Thursday, September 01, 2005

Streamlining 

I'm abandoning the duplicate movie-related posts over here. Too much work, not enough time. Check over at the main blog, Rogue Slayer Law Student Movie Fan, for movie, tv, and other entertaining entries.
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 9/01/2005 09:10:00 AM
Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Interpreter 

We saw The Interpreter this weekend, starring Nicole Kidman as a United Nations interpreter who overhears what appears to be a discussion on the floor of the General Assembly of an assassination plot against the embattled and corrupt head of an African nation, and Sean Penn as a Secret Service agent in the Foreign Dignitary Protection team, who is assigned to investigate her claims. The potential target is scheduled to speak at the UN in the coming days, and Penn's team is assigned to protect him.

I really liked the film. Nicole Kidman was absolutely entrancing. Her character is all about language and communication, and through her we hear greater depth than is normally emphasized in the soundtrack of a feature. Sean Penn's agent is all about the visual, and the cinematography and the focus of the lens reflects his perception. They both are dealing with various tragedies and torments, but we're not beaten over the head with them. Their stories evolve slowly, and not obviously. I personally have great enthusiasm for the mission of the UN, and I enjoyed hearing my feelings stated so passionately and articulately by Nicole Kidman's war weary interpreter.

The Girl found The Interpreter rather difficult to follow at times because of the many background stories that are given time to evolve and coalesce, and I have to agree that it's not an easy tale to follow. But I found that made it more plausible, because what events in life are as easy to predict as the plot of most movies?

As he ages, Sean Penn reminds me more and more of Dustin Hoffman. Nicole Kidman just took my breath away.

Director Sydney Pollack (who also has a small role) spoke in an article today about the privilege of being the first director allowed to film inside the UN. A UN committee initially rejected his request, but he appealed directly to Secretary General Kofi Annan, who eventually granted permission. The UN retained the right to retract that permission and eject the cast and crew from the premises should anything unseemly go on. I think the final project is one the officials won't regret having allowed.
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 4/27/2005 01:04:00 PM
Saturday, March 26, 2005

Alfie 

What's it all about, Alfie? The theme song from the original comes in a bit during the opening credits, but that's about all that's about. This remake stars Jude Law as the carefree love em and leave em Brit in New York, who along the way manages to leave quite a wake in his path. His various casualties and other acquaintances include Marissa Tomei (love her), Susan Sarandon (turned out to be a Susan Sarandon double-header, in very different roles), Jane Krakowski (but she doesn't sing), Omar Epps, and Nia Long. Gedde Watanabe is in there as well, as Alfie's boss at the limo company. You might remember him as Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles.

Bottom line, Alfie's life is empty, lonely, unfulfilled and rather depressing. Everything he's spent his life avoiding is what makes life worth living. He basically has no one to witness his life, and no one whose life he can witness. And that's about all this movie is about.

Reality Check: The Girl's comment as the closing credits begin to roll: "That's it? That's terrible!" She enjoyed it until it was over, but she hated how it ended. We're both glad we didn't see it at the theater.


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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/26/2005 04:28:00 PM

Shall We Dance 

It took us three tries, but we made it through Shall We Dance. We should know better than to try to start a movie on a weeknight after I get home from class. But we finished it off this morning. I think part of the trouble also was that this movie takes a while to get going. Richard Gere is a wills & estates attorney, with two kids, married to upscale department store executive Susan Sarandon, with a beautiful house and lovely life... and who feels empty inside. His feeling that he's not happy is compounded by his guilt over not being blissful with what he has.

But every day on his way home on the train, he goes by Miss Mitzy's Dance School and sees Jennifer Lopez gazing out the window with a lonely, faraway look on her face, and he sees himself in her. I think he also sees a hot babe, but he's above all that, it turns out. He finally ventures in to the dance school one day, and his life changes. That's all the detail I'll give.

This is a story about connecting with people, those you know and those you're just meeting, and helping each other discover or uncover the passion in ourselves. It takes work, and patience, and dedication. Watching the movie takes some element of these as well, but it pays off in the end. I think Jennifer Lopez was told by the director that her character is supposed to be closed off and disappointed by life, and she translated this into "She's an automaton." She's very difficult to watch for the first maybe one-third of the movie, but then you start getting glimpses of an actual person inside, and it catches your attention. It's all good after that. Susan Sarandon has a nice secondary storyline as a woman who is confused and a little afraid of the fact that suddenly her husband seems happier for no apparent reason, and in her search to find out why she discovers a few things about herself and her own assumptions about what life is all about.

The best lesson of the film isn't in the dance studio. It's the statement that the reason and the driving force behind spending your life with someone is to be a witness to each other's lives. That's nice.

Reality Check: She agreed that it started off too slow, but that once it got going it was a good movie. She was glad we didn't see it at a theater, though. And we both think that Stanley Tucci looks much better bald. You'll have to see it for yourself.


