Monday, January 26, 2009

Review: Slumdog Millionaire

Grade: C-

Slumdog Millionaire, the movie that has been winning critic and audience praise, sweeping awards shows and is off to the Oscars where it could be labeled as the best movie of 2008. I feel so alone. Am I the only one that didn’t find this movie all that impressive? Is the story of Jamal Malik, an unlikely winner of India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Jamal, his brother Samir, and fellow orphan Latika, manage to survive an almost absurd number of scrapes, the memory of each one coincidentally providing Jamal with answers to the game show questions. This movie was unbelievable, and I don’t mean that in a “this movie was so good I can’t believe it” way, I mean it in a “these coincidences are so ridiculous” sort of way.

To start the movie you see Jamal being interrogated by the police on suspicion of cheating on the game show because, as is said numerous times, how could a dog from the slums of Mumbai know the answers to the questions on a game show that doctors and lawyers can’t get as far as he has. Now, by interrogating, I mean torturing, they are beating him up, drowning him in a bucket of water and hooking a car battery to his toes. This is where it started to get weird already, they are torturing him and he doesn’t say anything but after electrocuting him they ask what does a slumdog know and he simply replies “the answers”. So do they do what these men look and sound like they’d do? Do they jolt him again? No. They kindly untie him, sit him in a chair in an office, no longer in the back room, and give him some water and let him explain. WHAT? Why are these officers suddenly so sympathetic? Either way now we begin the redundant formula the whole movie follows of showing their conversation, showing a clip from the show then showing his flashback that always manages to somehow, and usually quite oddly and unbelievably, give him the answer to the question. The sad thing is, and part of the reason I didn’t really care much for this movie, that within the first 10-15 minutes of the movie I knew exactly how the end was going to play out, and I was right.

Also, during these flashbacks there are numerous musical montages, this gets old after the second or third. Also, to add insult to injury, one of the musical montages is set to possibly the most annoying song of 2008, M.I.A’s Paper Planes. The sad thing is it wasn’t even the original M.I.A version, it sounded like they got an Indian woman to sing it and it sounded like she was randomly going from singing in Hindi to English in mid sentence.

The performances in this movie were completely forgettable. Dev Patel, who plays Jamal, seemed so plain and bland, never really showing any emotion and who always had a look on his face like even he can’t believe his own dumb luck. I felt no reason to really care for his character. Freida Pinto, Latika, was forgettable, granted she wasn’t on screen that much but when she was I just couldn’t get behind her performance, again she seemed a little flat. The only believable performance was Bollywood star Anil Kapoor who played the host of the game show.

Finally, the love story, which is supposed to be the center of the film, this was the most unbelievable part of the entire movie. Orphaned Jamal and Samir meet Latika when they are around 6 or 7 and allow Latika to join them, it seems, mostly out of pity. She travels with them for a little while before they lose her trying to escape a man using children to make money. Several years later Jamal manages to find her again and he and Samir save her from a prostitution ring, only for Samir to turn to a life of crime that night and Jamal looses Latika again. Then, again, years later, Jamal finds out that Latika is part of a harem belonging to a gangster his brother works for, he sees her briefly one day and promises to wait for her. Samir and some gangsters take her and they all disappear, this is when Jamal gets the idea to go on the game show in hopes that she will see him. I’m sorry, but not one bit of this seemed realistic to me. The only time Jamal ever spent any time with Latika, they were 6 or 7, I’m sorry but nobody meets their soul mate, or even knows what a soul mate is, at that age. I find it impossible that he would love her as much as he seems to think he does. I don’t feel like he even knows who she is. People change a lot under normal circumstances over that period of time, she experienced severe trauma over those years, there is no way that she is the same person that he met when he was 6. The whole love story was completely implausible.

Now, I’m not saying that this was a bad movie I’m just saying that it wasn’t that good and, in my opinion, absolutely does not warrant all the awards it’s being nominated for and wining. The movie, at times, did look very good and and had a fast tempo with some great music that was a great homage to Bollywood movies including, the best part of the movie, the dance sequence that played during the end credits. This movie was a very ambitious attempt by Danny Boyle but I feel he should stick to his strong suits and keep making Sci-Fi movies like Sunshine.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

81st Annual Academy Awards

The 81st Annual Academy Awards are coming up and I thought I’d share my thoughts on the matter of my predictions, who I think should win and who, if anybody, got snubbed for the category.

Actor In A Leading Role

Nominees: Richard Jenkins: The Visitor, Frank Langella: Frost/Nixon, Sean Penn: Milk, Brad Pitt: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Mickey Rourke: The Wrestler.

