Archive for the ‘Just so you know…’ Category
In an effort to provide a useful ratings system that is easy to understand, but also customized to adhere to the core values that we at Movie-Thoughts share, we want everyone to know that we will no longer be evaluating movies on a spectrum between good and bad.
As a way of equalizing our attitudes toward various film cultures, reviews will henceforth be graded on a scale from interesting to uninteresting. Therefore, an “A” grade will be given to films the reviewer deems utterly fascinating, a “C” grade for films deemed interesting in only some respects, and so on.
We firmly believe that no two movies can be reviewed the exact same way. Doing so is not only unfair, but makes each new review more predictable, as well as less fun and interesting to read. However, we also understand that having a straight-forward and reliable ratings system allows our readers to have an idea of what to expect from us.
The shift to this new scale is an important step towards both limiting the cultural biases of reviewers for the sake of stronger analyses, and limiting the potential for ostracizing disagreeing readers with the inherently heightened subjectivity of more colorful, entertainment-driven reviews. But also, we figure that the worst thing a movie could really be, at the end of the day, is uninteresting. Because even if a movie is decidedly OK, it isn’t as culturally valuable as, say, a movie that gets re-watched over and over for how amusingly bad it is.
Although we like to think that good movies are remembered automatically and bad movies are not, it is really only the most interesting movies that are remembered – good or bad. And since each culture finds different movies worth remembering, it is a worthier effort to try to figure out how interesting each new movie should be considered.
So if what you are looking for is the most relevant and practical movie commentary on the internet, look no further.
It’s that time of year again – time to predict who will win the ultimate Hollywood prize at the grandest award show in the world. The 85th Academy Awards are going to be a place where young careers get made, long careers get rewarded, and viewers get incensed that their favorites didn’t win. We’ll get ready to hear, “I’ve never even heard of that movie,” “How could she win, she didn’t even deserve to be nominated,” and of course the old favorite, “Of course that would win. The Academy doesn’t know what people actually like.”
We must keep in mind two very important things: 1) “The Academy” is not some shadowy panel of a dozen or so anonymous judges, but hundreds of well-known industry participants. 2) The winners are not meant to represent what American culutre’s favorites are. If only box office favorites were ever nominated, we’d have The Avengers going up against The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games – none of which objectively deserve to be called Best Picture.
Figuring out who will win for which category takes a special sense of reasoning. So special, in fact, that all three of our writers – Dan Supanik, Marisa Carpico, and Cliff Bugle – claim to be the only one to have that sense. And yet, they disagree about who will in the six most important categories. Read on to see what the chances are of your favorites winning, and which of them will be left sitting in their seats giving disappointed claps of congratulations.
The other night I sat down to watch a movie that has been (relatively) quietly circulating around critic and horror fan circles. That movie is the Dutch The Human Centipede (First Sequence), written and directed by Tom Six. It is a horror film unlike any other, and I don’t say this lightly. The reason that I consider it particularly unusual is because it was the first film – ever – that I absolutely could not finish watching.
Without giving away too much to those who may be disinterested in viewing or even knowing about such a movie, I will state its premise as such: An evil ex-surgeon abducts three people and grafts them together. For more information I would suggest going to the film’s IMDb or Wikipedia page.
As an aspiring professional film journalist, I am embarrassed to admit such a thing. But as one movie-watcher out of many, I simply mean to acknowledge the power that the medium can have. Everyone is afraid of something, whether it be death, pain, clowns, spiders, being buried alive, or simply being tied up, and so in theory everyone could be confronted with a film that tackles the subject of that fear in a way that would make that film simply unwatchable without negative side-effects occurring (one example would be nightmares).
Even though I was appalled at the film to such an extent that I could not stomach finishing it, I do vow to one day do so. I make this vow out of respect for the film, because while I only saw the first half I was still able to notice how brilliantly it was made – that is, from an artistic standpoint. I believe that a horror film that can affect a seasoned horror movie fan such as myself to such an extent deserves at least some admiration, even though personally I may worry about its maker’s state of mind.
Since I cannot review the film myself just yet, I’d like to point you towards the best one I have yet read. Roger Ebert’s review is characteristically fair-minded, but this one by HorrorSquad.com’s Alison Nastasi delves further into the story’s ideas, themes, and supporting philosophies. She provides perhaps the most studied interpretation of Tom Six’s intentions with the material, going out of her way to cite multiple obscure references. I wouldn’t claim that her views are the “correct” ones, but they encourage us as readers to consider the film from her point of view better than anyone else I’ve found.
