2013 BAM Award Considerations – January

And the circle opens anew. Last year I had one massive running list and it became very cumbersome to add to, and to read I’m sure. By creating a new post monthly, and creating massive combo files offline, it should make the process easier for me and more user-friendly for you, the esteemed reader. Enjoy.

Eligible Titles

Gangster Squad
Mama
Texas Chainsaw 3D
Insight
Broken
Movie 43
A Haunted House
Sweet Love
(Special Awards Only)

Best Picture

Broken

Best Foreign Film

Most Overlooked Film

As intimated in my Most Underrated announcement this year, I’ve decided to make a change here. Rather than get caught up in me vs. the world nonsense and what a film’s rating is on an aggregate site, the IMDb or anywhere else, I want to champion smaller, lesser-known films. In 2011 with the selection of Toast this move was really in the offing. The nominees from this past year echo that fact. So here, regardless of how well-received something is by those who’ve seen it, I’ll be championing indies and foreign films, and the occasional financial flop from a bigger entity.

Broken

Best Director

Rufus Norris Broken

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain Mama
Eloise Laurence Broken
Essence Atkins Movie 43

Best Actor

Josh Brolin Gangster Squad
Nicolaj Coster-Waldau Mama
Tim Roth Broken
Dennis Quaid Movie 43

Best Supporting Actress

Emma Stone Gangster Squad
Zana Marjanovic Broken
Emma Stone Movie 43

Best Supporting Actor

Sean Penn Gangster Squad
Daniel Kash Mama
Rory Kinnear Broken
Kieran Culkin Movie 43
Marlon Wayans A Haunted House

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Leading Role

Megan Charpentier Mama
Isabelle Nélisse Mama
Eloise Laurence Broken

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Leading Role

Jonah Green Insight

Best Performance by a Young Actress in a Supporting Role

Maya and Sierra Dawe Mama
Martha Bryant Broken
Rosalie Kosky Broken
Chloe Grace Moretz Movie 43

Best Performance by a Young Actor in a Supporting Role

Austin Abrams Gangster Squad
Maxwell Perry Cotton Gangster Squad
Bill Milner Broken
George Sargeant Broken
Jimmy Bennett Movie 43

Best Cast

Gangster Squad
Mama
Broken
Movie 43

Best Youth Ensemble

Gangster Squad
Mama
Broken

Best Original Screenplay

Best Adapted Screenplay

Gangster Squad
Mama
Broken

Best Score

Mama
Broken
Insight

Best Editing

Mama
Broken

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

Gangster Squad
Mama
Broken

Best Cinematography

Mama
Broken
Insight

Best Art Direction

Mama
Broken

Best Costume Design

Gangster Squad
Mama

Best Makeup

Ganster Squad
Mama
Broken

Best Visual Effects

Mama

Best (Original) Song

“Chica Chica Boom Chic” Sharmila Guha & The Gangster Squad Movie Band Gangster Squad
Broken

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Tarzan Thursday – Tarzan of the Apes (1918)

Last year the character of Tarzan celebrated his 100th year in print. A serialized version of the story first appeared in 1912. A hardcover collection of Tarzan of the Apes first appeared in 1914. Being in the middle of the Tarzan centennial period it’s an opportune time to (re)visit many of the screen renditions of the character.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet and copyright laws, the very first screen appearance of Tarzan is available to any and all who want it legally and free of charge. It’s also an interesting historical footnote as this was one of the earlier, quicker adaptations of very popular literature; appearing just six years after the character was introduced to the public.

Any film of a certain era can be referred to as dated. To me it’s a fairly weak, simplistic argument. Very few films are truly of the vanguard and ahead of their time. What needs to be taken into consideration is how does it function for the era and the kind of film it was. In silents, less titles are better; conversely if you feel you’re needing titles that too could be an issue.

This film gets by a lot of the time without needing them, but is sadly a little heavy on them. Unfortunately, there is also some hokey writing within them like a few references to his “little English brain” longing for things more akin to what a civilized white man would desire, when he never had any such frame of reference.

However, the version I saw was a little over an hour long, and though the titles helped it breeze through, it could’ve stood a bit more running time. This truncation only hurts minimally though as the story does ends up being a pretty brisk, entertaining and coherent origin.

