Roger Ebert’s “Life Itself”

I recently finished Roger Ebert’s memoir, called “Life Itself.”  I really liked it.  I’ve always liked Ebert and his movie reviews.  He claims he writes every review with the thought of “be honest of what you saw and how you felt when you saw it.”  Somehow, in the process of doing so, his reviews were more than just a barometer of whether or not a film was good, but an interesting article itself. To this day, I always read the first and last paragraph of Ebert’s review before I see a film, and the rest of it after I see it.  He’s the only must-read critic that I know of.  

His book is a full reflection of his life. He covers everything – his childhood in Illinois, his job as a newspaperman, alcoholism, being a film critic, education, his romances, his relationships with actors and directors, and his views on religion and the greater cosmos.  Lots of thoughts are shared in a very frank and honest way, and it makes for an interesting read.  Ebert and I come from different generations but we share a passion for film and for pondering “the truth” and I appreciated leaning about how he’s developed his perspective as I could see a little bit of myself in him. 

Moneyball and Big Data

I just had an interesting breakfast with Tom Higley which i try to do once a month but ends up being about every other.  He sat down this morning and said, have you seen the movie “Moneyball” and then we got into a very interesting talk about what that film means in today’s world.  Here’s a few thoughts we had.

Aaron Sorkin can take any story and make it interesting.  He took a horrible book about Facebook (Accidental Millionaires) and wrote a fantastic and Oscar-winning script for The Social Network, and here he took a stats-filled non-fiction book about baseball and made an interesting movie.
The story of the Oakland A’s is not as simple as it was told.  They did not just find high on-base percentage players and ride that to a successful season.  No sir.  One thing that always beats good hitting is good pitching and there’s no mention of pitching in this entire movie. Why? Because it didn’t fit the narrative. Was their staff good? Hell, yes. The had a trio called “The Big Three” of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder.  Zito was their ace.  He went 23-5 and won the Cy Young award that year.   Mulder won 19 games, and Hudson led the league in shutouts.  That seems pretty relevant to me – you might want to mention it. Continue reading “Moneyball and Big Data”

Three Excellent Movie Spoofs

In the past two weeks, i’ve seen some great movie spoofs.  It seems that online video is getting better and better and the content is coming form all over the place.  I love these videos.  Check ’em out:

A Batman spoof:

A Point Break spoof. I love how Aziz does Keanu by just shouting.

A video describing all the ambiguous endings of movies. If you were unsure how they ended, now you know:

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Horror Films are for women?


There’s an interesting article in the NY Times called Taking Back The Knife: Girls Gone Gory in which it talks about the recent increasing in horror movies being made and the strange findings of recent box office receipts showing that women have an even bigger appetite for horror films than men.

This surprised me although i have seen it first hand; last weekend both Diane and Althea put Halloween 2 tops on their “want to see” list.  Some of the reasons that the NY Times said were:

  • Women can identify more with horror films as their are other women as the main characters. Diablo Cody (writer of “Juno”) said, “When I watched movies like ‘The Goonies’ and ‘E.T.,’ it was boys having adventures. When I watched ‘Nightmare on Elm Street,’ it was Nancy beating” up Freddy. “It was that simple.”
  • Women enjoy pure adrenaline rushes. As Cody says, “Some of us just like that stuff. We like suspense, we like to be scared, we like to have visceral reaction in the theater. Maybe I’m starved for adrenaline, but for me watching a horror movie is very pleasurable. So making one was kind of a dream.”

Diane, the resident expert here, claims it’s because horror films are much more emotional than other genres.  Most movies are event driven or just visually pleasing which caters more to the male.  Horror movies, on the other hand, are all about messing with your emotions – which is much more powerful to the woman than the male (in theory).

Whatever the reason is, i was surprised to hear this gender preference.  Any one else have any ideas?

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500 Days of Summer

Last month i saw the film 500 Days of Summer. I have a few thoughts about it:

  1. In the film, the main character is a guy who writes greeting cards. While this is his job, he’s actually an architect. When i heard this, the movie immediately became less original and uniquesomethingaboutmary_10

    to me. Being an architect is such a cliche now. Ever since Something About Mary it’s been used in every romantic-comedy around. I understand why. If you’re a woman, an architect embodies all the qualities you’d want in your man’s job: it’s creative, it’s independent, it’s the perfect mix between corporate and entrepreneur.

