Posts Tagged 'quentin tarantino'

The 2016 Biggie Awards (and My Top 10 & Bottom 5 of 2015)

The 27th Annual Biggie Awards

for achievements in film for the year 2015

2015. Goddamn. “Weird” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

In my view, this was the weakest year overall for movies since 2009, where I only “loved” 14 movies. In 2015, as of this writing, I added 17 films to my Love List. For perspective, since I’ve started tracking these things in 1997, this is only the third year where I didn’t love at least 20 movies. I didn’t love anything in 2015 until early May when Avengers: Age of Ultron opened, and even that was a disappointment compared to its predecessor.

This was not a year like 2000 (Gladiator), 2003 (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) or 2012 (Lincoln) where a single film dominated the year while also facing stiff competition (Gladiator fended off The Patriot, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon AND Traffic, ROTK is the most awarded film in Biggies history, but still had to face Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World AND The Last Samurai– which would have been the Best Picture winner in most other years, while Lincoln had to battle Zero Dark Thirty). The closest comp I can come up with is 2011, when Drive snuck in out of nowhere to take Best Picture in a wide open field. Drive would’ve been crushed had it come out the same year as There Will Be Blood or Titanic, but it happened to arrive in a mediocre year and was able to edge out the victory. Fast forward to now, and I don’t even know if there was a 2015 film as good as Drive. As a result, this is probably the most winnable year in Biggies history for “great but not masterful” movies, which is simultaneously really fun and disappointing by default. As I post this, I honestly haven’t decided what I think the best movie of 2015 was.

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The 2013 Biggie Awards (& My Top 10 of 2012)

The 24th Annual Biggie Awards

aka The Biggies

for achievements in film for the year 2012

I’ll be the first to admit I had unfair expectations for 2012. Given the impressive roster of movies on tap, I predicted as early as April of 2011 that 2012 would be the best year in movies since 2000, which I consider to be the best year for movies in my lifetime. In the end, it wasn’t quite the year I wanted it to be, but it was still quite a year. Actually, by my official tally of new entries on my “Movies I Love” list, this was the best year for movies since 2007. I “loved” 24 movies in 2012 (for comparison, 2000 holds the record with 31). What I liked most about 2012 was that it had a lot of variety, as I think you’ll see reflected here in my nominees.

We’ll get into most of the specific films in the descriptions under each category, but there are a few things I want to mention up front.

Continue reading ‘The 2013 Biggie Awards (& My Top 10 of 2012)’

Review: 85th Academy Awards

olly-moss-oscar-poster

First things first, if you haven’t yet seen that Oscars poster above by Ollie Moss, I insist you click on it and check out the full-sized version. Absolutely amazing. He re-interpreted the Oscar statue to represent every Best Picture winner. Some of them are very clever.

I love watching the Oscars every year, because I love movies more than I love drawing breath. I’m not one of these a-holes who complain about how long the show is every year (because I don’t mind it being long), I don’t overanalyze the host’s performance, and I don’t watch for the fashion (unless someone/something really sticks out, see below). I watch it as a celebration of excellence in movies, and as an aspiring filmmaker, it never fails to inspire me in that regard. That said, I do have thoughts on the show each year, and for the first time on this blog, I thought I’d share those with you. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly of the 85th Academy Awards.

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Mini-Reviews: THE DICTATOR, MEN IN BLACK 3, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN

I don’t have time (of the desire, really) to do full reviews for each of these recent flicks, but I did want to throw my two cents into the fray. Aside from The Avengers, summer 2012 is off to a fairly slow start, both at the box office and from an overall quality standpoint. Let’s hope Ridley Scott can inject some life into June tomorrow (or tonight if you’re gong to a midnight show!).

I went into The Dictator with semi-high hopes, because the trailers and advertising had been really good. I like the fearlessness of Sacha Baron Cohen‘s comedy, and I thought this kind of character perfectly suited his style. While the movie does have several laugh-out-loud scenes, it doesn’t fully come together in the way that Borat did. Unfortunately, aside from Cohen’s Admiral General Aladeen character, there isn’t a whole lot going on here. Thankfully though, Cohen is in almost every scene, so this doesn’t become a glaring issue. My favorite gag is the scene in the helicopter where Aladeen and his associate are taking a tour of New York, and making the middle-aged white American couple across from them go from friendly to uncomfortable to paranoid to fearing for their lives. I won’t spoil it, but suffice to say he somehow manages to make September 11 humor work, something I can’t imagine more than 1 or 2 other comedians even attempting. There are a few funny recurring bits and some good fish out of water jokes once he’s stuck on his own in New York City. I thought Cohen injected some of his own political views (shocker, he’s a lefty!) with the subtlety of Thor‘s hammer (there are a few painfully obvious Bush/Cheney jokes that weren’t funny 5 years ago, let alone now), but at the same time he uses his character to effectively mock Anna Faris‘ activist, all-natural, terrified-to-offend store manager, so there is some balance. To give you a sense of how far Cohen is willing to take some of the jokes, at the end of the film, when he and Faris are married happily ever after, and it’s revealed she’s pregnant with their first child, he asks her, “Are you having a boy or an abortion?” Needless to say, I laughed. Because fuck political correctness.

