Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Revenge of Awards Season!

With a much needed return to movie critiquing/blogging (now that my writing class is over! Phew), I find the greatest pleasure in telling you about the arrival of 2011 Award nominations and winners from a variety of film festivals and national ceremonies. Of course, Cannes ended in May but with it came a long list of hopeful films for 2011: Midnight in Paris, La piel que habito, The Artist, Le Havre, Sleeping Beauty, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Melancholia, Drive, Martha Marcy May Marlene, RestlessTake Shelter (and 2010 winners with a larger 2011 release: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Poetry) and of course...The Tree of Life! Of the films that I have seen so far from this list, only have I been pleasantly shocked and sometimes completely blown away.  To the rest of the films I have yet to check off this year, well, I'm just upset that I don't live in NYC or LA because I'd have seen them already. Anyway, I'm just hoping for a wider release sooner than later, especially so I can see all the hopeful noms before the Big Day, Februuary 26th, 2012.

Of the most promising festivals that have already announced winners is the Gotham Independent Film Awards. Beginners (another grand film) won Best Feature along with Tree of Life and Best Ensemble Performance, Dee Rees won Breakthrough Director for her engaging and uplifting Pariah, and Felicity Jones won Breakthrough Actor for her phenomenal and touching performance in Like Crazy. All of these films and the other nominees (Bellflower = insane) are outstanding and unique. I have not seen Pariah but I have seen the trailer three times. If it can make me cry every time, I am positive the film has quite some merit.

For your sake (and my hands), I won't write out the nominees that have been released for the SAG and Golden Globe Awards. But, I have copied and pasted them with my highlighted predictions:


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
DEMIÁN BICHIR / Carlos Galindo - “A BETTER LIFE” (Summit Entertainment)
GEORGE CLOONEY / Matt King - "THE DESCENDANTS” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
LEONARDO DiCAPRIO / J. Edgar Hoover - "J. EDGAR" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
JEAN DUJARDIN / George - "THE ARTIST" (The Weinstein Company)
BRAD PITT / Billy Beane - "MONEYBALL" (Columbia Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
GLENN CLOSE  / Albert Nobbs - "ALBERT NOBBS” (Roadside Attractions)
VIOLA DAVIS / Aibileen Clark - “THE HELP” (DreamWorks Pictures / Touchstone Pictures)
MERYL STREEP / Margaret Thatcher - “THE IRON LADY” (The Weinstein Company)
TILDA SWINTON / Eva - “WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN” (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
MICHELLE WILLIAMS / Marilyn Monroe - “MY WEEK WITH MARILYN” (The Weinstein Company)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
KENNETH BRANAGH / Sir Laurence Olivier - “MY WEEK WITH MARILYN” (The Weinstein Company)
ARMIE HAMMER / Clyde Tolson - "J. EDGAR" (Warner Bros. Pictures)
JONAH HILL / Peter Brand - "MONEYBALL" (Columbia Pictures)
NICK NOLTE / Paddy Conlon - “WARRIOR” (Lionsgate)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
BÉRÉNICE BEJO / Peppy - "THE ARTIST" (The Weinstein Company)
JESSICA CHASTAIN / Celia Foote - “THE HELP” (DreamWorks Pictures / Touchstone Pictures)
MELISSA McCARTHY / Megan - “BRIDESMAIDS” (Universal Pictures)
JANET McTEER / Hubert Page - "ALBERT NOBBS” (Roadside Attractions)
OCTAVIA SPENCER / Minny Jackson - “THE HELP” (DreamWorks Pictures / Touchstone Pictures)

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
THE ARTIST (The Weinstein Company)
BRIDESMAIDS (Universal Pictures)
THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
THE HELP (DreamWorks Pictures / Touchstone Pictures)
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (Sony Pictures Classics)


Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
MAGGIE SMITH / Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham - “DOWNTON ABBEY” (PBS)
EMILY WATSON / Janet Leach - “APPROPRIATE ADULT” (Sundance Channel)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
MICHAEL C. HALL / Dexter Morgan - “DEXTER” (Showtime)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
KATHY BATES / Harriet Korn - “HARRY’S LAW” (NBC)
GLENN CLOSE / Patty Hewes  - “DAMAGES” (DirecTV)
KYRA SEDGWICK / Dept. Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson - “THE CLOSER” (TNT)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
ALEC BALDWIN / Jack Donaghy - “30 ROCK” (NBC)
STEVE CARELL / Michael Scott  - “THE OFFICE” (NBC)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
EDIE FALCO / Jackie Peyton - “NURSE JACKIE” (Showtime)
TINA FEY / Liz Lemon - “30 ROCK” (NBC)
SOFIA VERGARA / Gloria Delgado-Pritchett  - “MODERN FAMILY” (ABC)
BETTY WHITE / Elka Ostrovsky - “HOT IN CLEVELAND” (TV Land)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
DEXTER (Showtime)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series


The Golden Globes are basically the same with just a few tweaks here and there and a few more categories.

Just over a month away til the Oscar Nominations are announced-- January 24th.

For now I'll leave you to ponder these great films names along with a few that I still have to see myself. Good luck on creating a must-see film list and marking each one off successfully; and of course, have fun!

Yet to see:
The Artist
Albert Nobbs
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Le Havre
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
Hugo (saw it today and it was Amazing! Top contender in Cinematography, 
Water for Elephants
The Trip
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
The Iron Lady
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Crazy, Stupid, Love
We Need to Talk About Kevin 
My Week with Marilyn
Margin Call
Young Adult
(must I really see) War Horse 
A Dangerous Method
Super 8
A Separation (An almost guaranteed win for Best Foreign Film after this year's success and praise, 100% rating on RottenTomatoes and already landing it a #118 spot on the IMDB Top 250.)