  2. You must quit your job to be happy. Such a load of crap. In modern movies there are really only four types of themes: (1) “Believe in yourself and you can do anything.” (2) “We are all alike underneath.” (3) “Love conquers all” (4) “Good people win.”  Almost all movies are one or more of these themes.  I was sort of bummed that this movie became a #1 (Believe in yourself) movie when he quit his job.  It just made the whole thing more cliche to me.  Hollywood loves this message and it’s all over the place – almost every tv show and movie is saying this.  I was hoping for more realism
  3. In real life, everyone knows the situation where there’s a couple where both people really like each other. They get along great and things seem fine. However, one person likes the other person way more. The other person is into the relationship, but not enough. They break up and people wonder why. This happens all the time. However, it never happens in movies. The only other movie i know of where this happens is Woody Allen‘s Annie Hall. I also think that just because this movie tackles this situation is why so many people see it as novel or unique.
  4. It’s amazing how good the guy from 3rd Rock From The Sun looks (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).  He was so nerdy in that show and he’s really pretty cool in this movie. I liked him a lot as an actor – even though i thought his character was a sap.  I also didn’t even recognize him as the doctor in GI Joe.

All in all, i really liked the movie and thought it was fresh and fun.  I also like the music in it.  It’s worth checking out

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The Hurt Locker is a Great Film

Last night i saw The Hurt Locker and i have to say that it is a great film.  It’s a great story about a man, William James (Jeremy Renner), who diffuses bombs ibilden Iraq under enemy fire.  It’s an absurdly dangerous job and he rellishes in it.  The movie starts with a quote, “War is a drug” and it couldn’t be more true for William James.

You could view William as a type of artist for he approaches a Flow-like state when he’s diffusing – all time stands still and like a surgeon he achieves the utmost clarity and focus.   He understands bombs inside and out and does it day after day after day until he could do it in his sleep.  He also tries to understand the bombers. He loves his job and could be the best in the military at it.

This movie is exciting – not because of the action scenes but because of the people – the characters.  There aren’t any big speeches but rather you can see each person examining their soul as the war takes it toll.  I felt as if i was truly watching someone feel the war.  The direction of this movie was top notch.  There weren’t lame quick cuts in the action scenes but rather the camera dwells on the situation at hand and allows the viewer to experience the situation just as the soldiers are.  It’s not action – it’s suspense.  It’s great and you can see why William James needs his drug.  It’s an approach to war i’ve never seen before

I thought that this was the first good film about the Iraq War that i’ve seen.  It shows how the troops are integrated in the streets and how tough it is for them to police in a city that doesn’t necessarily want them nor understands them.  I’ve talked to a few veterans and one of them has specifically mentioned the kids in the cities and how hard it is to look at someone and both want to help someone and also be afraid of them killing you.

This is a great film.  It’s on my list for nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow) and Best Actor (Jeremy Renner)

Best Movie of the Decade?

I was listening to a debate going on the BS Report about the best movie of the past 10 years.  It’s 2009 and the era called “the aughts” or “the zeros” is almost over.  One thing that is really troubling to realize is that the best movies of this decade are noticeably worse than the movies of the last decade.  Looking at the top movies of the past 10 years you’ll see that very few of them are going to be timeless classics. On the flip side, the movies of the 90’s are extremely re-watchable and seem to be much better:

Picture 4

The reason i believe is something I heard from Chris Connelly and that TV is the new indie movie. Shows like The Soprano’s, Band of Brothers, The Wire, and Mad Men – those are the best movies of the last decade.  Granted they didn’t come out on the big screen but this is where visionary directors are going to produce character-driven creative stories.   Cinema today is all about either (1) Big budget action movies or (2) formulaic stories in a specific genre whether it’s horror, comedy, romance, or thrillers.   It’s interesting to see that TV is picking up the slack that films are leaving.  This could also be why people are picking up TV DVD’s much more.   The production quality, the music and the cinematography is way better in these tv dramas than they ever were in 80’s and 90’s television – it’s no wonder that they can compete head on so well.

Personally, if i had to pick, i’d choose The Departed or No Country For Old Men as the best movies of the 00’s.  What do you think?  First, what is your top movie of the past decade?  And do you agree that TV is the new Indie film?

Thoughts about Bruno


Saw Bruno last night and here are some thoughts:

  • The trailer was hilarious BUT gave away way too many scenes.  Watching the movie, I found that there was a setup and you already knew what was going to happen.  This was true for the camping trip and the military attempt. Similarly, he gave away too many jokes from the movie on the Today show too which i posted about yesterday.
    • Trailers giving away too much of a movie is a monstrous pet peeve of mine.  I hate that films do it. I understand that it helps get people into the theaters more but it really degrades the actual experience.   This is a whole other post for me.  But man does it tick me off.
  • With Borat, they explained the camera because they were filming everything for the station back home, and you could tell when there was a hidden camera.  For Bruno, there was no explanation why the camera was following Bruno around for most of the time.  There are some scenes where you wonder how they are filming it – like the swingers party scene.   It made the movie feel less authentic and more fictional
  • There are some great scenes that really show the insanity of America and of Hollywood.  Some parents should be totally ashamed of themselves for how they pimp out their kids.  Bruno is able to expose the absurdity of LA really well.
  • The movie is lot like the movie Jackass except instead of doing anything just to be dumb, Bruno does gay things just to be dumb and films the reaction of other people.   There’s actually quite a lot of similarities between the two
  • I found that the narrative of the movie was pretty contrived.  It was more a series of funny events strapped together than an actual story.  Sure it tried to be a story of Bruno’s attempt to become famous but that is not really an arc.
  • This is the best marketed movie i’ve seen in a long time.  Everywhere i looked it was Bruno.  His appearance on Letterman and The Today show were great.  I really felt that this movie was an event which resulted in me marching out on opening night. I have to hand it to them – really great marketing.

