver from it despite the temptation to make it a strict action/survival thriller kind of movie, and that is something you have to respect.

Speaking of the tone of the film, a majority of the film is a reflective study that covers faith, life and death, a pretty heavy-handed subject but one that works with the situation at hand since the main characters survive a plane crash, are stuck in freezing temperatures, and are being pursued by man-eating wolves. As I mentioned earlier these are the moments in the film that I liked the best because they gave allowed for a breath between the “how are we going to stop the wolves” question. And there is no one answer in the end that they come out of, every character is affected differently by the situation they are presented and that leads differently to their fate. It makes each death a little more meaningful than in a lot of strict action films.

And now for the man of the hour: Liam Neeson. In the summer there was word that this was a performance from Neeson that if it had come out in 2011 could have garnered him some award attention. Clearly that didn’t happen but the hype is justified, maybe not enough to have really challenge any of the nominees from this past year, but it is a very solid performance from an actor who has had quite the career resurgence in the last coupe of years. He demands the attention of the audience and his fellow characters when it would be easy to slip into a state of panic and fear, but then he’ll show his own side of fear and loss that can rock you. This isn’t like “Taken”, a solid performance, but secondary to the joy of seeing someone like Neeson just kick some serious ass, this is a performance that demands more than just the physical ability, and Neeson pulls it off extremely well.

However there are things that just keep this movie from really doing it for me. If you’ve seen the trailer I’m sure you remember the shot where Liam Neeson is under the covers with a woman, his wife, and then she is pulled back and Neeson wakes up in the snow after the plane crash. I personally loved that shot, however it isn’t the first time in the film that shot, or something very similar, is used and so right away the uniqueness of that shot it taken away. Also, again regarding his wife, that part of the story line is entirely predictable, which then makes the ending a little less impactful. Then we get to the wolves, which I found more of a threat when they were just howling in the woods then when they actually attack. It could have been really interesting if they took the “Jaws” approach and went with the unseen terror; because when they actually attack it’s just a big black/grey furry blob taking up the screen.

Still the movie comes out as a good one for me, a film that isn’t afraid to go into more thought provoking areas rather than just your typical action film. That may do it for you or not, as I can see this going down as a film with a lot of detractors and some very passionate followers as well. It reminds though of my experience with “The Tree of Life”, it was a film I was middle of the road on, and I found myself somewhere along those lines again, but the fact that we didn’t have an hour of celestial majesty put it more on the positive side without question.