(I know, it seems like there's not enough time in the day to see these and the countless other movies I have to catch up on! #hardlife)


My Top Films of 2011 List Coming Soon!!!

My favorite Smoothie recipe:
The Improvisation

Just use whatever fruit and juice you have in your freezer and fridge. If you don't have any, then you're probably not going to be making a smoothie anyway. So go buy some!
If you do have fruit, throw what looks good together and taste as you go. Add a little more juice or milk, ice to thicken, honey to sweeten, or ice cream (the "dangerous" treat) to thicken.

This is mostly what I do when I make a smoothie, so technically it's not laziness, it's creativity! Enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

More Movies!

In the meantime, while I fail to write a longer blog  review, check out my new blog with short reviews at:
quickmoviereviews.blogspot.com! I've added a few and am polishing a few more that need to be added! See you there :)

Strawberry Banana Sunrise
  • 4 cups fresh strawberries
    1 sliced banana
    1 carton yogurt 
    1 cup ice
    honey, for sweetness

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Magical Midnight

What a better gift for my birthday than to be transported to the past to a magical era of art, beauty, design, and passion!  Midnight In Paris is a truly wonderful film that captures every essence of Paris.  Through an introductory montage of Paris streets, monuments, cafes, buildings, and inhabitants, I really felt that I was transported to the Capital of Modernity.  What follows is a Woody Allen tale of lost love, comedy, and culture with a pinch of sarcastic salt and pessimistic pepper. 

Gil (Owen Wilson) embarks on a vacation with his fiance Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her ritzy parents to Paris.  One night he finds himself walking alone back to his hotel buzzed and at the stroke of midnight, is swept back into the 1920s where he meets F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway all on the same night!  The line between past and present is paper thin and thankfully Allen addresses this issue delicately and not like an episode of Lost where time travel is a staple to understanding the plot. Of course his family considers him crazy but he continues to push through Paris, searching for the missing piece for his novel  in progress.  On his journey, he meets Gertrude Stein who helps him on his novel, Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter, Juan Belmonte, T.S. Eliot, and finally Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.  With each new yet famous character that enters the frame, I glowed with more and more astonishment at how real the meeting seemed and how magnificent the meeting would be- if it were only possible...  It leaves you with hope in that not all creativity is lost in this world.
Gil as he contemplates imagination
and reality in Midnight in Paris.
In only 90 minutes, you learn that the true meaning of life is in the present, not the past. You hear about how the Golden Age (of any place) was the most magical time, but once Gil was transported back to the 1920s, the Parisians found it just as dull and unspectacular as we do our present; however grandly Gil was transfixed by the literary and artistic wonders he prays to so fondly.  In the end of the film we are unknowingly propelled further back into La Belle Époqueanother era of fine European culture that began in the late 19th Century. Here, our dazzling Mademoiselle Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard, finds herself in love with a time that preceeded her as well and it is only at this moment that our protagonist realizes that inspiration and imagination are not always reality.  The past has helped him clear his mind but without a present, he has no headquarters for his thoughts to reconvene.  This is why it is important not to wish for a different life of a different time with different aspirations, talents, or worries.  Live in the now and make the most of it. Travel the world and let it inspire your imagination.  Go make today the best yet by thinking about your dreams and not wasting any more time wishing your life away for any other.
Adriana and Gil walking the streets of Paris in the 1920s.
Woody, and Gil, find the rain sexy, revealing and calming, especially for a city as grand as Paris. So go. Walk through Paris in the rain. Without an umbrella. And experience the beauty that wins the audience over in Midnight In Paris.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

This is a film I saw before summer, but I really wanted to write a blog about it to showcase the attention it so rightfully deserves.  Morgan Spurlock, widely known for Super Size Me, follows his same intensive style on a grander path of recognizing product placement, mass marketing, advertising, and more or less, brainwashing.  In teaching the audience about these unhealthy concerns, he succeeds in creating a documentary based entirely on product placement.  The whole basis of advertising and its ultimate money making desire is challenged.  Facts and viewpoints from major company leaders are spilled, giving the audience a peek into a $475 billion business.  In short, the movie records its attempts at finding companies to represent and promote the movie you are currently watching.

The only thing that kept this movie alive was Spurlock's ambition.  The plot was insightful, yet extremely risky. The hundreds of phone calls he made to potential business sponsors, the travelling, the hours of interviews, and the creation of artistic ideas for TV spots and business plugs makes the process seem extremely overwhelming to me.  However, the fast pace, intelligence and humor is what makes this film so enjoyable. The juxtaposition of music and visual enhances all of these qualities.You end up rooting for Morgan like any underdog as Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" slowly crescendos in the background.

One aspect that was intriguing was how the movie brought to fruition its binding contract with business sponsors.  About halfway through the movie Morgan sits down with his lawyer and discusses what shots and scenes MUST be in the final version of the film.  Once they state the necessary: interview in a JetBlue airplane, the 30 sec POM and Mane 'n Tail TV spot and 600 million media impressions, you start to appreciate the layout of shots and the intricacies the filmmakers planned. It is almost like a pre-production meeting where everyone throws out ideas and then once you're watching the film you say, "Hey! I invented that scene!"

