Friday, November 5, 2010

Books to Movies: The eternal struggle

In preparation for the release of Part I of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” I have been watching a lot of Harry Potter with a lot of different people who want to see the last one but never seen or read any before it. While watching with these various groups, something interesting was said.

While watching the sixth one, I was asked about an event and I said “I don’t know, that didn’t happen in the book,” to which the person I was watching with replied, “Then why did they put it in the movie?” And I realized this was something I’d never really given it much thought. But I have an answer and it’s quite simple: You will never see a perfect book adaptation.

I am always hesitant when Hollywood gets its hand on a book I’ve come to enjoy, but that’s because 9 times out of 10, they are entirely disappointing. Why can’t Hollywood just get it right? I mean, it’s right there in print – just put it on the screen and make us all happy.

I go back to Harry Potter to illustrate my point and I apologize to those of you unfamiliar with them. In the sixth movie there is a scene where a rather important location is destroyed that doesn’t occur in the book. This was the scene that prompted the question for the column. The only reason I can figure out for this happening is that there are a lot of readings in the sixth book about the destruction going on in the wizarding world outside Hogwarts and the muggle world – but you can’t exactly read newspaper articles on film and have a stimulating experience, can you?

This is where adaptations fall short. Most novels contain some sort of internal monologue that is essential to the plot. When you must transfer this monologue to film, it has to be turned into dynamic scenes in order to be decent cinema. The same goes for important internal realizations made by characters – they just don’t transfer! And when a filmmaker tries you wind up with a cheesy tricks that make a movie bad very quickly.

It almost takes a bit of magic to make a good adaptation of a movie (please note that “good” is a relative term that here means “above decent”). It’s possible because movies like “Holes” exist. But they are rare. Just a thought the next time you watch a movie based on your favorite book. Keep it in mind.

What's Wrong with "Glee?"

In terms of message, this season of “Glee” is staying true to itself and urging its viewers to do the same. Musically, however, the show has fallen flat.

When the show began last May and continued in September, it couldn’t decide what it was, but by episode 5, it had hit its stride and the familiar phenomenon had begun. This Tuesday brought episode 5 of season 2 and I’m still unsure where I am as far as feelings on this season. For the most part, I feel its missed the mark. And the problem lies in one word: Themes.

The first 13 episodes of “Glee” had no real musical theme and when they did, it was simple and unnoticeable, like in “Ballads.” When the series returned in April, however, themes seemed to be a more prominent, well, theme. It started off with “Hello” where every song had that in the title and the week after that, “Glee” had its famous, although only slightly better than mediocre, Madonna episode, and it seemed that themes were here to stay. This season, we’ve seen no end of theme episodes since “Britney/Brittany,” which was the worst theme episode yet (an hour of Britney Spears music video remakes and no discernable storyline).

Some themes are better than others. For instance, I thoroughly enjoyed last season’s “Ballads,” “Bad Reputation,” “Dream On,” “Theatricality” and “Journey” as well as this season’s “Duets,” which reminded me of the first real “theme” episode the series ever had, “Ballads.” But when the theme gets too specific, I think “Glee” loses what drew us (or at least me) in to start: how Ryan Murphy and his team were able to transcend the written word and layer on emotion through song. The music of “Glee” used to compliment the story. Now it seems the story is written to compliment the music.

So, what’s wrong with “Glee?” In a word: Themes. Hopefully they’ll get back to the show we love and drop the heavy, themey episodes and get back to the story with music. Otherwise, the show may be jumping the shark sooner than we hoped.

The Hunger Games

Post apocalyptic America is a place called ‘Panem.’ The central government in the Capital restructured the land into 13 districts, each responsible for a specific industry based on where they are and what natural resources they possess. They cannot travel outside their districts and most are poor and starving. The only wealth is in the Capital. So the districts revolted, a rebellion which the capital swiftly crushed, wiping out District 13 entirely.

Now to commemorate that, and remind the people of Panem of their might, the Capital puts on The Hunger Games once a year, in which a boy and girl from each of the 12 remaining districts are chosen in a lottery system to be put into an arena and they fight to the death over days. The last adolescent left standing is the winner. It is televised and mandatory for all to watch so that they remember the power of the Capital.

This is the backstory of Suzanne Collins’ brilliant trilogy, “The Hunger Games,” which I consider to be the best young adult series since “Harry Potter.” And that’s saying a lot. Now why am I writing about this in my TinselTalk column? There are whispers going through the entertainment industries about these books. I want to give you the opportunity to read them (or devour them as I am) and love them without understanding their appeal before Hollywood gets a hold of them, you see them plastered everywhere in pop culture and they lose their appeal to you. Like “Twilight.”

I have a love hate relationship with pop culture. I love it because I find a lot of things I enjoy reading/watching because they become popular and that’s how I hear about them, like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Harry Potter.” But there are also some things, like “Twilight” or “The Hunger Games,” that I began to enjoy on the cusp of them becoming full blown pop culture phenomenons. In the case of “Twilight,” I’ve been turned off by what the fans have become which has caused the entire series to lose its appeal and made me question why I liked it in the first place.

Give “The Hunger Games” a go, before Hollywood gets their hands on it. And look to it to be coming to a movie theater near you in the next few years. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was the next “Harry Potter,” like “Twilight” was supposed to be.


The trailers for the first installment of the final Harry Potter are all over the internet and Warner Brothers is billing it as the conclusion of the “Motion Picture Event of a Generation,” and to a certain extent that is true. But that statement has me thinking: What had been the greatest motion picture event of our generation?

Is it “Titanic?” 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, went to this epic from director James Cameron. It’s sweeping cinematography, fantastic cast and timeless love story have made it a favorite amongst movie-goers, but it has also become a bit of a punchline. And it’s mainly female fanbase leaves room for questioning if its female appeal ruins it greatness.