Tarzan is played at two ages: by Gordon Griffith when he is young and Elmo Lincoln as a man. Griffith was one of the first young stars of the cinema and it’s clear why. He carries the first half of the film mostly on his own without any real scene partners. His expressiveness is, of course, influenced by screen acting conventions of the era, but exploits them to great effect. Similarly, Lincoln seems to have a great following among those who are great fans of the character, and it’s apparent why also.

Returning briefly to the concept of being dated, the only two times that became terribly apparent in ways that weren’t just about it being silent cinema were in one or two prejudiced/racist title cards and the very obvious (though not terrible) gorilla suits. Otherwise, it’s actually fairly easy to lose yourself in this story, and a perfect way to kick off this retrospective.

How Silly is The Campaign, Really?

I made a comment after seeing The Campaign over the summer that it was a silly skewering of campaigning and American politics in general. As I rewatched it, after this year’s election, it suddenly seemed less silly. Granted there’s comedic exaggeration but some of the incidents in the campaign weren’t that far off. And in keeping with my vow to do more off-beat pieces and not always reviews, allow me to take the silliness just slightly more seriously than I did before.

“You can call me dad.”

This ad, while hilarious, struck me as one of the largest exaggerations when I watched it. However, when Tagg Romney took it upon himself to stick himself into the election saying he wanted to “take a swing at him [Obama],” then this scene seemed not so crazy anymore.

“I spoke last.”

As hilariously insightful as this line Ferrell delivers is, I never thought it’d be quite so prophetic seeing as how after the first debate Jim Lehrer was roundly criticized for losing control of it and Mitt Romney was cited as the most frequent abuser of debate decorum, essentially wanting to get in the last word regardless; even if it was as inane as “I spoke last.”

The Sex Tape

This campaign was devoid of sex scandals, and as many sex tapes as exist, there’s yet to really be one that incriminates a politician, to my knowledge. However, sex scandals are clearly nothing new politics. Even before his eventual impeachment Bill Clinton had to fend off marital infidelity rumors during his first presidential campaign.

Mera-Kai

Through all the discussions about tax codes one issue that popped up, and was only really ever of concern to voters who paid close attention, was relations with China; namely who did or did not invest in Chinese firms, and who would or would not be tough on their trading practices. It’s a far cry from the scenario the film paints, but perhaps a portent of one of the crucial foreign policy concerns in coming years.

“Is he an Al-Qaeda?”

It will never be a stretch in my mind to make any joke about fear-mongering in American politics. This is not only a jab and poor grammar and syntax but also one about baseless accusations, trying to show your opponent in a negative light, and as “not one of us.”

Conclusion

The aforementioned accusations is levied by Ferrel’s character who plays the frequently-unopposed Democratic incumbent, so the film is pretty fair and doesn’t play into stereotypes that the left and right have about one another whenever possible in making its points, which as silly as they are rendered, it is saying a bit more than you might think upon first glance.

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: Box Office Boom (Part 5 of 17)

This is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school, and had previously posted on another site. It’s being re-posted here in periodic installments. You can read parts one, two, three and four here.

A very likely reason for the love-affair of the studio with the sequel is that the Blockbuster Mentality was in full force. A hit was a smash and a bomb blew up in your face. Ticket prices were up and so were budgets, but even with all that taken into account there was an increase in the size of the Blockbuster Film.


1989 was a watershed year when the Blockbuster Mentality finally came to some kind of fruition. In that same year the top 10 all earned $100 million with Parenthood bringing home that exact amount. In 1989 viewership rose 16.4% percent from the year before with Batman, The Little Mermaid and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids being amongst notable original hits (i.e. non-sequels) and sequels also proved successful with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2 and Back to the Future part II. Having seen most of these films I do believe them for the most part to be very well done, unlike much of the trash that lines the top of the box office today. And through the 80s as a whole despite an increase in prices by 48% attendance also rose 24%.

With the youth of America being the power at the box office in the 80s, and the appeal of the cinema being eternal, attendance never really took a hit but every attempt was made by the studios to conquer this audience. There was also an attempt made to conquer the adults who were too busy watching The Cosby Show. Something went terribly right in 1989 because we never had seen so many sequels work in such a big way. The size and scale of major motion pictures also have never looked back. While the 80s were big on gigantic budgets they would really kick into high gear in the latter part of the decade. Just one example being Who Framed Roger Rabbit costing $70 million to produce and grossing $392 million worldwide. With these kind of success stories the studios were ever more tempted to throw money at their one guarantee and sit to wait for their investment to multiply.