Continue reading ‘Mini-Reviews: THE DICTATOR, MEN IN BLACK 3, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN’

Rory McIlroy, Whether You Like It Or Not (and other late June randomness!)

Here is the latest trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, and likely the final official trailer for the entire Harry Potter movie franchise.

I dig it. As I’ve said, one of the greatest strengths of the Potter franchise is its consistency. That may also be its downfall. All of the movies are at least okay, most are good or very good, and none of them are anything close to bad (as movies!- you diehards can argue their merit as adaptations of the books elsewhere with someone who gives a shit). However, because they stay within a certain comfort zone and have to exclude or compact a lot of additional character and plot details/depth from the books, none of them have been spectacularly great, either. I’ve never nominated any of them for Best Picture on my own awards, or in any of the other major categories either (director, adapted screenplay, no acting nominations). I’d love for this to be some Return of the King-level, biblically epic finale, but I have literally 10 years’ worth of Harry Potter movies telling me that would be an unrealistic expectation. Nevertheless, I remain hopeful. And let’s face it, with the way 2011 is going, this is the best chance the series has had to crack the end-of-year “best of” lists.

-Another interesting new trailer is the first clip for Moneyball, based on Michael Lewis‘ best-selling book. It stars Brad Pitt, of all people, as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (yes, you read that right). For the non-sports people out there, Moneyball is about how Beane was one of the first executives in baseball to adapt sabermetrics and computer analysis into his player personnel decisions (a common practice now, probably most expertly utilized by Theo Epstein and his team for the Red Sox if I do say so myself), and how his careful attention to minor statistical details allowed the small market, low budget A’s to field a competitive, playoff-bound team at the tail end of the steroids era. It’s a fascinating inside-baseball story. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve always been curious about it. In other words, if I read books at the same frequency I see movies, I’d have read it long ago. The project has a solid cast (Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jonah Hill, and most interestingly former MLB player Royce Clayton making his acting debut playing another real baseball player, Miguel Tejada), but took a long time to come together, because yeah…how do you make a movie about this that more than 50 people will want to see? Whether or not you care about baseball or sports movies in general, there’s only one thing you need to know about this to get your ass in a theater…the script was written by Mothafuckin Aaron Sorkin (he is now elevated above being just Aaron Sorkin). I would watch a movie written by Sorkin if the subject was the forming of a friggin internet company (ba-dum-bum). Moneyball comes out September 23, positioning it as one of the first awards contenders of the year, though I’m not totally convinced this is an awards-bait type movie. I’m very interested to find out. Regardless, I love baseball movies, and I love movies and shows about behind-the-scenes goings on (something Mothafuckin Aaron Sorkin specializes in), so I think it’ll be right up my alley.

-I saw the trailer for Horrible Bosses again in front of Green Lantern. I think the movie has a great [whitewashed] cast and looks really funny, but I can’t get over the logic breakdown with regards to Jennifer Aniston‘s “boss” character. Am I really supposed to believe a guy in his early 30’s is gonna be offended by his superhot female boss constantly making sexual advances at him? That’s every man’s dream! Geez. They better address this conundrum in the movie, cuz right now, I ain’t buyin it. And on the topic of whitewashing (this is going to be a recurring theme going forward, like it or not- I’ve f’n had it with Hollywood’s hypocrisy), it’s worth noting that the only black character we see in the trailer (played by Jamie Foxx) refers to himself as the “murder consultant.” Need I say more?


No! Don’t do that! Get away!
Puh-leeze, bro.

