Friday, February 24, 2012

The Artist

No loud explosions, no screeching car chases, not even a single angry argument. Silence is the key in The Artist and with 10 Academy Award nominations including Actor, Supporting Actress, Director and Picture the proof is in the words. I don’t know where or how the idea for this film came to its writer and director Michel Hazanavicius but it was a brilliant idea. This movie isn’t about the making of an old black and white silent film, which may have made it easier to make, it is a black and white silent film. Well thought out and put together The Artist is all about its title character, George Valentin played by Jean Dujardin. George is a famous silent film star, while attending an opening of his film he literally runs into a young woman whose name is Peppy Miller played by Berenice Bejo and we quickly learn she wants to be an actress. They end up meeting again when she gets a job as a dancer on his new film, and then things begin to turn for the worst.
It is 1928 and sound has just been added to the moving pictures and now audiences can hear what the actors that they have been watching actually sound like. The head of the studio wants to be a part of this new invention and in order to do that he wants to get rid of the old faces, George and make the new ones, Peppy bigger. If they don’t want George then he will just make his own movie with his own money and decides to let the people decide if they “…want to hear actors talk” (Jack Warner). Turns out they do and as George‘s stardom falls, Peppy’s raises.
The story just gets more emotional from there. I laughed, cried and even got a little scared. I came to care and worried about George Valentin while his life changed around him and watching Mr. Dujardin perform without a word was a real joy. Spoiler Alert-In one scene George discovers that everything around him makes sound, including his cute dog companion but then when he tries to talk nothing comes out. I admit this movie wasn’t what I thought it would be when I first heard about it, it was much better. I have seen a few silent films in my viewing life for example the very first Oscar winner Wings and in comparison this was JUST like watching any made from its time and that you could now find in any old studio film vault. I also have to say that my favorite part of watching this silent film besides the action was the inner monologue that was going on in my head during the non-words on screen scenes. The parts where you have to guess what they are saying and I am sure I was right on.
This new film taken from a piece of the industry’s history is perfectly made. From the style of the 1920s and 30s to the excellent and already award winning acting done by its lead and others including John Goodman and James Cromwell it is all worth seeing. Please take a trip back in time and go see The Artist.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


“Willie Mays Hayes. I hit like Mays, and I run like Hayes.”, “There’s no crying in baseball” “If you build it they will come.” If there is one thing that my mom has taught me about the movies it’s that a good baseball flick is a good flick. With 6 Academy Award nominations including best Actor, Supporting actor and Picture,Moneyball is this years excellent proof of that.
Moneyball stars Brad Pitt as Billy Beane a real life ex-ballplayer turned GM of The Oakland A’s. He is tasked with coming up with a team on a much smaller budget then that of his big time counterparts like The Yankees. To do this he hires Peter Brand
(a surprising Jonah Hill) a young Ivey league educated man who has come up with a new way to chose players. Peter tells Billy that he should get the guys that are not getting paid what they are really worth, the cheap ones not the Derek Jeters or A-Rods. It may not be a popular idea with his co-workers including his scout who knows and prefers the old way, which is finding the good young players and taking them right out of high school. Then there is his manger Art (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) whose job it is to use the players as he sees fit, like when and where they play on the field. He goes against Billy’s wishes which start to cause friction between the two. Once the new team is put together they have to start winning in order to keep their status.
In the end this is a well written, acted and all around nicely made film. So whether it is a team of misfits, woman during war or ghosts who just want a chance to play again after being thrown out during their life, even it they’re not your home team you still route for them. If you want to see a sweet movie about ordinary men then check out Moneyball.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Midnight in Paris

As an amateur historian I often think about what my favorite time period would be and when I wish I lived? As a writer who wants to be a director what can I say about Woody Allen that hasn’t already been said? Answers-19th century US, what can I say it has The Civil War and The Wild West. As for Wood Allen I have to say I admire a lot of Directors, Writers and Producers (I have my very own Hollywood Tri-fecta those that I would most like to meet/work with) and I like a handful of Mr. Allen’s films my favorite being The Purple Rose of Cairo but it wasn’t until recently when I watched a documentary about Mr. Allen that out of everyone I admire he seems to be the one I should most relate to. From what I can see he writes screenplays in the same way that I try to and given the chance would make movies the way I wanted to and with whom. But I have gotten off track…
Nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay, Director and Picture, like with all of Woody Allen’s films the story depends heavily on the dialogue and with a movie in which the central character is a writer Midnight in Paris is all about the story. Owen Wilson plays Gil a successful Hollywood screenwriter who now wants to be taken seriously and decides that to do this he has to write a novel. Gil travels with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) as they tag along with her Parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy) to Paris. Much to Inez’s distain Gil falls in love with the city, especially in the rain and one night as she goes off with a couple of friends Gil finds himself alone and walking the streets at night. As the clock strikes midnight a car from the 1920s drives up to him and the passengers inside invite him in. Gil is suddenly transported back in time. A time when and where F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso and his beautiful and intriguing girlfriend still live and thieve. To a writer this is a once in a lifetime chance to talk to your heroes and Gil wastes no time being inspired and learning everything he can about life, love and what can make him truly happy, from them. What happens next? Time can only tell all I can write is that after watching I would not mind spending Midnight in Paris.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Academy Award nominated short films

This year I was able to watch ALL of the short films nominated for Oscar. I have to say it was a nice trip around the world.