Now that you have read this blog and learned all about The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, you can officially call yourself The Greatest Reader Ever of the The Greatest Blog Ever Written!  Enjoy this family friendly movie about a journey into the business side of the film industry.


Rise 'N Raspberry (from My Little Black Book of Smoothies)
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup non-fat raspberry yogurt (or substitute applesauce)
1/2 (frozen) banana
1.5 cups frozen raspberries
1 cup strawberries
Ice, honey


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mutant and Proud

I've waited for this moment all year.  The wind in my hair, the sun in my eyes, the freedom in my breath.  SUMMER!  Also usually a season of horribly designed blockbusters, but we won't go there because summer started with the right bang this time around.  Unheard of, right?! A prequel to a pretty large franchise that actually had some artistic merit.  Those words spark for some interesting comments!  So, in order to start out the summer season, I saw X-Men: First Class.  With such an all star cast, how couldn't I?  Jennifer Lawrence, hot off the red Oscar carpet with Winter's Bone, Nicholas Hoult from Skins and last year's A Single Man, James McAvoy, January Jones, a fleet of other well-known actors: Kevin Bacon, Oliver Pratt (Please Give), Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids); an up-and-coming actor Lucas Till; and delightful cameos from Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romjin.  Only the worst of writers (see I Am Number Four, Pirates 2,3) could have ruined this film, and thankfully their fingerprints are clean.

It was very intriguing to have all of my X-Men prequel questions answered throughout the film, the main one being "How do Erik and Charles possibly become arch enemies?"  No doubt it was set up that way, to intrigue the audience until the last shot when the characters and story lines had been returned to their rightful owner.  It leads the audience on a whirlwind of conforming situations that seem to perfectly align with the previously shot X-Men films.  The film also brings together so many important values, highlighting the mutants in a society of almost entirely deadbeat and narrow-minded humans.  It is a world not too different than the one we live in today where minorities are in a constant game of tug-of-war with society.  First Class did a superb job with referencing the injustices in the world without getting political or cheesy; the subtle references were there for those who wanted to read into the film.  Subtle, yet frequent in dialogue, a few cuts that show homosocial depictions and a single African American allusion to slavery.  More obvious values and ideals include: Right vs. Wrong, Good vs. Evil, believing in yourself, never giving up hope, and having the strength and pride to be happy in your own skin.

I mentioned before 'artistic merit'.  With the right shots and a precise intuition, art can be created with bountiful grace through any medium.  I love myself a plate full of symbolism.  What also gets me crazy for movies is an impeccable eye for editing.  (Usually editing and symbolism go hand in hand.)  For example, in the final battle scene, and without spoiling any juicy details, a match cut is used with crosscutting in order to link Charles' pain with whom he is currently 'interacting'.  Yes, that was me clapping with a film critic's approval.  Aside from implicit art is the explicit. The beauty of the wilderness and on location shooting.  To keep the action-adventure genre alive, the X-Men traveled from New York to Argentina to D.C., Oxford, Russia and they even caught a breath in the freezing Arctic waters.
LOVE these two fine young actors: Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence.

"Between rage and serenity" is a place where beauty and the meaning of life rests.  In the palm of your hand lies your destiny.

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

  • 1 banana
  • 2 Tbs. peanut butter
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 cup milk
  • Ice, optional

Thursday, May 26, 2011


This is definitely one of my favorite Russian films (behind Repentance) and the darkest film I have seen in a while.  It was a hit at many Russian festivals when it was released in 2009, winning Best Film, Best Actress and Special Mention awards.  This harrowing film follows the relationship of an alcoholic mother and her displaced daughter told through the eyes of the latter.  The film has a realistic and linear storyline but contains a large quantity of formalistic shots that makes the story and themes universal.

Volchok has two different translations in English that are each expressed in its own light.  The first translation, “wolfy”, refers to a story the mother told her daughter where she was walking through the forest and found a wolf in a bag.  This directly relates to the mother’s despicable relationship with her daughter.  The wolf is left hopelessly screaming in the bag, trapped as the mother walks away.  The other translation, “spinning top”, is used as a symbol for the daughter.  The daughter is always loyal to her mother, spinning and waiting for her maternal attention, yet she receives no response.  At the end of the film the top spins and spins, and with a single misguided grain in the table, the top is flung off of the table into the darkness below.  This directly represents the daughter’s finale as she is ever-so-slightly spun to her death, resulting from the misguided attempts of trying to win over her hopeless mother’s affection.

The cinematography of Volchok looked quite effortless and added greatly to the underlying themes.  The impersonal characterizations of the mother and daughter further show the divisions between the two and were displayed technically by the types of shots used.  For example, the daughter is always shot with a barrier between her and the screen.  Be it something she is holding, a window, or the table she so frequently hides under, her hidden body is symbolic of her great distance from any connection to reality.  The only friend she has is the dead boy she befriends at the cemetery.  Not even her mother seems to care about her.  Every night she waits by the window for her mother to return home.  The window frames her imprisonment as she sits, flashing the lights, feeling like an exile on a faraway island with no rescue in sight.  Yet she waits and vies for her mother’s love until the very end when it is too late to go back and create a happier life.

Volchok brings up many themes throughout the film.  The first is alcoholism which is the cause of the mother’s horrid spells and unfocused attention towards her daughter.  Another theme is a negative attitude towards men.  There are very few male characters in the film, and the only ones shown are the mother’s easily disposable sexual partners.  The pre-adolescent point of view of the film is prevalent here because the daughter references these men as “uncles” yet is unsure why so many visit her house.

