Thursday, February 18, 2016

My Best Picture Pick (2016)

Hopefully this doesn’t come as a big surprise to many. 

I like to go see the movies that seem to be Oscar-worthy. Quality over quantity, waste of time/money/both - whatever you wanna call it: I like good movies. I think the majority of movies that make it to the big screen are shit: shit that somehow is supposed to and often does (sadly) make money.

And then there are movies like Deadpool that prove good movies can do better.

Good Movies
What makes a movie good? In my mind (and Aristotle’s, Robert McKee’s, Syd Field’s):

  • Plot is the most important element.

That means the writing is damn good. You can’t make a good movie from bad writing, says McKee (and you can still make a bad one from good writing). If you want more on plot, read his book “Story” - AKA the Bible of screenwriters.

  • Characters, acting is solid.
We’ve all seen it: good acting vs. bad. Those roles where you lose the actor for the character (Heath Ledger’s Joker, Dustin Hoffman’s Rainman, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper’s Silver Linings, Matt McConnaughey in Buyer’s and True Detective, Marlon Brando’s Godfather, Daniel Day Lewis’s everything - to name a few).

Like that.

  • Cinematography
Lay up on the CGI, show us you know how to use a camera, and do some cool shit that adds to the story and doesn’t take away from it. Sometimes it’s just showing us a new angle on the room, like a good photographer does from the corner of a run-down apartment. Draw emotion from still life; and know how to capture it when it’s going 95 on the freeway.

  • Be original
There are only a few sequels and prequels that really pulled it off: Empire, Toy Story, Godfather (2!), Crusade, and - that’s about it. Do something new.

  • The indescribable
Art is more a feeling than a science. Ask any artist. Ask them the “why” of whatever they are doing: if they are really hitting something, some mystery, they will be more wordless than wordy. There’s a beauty that becomes a wisdom that “knows it doesn’t know”; there’s a catharsis that comes when you just “did good,” and find the audience and yourself with your jaw open at the end, chills down your spine, and the like.

Rather than the whole “throw poop at a canvas and call it art” argument. We know what we are doing, but we don’t.

Don’t expect anyone but the artists to understand that.

You just gotta feel it. And sometimes some will and others won’t. “You can’t please everyone…” - (Lincoln) Art is that objective and subjective thing that philosophers like to debate until Kingdom come.

Make me feel something I ain’t never felt! (That’s what she said.)

  • Tell the truth.
Don’t shy away. Don’t hold back. Set us free, make us uncomfortable, hit our heartstrings and pull - hard! Address the difficult things in life no one wants to see.

On that note…

My Choice
My pick is Spotlight. I saw it as an advanced showing thanks to my buddy Glenn Allen. I saw the Chancellor for the Diocese in the rows further back. I grew up in the Church, still am Catholic to some degree (that’s where I found my “somethin/One else”), was a seminarian for seven years.

The best and worst people I ever met were priests. The most judgmental people I ever met were church people - why I go late and leave early when I do go to Mass.

This movie doesn’t just tell the tale of liberation, it’s just fucking well made. Keaton and Ruffalo, McAdams kick ass. The writing is superb, the pace, the impact, the ending. As Mark Twain says, there’s one right way to tell a story: they did that one.
It’s one of those “leave the theater without speaking” movies. Like Amercian Sniper.

Oh Yeah...
Another reason why it should really win: because it's about exposing a bunch of fucking chi-mos!

Why it might not win? Because it's about exposing a bunch of fucking chi-mos.

Why religious are the worst kind ("The corruption of the best is the worst." - Cicero): because they (used to be) so easily trusted.

Let Me Bitch A Little
Revenant was good for Leo’s I’m-gonna-die-trying-to-get-this-goddam-piece-of-medal; and he’ll get it. But the CGI bear, wolves, and buffalo? I got really emotional over the portrayal of the injustice towards the Native Americans, and some of the cinematography was to die for.

But not better than…

It just seemed a little “eh.”

I have Redbox’s Straight Outta Compton in my DVD player to watch tonight. I’ll post about it if it tops Spotlight. Yeah.

The Big Short was amazing; so was Jobs. Just not better than.

I didn’t watch the others. Sue me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Why Deadpool Is Great (No Spoilers)

What did I do this Valentine’s Day? Okay, guess.