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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/26/2005 04:02:00 PM
Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Napoleon Dynamite 

We watched this one last weekend. Eh, so-so.

Napoleon Dynamite is the favorite target of the bullies and cool kids in his small town Idaho high school, sometime in the 80s. He has a couple of friends who are equally as outcast, and the three of them try to mumble and defensive come-back their way through their troubles at home and school. Napoleon lives with his grandmother, who is temporarily removed from the picture early on so that his obnoxious living-in-the-past Uncle Rico can move in with Napoleon and his older brother Kip, who is apparently somewhere around 30 and who spends hours per day talking online to his virtual love in Detroit. Napoleon and his friends find some motivation when his buddy Pedro decides to run for class president. Sort of Revenge of the Nerds. But really not.

Pieces of it are funny, and I laughed out loud a number of times, but it just moves along really slowly. It's the Saturday Night Live skit syndrome. Good in small quantities, but not well-adapted to feature length. Unfortunately you do have to sit through the whole thing to get the most benefit from the various storylines, but I don't suggest you start it very late at night.

Reality Check: The Girl found this to be abysmal. Hated, hated, hated it.
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/23/2005 03:19:00 PM
Monday, March 21, 2005

Joss Whedon + Wonder Woman = Whoo-Hoo! 

MTV reports (link via Ms. Musings) that Joss Whedon has signed on formally to write and direct a big screen version of Wonder Woman.

The possibility of this project has been bounced around for years, including periodic speculation about who would make the best Wonder Woman.

Let the casting speculation recommence!!!
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/21/2005 03:14:00 PM
Sunday, March 20, 2005

Hitch 

Four thumbs up! Two from me, two from The girl. This is a chick flick that guys can enjoy as well. It's a basic romantic comedy, but it follows two main couples, plus the viewpoint is mostly from the male perspective on romance and dating (and how they either screw it up or are misunderstood and thereby blocked from succeeding, depending on your perspective). But it's not just straight guys who can identify with the "guy" side of the story, and not just straight women who can identify with the "girl" side of the movie. The actions attempted, approaches utilized, reactions brought forth and responses formed are those familiar to anyone on the dating spectrum. If you haven't performed or been subjected to one of these scenarios, a friend of yours has.

Will Smith is Alex Hitchens, aka The Dating Doctor. Some women choose to believe he's an urban myth, but in reality he is a successful but very secretive consultant who helps men not defeat themselves during the first few dates with the woman of their dreams. The idea is that after three dates, the women are less likely to read offense into actions or statements of the men, so the men can be themselves without self-termination by misunderstanding. After that, they're on their own.

Of course there has to be a wrench in Hitch's well-planned life, and it comes in the form of Eva Mendes as Sara, a jaded-on-love gossip columnist for whom Hitch falls - hard. Then there's his client Albert (Kevin James), a mild-mannered and rather goofy accountant who is convinced that his firm's fabulously wealthy celebrity client Allegra (Amber Valletta) is his soulmate. Allegra's celebrity puts her in the zoom lens of Sara, and hijinx ensue.

But the hijinx are well-written, well-acted, and include a number of well-placed Big Chase Scenes. My face was actually sore by the closing credits, from smiling for so long.

A classmate of mine recommended Hitch as fun for a matinee, but not worth full price. I disagree, and give this one a full price recommendation. But go to a matinee anyway, because it's not like you really get anything extra for paying full price, except less money in your wallet and more crowds with which to contend. But you get the idea.

Reality Check: The Girl loved it too. Plus, Hitch includes a couple of references to Jerry McGuire (one of her all time favorite movies), including a clip, which solidified a winning review.
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/20/2005 04:08:00 PM
Saturday, March 19, 2005

Catwoman 

We started watching this DVD last weekend, but we started it rather late and The Girl couldn't stay awake. My school schedule being what it is, we couldn't sit down together to finish it until last night.

I liked it. I'm glad we didn't pay current movie theater prices to see it, though. It's fun comic book fluff, and the CGI action was a little goofy. Remember the scenes of Huntress running and leaping across the rooftops of Gotham? Very similar. They may have used the same clips, in fact. The scene in the jewelry store, when Catwoman was running and leaping around the walls of the store, just ahead of the automatic weapon fire? Yeah, that was a little much as well. Would have worked for Spiderman (he has those cool microbarbed hands, after all), worked fabulously for Lara Croft (she was already hooked into her bungee ballet gear, so there you go), but nothing catlike would give Catwoman the ability to defy gravity for that long.

And Michelle Pfeiffer has ruined the "Meow" for anyone else, as far as I'm concerned (I do a fair imitation, but it's not the same). Halle's got the hiss down cold, though.

The writers' efforts to inject a feminist edge and a theme of self-actualization falls a little flat as well. Sharon Stone's Laurel Hedare was evil because she was trying to be something other than what she is, while Halle Berry's Catwoman was good, because she accepted who she is. Gee, let's see. I've been given powers that allow me to be confident, agile, quick as hell, unbeatable in a fight, able to leap off tall buildings with a single meow and live, and sexy to boot. Should I accept it - hand it over, Bud! Yeah, it was a tough choice.

