Gordon & Barbara in Paris

Gordon & Barbara in Paris
Here's Looking at YOU

Monday, January 31, 2011


WINTER’S BONE--Directed by Debra Granik/Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Shelley Waggener, Garret Dillahunt/screenplay written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini/ from the novel by Daniel Woodrell/1hr40min/R

(B) I just don’t get it. What ever happened to the great romantic comedies like It Happened One Night or drama’s like Casablanca? By the way, what the heck does the title mean? Was I supposed to read the novel before viewing the film? I don’t understand. This doesn’t deserve my effort to review it. The best I can do is give an honorable mention to a seemingly unknown singer, and some backwoods musicians who were in the background. Enough said!

(G) WARNING! Spoiler alert! My next sentence may reveal some facts that you might not want to know, should you decide to see this absolutely stunning, dreadfully depressing film. The “best” thing that happens in this film is that a teenage girl gets to save her family’s home by cutting off her dead father’s hands and delivering them to the Sheriff. Yep, that’s the most uplifting thing in the film, unless you subscribe to the belief that learning to shoot or gut a squirrel at an early age, is an essential survival skill.
Now, I’m a big proponent of judging a film from the “Big Picture” perspective. I know that all parts are important, but I also understand that the “basic story” is the most important factor in the ultimate success or failure of a movie. I also understand that a “happy ending” is not essential to telling a good story, but for goodness sake (besides the fact that I ALSO don’t understand what the title has to do with anything) I just don’t understand what it is that this “story” is trying to say to us. Notice that I say “story” because I want to spread the possibility of blame around, as thinly as possible to be certain that the failure lands, at least partially on the guilty party.
It is also important to note that there are some successes here. The dramatic acting is formidable. Not only did this film earn a nomination for Best Picture, but garnered both a Best Actress and Supporting Actor nod as well. These are well deserved, for honestly, if the portrayals were not top notch, I never would have made it to the finish line on this one.
Let’s take this one aspect of the “story” that I’ve already “leaked,” the fact that a teenage girl must cut off the hands of her father’s corpse with a chainsaw to save her home for her mother and two younger siblings. This big dramatic moment…is completely unnecessary and actually illogical to the storyline or consistent with characterizations that we are being fed throughout this film. In other words, the characters lead us to a conclusion and then they, themselves have to explain “why” they are doing it. Even the characters know there is no reason for us (or the girl) to witness this act! Get it? Even the characters don’t believe it. It doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately, I felt about this film similarly to how I felt about The Hurt Locker when I finished watching it. I kept asking myself, “Why was this movie forced upon me? Why, does the Academy feel the need to nominate so many films? Why doesn’t the Academy understand that ALL PARTS of a movie should be judged when nominating for Best Picture? Don’t people realize that every 5 cent idea that comes along does NOT have to be made into a motion picture?”
Let’s just hope that the same mistake is not made this year as last, and we see a boring, poorly told story with pretty good acting earn the Best Picture Oscar. It wasn’t fair in 2010 and it won’t be fair in 2011.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Oscar Nominations for 2010

Here are the Oscar nominations for 2011
'Black Swan'
'The Fighter'
'The Kids Are All Right'
'The King’s Speech'
'127 Hours'
'The Social Network'
'Toy Story 3'
'True Grit'
'Winter’s Bone'

'Black Swan'
David O. Russell
'The Fighter'
Tom Hooper
'The King's Speech'
David Fincher
'The Social Network'
Joel and Ethan Coen
'True Grit'

Annette Bening
'The Kids Are All Right'
Nicole Kidman
'Rabbit Hole'
Jennifer Lawrence
'Winter's Bone'
Natalie Portman
'Black Swan'
Michelle Williams
'Blue Valentine'

Javier Bardem
Jeff Bridges
'True Grit'
Jesse Eisenberg
'The Social Network'
Colin Firth
'The King's Speech'
James Franco
'127 Hours'

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Black Swan

BLACK SWAN--Directed by Darren Aronofsky/Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Casse/screenplay written by Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John J. McLaughlin/story by Andres Heinz/rate R-1hr.50min