First off, I’m writing this as a fan of good movies: those things they make so anyone can see and enjoy. I’ve read probably 50-odd comic books in my life and that doesn’t give me any less right to enjoy or talk about a movie about a comic book character I know nothing about beyond the silver screen.

That being said, here are a few reasons Deadpool was fantastic and it’s worth the $15-$99 IMAX 3D ticket prices to see it. (I saw it in standard, fuck slightly bigger screens.)

  1. The Opening Credits
Nothing like a movie making fun of the movie business from the very first moment. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the “Director” credit is pretty fucking funny.

  1. Balls-Out Comedy
When did we become so afraid to tell jokes without being afraid to offend people? It’s a goddam joke. There are way too many to mention (and I don’t want to ruin any) but the interchange between Ryan Reynolds and his chi-mo looking recruiter is pretty hilarious. As is most everything.

I even saw an article on “jokes that didn’t make the cut,” despite the R-rating.

  1. It’s Rated-R
Yeah, that’s right, I said that. There are certain things in life that shouldn’t be taboo and are powerful when not ignored in fiction. After all, fiction influences life and vice versa, and hopefully for the better.

(The logic that all non R-rated movies are shit and all R-rated ones are good does not follow. In this case, it happens to help, in my opinion.) 

The interchange between Ryan and his love interest, for interest. Very powerful (R-rated) stuff. “R” doesn’t always mean “put shit in the movie,” but hopefully, as in this case, it gives the filmmaker license to not hold back on “truth.”

James Gunn (Guardians director) just made a statement along those lines.

  1. An Actually Great Love Story
Why do we so often not “give a damn” when it comes to flashy superhero flick romance? Usually the characters are underdeveloped, unbelievable, and the lovey-dovey stuff is very cliche.

This time it’s different. In a sequence that can be compared to the polar opposite of the masterful Citizen Kane “falling out of love” scene, Deadpool pulls our heartstrings to believe in love again, and yes, in a comic book film adaptation.

  1. It Doesn’t Take Itself Too Seriously
If the opening credits weren’t already enough, the “fourth wall,” the budget comments, the make-fun of characters that don’t appear in the film (“McAvoy or Stewart” was one of my favorite lines! #LMAO) - we can have more fun because the writers know how to.

And don’t forget to stay after the credits for the “coup de grace.”

  1. The Action
Yeah, that’s good too; but for once they listen to Aristotle and put the “plot and characters” before the “spectacle.” Hollywood take note.

  1. “I Know I’m Not the Only One” - Sam Smith
As my good friend, Ben Ingber (UrbanGeekCNY) will confirm, I probably use Rotten Tomatoes more than anyone else you know. They help me save a lot of time, not to mention money. Rarely, have they ever steered me wrong. And by they I mean, the most movie watchers on the internet together with the most critics.

So there’s that.

According to RT, 96% of users liked the film, along with 84% of critics. The Revenant (that movie that got best Golden everything) got 81%. Yeah.

And Ben and my other friends liked it. So hell yeah I saw it. And you should too. [Not for little kids, or people who are offended by things they shouldn’t be offended by.]

After a record breaking, money raking opening weekend, I hope we can expect more of this (originality, according to Gunn). And that Hollywood gets the "this" right.

Don't hold your breath.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Why Leo Will Finally Get the Oscar

I remember in 6th grade, my crush had a crush on Leo based on his portrayal of every young woman’s fantasy in Titanic, which I still have not seen and am waiting to see with a chick someday (at no rush). That’s when I first knew and hated Leonardo DiCaprio.

Of course beforehand was Gilbert Grape, which is an ingenious film and was perhaps the first time he got robbed of the golden man.
I can’t remember if it was Blood Diamond or Catch Me If You Can that first made me respect the man. You gotta. He’s got talent, and this year, he will finally get the damn thing.

Here are just a few reasons why.

1) Blood Diamond
Few movies and actors have done this well. Overall, a great film and performance, but there’s one scene that shines. Breaking the principle to “show not tell” and following the principle to avoid cheesy flashbacks, Leo’s character recounts to Jennifer Connelly’s how he watched his parents die.

“God will never forgive us for what we done to each other,” says DiCaprio. If that scene doesn’t get you, nothing will.

2) Catch Me If You Can

A four-corners meeting of the best talent here: Spielberg, Hanks, Walken, and Leo.