(Caution: spoiler ahead). "Oh, but she must sacrifice other things, like long term happiness with the man of her dreams!" That bit was given no justification in the storyline. He was fine with who she is, she was fine with who he is, and they were damn fine together. It felt like they just tossed that in because she's supposed to be "dark," so she should walk off alone into the moonlight. (Spoiler portion over).

I know, I know, I opened this post by saying I liked it, then rambled on about all the crap things that bothered me. Give me a break - it's what I do.

I liked the character they built for Patience. She had a lot of depth, and her pre-Catwoman persona wasn't unbelievably inept or reclusive, but it was enough to be a strong contrast to her post-Catwoman behavior. I liked Benjamin Bratt's character and his contribution to the story. Although the technology in the police crime lab was a little over the top. I absolutely loved her loft apartment, although I'm not sure how she was affording it being a struggling artist with a crappy low level day job. It seemed to be in a really bad neighborhood, so that probably explains that. I loved, loved, loved her takedown of the Harley Party Dude across the alley. Who hasn't wanted to do that to their bullying neighbor?

But the best part was the way that Hally Berry turned into a cat. She just had the moves down so well when it was just her doing it, not some CGI enhancement. My favorite scene was when she was talking to Sally on the phone and just moving around her apartment like a cat would - jumping up on the counter with no effort, swatting at pretty shiny things, strolling across the back of the couch. It was perfect. The part where she woke up from a nap and found that she was curled up on a pillow on a shelf was good, too.

I think if they had stuck to the characters and the small details instead of blowing their budget on the grand scale (but in the end not very effective) CGI, it would have been a much better movie. If they'd had enough money to have really good effects, okay, but apparently they didn't.
And finally, let me say that Halle Berry did not deserve the Razzy for this one. She did a great job with what they gave her. And good on her for being such a good sport and showing up in person to accept it! But the director deserved his for what could have been a really good movie, and the effects crew should have gotten one as well. Sound mixing was a problem too - the action scene music was too loud and the dialogue too soft. We had to keep turning the volume up and down. No way this was the worst movie of the year, though.

Reality Check: The Girl hated didn't like it (she corrected me on this - "It wasn't as bad as Gigli, Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut or Mulholland Drive."). For some reason the thing that seemed to push it over the edge for her was the sexy rooftop walk in the crazy ripped up leather pants after Patience had apparently accepted her Catwoman side. Okay, the ripped up pants were a little much, but... Meow.


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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/19/2005 08:08:00 AM
Sunday, March 06, 2005

Eulogy 

Now that Oscar season is over (for a while), The Girl and I have gotten back to watching less known, quirky films. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're really bad.

Last night we hit a winner: Eulogy. This 2004 movie stars, well, tons o'people, and is just hysterical. Zooey Deschanel stars and narrates as Katie, the favorite grandaughter of Edmund (Rip Torn), whose recent death brings this totally dysfunctional family back together at their mom's (Piper Laurie) house for the funeral. Ray Romano is the unrestrained testosterone son, who with his own twin testosterone spawn drove his wife out of their lives with their various stunts. Hank Azaria is the overly sensitive but incredibly self-absorbed failed actor son, who returns with his daughter Kate. Debra Winger (yes, THAT Debra Winger!!!!) is Alice, the overbearing, controlling and vastly judgmental daughter who has browbeaten her husband and three children into silence. And she wears very cool geeky glasses. Kelly Preston is the lesbian daughter who is planning to marry her partner, Famke Janssen, and who has years of bitter resentment built up against big sister Alice. Add in some old flames, Glenne Headly as a family friend, a couple of cameos by Rene Auberjonois as a ditzy pastor, and get ready for the fun!

Other Trek connect (besides Odo): Debra Winger's silent husband (uncredited on IMDB) is played by Mark Harelik, who was on Voyager as the very smooth Devore Inspector Kashyk. I see from his IMDB profile that he was also on Angel, but I can't take credit for remembering that one.

The dialogue is fun and incredibly snarky, the soundtrack is great (including a couple of Joan Armatrading songs), most of the plot points don't come armed with sledgehammers, and there are some superbly done point-of-view shots that left me howling.

Reality Check: The Girl liked this one too. We may have to purchase it. She did get a little tired of my running commentary on the various other shows and movies each actor was in, but that was done after all the characters were introduced.


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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/06/2005 08:53:00 AM
Friday, March 04, 2005

Best of Youth - Longest of Movies 

I've been reading this morning about an Italian film that opened in limited US cities this week: Best of Youth. It's received glowing reviews (mostly) so far, earning an 89% on the Rotten Tomatometer. That puts it in the same rating range as many of this year's Oscar nominees and winners. So what, you might ask?

This is a six-hour, subtitled film that follows two brothers over the passage of 40 years.

Six hours. With subtitles.