This strategy has ultimately lead to the further deterioration of whatever is left of the studios but it has helped to create the true blockbuster because when a film’s a hit now it’s truly a hit; meaning it has to make loads and loads of money to go anywhere.
 It does seem, however, that trying to make a huge score on a more modest budget is less a part of the game now.

Work Cited: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/

My Ballot: LIONs for LAMBs and The OMIEs

As I indicated earlier, when there are public or open to membership voting that I qualify for, I will write a post here to discuss my picks and to publicize the poll. I have included two polls here.

They are both run by the LAMB, the Large Association of Movie Blogs, of which I am a part, or a member thereof. The first is Lions for the Lambs, which seeks ranked submissions in various categories. Since that closely reflects my BAM Award selections, I also included my Omie choices where I more closely considered “Oscar-viability” in my decision-making process.

LIONS for the LAMBs

Best Film

1. Django Unchained
2. The Turin Horse
3. Anna Karenina
4. The Dark Knight Rises
5. North Sea Texas
6. The Cabin in the Woods
7. Les Misérables
8. The Dynamiter
9. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
10. Kauwboy

Best Director

1. Bela Tarr The Turin Horse
2. Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained
3. Bavo Derfune North Sea Texas
4. Joe Wright Anna Karenina
5. Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight Rises

Leading Male Performances

1. Daniel Day-Lewis Lincoln
2. Hugh Jackman Les Miserables
3. Denis Lavant Holy Motors
4. Matthew McConaughey Killer Joe
5. Logan Lerman The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Leading Female Performances

1. Keira Knightley Anna Karenina
2. Tilda Swinton We Need to Talk About Kevin
3. Magaly Solier Amador
4. Noomi Rapace The Monitor
5. Erika Bók The Turin Horse

Supporting Male Performances

1. Leonardo DiCaprio Django Unchained
2. Samuel L. Jackson Django Unchained
3. Eddie Redmayne Les Misérables
4. Mikkel Boe Foesgaard A Royal Affair
5. Matthew McConaughey Bernie

Supporting Female Performances

1. Anne Hathaway Les Misérables
2. Samantha Barks Les Misérables
3. Gina Gershon Killer Joe
4. Sally Field Lincoln
5. Anna Gunn Sassy Pants

Best Screenplays

1. Patrick Wang In the Family
2. Bavo Defurne and Andre Sollie North Sea Texas
3. Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained
4. Laszlo Krasznahorki and Bela Tarr The Turin Horse
5. Tom Stoppard Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina

Best Foreign Film

1. The Turin Horse
2. North Sea Texas
3. Kauwboy
4. Holy Motors
5. The Raid: Redemption

As for the Ormies, as intimated above, it’s more of a snubbed award so here are my choices based on Oscar expectations. A few are admittedly wished-for surprises. These are open to anyone. Submit your choices here via email.

Best Picture

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Best Director

Tom Hooper Les Misérables

Best Actress

Keira Knightley Anna Karenina

Best Actor

Matthew McConaughey Killer Joe

Best Supporting Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress

Samantha Barks Les Misérables

Best Original Screenplay

The Cabin in the Woods

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Foreign Language Film

Kauwboy

Animated Film

Rise of the Guardians

Documentary

Bully

Original Song

“The Big Machine” Safety Not Guaranteed

A Cinematic Trip Around Australia

It is Australia Day today. Much like the post I created last Canada Day I wanted to create a post that highlighted films set and produced in each territory/state of the nation on this day. Unlike the Canadian entry, I created this in part to seek further suggestions, as with the Canadian list I had ideas and sought to bolster my list.

Another unique issue that the Australian list presents is that as I looked up films I knew to be set/produced there many didn’t seem to have specificity to their locale and were shot in multiple territories/states. In the end, I did take one film that was shot all over and attribute it to one location, other more obvious titles that could be attributed to many areas were omitted.

As I mentioned above, I really am seeking suggestions too. It’s not the most comprehensive of lists, and the geographical subdividing makes it a bit tougher to assemble, but it was still fun – especially since it allowed me to do some more geography nerd-work, and Canada always came easier to me than did Australia, but now I think I have it all sorted.

