The rants and raves of a teenage cinephile who is just a little bit obsessed with Catherine O'Hara and Hayao Miyazaki.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wendy and Lucy (2008)

Not much can be said about this film besides the brilliance of Michelle Williams as Wendy. After all, the story is rather limited - in so many words, it's basically Wendy screaming for her dog the entire time - yet, somehow, thanks to Williams and the director, Kelly Reichardt, it works so well. Williams is SO effin' good in this movie! Add her to the growing list of horrible Oscar snubs in 2008, because she gives one of the best performances of that year, if not the entire decade. She inhabits so completely this character - even the way she walks is brilliant. It's really remarkable, how wonderful Williams is. Also, I think something should be said for all the bit-part actors. I feel like in these one-man-show indie films, the supporting players are usually not that good, but in this film, they were all quite impressive! So, despite being somewhat limited, it works so, so well and everything feels so real. What an achievement.

9/10


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

30 Sentence Story...(AKA I got taggedzors!)

Well everyone, it's meme time again! I've been tagged by the lovely Simon to do this meme, started by The Kid in the Front Row! So I have to continue this little story by writing a sentence of my own, and tag someone else to write the next sentence in the series. I tag...Andrew. Good luck. Haha!

1. Jane never expected to visit Belarus, but it was the only possibly solution after what had happened.

2. Her lonely planet guide had advised her that it was a great place for birdwatching- so she packed her binoculars- Todd would have been proud, had he not been lying in a coma.

3. Poor Todd; Jane remembered the incident so well: he had spotted a rare long-whiskered owlet, had ran out into the street to snap a photo, and had thusly been hit by an ice cream truck.

4. Except the ice cream truck was actually a roasted salmon!

5. Upon seeing this strange occurance, a Portuguese fisherman who happened to be standing on the other side of the street
(and who was also, coincidentally, the resident expert on salmon) ran to scene and called 911, prompting Todd's speedy - albeit smelly - rescue.


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30. The three of them left as quickly as they could and vowed never to return again, especially if Jane was in town.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

OMGLEE

Well peeps, if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how I have a love/hate relationship with Glee, emphasis on the hate. In fact, you can read all my thoughts on last season of Glee by clicking here. Anyway, so, watching the season premier today on Hulu, I was expecting it to be everything that I remember hating about Glee. You know, the convoluted storylines, horrendous acting from Matthew Morrison, and yeah, the good stuff too.

But...*gulp*...I was proven wrong.

The season premier was actually......

...ya'll are gonna laugh at me...

...GREAT.


I know, c'est shocking! But, yes, I loved it. From the beginning sequence that pretty much made fun of everything I hated about the show last season, to the very emotional "What I Did For Love" sung beautifully by Lea Michele, it was just great. It was so funny, the storylines were realistic and pleasantly structured, and Matthew Morrison didn't make me want to barf! Yea!

I really like the new characters as well -Coach Bieste was very well portrayed as both sympathetic and insecure. Very nice. Sunshine and that blonde kid are cool, and I like that Mike Chang finally is being recognized. He's got lines now! Yea him!

Perhaps Glee has finally settled into what it wants to be, and its more focused direction in this season premier gives me great hope that this season may actually be really, really wonderful. But, let me not speak too soon. Who knows what could happen in the next few episodes...we all know how ridiculous the show can get in a short period of time. ;)

The one problem I did have with the premier though - WHERE WAS JAYMA? :'(


Have you seen the premier yet? Are you all wallowing in my love for the premier? Sound off below!

Best Score Ranking: 2006

5. Babel - Gustavo Santaolalla



Even though I quite love this movie, that doesn't mean I can't hate on its score, which is really nothing more than glorified background music. And, as incidental muzak it's perfectly fine, in fact it's quite good, but it is nothing that belongs anywhere near an Oscar nomination (let alone a win). The best moment in the score (which I've sampled above) was the final scene, and Santaolalla didn't even write it! It's an old piece called "Bibo no Aozora", by other Oscar-winner Ryuichi Sakamoto. The Academy really should have done their research on this one...*sigh*



4. The Good German - Thomas Newman

Very good work from one of my favorite film scorers, Thomas Newman. It's really good, especially in that opening - however, something feels off about it. It's old-fashioned in the best sense of the word, but for some reason it still doesn't completely fit. Perhaps it was more the movie's fault than its own, because it's still pretty good. (Sorry, I couldn't find a clip of it on Youtube!)