Evaluative judgments aside, The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is NOT a film for the faint of heart. Its subject matter is universally considered deplorable and depraved, and if the fact that this film fanatic and horror junkie could not finish it doesn’t say something significant about it then I fail to think of what will. For those wondering, blood and/or gore are extremely scarce and are not the cause of my or others’ intense trepidation. The most frightening ideas are relatively simple, and this movie proves it once again.
We at Movie-Thoughts recently found a fan website for David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. that goes into painstaking detail to interpret the film and its many intricacies. If you’ve ever seen the film, or even just heard about it, you know that it’s not a film that is easy to make heads or tails of. Many who have seen the film, critics included, have been baffled by it since its release in 2001.
Surprisingly, however, a widespread inability to understand the film has not kept it from being enormously liked by critics and audiences alike. It has a rating of 82% on RottenTomatoes.com and 67 on Metacritic, with a consensus being that the movie’s visuals help captivate and intrigue despite the plot and story being “enigmatic.” Many critics have come to regard the film very highly; so much so that Film Comment magazine’s Top 100 Movies of the Decade critics poll has it ranked #1.
The website that we found, Mulholland-Drive.net, has an essay written by a man named Alan Shaw (we had no success in researching exactly who he is) that goes into extreme detail. When we started reading his essay we were absolutely floored. The explanations that Shaw posits may be hard to grasp at first, but they soon become increasingly lucid. The amount of thought he must have put into such ideas had to have exhausted him. His legwork is for our benefit, however, because no other source that we’ve been able to find has provided such interesting, thorough, and thought-provoking material (though the site offers links to other sources for analysis on the film).
Here is a snippet that gives you a sense of what the source provides:
“Throwing caution to the wind, Lynch asks us what would happen if we were not just in one head at a time? What would happen if our complex motivations and conflicted hearts were represented by a cast of personas in conflict with one another, and all struggling for control over the direction that our life will take. If you are willing to think of the main character in Mulholland Drive in this light, and envision her fantasy as a journey to determine the ultimate fate she will face after the fantasy is over, then you begin to understand the enormous trust Lynch puts in his audience. He wants us to take the journey with her, seeing her life through the eyes of multiple personas. And in so doing, Lynch wants us to learn to love her and to be angry with her, to be impressed and unimpressed, to be filled with hope and to be filled with dread. In essence, he wants us to engage her conflict with her, and to come away without any easy answers. And in the end, he wants us to learn some very heart wrenching lessons.”
For those who already love Mulholland Dr. it will enhance the fulfillment you have when watching it (unless you like not being sure of what’s going on), and for those who have been put off or disinterested because of how enigmatic the movie is Shaw’s writings will open your mind in a way that will allow you to begin to actually understand it. We could not recommend this source more highly.
If you know of a great source for in-depth thought on a film, share it with the world by telling us about it! Let us know what it is and where to find it and we’ll pass it along to all the rest of our readers. You can contact us via our Contact page, email at Clifford@Movie-Thoughts.com, or Twitter @MovieThoughts09.
According to Pamela McClintock of Variety.com the “specialty sector”, or independent film market, has received a recent boost in box-office grosses thanks to releases like Mark and Jay Duplass’ Cyrus starring Jonah Hill, John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, and Catherine Keener, a documentary that follows the raising of several children from all over the world titled Babies, as we as several others.
President of Fox Searchlight Steve Gilula says that the recent (relative) success of these independent films are indicative that there “is life in the [indie] market, even as audiences are being more selective.” Some other examples of these films include City Island, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
These indie successes hope to continue their theatrical and VOD runs, because as with any film the longer the run the more money they make. However, with word of mouth being the primary propellant of their runs such success is almost completely reliant on audience buzz, which is means these films’ futures are harder to predict than most.
One aspect that’s being tentatively attributed to these films’ financial achievements is how there are fewer large-market films being released during the Spring and early Summer months. Also consider the recent Warner Bros. flop Jonah Hex, for example, and it can be said that independent films have had less competition than usual.
The momentum that the “specialty sector” is building right now will be important for the current releases in creating Oscar buzz come Fall and Winter, as well as help later indie releases like Bill Murray and Robert Duvall’s Get Low, which will open July 30th, to do the same by holding the attention of audiences who may become distracted by bigger films such as Inception, Predators, Twilight: Eclipse, Salt, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and Tron.
The brand new Orlando amusement park – which reportedly cost $265 million to build – based off of the Harry Potter books and movies has opened to rave reviews from Potter fans around the globe. A fully immersive park all on its own, though technically attached to the Universal Studios park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter contains rides, restaurants, and enough site-seeing to make you believe you’re actually in the stories. You can hear Moaning Myrtle in the restrooms, visit Dumbledore’s office, drink pumpkin juice and butterbeer (the recipes of which were approved by J.K. Rowling), and see a quidditch match. You can even visit gift shops where if you’re looking to pick out a wand, a wand will pick you!
