Sunday, February 24, 2013

Peggy's Oscar Picks

For those of you playing along at home, here are my predictions for the Oscars tonight.  Not all are necessarily my favorite in each category, but they are the ones I think are most likely to win.

Note: I'm historically TERRIBLE at this.  :)

(Even though I think that Django Unchained was a MUCH better movie)

(Ugh, but I'm torn between Argo and Les Mis... Ok... I'm going with Argo. Final Answer.)

ACTOR in a Leading Role
Hugh Jackman
Les Misérables

ACTRESS in a Leading Role
Jessica Chastain
Zero Dark Thirty
(Also, not my favorite performance, but I think she's going to take it.  WEAK nominations this year, if you ask me.)

ACTOR in a Supporting Role
Christoph Waltz
Django Unchained

ACTRESS in a Supporting Role
Anne Hathaway
Les Misérables
(I mean, come on.  How can she not win?)

Wreck-It Ralph
Rich Moore
(Here's rooting for an actual comedy!)

Django Unchained
Robert Richardson

Les Misérables
Paco Delgado

Silver Linings Playbook
David O. Russell

Searching for Sugar Man
Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn
(I didn't see any of the nominees in this category, but I have heard TONS about this movie, so I assume it will win.)

Mondays at Racine
Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan

William Goldenberg

(For the record, I don't think that there should be a Foreign Language Film category.  Obviously, if one of the nominees in this category is up for Best Picture, and none of the other nominees are, it will win.  So... why have a separate category?  It also assumes that non-English movies are inherently sub-par and therefore need their own JV category, and that's becoming less and less the norm.  I say, cut this shit out.)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane

Original Score
John Williams

Original Song
"Skyfall" from Skyfall
Music and Lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
(That song from Les Mis was shit.)

Les Misérables
Eve Stewart (Production Design); Anna Lynch-Robinson (Set Decoration)

John Kahrs
(This is a really awesome short, and you can watch it online!)

SHORT FILM Live Action
Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw)
Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele

Django Unchained
Wylie Stateman

Les Misérables
Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes

Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
(I don't care what anyone says.  Prometheus was awesome.)

WRITING Adapted Screenplay
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin

WRITING Original Screenplay
Django Unchained
Written by Quentin Tarantino

Am I right or am I right?  Right?

Netflix Suggestion of the Week: The Wave (2008)

I have been burning the candle at both ends for the last week, so I haven't had any time to go catch a free movie at SIFF!  LAME!  I still need to get out there and see Side Effects.  And there has been a Japanese Animation series going on... but to be honest, I'm not really into that, so I'm not too sad I missed it.

However, today I had time to watch a movie I've been meaning to see on Netflix, the German remake of a 1981 movie, The Wave.  And I'm so glad I did!

It's the story of a high school class that is doing group  projects studying a particular political ideology.  A popular teacher gets assigned the topic of "Autocracy" and engages the students in a practical lesson by getting them to buy into his own little microcosm of a dictatorship.

That premise sounds predictable, and in some ways it goes down the expected path, but this movie has really well-crafted characters, and doesn't shy away from showing both the positive and negative effects of being a part of a group that encourages (and eventually enforces) uniformity. It explores the modern German self-concept, with its mix of historical shame and desire to heal and press forward.

This movie does have a few flaws.  First, it's subtitled.  Blech. Secondly, it has some weird inconsistencies. For example, there are a few characters that randomly change their motivations for no clear reason. Like, there's a girl who is very wrapped up in The Wave movement, but then just suddenly rejects it, for very weak reasoning. But that kind of thing probably only irritates me. Overall, the story is pretty solid.

One thing that was really fun about this movie was that the teacher was all hot and beefy. He had gross teeth, though. He was kind of a Daniel Craig, where he's a weird mix of ugly and hot. And he coached a water polo team full of hot dudes. I assume they are all over 18 in real life. If not, then... yuck. But for now I'm going to assume it's ok for me to think they are foxy.

The filmmaker plays with visual metaphor, and if you pay attention to the art in the backgrounds of many of the settings, you'll notice that it has some nice layering. One of my film teachers would say that it had well-crafted "mise-en-scene."  He was an old stoner burnout that wore FUBU jeans and once read his lecture notes off of a bowling scorecard. He was kind of a loveable douche.

I recommend this movie if you loved the 1990 classic Pump Up The Volume, because for some reason, it had a similar feel. I also recommend it if you enjoy reading subtitles and looking at foxy dudes.

Peggy's Rating: Four out of Five stars

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Netflix Suggestions of the Week: Valentine's Day Confessions

I was just looking through my Netflix ratings, to see what movies I might suggest this week, and I discovered something.  I have a lot of movies with 5-star ratings that are widely considered to be terrible movies.

Maybe I have horrible taste in movies!

Or... maybe I see diamonds in the rough... You decide.

5 embarrassing movies I have rated (a perfect) 5 stars:

1. She's out of control (1989)
Yes, this movie stars Mr. Tony Danza. Not only is this movie the PERFECT makeover movie, but it is also gloriously, iconically late-80's. The 80's are back, right? Well, even if they aren't, this movie is awesome. It will make you want to wear a side ponytail and watch old reruns of Who's the Boss.