3. The Queen - Alexandre Desplat



Alexandre's first Oscar nomination is one of my favorite of his scores. It can't be easy to write for small, intimate movies like "The Queen" but Desplat does it very well - the score is as refined as the film and its characters, and it has an element of whimsy to it that just works greatly. You almost forget it's there, but that's not at all a bad thing. Sometimes it's good to be subtle! (Take notes Hans Zimmer...)



2. Notes on a Scandal - Philip Glass



I looooove Philip Glass. Without this score, "Notes" would not have been half as intense as it was, and it's truly fabulous work. I suppose at times it can come off as being a bit overbearing, but it's not that big of a problem. Glass's minimal structures and powerful harmonies are perfect for this tense drama.



1. Pan's Labyrinth - Javier Navarette



The fact that this lost is just unbelievable. Navarette's score is so haunting - the lullaby theme is one of the most brilliant written in years. It's simple, brilliantly orchestrated, and beautiful. Listening to this score later after watching the movie, and you'll recall every feeling that it holds. Great, unique and sincere work that gives me goosebumps!



Should Have Been Nominated...

The Golden Globes totally disagreed with the Oscars this year, nominating "The Da Vinci Code" (Hans Zimmer), "Nomad" (Carlo Siliotto), "The Fountain" (Clint Mansell) and "The Painted Veil" (Alexandre Desplat, who won), the latter two often considered the biggest snubs of the year. They also nominated "Babel", continuing the nonsensical obsession with that movie's score. I'd like to personally mention "Little Miss Sunshine" (DeVotchKa, though it wasn't completely original so it wasn't eligible) and "Volver" (Alberto Iglesias) as being a couple of my personal favorites from that year.



So there you have it, what were your favorites from 2006? Do you agree with my disdain for Babel's nomination? Have I missed any snubs? Sound off with anything below!

Updated Ranking Here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Some Invisible Ramblings on "Catfish"


Because I'm trying to support the hype, I'm writing the following in white! So only highlight it and read it if you've seen the movie or you don't really care about it being spoiled for you.

So here we go. This was a really engrossing movie, and it definitely lives up to the hype. Not knowing anything about it was truly part of the movie's success - watching the events unfold as they did was simply mesmerizing. Just when you think you know where the movie is going, it totally switches around on you and something completely new happens.

And perhaps the most stunning accomplishment of "Catfish" is its expansive emotional range. There are moments of genuine sadness, and moments that are simply hysterically funny. And when we finally meet Angela, and see the life she's living and the digital life that she's created for herself, we're confronted with so many gut reactions that we almost feel as though we ourselves spent 8 months in a relationship that probably did not really exist.

Of course, the film could have taken the easy way out and portrayed Angela as a freak, or a weirdo, but instead, even though her actions are seriously socially reprehensible, the film treats her with so much sympathy that we truly realize the kind of desperation that she feels and her actual motivation for doing what she did.

There's definitely the doubt as to whether or not it's real. But in my opinion, it would still be a great film either way. If it's real (which I do believe it is), then it's an extremely well-crafted, entertaining, thought provoking documentary that is truly timely. If it's fake, it's marvelously acted, intelligently written, and brilliantly marketed (and it still asks the important questions).

So maybe the film succeeds more on its story than its merits of filmmaking, but it was definitely worth all the hype and is the perfect documentary for our times. It's actually just mind-blowing and it'ss been stuck with me ever since I saw it.

Spoilers end!

8/10

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I hate to say it...but...

...I just saw a commercial for next week's season premier of Glee and...

I'M ACTUALLY EXTREMELY EXCITED.

And, Modern Family starts next week too! Hoorah for my television shows!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Catherine O'Hara Filmography: Game 6 (2005)

"Game 6", directed by Michael Hoffman (whose last film was, oddly enough, "The Last Station"), is a film that takes place in 1986, on the night of a real-life historic baseball game. Nicky Rogan (Michael Keaton) is a playwright who skips opening night for his newest play, to watch this game, but also in fear of the cutthroat review that he is sure that infamous reviewer Stephen Schwimmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is going to give the show. He also has to deal with family issues, involving his daughter Laurel (Ari Graynor) and wife Lillian (Catherine O'Hara).

Overall, "Game 6" is just a mess. Even though it has some interesting moments, it has absolutely no focus. It doesn't know if it's trying to be a character study, an indie comedy, a family drama, or a sports movie. The dialogue is really, really annoying and the film drowns in its self importance. The last thirty minutes are especially terrible. And honestly, New York City traffic is not that bad.

However, the film has two saving graces - Ari Graynor and Catherine O'Hara. As the cocky daughter, Graynor shines, giving her character both attitude and sensitivity that all feels so lived in and natural. She does so much more with her character than she needed to. A really interesting performance.