Is it “The Lord of the Rings?” Tied with “Gone With the Wind” for the most Oscar wins, its final film swept every category it was nominated in. It redefined the epic movie, broke ground with its special effects and the risk that New Line Cinema took with these films is, most likely, never to be duplicated. The success of it was almost a fluke, because well the books were popular, the cast were relatively unknown as was director Peter Jackson. But like the Fellowship, are these films too much of a “boys club” to be the greatest film of our generation?

Is it “Harry Potter?” We grew up with the books and the movies. For most people our age, it was a definer of our childhood and no one after us will understand the exhilaration associated with a new book coming out and a new movie being released. These movies have broad appeal, but with Warner Brothers proclaiming it the “event of our generation,” is it possible they’re overstepping themselves?

Is it an animated Disney Classic? “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Lion King” are just a few of the gems we saw released as children. “Beauty and the Beast” was the only animated film nominated for Best Picture under the old “5 nominee” system and remains, in my opinion, the best film Disney has ever made. Is this what we’ll be remembered for? Are these what will define us?

What do you think we’ll be remembered for? What’s the best movie of our generation? Did I list it here? Did I miss it?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The 3D 'Revolution'

You go to the movies. You pay upwards of 10 or 11 bucks and that’s if you don’t buy popcorn or a drink. Then you sit down and for the next two to three hours you watch a movie with plastic glasses on your face that will give most people a headache before the movie is over.

I don’t understand the 3D movie craze. To me, it’s an excuse to make bad movies because let’s face it, you don’t have to make a good movie if it’s in 3D. The 3D is so distracting in most movies that the audience won’t be able to notice just how bad or unoriginal your movie is. Exhibit A: James Cameron’s Avatar.

In addition, making a movie to simply have it be in 3D means that you are never going to be satisfied with the home video release of that movie. Did you know that James Cameron is discontinuing Avatar on DVD and Blu-Ray just to rerelease it into theaters so it can be viewed the way he intended? That’s because in order for Avatar to be something close to good cinema, it has to be in 3D! And no matter what the companies that make TVs think, no one is going to buy a TV they have to wear special eyewear (sold separately of course) to watch!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not railing against all 3D movies. The movies that are simply released in 3D because it will add something to them (Toy Story 3, the next installment of Harry Potter) I have nothing against, mostly because I know that at the end of the day, I’ll be able to watch those movies in 2D and they will still be good movies! As a matter of fact, I saw Toy Story 3 in a drive in (where it wasn’t in 3D) and thought it was one of the best movies of the summer.

But the 3Ds that are made with gimmicks (things coming at the screen just so they’ll jump out at the audience) or are made in 3D as a distraction for them being a poor movie I have something against. I just wait for the day that 3D movies go the way of HDDVDs and BetaMax. Until then, I’ll be in line to enjoy the first part of the final Harry Potter at midnight in 3D. Because I don’t doubt that 3D won’t make or break that film.

What Are You Reading?

I love to read. When I find a book that fully engrosses me in its plot and characters, I have to share it with others. This week I want to do that with the series I just finished: Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”).

These three novels have already been made into films in Sweden, the first of which is available on DVD in the US. It is a great adaptation of the novel, filled with as much suspence as the book, even if you know how it’s going to end. The next film was released limitedly earlier this year and will be on DVD in October while the third was released limitedly this summer. All three have been met with critical success and they are now being adapted in the US with Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist.

“Dragon Tattoo” is the first in the series and was quite possibly my favorite. It’s not that the other two were bad, but this one, being the first, will always be the best. Investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired by a rich old man to find out what happened to his granddaughter who disappeared 40 years ago. Blomkvist enlists the help of the mysterious Lisbeth Salander and together the two of them stumble on an answer neither of them expected to find. It’s a thrilling ride that I was unwilling to put down.

Next, “The Girl Who Played with Fire,” is yet another thrilling race. This book, set a year after “Dragon Tattoo” is focused on a new journalist at Blomkvist’s magazine working on a story about human trafficking in Sweden. When he and his girlfriend turn up dead, it is Blomkvist’s friend Salandar who is the prime suspect. However, working with her before the police can track her down, Blomkvist and Salandar discover the true culprit in a place they’d never have suspected. The end of the book will leave you wondering and wanting to immediately pick up “Hornet’s Nest.”

In the final novel, Salandar goes to trial and you finally learn of her mysterious background. It was an exhilarating conclusion that I couldn’t wait to find out the end of, while I also wanted to savor the amazing writing of Larsson since this is the last work he published. He unfortunately died after delivering these three manuscripts and didn’t live to see the books’ success.

Fair warning, the books hold nothing back in their description of the gruesome crimes that take place, so if you are sensitive to that sort of thing, these books are not for you. However, if you love dark crime novels and a good, enthralling mystery, these books are a must and the best part? Our library has them, so you don’t even have to leave campus to enjoy them! Check them out today!!!

5 Shows I'm watching this Fall

This week marked the big kick-off of the Fall television season. Here are the 5 shows I’m most excited to see this fall (new or returning):

1) “Glee”: People who know me are not at all surprised that this is my number one. Watching the premiere Tuesday night made me realize that I have missed “Glee” a lot in its almost 4 month hiatus . Luckily I had the episodes on iTunes and the music to sustain me, but it didn’t compare to the excitement that came in seeing a new episode of my favorite show on television. (Tuesdays at 8 pm on FOX)

2) “The Big Bang Theory”: This show is my favorite sitcom on television. Its wit week after week astounds me and the characters are just fabulous. You’ve known these characters, or are one of these characters, and that makes it all the more enjoyableJim Parson’s Emmy was well-deserved this year and I can’t wait to see what laughs the boys (and Penny) serve up this season. (Thursdays at 8 pm on CBS)

