Archive for February, 2009

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Lonely? There’s an app for that.

February 24, 2009

An iPhone ad as re-imagined by a lonely video editor.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
An app for just about anything.

Made on a Mac.

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2008 Movie Mashup!

February 22, 2009

Here it is as promised, and just in time for the Oscars!

A few months ago while wasting time at work, I came across the work of barringer82 on Youtube. He does absolutely amazing tributes to various filmmakers and particular decades in film. I highly encourage you to check them out while they’re still around (Youtube’s newfangled piracy policy has ruined or caused many of them to be deleted). Anyways, by the time my boss yelled at me to quit screwing around and get back to work, I had decided to create my own personal tribute to the films of 2008. I figured if nothing else it might be a good piece for my demo reel once I finally get fired.

So without further delay, a handful of favorite moments from the films that made a huge splash in 2008. Enjoy!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Of course now that it’s posted, I can see a million and one ways to make it better, but it’s time to let 2008 go. My girlfriend can only take so much neglect…

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Pretending to Hate the Oscars

February 15, 2009

With only a week left to gripe about this year’s bizarre selection of Oscar nominees, I figure I better get started.

Next Sunday amidst a global economic crisis that by now is felt by everyone in some way, Hollywood will do what it does best; provide us with a few hours of distraction and give us something besides impending doom to talk about. And what a welcome distraction it is!

So without further delay, here are my thoughts on this year’s major nominees:

Best Supporting Actor

Starting off nice and easy, all I will say is I wouldn’t want to imagine the upset if this award goes to anyone not named Heath Ledger. Such a shock would literally ruin the 2009 show since it’s typically the first award given out. Hugh Jackman’s best song-and-dance routine would never be able to win back an audience. That’s not a jab at any of the other talented nominees or the performances they delivered this year, but they will have other opportunities for Oscar gold, all four of them. The Academy can give them conciliatory Oscars for inferior work down the line. This year, however, is the year of the Joker. Ledger’s demented performance multiplied by his untimely death equals the stuff of Tinseltown legend.

Now off to the races…

Best Supporting Actress

When it comes right down to it, Amy Adams and Viola Davis will probably split the votes for Doubt and that’s just fine with me. A lot has been made of Viola Davis’ performance and it is heartbreaking and surprising in the gray she introduces to a topic we all assumed was black and white. That’s all well and good, however, I for one would like to see the Academy end it’s tradition of nominating performances that last less than 10-15 minutes. Ruby Dee nominated in American Gangster just for telling off Denzel Washington? Dame Judi Dench winning for an 8-minute stint in Shakespeare in Love?! How easy are these things to win? Well consider Beatrice Straight’s six-minute award clincher in Network. Viola Davis does wonderful work, but Amy Adams carries more on her shoulders.

Taraji P. Henson also delivers solid work but the Academy makes a better case for her performance than the film does, as is the case with most of Benjamin Button’s nods.

So that leaves Marisa Tomei’s weary, committment-phobe stripper or Penepole Cruz doing her best crazy/sexy. I suspect the award will go to Cruz in the grand tradition of rewarding artists for the wrong work. Cruz deserves an Oscar but her role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona demands too much. I have limits on how much Spanish screeching I’m willing to endure between rounds of banal psychobabble (sorry Woody). On the other hand, Marisa Tomei’s complicated stripper toys with Ram’s emotions and ours, leaving us to wonder how much of her kindness is just part of the job.

Best Actor

The Wrestler is easily one of my favorite films of the year. I hope Mickey Rourke lives up to the “resurrection” he’s crafted for himself but I also hope the Academy sees beyond the hype of a good real-life redemption story and realizes that while Mickey’s performance is good, it’s certainly not the best of the year. (note: Jean-Claude Van Damme was just as inspired in JCVD and gets nothing).

Neither is Brad Pitt’s Benjamin Button the best. As always, he does fine work but his pacifying voiceover and composited facial reactions undermine years of better performances in better movies. Shame there’s no room for him in the Supporting category for Burn After Reading.

Sean Penn probably delivers the best performance of the year (again). As Harvey Milk, Sean Penn leaves himself completely behind, a feat he hasn’t accomplished since Carlito’s Way, only this time he does it without all the prosthetics. It’s an incredibly natural, lived-in performance of an important political figure but Penn’s genius is the way he humanizes Milk beyond his cause of gay civil rights with humor and a sense of the tragedy that will eventually befall him.

The kicker is Sean Penn already has a fairly recent Oscar win and unless you’re Hilary Swank, that usually means going home empty-handed. All this works out just fine if it means veteran actors Frank Langella and Richard Jenkins have a serious shot at winning. Langella recreates his Tony-Award winning performance of Richard Nixon, nailing his mannerisms, his temper and his paranoia despite bearing almost no resemblance to his real-life counterpart. Not bad for the man who played Skeletor in Masters of the Universe in a previous life.

Meanwhile, Richard Jenkins finally gets some hard-earned attention for a humble, muted performance in The Visitor. As Walter, Jenkins plays a man seemingly content to give up on life until fate puts him in the position to help someone else. Jenkins creates a character who is constantly forced outside his comfort zone and is rewarded with music and friendship for his trouble. When Walter loses his temper towards a benign prison employee, we see a man finally renewed in his convictions.