The last disclaimer that applies is that I did find links to information on and video of documentaries about the Torres Strait and Christmas Islands, but found nothing suitable about the Capital District or Norfolk Island; so it really is mainland Australian titles within. However, it must be stated for the record that in my searches I did find a plethora of film festivals, agencies and resources in Canberra so that’s very cool.

Over the past few years I’ve been more drawn to Australian films and culture, so I would definitely be eager to find more and also to celebrate some of what I have seen thus far.

Victoria

Victoria

The Up Series

The Up Series (Grenada Films)

Though it is a British production, The Up Series of documentaries has had cause to go abroad as its subjects have grown. The series of films has interviewed subjects every seven years starting at the age of seven. While Nick has spent time teaching in the US, Bruce has taught in Bangladesh, John has done charitable work in Bulgaria; its most frequent trips have been to Australia where Paul moved shortly after the first film. His segments have been amongst the most interesting as his move preceded the talks of expatriates, which entered the series later on.

Lake Mungo

I am not against found footage as a rule. Furthermore, even if you hate it and cite say Chronicle or The Blair Witch Project as the exception that proves the rule, this is a film that should be viewed. In large part due to the fact that it utilizes a mockumentary structure with critical moments being examination of footage. It is a a higly effective slow burn that really packs a wallop.

The Devil’s Playground

Fred Schepisi may not be a name you consciously know but odds are you’ve seen something he’s directed. His credits include Roxanne, A Cry in the Dark (Which features later on this list), The Russia House and Six Degrees of Separation. This is his debut feature, which is an acclaimed, award-winning film that he also wrote, which is better than a vast majority of boarding school-set coming-of-age dramas that are more renowned.

Northern Territory

Northern Territory

Australia

Australia (2008, 20th Century Fox)

OK, OK, I realize that it’s not original in the least to include a film called Australia on a list of Australian films. It’s such an obvious pick that I’d include it here whether I liked it or not, however, I am a fan of this film as the 2008 BAM Awards will evidence.

This is definitely a case where a propriety title (i.e. Baz Luhrmann’s Australia) may be very fitting. It’s clearly one man’s vision. It’s a Golden Age aesthetic plopped into the 21st Century and a sweeping epic that does traverse the nation.

However, much of the film does center around Darwin in the Northern Territory, hence that’s where I place it.

Tasmania

Tasmania

Looney Tunes

Devil May Hare (1954, Warner Bros.)

I grew up on Staten Island, the forgotten borough of New York City, so I have an affinity for any island that’s part of a larger whole. However, even as Staten Islanders we had our occasional moment of cinematic pride (as cheeky as it might be) like in Working Girl. I write that intro because I’m fairly sure that my Tasmanian selections will leave some nonplused and/or vexed. Believe me I am more than welcome to suggestions here, and for what it’s worth I think Tasmania should have an Aussie Rules team. Having said that, here’s my take on Taz:

My first introduction to the isle of Tasmania was through the insane depiction of the Devil as created by the Looney Tunes. Granted I had an inkling, even being young and only slightly informed, that it was a broad caricature but like with everything the Looney Tunes did it’s hilarious; even if the Devils don’t spin like dervishes, spit or even walk on their hind legs.

To mention an actual Australian character: the internet has shown me that Ginger Meggs is quite funny.

Young Einstein

Young Einstein (1988, Warner Bros.)

At least this one features a person who actually is Australian and made his character from Tasmania. Many don’t like this film. I didn’t quite expect to when I saw it in theaters, even though I was young, but I did.

Queensland

Queensland

Crocodile Dundee

Crocodile Dundee (1986, Paramount)

Perhaps one of the most insightful jokes ever on Family Guy was about Crocodile Dundee. Crocodile makes a random appearance and then Peter says “I want to see a lot more of you and then suddenly none of you.” This film epitomizes this pop culture phenomena. We here in the US glutted ourselves on this film and Hogan such that the over-saturation seemed to have nauseated us to the concept by the time the sequel hit. That is rather unfortunate since the reception to the delayed third installment was fairly good, though the box-office was fairly tepid, as expected.

Western Australia

Western Australia

December Boys

December Boys (2007, Warner Independent Pictures)

The films that the cast of the Harry Potter series did, while the series was ongoing, got a bad wrap at the time. In essence, Radcliffe’s involvement in this film was it seems mostly designed to buoy a film that deserved a wider reach. This a very well-told, heart-wrenching film that should be sought out.