-It’s looking like Quentin Tarantino‘s next movie, Django Unchained, has the potential to be even more badass than Inglourious Basterds (the first film of Tarantino’s that I truly loved). First off all, what a cool premise; Django, a freed slave, teams up with a German bounty hunter to take on an evil plantation owner in order to retrieve his long-lost love, Broomhilda. It was just announced that Jamie Foxx will play Django (awesome!), and we already knew that Basterds Oscar winner Christoph Waltz will play the German bounty hunter, and the villainous plantation owner will be played by none other than Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio’s first major villain role, and it’ll be a Tarantino villain. Holy shit. On top of all that, Tarantino veteran Samuel L. Jackson will also appear, playing the right-hand man to DiCaprio. I’m sorry, but that is one fucking amazing cast. The role of Broomhilda is not yet locked in, but rumors are it may go to Kerry Washington, who I also adore. Tarantino is claiming this will be made in the style of the old Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, a genre that’s always had a huge influence on his style. My friends, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained; one more reason 2012 will be the best year in movie history. Just remember who’s been calling it.

TV Recommendation: If you have Netflix Watch Instantly, I must politely demand that you check out the BBC’s new Sherlock Holmes show, simply called Sherlock. The show debuted last year, and was just 3 episodes, but each episode is close to 90 minutes long, so they’re more like TV-movies than episodes. This iteration stars Benedict Cumberbatch (which may be the most British name in history) as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as John Watson, who in this version is British army doctor who has just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. What’s most interesting about the show is that it takes place in modern day, and it assumes the classic, 19th century Sir Arthur Conan Doyle characters never existed. It’s a very cool way to “reboot” that character on television. Funny enough, Martin Freeman is playing the younger Bilbo in Peter Jackson‘s two Hobbit movies, and Cumberbatch was recently announced as being cast as the voice of the dragon Smaug.

Two of the three episodes were directed by Paul McGuigan, who directed the highly underrated Lucky Number Slevin (as well as the properly rated Push and Wicker Park). His direction and visual style are on point, so the episodes aren’t just movie-length, but they also look as good as a studio movie, too. Though the show is totally unrelated to the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, some of the show’s visual style is certainly reminiscent of the new movie, and the music from the show is heavily influenced by Hans Zimmer‘s fantastic 2009 Holmes score, and I intend both those things as a compliment. The middle episode was just okay, but the first and third parts are excellent. They’re beautifully shot and exquisitely written. I won’t spoil anything, but the way they handle and introduce Holmes’ arch nemesis, Moriarty, is equally great. I can’t recommend this highly enough. Good drama, good detective procedural stuff, great writing, great acting, great filmmaking, and thick British accents. If you’re interested in any of those things, this show is for you.

No word on when we’ll be able to see season 2 in the States (to the best of my knowledge it hasn’t even aired in the UK yet), but I am really excited to see more of this version of these characters.


BAM!

-So the first season of Game of Thrones is over, meaning I have nothing to watch on HBO until the final season of Entourage begins late next month (sorry, I don’t do True Blood). After just 10 episodes, I’d say Game of Thrones easily makes my all-time top 10 favorite TV shows, if I had an official list (I don’t, though the top 3 would be locked in: Star Trek: The Next Generation, The West Wing and 24). I thought it would be really good, and I was excited because it was going to be so ambitious, but I couldn’t have imagined I’d love it as much as I did. Thank god for HBO, because this show could not exist in this form on any other network. They’ve been hit or miss of late (you couldn’t get me to watch Hung with a gun to my head, and Treme just looks utterly boring, unless you live in New Orleans), but GoT was a 3-run homerun. It wasn’t a grand slam, because I’m pissed that the first season was only 10 episodes (but you can understand why, when these 10 shows cost a reported $100 million). I love these characters, and I find this fantasy world fascinating, rich with detail, and full of life. And it’s still obvious they had to leave out a great deal from George R.R. Martin‘s 4 books (though if I’m right, the first season only covers part of 1 book). The only thing I didn’t like about the finale was that it ended on such a huge “Holy shit! Now what!?” cliffhanger. I’m becoming increasingly less and less a fan of cliffhangers as season finales on TV. I’m outright angry that I’ll now have to wait until April 2012 for season 2 to begin (HBO loves a long wait). That said, the books are out there, and because I’m so interested in finding out what happens next (and I want more details about what we’ve already seen), I’m probably gonna end up buying the books sometime soon and diving in, because I refuse to wait 10 months to learn more. If this season doesn’t get nominated for at least a dozen Emmys, the TV Academy is even dumber than the Oscar voters.