This movie must be amazing, for film critics to have lasted through the whole thing, gone home and still have had the will, desire and physical capacity to write a rave review. I've got to see it. Sadly, I know there's no way in any of the rings of hell that The Girl will be joining me in this screening, even if we were to wait until the DVD release. In fact, she's vowed off all subtitled films for the foreseeable future, after our recent whirlwind tour of Maria Full of Grace, Motorcycle Diaries and The Story of the Weeping Camel. And a six-hour commitment? Forget about it. She was cranky enough after Return of the King.
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/04/2005 08:33:00 AM
Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Oscar 2005 Wrap-Up 

Once again our Oscar Party was a great success, and it appeared that fun was had by all. This year's party had the added feature of When Bloggers Meet, as a few of the guests have read each other's blogs, but had not yet met face to face. Bloggers present were me, The Creeping Unknown, Not a Freak, and Soxfan.

As evidence that blogging makes you smarter, TCU and Soxfan tied for the most correct picks, at I believe it was 15 correct picks each. Last year we also had a tie at 19 correct, and the statue stayed at our house since The Girl won the tie-breaking thumb-wrestling match against The Hammer. This year only one of our winners lasted through the entire awards show, so the trophy went home with The Creeping Unknown. Our little Oscar shrine looks empty on the wall now, so we may have to get another trophy which will be the Permanent Display, while the other will become the Traveling Trophy.

This was a tough year. I had more correct picks on my losing entry last year than the winners had this year. As The Girl pointed out, there was no Lord of the Rings to which to hitch your voting wagon. But it made for an exciting night, with so many talented nominees.

On another accurate prediction note, we're getting better at calculating the amount of chinese food for Oscar Night, and we didn't have quite as much left over this year. In true geek fashion, I saved our order list, and marked which items were Too Much, Too Little, and which were Just Right, so we can modify accordingly for next year. Seating was almost sufficient, with all living room seats filled, plus three people parked on the floor and two good sports on the stairs (they're open into the living room, so it was a clear view to the screen). Delicious desserts were contributed by a number of guests, and everything was simply fabulous.

Consensus was that:
  • Chris Rock was an excellent host.
  • Mermaid dresses were the dominant choice.
  • Fair-skinned, blonde women shouldn't wear gowns that match their skin tone so closely.
  • Hilary Swank was the fashion winner as well as Best Actress.
  • Beyonce must have been exhausted from all those wardrobe, hair and makeup changes. And the singing.
  • Pierce Brosnan is fine.
  • Natalie Portman is poise personified.
  • The floating Oscar stage decoration was really cool, even if it reminded us of Carousel in Logan's Run.
  • Trader Joe's makes the most delicious little cream puffs.
  • Not letting the less prestigious category winners give their acceptance speeches from stage really sucked.
This may be the only big public recognition most of these people get in their careers, and part of the thrill is looking out from stage onto all the people in the audience who are applauding your achievements and talent. Instead they had to stand in the aisle with their backs to the audience and simply speak into the camera. The other new format of having all the nominees on stage was okay, as the winner still got to walk forward to the mic and address the whole theater. For next year, keep that one but get rid of the in-aisle presentations. Thanks Gil!

And may I just add that Regina King and Sandra Oh need some big time recognition. Soon.

For next year: March 5, 2006. Save the date!!!
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 3/01/2005 09:24:00 AM
Sunday, February 27, 2005

Oscar Picks 2005 

UPDATE (3/1/05, 8:34 am): Now that I've recovered from my very late night Sunday night, I've put an asterisk next to my correct picks. Only 9 10 correct for me this year, while I had 16 last year. Full list of 2005 winners here.
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Okay, it's time to put it out there. Here are my picks for the 77th Academy Awards:

*Picture: Million Dollar Baby
Director: Martin Scorcese, The Aviator
*Actress: Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
*Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, The Aviator
*Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray
Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways
*Animated Feature: The Incredibles

Art Direction: Finding Neverland
*Cinematography: The Aviator
Costume Design: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Documentary Feature: Super Size Me
Documentary Short Subject: The Children of Leningradsky
Film Editing: Collateral
*Foreign Language Film: The Sea Inside
Makeup: The Passion of the Christ

Original Score: The Village
*Original Song: "Al Otro Lado Del Rio," The Motorcycle Diaries
Short Animated: Guard Dog
Short Live Action: Little Terrorist
*Sound Editing: The Incredibles
Sound Mixing: The Aviator
Visual Effects: I, Robot

Adapted Screenplay: Million Dollar Baby
Original Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2/27/2005 12:44:00 PM

Oscar Night Final Prep 

The Girl and I have watched the last nominated films we're going to be able to squeeze in, and now it's time to prepare The Castle for tonight's event of the year, Oscar Night!