3) “Parenthood”: In my opinion, this is the best drama on television because it’s real. “Parenthood” presents us with a real family dealing with real situations that all families deal with and I am so excited that it received a full order for its second season. Last season the Braverman’s dealt with teen dating drama, a son being diagnosed with Asperger’s and several financial crises just to name a few. I don’t know what they’ll face this season, but I know that they will handle it in a real way, not overly dramatized and not too easily solved. (Tuesdays at 10 pm on NBC)

4) “The Event”: When “Lost” ended in May, I wondered if anything would come along in the fall to fill the void. Many, MANY shows have tried and failed at what “Lost” managed to achieve. Though the premiere of “The Event” left some things to be desired, I was filled with as much intrigue at the end of its premiere as I was when the first episode of “Lost” ended 6 years ago. However, I felt the same way about “FlashForward” this time last year, and that show quickly went downhill and was swiftly cancelled. Only time will tell which end of the spectrum “The Event” will end up on. (Mondays at 9 pm on NBC)

5) “The Good Guys”: These days, everybody needs a good laugh and wants to root for the good guys. That's why "The Good Guys" was my choice for watching this summer. It takes all the things you love about buddy cop dramas and wraps them up in one package. And that package is an hour chock-full of laughter. And the best part about the humor is that it isn't cliche or forced dumb jokes. It’s pretty smart humor. (Fridays at 9 pm on FOX)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why I am a Gleek

Last May, when I first saw the series premiere of “Glee,” I instantly fell in love. I fell in love with the music. I fell in love with the dancing. I fell in love with the characters. But above all, I fell in love with its message.

I often describe “Glee” as “’High School Musical’ for grown-ups,” and in a lot of ways, that is true. While the directors and producers of HSM (Disney) would never have a storyline where the head cheerleader and president of the celibacy club finds herself pregnant (and at 16 too!), the message of being yourself, no matter what may be popular, considered “in” or what your friends are doing. In the age of peer pressure running rampant, this is important message to have. The only way to true happiness is by being you.

I also love “Glee” for the way it handles social issues. When Kurt “came out” early in Season one, his single, mechanic father did not respond by yelling, by trying to change his son, or by disowning him. He simply looked him in the eye and said “I know…and I love you just as much.” That is just one of the examples of the grace with which “Glee” handles things that are tough to address in our society.

Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t love “Glee” just because of the heavy issues it tackles. The talent on this show is unbelievable and just when I think they can’t do better, they kick it up a notch and blow me away! It’s hard to believe they are going to find ways to top themselves this season.

And the comedic moments, make me laugh out loud, even after I’ve seen them before. Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester has lines that not only make you laugh, but also make you stop and wonder “Did she really just say that?!”

There’s a little bit of Gleek in all of us. Yes, the characters are over exaggerations and caricatures, but there’s also something so familiar about them. So, on Tuesday nights this year, don’t be afraid to unleash your inner Gleek. Be proud. Sing out. More importantly: Gleek out!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Remember Me - Remember it

From the vault:

Last week, when I finally saw Summit Entertainment’s latest flick, “Remember Me,” I didn’t know what I was in for. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the experience that awaited me.

The film lives up the promise of the lesson it presents in its opening line: “Gandhi said that whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it's very important that you do it because nobody else will.” “Remember Me” proves just why this is important. It tells the story of a young man, Tyler, who is struggling with finding himself when he meets a girl, Ally, who seems to put his life into perspective, but is just as damaged as he is.

The movie, however, is definitely not a love story. It’s so much more than that with an underlying emotion so powerful; it’s difficult to put into words. Even more impressive, is that it is a film that will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater. The images from the end of the movie still haunt me a week later.

There is a tie as to which is the most shocking aspect of this film: the ending or the fact that Robert Pattinson, who plays Tyler, can actually act. Having only seen him in the “Twilight” films and the fourth “Harry Potter” movie, I was under the impression that he was just another pretty face in Hollywood – a celebrity, not an actor. This movie has me doubting this assumption though. He is equally matched by Emilie de Ravin (Ally), who does a masterful job balancing Pattinson. The rest of the cast is equally compelling, my only complaint being the lack of compatibility between Pattinson and Pierce Brosnan, who plays his father. This was unfortunate given the large number of dramatic scenes the two share.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it came as a complete shock to me. All-in-all, “Remember Me” is a must-see. Just, not if you’re looking for the feel-good movie of the year.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why The Good Guys is the Funniest Show You'll Find This Summer

These days, everybody needs a good laugh. These days, everybody wants to root for the good guys. That's why "The Good Guys" is my choice for summer watching this summer. It takes all the things you love about buddy cop dramas and wraps them up in one package. And that package is an hour chock-full of laughter. And the best part about the humor is that it isn't cliche or forced, dumb jokes. Its pretty smart humor.

Colin Hanks (Roswell, Orange County) and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) lead the cast as police partners (Sorry, detectives) who always manage to stumble upon big crime while investigating petty crimes for the Dallas PD. Hanks is the young cop, eager to prove himself and stuck with Whitford, the old legend who is stuck in the 70s.

The humor of this team is beyond compare. Hanks comes from some pretty comedic stock and Whitford proved he could handle smart humor and time it perfectly in his 7 season run on The West Wing and the short-live Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Example?
Jack (Hanks): You do know peanut shells are basically tree bark.
Dan (Whitford): Salty delicious tree bark.

I posted this as a Facebook status after watching the second episode along with one statement: "The Good Guys = Funniest thing on TV this summer.

A friend saw this and started watching and now he can't wait for the next episode.

Check it won't be disappointed. You'll just be reminded why you love TV in the first plabe.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Glee, Season 1: Top 10 and Bottom 5

So, the first season of "Glee" has officially come to an end. I, for one, don't know how I'll make it the whole summer without new I've taken to rewatching the episodes...

This has inspired me. I want to rank the musical numbers...but not just the top 10, like Entertainment Weekly did last week before the finale, but the bottom 5 too. Because even "Glee" isn't perfect...