So, i think as you can see, i felt the movie was hyped up abit too much for me and didn’t fully deliver.  I still think it was pretty damn funny.  I laughed a lot.  But, i think it’s more of a Borat sequel than another innovative step.  Personally i think Borat was better or at least more novel.  I’m going 7.5 out of 10

The Brothers Bloom

I went to the movie The Brothers Bloom last weekend and i have to say that it was a really fun flick.  It’s getting killed at Rotten Tomatoes (57%) but trust me it’s a great movie.  It’s written and directed by the guy who did the high school drug mystery movie Brick – which in my opinion was way overrated.  I remember watching it with my cousin Matt Lewis and waiting for it to end.  Granted we were recovering from a big night, but still it didn’t do it for me.  Maybe another viewing is needed

The movie The Brothers Bloom is different. The movie itself has a great beginning and middle.  The ending is the weakest part of the movie, but it’s not horrible.  And, i’ve heard that it had to cut quite a bit due to timing so i hope the Director’s Cut gets released on DVD.

The movie reminds me a lot of a Wes Anderson film in its quirkiness and style and the French movie Amelie in that it thrives around a quirky woman.  Rachel Weisz makes this movie.  Without her it’s just average.  She is fantastic.  The other woman, named Bang Bang, played by Rinko Kikuchi is also awesome even though she doesn’t speak at all. On another casting note, i was so happy that the older brother, Steve, was played by Mark Ruffalo instead of Owen Wilson. If it was a Wes Anderson film, Owen would have played the part and it would have been a worse movie.  I’m sick of him in those roles.

There are a series of great scenes in the movie.  From the early scene at the zoo to the first makeout between Adrian Brody and Rachel.  Something about making out with a girl who’s never kissed anyone before is intriguing to me. These are very very interesting characters and each subsequent scene of the movie was unpredictable.  As an avid moviegoer, being unpredictable and funny are two difficult and welcome characteristics.  I give this movie an 8.  Go see it.

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14 Movies on my to-see list

I get Esquire magazine and i have to say that i really like it.  The Sports Guy has a rule that he judges how good a magazine is by how long it takes him to read and i have to say that i end up reading Esquire longer than any other mag i get.  I probably spend a good hour to 90 minutes on it every month.

This month’s issue has an area where it has 75 movies that every man should watch.  I have seen most of them (Godfather, Sling Blade, The Good The Bad The Ugly) but there were 14 in there that i haven’t yet seen.   I wrote the list down and what Esquire said about them. I couldn’t be more excited to crack into them.  Here’s the list:

  1. In The Heat of the Night. Never before has a man been in more wrong places at the wrong time.
  2. Save The Tiger. The nominations for 1973 Best Actor: Brando, Nicholson, Redford, Pacino, and Lemmon. Lemmon got it.
  3. Runaway Train.  Existential action flicks are tough to pull off.  But this is the way to do it: just get 2 escaped cons, a chick, an evil warden, and in a helicopter chase in Alaska.
  4. Rosemary’s Baby.  You learn there ate bad people in the world
  5. Shakes The Clown. A reviewer called it “the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies.” Faint praise. For every man or woman who ever hugged a toilet all night long
  6. Dirty Harry. Sometimes a man has gotta break the rules and hunt the bastard down himself, even if it’s only a metaphor for the next sales call
  7. Straw Dogs. Three words: Sam. Peckinpah. Revenge.
  8. Giant. The history of Texas in the 20th century, as seen through the anguished lonesome eyes of James Dean
  9. Down By Law. Weirdest prison escape movie ever
  10. The Verdict. Watch the foray scene, in which Paul Newman is silhouetted against a barroom window, playing pinball: the man is acting with his shoulders.
  11. The Warriors. Bloodthirsty mimes, clown-faced baseballers, ad bare-chested men in leather vests. Kind of makes you miss pre-giulliani NYC
  12. Stalag 17. Because it inspired a sitcom. With Nazi’s
  13. The Misfits. Two drunks and a blonde walk into a Reno bar, get hammered, and embark on a scheme to wrangle mustangs. Starting Clark Gable (who died before it was released), Marilyn Monroe (died 18 months later) and Montgomery Cliff (who died within 4 years)
  14. HUD. “nobody gets out of life alive”
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