We braved the wild parking safari that is a trip to the West Newton Cinema, to see Vera Drake. I dropped The Girl off to procure the tickets, and about 30 minutes later I walked into the theater to join her. We ended up sitting in the 2nd row, as that and the 1st row were the only ones with available seats. Thank goodness for many, many previews, as I think we only missed the first few minutes. Then last night we watched The Story of the Weeping Camel, and this morning we finished up The Motorcycle Diaries.

The Girl says that if anyone had told her seven years ago that she'd be spending a Saturday night watching a British film about abortion in the 1950s and then lying on the couch watching a foreign language documentary set in Mongolia, about camels and camel herders in the Gobi desert, she'd tell that person they were crazy. Yet there we were. My, how times change.
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2/27/2005 12:41:00 PM
Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Academy Award Musical Performers - Update 

This evening's Oscar blog entry reveals additional performers who will be providing their renditions of the Best Song nominees: Santana, and Antonio Banderas. Since the performers for the other songs had already been announced, it seems likely that they'll be performing jointly on "Al Otro Lado Del Río" - THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES.
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2/22/2005 07:23:00 PM
Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Beyonce Showcase 

In last night's Oscar blog post, Gil Cates revealed the performers for the various Best Song nominees. Hope y'all dig Beyonce. The nominees are:

"Accidentally In Love" - SHREK 2 - To be performed by Counting Crows, who are also the songwriters and film performers.

"Al Otro Lado Del Rio" - THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES - Performer yet to be named. Film performance was by Jorge Drexler.

"Believe" - THE POLAR EXPRESS - To be performed by Beyonce and Josh Groban. Film performance was by Josh Groban.

"Learn To Be Lonely" - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA - To be performed by Beyonce. Film performance was by Minnie Driver.

"Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)" - THE CHORUS - To be performed by Beyonce, accompanied by the American Boychoir of Princeton, New Jersey. Film performance by Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc Choir.

I'm not sure anything can beat the kinetic performance of "Belleville Rendez-vous" from The Triplets of Belleville last year. Plus there was the puzzlement we all struggled with when faced with the unusual instrument Sting was playing on "You Will Be My Ain True Love," from Cold Mountain. FYI - it was a hurdy-gurdy.
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UPDATE (9:47 am): I had to hold off on this until I received confirmation that I wasn't mistaken, and I wasn't. I'm very excited about the performance of the American Boychoir of Princeton, since my beautiful and talented niece Jen worked with that group while she was an undergrad at the Westminster Choir College. Whoo-hoo!
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2/15/2005 09:35:00 AM
Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day Movies 

The Girl and I had our Valentine's Day yesterday, since I'll be in class until 9:40 tonight, and won't be home until about 10:40, which is well after she'll have gone to bed. We spent the day doing things we don't often get to do together during the school year - like making fabulous omelettes for breakfast, protein shopping (i.e. meat & fish) at Whole Foods Market, and produce shopping at Wilson's Farm. We also watched two of this year's Oscar-nominated documentaries, Super Size Me, and Tupac: Resurrection, and the thrice-nominated Passion of the Christ. And since what is Valentine's Day without a romantic comedy, we saw The Wedding Date on the big screen. All of this done with no discussions over when I would put down the Criminal Procedure and the Professional Responsibility casebooks. She had my full attention for the day.

We also shared the experience of a cold which I graciously delivered home from school, the building which has been dubbed "this five-story cesspool of snot."

But since movies were such a part of our (early) Valentine's Day festivities, I thought I'd set out my (alphabetical, not in order of preference) list of suggestions for Valentine's Day movies. Please feel free to add more suggestions in the Comments:

50 First Dates
About a Boy
American President, The
Butcher's Wife, The
Chocolat
City of Angels
Love Actually
Moonstruck
Notting Hill
Return to Me
Runaway Bride
Simpy Irresistable
Sleepless in Seattle
When Harry Met Sally
While You Were Sleeping
You've Got Mail
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2/14/2005 07:12:00 PM

Academy Awards Format Changes 

I've been reading Gil Cates' Oscar blog, which is really more of a daily PR hype, but occasionally does provide something new and interesting from behind the scenes. I found it interesting that one of the purposes of the Nominees' Luncheon is to remind everyone of their acceptance speech time limit, and to suggest stylistic approaches that have worked in the past.

Friday's post (2/11) brought news of some format changes for the upcoming show. They won't be showing five separate clips for the Best Film nominees (does this mean they'll run them altogether, or what?).

They'll be doing some presentations in the usual way, with the presenter reading out the nominees from the stage, and the winner goes on up. For others, the nominees will all be onstage already when they're introduced, and the winner gets to step forward like at a beauty pageant. For still others, the nominees will be in their seats, but the presenter will be standing in the aisles. I assume the presenter will then walk over and hand them a microphone, a la Phil Donahue.

I'd be REALLY pissed off if I were to have worked hard for years, finally got the recognition of my peers and was then prevented from taking the Walk of Glory up onto the stage while everyone applauded. Especially if I were in one of the lower level categories. I mean come on - this is pretty much the only public recognition these people ever get.