TOP 10

10. Beth - This was the sweetest solo Puck had, and I loved that Finn jumped into it to try and apologize to Kurt. In an episode that was already rife with emotion, this just kept it there.
9. Imagine - Touching. Soulful. And amazing. Not that that song already wasn't. The Glee Kids just pushed it over the edge. And I loved them doing the sign language during it.
8. Don't Rain on My Parade - "Sectionals" is in my Top 5 episodes and this song is one of the main reasons why. I got chills when I heard it the first time.
7. It's My Life/Confessions Part II - The boys won the mash-up contest in "Vitamin D." Just saying that since the show never did.
6. To Sir, With Love - In case there wasn't enough crying during "Journey," this song sent me over the edge. I've always loved this song, but in this context it was just that much more poignant. The only way it could have been better was if the show had actually been cancelled (instead of renewed for not one, but two more seasons).
5. Bad Romance - I usually hate Lady Gaga. No, not usually. Always. Except for this song. It's catchy, the costumes were amazing and I can't stop singing it.
4. Bohemian Rhapsody - Who said I could only name songs done by New Directions? This song was amazing, though I have to admit when I first watched it I was highly distracted by the cuts to Quinn giving birth. However, I have rewatched it multiple times now and I can't get over the amazing performance Jonathan Groff gave of this classic Queen song. Go watch it again. You'll love it too.
3. Somebody to Love - The first time this song aired in "The Rhodes Not Taken", I immediately wished I had been recording the episode so I could rewind and watch it again. And again. And again. This was the first great group number since the "Pilot" and the moment when I knew the show was back in stride after it's early episode missteps.
2. Regionals Journey Medley (Faithfully/Any way you want it/Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'/Don't Stop Believin') - This medley is one of the best things I've ever seen on TV. It was flawless and it was wonderful to see more than just the Finn and Rachel show like we had at sectionals. I am such a fan of them both, but I also love Puck, Santana and Artie's voices. And Mercedes taking "Don't Stop" into that key change gave me chills the first time I heard it.
1. Keep Holdin' On - This group number from the end of "Throwdown" is my favorite number the show has ever done. The raw emotion in it (and in Dianna Agron's eyes) make me tear up everytime I hear/watch it. And it finally means that something good came from the movie "Eragon."

Honorable Mentions (because 10 just isn't enough): "Like A Prayer," "4 Minutes," "Jump," "Smile (Charlie Chaplin)," "Sweet Caroline," "Over the Rainbow," "Leavin' On a Jet Plane," "And I'm Telling You," "Hello," "Gives You Hell," "Total Eclipse of the Heart," "Rose's Turn," "Run Joey Run," "Dream On," "Funny Girl," "Maybe this Time"

Bottom 5:
5. Bust a Move - Dear Mr. Ryan Murphy, Matthew Morrison is a Broadway baby and therefore should not be a rapper. Not when he's proven to be such a great Balladeer (See "Over the Rainbow"). This was the most horrendous of all his rapping, so please give it a rest in Season 2. However, you can still let him dance. Thank you. Sincerely-Me.
4. Smile (Lily Allen) - This song was just odd. I'm watching it as I type this and I still think its awful.
3. Poker Face - I already take issue with Lady Gaga. But making this song into a ballad was an offense not even having Idina Menzel & Lea Michele singing could make up for.
2. Hair/Crazy in Love - This number, like #4 above was just weird. No other words to describe it.
1. Safety Dance - Don't get me wrong. I was excited to see Artie dancing. But this song was too long and too annoying. Sorry guys...I just couldn't handle it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

And in "The End" the "Lost" were Found

This is the last thing I will ever get to write about Lost. So I guess I better make it good.

After 6 long, and sometimes exasperating seasons, the book on Lost was closed Sunday night. And though several fans are crying foul in the way it ended, I'm cheering at the top of my lungs.

I've read several analyses of what happened on Sunday and I think the most important thing we have to remember is that the title of the show was never about the character's physical was about their spiritual states. In "The End" their souls, which had been wandering Lost when flight 815 crashed in 2004, had finally found peace as they found each other in the afterlife and made their way on to the next part of their a very Titanic-esque ending scene that was moving and seemingly poetic.

Lost has always been about redemption, even when they were time-travelling and knee-deep in confusing mythology no one could really keep straight. And in "The End" redemption was had by all.

And tears were shed by many. In my book, it was a perfect ending for the show. I didn't know what I was expecting to happen, but I know that if I had had 2.5 hours of straight answers, I would have been disappointed and that has never been Lost's style. However, the show did always have a thing for symmetry and the way it ended in the way it began was a beautiful touch.

For my final words on Lost, I simply have this: I am happy, content and quite frankly, in awe of the genius that was, is and will always be LOST.

There will never be another show like it. And for that reason it will never be forgotten.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Fourth Age of Disney

I believe that the fourth age of Disney has begun. Now, you’re probably scratching your heads as to what I mean by that. In my mind, there have been 3 previous ages of Disney movies: Classical, Neoclassical, and Pixar. Still confused? Allow me to explain myself a little further.

The Classical Age of Disney is also the longest. It began in 1937 with the release of Disney’s first animated feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and ended in 1986 with the release of “Oliver and Company.” It saw the release of 27 Disney animated classics and was the building of an empire.

The Neoclassical Age of Disney could also be called the “Golden Age,” when the Disney Empire was the strongest it ever was and produced some of its finest, most memorable work. It is also the age of Disney we grew up during. For me, this age begins in 1988 with the release of “The Little Mermaid” and ended 11 years later with the 1999 release of “Tarzan.” Though they made many noble attempts at continuing their 2-D animation roots, they couldn’t, beating themselves with their own third age.

