Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Movie – Moneyball (2011)

I read the non-fiction book Moneyball several years ago.  For those that have not heard of it, the book goes into detail on new ways of looking at baseball statistics in order to find players that have been undervalued by traditional baseball metrics.  When I heard a movie was going to be made based on this book, I was at a loss as to what in the book could translate into a movie.  Screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillion did a good job of concentrating on one real person, then making up a number of events in order to turn the film into a traditional Hollywood underdog movie.  They received an Oscar nomination for their work.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Movie – Midnight in Paris (2011)

Midnight in Paris is the latest movie from writer/director Woody Allen.  It is a wonderful film that celebrates the magic of Paris.  It received four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.  The best chance it has for winning an Oscar is in the Best Original Screenplay category, and this leaves me with a bit of a quandary.  I will explain.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Movie – The Help (2011)

The Help is a movie about race relations in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s.  It specifically focuses on the rich white wives and their black maids – the “help” in the title.  It is based on the best selling fiction novel by Kathryn Stockett.  There seems to have been some confusion among moviegoers about whether the movie is showing events that actually happened to real people being portrayed by the actresses in the film.  Confusion aside, this film appears to have shown a new generation of people how bad things used to be.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Movie – The Artist (2011)

The movie The Artist is a love letter to the silent movie era of Hollywood.  Not only is it about the effect of sound movies (“talkies”) on silent film stars, but it is presented in the same style as those movies.  The result is a very fun movie experience.  I still need to see a few of the Best Picture nominees, but right now this film is my favorite.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2012 Oscar Nominations and Observations

This is my 300th post, so I’m glad I get to do something a little special with it.

The 2012 Oscar nominations were announced a couple of hours ago.  Going down through them I didn’t see any really huge surprises among them.  Here are the nine Best Picture nominees:

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

I will post reviews for as many of these movies as I can prior to the Oscar telecast on February 26th.  At this point I have seen five of the nine.  I will also post my predictions in the days leading up to the ceremony.

Click “Read more” for a complete list of the nominees, what got the most nominations, and some other things of interest.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Humor – Do You Have a Dirty Mind?

This is a pretty famous image that shows how some things can be interpreted innocently by those who are innocent, or not so innocently by those who are not so innocent.

Maybe you feel that was too obvious; that you don’t really have a dirty mind.  Well, shall we see how you interpret some other innocent pictures?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Movie – Macbeth (2010)

The 2010 version of Macbeth is set in an alternate history, militaristic Scotland.  The time period could be anywhere from the 1940s to the 1950s.  Many quick clips are shown of howitzers and other large weapons of war.  Thousands of soldiers are seen parading through large central squares, not unlike scenes from Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia.  Unlike the other two Macbeth adaptations I have reviewed, this one keeps all of the Shakespearean dialogue from the play.  Because of this it runs close to an hour longer than the other two adaptations, but it is definitely the one that is most faithful.  This is the movie that will most satisfy fans of the original play.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Movie – Scotland, PA (2001)

The movie Scotland, PA is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth set in suburban Pennsylvania in the early 1970s.  It is a dark comedy that takes place primarily in a restaurant first named Duncan’s and later named McBeths (with a somewhat familiar giant “M” in the name).  I would describe its tone as “Macbeth meets Fargo”.  Despite the setting it is a pretty faithful version of the play.  It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and it is a very entertaining movie.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Movie – Throne of Blood (1957)

The movie Throne of Blood is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth set in feudal Japan.  Its original title is Kumonosu-jo, which literally means "Castle of the Spider’s Web".  That title is just as fitting, but I suppose "Throne of Blood" catches more people's attention.  In addition to adapting Macbeth to this place and time, director Akira Kurosawa also combined it with elements of the Japanese Noh Theater, which would have been prevalent at the time the film is set.  The result is the best movie adaptation of Macbeth ever filmed, and one of the greatest movie adaptations of any of Shakespeare’s works.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Atomic Shakespeare Part 1 – Macbeth

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” – Witch, Macbeth

I’ve taken the title for this category from a classic episode of the 1980s TV show Moonlighting.  In this episode the cast does a very funny and self-referential version of The Taming of the Shrew.  It was “meta” before there was such a concept.