We'll see how it goes.
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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2/14/2005 07:11:00 PM
Friday, February 04, 2005

Oscar Blog 

Gil Cates, producer of the Academy Awards ceremony (this will be his 12th), will be launching a behind-the-scenes blog covering the ongoing preparations for Oscar night. The blog, which will be linked to from Oscar.com, is set to launch on Monday (2/7). I'll update this post Monday with a direct link to the blog.

Cates sounds like a cool kind of guy. The 70-year-old has 6 kids, 5 grandkids, and is Phoebe Cates' uncle. He dresses in jeans and sneakers, and "often zips" around the Century City production offices on an electric scooter. In past productions he had a statuette sent into space and then announced via satellite from a space shuttle, and originated the memorial clip segment of the show. Look for Ossie Davis to be featured prominently on February 27.

Cates, as producer, is also the guy in charge of deciding when to bring out the orchestral hook to cut off winners who are blathering and when to hold back when an otherwise well-done acceptance is running a little long. His goal this year is to wrap by 11:30 pm Eastern Time.
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UPDATE (2/7/05, 6:22 pm): I've been checking all day, but have yet to find a link to the Oscar blog that was supposed to be up today. I'll keep checking. If anyone else has found it - could you leave a comment with the link?
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UPDATE (2/7/05, 9:40 pm): Blog's up!

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 2/04/2005 01:51:00 PM
Thursday, January 27, 2005

Maria Full of Grace 

The Girl and I watched this on DVD, the first of our Oscar-nominated DVDs that are lined up on our Netflix queue. Newcomer Catalina Sandino Moreno has been nominated for Best Actress for her starring role as Maria, a 17-year-old Columbian who has been thrust into the role of primary supporter of her mother, sister and sister's toddler. Having quit her job as a thorn remover at a rose plantation, she is given an opportunity to be a mule - to smuggle drugs into the United States by swallowing large numbers of drug filled plastic "pellets."

We see Maria trying to deal with her lot in life while at the same time struggling to improve it, and balancing her loyalties to her own future and those of the people around her. Some of the early scenes of the plantation workers being bussed to work reminded me of Casa de los Babys, which took place in Mexico.

Moreno is very good in the role, and I'm glad the Academy once again went out of the mainstream for this nomination, but there's no way she'll win. I equate it to last year's nomination of young Keisha Castle-Hughes for her starring role in Whale Rider: a great recognition of the early work of a young actor, which hopefully will help open doors to many more opportunities, but she didn't stand a chance against Charlize Theron. Look for Castle-Hughes in the upcoming Revenge of the Sith.

Reality Check: The Girl in general studiously avoids subtitled films (Maria Full of Grace is in Spanish), but she didn't mind the subtitles in this one, and enjoyed the movie.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1/27/2005 02:45:00 PM
Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Oscar Nominations 2005 

I watched the Oscar Noms with a friend in the office kitchen. How exciting!!! And the nominees are:

BEST PICTURE
THE AVIATOR
FINDING NEVERLAND
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
RAY
SIDEWAYS

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Annette Bening - BEING JULIA
Catalina Sandino Moreno - MARIA FULL OF GRACE
Imelda Staunton - VERA DRAKE
Hilary Swank - MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Kate Winslet - ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Cate Blanchett - THE AVIATOR
Laura Linney - KINSEY
Virginia Madsen - SIDEWAYS
Sophie Okonedo - HOTEL RWANDA
Natalie Portman - CLOSER

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Don Cheadle - HOTEL RWANDA
Johnny Depp - FINDING NEVERLAND
Leonardo DiCaprio - THE AVIATOR
Clint Eastwood - MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Jamie Foxx - RAY

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Alan Alda - THE AVIATOR
Thomas Haden Church - SIDEWAYS
Jamie Foxx - COLLATERAL
Morgan Freeman - MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Clive Owen - CLOSER

DIRECTING
THE AVIATOR
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
RAY
SIDEWAYS
VERA DRAKE

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
THE INCREDIBLES
SHARK TALE
SHREK 2

ART DIRECTION
THE AVIATOR
FINDING NEVERLAND
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT

CINEMATOGRAPHY
THE AVIATOR
HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT

COSTUME DESIGN
THE AVIATOR
FINDING NEVERLAND
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
RAY
TROY

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
BORN INTO BROTHELS
THE STORY OF THE WEEPING CAMEL
SUPER SIZE ME
TUPAC: RESURRECTION
TWIST OF FAITH

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
AUTISM IS A WORLD
THE CHILDREN OF LENINGRADSKY
HARDWOOD
MIGHTY TIMES: THE CHILDREN'S MARCH
SISTER ROSE'S PASSION

FILM EDITING
THE AVIATOR
COLLATERAL
FINDING NEVERLAND
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
RAY


FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
THE CHORUS
DOWNFALL
THE SEA INSIDE
YESTERDAY

MAKEUP
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
THE SEA INSIDE

MUSIC (SCORE)
FINDING NEVERLAND
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
LEMONY SNICKET'S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST
THE VILLAGE