The third age of Disney (the Pixar Age), was the age of revolution. Sharing some overlap with the Neoclassical Age, it saw its beginning in 1995 with the release of “Toy Story” and ended just two years ago with the release of “Wall-E.”

Now, after reading that last sentence you are probably confused, asking “Wasn’t ‘Up’ made by Pixar?” It was. But the release of “Up” actually marks the beginning of the fourth, and most current age of Disney. It seems after 10 years, Walt Disney Animation has finally figured out a way to harmoniously create in both 2-D and 3-D animation. “The Princess and the Frog,” released last fall, was only the beginning of this Age of Harmony. In the coming years we will see Pixar films such as “Toy Story 3” and “Cars 2” released alongside new 2-D films like “Tangled,” which is based on the “Rapunzel” story.

This marriage is something people like me have been long looking forward to. As a member of the “Golden Age Generation,” but as someone who loves Pixar animation, I’m excited to find myself in an age that will give me both. The Age of Harmony will give our children the best of both worlds we got growing up, allowing Disney to innovate the world while staying planted in their roots. What could be better than that?

It's All About the Bunnies (the Time-Travelling Bunnies, that is)...

As many of my readers know, I am an avid Lostie...with the airing of last night's episode, "Happily Ever After," I have added a new dimension to my theory about the show. For your picking pleasure:

There are 2 things we currently need to be concerned with: What are Jacob/the Anti-Jacob/the Island? How are the sideways world and island world going to collide? Oddly enough, both these things coincide (a seemingly rare occurrence on Lost). And both have to do with bunnies. Time travelling ones.

In preparation for last night's episode, I rewatched two of my favorites: "The Constant" and "There's No Place Like Home (Part 2)." I couldn't have picked a better 2 episodes. We all know the Orchid station is where they experimented on bunnies with electromagnetism to propel them through time. The bunnies immediately brought to mind Watership Down, which Sawyer and Boone had been reading. But, I claim this connection to be a red herring. We need to think in literary terms of this season.

Earlier this year we saw Jack's son in Sideways World with Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (a story where two worlds collide...the world of what you need and the world of what you want-keep this in mind as I keep writing). In this story, Alice goes down the rabbit hole to get from one world to another. Ben went down the rabbit hole (quite literally, it was a hole made where they used to experiment on rabbits) to move the island. Last night, Desmond went down the rabbit hole a la electromagnetism, similar to what he did in "The Constant" - except this time is was a bit more stable.

We saw the beginning of the end last night. As you so astutely predicted, Desmond is how the world's are going to merge (with the help of Sideways Charlie and Faraday (RIP)). The nuclear blast knocked all of them into 2 different planes. The sideways world is where they've gotten the one thing they always wanted - but isn't necessarily the best thing for them, as it seems to come at a great cost. Luckily for all the Sideways', Desmond's gonna get them together and show them the light - hopefully without Charlie's method of driving off a pier.

All right. Down the Rabbit Hole. Check.
How does this tie into Jacob/Anti-Jacob/Island War?

In a word: Dichotomies.

Lost has always been about dichotomies. Black and white. Good and evil. The past and present. The present and future. What you want and what you need. Science and Faith. Things that can't be reconciled, are about to be reconciled.

War is coming to the Island. Presumably, the last showdown between good and evil. What is good? What is evil? Talking about either is talking about a relative thing. And if you've been paying attention, you've noticed that neither Jacob or the Anti-Jacob are wholly one or the other.

In Ancient Greece and Rome, the gods were not wholly good or evil. They had both sides, like the Island's demi-gods. It was thought, according to mythology, that Earth was simply a giant chess board where the gods pitted humans against one another to see the outcome. Sound familiar?

The difference here is, no one has told them there is no good and evil. They both think they're right and the other is wrong. Which is why Desmond must take all the passengers of Sideways 815 "down the rabbit hole." Somehow, by seeing what they have (what they thought they wanted) in comparison to what the Island has shown them about themselves, they will see there are no dichotomies and there will be no war. Or at least, not a complete bloodbath.

This is what Lost will be: There's no good and evil - only what you think is right. There is no black and white - only shades of grey.

I hope this made sense. Thanks for reading to the end. I could be completely wrong...but after last night, this is what I've come to.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why Parenthood is the best thing on TV

I am about to make a statement that is going to make a statement that is going to upset some people. Ready? NBC’s “Parenthood” is the best show on television. Why? Well, that’s a little more complex.
The show centers on the Braverman family: parents Zeek and Camille, adult children Sarah, Julia, Crosby and Adam, each with their own families to deal with also. Sarah recently went broke and had to move herself and her two teenage children back in with her parents. Julia is a workaholic, who fears her daughter likes her husband better. Crosby, a commitment-aphobe, recently found out that he has a five year son. And Adam has a teenage daughter and a young son, recently diagnosed with Asperger’s.
In the past decade or two, American television has seen a shift in the portrayal of the American family. While I see that as a good thing (most families aren’t the Cleavers), this shift has almost gone too far.
That’s why “Parenthood” is so good. It’s portraying a real family. They have had their problems, their trials, their differences and their rifts between each other, but at the end of the day, they are still a family and know how to come together and love each other unconditionally when it’s most necessary.
All families are a little dysfunctional. So is this one. All families have their problems. So does this one. There is someone within this family that everyone will be able to see in their own, or a family of someone they know. They don’t gloss over things and they aren’t so dysfunctional they are unbelievable. They present with grace that no one is perfect – that we can all only do the best we can with what we’re given and go from there.
There was a scene in the third episode that is the epitome of what I love. Julia was having trouble teaching her daughter to swim. Adam and his wife were waiting to hear back from a school for their son, who was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s while dealing with the fact that they were missing out on their daughter’s life because of the attention they put on their son. Crosby was still coping with the revelation about his son and Sarah was still picking up the pieces of her former life. To celebrate the little girl learning to swim, however, the entire family came together to celebrate at the pool.
The show is well done, without being overdone. It’s dramatic without being melodramatic. It’s real without being overly heavy. And I think we need more TV like it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

2010 Oscars Recap

If you ask me, last Sunday's Oscar's ceremony fell kinda flat. Well, not all of it. I liked Neil Patrick Harris' opening number. But after that the downcast mood and lighting in the Kodak Theatre seemed to match the fact that host's Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin slowly died during their monologue and never really recovered.