Live Action

Pentecost from Ireland- A young boy would rather be watching/playing football then being an Alter boy for a special mass. Very cute and funny.

Raju German/India- A German couple travels to India to adopt a 4 year old boy. When the child, Raju disappears they learn the truth about his parents.

The Shore Northern Ireland- A man returns to his hometown after living in The U.S. most of his adult life and reunites with an ex-love and an old friend and realize they never had to stop being friends. Beautiful setting, sweet story and a fun chase scene that involves a woman on a horse and a group of men running from “the law”.

Time Freak The U.S.- A quirky cute film about a guy who invents a time machine and keeps traveling one week into the past and has to have the same conversations with the same people until he gets it right or gives up. His friend helps him with his travel problems.

Tuba Atlantic Norway- A 70 year old man learns that he only has 6 days to live. With the help of his very own Angel of Death he tries to contact his estranged brother that he believes lives in New Jersey not by e-mail, text of a simple phone call but through sound waves with a giant homemade tuba. Will it work? What about all those pesky seagulls?


Dimanche/Sunday from Canada- A day in the life a boy and how he spends a usual Sunday. A train, church and grandma.

A Morning Stroll-Past, Present and Future a man passes a chicken during his daily walk down a city street, enough said.

La Luna- Pixars latest short film. A grandfather and father teach their grand/son who they are and what they do as a family one night on the moon. Shiny stars!

Wild Life- An Englishman travels to the Canadian frontier in the 1940s to become a rancher, writes letters home that sound better then what is actually happening. His life parallels that of a comet somehow.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore-A film about a man and the stories/books/words in his life. Sweet and sad but beautifully made and amazing to look at.

ALL TEN films show and are good examples of what any talented filmmaker can do with a short amount of time.
Excellent and Bravo!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

NCIS 200th Episode

HAPPY 200th EPISODE NCIS! Wow 200 episodes that is rare in television, especially these days but you deserve it. I know I didn’t watch in the beginning( I thought you were just another spin off of a show I didn't watch) but when I took notice of you (and my mom saw David McCallum) in season three my parents and I couldn’t stop watching. Now that I have gotten to know and come to love ALL the characters I have to admit that in the beginning I had trouble seeing the difference between McGee and DiNozzo, with the characters going by their last names and those two always together and picking on each other it got confusing, McGee is the movie guy right? No he’s the computer guy DiNozzo is the movie buff, Tony no I mean Tim. It took watching the show for about two seasons before I figured it all out. Cheers to the cast then and now…
Mark Harman as Special Agent Jethro LeRoy Gibbs-Team leader, started his military career as a young Marine and never left helping them, Son, Husband and Father whose wife and young daughter were killed years ago but he still misses and fights for them everyday, you can see how much he cares when he is around his team. Tough with each head slap but loving as he brings Abby a Caff Pow each week. A man I would love to work with and would want on my side.
Michael Weatherly as S.A. Anthony “Tony” DiNozzo- We have one thing in common-The Movies-if DiNozzo isn’t quoting a line from Rocky he is comparing a break in a case to something in Casablanca. Has many nicknames for McGeek, secretly in love with Ziva?
Sean Murray as S.A. Timothy “Tim” McGee- Joined the team after DiNozzo and during his probation known as “probie”, good with computers, just a good sweet guy.
Cote de Pablo as Ziva David-recent U.S. citizen, kick-ass chick from Israel, daughter of Mossad director Eli David, confuses, mangles English language (in a fun way), unlucky in love but that doesn’t matter if she has feelings for DiNozzo. All around my kind of girl.
Pauley Parrette as forensic specialist Abby Sciuto- Scientist, animal lover, Goth and Caff Pow addict. Cute but dangerous, the type of person I would want to be friends with.
David McCallum as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard- Best M.E. on TV, talks to the dead, lived with his mother until she died, the calm voice in all the action.
Brian Dietzen as Jimmy Palmer- Ducky’s assistant, newly engaged and underappreciated, most of the time.
Rocky Carroll as NCIS Director Leon Vance-3red Director of NCIS since the series premiered, only character with a wife and kids, very by the rules but will let Gibbs slip by for a good cause. Doesn’t always get the respect he deserves but is a good man.
And to those characters we have lost Director Jenny Shepard, Agent Caitlin Todd, Mike Franks and Lara Macy and those who only appear on an episode or two Gibbs father Jackson, DiNozzo’s father Anthony Sr. McGee grandmother Penelope, the SecNav. And anyone else who has every crossed paths with this wonderful TV TEAM.
For 200 episodes there have been a lot of dead marines/bodies and even more head slaps. NCIS may stand for Naval Criminal Investigative Service but it is also a great TV series worth finding and watching each week or in syndication. It is a cop procedural with heart and may not get any awards but has earned and deserves its multi year ratings as #1
Congratulations and here is too many more!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Oscar countdown