As for Catherine, she is, as usual, a shining light in this otherwise bleak film, even though she is in literally one scene. This is subtle O'Hara - she's totally subdued, none of her signature crazy in this role, but she pulls it off perfectly. In her short exchange with Keaton, we see everything that Lillian is going through - fear, sadness, hopelessness, anger. O'Hara succeeds in getting us totally under the skin of Lillian, all while injecting subtle touches that are just wonderful.

So anyway, there you have it. I really, strongly disliked "Game 6" but as usual, Catherine saves it. With the help of Ari Graynor! Get it gurls.

The Film: 4/10
Catherine: 8/10
Best in Show: Graynor and O'Hara

A continuation of my mission. What should I watch next?

"The Fighter" Trailer

ZOMG!!!


Thanks to InContention for the heads up!

So, okay, I can safely say that I'm pretty psyched for this. AMY ADAMS! Yeah, she's what I'm looking forward to the most, but I recently watched (and hearted) "I Heart Huckabees", another David O. and Mark W. collab, so, I have high hopes for this. Anyway...AMY ADAMSSSS. Yeah I'm excited.

I'm excited...are you?

Best Score Ranking: 2000

An interesting year, for sure. Relatively solid. By the way, I try to pick my personal favorite track as the sample for each score, in case you were wondering. Oh, and I did this year by request, so take it as a lesson everyone...if you ask me for a year, I'll probably go and do it! :)

5. Gladiator - Hans Zimmer



I know this is going to be controversial because people love this one, but...this score confused me. There were parts I quite liked, there were parts I quite disliked (they sounded meandering or useless), there were parts that sounded exactly like "Mars" by Gustav Holst, and there were parts that sounded just like "Pirates of the Caribbean". The main theme is great, but it's only really used WELL during the end credits. So, overall, it's a "meh" and a "wha?" from me.


4. The Patriot - John Williams



Well, another score from the John Williams Factory. No, that sounds condescending. It's really great, irresistibly Americana but it's by no means Williams's best work. It's not particularly "memorable" either, but it's still very beautiful. And do I hear some foreshadowing of "Harry Potter" in the flutes? Hm?



3. Malena - Ennio Morricone



Well, obviously, Morricone is a legend and this is a great score. I didn't love the movie, which doesn't help, and there is some weird instrumentation sometimes that I really don't like, but overall it's a great score with a lush theme and some truly gorgeous moments.



2. Chocolat - Rachel Portman


Like most of Rachel Portman's scores, this one is very tasteful and while it doesn't take any huge risks, it is really lovely work. I like how she makes it sound almost like a fantasy movie, which gives the movie a "fantastical" vibe that works greatly. And the spicy track at the top is just irresistible!



1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Tan Dun



One of my favorite scores, for one of my favorite movies. There's SO much good stuff about this score. First of all you have the amazing Yo-Yo Ma cello solos (playing that gorgeous theme). Then you have Tan Dun's brilliant decision to score the battle scenes minimally, only using drum beats to exhilarating effect...mmm. Beautiful, brilliant, and a great winner.

Should Have Been Nominated...

There is one horrendous, huge, horrible ommission here, and that's Bjork's haunting score for Dancer in the Dark. I know that not everyone like's Bjork's music, and maybe there was too much singing or something, but the score for Dancer in the Dark is just...beautiful. Haunting, painful, gorgeous, innovative...GAHHH

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So what was your favorite score of 2000? Was Bjork truly snubbed? Do you like Gladiator more than me? Isn't Crouching Tiger awesome? Sound off belowww!

And see the updated ranking heeere

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I totally KNEW it!


I had a feeling I would be Emma. Looooveeeee!

Thanks to Andrew at Encore Entertainment for pointing this out. :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Now Playing: The Concert


Like many, I fell in love with Melanie Laurent after witnessing her superbly butt-kicking work in "Inglourious Basterds". When I read that she would be playing a violinist in an upcoming French film, I knew that I had to see it...I mean, music + Melanie = I'm probably going to love this movie. And after watching this lovely little French gem, I can't say I fell completely in love, though it certainly did not disappoint.

In "the Concert", directed by Radu Mihaileanu, our protagonist Andrei (Aleksei Guskov), is the former-conductor-now-janitor of the Bolshoi Orchestra in Russia. His career was ruined years earlier after a risk-taking performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto was interrupted by the orchestra's Communist manager, Ivan (Valeriy Barinov).