Volchok can be rather intense, but overall is a great film that addresses a variety of issues that will plague relationships until the end of time.

Simple Strawberry-Orange Smoothie
3/4 cup orange juice
5/4 cups frozen strawberries (fresh will do- just add more ice)
2 Tbs. honey (or more...)
1/2 cup ice cubes
for creaminess add 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Can You Cannes?

I really do think my heart just fluttered.  At least it did when I first saw that this week was the opening of the Cannes Film Festival!  Film festivals (along with the Oscars) make my knees wobbly and my inspiration for life increase tenfold.  They are magical and entrancing, capturing an audience year after year in newfound excitement with hopes that their film will make it into the higher echelons of film history.  In my opinion, if your film has been accepted by Cannes, that is one HUGE accomplishment already.

CANNES. The most fashionable film festival in the world.  The air and style that surrounds this festival in particular is grace, beauty, luxury. Elegant but not pretentious (unlike most French stereotypes).  It accomplishes this through its Official Selection (list of movie screenings) too.  You'll find that at other festivals there may be 100+ films, however for 2011 Cannes only hosts 74 feature-length films (20 In Competition) and 9 Shorts Films.

Cannes definitely has many layers of prestige and glory.  The red carpet, the actors, directors.  It truly is formalism at its best.  Among the many brilliant actors in attendance are a host of well-known directors: Pedro Almódovar, Lars Von Trier, Terrence Malick, Gus Van Sant, Woody Allen, and Judie Foster with her directorial debut (The Beaver).  And even though I won't go through every film I would love to see, I will share a few:  festival opener Midnight in Paris, Restless, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Sleeping Beauty, The Tree of Life, Melancholia, La piel que habito, and Hearat Shulayim.  It is a shame that most foreign films remain nameless and quite unknown because they always deliver: in tone, style, and quality.  Which is a rare form especially in a time of unsatisfying and heartless moneymakers.

Here is the link to the list of all films being screened at Cannes this year.  Definitely browse other parts of the site to learn about some "Cannes Classics", the 2011 jury, the history of the festival, and other organizations and productions with whom the festival partners.

It is only Day 4 of the festival.  Stay updated until the very last minute on Closing Day: May 22nd, 2011.

What movies do you think will win this year??

Such a classy festival calls for a classy coffee drink.

Mochaccino Shake
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1 cup strong black coffee, regular or decaf
  • 1/2 cup chocolate syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 pints coffee flavor ice cream
  • Whipped cream in spray canister, garnish
  • Chocolate shavings, garnish

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Serious, Really Stressed and Overworked Man

Seeing this movie for a second time definitely helped me understand its meaning way more than I had back in 2009.  In my opinion, this movie was one of the most underrepresented and underrated movies of the 2010 Academy Awards, nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.  It was greatly outweighed by other flicks that year (losing to Hurt Locker for both categories) and did not stand much of a chance due to its small release and gross of only $9 mil.  To me, a movie should never be based on its budget (hmm, that phrase "Never judge a book by its cover" sounds oddly familiar right now) and should be looked at via many levels: acting, directing, editing, photography, dialogue, etc... You get the picture.  Thankfully, A Serious Man was a success in all of these terms and should be rightly analyzed in order to define and commend its beauty.

A Serious Man centers around a Jewish family living in Midwest-suburbia in the 1960s.  Larry Gopnik, the "serious man" previously alluded to, teaches at a university and is very close to achieving tenure.  His family consists of a: wife who blames him for their issues and cannot wait for their get, or "ritual divorce"; hair-obsessed daughter who is saving up for a nose-job; pot-smoking son who is lackadaisically preparing for his Bar Mitzvah; and a seemingly helpless and cyst-infested brother.  Along with his family he has goy (or non-Jewish) neighbors who are very much a picture of the 'ideal' American family and tend to annoy Larry frequently.  So in short, he has one hell of a life to deal with!  Oh, and the wife not only wants a divorce, she has already arranged for long-time friend Sy Ableman to move into their house and kick Larry out.  

Larry is constantly searching for answers for his problems from local rabbis.  They, like the rest of the people in his life, turn out to be of no help to him whatsoever.  The second rabbi tells Larry this very intriguing story of a dentist who discovers the back of a goy patient's teeth engraved with the Hebrew phrase meaning "Help me, save me."  Seeing this as a sign, we look for conclusion, meaning.  However, the rabbi questions the meaning of the goy in the first place and shrugs the story off with unimportance.  This faux-finality is what makes us, as human beings and spirits, think about options and paths that our lives can take.  This makes us an individual in our own futures and leaves us in charge with who we become.  These ideas are very much portrayed through the characters' actions and faults, leaving the audience to believe that there will always be instances to learn from our inevitable mistakes. 

It is very important to understand the dialogue in this film before trying to examine the complex ideals this movie promotes.  In the very beginning of the film a quote is displayed: "Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you."  This, along with the parable prologue and the entire film promotes a very open way of viewing life.  In other words, keep everything simple and you'll find yourself living a very content life.  Larry has never gotten involved in anything morally wrong, so when a disgruntled student bribes Larry to change his grade, he is awe-struck at such risque behavior.  Since the family denies ever giving him the money, he tries to find ways to give the money back to other people (example: Larry gives the money to his brother, Arthur, before he sets sail across to Canada.  This ends disastrously with Arthur getting shot by Larry's crazy hunting neighbors.  Just another reason why he should not have even touched the money in the first place.)  Another important recurring theme is the song "Somebody to Love" by Jefferson Airplane.  This song comes up a handful of times during the course of the film, opening and closing the film as well.

