Sunday, January 30, 2011

127 Hours

James Franco is everywhere.

If you take away the movies (of which, according to imdb, there are six more to come just this year), there is the collection of short stories, a regular part on General Hospital (yes, the soap), the guest spot of 30 Rock, and an upcoming run on Broadway.

And he's co-hosting the Oscars this year...

I had not been a big Franco fan. I just chalked him up to a restless young star willing to be overexposed while his flame was hot. I think it was when the short stories came out and I accused him of doing the bait-and-switch (the "while I'm famous I might as well go ahead and cut my album" syndrome).

127 changed that for me. I now love James Franco. Or maybe I love Aron Ralston, the real-life climber Franco plays in the movie. Or Danny Boyle who directed it. Needless to say, I found it to be a great experience all-round. I doubt it will win anything on Oscar night, but it's worthy.

I didn't go in with any sort of expectations or knowing much at all (which is good for me and very, very rare). I knew the premise - basically, a hyper-active hiker gets trapped and cuts off his arm to save his life - and I knew the filming was fast-paced. A face-paced tale where the main character can't move most of the show? I was in, if only to see how Boyle pulled it off.

As you might imagine, this involves some flashback, but mostly fantasy, but here it works.

I'd heard the opening described as "jittery" which worried me a little. Jittery usually translates to bad hand-held camera which makes me nausous. But it's not like that. Boyle uses split screen and fast cuts in a surprising fluid fashion which manages to emphasize the action without the typcial "get it? this guy lives fast" rib poke.

I don't want to give away much more, but be prepared to come out of the show wanting to climb some mountains.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oscar Season Begins!

Sunday afternoon I was sitting at the bar at Max & Erma's having a late lunch, and the bartender asked me who I favored for one of the NFL playoff games. I smiled, knowing I had no good answer for this man who was surely just making friendly conversation. "Well, if you'll tell me whose playing," I said, "I can take a good guess."

I do, however, know that the nominations for the Academy Awards are announced on the last Tuesday of January...

Most of the nominees this year are a surprise to no one. But I think that has become a sign of the times. There is so much more media now-days that it is impossible for something to be "dug up" that hasn't already gotten a lot of attention.

One thing is for sure, 2010 was a good year for movies.

As far as the Best Pic nominees, I was hoping that the decision to have ten nominees (started last year) would have reverted back to five. But no. I'm not at all a fan of this decision, but I will refrain from this rant because no real good or insight can come from it.

As to the films nominated, there is no obvious "dud" or commercial favorite that has no business on the list, which is nice. For me, the clear forerunners are - The Social Network, The King's Speech, and True Grit. My personal favorite for the win is The Social Network. It has an engaging script (by Aaron Sorkin of West Wing fame) and great performances. But more than that, it is one of those rare "contemporary" films that manages to capture the essence of a not-so-distant past/present that feels very timely. What makes it intriguing is that we are able to view its success alongside a sea of less notable films, television shows, music, and books that are attempting to do the same thing and failing.

The King's Speech was very solid all-round, but I couldn't help feeling like it was very dated. The story is very linear and predictable (flawed noble underdog gets help from unlikely source and ultimately triumphs...) but Colin Firth deserves everything he's got coming to him, and there were a few scenes that were simply breathtaking in its cinematography. True Grit was also solid and touching. I'd love to see Hailee Steinfield (the fourteen year old making her debut) take home the Oscar for Supporting, but that category is exceptionally strong this year.

I won't go through the whole list, that gets tedious and boring. I can say that I only have four out of the ten shows to see (127 Hours, The Fighter, Inception, and Winter's Bone).

Last year, my gearing-up-for-the-Oscars project was to see as many Meryl Streep movies as I could to tip the proverbial scales in hope of a win for Streep for Julie and Julia. Alas, my efforts were in vain, but I have not given up the pursuit of a new project.

Tune in for further developments...