Thirty years after that traumatizing event, Andrei intercepts a fax from a manager in Paris, asking for the Bolshoi to perform there. Seeing an opportunity, Andrei steals the fax, deletes the email and comes up with a plan - to reclaim his position as a conductor by putting together an orchestra and posing as the Bolshoi. With two weeks to go, Andrei must recruit a full orchestra made up of old friends and street musicians, with the help of his friend Sacha (Dmitri Nazarov), and the old manager who screwed him over.

Andrei plans to perform the Tchaikovsky again, and thus needs a violin soloist. He has his eyes on superstar Anne-Marie Jacquet (Melanie Laurent) and though things seem simple enough, there's a secret that Andrei hides that could change the course of the entire performance, and the fates of his friends and colleagues.

But don't be mislead by that ominous cliffhanger, "The Concert" is a comedy by the very definition of the word. Its writing is remarkably sharp and there are so many moments that are simply hysterical. The rag-tag orchestra's unprofessional antics bring on multitudes of laughs and the perfect comedic performances brought to us from Nazarov and Barinov are impeccably over the top without being annoying.

The film has a big heart as well, amplified by the sincere screenplay and the emotionally affecting performances. Each character has their own motives for reliving their musical heydays and each actor brings so much feeling to their performances. Melanie Laurent does particularly good work. She gives her Anne-Marie a cold, diva persona but there is so much beneath the surface. Her screentime is dissatisfying, but I blame that on the advertising people who make it seem like she's a co-lead. She's not, but she does beautifully in her relatively small role.

Being a movie about an orchestra, the music is obviously a huge part of the film, and it is absolutely wonderful. This isn't the first time the Tchaik concerto has been used as a plot point for a movie, but it's still one of the most beautiful pieces ever written. The original score is very unique and beautiful, and integrates perfectly with the rest of the film. Oh, and the actors actually look convincing while they're playing their instruments!!!!!! Take notes, "August Rush".
However, though I'm sort of singing its praises, "The Concert" is definitely imperfect. Its last act loses a large amount of the focus that makes the first part of the film great. I'm still conflicted about the conclusion, as well - without spoiling anything, I'll say that though I greatly appreciated the structural integrity employed, there's no way to get around the fact that it is extremely rushed. Yet, it is still a beautiful conclusion that left me in tears (thanks to Laurent and Tchaikovsky!).

Plus, it's not a film that will remain in your mind. I don't want to call it forgettable, but the only thing that stayed in my mind after leaving the theater was Laurent's performance. And to be honest, something like this would probably, nay, would DEFINITELY never happen in the real world of classical music (believe me! I have experience!). The plot and its resolution are quite unrealistic. I am, however, greatly happy that the film didn't fall into the sentimental bullcrap that I felt from its trailer. It never once went that far.

So if you get the chance, see "The Concert"! It's a gorgeous little film, a fast two hours that is full of good music and good acting. It's very funny, impeccably written (if you get past the ridiculous plot, which isn't so hard to do), and certainly one of the more enjoyable movies I've seen this year.

7/10

Friday, September 10, 2010

Catherine O'Hara Filmography: Rock and Rule (1983)

One of the largest facets of Catherine O'Hara's career is her work as a voiceover actress. And, as a lover of animation, I was looking forward to watching the Canadian cult classic "Rock and Rule", a movie that had a nightmarish release and has only recently been able to find an audience.

"Rock and Rule" is a trippy movie that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in which humans have been replaced by highly evolved humanoid rats and society is evidently based greatly on rock and roll music. The evil, yet highly famous Mok (Don Francks) is searching for the right voice that will become the key to unlocking a demon from another dimension. He finds this voice in Angel (Susan Roman), the singer in a struggling band. When she is kidnapped, it's up to her hotheaded bandmate Omar (Paul LeMat) and the other members of her band to save her.

Overall, "Rock and Rule" is a pretty cool movie, besides having horrendous dialogue. The animation is cool to look at, exuding vibes of Ralph Bakshi and even Sylvain Chomet. There are some particularly stunning sequences, such as the demon summoning at the end. It also has a great soundtrack of songs from classic 80's bands like Cheap Trick, Earth Wind and Fire, Iggy Pop, and others. It's animation for adults for sure, and it works pretty well.

There's not much to say regarding Catherine's work in the movie, because her voice appears only in one scene as "Aunt Edith", the owner of a tattoo parlor that the band stays in while trying to save Angel. She does great voice work, or at least, as much as she could given the smallness of the role, all with a really funny New Jersey accent. Great voiceover work!

So that's about it on "Rock and Rule". I'd recommend it for sure, just as something different from your typical animated fare. OH, and Susan Roman, the voice of Angel, played Sailor Jupiter on the old "Sailor Moon" TV series. Which I watched. So when I heard her voice, it awakened something within me from my childhood. Haha. Funny stuff.