MUSIC (SONG)
"Accidentally In Love" - SHREK 2
"Al Otro Lado Del Río" - THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES
"Believe" - THE POLAR EXPRESS
"Learn To Be Lonely" - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
"Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)" - THE CHORUS

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
BIRTHDAY BOY
GOPHER BROKE
GUARD DOG
LORENZO
RYAN

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
EVERYTHING IN THIS COUNTRY MUST
LITTLE TERRORIST
7:35 IN THE MORNING
TWO CARS, ONE NIGHT
WASP

SOUND EDITING
THE INCREDIBLES
THE POLAR EXPRESS
SPIDER-MAN 2

SOUND MIXING
THE AVIATOR
THE INCREDIBLES
THE POLAR EXPRESS
RAY
SPIDER-MAN 2

VISUAL EFFECTS
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN
I, ROBOT
SPIDER-MAN 2

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
BEFORE SUNSET
FINDING NEVERLAND
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES
SIDEWAYS

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
THE AVIATOR
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
HOTEL RWANDA
THE INCREDIBLES
VERA DRAKE

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1/25/2005 09:19:00 AM
Friday, January 21, 2005

Million Dollar Baby 

We finally got to see this much praised film this past weekend, at its early release at the Lowes Boston Common (the most comfy and well-appointed theater in Boston). I haven't gotten around to writing about it until now, mostly because I couldn't come up with words that would appropriately convey the utter fabulosity of Million Dollar Baby and all those involved in the project.

Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood star in this story of a woman (Maggie) seeking to become a champion professional boxer, and the trainer (Frankie) she is trying to persuade to help her get there. Morgan Freeman plays a retired boxer (Eddie) who now works in Frankie's gym. Eddie also provides the narration that is the glue and universal translator of the story.

You may be thinking, "Why do we need yet another boxing movie? Haven't there been enough? Rags to riches, underdog fighting to the top, life lessons through physical brutality." To this I answer: You really need to see this movie, and see it at the theater. Don't wait for DVD release. Go to a big theater with a big screen and a good sound system, and pick a time when there will be a good sized crowd. This is one of those shows where everyone laughs, cries, sniffs, groans and winces as one, and where applause is apt to burst forth spontaneously.

The characters and the portrayals of them are complex and rich, with more layers than are worked through over the course of the 137 minutes. The story is nuanced and well-paced, and never lets you go.

Million Dollar Baby is raking in the awards and nominations, and I have no doubt that there will several more nominations come Tuesday morning when the Academy Award nominations are announced. I'm putting my money firmly on Hilary Swank to take home her second Best Actress Oscar.

Just spectacular. Go see it. Now.

Reality Check: The Girl absolutely loved it.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1/21/2005 10:27:00 AM
Friday, January 14, 2005

Scheduling Reminder: Golden Globes 

Don't forget - the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will be holding the 62nd Annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, which will be broadcast on NBC from 8-11 pm EST. I've managed to see many more nominated films since they were announced in December, but alas some haven't yet had their wide releases.

At least I'm confident I'll have seen the major award films by the time Sunday, February 27th rolls around and brings the Academy Awards on my favorite holiday of the year, Oscar Night. I'm counting the days until Million Dollar Baby is finally available for those of us in the masses to see. FYI - Oscar nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 25 at 8:30 am EST.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1/14/2005 08:07:00 AM
Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Critics' Choice Awards for 2004 

The Broadcast Film Critics Association yesterday announced the winners of their Critics' Choice Awards for 2004.

Best Picture: Sideways
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx - Ray
Best Actress: Hilary Swank - Million Dollar Baby
Best Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church - Sideways
Best Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen - Sideways
Best Acting Ensemble: Sideways
Best Director: Martin Scorsese - The Aviator
Best Writer: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor - Sideways
Best Animated Feature: The Incredibles
Best Young Actor: Freddie Highmore - Finding Neverland
Best Young Actress: Emmy Rossum - The Phantom of the Opera
Best Popular Movie: Spider-Man 2
Best Family Film (live action): Finding Neverland
Best Picture Made for Television: The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
Best Documentary Feature: Fahrenheit 9/11
Best Foreign Language Film: The Sea Inside
Best Song: "Old Habits Die Hard", Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart - Alfie
Best Soundtrack: Ray
Best Composer: Howard Shore - The Aviator

The full breakdown of all nominees and how many votes were received by each (a very nice feature, by the way) can be found here.

I just can't get on board with the big ravings over Sideways. Overall I liked it, but many of the scenes just felt too drawn out and/or like poor attempts at being deep and intense. The Girl really didn't like it, and let me know partway through that in her opinion "this movie sucks." I'm fully on board with Martin Scorcese (Aviator) for Best Director.