(G) I found this movie confusing—and remember, this is the opening statement from someone who really liked INCEPTION—and lacking in a couple of key areas. Immediately when I finished watching BLACK SWAN, I had the same vague feeling of dissatisfaction that I had days later upon careful reflection. The performances are clearly compelling. I know that many are lauding Kunis’ performance, but Natalie Portman shows a much wider array of emotions, performed with skillful layers of nuance that demonstrate a true shining star. There is no question that this is her movie, and for that reason I felt a little sorry for her that the script and story were not better. Ultimately, she will likely win some awards (this was written a day before the Golden Globes, but was not posted until after she won in the Best Actress category), but the story leaves too many things unresolved for an old-school story teller (like myself) to really appreciate. I have to say that there was just enough special effects, and they were used artfully, which allowed one to see that the line between reality and madness is sometime frighteningly thin. Looking at the movie as a whole, I think it is worth 2 and ½ binoculars. If it was an award simply for acting or even, perhaps “tasteful directing” I might be convinced to go slightly higher.

(B) I found this film to be very disturbing. The workings of the mind are indeed complex, but I found myself trying to separate what was real and what was illusion. Natalie sharpens her acting chops and has convincingly portrayed a disturbed girl in this roll as a ballerina pursuing perfection. I also need to mention how well she danced as an accomplished ballet dancer. You can tell she put a lot of work into this film. Please do not bring anyone under 18 to this movie. It is not only about dancing. Ultimately, I did not like this film. I can give it only one and a half binoculars.
NOTE: By percentage points, this film gets an average rating of two binocs.

Frankie and Alice

FRANKIE AND ALICE--Directed by Geoffrey Sax/ Starring Stellan SkarsgÄrd, Halle Berry, Matt Frewer/Screenplay Written by Cheryl Edwards, Marko King, Mary King, Jonathan Watters, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse/Story by Oscar Janiger, Philip Goldberg, Cheryl Edwards/101 mins/R

(B)It seemed such a waste of a compelling performance by Halle Berry to be in a film with such a weak story. Certain scenes in this film should have been elaborated on and others scenes could have easily been omitted. I don’t make movies, so I don’t know how a story is actually made into a movie, but somehow the spark of this film was buried and buried deep. However, I view movies and I know what I like. The balance in this movie was off, therefore, I can only give two and a half binoculars. Two for Halle and a half for
the unfulfilled potential of this movie.

(G) Halle Berry is a superb actress and her performance in this film does not belie that statement. However, I came away from viewing Frankie and Alice wishing that there were three or four FEWER writers and that someone had taken the reins and guided this film toward a more compelling story. This is often the case with a film that is based on truth. Yes, there actually is a person who (apparently) is like the schizophrenic, multiple personality wielding character that Berry plays. I have not done much homework, but really, as a MOVIE GOER I shouldn’t have to. Whenever someone tries to “stay true to the actual life” of a character, then problems are inevitable. It really seems like there was no real agreement on which personality or which theme should be showcased here, and then there was that nagging “truth” that continually got in the way. In the end, the story is just not that interesting. At least, it is not interesting enough to make a feature length film about. I give this one two binoculars, and that is only because Halle Berry is just perfect. The girl can act. I can’t wait for her NEXT performance.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Day of Service

(G) Martin Luther King Jr.'s impact on American society makes him arguably the most significant American of all time. Below is a wonderful video message produced by our federal government, tax dollars. I cannot think of a better use of our money, than to bring people together in the cause of helping one another without regard for our own pocketbooks.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Another Year

ANOTHER YEAR--Directed by Mike Leigh/Starring Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen/Written by Mike Leigh/129 min/PG-13

(B) Royal performances by Jim Broadbent, who plays the husband of Ruth Sheen, who plays a therapist in this film, display the typical family in the English countryside. Ruth Sheen works in the same office with Lesley Manville, a receptionist. Lesley Manville is a single middle-aged woman who plays an old and dear friend of this couple. Their friendship is at the core of this movie. This film is so natural and real, I could almost taste the tea served at the table. For those of you who don’t understand the English accent, you won’t have a problem with this film. Mike Leigh did a great job both directing and writing, and I would also commend the set direction. If I were the Queen I would knight these excellent actors and place a royal crown on the head of Lesley Manville. I give ANOTHER YEAR three solid binoculars.
(G) I regret that Barbara and I had to split up to see all of the Awards Nominated films this year and I missed this one. I hope to catch up with these performances prior to the Oscars. For now, take a look at the trailer below.