However, I did have some highlights in the night. The first?

A close second was Kathryn Bigelow's historic win, where she beat out ex-husband James Cameron.
Other highlights for me included Ben Stiller coming out dressed as a Na'vi, the John Hughes tribute, and Sandra Bullock winning Best Actress.

A complete list of winners is below. I was about 75% correct, one of my better scores in recent years.
Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Actor in a Leading Role: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Actress in a Leading Role: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Actress in a Supporting Role: Mo'Nique, Precious
Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker, Mark Boal
Adapted Screenplay: Precious, Geoffrey Fletcher
Animated Film: Up
Foreign Language Film: The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos, Argentina)
Original Score: Michael Giacchino, Up
Original Song: "The Weary Kind," Music and Lyrics by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett (Crazy Heart)
Art Direction: Avatar
Cinematography: Avatar, Mauro Fiore
Costume Design: The Young Victoria, Sandy Powell
Makeup: Star Trek
Film Editing: The Hurt Locker, Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
Documentary Feature: The Cove
Documentary Short Subject: Music by Prudence
Animated Short Film: Logorama
Live Action Short Film: The New Tenants
Sound Editing: The Hurt Locker
Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Visual Effects: Avatar
Governors Award: Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman and Gordon Willis

What were your favorite parts of the show???

Saturday, March 6, 2010

2010 Oscar Predictions

Here are my picks for the 83rd Academy Awards, which will be announced Sunday, March 7.

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Some may call it wishful thinking, but I truly believe that the Academy won't give this to Avatar.

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
There's no contest...he's won everything else.

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
I haven't actually seen this movie, but I want to really badly. She went against type for herself and the Academy loves to salute range. And Meryl Streep doesn't need another Oscar...especially for impersonating Julia Child. And though I have heard nothing but good things about Carey Mulligan's performance, I worry that no one outside the UK knowing who she is will hurt her chances.

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
Like Jeff Bridges, there is no real contest here.

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious
See my Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor comments.

Best Director: James Cameron, Avatar
I didn't like Avatar. And I would love to see the Academy give this one to his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), who is his only real competition, for that reason. But I get the feeling they'll give him this one "above the line" for his dedication to the film and to make up for not giving him the big prize. (Note: "Above the line" refers to the major categories on an Oscar Ballot, which everyone is allowed to vote for)

Best Original Screenplay: Inglorious Basterds
People are calling this one for The Hurt Locker. But I don't see a sweep coming for this quiet contender I didn't hear anything about prior to Award Season.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air
This film was too talked about to be shut out completely.

Best Animated Film: Up
There's no contest. It's Best Picture nomination ensures that. Much as I would love to see the "old school" The Princess and the Frog walk away with it, Pixar's animation style has become the norm and 2-D is a thing of the past.

Best Make-Up: Star Trek
Eric Bana was near unrecognizable. And the other creatures in this movie were phenomenal. I'll be shocked if it goes to anyone else.

Best Special Effects: Avatar
I want Star Trek to win. I want it to win so badly because Avatar's special effects were not as ground-breaking as everyone claims (see previous post entitled "Oh, Avatar..."). But Avatar will win. Unfortunately.

That's all I can predict, having not seen all the nominees in the other categories. We'll see if I'm right tomorrow night!

Oh, Avatar...

I may be the last person in America to do so, but this weekend, I finally saw Avatar. While I admit, it was not horrible, if they announce it as Best Picture Sunday, I'll be scratching my head.

For the most part, the movie was very visually dynamic and stunning, but most of the special effect shots made me feel like James Cameron had a new toy he wanted to show off and/or play with. That's evident in the fact that the movie is about an hour too long, a number I got from Disney having told this story 15 years ago in 90 minutes.

This brings me to my problems, the first of which being the lack of original story. Someone in old Hollywood once said that there are only 7 storylines, but at least they usually change enough that I don't blatantly notice I'm watching the same thing (c'mon Mr. Cameron-a tree where you can speak to your ancestors? Just go ahead and name it Grandmother Willow).

The second of my problems is that people are claiming these effects to be ground-breaking, when in reality, WETA and ILM, who collaborated on the effects in the film, simply recycled things they had already used before. Motion-capture animation? WETA debuted that flawlessly 6 years ago in “The Lord of the Rings.” Completely CGI backgrounds and digital worlds? ILM did that for George Lucas 5 years ago in “Star Wars III.”

If Avatar is the wave of the future, which we will be told by whether or not The Academy embraces it Sunday night, Hollywood won’t be happy and I will worry about the movies of the future. I have never heard an actor talk about enjoying working entirely in front of blue/green screens (they actually find it incredibly annoying). If this becomes the norm, you won't have to act, because you'll have an Avatar that can do it for you. I don't literally mean a blue alien, but some sort of corresponding CGI character that looks like an actor and all they have to do is provide a voice.

There will be no more character acting, no more chemistry, no more reality to movies. In reality, you won't even have to act, because a computer will help you out (a reason why animated films never became a norm). As someone who loves movies, that's a scary proposition.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why Aren't You Singing?