I am using the term “Atomic Shakespeare” to refer to any movie adaptation of a Shakespeare play that is not set in the traditional time or place of the play.  Examples would be 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) and Kiss Me Kate (1953), both of which are versions of The Taming of the Shrew.  There have been many films that have moved Shakespeare’s tales into a different setting, hence the “Part 1” in the title.  I will be revisiting this category in the future.

For right now, I will be reviewing three very different interpretations of Macbeth.  One is set in feudal Japan, one is set in a 1970s suburban Pennsylvania fast food restaurant, and one is set in an alternate history, militaristic Scotland.  These movies are Throne of Blood (1957) – directed by the great Akira Kurosawa; Scotland, PA (2001); and Macbeth (2010).  There have been many other Macbeth adaptations that have also changed the settings (i.e. 2006’s Macbeth set in the criminal underground of Melbourne and Men of Respect set in modern times), but I have not seen them.

Rather than redundantly recount the story of Macbeth in each movie review, I will give a summary here and refer back to it from the reviews.

Here is the basic plot of Macbeth – Macbeth and Banquo are traveling home from a military victory.  They are peers, both Thanes under Duncan, the King of Scotland.  They meet three witches who predict that Macbeth will first be Thane of a larger region, then King of Scotland.  They also predict that Banquo will not be king, but will be father to a long line of kings.  Both are shaken by the witches’ prophecies, but when they reach the king the first part of the prophecy about Macbeth comes true.

Macbeth tells his wife and she immediately tries to convince him to make the second part of the prophecy come true when the King next comes to visit them.  Macbeth finally agrees and kills his kinsman King Duncan in his own home and frames the King’s sons for it.  Lady Macbeth has to finish the job, though.  Both of them are shaken by this deed and both start to unravel as the story goes along.  Macbeth again seeks out the witches to get more prophecies about his rule.  They tell him he is safe “until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane” [Macbeth’s castle] and that he need fear “no man born of woman”.  Macbeth believes this to mean that he is invincible, since how can a forest come to a castle and what man is not born of woman?

In the meantime, Macbeth’s unraveling becomes paranoia, which causes him to distrust Banquo, who knew of the prophecy and who likely suspects Macbeth in the King’s death.  Banquo and his young son try to flee to safety, but Macbeth orders their deaths.  Meanwhile, another Thane named Macduff is a constant thorn in Macbeth’s side, opposing his rule because he also suspects Macbeth.

By the way, you may be wondering why you should care about any version of Macbeth, or even Shakespeare for that matter.  The answer is that these stories have been hugely influential on so many books and movies that they couldn’t even be listed.  Want a big example?  Ever heard of The Lord of the Rings?  Author J.R.R. Tolkien took the concepts of Birnam Wood coming to Dunsinane, as well as fearing harm from “no man”, and used them to create Treebeard and the other Ents, as well as the showdown between Eowyn and The Witch King of Angmar at the battle outside Minas Tirith.

Here are links to the film reviews.  I will update them as I post each review.

On to the reviews…

Monday, January 16, 2012

Golden Globes 2012

The Golden Globes presentation ended about an hour ago.  They are awards for both movies and television handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.  They have been given since 1944 and are sometimes considered a good indicator of what awards will be handed out at the Oscars.

The key movie awards:

Best Motion Picture, Drama – The Descendants
Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy – The Artist
Best Animated Film – The Adventures of Tintin
Best Foreign Language Film – A Separation

Unlike last year I have not yet seen any of the four films that won, so I cannot comment on them.  Like last year, I will be reviewing as many of the Oscar nominated films as I can and all four of these will likely be among them, so I will write about them then.