The Movie: 7/10
Catherine: too small of a part to "rate". haha
Best in Show: The musical performers!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chocolat (2000)

For some reason, I was under the impression that I was either going to hate or be extremely disinterested in this film (I really need to stop having so many preconceieved opinions!). But, I was neither bored nor angry at this lovely movie! It's got a very solid, well-paced and well-written screenplay, the score is lovely (I'm ranking this year later this week) and overall it's just a delicious little morsel of a film. Plus, those sequences with all that CHOCOLATE...I cannot resist it. Juliette Binoche's performance is really wonderful - it's vibrant and vigorous, yet she's not afraid to show the uglier sides of her character and it's just magical. Judi Dench had the perfect blend of sass and emotion. Overall, it's a fluffy and delicious movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.

8/10

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Casting "Metroid"?

So lately, I've been seeing this commercial on TV, for the upcoming Wii game, "Metroid: Other M"...


And I thought to myself, "Wow, even though most video game movies are crap, in the right hands, a Metroid movie could be really cool." Perhaps this thought has also come from the fact that quite a LONG time ago, I remember hearing some news that there would be a live-action Metroid movie.
Anyway, though no plans are in the works for a movie right now, it's fun to speculate. So if you've played any "Metroid" game (and you should, because they are all amazing), who would you cast in the lead role of Samus Aran? And if you're feeling extra creative, who would you ask to direct? Just leave your opinions in the comments below.

As for me, I automatically leap to Naomi Watts for some reason. She's got that perfect blend of icy coldness and secrecy that would be perfect for the role. Another that comes to mind is Zoe Saldana. She's already an action star, this'd be the perfect leading role for her!


Okay, so yes, I am a geek. But still! It's fun right? :P Sound off below!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Catherine O'Hara Filmography: Penelope (2006)

This is a continuation of my mission to watch all of Catherine O'Hara's movie roles.

Reese-Witherspoon-produced "Penelope" is a cute film that tells the story of the titular Penelope (Christina Ricci) who, due to a curse from her father's side, was born with the nose of a pig. Her parents, especially her mother (Catherine! more on her shortly), want her to get married to a man of wealth, which would presumably break the curse. James McAvoy plays the only guy who even gets close to falling in love with Penelope, but needless to say things don't quite work out, and a fairy tale adventure ensues.

And while there are a lot of things wrong with "Penelope", that would be useless to get in to now, there are a lot of good things about it too. Besides O'Hara's great amount of screentime, the film is ridiculously cute, and Ricci and McAvoy give charismatic performances. Reese Witherspoon herself also has a small, but lovably scene-stealing role as a friend that Penelope makes after escaping her home.

O'Hara plays Jessica Wilhelm, Penelope's well meaning but severely misguided mother. Throughout the film, Jessica's sole mission is to get Penelope married so that she'll become a normal human - with the personal agenda that her own life will also be returned to normal. Jessica is conflicted because she loves her daughter but hates the curse that her husband's blood line has brought upon her. Even though she wants so much to help Penelope, her obsession with materialism and her manic desperation for nobody to know about the curse cause her to do more harm than good.

As aformentioned, Catherine has a great amount of screentime, which gives her a great opportunity to shine. She really has a hold on Jessica's conflict, and though the movie often villainizes her character, she is somehow able to keep you feeling a bit sorry for her all the same. O'Hara does such a good job of treating Jessica as human that she creates a three-dimensional portrait out of the caricature that was handed her, while still being able to do the over the top comedic things the script requires (like at the end when she uses her face to great comedic effect).

However, even though O'Hara is able to rise above the limitations of her character, the script really does continually work against her. For a perfect example, take her last scene with Penelope (sort of SPOILERY but not too much) in which she apologizes for her selfish actions. Her teary delivery of the lines is so sincere that we can really feel Jessica's remorse. However, then she goes on to comment on a possible plastic surgery job for Penelope, which totally undermines what could have been the most meaningful and heartfelt scene of the movie. O'Hara pulls it off, but it was a distasteful script decision that shows how the movie is bent on casting Jessica in an unfairly poor light.

All that being said, "Penelope" is still a very cute, if not forgettable movie that is perfectly enjoyable, despite its many flaws. O'Hara's perfectly non-judgmental, multi-layered and refreshingly substantial work as Jessica is definitely worth watching. Oh and did I mention that Reese Witherspoon steals the movie?

The Movie: 6/10
Catherine: 8/10
Best in Show: Disregarding Reese Witherspoon's cameo, I'll go with Catherine. But I must say, Ricci was absorbing and I loved watching James McAvoy be American.