Wednesday, January 31, 2007

You pick the Oscars

Kimball's and The Gazette are doing an Oscar contest, and I really have to commend Matt Stevens, the manager at Kimball's for creating an awesome Oscar ballot.

Click on

Not only will you be entered to win valuable prizes, you also will, instantly upon creating your ballot, see if your guesses were similar to those chosen by other local movie buffs.

You'll also find out how your picks compared to mine and those of other local cinephiles.

About those prizes:
1st Prize) Dinner and a Movie gift certificate for 2 at the Metropolitain.
2nd Prize) Framed poster of The Royal Tenenbaums or The Road Warrior.
3rd Prize) 1 Movie Pass to Kimball's Twin Peak Theater.
Note: Tie breakers subject to management's discretion.

Have fun!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Oscar nominations

So, after all that fuss over "Dreamgirls" at the Golden Globes, the musical collects the lion's share of Oscar nods ... but not Best Picture.

That leaves "Babel" as the front-runner, and local theaters are bringing it back on Friday. I'll have to check it out. Lots of friends have raved about it, and, of course, critics generally loved it, too.

Sometimes spending money on movies I know are going to depress me is tough. But it sounds like this'll be worth it.

Lots of other Oscar-nominated films are either staying in town or returning.

"Notes on a Scandal," which snagged a Best Actress nod for Judi Dench, is opening at Kimball's on Friday. We'll have a review in GO!

"The Departed," the best movie I saw last year, is back in local theaters. "The Queen," "The Pursuit of Happyness," "Pan's Labyrinth," "Dreamgirls" and "Letters from Iwo Jima," are still in town.

The one we're still waiting for is "The Last King of Scotland," which got an Oscar nomination for Forest Whitaker.

I think the toughest choice in the Oscar match-up is Best Director: Martin Scorcese, who's deserved it on many occasions, may get the sentimental vote for "The Departed." But how can you deny Clint Eastwood, who makes , not one, but two WWII films, the second in JAPANESE for heaven sake?!

Please send me some of your Oscar thoughts.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Children of Men .... and more

I'd expected so much from "Children of Men" from the reviews and the high rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

One critic called it Samuel Beckett on Red Bull. I love that idea.

I usually love dark, post-apocalyptic thrillers. My wife and I saw it Friday night, and we both found it depressing, gratuitously brutal and predictable. It has one scene worth seeing:

In the middle of bloody urban warfare, a woman carrying the first baby born to humanity in 18 years walks out of a ruined building. As her baby's cry reaches everyone around her, they stop fighting and stare in awe. You knew this scene was coming, but it was still beautiful.

Then, somebody starts shooting again and the combatants apparently forget about the baby. What? I know the film is making political statements about how dumb we are ... but wouldn't protecting that child instantly trump all other missions of the soldiers?

I did love Michael Caine as the pot-smoking hippy.

But if you're looking for a better fall-of-the-British-empire-post-apocalyptic thriller, go for "V for Vendetta."

(INCIDENTALLY, my wife blames me for bad movies, like I wrote them ... she tells me I owe her "Memoirs of a Geisha" for this one. Ouch!)

Also this weekend, I caught "Crank" on DVD. I like Jason Statham and his "Transporter" films, and I thought the premise of the hitman poisoned with stuff that'll kill him if his heart slows, was interesting.

But the film just made me queasy -- action without the feel-good.

My son tried to get me to watch "Jackass Number 2," and I refused. I did agree to see the opening (running of the bulls in suburbia- funny), the best bit (about an actor set up to act like a terrorist who encounters an angry run-weilding cabbie, who, it turns out, is also an actor- cruel, but kinda funny.) and the closing number (a grand Busby-Berkley-esque musical number to Jerry Herman's "Best of Times"- truly amazing and funny.)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Beyond Golden Globes

You can almost hear the drum rolls.

Hollywood is in that in-between point. The Golden Globes have already been handed out, and the Oscar nominations are out on Tuesday the 23rd.

The Globes made some great choices:

Just from the clips and an NPR report I heard, I can tell Forest Whitaker is amazing in "The Last King Of Scotland" (maybe Kimball's will get it soon); glad to see "Borat" getting more attention, and Scorcese getting his due for "The Departed."

I thought "Children of Men" might get more attention. Also, "Perfume" and "The Good German."

The Globes went gaga over "Dreamgirls," which I haven't seen because I saw it as a Netflixer -- a formula feel-good Motown story. Friends and colleagues have given it real mixed reviews.

What do you think? What movies should the Academy consider when they hand out their nominations next week?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Missing Sundance

It's not fair that Rocky Mountain New critic Bob Denerstein is grumbling his way through another Sundance and I'm in Colorado Springs watching the People's Choice Awards.

Bob hates just about everything about Sundance -- the pretentious films, the artificially spontaneous celebrity round-tables, the walking, the waiting for buses, the crowds, the star-struck autograph hounds.