With the nominees announced and the Oscars later this month it is time for me to watch as many of the nominated movies and performances that I can before show time. I have been doing this for the past few years and I have to say although I’m not a member of the academy it is important for me to watch and I enjoy every minute.
As my countdown to the Oscars quest begins I got the chance to see the most beautiful and magical movie of the year. Everything about this film was amazing from the look and acting to the story itself. I felt as if I was transported to the world of 1930s France, it is here where a young orphaned boy lives within a large clock at a busy train station. As he works to keep the clocks running on time he watches the other “residents” of the station. There is an older woman who sits with her small dog at her café table, a man who everyday tries to get to know her better but is turned away by the dog’s biting and barking, a quiet girl who sells flowers, a train police inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) who’s job it is to keep out the riff-raff and a elderly man (Academy award winner Sir Ben Kingsley) who owns a toy shop and tinkers with the broken ones. If you haven’t figured it out yet I am writing about the 11 time nominated film Hugo.
This movie is directors Martin Scorsese first time at 3D and as much as I may have disliked the medium in the past here Mr. Scorsese makes it work. The story is sweet, sad and uplifting. After the death of his father, Hugo (Asa Butterfield) takes the mechanical man known as an automaton with him and joins his uncle to continue his learning as a clock smith. His Uncle disappears and once he is alone Hugo has to learn how to fend for himself and gets good at avoiding getting noticed by anyone including the inspector. That ends when he is caught by the toy shop owner as he tries to steal some parts for the automaton.  The man takes a notebook that Hugo carries with him and lets him go but Hugo needs that notebook back and follows the man to his home where Hugo discovers the man has a goddaughter named Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz) together the two end up on a adventure, like in the books Isabelle likes to read, and soon discover who this man, her father really is.
            As wonderful as the story is the magic of the film also comes from the incredible look. The setting is beautiful and the 3D effects make Hugo’s world come alive. Whether it’s outside as the snow falls and you can feel the cold air as you try and catch snowflakes on your tongue or ducking and running with Hugo through the clocks as the wheels grind and the minutes tick by. From the smoke from the trains to the clothes worn by each character every detail is as important as the last.
            On a personal note I admit I got very emotional while watching this film. I laughed, cried and smiled all throughout and by the end as I applauded I was glad to be wearing the 3D glasses in the dark so that no one could see. Hugo is an excellent example of a movie about the art of filmmaking. From the beginning to the closing credits this movie was a great ride and it is well worth the money and time to go and see Hugo.  

The Help

The South, early 1960s. A time when everything was separate and still far from equal. The Help is about a young, female, white, aspiring writer who sees the unfairness of the way African-American maids/nannies are being treated by their rich, socialite, white woman housewives and decides to do something about it. Skeeter played by Emma Stone does this by wanting to write a book from the point of view of these hard working women. She immediately goes to Aibileen played by nominee Viola Davis; at first she wants nothing to do with the idea for fear that it would get her into trouble but is persuaded by the memory of her dead son to tell a story about all the white children she has “raised”. They are soon joined by Minny played by fellow nominee Octavia Spencer, a maid who doesn’t always do what she is told and eventually, with the help of all the maids in their town, they have a full 200 paged book of crazy and unknown stories to tell the whole country.
The story of The Help itself isn’t all that great or even unique but the performance of each actor is right on and superb. I’ve already said what I could about Emma Stone so let me start this character study with Aibileen. Aibi, as she is known by the little girl she takes care of, really cares about the kids that are put into her watch, they become like her own children whether it is concern over the girl sleeping in a dirty diaper all night or telling her everyday that she is smart and important. Aibileen can ONLY HOPE that one day when the girl is all grown up that she will be a better person then her parents. Minny on the other hand is the “sassy”  one who won’t take garbage from anyone including her “boss” Hilly played by Bryce Dallas Howard, an evil woman who even puts her own mother into a nursing home when she joins Minny’s side and laughs with her at Hilly’s expense when Minny finds a way to get revenge. Although Hilly tells everyone not to hire Minny she is still able to find a job for a woman who is untouched by a socialite upbringing named Celia played by nominee Jessica Chastain. She is a young woman from the wrong side of the tracks and may have gotten married because she got pregnant but wants to keep her husband happy so she hires Minny to cook, soon they realize the can help and need each other.
This movie at its core is about the characters and the characters are the main reason to see The Help.