In case you are interested in the television awards, Homefront won for Best Television Series – Drama and Modern Family won for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy.

A few thoughts:

The Hollywood Foreign Press seemed to want to avoid tough choices so they moved The Artist into the Comedy/Musical category to get it away from The Descendants.  They then really avoided choosing a favorite by picking Martin Scorcese as Best Director for Hugo.  Best Screenplay went to yet another movie – Midnight in Paris.  They even awarded George Clooney (The Descendants) and Jean Dujardin (The Artist) Best Actor for each of the movies, while not awarding either of the Best Supporting Actress nominees from the movies.  The only thing separating them at all is the Best Score award that went to The Artist.

As expected, both Meryl Streep (Drama) and Michelle Williams (Comedy/Musical) won Best Actress in their two categories for The Iron Lady and My Week with Marilyn, respectively.

I’m kind of surprised that Rango didn’t win Best Animated Movie, considering it seemed to be a favorite of critics and it starred Johnny Depp, who the Hollywood Foreign Press has a huge crush on. 

I have not seen Homefront, so I cannot judge how it stacks up to Game of Thrones, but I was disappointed the latter did not win.  At least Peter Dinklage won for Best Supporting TV Actor for his role in the show. 

Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Movie Actress for playing a character, who among other things, defecates into a pie plate.  She beat out Melissa McCarthy, whose character defecates into a sink.  Boy, it sure is good seeing that women can be just as gross as men onscreen [sarcasm].  Hey Hollywood, how about we don’t have any defecation – male, female, or otherwise - onscreen anymore?  While you’re at it, get rid of all the projectile vomiting scenes, too.

And as I wrote last year – if you were hoping to read snotty comments about what the women wore to The Golden Globes then I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you.  You see, I have a Y chromosome and what the actresses wore means little to me. 

I’m sure you will be able to find any number of critics who are willing to trash some of the women for not paying enough attention to them on the red carpet.  If they go beyond insulting the woman’s dress, hair, shoes, weight, etc. and get into comparing her to movie monsters or serial killers then you know that the actress really must have done something to piss off the critic.

You may be saying, “But Chip, just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you won’t notice what they were wearing.  I see men on TV commenting on fashion all the time.”  To that I would say, “You are correct.  Unlike those men, though, it’s not the clothes that a woman wears on the outside; it’s what’s on the inside that matters to me.”

Special Exception to this – Jayne Mansfield at the 1960 Golden Globes.  It starts at the 16 second mark.  Keep watching for Mickey Rooney to join her.

In case you are wondering who they are talking about, Cantinflas was a Mexican comic actor.  He was actually the biggest star in the world in the 1950s.  He is probably best known to American audiences for playing Passepartout in the 1956 film (and Best Picture Oscar winner) Around the World in Eighty Days.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Collection 10

Raghav Modi at Ticker Talks Film has been running a feature he calls “My Collection 10”.  As he describes it:

The aim of the series is for people to take 10 DVDs from their collection at home, photograph them, and write a line or two about them. They do not have to be favourites, but just movies that have a story behind them. You might like them, hate them, or till now didn’t even know you had them, it is all about letting everyone know a little about your likes and dislikes.

It was kind of fun looking through my movies, deciding which ones to include.  Raghav just posted my 10 DVDs at his site.  You can see them here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

My One Year Anniversary

I am celebrating my first anniversary – my blogging one, that is.  I have now been at this whole “blogging thing” for a year now.  It does seem a little wrong to be celebrating the “paper anniversary” for an endeavor that is completely paperless, but I didn’t make up the tradition.

It’s been quite an interesting experience.  There have been lows (writing what you feel is a great post and getting zero comments) and there have been highs (someone letting you know they loved a movie they watched because of your recommendation.)

Some of you may be saying, “Hold on there, Chip.  What do you mean your first anniversary?  Didn’t that happen, like, two or three weeks ago?  I think your calendar is a little slow.”

