Thursday, January 25, 2007

Friday Five: Laughter

In the spirit of expanding my blog to subjects outside of media, these are five things that always make me laugh.

  1. Playing in the snow
  2. NBC's Thursday night lineup: My Name is Earl, The Office, Scrubs, 30 Rock
  3. Tabooisms - remembering old ones or creating new ones during a game of Taboo
  4. Jon Stewart's Bush impersonation, specifically the chuckle
  5. Brandon's giggle. Very few of you know him, but he has this loud, high pitched and unique giggle for a laugh.
I watched the movie The Illusionist last night. Skip it! Jaime fell asleep while we were watching it, and I wanted to turn it off. I kept hoping it would get better. Edward Norton is in it. The story wasn't good, and if it was supposed to be suspenseful and shocking, they failed miserably. And if it that wasn't the point, then why make the movie? If you want to watch a magician movie, choose The Prestige and watch Wolverine and Batman fight it out.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Oscar Shockers

The Oscar nominations were announced today, and there were some shockers! By now you've guessed that I love movies, so I'm going to comment on the main categories.

1. Best Picture: “Babel,” “The Departed,” “Letters From Iwo Jima,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Queen.”

SHOCKER: Omission of Dreamgirls. I haven't gotten around the seeing this, but if you read Rachel's blog, she loved Dreamgirls. She's into movies and the Oscars as much as me. Dreamgirls was "the movie to beat" before it was even released, and that probably contributed to it's "downfall." Many of the critics raved about it, but there was a lot of negative written about it, mainly that it's all show and no heart, hallow beneath all the beauty. Haven't seen it myself.

2. Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, “Blood Diamond”; Ryan Gosling, “Half Nelson”; Peter O’Toole, “Venus”; Will Smith, “The Pursuit of Happyness”; Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland.” Whitaker has been winning everything.

SHOCKER. None. This field shaped up as expected. No one knew if Leo would get nominated for Diamond or the Departed. He was great in the Departed, and I guess better in Diamond. I am so excited Ryan Gosling was nominated! He received critical acclaim before, but this is his first nomination. He was great in Half Nelson. Most of you know him from The Notebook.

3. Actress: Penelope Cruz, “Volver”; Judi Dench, “Notes on a Scandal”; Helen Mirren, “The Queen”; Meryl Streep, “The Devil Wears Prada”; Kate Winslet, “Little Children.”

SHOCKER. None. This field has been locked for a while. Helen Mirren has been winning everything in sight, and it will be a HUGE upset if she loses.

4. Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”; Jackie Earle Haley, “Little Children”; Djimon Hounsou, “Blood Diamond”; Eddie Murphy, “Dreamgirls”; Mark Wahlberg, “The Departed.”

SHOCKER. Where's Jack Nicholson? Mark Wahlberg stole every scene he was in in the Departed, but everyone expected Jack to get a nom. A lot of critics thought he went over the top as the movie progressed, and I agree with them, but he's still Jack.

5. Supporting Actress: Adriana Barraza, “Babel”; Cate Blanchett, “Notes on a Scandal”; Abigail Breslin, “Little Miss Sunshine”; Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls”; Rinko Kikuchi, “Babel.”

SHOCKER. None. Glad Abigail was nominated. She was the heart of LMS. This is Jennifer Hudson's to lose.

6. Directing: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, “Babel”; Martin Scorsese, “The Departed”; Clint Eastwood,H “Letters From Iwo Jima”; Stephen Frears, “The Queen”; Paul Greengrass, “United 93.”

SHOCKER. Paul Greengrass! United 93 has been showing up on all the critics lists, and won many awards from critic groups, but hasn't received any award love. I did not want to watch this movie, but I did and it was good, although chilling and difficult to watch. The decision to make it like a documentary using mostly unknown actors and some of the real people involved was the right choice. Paul directed Bloody Sunday and the Bourne Supremacy.

7. Foreign Language Film: “After the Wedding,” Denmark; “Days of Glory (Indigenes),” Algeria; “The Lives of Others,” Germany; “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Mexico; “Water,” Canada.

SHOCKER. Volver by Pedro didn't make the cut! He has won this category before and has won Best Original Screenplay as well, and Penelope Cruz was a best actress nom for his movie, so this is a surprise. Pan's Labrynth is one of the best reviewed films of the year, so go see it.