The Social Network

THE SOCIAL NETWORK--Directed by David Fincher. Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Rooney Mara, Bryan Barter/screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin, from the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich/ rated PG-13/2hrs

(G) Well, I just finished viewing this film not five hours ago, and less than one hour ago it won the Golden Globe for Best Drama. Naturally, everything that I have to say at this point should be taken with a grain of salt, for my hindsight has never been keener.
Nonetheless, I came home and immediately told Barbara (who did not view this film with me because she was more interested in watching the Red Carpet pre-show for the Globes) that this well could be the movie to beat in the Best Picture category. Now, of course my feeble prediction seems like genius, but truly I cannot help but analyze to death the fact that I was right. For, on the surface this film did not offer much in the way of action. Let’s face it. Here is a movie largely about college life. For those of you who went to college (and can remember the experience) the important moments of those few years take place inside classrooms, living rooms and on computer screens (if not merely in books). So, a movie that profiles the creation of Facebook, a social network created precisely to recreate the finer points of that experience, will center on studying, partying and scheming in classrooms, living rooms and other uninteresting places. Some people, in fact go to college just for the experience, and to meet members of the opposite (or same, as the case may be) sex. Much of the action either centered around programming, partying or giving depositions. There is only one major action sequence (a couple of guys zip line into a pool and break a chimney in the process). So, why do I give this movie four binoculars? The answer lay mostly in the script. Aaron Sorkin (West Wing fame) can make ANYTHING seem relevant and with this subject matter, it is not anything resembling a stretch. The film makes the audience feel the importance and impact of what Zuckerman created. It also shows us that no matter how much our technological advancements seem to change human interaction and the landscape of the delivery systems for information, we are all basically concerned with the same things that human beings have always been concerned with (love, social status, creativity, power and money). The performances are excellent and once again I have to say, this is the best year in films that I’ve seen in decades. I LOVED several of the films this year, but I am predicting now that this is the year of Social Network. It is SO pertinent in many ways. Keep these great scripts coming. I love the movies for remaining pertinent! There is nothing like them…yet.
P.S. This film also won Best Picture at the Critic's Choice Awards.

Barney's Version

Barney’s Version--Directed by Richard J. Lewis/ Starring Paul Giamatti, Macha Grenon, Paul Gross, Dustin Hoffman/ written by Michael Konyves based on the novel by Mordecai Richler/rated R/132 minutes

(G) A couple of years ago, I was dropping Barbara off at the airport when guess who came off a flight? If you guessed Paul Giamatti, then you are correct. Well, I had just seen his portrayal of John Adams and this was the night of the Golden Globes (which he had been nominated for in the Best Actor category). I walked up to him, shook his hand and said, “Congratulations on your upcoming win tonight.” I was that confident that he was going to take home the prize. I was not so confident for him just a few minutes ago, when he beat out a stellar group of actors to garner the prize once again. This was such a rough year in every category, but Paul Giamatti, once again won the award for this picture. I have to say, I liked it quite a bit more than my friend, Ed Rampell who invited me to a screening at the L.A. Film Academy, on Sunset in Hollywood. He had some questions about a few details of the script, and believed that Dustin Hoffman (who is great, as always) had the superior performance. I, on the other hand, thought it was an absolutely delightful script and directed with a “not too heavy hand.” The story is an unusual one, to some degree, but fulfills all the requirements of good movie-going entertainment. Again, I must emphasize that this is one tough year for award-show competitors, but Paul Giamatti was great, as usual. I have to give this one a solid three, which means that the “top” of the list is getting pretty crowded. I have to HIGHLY recommend this for anyone who is interested in scriptwriting OR acting as a profession...especially, acting.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT--Directed by Lisa Cholodenko. Starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo/Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg/106 min/R