My Prediction: Mickey Rourke: The Wrestler

Who Should Win: This is a tough decision to make, all of these performances were excellent and top notch. Richard Jenkins was touching in The Visitor. Frank Langella was excellent as Richard Nixon, Sean Penn was inspirational in Milk, Brad Pitt was fantastic as Benjamin Button and Rourke gave an amazing performance in The Wrestler. I feel that the person who most deserves it is, in a very close decision for me, Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler. This truly is a comeback performance about a man trying to make a comeback. He was moving and magnificent in this movie.

Snubs: Even though he was nominated for supporting actor, I feel Philip Seymour Hoffman should have been nominated for Lead Actor for his performance in Doubt. The movie centers around his character. Robert Downey Jr.: Iron Man.

Actor In A Supporting Role

Nominees: Josh Brolin: Milk, Robert Downey Jr.: Tropic Thunder, Philip Seymour Hoffman: Doubt, Heath Ledger: The Dark Knight, Michael Shannon: Revolutionary Road.

My Prediction: Heath Ledger: The Dark Knight

Who Should Win: While Heath Ledger’s performance was amazing and he deserves it for the interrogation scene alone in Dark Knight, I feel him winning it will be mostly because he died shortly after filming it. I feel that Robert Downey Jr. Gave an absolutely amazing performance, he’s an American actor playing an Australian actor playing a black Vietnam American soldier. Simply brilliant.

Snubs: Take your pick, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell and Kevin Bacon in Frost/Nixon, all were fantastic. Oh, and I can’t forget Tom Cruise’s amazing performance in Tropic Thunder. Lastly, but certainly not least, James Franco in either Pineapple Express or Milk, both performances were amazing.

Actress In A Leading Role

Nominees: Anne Hathaway: Rachel Getting Married, Angelina Jolie: The Changeling, Melissa Leo: Frozen River, Meryl Streep: Doubt, Kate Winslet: The Reader.

My Prediction: Kate Winslet: The Reader.

Who Should Win: Meryl Streep gave an absolutely amazing performance as a woman who strongly believes her instincts and tries to fight a world and organization run by men in Doubt.

Snubs: Cate Blanchett was great in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.

Actress In A Supporting Role

Nominees: Amy Adams: Doubt, Penelope Cruz: Vicky Christina Barcelona, Viola Davis: Doubt, Taraji P. Henson: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Marisa Tomei: The Wrestler.

My Prediction: Taraji P. Henson: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Who Should Win: Taraji P. Henson was very touching and gave such an emotional performance as Benjamin Button’s adoptive mother. Really truly amazing.

Snubs: Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man

Animated Feature Film

Nominees: Bolt, Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E

My Prediction: Wall-E

Who Should Win: Wall-E was so good that I would almost say it should be nominated for Best Picture.

Snubs: None

Art Direction

Nominees: Changeling, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Duchess, Revolutionary Road.

My Prediction: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

Who Should Win: Close call on this one too between Benjamin Button and Dark Knight, both were beautiful but I’m gonna say Dark Knight because they had to design the entire city of Gotham, and they did an amazing job.

Snubs: None


Nominees: Changeling, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire.

My Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Who Should Win: The cinematography in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button was so well done that many of the scenes looked like they were filmed in the time period they took place. So very beautifully done.

Snubs: The Spirit looked so artistic.


Nominees: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire

My Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Who Should Win: David Fincher did a perfect job of directing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Snubs: Jon Favreau for Iron Man and Christopher Nolan for Dark Knight.

Documentary Feature

Nominees: The Betrayal, Encounters At The End Of The World, The Garden, Man On Wire, Trouble The Water.

My Prediction: Man On Wire

Who Should Win: Man On Wire was a brilliant and inspirational documentary.

Snubs: Religulous

Film Editing

Nominees: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Slumdog Millionare

My Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Who Should Win: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, the editing was beautiful.

Snubs: None


Nominees: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

My Prediction: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

Who Should Win: The makeup in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button was amazing, just see the movie and you’ll understand.

Snubs: None

Music (Song)

Nominees: “Down To Earth”: Wall-E, “Jai Ho”: Slumdog Millionaire, “O Saya”: Slumdog Millionaire.

My Prediction: “Jai Ho”: Slumdog Millionaire

Who Should Win: “Down To Earth”: Wall-E

Snubs: The biggest snub at the Oscars this year is not nominating “The Wrestler” by Bruce Springsteen for The Wrestler. This song was simply amazing.

Short Film (Animated)

Nominees: La Maison En Pettits Cubes, Lavatory – Lovestory, Oktapodi, Presto, This Way Up
My Prediction: Presto

Who Should Win: Presto is another hit from the great people at Pixar.

Snubs: None

Visual Effects

Nominees: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Iron Man

My Prediction: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

Who Should Win: Tough decision between Benjamin Button and Iron Man but I have to go with Benjamin Button for the amazing effects provided in that movie, they really managed to make a 7 year old look like an 80 year old Brad Pitt. Again, see the movie.