New South Wales

New South Wales

When thinking of New South Wales and doing research three titles immediately jumped to mind. One I still have yet to see, two I have.

A Cry in the Dark (1988, Warner Bros.)

A Cry in the Dark is by this point an iconic film, and sadly, in the US in a bit of an infamous way due to the Seinfeld joke. However, this was not only a very popular film but features a great performance by Meryl Streep, one of her myriad Oscar nominations, and it’s a rather effective drama.

Finding Nemo, although it’s animated, takes place underwater, one of the major plot elements is hitting the East Australian current, but of course, the first line that pops into most people’s heads when it comes to this movie is “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.” It is where the dentist’s office is, and it is a beloved film so it most certainly belongs.

Lastly, is Muriel’s Wedding. I honestly cannot tell you how I have not seen this film yet. It’s directed by P.J. Hogan won BAM Awards for his involvement in Peter Pan and stars Toni Collette who is a two-time BAM Award winner in her own right. I will rectify this and seeing the Mad Max films soon.

South Australia

South Australia

Australian Rules  (2002, Beyond Films)

With South Australia I have selected two titles. I have done so with two different trains of thought: one title I want to see based on what I learned about the plot. The second, I have seen and though it was not a film I personally enjoyed (far from it) it is a film that has received a lot of acclaim, but not necessarily viewership.

The film I would like to see is Australian Rules, which deals not only with the antipodean version of the game, which I love, but also with race relations (white and aboriginal).

The film I have seen is Snowtown (aka Snowtown Murders). My displeasure with the film is mostly due to the narrative.

So there are the films I could come up with based mostly on what I’ve seen. As I said, I do these in part to have new films to hunt down. So what say you? Comment below or tweet me @BernardoVillela.

Top 10 Movies I Can’t Believe I Liked

This is a list I originally posted on my prior site. I don’t think I’ve found newer, better examples; so the choices remain the same. Below you’ll find 10 films that for one reason or another I had no expectations going into, but ended up liking.

10. The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980, Warner Bros.))

I first saw this film in cinema class as a freshman in high school. Until I saw this film I never really enjoyed being scared, and I hated horror movies. In a class setting it must’ve taken three days to watch it and I was riveted as if I watched it in one viewing and I looked forward to it every day. It was Kubrick‘s The Shining (which I like better than the book) that got me to read Stephen King and ultimately made me fall in love with horror.

9. Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002, 20th Century Fox)

I saw the Star Wars prequels first. Having never felt the urge to see the originals, and then hearing about the prequel concept which was popularized, if not invented by, Lucas – I wanted to watch the movies in the story’s chronological order. So I waited until 2005 to see the original trilogy. After having seen The Phantom Menace I just didn’t get the appeal, but I stuck it out and went to see Attack of the Clones and then I got it – Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones is awesome. The Phantom Menace was just not that good at all and it never will be no matter how many times I watch the film. Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones won the BAM for Best Picture in 2002 (BAMs are my personal movie awards – look out for those here next year).

8. Hook (1991)

Hook (1991, Columbia)

This film being on the list is based entirely on concept. To me the idea of a movie about Peter Pan growing up was just absurd, so I avoided Hook for a long time but then I watched it… and Spielberg does turn almost everything into gold. It will never replace the original, or come close to it, but it is a very good and underrated film.

7. Max Keeble’s Big Move (2001)

Max Keeble's Big Move (2001, Disney)

I saw this as the cherry on top of a self-made triple feature one day. Of the movies I saw that day (Zoolander and Hearts in Atlantis being the other two), I had the lowest expectations for this one and it was my favorite. It is just a zany, off-the-wall comedy that actually ended up being nominated for a BAM as Best Picture.

6. Freaky Friday (2003)

Freaky Friday (2003, Disney)

It was one of those Disney’s 70s live-action films that just never quite did it for me for a number of reasons, but mainly because suspension of disbelief becomes difficult. Complicating matters this was the second time Lindsay Lohan was remaking a Disney film after her big break in the The Parent Trap. I went to see it ‘just because,’ not expecting much and loved it. It was probably Lohan’s last appealing character pre-drug/attitude problems and Jamie Lee Curtis is a perfect foil. Thus, the ridiculous concept didn’t bother me at all in the end.