2. Jumanji (1995)
I re-watched this movie for the 10,000th time about a month ago, and it totally stands the test of time. Fantastical, silly, sad, Robin-Williams-y. It's perfect. It might be Bonnie Hunt's best movie ever. And a really fantastic small-ish role for the always wonderful David Allen Grier.

3. Amistad (1997)
Steven Spielberg's notorious flop! But seriously, screw you guys. This movie is SAD and really good. It's all epic and swashbuckly. Anthony Hopkins is awesome. There's nothing wrong with this movie. I think people just randomly hate certain movies set at sea. I can't figure out why. I like them all, even that Gina Davis one that was really shitty.

4. Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987)
This is, by far, the best Police Academy movie. Putting all the loveable screwup cops in charge of a citizen's police force is pure comic gold. This movie has no idea what decade it takes place in. It also has twice the slapstick of the previous three movies, and a hefty scoop of subtle racism.  Scoring a perfect 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, everyone should watch this movie at least once.

5. Career Opportunities (1991)
For some reason, this is a really popular movie in my family. I think we probably recorded it off of TV at some point, and we watched it repeatedly. There's something about being locked in a Target alone overnight that really appealed to me both at age 13, and age 34. Plus, you get to see Jennifer Connelly before she got scary-skinny. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Frank Whaley. Whatever happened to him?

So, maybe check these movies out!  Or, just feel sad for me.

Monday, February 11, 2013

10. Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts

SIFF has been showing screening of all of the Academy Award Nominated Short Format Documentaries all week, and I went to see them on Sunday!  

I really, really love documentaries. Even when they aren't particularly well-done, I have to admit that I still enjoy watching them. It made for a really fantastic afternoon to sit through 5 superb documentaries. I didn't realize that the short format category included movies that were up to 40 minutes long.  I was thinking that they'd be more in the 10-20 minute range. Nope! It was a Long. Ass. Screening.  

So, for those of you who are placing Oscar bets with your friends, here are my thoughts about the nominees:

1. Kings Point
Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider

This documentary told the story of several residents of the Kings Point senior apartments in Florida.  Hilarious stories were told of love, dating, loss and survival among these aging former New Yorkers.  This movie made me think deeply about the fragile unpredictability and life, and our need for our fellow human beings.  It was truly moving and had some really great laughs.  This is my choice as runner up for the Oscar.  It could easily win, and would totally deserve it.  It was really excellent.  

Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan

I call this movie "The One We Cried All The Way Through."  It is an astonishingly intimate portrait of women with breast cancer who participate in a day of beauty that the Racine salon provides for women with cancer.  With none of the "fighting disease" rhetoric that usually accompanies movies about women with cancer, this short showed the vulnerability and emotional complexity of a women's sense of self.  This movie showed all of the women involved as whole humans struggling with their mortality and their relationships with others.  It was truly moving.  This is my pick for the Oscar. 
3. Inocente
Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine

This was a slick, touching portrait of Teen Artist Inocente, who also happens to be homeless.  Highlighting the A.R.T.S. program in San Diego, and shining a light on the issue of child homelessness in the US, this documentary short was hopeful, inspiring, and at times heartbreaking.  Clearly aimed at an MTV audience, this short felt like it was the most commercial of the nominees.  

Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill

This movie is a look into the world of unemployed New Yorkers who have taken up bottle and can collection as full-time work.  Following around several "canners" ranging from those you may perceive as "typical," to an elderly Jewish Woman retired from the Computer Programming industry, this movie looks at how the recession has trickled down, leaving those who were unstably employed to fend for themselves a bottle or can at a time.  One thing I really liked about this movie was that it showed a nice cultural cross section of people.  There was a white male, a Jamaican male, a Jewish-american female, a man from Egypt, a woman from China, a man from Japan, a woman from Vietnam, a man from Cuba, a family from Guatemala, and several others.  It really showed the melting pot in action (sometimes the cultures clashed in a positive way, and sometimes they did not!), and it showed how the economy really impacts those already on the fringes of society.  This is the wild-card pick for the Oscar.  It was less emotionally-driven than the other shorts, but with the Economy being such a hot-button political issue right now, this one might sneak in and steal it.  

Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern

This movie was about 8 Rwandan children with Rheumatic Heart Disease traveling to a medical center in Sudan for free heart surgery.  Under a backdrop of a part of the world that I think Americans find to be frightening, this movie showed average Rwandans dealing with the stress of having a sick family member, or friend.  Frustrations about hospital funding came out, and we even got to see a scene with Sudanese President and accused genocide engineer Omar Al-Bashir in a meeting discussing possible avenues for funding of the free hospital.  

People who throw around snide comments about their "first world problems" (Which is a GIANT pet-peeve of mine) should watch more movies like this.  People have all different kinds of problems, regardless of their location on earth.  And just because some people have kinged themselves as the "first" world, doesn't mean that people in underdeveloped countries don't also have complex thoughts about problems, small or large.  We all go through similar fears and worries when we or our family members are sick.  Watching this movie after having just seen stories of illness and mortality in more developed parts of the world was a nice highlight of how much we all have in common.  The diseases were different, but the humanity was the same.  

