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.