5. School of Rock (2003)School of Rock (2003, Paramount)

Keep in mind this film was released in 2003. At the time I only really knew Jack Black from Tenacious D and I didn’t think this concept would work or be funny. I was dragged to watch the film just short of kicking and screaming, and lo and behold I loved it, and consider it to be one of the 50 funniest movies I’ve ever seen. No other vehicle has quite captured Jack Black’s lightning in a bottle like this film did. I was ultimately very glad I saw it indeed and watch it frequently – and quote it as well.

4. A Dog of Flanders (1999)

A Dog of Flanders (1999, Warner Bros.)

I used to go to the movies every weekend in junior high and high school, whether accompanied or not, to see something new. It didn’t matter what I went to see, and that’s how I saw the next film. Here’s a film that misleads with its title. Having never seen or heard of the original story and films upon which this most recent rendition was based I thought it was your typical ‘boy and his dog’ film, in fact the title refers to the protagonist, Nello, as much as it does to his dog. However, at its heart it is a much more serious tale of poverty, sacrifice and the struggle to be an artist. In fact, it may well be one of the best examples of that subgenre. It is a rare film in which the protagonist ages and both performances by actors playing younger and older Nello (Jesse James and Jeremy James Kissner) are equally compelling. Along with a great supporting turn from Jon Voight, a good score, and a tear-jerking ending this is a great film that caught me completely by surprise.


3. Young Einstein (1988)

Young Einstein (1988, Warner Bros.)

I literally saw this because Home Alone was sold out, or was it Batman? Either way I didn’t see it that day and my friend’s birthday plans changed. Just watching it under those conditions should have lead to disappointment. However, I remember it being okay and not a complete and total waste of time. And looking back and considering that it starred a man who calls himself Yahoo Serious that is saying something.


2. High School Musical (2006)

High School Musical (2006, Disney Channel)

If nothing else, it’s one of those movies you watch just because you want to see what people are talking about, and I have to admit that the first one actually does work. Yes, it’s sappy, but it makes no claims to be otherwise and doesn’t try to overdevelop subplot as the 2nd and 3rd installments do. The sequels are also pretty much artistically unjustified and terrible but that can’t detract from the first.

1. Jack Frost (1998)

Jack Frost (1998, Warner Bros.)

This one sits atop the list because it deals with perhaps the most preposterous storyline of them all. A kid loses his father and finds him the next year reincarnated as a snowman. It sounds like the kind of thing that would land on MST3K. However, with the setup, the tumult surrounding the father leaving and the devastation his loss causes, and with all the insinuations of insanity handled immediately – it starts to work. What pushes it over the top are the performances of the cast: the always great Michael Keaton, both on screen and in voice becomes a character we ourselves greatly miss seeing. Joseph Cross, who is now an established character actor having recently appeared in Lincoln, after his prior comeback with Running with Scissors and a supporting role in the Oscar-winning Milk; gives the performance of his childhood career (which is saying something), as the sensitive, shy and affected Charlie. Rounding out the principal cast is Kelly Preston doing the most that almost anyone could with such a small role. It’s a film I’ve now seen a number of times and could probably pop in every holiday season without growing tired of it and still think “I can’t believe I like this, but I do.”

Mini-Review Round-Up January 2013

So here we are again starting a new Mini-Review Round-Up. This one is kicking off later in the year due to a more prevalent slate of Gray Area releases and early 2013 Theatrical screenings.

Here’s my standard intro to this post:

I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings. Theatrical releases, regardless of how they are seen whether in an auditorium or on VOD, will get full reviews [That is when deemed necessary. As I wrote here I do want to focus more on non-review writing wherever possible].

For a guide to what scores mean go here.

Broken

Broken (2012, Film Movement)

I have quite often discussed how I love Film Movement’s Film of the Month Club. Usually when citing this fact I do so with a mind to the packaging of a short and a feature. However, as the previous year’s BAM Awards indicate I also have an affinity for a number of the titles they pick up, as The Dynamiter, Corpo Celeste, Found Memories and Amador all earned nominations. Well, that affinity has grown in leaps and bounds as their last two selections were films I was eagerly anticipating namely Clandestine Childhood and now Broken.

This is a film that, aside from being the opening selection during Critics’ Week at Cannes and winning the Grand Prix at the Odessa Film Festival, was also nominated for nine British Independent Film Awards, A European Film Award and two awards at the London Film Festival; so it made a bit of hay that made me intrigued to see it.