Let Daniel Radcliffe and MTV take you on a tour of the park here.
Watch a video documenting the grand opening of the park here.
The Gainesville Sun, of Gainesville FL, published in today’s paper their list of the Top 10 features of the new park. Here is a sampling of what they had to say (we wont spoil the rankings).
“Hogwarts: Trademark castle houses the new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride and an elaborate queue with tons of detailing. Watch for the Mirror of Erised, Dumbledore’s office, living portraits, mandrakes, the Dark Arts classroom, levitating candles and more, all before taking off on the ride’s ‘enchanted benches.’ “
“Live entertainment: Expect regular performances by the Frog Chorus (an a cappella quartet plus two amphibians) as well as physical demonstrations by the contrasting styles of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic (dancing with ribbons) and Durmstrung Institute (very serious acrobatics and weaponry).”
For fans of Harry Potter it appears that The Wizarding World is just as wonderful as you could have hoped. Elements from both the books and the movies can be found, which bring to life one of the most successful entertainment franchises in history. If any of you readers out there get a chance to visit the park, drop us a line and tell us about your trip. We’d love to hear all about your experiences!
Interesting Factoid: The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has publicly expressed his displeasure about the fact that the Harry Potter park was built in the United States as opposed to England.
“I want to know why this Kingdom of Potter is not being built in the UK, and I won’t be fobbed off with any nonsense about the weather. They built Eurodisney in the Valley of the Marne, where it is at least as cold and drizzly as it is in London â€“ and it has been a triumphant success”
I suppose it’s understandable that a number of Brits would have preferred the park be built in England because the character of Harry Potter is such a huge British icon, but calling Eurodisney a “triumphant success” just makes you sound crazy. The climate was no doubt a very big factor in the decision to build the park in Florida – a state which houses the most financially successful and well-attended amusement parks in the world. The Wizarding World in London would have made logical sense yes, but let’s be reasonable.
ComingSoon.net recently conducted an interview with Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla Anderson. Unkrich has been the co-director for Toy Story 2, Monster’s Inc., and Finding Nemo and has been part of Pixar’s creative team since the company’s beginning, which was why he was given the job of directing the Oscar-winning and highly prestigious studio’s first “threequel.”
In the interview Unkrich and Anderson reveal some interesting tidbits about how Toy Story 3 got off the ground, and how the creative minds behind it were able to make it happen.
For starters, Unkrich and a few others tried getting the film started back when Toy Story 2 was released, ready to continue on to another story involving the characters they grew to love. However, legal troubles with Disney kept the film from being made and so the studio was forced to put the idea of a third movie on the back burner. When Disney eventually bought Pixar, the red tape was finally removed and the studio was free to pursue the project head-on.
Michael Arndt, who wrote the script for the film, was met by Unkrich and the others at Pixar after they looked at a copy of the screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine. They liked his work for that movie so much they immediately wanted to get in touch with him in order to maybe start working together. Later that same year Arndt was awarded an Oscar for Best Screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine, which helped give the studio more confidence that they were working with the right guy.
The interview covers a dozen other issues like these, which help paint Pixar as a company that redefines the word “harmony” when it comes to how its creative teams work together to create such memorable films. Definitely a good read for those of you looking forward to Toy Story 3 opening this weekend.
For those of you who are into filmmaking, or are even in the filmmaking business, the latest edition of MovieMaker magazine (issue 86, vol. 17) contains a bit of information that should be fairly useful. That information is advice given by legendary horror director George A. Romero that comes from lessons he has learned over a 40 year career. The relevance of his words come from him recently releasing his newest film Survival of the Dead, which you can view via pay-per-view and video on demand, as well as at theaters in select cities.
His advice is split up into 10 tips that are applicable to anyone who is or is looking to be a director of movies. Here is a taste.
1. SHOW, DON’T TELL – “First drafts of my earliest screenplays always came in at 300-plus pages. I used to think that a thought unwritten was a thought lost. I learned that new and better thoughts come once you’ve had a chance to think about what you’ve written and then – rewrite. My producing partner, a wonderful editor, taught me that thoughts on the page should be precise and well contemplated, or they wind up wasting time and money.”
3. KNOW AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ABOUT EVERY CREW MEMBER’S SPECIALTY – “You will better appreciate a good job, and you won’t be ripped off by a DP [director of photography] who requisitions an outrageously expensive equipment package.”
