Saturday, February 19, 2011

My Oscar Predictions 2011

So the Oscars are right around the corner (Sunday, February 27th) and it's up to every film critic to show their stuff.

In a semi-neck and neck race for Best Pic, watch for a big win for The Social Network.  In his Golden Globe acceptance speech, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin summed up the film's quality in saying, "And to all of the people at Columbia who also think people who watch films are at least as smart as the people who make them."  Finally a film that doesn't make you feel like a child either because it's too dumb or too frickin' indiscernible.  Look for another Best Screenplay for Sorkin and most likely a Best Direction for pulling it all off.

Actor and actress look like a Globe repeat as well: Colin Firth for his incredibly moving King's Speech and Portman in the dramatic breakout role that shows how amazing she is (her striking Black Swan).

Supporting Globes went to some of the many great performances in The Fighter: look for Batman (Christian Bale) and his on screen mom to take the cake again.  However, since The Kids Are All Right is such a new age thematic piece, one can expect a lot of "no surprise" votes from the H-wood sector.

Animated will be Toy Story 3 hands down.  It got a Best Pic nomination as well.  If only Despicable Me was released a few months earlier or later, it would have gotten the man.  It won't.

Special effects and pretty much every cinematography and technical award will go to Inception, somewhat as a consolation prize.  It was great - really, really great; but not great enough to beat the (thank God) other excellent films of the year.  Like Avatar, it lost a lot of bang on the home theater (no 3-D) and for the second time (long and no surprises).  DiCaprio, the screenplay, Nolan, general acting all around, and the film can go on the great but unsung heroes list of 2010.

Look for a close runner up from the Cohens' True Grit: a great western as only the Cohens can perfectly make it.  We may be in for some surprises, as surprising as the young girl's performance in the movie of the same name.

So grab the popcorn, plop on the coach, and tune-in next Sunday for the biggest non-movie movie event of the year.  Then write back afterwards and tell this critic he was wrong.

This article was originally published by the author on

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hotel Syracuse Movie?

Rumors about a big-budget Hollywood film entitled Hotel Syracuse are true: they are truly rumors.  There's nothing on IMDb about it, and CNY's local sites have only stale talk about filming last summer (announced last winter).

It's a real project though.  Syracuse University's film professor, Owen Shapiro, creator of the International Syracuse Film Festival, co-wrote the script about the hotel he loves with a friend who was “looking for a hotel” for his film idea, Israeli director Moshe Mizrahi.  (Cf.:

The main line talent attached to the project is the rightly esteemed actor John Malkovich (Ripley's Game, RED, Empire of the Sun, The Great Buck Howard) who plays a mathematics professor in town for a convention at the hotel where he starts seeing deceased people from his past.

A major actress is said to be linked to the project.

Though no further news blurbs have arisen, speculation about proximate/remote filming has increased due to the hotel's recent status as closed-to-events for renovation under new ownership.  The hotel has been inactive since May 2004, but continued to hold special functions until New Year's this year.

However, negotiations to sell the hotel has been halted due to red tape, making news readers wonder if the elegant hotel will go the way of Syracuse's Destiny USA (long-stagnant, long-anticipated mall expansion project).

Perhaps filmmakers are waiting for the hotel's new look.  Perhaps they shouldn't hold their breaths.

In any case, a film of this caliber could be an epic boost for an already legendary local landmark; and a film of any excellence would be a welcome legend in itself.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Green Hornet Strikes

If Seth Rogan had all the money he wanted to make a movie, he would make... this movie.

The very best part of Rogan's attempted face-lift of the old radio superhero is hands down the Rogan comedy: the in-your-face classic Rogan and the super-hero film critique: bold, brash, Roganish, fun.

They pulled the producer of The Fast and the Furious to rocket the car chases sequences, which they did, successfully, but without making them get any better as the film goes on.

The film is supported by top actors: Oscar winners Tom Wilkinson and the notorious new bad-a bad guy Christoph Waltz(from Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards) give the film credible weight, but can't pull the script's mediocre plot (Rogan lines or not) from good to great.

The 3D experience was fun.  It didn't seem to rely on the new tech to make it, was fun, but not spectacular either.

The new fighting method (weapons are targeted in slow-mo before being taken out at ultra fast speeds) turned out to be an initial plus for the Chinese Justin Timberlake: film experiment Jay Chou, whose not too bad, as long as he's not doing the "full of himself" JT look.