Either Jenkins or Langella would be good, but I’m hoping Jenkins takes it. He does more with less.

Best Actress

Oh Oscar. What were you thinking on this one? Anne Hathaway? Really? For a film that plays out like the worst episode of A&E’s Intervention. And doesn’t Angelina Jolie already have one statuette she doesn’t deserve? Does anyone there even make an effort to find the best female performances of the year? For my money, Michelle Williams belongs on this list for Wendy and Lucy, a sparse film that she single-handedly carries to the most heartbreaking ending of any release this year. And how did Sally Hawkins slip through the cracks? Especially when Oscar’s most reliable crystal ball, the Golden Globes, recognized her.

Also, way to nominate Kate Winslet for the wrong film! While her work in The Reader is probably the only good thing about it, her performance as Alice in Revolutionary Road packs way more of a dramatic punch.

I suppose Meryl Streep deserves to be here. There’s no denying her manipulative role in Doubt makes her a continuing force to be reckoned with. It’s just that her practically constant presence on these year-end lists coupled with her sizable celebrity means one less spot for equally worthy performances by actresses who could use the bump. Actresses like Melissa Leo, who plays a mother on the edge of financial ruin in Frozen River. Leo swiftly demonstrates endless amounts of courage when it comes to providing for her family even as the circumstances around her continue to deteriorate. Whether she’s taking on a particularly nasty human trafficker or trading veiled jabs with her impatient son, Leo quickly stifles her character’s emotional despair and lurches forward with steely determination. And maybe a dozen voters saw her do it. So she won’t win. Way to divert all the attention Streep!

Just give it to Winslet and let’s move on.

Best Director

4 of the 5 nominees in this category have made better films. Much better films. I’m looking especially hard at you Fincher.

Gus Van Sant is the only person on this list who surprised me. This is a director whose films I flat out do not like. And yet in 2008 Van Sant ditched all his arty pretension, all his unnecessary technical experiments, all his Van Sant-ness as I’d known it and made the best biopic of the year. A truly involving, exciting depiction of San Francisco in the 1970s and the truly decent politician who died trying to change it for the better. All of it captured and presented perfectly by Van Sant. I take back some (but not all) of the things I said about you.

Stephen Daldry. Is it me or does this man have something better than an Oscar, like the best freaking luck in the world?! Three subpar films. Three nominations for Best Director. The worst offense yet being The Reader. A film so listless, so unrewarding of its viewers’ patience and ultimately wasteful of several very talented actors that I can’t help but wonder if I saw the same film as everyone else.

Fincher. If he puts as much focus on pacing as he does on technical perfection with his next outing, he’ll probably get himself a fancy gold statue. Despite some impressive storytelling devices, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button doesn’t sustain enough momentum to compete with the leisurely Frost/Nixon, let alone the staggering rush of Slumdog Millionaire.

Ron Howard. The man’s Hollywood royalty. That buys him a lot of slack. It also bought him one undeserved Oscar for A Beautiful Mind. Frost/Nixon is a better effort but still not the most worthy of the bunch. While I recognize the difficulty in mounting a successful visual adaptation of a dialog driven play, you shouldn’t get an Oscar for it if the end result is simply a decent movie. And certainly not twice!

So let’s give the Oscar to Danny Boyle aka Cinema’s Greatest Chameleon. Seriously, this man deserves all three of Daldry’s nominations and then some. Very few directors can jump so effortlessly between genres. Even fewer take the risks that Boyle does. Consider that a film shot without recognizable actors in India which uses Who Wants to be a Millionaire as its main device to drive the plot any which direction it likes may very well end up winning Best Picture and should definitely snag Best Director. Attribute that to its constant kinetic energy, vibrant cinematography, razor sharp editing and Danny Boyle’s unique vision on a classic love-conquers-all tale.

Best Picture

A very unfortunate category this year indeed. First and foremost, something’s amiss when the Academy snubs two of the most universally acclaimed pictures of the year which both established new molds for their respective genres while collecting record box office receipts. Where the hell are WALL-E and The Dark Knight? How did they both get snubbed while The Reader slinks in? These snubs are further magnified by the fact that it’s Best Picture we’re talking about here. It should be easier to distinguish an all around amazing film like WALL-E from fluff like Frost/Nixon, and certainly from an utter failure like The Reader.

I really wanted to like Benjamin Button, but it buckled under its own ambitions and ended up putting me to sleep for the entire second act. Not exactly on par with the truly epic crime masterpiece The Dark Knight. Plus after seeing the hilarious Curious Case of Forrest Gump viral and remembering what a bad choice Forrest Gump was for Best Picture, I can safely say I’d like history to avoid repeating itself this year.

So if it’s between Milk and Slumdog Millionaire, I’ll take Slumdog by a hair. It’s the more adventurous and purely entertaining offering of the two.

That’s enough pretending to hate the Oscars for now. See, it works. I haven’t thought about my joblessness in 4 and 1/2 hours.

Stay tuned for a tribute to the best films of 2008…