10. Animated Feature Film: “Cars,” “Happy Feet,” “Monster House.”

SHOCKER. I guess you could include Monster House as the surprise nom, but it's the only one I've seen and I liked it. Cars or Happy Feet are going to win anyway. Monster House had an interesting backstory (something about Spielberg giving a nobody director right out of college the job or something like that) and Maggie Gyllenhaal voiced a character, so it was a no-brainer for me.

So that is what I think about the big Oscar categories. The Dreamgirs omission is still shocking. It was a victim of it's own hype. And Letters from Iwo Jima got a lot of love, pitting Scorsese against Eastwood, again. Everyone thought this would be Scorsese's year. Leading up to the nominations, Eastwood hasn't won or been nominated for much. But the Academy loves him. I would like to see Iwo Jima because I found fault with the Departed, even though I liked it very much. I need to see that and the Queen to see all five Best Picture nominees. Right now the Queen isn't playing here but should get a wider release.

One of these days I'll write a more personal post, you know, with information about my life.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Friday Five

My goal is to post a Friday Five list every week. Today I'm starting with the five best documentaries I saw in 2006. If you don't watch documentaries, you are missing some of the best movies every year. I just recently started watching documentaries on a regular basis, and I wish I had started sooner. It was hard to trim my list to just five, but here goes.

  1. Grizzly Man. Fascinating is the best word to describe this movie. It's about a man that devoted his life to studying bears, believing that they are misunderstood by the human world. He lives with the bears every summer and this movie uses his own footage to chronicle his life until he is mauled to death. Fascinating.
  2. Devil's Playground. I wrote a whole post about this movie and how it examines the period in the lives of Amish teenagers when they leave Amish customs behind and behave like normal teenagers.
  3. Murder on a Sunday Morning. This doc won the 2001 Oscar for it's portrayal of a murder case involving racial profiling and ridiculous police brutality and corruption.
  4. Murderball. Rugby-playing quadriplegics compete for Gold in the Paralympic Games in Athens. Really, that should be enough. Add double crossing coaches and other conflict, and you've got yourself an interesting movie.
  5. Mad Hot Ballroom. Competitive ballroom dancing in the New York public schools. Awesome! Watching these kids dance the rumba, tango, foxtrot, etc. is super entertaining. And pretty darn impressive.
That's my list. Grizzly Bear is by far the best documentary I saw last year, probably one of the best movies. But I bet you would enjoy any of these docs if you gave them a chance. They are all on Netflix. Grizzly Bear has aired on cable as well. I always think I'll be bored by a documentary, but that has never happened, even though I have been bored by a feature film. If you've only see March of the Penguins, Super Size Me, Fahrenheit 911, try one of these less mainstream, but equally good and usually better documentaries.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

2006: Books in Review

These are the best books I read last year, in no particular order. As many of you know, I don't remember many details about the books I read, but I'll try to give a brief description of the book and why I liked it.
  • Kite Runner by Khaled Hossein - Set in Afghanistan after Taliban rule, this book tells the story of the friendship between two boys. Simple description that doesn't do the book justice. I hear it's being made into a movie directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Stranger than Fiction). This was the first book I read in 2006, and though I don't remember much about it, I really liked it.

  • Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner - I kept hearing all these references to Lauren Winner in Christian circles, so when I traveled to Denver for work via car, I took this book along. It's a memoir about the spiritual journey of a girl that became an Orthodox Jew, but was drawn to Christianity and eventually converted. I remember reading this book and thinking how nice it was to read something by someone who talks like me or whose language I can relate to.

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - This is a story about Dracula that weaves together three different story lines. It was suspenseful and interesting and built up to the discovery of Dracula, which was kind of anti climatic. I still loved the book.

  • Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller - I can't believe I'd never read this book. Another spiritual journey story. I remember talking to a student from Tech that was a Leadership Camps counselor about her experience as a Christian on a state campus. Her experiences were completely different than mine, where faith and spirituality were all around. Miller's college experience was similar to hers, but more extreme.

  • Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosse - I wrote a whole post about this book, so I won't say much else. But any book that makes you want to change your behavior, even if it doesn't happen easily, is a good book.
Sorry if these best-of lists are boring for you. I've been reading so many of them lately, it's like I think in lists. I'll make a movie best-of list later.