All in all, The Green Hornet is not terrible but neither terrific.  If you like Seth Rogan, it's good - almost "super" fun.

Check it out in a theater near you:

(Originally published by Joe on

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

IMAX, the movie experience: New tech & Syracuse's own IMAX theater at the MOST!

From black and white to color, 2D to 3, widescreen to IMAX: the film industry is constantly on the look out for new ways to show the show.

For Spielberg's 2002 hit Minority Report starring Tom Cruise and Max von Sydow - a futuristic thriller set in 2054, the sharp director pooled scientists' ideas about what life would be like fifty years from now.  In addition to constant identification via eye-scans, he casually introduces the idea of full-3D film: poignantly portraying via several light sources, a "light pane" image of Cruise's wife and son, conjuring up their physical presences in the futuristic apartment living room.  Filmmakers could certainly put audiences through some shock and awe if that were possible in the box office today!  Imagine Halloween's Michael Myers showing up in the theater - row 3, seat 2!

Recently, as one effort to combat film pirating, the box office has raked in mega-millions for their 3-D presentations of everything from Toy Story to Tron and the new Narnia (Voyage of the Dawn Treader).  They can't pirate that on the street.

IMAX theaters have in the past decade almost literally taken movie-goers to places they've never been: whether it be inside beaver lodges in remote Alaskan lakes, under avalanches on Mount Everest, or through asteroid fields of STAR WARS galaxies "far, far away."  By specially cutting film to fill ginormous concave screens, IMAX theaters surround the peripheral vision, creating the sensation that one is actually there.

Combine that with 3D glasses and we have an incredible convergence: asteriods from another galaxy heading at Mach 10 towards the audience's head!

There's a (rather terrible) multi-media docu-drama up at Niagara Falls narrating Indian legends surrounding the natural wonder. As the shot pans to "fly over" the water, hoses spray mist at the audience, temporarily distracting one from the terrible screenplay in an effort to fool the body into thinking it is actually over the river.

George Lucas's Alien Encounter show at Disney World is a different story.  Through simple light, sound, and water-and-air spraying techniques, one actually feels as if a dangerous alien were lose in the room.  After a shrill "hiss," a spout sprays "saliva" at the neck while the audience is strapped into their seats - a freak-out experience like no other.  (They should really make bathroom usage mandatory before that show.)  A favorite thrill moment is the man "getting killed" above the crowd: first the "scream" as he was "ripped limb from limb" then his "blood" fell from the catwalk above in the dark.  Pretty darn real and lots of fun!

This year, Syracuse hosts Toy Story 3 (which won Best Animated Film at last week's Golden Globes) at the city's own Milton J. Rubenstein MOST (Museum of Science and Technology)'s Bristol IMAX Omnitheater.  A fantastic experience!

Most went to see the film not long after its June release, and most people were very satisfied that it crowned the innovative CGI trilogy which broke the mold and made each of its sequels better than the last.  The phenomenal story, animation, and character acting alone could have earned it the #1 money-making spot it got this year, but the fact that it opened also in 3D, IMAX, and IMAX 3D with tickets averaging near $13 didn't hurt either.  Filmmakers and viewers both know that everything from a cheap pirated copy that comes out two weeks early to the Blue-Ray home theater experience cannot beat a 100-foot pig spaceship exploding in 3D right in your face!

The thing that TY3 lacks in the IMAX is the fact that it doesn't seem made for that medium.  One finds the need to strain noticing details on opposite peripherals at the same time (brain cramp!).  Seems the original design was for the phenomenal 3D theater experience that it was, while the stretch to IMAX remains an arguable bridge too far.  That notwithstanding, it's still well worth the cash!

Originally opening in Toronto, expensive IMAX theaters have since appeared in nearly every major city.  While Syracuse still doesn't have a conventional IMAX 3D theater to show the latest releases (come on Regal!), Syracusans are proud to have had The MOST Museum's Omni-Dome theater  (one of only 30 in the US) right downtown for the past ten years in the beautiful and historic Armory Square - a favorite place to hang out at any hour of the day.

So hold on to your cookies and look out for flying superheros battling super-sonic RPG's all across the seats in a theater near you! With creative juices bubbling motivated by the recent economic decline and the specific beating the media industry has taken in the last decade of pirating, the ardent moviegoer can only hope for an epic comeback, and buckle up for a wild ride!

(This article was originally published by the author on