“Where you gonna be tonight?” asked Christopher Walken to his con-man son, DiCaprio. The film manages to be a fun caper but also plunge to the depths of human emotion (his face when Hanks says, “They’re gonna kill you.”).

Just the bar art when - on Christmas - Leo makes circles of water connect while on the phone with Tom Hanks, I mean that was skillz. (Laughs)

3) Aviator
He’s “Scorsese's Boy” for a reason, and here’s a big one. The masterful portrayal of the spoiled-brat billionaire germaphobe has us in awe for the full 3 hours, ending in the climactic courtroom scene opposite Alec Baldwin. Great stuff!

4) Grape
He gets you to believe he’s that way, especially if it’s the first time you’ve seen him in a movie. Shit, you tear up at a couple parts. Definitely a fantastic performance.

And - by the way - he's perhaps one of "count them on one hand" child actors that made it past puberty on the big screen. Maybe Jodie Foster? Anyone else?

5) The Departed
Walberg was great but it was Leo’s character that did the most suffering in this film. Everything from getting his wrist rebroken by Jack Nicholson to having his true identity on the brink of being erased at all times, he really had to sweat this one through.

6) Revenant
I mean, come on. Nobody else came close this year (Fassbender, but that's it). Depp played some sort of snake in the “too much violin” mob movie and didn’t even (and didn’t deserve to) get a nod.

DiCaprio pulls out all the stops in this one: freezes his balls off, eats God-knows-what, sleeps in a fucking horse, jumps off a cliff and goddam waterfall, and - of course - is raped by a fucking (CGI) Grizzly bear. The stitches alone after that shit! Plus he sticks up for Native Americans in his Globe speech.

Will they give it to him just for Revenant? Yes. Will it be a "because we fucked you over all these years" also? Yes. Did I forget to mention Wolf of Wall Street? Yeah.

And Inception! What am I thinking? You see what I mean.

The point is - he's getting it. And it’s about goddam time.

Friday, February 12, 2016

5 Movies To Watch on Valentine’s Day If You’re Single

Well, it’s that time of year again. Love is in the air, and it smells like shit for many of us. Here I am at Starbucks (blogging, I know) ready to hurl in my coffee every time I see a “cute couple” or a Tinder date (especially the latter).

I decided to resurrect my “Flics” blog this weekend so this post seemed like the most fitting start.

Here are a few recommendations for your lonely Val Day viewing (and are also 5/5 stars in my opinion.)

Perhaps the least-known Coppola movie, starring Gene Hackman in his best role next to French Connection, and also featuring Harrison Ford (wild applause) in a bit role. (He also shows up in Apocalypse for about as long.)

Hackman’s character is the best of the best in the world of audio espionage. He’s got skeletons in the closet (great reveal moment) and a heavy conscience as he is contracted to do a job he feels will somehow end badly.

Why is this Val Day appropriate? There’s this amazingly dysfunctional love story that peaks it’s way into the film early on. Pathetic in itself but genius writing. Enjoy that.

According to the experts, this is the “most realistic fictional psycho” in film. Cormac McCarthy’s novel-turned-my favorite Coen Bros. film (it’s a close call with Lebowski) keeps you on the edge all the way through.

Bardem breaks the mold in this unprecedented performance, and the ending may feel like most of our love lives. No spoilers.

Because not only is this the only film where Harrison Ford got nominated for (but never got - yet) the Oscar (cryin’ shame), but it’s just a fantastic, tragically lesser seen film.

Peter Weir (Truman Show, Gallipoli) combines brutal Philadelphia violence with “Amish Paradise” in a ballsy way.

Fun fact: Harrison Ford came up with the dance scene. Definitely got robbed that year.

Why is it on the list? Watch and see. And don’t fuck with an Amish guy who looks like Harrison Ford.

The best “watch after a breakup” therapy movie on the planet. (I know I use it for that.)

“You’re so money man! You’re so money and you don’t even know it!” - Vince Vaughn performing a John Favreau script

This is Favreau’s best ever. The answering machine talking to him (ode to Woody Allen’s Hall there) and the “wait three days” scenes are fucking fantastic.

Because there was only one time Ted Mosby was right. And this was it.

It’s so true you may cry.

Happy Valentine’s Day all!

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