When the truth is found to be lies
And all the joy within you dies

Don't you want somebody to love
Don't you need somebody to love
Wouldn't you love somebody to love
You better find somebody to love

When the garden's flowers, baby, are dead
Yes, and your mind, your mind is so full of red


Your eyes, I say your eyes may look like his
Yeah but in your head, baby
I'm afraid you don't know where it is


Tears are running, they're all running down your breast
And your friends, baby, they treat you like a guest

The opening lines of the song are also given as advice by Rabbi Marshak to Danny, Larry's son, after his Bar Mitzvah.  Again, subtle humour courtesy of the Coen Bros.  The last lines feel the most resonating because relationships are constantly being challenged.  Especially to Larry who is treated like a guest in his own life.  He has nobody to love and has no inner joy or hope to look forward to.  The 'red' symbolizes all of the hatred he encounters and the unfortunate thoughts he experiences in the process of figuring out his life as a professor, husband, father, and friend.

My favorite scene is when Larry is teaching in a large lecture hall about the 'uncertainty principle.'  A fast motion, close up shot of the chalkboard encapsulates Larry's work as he rushes along to finish before the bell.  A cut to a much longer shot frames the humorously large board with hundreds of square feet of work.  This made me think about more than just the comic relief this cut carried.  By only seeing a small portion of a situation (the equation), you subject yourself to less than the entirety to what surrounds you.  In another perspective, each part that exists (all people, things, creatures, creations, ideas) plays a seemingly small, yet significant role which relates to the grand picture of Life.  
All things are connected to one another; there can be many interpretations to this.  This movie hints at and very shortly suggests that people are joined together by a higher power and order.  Our souls are intimately bonded with one another, and for this reason we are able to relate to others and share our personal lives with others.

Crosscutting at the end of the film shows both Larry's side and Danny's side of the story.  A tornado warning is in effect at Danny's school so all of the students are to be moved to a nearby synagogue basement.  While they wait in a parking lot, the tornado gets really close to where the students are standing.  As Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" fades in, the tornado approaches and we see Danny's perplexed emotions right before the film cuts to black. It seems like I cannot ruin the ending for those of you who have not seen this movie yet because there is NO ending!  However, lets retract to the prologue of the film.  A couple is visited by a supposed dybbuk, defined as a "malicious or benevolent possessing spirit believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person" (Wikipedia).  The wife knows the visitor to have died years ago and assumes that he is an evil soul coming back to possess their family.  In the end, the wife stabs the visitor and he leaves the warm house to suffer in the blustery winter storm.  Could the man have actually placed a curse over the family?  In that case, this parable opening resembles a sort of "Adam and Eve" story where the rest of mankind has to deal with the sin of Eve eating the poisoned fruit.  The Jewish population has been incurred with the sin and curse of the nomadic couple, all except for a kind few.  This is where Larry comes in.  He is morally right in all he does: he never cheats or blames anyone else, he has a stable career, and lives a faithful life. Until Clive enters his life.  This student causes so much stress on Larry that, in means of trying to save Clive's humiliation within his family, he does away with his own moral righteousness and realizes the curse that has slowly infiltrated his mind.  Hope as we know it has been erased from existence.  This point is immediately validated by a phone call from Larry's doctor, asking him to come in to discuss an X-ray.

There is some point where everybody will have the opportunity to cave in and become something less than what we were made to do on Earth.  Everything will pile up as if your lungs can hold no more air and you feel your feet and legs starting to crack underneath you.  This point defines us as human beings, and this movie shows that only a rare few (if any) will actually abhor possession by this evil spirit.  Life can be unfair and unless you are in control, you may lose everything.

Courtesy of Ina Garten, Food Network:

Sunrise Smoothie


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tsar, dir. Pavel Lungin, Russia, 2009

To many of you this movie may sound unfamiliar as it did even to me.  I heard about it in my Russian film class in school and was excited to see this historic film following the reign of Ivan the Terrible in the mid-to-late 1500's.  The trailer looked action packed and intense, yet to my surprise the movie failed to follow through.  No I'm not a big history person so I would not do well in ANY history trivia game.  Except in cinema.  But definitely not 16th century or Russian history for that matter!  That being said, I had no conceptions going into this film.  When I came out, I was completely disoriented and did not feel that I had learned anything about Ivan's reign except that he slaughtered and corrupted a great many citizens.  I finally realized halfway through that he was supposed to be portrayed as a completely insane dictator.

I was greatly disappointed with many levels of this movie, but mostly the cinematography.  I cannot even remember one sensible edit or transition from the film.  For example, the most erratic and unsatisfying cut was from a brutal war to the Tsar being carried in a field of white blossoming trees.  In some very demonic symbolism, Ivan enjoys his peace and freedom as ruler at any cost, even at the expense of soldiers' lives.  The petals fall into the hands of the ever-present wind which painfully controls the life and beauty that calls for so little attention.

A reason why the film seemed so uninterpretable at times is because it did not take any strong or specific stance toward any character or action.  I felt lost because it failed to blatantly show me the horror of Ivan's rule via easy techniques, such as: low angle shots that signify Ivan's intimidation and great power and maximize his movement as an immovable ruler, oblique angles that disorient the audience in relation to Ivan's unnatural thinking process, or wide angle shots that minimize his actions to acts of terrorism in light of what is right in the world.  Obviously the violence and brutality is blunt enough to convey a strong message, but a film should be much more symbolic and complementing with techniques that make cinema such a highly acclaimed form of art.  Maybe I am just being too critical...