-In this space, I was going to do a bit about Shaquille O’Neal‘s retirement, but in the interests of time (I wanted to get this posted by Sunday), it’s getting left out. For now. I was gonna do an entire post about Shaq, because he was the first professional athlete I was ever a true fan of, and if not for him, I might not be as big a sports fan as I am today. Maybe I’ll get to a Shaq retrospective at some point, but for now, thank you Shaq, for making me an NBA fan, which eventually allowed me to become a fan of the NFL and MLB. It’s just a shame you couldn’t stay healthy when you were finally on my home team. Despite that, it was cool to see you in Celtic green, even if it didn’t happen til you were 39. The game will not be the same without you. With the loss of Shaq, that leaves 2 or 3 true centers left in the NBA. In Shaq’s glory days, we had Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, and Alonzo Mourning (when he was healthy) all clashing with each other. It was the pinnacle of big man play. Now, the utterly skill-less Dwight Howard is considered the “best” center in the league. Ugh. I miss the NBA from 1994-2000. I miss real centers (6-11 or taller big men with skill, athleticism and strength).

Rory McIlroy, an unassuming 22-year old from Northern Ireland, is golf’s new superstar, whether you like it or not, whether it’s actually true or not. This is the power of the media in 2011. The reason is because he blew away the competition this past weekend to win his first major, this year’s U.S. Open. He did so by leading wire-to-wire and winning with a U.S. Open record final score 16-under par and an Open record score of 268. The national sports media, lacking someone to idolize now that Tiger Woods‘ career is stalled by injury, age and personal matters, has been begging for years for “The Next Tiger”, or at the very least for someone to consistently challenge Tiger at the major championship tournaments. When Tiger isn’t winning, they turn their focus to Phil Mickelson, but Mickelson is hit or miss during most majors, and he and Tiger are rarely great at the same tournament. Also, for the casual fan, when Tiger isn’t doing well, golf just isn’t that interesting. Thus, the sport (and all its well-to-do writers) needs another player who is good enough consistently enough to draw attention to the sport, and viewers to the TV ratings. Many of these people believe McIlroy is that player.

I agree that golf needs a new star, or at least a backup star for when Tiger is out of action for extended periods of time (aka right now). My problem is how quickly and unanimously the sports media has leaped onto this McIlroy bandwagon. They want a new star so badly that the first guy who showed any kind of legitimacy is being handed the throne in Tiger’s absence. I say it’s too soon. And I’ve always hated when everyone in the media thought the same thing. There’s just something inherently wrong with that. And I looked. There’s hardly anyone brave enough to cast any serious doubt.

This reminds me of how the media spent a decade desperately trying to find “The Next Michael Jordan“. How many guys did they give that label to? At least 10? And how did that turn out for Isaiah Rider, Anfernee Hardaway, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Harold “Baby Jordan” Miner? The closest we ever got is Kobe Bryant, and I think the Jordan vs. Kobe debate is a legitimate one. The point is that it’s not good enough that a player be extremely talented. He has to also win. A lot. That’s what sets Jordan and Tiger (and yes, Kobe) apart. What also sets them apart is an unrivaled competitive drive.

This is also akin to what Hollywood has been doing for the last 10-15 years, trying to force new “movie stars” on us (i.e. Ben Affleck, Colin Farrell, Orlando Bloom, and now guys like Sam Worthington, Bradley Cooper and Robert Pattinson), instead of letting it happen naturally. They don’t realize that audiences make movie stars, not casting directors or producers. It’s very similar in sports, where stars are made with a combination of skill, winning and fan adoration. You can’t just tell us Rory McIlroy is The Man. He has to earn it.

And please, while you’re at it, name the last non-American athlete who was truly a superstar in America. If we still don’t care about David Beckham, why is a 22-year old Irish kid gonna capture the hearts of Americans? As far as mass appeal goes in sports, Americans generally love Americans. I could personally list about 5 non-American athletes I greatly respect and admire (Roger Federer for one), but for Joe ‘Podunk’ Smith in Missouri, if it ain’t Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, he’s not someone worth remembering. Maybe I’ll be wrong about this, but I doubt it. Until then, if McIlroy hasn’t won 5 majors by the time he’s 25, he’s not The Next Tiger Woods.

The good news is McIlroy isn’t buying into his own hype, and I’m certainly not implying he’s cocky, or anything like that. In fact, all signs point to the contrary. This false/premature idolatry, like much of our woe, is the media’s creation. For my money, I hope Tiger was watching the U.S. Open and thinking, “I can’t wait to come back and kick this kid’s ass.”