Yes, I did my first posts on December 29th, 2010, but I do not consider that the start of my blogging.  I did the posts as the first step in choosing what designs I wanted for the blog, how I wanted the text to appear, trying inserts of photos, links, etc.  I had to decide on ads or no ads.  I had to figure out how to do the Amazon links.  I had to plan out how I was going to work with the Labels to make it easier for people to find things that interest them.

I finally sent out a link to some friends on January 6th, 2011 and asked them to take a look and let me know what they thought.  I got almost zero responses, so I took a couple of days to rethink, and then finally started blogging for real with some posts on January 11th, 2011.  Fast forwarding to now, I wanted to finish up my Harry Potter related posts, so I missed my actual anniversary by two days.  Hey, this way I get the whole weekend to party hard.  Maybe I’ll do something wild and crazy like, I don’t know, watch some movies.

My approach for this blog has changed some.  I originally planned it to be a set of 3-5 reviews of related movies, plus a book review and a hike review, per week.  Even though it already concentrated on movies, I found myself almost exclusively posting on films after joining the Large Association of Movie Blogs (LAMB) last summer.  I have also changed from posting several reviews all in one day, to posting one per day to even things out.  It seems to flow better that way.  (I still plan to write up a bunch of hikes I did last fall in Acadia National Park – probably when we get closer to spring.)

Even though the approach has been modified some, my reason for doing these posts has not.  John Baxter of Knifed in Venice recently left a comment on my In Bruges review that really summed up what I am trying to do.  He wrote, “Love the film, great review.  It’s referrals like this that hopefully turn people towards movies they missed due to their scale on theatrical release.”  I love nothing better than someone finding out about a great movie, book, or hike because of my review.

I’d like to thank everyone who have become Followers and/or who have been reading my posts.  Hopefully you have found them informative and/or entertaining.  If you really like a post, please share it with your friends.  My recent post on the Five Best Non-Traditional Christmas Movies proved to be pretty popular.

Finally, for the stats people (you know who you are), here are some numbers for my first year blogging:

Number of total posts:                      291
Average posts per month in 2011:   23

Number of movie related posts:    200
Number of movie reviews:              164
Number of book reviews:                  30
Number of hike reviews:                   28
Number of humor posts:                   29
Number of TV show reviews:           10
Number of website reviews:               2
Number of golf course reviews:         1

My ten most viewed posts were:

  1. Humor - Look-alike Celebrities
  2. Humor - World War II Social Networking
  3. Movie - Speed (1994)
  4. Hike - Mount Battie and Megunticook Mountain
  5. Movie - 12 Angry Men (1957)
  6. The Five Best Non-Traditional Christmas Movies
  7. Movie - The Iron Giant (1999)
  8. Movie - Pitch Black (2000)
  9. Movie - Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  10. Movie - Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Of the roughly 18,500 views (4,500 just last month), The U.S. is still far and away where the most visitors come from (54.3%), followed by The U.K. (5.4%), Canada (4.5%), Germany (3.7%), and Australia (2%) rounding out the Top 5.  The next five are India, Russia, France, Brazil, and The Netherlands.

Google and Facebook dominate all Top 10 referring sites.  As for searches, people really want to find out the name of the guy that looks like Johnny Depp (Skeet Ulrich), as well as Katy Perry and Zooey Deschanel looking like each other, and Keira Knightley being in Star Wars.  All three of these have led to my Celebrity Look-alikes post having five times as many views as the second most popular post.

The browser most often used is Chrome (28%).  Internet Explorer (27%) and Firefox (26%) follow close behind.  Safari (12%) is a distant fourth.

The operating system most used is Windows (65%).  It is followed by Macintosh (16%) and Linux (9%).  Among mobile devices, the iPhone is most popular, followed by Android, the iPad, and then Blackberry.

I have seen some people use these kinds of posts to list the movies they watched in the last year.  I did not think to track that in 2011.  I might start doing that this year.  I admit that I am kind of curious myself to see what I’ll find at the end of 2012.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Overall Thoughts on the Harry Potter Books and Movies

Note – There are spoilers for various events across the series in this post, so if you have not read all the books, or at least seen all of the movies, then you may want to skip this.