Tsar focuses on the interactions between Ivan and Philip and Ivan's fight for dominance at any cost.  He unleashes such fury and violence over the state that at times it is hard to imagine such torture occurring so frequently.  It is ironic that Ivan is so religious and pleads "God, give me a sign you still love me" when he goes against all of the core foundations of religion and engages in murder, betrayal, and falsehood.  Not to leave out that he embraces Satan as his right hand man for more than half of the film.  He also converts "Leonardo, the Italian's" creative works into tormenting, death machines.  For example, the water mill was converted into a rotating ring of swords that demolished any body that got in its way.  In his wrath, he destroys the one source of hope that the state has left: Philip.  In a very symbolic end, Philip has a godly epiphany realizing he will die in three days.  The religious undertones relating to Jesus can be blunt and overwhelming, but they definitely serve their purpose both to juxtapose and further the missions of Ivan and Philip, respectively.

On a final note, I do admit that the acting in the film was phenomenal.  All of the characters were extremely focused on creating a realistic portrait of the horrific lifestyle under the reign of Ivan the Terrible.  And boy did they make that come true!

In order to better analyze this film, I better watch Eisenstein's two-part Ivan the Terrible which also catalogues his intense reign.  If anyone has other (more uplifting) thoughts, feel free to comment!


Peach Mango Banana
1 cup each fresh or frozen peaches and mangoes
1 cup yogurt
1 cup ice
1/2 banana
honey (to sweeten the deal!)
milk or juice, at your discretion
Add in order of listing, and enjoy!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Groovy Smoothie

In means to create a more upbeat and fun user friendly blog, I will be adding a tasty twist to each of my blog entries from now on.  After each blog I will add a recipe for a smoothie!  Ever since I fell in love with my Vita-Mix blender at that Sam's Club demonstration years ago, I have made hundreds of smoothies, experimenting along the way.  If only smoothie books could make me millions! Ha!
Anyway, each smoothie recipe will make for 2 people, or 1 if you're up for a movie marathon (I would never be opposed!).  Feel free to experiment and and your own personal touch, too.  I always love to add an extra scoop of strawberries or if I'm feeling dangerous, a few scoops of ice cream.  If you end up liking them or changing them up a bit, leave a comment!

So here goes...we'll start out pretty simple this first time:

Strawberry Banana
1 banana
1 cup strawberries (frozen or fresh is up to you; I used fresh, but maybe if using frozen add less ice.)
1/2 cup (vanilla) yogurt
1/2 cup milk (mix of apple or orange juice with milk adds extra kick)
2 tsp honey
pinch of cinnamon
1 cup ice


Welcome to the Rileys

There isn't a more expressive way to start a movie than by introducing a faceless character in complete darkness.  Not only does this accurately show the dark tone that underlies the film, but this also gives the audience a chance to identify with and characterize the actor's mental state.  As I first stated, this is a pretty bold way to start off a movie, and in doing so Doug (James Gandolfini) is shown as a melancholic middle-class husband always needing to get away from the haunting present that so deeply has affected his family.  Running away to his Thursday poker nights and affair with a waitress, Vivian, at a diner only makes things worse for the two Rileys.

As we are constantly reminded, Doug "the waffle man" and Lois "like the Superman" Riley will have been married 30 years this June.  But remember, it's quality not quantity.  There is always distance between the couple, caused by the death of their daughter 8 years ago.  I was definitely intrigued by the introduction of this loss because it was subtle and not approached like Rabbit Hole, for example, where the audience watches the couple deal with the grief and loss of their loved one.  No flashback to the incident.  No pictures or shots of their daughter.  Instead, the audience only partially sees the inside of the daughter's room and when Doug visits Vivian's grave due to a heart attack, we also visit Emily's grave and officially discover that she died when she was 15 years old.  Ironically, he sees a gravestone for himself and his wife there, too!  This only thrusts him into a impassionate fight with his wife, blaming her for the things that have come to fruition between them (the death of their daughter included...).

Another part I found really interesting and well done in the movie is Lois's (Melissa Leo) transformation from a distraught, unaffected "widow mother" to a much more content and lively wife.  Lois literally hasn't left her house for 8 years.  I haven't had to cope with such a close loss before, but it must be extremely heartbreaking because I cannot even begin to understand leaving one's house for 8 years.  When Doug leaves for a convention in New Orleans, there is a shot of Lois through the kitchen window as she regretfully and sadly watches him leave.  She regrets not being able to leave her own home.  She regrets what her life has become.  She wants to be closer to her husband, but they have never put forth an effort to work on their weaknesses.  And as she looks out that window, I realize the window is there for a purpose.  It acts not only as a physical, but also an emotional and mental barrier for Lois from the outside world.  A mother's world is dependent on feelings, and by isolating herself, she has metaphorically burned her fingertips: no more feeling or identity.
After she finally approaches her issues head-on, she ends up at a hotel on her way to visit Doug in New Orleans. She carefully steps outside of her hotel room and comes across grass.  A feeling so insignificant to an ordinary human, yet so raw and fresh to someone who is accustomed to the artificial threads of the living room carpet.  This is such a seemingly unimportant scene at first; but when examined, it becomes a breakthrough scene for Lois and anyone going through such a powerful transformation.  The veil has been lifted and this is a definite sign she is on a fulfilling road to recovery.  One of the final shots of the film is taken from the inside of the Riley's home looking out on Doug and Lois. So subtle, yet so complementing of the full circle the film and characters have made.  Lois has accepted the past and is ready to move on with a happier life with Doug.  Doug has filled the void that has for so long etched at his heart and desire for another female in his life.