A couple weeks ago, I was watching “The Sound of Music” and a friend of mine told me something that I found startling: Christopher Plummer (Captain Von Trapp) didn’t do his own singing in the movie. Now I know it was the norm in the 1960s (and still is today) to dub people’s voices in movie musicals, but I have often asked the question “Why?”
One of the best known voices of movie-musicals is “The Voice of Hollywood,” Marni Nixon. You’ve undoubtedly heard Nixon, even if you don’t realize it, as she provided the singing voice for Natalie Wood in “West Side Story,” Deborah Kerr in “The King and I,” and Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady,” just to name a few. For years, I wondered why Nixon was always the voice, but never the face in these fine movies. Did she not have the face for cinema? No, it isn’t that. She’s one of the nuns in “The Sound of Music” and she isn’t non-photogenic.
In “West Side Story,” only George Chakiris and Russ Tamblyn, along with the ensemble, do their own singing all the time, with Rita Moreno doing her own singing some of the time. In the little seen “The Phantom of the Opera,” Minnie Driver’s voice was dubbed by one of the ensemble singers because she isn’t a soprano. What’s so hard about casting people who can actually sing the part your filling?
I think it boils down to star-power for the most part. In 1961, Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno and Richard Beymer were recognizable names in Hollywood. Marni Nixon, Betty Wand and Jim Bryant, who did all their singing, were not. In 2004, Minnie Driver was a recognizable name in movies, with the rest of the film was full of unknowns (Gerard Butler was not yet a household name).
The funniest thing about all of this is that the big scandal in the 1952 musical comedy “Singin’ in the Rain” is that Debbie Reynolds’ character Kathy is hired to dub all the singing for Jean Hagen’s character Lina. Seen as unthinkable in the 1920s when the film is set, it became the norm in less than 30 years later, when “Rain” was made, no doubt meant as a commentary on the new trend.
I happen to think that you have to be able to do your own singing and dancing in musicals. That’s the way it was in the 30s and 40s, that’s the way it is on stage and that is how it should be.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Best Movie You've Never Seen: "Newsies"

Before Christian Bale was the Caped Crusader and Kenny Ortega directed the "High School Musical" films, the two collaborated on a little see project from Disney. This film was "Newsies" and if a fun romp for any musical fan.

Loosely based on the actual newsboys strike at the turn of the 20th century, the stand out the film is the song and dance numbers from Alan Menken, who wrote some of Disney's best animated musicals.

If you want to see Christian Bale dance and sing (and he's not bad at either), this film is definitely worth a watch.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In the Year 2079...

In the year 2079…

What makes a classic a classic? Any film buff will tell you that becoming a classic is mostly a matter of time. If your film stands the test of time, if it survives a certain number of years, if it passes some sort of hurdle, it is deemed a classic and can be caught one Sunday afternoon on TCM. But who decides what that year mark is?

I believe that a classic film classification must depend on more than just age. Because let’s face it, at less than 10 years old, it’s already been decided that “The Lord of the Rings” is a classic film. At 15, so is “Toy Story.” But I’m 21 – I don’t consider myself a classic. So it can’t only be a matter of time. Surely, if your film stands the test of time in a Hollywood as productive as it is today, it means something. But I think instant classics are made by films that break the mold, set a new standard, or give us something we have never seen before.

Last year we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the greatest year in movies. People still watch these movies like they are brand new because they are timeless and don't look 70 years old.

While I am sure no one in 1939 could fathom that we would still be watching their movies 70 years later (they hadn't even begun to conceive the VCR/DVD player), it makes me wonder: in the year 2079, what movies will people be watching for the first time? What movies have we made that will stand the test of time?

I have no doubt that in 70 years people will still be watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which gave us the most realistic CGI I have ever seen on film, making it the finest piece of filmmaking in our generation. They will still enjoy “Toy Story,” the first 3-D computer animated film, which forever changed the way we view animated movies.

In addition, they will probably still watch the original Star Wars trilogy. I also hope that future generations will enjoy the splendor that is Titanic. They will also still enjoy Disney and Pixar animated movies, but hopefully the dreadful Disney sequels will have fallen into the same oblivion as I hope the new Star Wars trilogy will. And I have no doubt that the best piece of American Cinema, “The Godfather” Trilogy, will still be shown 70 years from now of whatever form TV is in.

While it’s impossible to know what films will stand the test of time, I think some assumptions are safe. Only time will tell.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why I Love Classic Movies

It’s no secret that I love movies. While I love new movies, with their high tech gadgetry, for me, there's nothing better than a classic movie.

Last weekend, two things happened to prompt this article. The first was Avatar's continued shattering of box office records. The second was a viewing of "That's Entertainment" on PBS Saturday night.

Hollywood used to know how to make movies and I mean really make them. They didn't have to make political statements left, right or center. They didn't have to break new ground. All they had to do was entertain you, because when you go to the movies, that's what you're looking for-entertainment.

Last year, we saw the 70th anniversary of the best year in Hollywood. 1939 saw such eternals as "Gone with the Wind," "The Wizard of Oz," and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Experts on Hollywood are undecided as to what made that year have it all, but it’s not the only time of Hollywood's Golden Age that produced good movies.

It’s easy to go to the movies today and be dazzled by some feat of computer generated imagery. But back then, it took more than talent with a computer to dazzle an audience. Don’t believe me? Check out 1951’s “Royal Wedding” starring Fred Astaire. Whether he’s dancing on the floor, walls and ceiling of a room or dancing with a hat rack, Astaire brilliant talent makes the whole thing look effortless, and no computer aid was involved.

I invite you to watch a classic movie you've never seen. Our library has a ton of them on VHS and TCM plays them 24/7, commercial free. Check out the song and dance numbers in an MGM gem. Look at what used to be entertainment. If you appreciate movies, you may just see a few things: No amount of special effects will ever beat hearing Judy Garland sing. No action sequence will ever compare to watching Gene Kelly dance. And regardless of totals, no blue aliens will ever compare to the cunning of Scarlett O'Hara.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Best Movie You've Never Seen: "The American President" (1995)

It's the classic story of boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, girl falls for boy, boy does something stupid and then has to win girl back...tried and true right? Not so much when the girl happens to be a lobbyist working for an environmental group and the boy is the President of the United States.