I just re-read and re-watched all of the Harry Potter books and movies, then wrote posts on each.  You can find info about this and links to all related posts here. 

When I started this I was wondering if I would be able to do all seven in eight days.  I managed to read a book, watch a movie, write a review, and post a review for four straight days at the start, but then I had to slow down.  I read the fifth book over three days, the sixth over two, and the seventh over two.  I also took a day off between books 5 and 6 and books 6 and 7.  In the end, it took me two weeks to re-read the seven books, re-watch the eight movies, and then write and post the seven reviews.  As the books got longer and longer, so did my reviews.  My thanks to those people who took the time to read them.  While doing all of this I noted some things that I felt didn’t fit into any one review, but were more for the series as a whole.  Here are those observations.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Movies and Book – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) and Part 2 (2011)

I am re-reading and re-watching all of the Harry Potter books and movies.  You can find info about this and links to all related posts here. 

In addition, you can read my original review of the Part 2 movie here.

Plot (no spoilers):  After the events of the last book, Harry, Ron, and Hermione do not return to Hogwarts for their final year.  When the Ministry of Magic falls to Voldemort they go on the run.  They try to figure out how to locate and destroy the remaining horcruxes (items with pieces of Voldemort’s soul in them).  Only once they have done that can Voldemort be defeated.  This mission drives some wedges between their long standing relationships with each other.  They find out about the Deathly Hallows and try to decide if they should search for them, too.  The stakes keep rising as they end up having to break into the Ministry of Magic, then the impregnable goblin bank Gringott’s, and finally into the now Death Eater controlled Hogwarts.  Much is learned about Dumbledore’s past and not all of it is good.  Much is learned about Snape’s past and not all of it is bad.  All of these things lead to a final showdown between Harry and Voldemort.  Many familiar characters do not survive this final book in the series.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Movie and Book – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

I am re-reading and re-watching all of the Harry Potter books and movies.  You can find info about this and links to all related posts here.

Plot (no spoilers):  Death Eaters are launching attacks across Britain.  Dumbledore collects Harry and takes him to recruit a new professor.  It turns out this man has some vital information and Dumbledore needs Harry to get it for him.  There is a sixth Defense Against the Dark Arts professor in six years, but this time Snape has finally been given the position.  Romantic feelings bloom between Harry and Ginny Weasley and between Ron and Hermione.  Draco Malfoy has been given a task by Voldemort, possibly as a punishment for his father’s failures.  Draco’s mother begs Snape to protect her son and he agrees to an Unbreakable Vow to complete the task Draco has been assigned, if it is needed.  Snape’s loyalties appear to be clear by the time all is said and done.  Dumbledore shows Harry Voldemort’s origins and this reveals a way he might be defeated.  A very major character dies. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Movie and Book – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

I am re-reading and re-watching all of the Harry Potter books and movies.  You can find info about this and links to all related posts here.

Plot (no spoilers):  Dementors attack Harry and his cousin Dudley.  Harry manages to drive them off.  Since he used magic in front of a “muggle” he ends up being tried by the Ministry of Magic to see if he should be expelled from Hogwarts.  Dumbledore defends him, so Harry wins, but Dumbledore is distant.  At school yet another Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is introduced: Dolores Umbridge.  She is an appointment from the Ministry because Dumbledore and the Minister are at odds about whether Voldemort is back or not.  Umbridge manages to take over the school, causing all kinds of trouble.  Harry starts to teach a group of students the real way to defend themselves in a dual.  He also gets his first kiss and finds out girls are a lot harder to understand than any class he is taking.  He is frustrated by the fact that none of the adults will tell him what is going on, and he keeps having dreams that seem to be connected to Voldemort.  All of this leads to a big confrontation at the Ministry of Magic and the death of a major character.