Mallory, played by a prostitute Kristen Stewart, becomes the replacement daughter for the Rileys in the eyes of Doug.  Through coaxing and an extreme makeover, Doug and Mallory become friends and embark on an interesting journey through the slums of New Orleans.  Lois, Doug and Mallory go through a very dysfunctional, yet appropriate mission of renewal, acceptance and inspiring change in this form-fitting drama of melancholic times.  A worthwhile success from this year's Sundance Film Festival!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Never Let Me Go

Finals week, Winter Quarter 2011.  I check my home library website to see if anything is in for pickup (yes, our library is ranked one of the best in the country and they loan out a collection of CDs and DVDs, among other important library artifacts.)  Well, I login to my account and I COMPLETELY freak out when I see "Never Let Me Go" sitting on the top of the list, saying Ready for Pickup.  Ever since I read the book I have been dying to see this movie.  So last night I finally got to watch "Never Let Me Go".  And yes, my continuing admiration with Andrew Garfield was fulfilled. Now that I am on spring break, I can endulge in a list of movies I have been waiting to see. To me, admiring the form of a film is way more fun than getting drunk on a beach in the Gulf, an experience you wouldn't even remember the next day.

Anyway, I was impressed with the art direction and how the tone of the movie was very comparable to the book.  Just look at the movie poster above. Every detail, from how the movie title begins to fall apart to two of the characters running along an empty bridge out to a vast and faceless sea, is impressive.  The muted tones of the poster are also reflective of the movie's intentions and emotions.  However, I was not pleased with the DVD cover (below).  SPOILER: The middle picture ruins a large part of the conflict in the film.  Kathy H and Tommy's love is a major plot point that spans the majority of the book (the book shows a much more emotional account than the movie).  But right there they ruin it for the audience, leaving Ruth on the outside.

I always say the book is better than the film.  That statement holds true, but I will give credit to the outstanding casting of Kathy H (Carey Mulligan) and Tommy D (Andrew Garfield). Ruth, played by Kiera Knightley, was also a great casting decision.  I just believe Carey and Andrew are two of the best up-and-coming actors out there.

The movie follows the previously mentioned trio of actors as they grow up in a very controlled environment.  Very slowly, their physical state emerges not as humans, but as clones grown only to harvest organs.  After clones have donated an average of three times, they 'complete'.  The class learns of their fate from a very forward Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins), the only teacher at Hailsham who seems to be on the children's side.  As the audience becomes more aware of these facts, the horror of the clones' lives becomes more real and disturbing as this could be a way to better future human generations in a time closer than we think.  I think the use of the word 'complete' is very creative because it sets the clones aside from the humans in that clones cannot die.

Another important theme is the difference between clone and human.  As explained from the very beginning, the clones' lives are determined.  No trips to the United States. Only a short life before their vital organs are harvested in a sequence of surgeries.  I think the portrayal of clones by such great actors and real performances shows that the life of a human and of a clone are almost one and the same. What is the difference between the two?  Should clones lead such a short life if they have just as much to offer as any other being? Do clones have the capacity for a soul?  These are some of the questions that are asked, and attemped to be answered during this movie.

The movie ends as Kathy H stares into the sun, an open field, and symbolically, her future, saying to herself and to the audience: "What I'm not sure about is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save."

I definitely recommend this film if you are into sci-fi, drama, or just impressive acting!

Here are a few stills from the movie:
The scene with the beached ship is a vital and
symbolic scene in both the book and movie.

The random patches of grass on the beach are directly
representative of how the trio feels about their lives as clones.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Until Next Year, Oscar...

Well, there you have it folks.  The 83rd Academy Awards are officially over and hopefully you enjoyed them as much as I did.  Well, not so much for the hosts of the show who killed it.  Let's just say I was disappointed with childish Anne Hathaway and a seemingly under-the-influence James Franco.  However, the rest of the show was spectacular!  (May I mention Helen Mirren's french bit?)  The opening sequence was hilarious ("The dance of the brown duck.") (Youtube) along with the Oscar Mashup with Harry Potter's "Ball of Light" trumping the lot. (Youtube)  You can't say they didn't have a few tricks up their sleeves this year!

Now that they're all over, it's time for everyone to go out and see the winners from tonight; if you haven't seen The King's Speech, The Social Network, Inception, or Black Swan yet, you're one of the few. But that's all right!  I'll definitely be needing to see a few myself: The Illusionist, Rabbit Hole, Inside Job, and all of the Foreign Language Film nominees except for Biutiful.

The ending was cute when the P.S.22 students sang Over The Rainbow and all of the night's winners came out to the stage front to be honored one last time for their outstanding performances.  All in all, 2011 was a great year for movies and I can't wait for the next batch of possible Oscar nominees to be released!