9. COLLABORATE, DON’T DICTATE – Every department head has something to offer. Listen and gratefully accept their offerings. They’re moviemakers, too.”
For the full list of Romero’s tips, click here.
We here at Movie-Thoughts try to find interesting views on anything movie-related, scouting magazines, web pages, newspapers, et al, to get judgments and attitudes from varying corners of our culture. Today in the latest (June) edition of The Catholic World Report we came across an article written by Steven D. Greydanus that, in the spirit of Father’s Day (which as a reminder is June 20th), documents the image of American fathers as depicted in Hollywood films over the past 60 years or so.
Mentioning roles from Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in 1962′s To Kill a Mockingbird, to Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965), to Steve Martin in the remake of Father of the Bride (1991), to Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happiness (2006), to Christian Bale in the remake of 3:10 to Yuma (2007), he covers the various depictions of fatherhood as ideal patriarch, pivotal familial figure, impotent supporter, and so on. He even goes on to include in the conversation the depictions of father figures like Mr. Fredrickson in Pixar’s Up (2009).
Depictions of the American father were perhaps never better than with Peck playing Atticus Finch – a widower who despite any possible reservations or grievances about living without a spouse exemplifies the ideal patriarchal figure by being intelligent, morally grounded like no other, nonthreatening by default but firm and steadfast when needed, and self-sacrificing. Conversely, in Father of the Bride (both original and remake) the father is seen as insecure and lacking control of himself as well as others in his family. In 3:10 to Yuma (both original and remake) the father is portrayed as being impotent – meaning he’s unable to provide for his family or sufficiently defend its honor (at the beginning of the films, that is). What all of these depictions do, Greydanus argues – with as various as they’ve become and as unflattering as they can be – is demonstrate not the competence or imperativeness of individual fathers but the importance of the father figure. Whether the father is Atticus Finch, George Banks, Darth Vader, or completely absent, the depicted family dynamic and its accompanying story typically make a case for how influential the paternal role is.
Personally, we found this article to be extremely refreshing. Not just because it didn’t revel in the Father Knows Best personas of yesteryear but because an article like this explicitly stands against the modern-day depictions of the everyday father that you can find on The Simpsons, Family Guy, and yogurt commercials without even having to mention them. With however many sitcoms and commercials that show how overweight, impotent (in all definitions of the word), lazy, and simple-minded fathers supposedly are (which arguably make the case that fathers are by and large ineffectual), it’s nice to be reminded that the real importance of the father figure can always be found in the movies our culture generates. Fathers don’t always know best, but their role helps shape the social fabric of our patriarchal country (for better or worse, depending on your attitude towards the patriarchal arrangement).
Send us your thoughts and opinions on this topic via the comments section of this post or our contact page. We’d love to hear from you!
The Hollywood Reporter has published an interview it conducted with acclaimed director Oliver Stone about his newest movie Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps which will be Stone’s first official entry in the Cannes Film Festival. The longtime director has had several of his films shown at Cannes, but none had so far been in the running for any awards.
The first half of the interview talks about Stone’s involvement with the Cannes festival, the level of which has pretty much been simply showing a film once every several years minus a 20th anniversary showing of Platoon in 2006. The second half of the interview talks about Stone’s intentions behind making a sequel to Wall Street even though the original released back in 1987.
What the director goes on to detail are his research methods and reasoning for releasing the sequel at this point in time. He claims to feel that Wall Street 2 will symbolize a sort of bookend to the original in regards to the recent debauchery and history of the real Wall Street. The first film set things up by showing how out of hand stock market dealing was getting, and this sequel, set to acknowledge the news-breaking happenings on Wall Street over the past two years, will show what can become of such practices.
Through the course of his research, Stone tried his best to talk to banks, trading companies, anyone with inside knowledge that could help make the film more accurate and palpable. He had a good amount of luck, but couldn’t get as much information as he would have liked.
“We got the perspectives of some of the people who bet against, the shorts, some of the bankers who had worked there, we met with people who had worked with the old system and the new system, we met with a few people who worked at Lehman Brothers. Bear Stearns — we met with someone there. We got an overview. But the banks closed their doors, including locations. They did not want us anywhere close.” – HR
We recommend reading the whole interview to find out exactly what Mr. Stone went through to research the film, get it off the ground, and shoot it. For those of you interested in learning more about exactly what has been going wrong on Wall Street the past few years, Wall Street 2 should prove to be at least moderately enlightening. We’ll be sure to keep tabs on the movie and keep you posted. It opens September 24th.