Snubs: None

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Nominees: The Curious Case Of Banjamin Button, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire

My Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Who Should Win: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. I was really nervous about them adapting a short story into a three hour movie but they did, and the outcome was amazing.

Snubs: Iron Man, Dark Knight.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Nominees: Frozen River, Happy Go Lucky, In Bruges, Milk, Wall-E

My Prediction: Happy Go Lucky

Who Should Win: In Bruges was an amazing movie, extremely well written.

Snubs: None

Best Picture

Nominees: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire.

My Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Who Should Win: Most of these movies were great but in my opinion The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button was an amazing movie, absolutely perfect.

Snubs: (After seeing Slumdog Millionaire)The Wrestler, Doubt, Gran Torino, The Dark Knight, Wall-E, In Bruges, Run Fatboy Run, Choke, W., Changeling, Iron Man, Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, Burn After Reading, Synecdoche New York.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Review: Gran Torino

Grade: A

Went to see this movie the other day not knowing much about it other than Clint Eastwood was in it and it had something to do with a car. I decided to see it because I like Clint Eastwood for the most part and kept hearing it was good. This movie is one of those instances though that the trailer for it doesn't accurately advertise the movie. The trailer made this movie look like a super serious movie about a man waring with his neighbors, because he's racist, and a local gang. Not quite the case.

To start, the first scene is at a funeral for Clint Eastwood's character, Walt, wife. So now he is alone and, yes, angry at the world. He barely knows sons and their families. He sees his grandchildren as disrespectful, which they are, one shows up to the funeral in a football jersey, the girl shows up in a belly shirt and a short skirt, and another is cracking jokes throughout the funeral. Then a family of Koreans move in next door, which Walt is none too thrilled about because yes, he is a bit racist and he fought in the Korean War. In that family there is a relativly young boy names Tao. Tao's cousin is in a gang and keeps trying to get Tao to "man up" by joining the gang. First they try to have Tao steel Walt's '72 Gran Torino, but Walt catches him in the act. Then the gang tries to get Tao to join the gang again and a fight breaks out at which point Walt runs outside with his rifle out yelling for everybody to get off his lawn. The family thanks him for "saving them and Tao", then Tao's mother makes him work for Walt in order to appologize for trying to steal his car.

This is where the movie really gets interesting. Walt begins to bond with the boy and, in turn, with Tao's family. The suprising thing is that this movie is really funny. Walt isn't being racist in the sense that he really hates these people and wants them gone, he just is used to the racial slurs he picked up fighting the war, which he uses all throughout the movie even to their faces. Great thing is they don't seem to care and still befriend him.

This movie is actually really kind of sweet and funny and inspirational. A fantastic, and perfect in it's own way, role for Clint Eastwood to finish off a magnificent career. This movie is a great way for an amazing actor to leave the business. This movie is probably now one of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies, if not just my favorite. Great movie for all to see.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Review: Milk

Grade: A

I was looking forward to seeing this movie. I had heard stories about Harvey Milk and with the current situation in California over Prop 8, it was about time someone came made a movie like this, maybe a little too late in my opinion. I would like to state that this will not be a normal review. I am going to mix my feelings about the movie in with my feelings about the issues it brings up. If you see or have seen this movie maybe you felt the same way I did and will understand.

For those who don't know, Milk is a movie about gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk. The movie takes place in the 70's in San Francisco California. The majority of the movie involves Harvey Milk, after being elected to supervisor, trying to pass a gay rights law banning businesses and housing from denying people based on sexual orientation and trying to defeat a bill that would fire all homosexual teachers, Prop 6. The cast was absolutely phenomenal. Sean Penn was perfect as the title character Harvey Milk, portraying his characteristics to perfection. James Franco gives another amazing performance as Harvey Milk's lover Scott Smith, it's roles like this and his diverse role in Pineapple Express that proves he will become one of the great actors of our day. Emile Hirsch, who played Cleve Jones, a young man who helped Harvey in his campaigns, was fantastic. James Brolin was excellent as Supervisor Dan White, who killed the mayor and Harvey Milk.