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Posted by Beth Henderson at 1/11/2005 09:34:00 AM
Friday, December 31, 2004

Closer 

We had two Lowe's movie passes left, and they were set to expire today. The catch: not valid during the first 10 days of a film's release. So sadly I had to pay 7 bucks for a MATINEE showing of Phantom the other day, and The Girl and I ended up using the passes to see Closer last night. There were other movies we wanted to see instead, but this was playing at the right time, at the right theater, and was available with the passes.

Getting there was quite a trip as well. The Girl had her drum lesson from 6:30-7:30, and the movie was playing at the Liberty Tree Mall at 7:55. According to Mapquest, the drive from the lesson to the movie is 15.71 miles (mostly highway) and a 21 minute drive. So yeah, we were cutting it close. Especially when she didn't emerge from her lesson into the parking lot where I was waiting until 7:35. But off we went. She was full of hope and optimism, but I was driving. It was actually going fairly well until traffic ground to a halt about a mile before our exit. So I took the exit before ours, and wound our way through the back roads and found our way to the mall. The Girl insisted that there would be at least 15 minutes of commercials and previews (but I love watching the previews!), so we would still make it.

Pretty good line at the ticket counter, but it moved along. Then at the entry to the theater area itself, there was some sort of confusion about Meet the Fockers. A group of kids had tickets to the just-started show, but the staff said there were no more seats. This went on for an excruciating amount of time (okay, maybe 45 seconds), but the large growling man behind us who kept shouting, "Come on, come on," sufficiently intimidated the ticket taker and he let the kids, then us, in. Theater 5, where we were headed, was of course at the far end of the very long hall, and was packed. But The Girl took charge and found us 2 seats in the middle of a row, and we sat down at 8:10. Sure enough, 15 minutes after the scheduled starting time, the feature presentation began running about 15 seconds after we sat down. I should have listened.

So anyway, the movie. About an hour in, I leaned over and whispered, "This movie kind of sucks."

So far in the awards season, Closer has won the National Board of Review award for Best Acting by an Ensemble and and was named by the NBR as one of the year's Top 10 Films, and is up for 5 Golden Globe Awards (Best Picture: Drama, Best Supporting Actress (Natalie Portman), Best Supporting Actor (Clive Owen), Best Director (Mike Nichols), and Best Screenplay (Patrick Marber). Oddly enough, I think perhaps (okay, maybe I still have a few misgivings) all these nominations and awards are due, except for the Best Picture ones. The acting was superb, the direction was great, and the dialogue was well-written. But as a whole, it just didn't work for me. It was a series of character studies of people in crisis.

The soundtrack for the film was also great, but they really should have worked in the Indigo Girls song Reunion.


I laughed as I said it
This is my situation
It's not pictures or privilege
It's just self preservation
I don't want you to feel
Any obligation
It feels so funny to be free
All you pretty pretenders
Negligent vendors
Aren't you precious inside
I have no need for anger
With intimate strangers
And I got nothing to hide

Check out the rest of the lyrics here - they're perfect for this film of intimate strangers who dance and weave and change partners over the course of four years, only revealing truth in moments of desperation, both quiet and raging. I think the only character who was really honest throughout was the one waging the most consistent deception.

Clive Owen and Jude Law are driven by testosterone, sexual obsessions, and a desire to be the alpha male by possessing the beautiful prize. But who is the most beautiful prize? Usually the one you don't have.

Natalie Portman and Julia Roberts come across as sunflowers who turn all their attention to whichever sun is shining most brightly on them at any given moment. Portman's sunflower snaps her attention quickly and without hesitation, while Roberts' is more cautious and extends the transitions. When we first meet Natalie Portman's Alice, Jude Law's Dan describes her as "disarming." I agreed, until the scene switched to Julia Robert's Anna at work in her photography studio. My definition of disarming completely changed, and I had to agree with the comparison that Clive Owen's Larry made later on, that Alice is a girl, while Anna is a woman. He describes the attractiveness of early 20-somethings as "full of the moronic beauty of youth." I would have taken Anna over Alice any day. Until Anna began to appear to have accepted her role as a chew toy to be fought over by the two burly dogs, that is.

The jumps in time were problematic for me, not because of the jumps themselves, but because of the landing points. All we see of these four characters are their moments of crisis and angst. Any brief scene of happiness is surely just a setup for the soon to follow fall. It was exhausting, and it all just left me feeling hollow and empty and disturbed. Of course, I think that's how at least three of the characters were left feeling, so perhaps that's what Nichols (whose films I generally love) was going for.

Note of caution - don't go to this movie with anyone with whom you'd feel uncomfortable reading or hearing graphic sexual language, because you'll be both reading it and hearing it throughout Closer.

Reality Check: The Girl likes disturbing movies because it reassures her in her choices, life situation and relationships. She came out of this one feeling very good about us. And she thinks that Natalie Portman is more attractive than Julia Roberts because she doesn't like Julia Roberts' big lips. But she liked the first outfit that Julia Roberts was wearing.



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Posted by Beth Henderson at 12/31/2004 09:39:00 AM