Check out my ballot from tonight, despite my pretty embarrassing finish with 14/24 categories correct.  In a way, having such good competition made for more surprises throughout the night!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Not a Happy Love Affair

It started out with a call for a lost dog from the child of a love-lost couple. Was she calling out for more than just her dog and for her last connection to a true family: a family she may have once had or a family she longs to call her own?   The shots representing seclusion further show the far-off love her parents have after 6 years of marriage.  Blue Valentine is not for the faint of heart or for those who try to put those childhood memories of parental fights behind them.  It juxtaposes the harsh reality of love with the excitement of creating a new and seemingly life-long relationship with another person.
The film follows Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) through their relationship by cutting between present day and 6 years ago when they met and got married.  Subtle humor is intertwined with the couple's misadventures ("We're in a robot's vagina", "This is how they laugh in the future"), thankfully to provide comic relief to such intense acting and moments but also to catalogue Cindy's building exhaustion and frustration with Dean's actions ("I thought the whole point of coming here was to have a night without kids").
What makes this movie so compelling is the dialogue and the intensity of both of the actors' performances.  Many of the conversations are about love but give much insight to the reality of how hard it is to remain in love with another person.  I don't want to spoil too much of the movie, but you can even tell by the movie's trailers that it's not going to be the most uplifting film of the year. 

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Dean and Cindy collaborate for the first time; he plays his ukulele while she tap dances in front of a store window.  This is in one of the trailers for the movie, and it shows a very personal moment between the two.  It is extremely hard to take my eyes off the the two's gritty but expressive love for each other as they form an immediate connection.

With a few plot twists along the way, Blue Valentine remains emotional until the very end.  The final scene is my second favorite scene in the film because it intercuts the two biggest moments in their relationship with a very dramatic momentum, leading to the finale where only one conclusion can be made.  

I don't ever want to be like my parents. 
I know that they must have loved 
eachother at one time right? Did they just 
get it all out of the way before the had 

Is life always going to be a repeat of the generations before us?  What is the limit to happiness in a relationship?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Songs of the Week

During these days of intense Oscar film screening, I think we all deserve a pat on the back.  It's not usual that we get to see great movies back to back to back in theaters.  So while you're scanning the internet for more reviews on those artsy films, give your fingers a break by listening to these songs that have been hand-picked for your enjoyment!  Each of these songs comes from a score nominated for this year's Best Original Score.  I hope you enjoy!  Do you have a different favorite from each score?

King's Speech: 

How to Train Your Dragon:
also worthy: "Battling the Green Death"

also worthy: "Waiting For A Train"

The Social Network:
also worthy: "In Motion"

127 Hours:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar Nomination Ballot

Here is the official Academy Award 2011 Ballot!

2011 Ballot!

So go ahead, print it off, and keep track of who wins February 27th at the 83rd Academy Awards!  I will definitely keep writing about the nominated movies I see and keep you posted on my predictions for Oscar night.  Since I have seen the majority of the multi-nominated films (and I'm sure you have too), check back here for the ones you normally wouldn't find out about.  And maybe you'll learn a thing or two about those categories that you never understood ("What the hell is the difference between sound editing and sound mixing?")

Enjoy your countdown to the Oscars!!

Official Oscar Nominations 2011

The nominations were just announced for the 2011 Academy Awards!  Even though the ballot hasn't been released yet, I will post that as soon as it is available.

Someday I will say as I do now, "And here are the nominees:"

Best Actor:
Colin Firth
Jeff Bridges
Jesse Eisenberg
James Franco
Javier Bardem

Best Actress:
Natalie Portman
Anette Bening
Michelle Williams
Jennifer Lawrence
Nicole Kidman

Best Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale
John Hawkes
Geoffrey Rush
Mark Ruffalo
Jeremy Renner

Best Supporting Actress:
Melissa Leo
Amy Adams
Helena Bonham Carter
Hailee Steinfeld
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom!)

Best Motion Picture:
Toy Story 3
Black Swan
The Social Network
The King's Speech
127 Hours
The Kids Are All Right
True Grit
Winter's Bone
The Fighter

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oscar Season

It's almost time for me to say "Oscar season has begun!"  Tomorrow morning the official noms will be announced at 8:30 eastern time by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak and Monique (winner of last year's Best Supporting Actress award for Precious).  I will definitely be up this year in time for the live announcement.  Even though I have seen most of the films that will most likely be nominated, I still am curious to see the unexpected additions and the foreign film nominees.  Left on my list of movies to see are: Blue Valentine (this Friday!), Rabbit Hole, Another Year; and in the foreign category: I Am Love, Biutiful, The Illusionist and The Concert.

Each year I do more and more to prepare for the Oscars, and this year I took it even farther by making my Pre-nomination Ballot. No, it's not complete, but it includes all the categories I am most sure of.


Black Swan

Social Network

Toy Story 3

King's Speech

The Fighter



Colin Firth

Jim Broadbent

James Franco

Jesse Eisenberg

Robert Duvall


Geoffrey Rush

Christian Bale


Natalie Portman

Jennifer Lawrence

Annette Bening

Julianne Moore

Noomi Rapace


(winters bone) Melissa Leo lookalike

Melissa Leo

Hailee Steinfeld

Animated Movie

Toy Story 3

How to train your dragon

The illusionist

Despicable Me

127 Hours
Harry Potter
King's Speech
Social Network
Foreign Movie

Dragon Tattoo

The Concert

Mother (2010?)



Waiting for Superman


Exit through the gift shop


127 Hours

Harry Potter

King's Speech

Social Network

Special Effects




King's Speech

Black Swan



Rabbit Hole

Blue Valentine

This year is definitely going to be a tough Best Picture winner because I fell in love with Black Swan both times I saw it, but The Social Network has been winning the category thus far this season. Also, David Fincher and Darren Aronofsky are both on my Top Directors list.  I think I'm going to stick with my gut and wait for the surprise when they call "Black Swan" February 27th!

Well come back here more tomorrow when I post the list of official Oscar Nominations 2011!!