This movie was beautifully done and I have never experienced anything like it. I say that because I have seen movies like Remember the Titans and all movies like it, movies that take place in the 50's 60's and 70's that revolve around racism and haven't really been moved because, in my opinion (and especially after this recent election, I know this will upset some people), racism is dead. YES, there are still a few bad apples out there, and there always will be. In my opinion the only things keeping racism alive today is stuff like affirmative action. Anyway, as I watched Milk I had to restrain myself several times from stand up and yelling at the screen. I have never had a movie make me so angry but in such a good way. Why did this movie upset me so much? Because it absolutely disgusts me that our society, in regards to gay rights, is right back in the 70's. Gay rights haven't improved much if at all since the 70's and we are regressing as well. What's worse is that the argument against gay rights is EXACTLY the same as it was back in the 70's. "Homosexuals are all perverts" "if we give any rights to homosexuals we then will have to give rights to pedophiles, bestiality, thieves, rapist etc.." "Homosexuality is a disease" and my favorite from the people who say they love all and teach tolerance "the bible says so". Seriously WHAT THE HELL!!! During all the debates in the movie, the video clips of disgusting people like Anita Bryant and Rich Stokes, I wanted to stand up on my chair and yell out "GO TO HELL!", just as I do when I watch George W. Bush speak, and all people in support of Prop 8 in California. It just disgusts me that since the civil rights movements and feminist movements in the 60's and 70's that black people and women are now presented as equal people so much as this year we have a black president, almost had a woman president and a woman vice president, but as I said, Gay Rights still don't exist. And once again I have to ask the question, Why does it seem like nobody cares. Almost 2 months ago there was a march on the capital downtown against prop 8, I was there, there were a few hundred people there but nowhere near enough for anybody to care, it wasn't even a news item. Gay people need another Harvey Milk, they need someone to lead them, to rally them, to help aim their anger. Since Harvey Milk I don't think there's been a major political leader for gay rights.

Anyway, Milk is a must see movie for everybody. It is a beautiful piece of inspiration. Hopefully Harvey Milk will recruit more people with this movie.

"If a bullet shale enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door"
-Harvey Milk

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Review: The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

Grade: A+

The other day I went to go see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button only knowing the length, close to three hours, and the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald that it’s based on. With that knowledge my expectations were not that high, how does one turn a short story into a movie that you could read said story 10 times over while watching, I had a feeling that it was going to be very drawn out and as a result very boring.

Well, I was dead wrong. I will admit, the first 10 minutes is a little slow and doesn’t involve Benjamin at all but is a very interesting story none the less. After that first bit, about a blind man who builds a clock that runs backward, I was hooked. It of course starts with the birth of a very peculiar baby, his mother dies giving birth to him and his father, played by the ever improving Jason Flemyng, seeing what looks like a monster of a baby leaves him on the steps of a nursing home, he is found by a young black woman who works there by the name of Queenie, played by Taraji P. Henson, who decides to take care of a baby that shows physical symptoms similar to those of a man in his 80’s and is close to death. Much to everybody’s surprise the boy lives and begins to grow healthier every year. The movie follows Benjamin’s life as he meets a beautiful girl Daisy, works on a tug boat, helps in WWII on said tug boat, goes home after the war, reconnects with Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett, gets married and has a child. It is a beautiful story well worth watching.

Most of the Story takes place in the beautiful city of New Orleans. It starts 1918 on the day World War One ends, then moves beautifully through the decades. The settings and places are shot beautifully and I loved that the scenes that take place in the first couple decades are shot and edited to look as though it was on old film, very subtly though, you really need to be paying attention to catch it. The visual effects, which there were many of, were beautiful and again so subtle sometimes that you almost couldn’t tell. For instance there is a 10 year old boy, who looks like he’s 75, but also shows the same features as Brad Pitt, this was not done through makeup alone. These effects work so well though that they grip you and truly pull you into the story.

This movie also had some of the finest acting in a movie I have ever seen. Brad Pitt as the title character of Benjamin Button was simply amazing. This is one of the roles he will forever be known for. So beautifully pulling off the physical movements of an elderly man who also has the mentality of a man in his prime. Cate Blanchett was fantastic as the beautiful Daisy. The performance, outside of Brad Pitt’s, that blew me away was Taraji P. Henson as Benjamin’s adoptive mother Queenie. She was superb as the very kind, caring and sweet young woman who works at a nursing home and raises Benjamin. Jason Flemyng was excellent as Thomas Button, Benjamin’s real father. Mahershalalhashbaz Ali was great as the traveling bushman Tizzy. Tilda Swinton was great as Elizabeth Abbott, a woman Benjamin meets and falls in love with while in Russia. Last, but certainly not least, Jarred Harris was fantastic as the out spoken tugboat captain, Captain Mike, who helps Benjamin come of age, so to speak.

When you combine the excellent directing by David Fincher, an amazing story and script, superb acting from a great cast and beautiful visual effects you get the best movie to come out in years and a movie that, in my opinion, will be listed as one of the great classics of all time on the level with Gone With The Wind and Casablanca. This movie is a must see for all movie fans and non movie fans alike

As a P.S. I would like to change my pick for best Drama in my best of ’08 blog to The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button for all reasons stated above.