You ain’t Tiger, bro.

-I’m starting to get interested in the 2012 election. The Republican field seems to be taking shape, and President Obama has all but jettisoned the idea of getting anything done and is basically in full re-election campaign mode (which is kind of infuriating, isn’t it?). It seems to be true that a new President has about a year and a half to implement policy, then he spends the next year and a half fighting with the opposing party, and spends the final year campaigning for his job. Have I mentioned that the two-party system SUCKS FUCKING HIPPO ASS? Yes, I have, haven’t I?

I’m not particularly enamored with any of the GOP candidates (as always, I need to state that despite my constant railing against liberals and Democrats, I am not a Republican), but I was pulling for Mitt Romney in ’08, and I’m glad he’s the frontrunner now, although obviously it’s still very early. However, most pundits get the sense that Romney will maintain this momentum, and that Michelle Bachmann is likely to be his most formidable challenger. Bachmann seems to carry herself well, but like many of these guys, she’s probably too far to the right for my personal taste, and the attack dogs in the mainstream media will do everything they can to attack her credibility. Though it’s hard to imagine the media hate for her eclipsing what they did (and are still pathetically doing) to Sarah Palin. I don’t get the sense that Jon Huntsman or Tim Pawlenty can set themselves apart (they’re too, how shall we say…vanilla), and Rick Santorum is way too far right for me (basically, if you bring God into 100% of your policy decisions, you’re too far right for me). I continue to admire Ron Paul‘s fighting spirit, but after ’08, it’s clear his libertarianism will not get him the support needed from the GOP base to make any serious headway. He also doesn’t LOOK presidential, does he? President Paul? I don’t think so.

I don’t know if he’s a good enough candidate yet, but nothing would please me more than to see Herman Cain win the nomination and challenge Barack Obama for the presidency. I wonder, will the media cry racism every single time Cain gets criticized? Actually, I don’t wonder at all about that. Of course they won’t. Cain is a great speaker and an energetic presence, but we still have a long way to go. I didn’t officially endorse anybody last time out, but I’d certainly like to be able to strongly believe in a presidential candidate for once. God forbid.

-LAWL! Did you know that President Obama’s position on gay marriage is “evolving”? Sounds deep. In the words of Keanu Reeves…whoa. [Politico]

-Because just about everyone on the internet has weighed in on this, I thought it might be worth a moment to talk about the death of Ryan Dunn, the Jackass star who drove his Porsche while intoxicated at twice the legal limit of Pennsylvania. As a result of his drinking and likely a good amount of stupidity he already had, he crashed the car at such velocity (reportedly he was driving as fast as 140 mph, nearly triple the 55mph speed limit) that it basically disintegrated upon impact with a tree, killing himself and his passenger instantly. And I chose those words on purpose. He didn’t die, he killed himself. It was no accident. When you drink that much and then decide to get into a Porsche, you want to crash. I’m not gonna say he deserved to die, but yeah, better the drunk asshole than an innocent bystander or innocent motorist who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Are you getting the sense that I have no sympathy here? I’m not happy about it, of course, but let’s face it, the man died as he lived. It’s pure luck that it was 3:30am and that he only killed himself and his friend. That’s something to be thankful about.

I also found interesting that Dunn’s fellow Jackass mate and close friend Bam Margera threw a weeping hissyfit once a few people on Twitter pointed out how unsurprised they were by Dunn’s death. He choose to lash out against those people, instead of using his influence among young people and fans of Jackass-like insanity to point out what can happen when you drink and drive, and to actively speak out against it. That was sad.

And now here’s Margera and his mom several years ago predicting Dunn would do this:

-Finally, if you can’t get enough Stanley Cup Bruins porn, check out the 9-minute video in this story of the Bruins visiting Fenway, placing the Cup on the mound and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. [RedSox.com]

Recommended Listening: I know a lot of you don’t share my love for electronic music, but I’m kind of obsessed with this song right now. This is Ron Hagen & Al Exander‘s “Now is the Time (Armin van Buuren Intro Edit)”, and it’s track 1 on Disc 2 of Armin van Buuren‘s A State of Trance 2011 compilation. I love the mood this song creates. It’s got both a sense of longing and regret, but with some hope mixed in as well. In other words, pretty much exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. This is what electronic music does better than just about every other genre, in my view…it encapsulates moods and feelings. That’s what most people who dismiss it don’t understand. Their loss.  Anyway, check it out, brah:  


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