Overall, these movies were outstanding.  I highly recommend watching all of them if you get the chance.  

Peggy's Rating: Five out of Five stars!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Well, I can't count this movie as a free movie, because I paid a whole whopping $3.99 to digitally rent it from Amazon! It's an outrage! But, your review is still free, as usual, so I guess we'll all survive.

Beasts of the Southern Wild was pretty... awesome. It mashed up bizarre societies, trash-heap counterculture, chaotic people, family dysfunction, environmental implosion, and prehistoric imagery in that special Waterworld-Meets-Precious-based-on-the-novel-Push-by-Sapphire kind of way.

Especially as Behn Zeitlin's directorial debut, this movie is pretty impressive.

It is, however, a giant bummer.

It starts out sad. It gets sadder. Then a different kind of sad. Then depressing. Then sad again. And the ending... well, I won't spoil it for you, but it doesn't really disrupt the pattern. However, it focuses on a (very) young girl's attempt to maintain a sense of self and personal safety amid being thrown in a giant bucket full of bummers.

The lead actress, Quvenzhane Wallis, is nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. I think that's fine. I think she was really perfect for the role, but I wasn't blown away by her. She played a better 6 year old than I could have, but... you know... she was actually 6. So... yeah.

She probably also played a better 6 year old than most people could have when they were 6.  And, I really think that the Best Actress category is the weakest it has been in several years, so she just might win. The novelty of having someone so young in such a good movie will probably override the fact that the effectiveness of her role was probably more about excellent directing and editing than anything else.

I guess I'm just not that into kids doing stuff. I can't be a fan of someone who doesn't grow armpit hair. I always kind of feel bad for them, because I assume that they are all being treated like trained chimpanzees.

And I bet she's out doing the late-night circuit, being precocious.
Even my mental image of that is obnoxious.

She was fine, though. I wouldn't mind it if she won. I just have a hunch that if you sat down and had a conversation with her, she wouldn't be able to tell you anything meaningful about what the movie was about without any coaching.

However, the person pulling a HUGE amount of the acting load in this movie, but who has been almost totally overlooked, is Dwight Henry as Hushpuppy's totally batshit crazy dad. He embodies the title of this movie, and yet was really quite touching, noble, deeply flawed, and possibly psychotic all at the same time. I liked (and appropriately hated) him.

I think you should check out this movie. First of all, it's only $3.99 on Amazon. Even I can afford that!

Secondly, we could all use a good cry right now. Right? Right.

And lastly, it will make you feel better about your housekeeping abilities, because even though you think you live in a big pile of trash... these people ACTUALLY live in big piles of trash. It's good to get some perspective about our lifestyles of excess every once in awhile.

Peggy's rating: Four out of Five Stars

Monday, February 4, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Well, as the saying goes... Boyfriends come and go, but my free movie pass lasts until December 31, 2013...

That having been said, I chose to celebrate my newfound freedom by purchasing a movie for once!

There are only three movies that are nominated for the Best Picture Oscar this year that I still needed to see, and now there are just two, because I just saw Zero Dark Thirty.

And yes, my friend already pointed out to me that this is an odd post-break-up movie to take yourself to...
Maybe I just have a lot of issues.

But, two very important words made me really interested in seeing this movie: CHRIS PRATT.

Ahhh... he's so beautiful.  And charming.  And beautiful.  And he got super ripped for this movie.

However (Spoiler alert), he didn't show up in this movie for TWO DAMN HOURS.

Seriously?  Two hours.

So, basically, for me, this movie was me sitting around watching people get tortured and humiliated for two hours, and then about 20-30 minutes of awesomeness.

I must admit that I also wasn't a huge fan of The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow's last movie.  I remember feeling similarly un-enchanted by the characters and storyline.

I wonder if it's an aversion to movies about very recent current political/war events.  Because I also didn't care for W, or Game Change.  And it's not about politics or war, but I have almost ZERO interest in seeing the Ashton Kutcher movie about Steve Jobs that's coming out.  Ugh.  That looks horrible.  But I think that's more about Kutcher than anything else.

I think it's possible that we don't have enough perspective on these very recent events to be able to make the kind of movies I want to see about them.

Anyway, Zero Dark Thirty was not for me.  It had a decent script, believable performances, and a really gripping final 20 minutes, but overall, I found myself checking my phone. And, it was thoroughly humorless. There were a few attempts at lightening the mood, which all failed miserably.  And yes, I realize that humor is a strange thing to ask for in this movie, but I just can't deal with stories that are that IMPORTANT.  Please, I beg you to give us someone to root for, and something to laugh at just a little bit.

But, now that I'm thinking about it.  Maybe this was the perfect movie to watch after being dumped like an old bag of garbage.  At least I'm not tied to a wall in Gitmo, shitting up my pants and being waterboarded.  Suddenly I feel like the luckiest girl in town.

But for the rest of you, if you need a Chris Pratt fix, like I did, maybe just rent Moneyball, or watch Season 2 of Parks & Rec.

Peggy's rating: Two out of five stars