I love everything about Sundance ... even Bob's grumbling.

It's true that most of the films suck.

When I covered Sundance in '98, screenwriter and poet Sherman Alexie, who was introducing his film "Smoke Signals," summed it up best: "I'd rather watch 'T2' than 95 percent of the movies at this festival."

But you go there for that 5 percent, films like "Smoke Signals" or "Whale Rider" or "The Tao of Steve," that never would have made it to theaters if it wasn't for these festivals, which have become backdoors to Hollywood.

Our budget didn't have enough to pay for a trip to Sundance this year, and for Coloradans, Telluride is the more significant festival to cover. Still, I think of Park City every January.

'Pirates' the drama?

Watching the People's Choice Awards ... the most bogus of award shows, to be sure, but putting "Pirates of the Caribbean" under Drama?

Did they see Johnny Depp in mascara running away from all those special effects?

Monday, January 08, 2007

New 'To Sir with Love'

Going to the movies with the whole family is always a tough negotiation. I'm dying to see "Children of Men," which scored over 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. But it's rated R.

Instead, we went to "Freedom Writers," which I expected to be a paint-by-the-numbers "Stand and Deliver" type faux inspirational.

I was blown away (and so were the wife and kids). "Freedom Writers" found a new angle (in a new amazing true story) on the miracle teacher story that left a tear in my eye and had the audience cheering.

Unfortunately, the film fared poorly at the box office. If you see it and like it, talk it up.


At one point, Hilary Swank's character, a new teacher in an inner-city integrated school, asks the kids how many of them have seen "Boyz in the Hood."

All of them had.

John Singleton's 1991 masterpiece remains the best, most heart-breaking gangsta flick ever made.

It's a film that's fiercely against gang violence.

But here's the irony: it not only sparked violence in the theaters when it opened, it stands to this day as a template for how gangstas should dress and behave.

"Well, then it failed," my wife says.

Did it? Is an artist responsible for the way people misunderstand his work?

What do you think?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Catching up on movies

With TV shows still on winter break I've been catching up on my Netflix.

Earlier this week, I saw "Everything Is Illuminated." I'll have to make this one of my back-shelf picks. It's a delightfully quirky film about how a man's search for his heritage leads to another family's revelation. As he did in "Sin City," Elijah Wood proves he can do more than Frodo.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

I'm getting old

The kids and I saw "Accepted" on pay per view last night.

A couple of friends had raved about the movie.

The kids liked it.

Me? Not so much. At a time when we're trying to instill in the kids how important grades are, and getting into college is ... along comes a movie that says that stuff is all a bunch of BS.

It makes some valid points, but also tramples over our values.

I'm sure my parents probably would have thought the same thing if we'd sat down to watch "Animal House" when I was 14.

Happy Penguins

I went to Pagosa Springs over the holidays.

They have one movie theater with one screen: "Happy Feet" at 6; "Deck the Halls" at 8

We did "Happy Feet" and barely got in before it sold out... sold out! ... it's been playing for what? five weeks? my family had to split up.

What a fun family film. After seeing "Night at the Museum" last week and "Cars" before that, I'm starting to think we're doing pretty well in getting quality family fare this season.

Back shelf picks - all of them

I'm sometimes asked for a complete list of recommended movies from my Back-Shelf Pick column. Here's all of the movies I've featured so far. (And check the comments for some great suggestions from readers!)

Minus Man
American Movie
East Is East
The Aristocrats
The Year of Living Dangerously
The World's Fastest Indian
Bagdad Cafe
Me and You and Everyone We Know
Touching the Void
The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition
A Slipping Down Life
The Cooler
You Can Count on Me
The Straight Story
Requiem for a Dream
House of Sand and Fog
Calendar Girls
Kingdom of Heaven
Saint Ralph
Clay Pigeons
The Big Kahuna
House of Games
The Missing
Plots with a View
A Love Song for Bobby Long
Love and Sex
The Quiet American
The Deep End
Rabbit-Proof Fence
Howl's Moving Castle
I Capture the Castle
Eve's Bayou
The Professional
A Walk on the Moon
Cop Land
Billy Elliot
Two Family House
Searching for Bobby Fischer
In the Bedroom
The Ref
Hear My Song
Green Dragon
Garden State
21 Grams
28 Days Later
Personal Velicity
To End All Wars
Dear Frankie
Truly, Madly, Deeply
The Tao of Steve
Danny Deck Chair
In America
Scotland, P.A.
Into the West
The Woodsman
Happy Texas
The Safety of Objects
Happy Accidents
Smoke Signals
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

I hope you find some movies here you like. I've tried to pick under-watched movies with the most wide appeal. I have plenty of favorites that are Italian, French, Japanese, Chinese ... But I know that so many moviegoers won't bother with subtitles.