(G) I am soooooooooooo sorry that I waited soooooooo long before I watched, The Kids Are Alright (I literally flipped a coin and watched Grown-Ups before I rented this one and will NEVER forgive myself). THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT was very enjoyable, very real, and extremely poignant in today’s cultural climate. First, I need to say that it was wonderful to finally see a movie about a gay or lesbian couple that doesn’t include deadly disease, murder, suicide or horrible psychological trauma. The lesbian couple—played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore—are just ordinary folks, parents with the usual worries, personality traits, strengths and weaknesses of any other couple/parents in today’s world. Their kids are perfectly normal too. True, this couple does have one family secret that they are forced to confront in this film…no, not that they or either of their children are gay…They have to face the fact that their children (both conceived through artificial insemination) are normally curious about their biological father. This was apparently not something that they worried about when they decided to give birth. They also decided to use the same sperm donor so that their children would have a biological connection (just in case there was something more to the “nature” part of the “nature/nurture” question). Mark Ruffalo played the discovered “dad” with great care—it could have gone very wrong in a couple of places, but didn’t-- and the brother/sister duo played by Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson were excellent, as well. I know this is getting ridiculous, but I think this is one of the strongest years for films I’ve seen in decades. I’m especially impressed with the sterling dialogue and the interesting spectrum of characterizations. This one is also earning three binoculars from me.

(B)Actually, Gordon got to this review before me, so there is little more to say. I enjoyed this film, but not quite as much as Gordon. I do agree that is was a relief that murder or horrible psychological trauma was not present in this film. Other than that, I found this film very ordinary. I’m afraid two binoculars is all I can spare. That gives us an average of two and a half binoculars.

NOTE: I thought it was a funny sign that the producers don't believe in this film, because the trailer includes an ad for another movie, the animated feature, DESPICABLE ME. Look!


TRUE GRIT--Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen/Writers: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen from the novel by Charles Portis/ Starring Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin,/PG-13/1hr 50 min

(G) Even though I was told that this was “nothing like the John Wayne movie,” and I was warned not to compare the two films, I couldn’t help but do exactly that. Throughout my viewing I struggled (and am still not sure if viewing in this way did anyone a disservice) because I wanted to give the film its due, on its own terms. However, based upon the reactions of some of the other viewers who apparently had no idea what was coming, (including Barbara, as you’ll read in a moment) I have to say, it was pretty good. I came away feeling as if I liked this movie “about the same” as I liked the 1969 John Wayne, Kim Darby and Glen Cambell version. The Coen brothers appear to be most comfortable when there is wry, verbal wit involved in the script and often don’t care if anyone else likes the dialogue. Certainly, even a film such as NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, had its clever dialogue and quirky moments and was well-received. A SERIOUS MAN, on the other hand, was like an inside joke and many viewers just did not get it. I appreciate the quick paced banter and this movie was written from a novel that is filled with similar dialogue. I, therefore liked it. I appreciated the stylized film techniques, as well and the characters are all…well, real characters. It was the kind of movie that seems to be coming back to the theaters…good, old-fashioned, big screen entertainment. Jeff Bridges is bigger than life (just like his character); Hailee Steinfeld is about as good as Kim Darby (because her part is great), and Matt Damon was O.K. I give this one three Binoculars.

(B) I did not see the John Wayne version because I just am not a fan of western movies.
I never even saw Shane...Don’t hate me. However, I am a big fan of Jeff Bridges and he did not disappoint. I realize this was not a stretch for him. Nevertheless, he is so darn convincing you would swear he was born with that patch on his eye. Matt Damon was less that perfect in my opinion. He didn’t seem comfortable in this roll and never really made an effort to speak with a Texas drawl. I think a star is born in this film and her name is Hailee Steinfeld. Although not a lover of western films, I highly recommend this one. I give it 3 binoculars, for an average of THREE BINOCULARS.