"The American President" has a slightly cliche storyline, but it doesn't let you look past the witty dialogue and fantastic performances from heavy-hitters like Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd, Annette Benning as lobbyist Sydney-Ellen Wade, Martin Sheen and Michael J. Fox. This movie also boasts the writing genius of Aaron Sorkin (creator of "The West Wing") and direction of Rob Reiner.

It's worth a watch. Its one of those films that was made with quality in mind and in an era where quantity is what is valued in Hollywood, its a breath of fresh air.

What's Up with 'UP?"

It made me cry. Then it made me laugh. Then it made me cry. Then it made me laugh. The latest gem from Disney/Pixar, “Up,” was a beautiful roller coaster ride that entertained me from start to finish. However, with award season well underway and the Academy Award nomination announcements Tuesday, something very upsetting has happened.

In 1991, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” became the first (and would be the only for nearly 20 years) animated film to be nominated for the Academy’s highest honor, Best Picture of the Year. It lost. 10 years later, the Academy created the Best Animated Feature category and has since honored such works of art as “Shrek,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” and “Wall-E.”

While “Up” was one of the best films I saw in 2009, I do not believe it should have been nominated for Best Picture. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe any animated film should be nominated for Best Picture if there is a Best Animated Feature category (there are certain provisos that must be met in order for it to appear).

When the nominations were announced on Tuesday, “Up” was not only nominated as Best Picture but Best Animated Feature as well, though I believe its Best Picture nomination was only a result of the Academy’s expansion from 5 nominees to 10 in the category. However, if “Beauty and the Beast” could not beat down the barriers of Academy prejudice against great animated work, then “Up”, which while good, was not superior, won’t either.

Why put it in a category where you ask for it to be defeated by another practically animated film (“Avatar”) and be angry, when you can keep it with the animated films (where it will win) and be happy it got an Academy Award? And more importantly, why nominate it in both places? Could the Academy members really not find another film to nominate for Best Picture? The list of 10 nominees seems like it was a stretch to compile in the first place, so where is the harm in nominating a film from other unsung genres like “Star Trek" or "(500) Days of Summer?"

Bottom-line? “Up” is an animated feature and for the emotional roller coaster it put me on, its social message is nowhere near “Beauty and the Beast’s.” It’s going to lose Best Picture to “Avatar” and win Best Animated Feature. Why nominate it twice?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Trailer Park: "MacGruber"

The first time I saw MacGruber on Saturday Night Live, I could have died laughing. Now, it seems the writers at SNL spent their summer turning him into a major motion picture.

While Will Forte is one of my favorite cast members, and Kristen Wiig never disappoints, the feeling I get from this trailer is that its going to be a bit of a let down, because let's face it: a five minute sketch about MacGruber's shortcomings in being Macgyver is funny. A whole movie may not be.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Best Movie You've Never Seen: "For Me and My Gal" (1942)

Gene Kelly ("An American in Paris" and "Singing in the Rain") and Judy Garland ("The Wizard of Oz) team up in this gem from MGM studios, the first of three the pair would make. The movie marks Kelly's first film role and tells the story of two vaudevillians whose lives and love are interrupted in the outbreak of WWI.

This movie blends all the things I love about old movies: Great acting, spectacular vocals and fantastic dance numbers. This film really showcases the talents of its young stars and is one of my favorite classic movies.

Check it out. It's the perfect film to curl up and watch on a snowy afternoon.


Why We Still Need Disney Animation

In 2004, still reeling from the flop that was “Home on the Range,” Disney announced they would never again make another hand-drawn, traditional animated film. For 5 years, they kept that promise and gave us many of the Pixar films we know and love. But all I have to say is, thank goodness for broken promises.

With the release of “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney has not only returned to its roots, but made us realize what we never knew we were missing. There is something magical about traditional, hand drawn animation. Undoubtedly, for people our age there’s the nostalgia of the Golden Age of Disney that so many of us grew up with and loved. For the younger generation, who only have experienced Disney films on TV screens, it’s just one more for them to love. And for movie buffs, like myself, there’s the knowledge of the feat it is to hand-draw a movie.

“The Princess and the Frog” proves that Disney still has what it takes to make movies as good as “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” It harkens back to a simpler time in life, a time of VCRs and VHS tapes, when all you had to worry about wasn’t term papers, final projects or lab grades, but whether or not the princess would find her voice, the cub could be the king, or an ambitious girl could help a beast find his heart. For two hours, all that mattered was whether Tiana and Naveen would get achieve their dreams.

Maybe that is why traditional Disney animation is so timeless, so beloved, and still so needed. The Walt Disney World motto is that it’s “where dreams come true.” And if you think about it, Disney characters always get their dreams. They always obtain what they set out to get, if not always in the way they expected. In these troubling times, what better message to give kids could there be than that. That no dream is too big and that reaching for the stars is an admirable thing. Without dreamers, there is no innovation. Without innovation, there is no progress. Without progress, there is no change and we stay exactly where we are. Here’s hoping we see more in this vein from Disney.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Trailer Park: "Date Night"

The gods of comedy must have been smiling on the producers of "Date Night" when they cast the movie, because they managed to hire two of the funniest people in the business, Steve Carell and Tina Fey.

Carell and Fey play Phil and Clara Foster, a married couple looking to spice up their marriage. On their "date night," Phil decides to be impetuous and take another couple's reservation who don't show when they're called. Turns out, the couple are actually in trouble with some mob-type people and the Foster's find themselves for more than they bargained for.

This movie promises to be one of two things: 1) Very funny or 2) one of those movies where all the funny parts are in the trailer. I think it will at least be worth checking out to see which one it is. With Fey and Carell, I would bet option 1. But we'll have to wait until April 9 to find out.