I am glad to say that after all that hullabaloo I was not let down in the least, quite the opposite; Broken is the first great new film of the year that I’ve had the pleasure of watching. It’s an intricately told and layered tale that with many narrative threads, characters crossing paths, that could get trite, but is instead invigorating and riveting.

There are frames within the film and excellent persistent use of cross-cutting that acutely accesses the proper emotional tenor that is sought, which finds the commonality in these characters so frequently at odds. In certain ways, it’s like an externalized version of We Need to Talk About Kevin, in terms of the way it’s cut together and how the actors have to truly use the edit to great affect.

It’s what I like to term a “collision course narrative,” which is a tale wherein there’s a suspenseful foreboding to the meeting of certain events that you feel, and it’s perhaps the best example of such I’ve seen. It’s also a film that starts strong and never really lets go.

Membership in the Film Club means I’m watching it a few months ahead of most people, therefore you have ample time to heed my advice: watch Broken, it is an absolutely exquisite piece of cinema.

10/10

Short Film Saturday: Mamá

I can’t say it comes up too often, however, whenever a short that has been turned into a feature does come around and you can find it online, I’d like to put it up here. Out now is Mama, which drew its inspiration from this short, which does live up to the introduction that Guillermo Del Toro gives it. It’s highly effective for as short as quick as it is. The scene keeps rolling and the music is fantastic.

Once Upon a Time In The 80s: Sequels (Part 4 of 17)

“Leaves the door wide open for a sequel,” is a phrase that was not part of the cinematic vernacular even in the 1950s. It really does sound like something you’d say after watching a slasher movie. These films, of course, were very popular in the 1980s, but just because you didn’t see a horror movie didn’t mean you were safe from someday hearing of a sequel.
 

In the 1970s the ‘pre-sold’ product became a big thing with studios there were many literary adaptations so logically sequels would soon follow. In 1981 there were 42 sequels produced worldwide; in 1989 there were 124. By the end of the 80s there were six Police Academys, five Halloweens, Howlings, Star Treks and Nightmare on Elm Streets; if you wanted to kill someone you could strap them to a chair and make them watch these in succession. There’s probably more but it would get redundant. As opposed to the positive legacy of special effect, the 80s left us with a trend that has only gotten worse. While there are no new series that are growing ridiculously, although Friday the 13th has reached 10 [now 11 with a 12th in development], it is much easier for a film to get a sequel now such as Legally Blond which didn’t even hit 100 million, but was made on no budget so the profitability was easier to hit. Another new trend is immediately announcing a sequel: when Spider-man opened with $115 million dollars in its first weekend the studio announced plans for a sequel. Opening weekend sequel plans have become commonplace and they can be directly blamed on the 80s who exacerbated sequel-mania in a need for guaranteed money.

While the contrived sequel can be called a spawn of the 80s on the good side there is also the series. The difference is that a series is a story that is not supposed to be in one film or book as the case may be. While there was only Indiana Jones and Star Wars these films helped develop the business concept of ‘the franchise,’ more so to me than the other films than those sequelized ad neauseum. The franchise by my estimation is a designed series of films that will also be a cash cow. To me these two series planned by Lucas and Spielberg are what set the stage for some of the better films of our times.

The studios relied on the sequel for easy money because the horror films that made them all their money were pick-ups. The Slasher Trinity of Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street were all independent productions which cost their respective distributors practically nothing. Thus, when they each took off like rockets they didn’t want to see the profits stop. And like at anytime in film history, you never know what’s going to be a hit and what isn’t, no matter how much test research you do. So they figure they’d just repeat what worked. And people went, and will go, if only out of curiosity.

While I can justify all these sequels that seemingly have no point I in no way excuse them. Because what started as just a rash has become a plague and now any film which shows and inkling of profit potential is a candidate to be butchered and repackaged in a sequel. For the most part I very much enjoy these films of the 80s, but a tendency towards needless repetition is something I can live without.
 

Work Cited:  http://us.imdb.com/List?year=1989&&tv=on&&keywords=sequel&&nav=/Sections/Years/1989/include-commongenres&&heading=8;sequel;1989

Note:  This is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school. It will be published here in installments. This is part four you can read part one, two and three here.