The Cinemologist

Come here for your cinematic prescription

Sunday Poll

The Adjustment Bureau

The debate between fate and free will has permeated society for ages. Are we free to live our lives the way we choose, or is there a guiding light leading us to an already planned destination?

George Nolfi’s latest film, The Adjustment Bureau, tackles this very subject. Based on Phillip K. Dick’s book, The Adjustment Group, this adaptation places Matt Damon and Emily Blunt against the titular division who is determined to see them apart from each other.

Damon plays David Norris, a New York senator whose two chance meetings with Elise Sellas (Blunt) were not in “the plan.” Their attraction proves irresistible and the two fall in love, for better or worse. Now they must defend their love against a league of gentlemen known as the Adjustment Bureau.

The film is a clever balancing act between an action flick and a romance (perhaps even a romantic comedy). When it really sparkles is when Damon and Blunt share screen-time as their chemistry is electrifying. Scenes with the bureau are diminished by the lack of details in the plot. Are they a supremely religious bunch? Who is the Chairman? The team certainly hints at their religious ties, but it’s never fully expounded upon.

Towards the end, the story starts to speed up a bit, to its detriment. The fact that Norris can learn the ins and outs of the bureau’s secrets in a single night, and that Sellas (who just took a doorway from Yankee Stadium to Ellis Island) can blindly accept Norris’ description of what’s happening.

This is but a minor speed bump in an otherwise enthralling story. The acting from all is superb, and the consequential ramifications of Norris and Sellas’ actions are exciting to watch unfold.

The Trouble With Oscar

As I’ve tried to pry my mind and eyes away from the flaming train wreck that is Charlie Sheen over the last week, I commonly settle on something Oscar.  This time of year it is very difficult to read a website, or flip on a television show and not be slammed with Oscar This and Oscar That.  For those of us that enjoy movies and the whole process that goes into making them, Oscar time is a great time of year.  But over the last several years as my movie going has migrated out of the theater and into my home theater, I often find myself at a loss come Oscar time.  I contribute my lack of direction to the fact that at this writing, I have seen a grand total of just one best picture nominee.  Now I can almost hear the eye rolling going on out there in cyberspace right now.  “How dare I complain about the Oscar’s when I don’t even make an effort to see the movies”  Well I get it, and it is certainly a valid argument to be raised.  I should make more of an effort, but don’t you think the movie industry should meet me half way. Read more of this post

DVDay

DVDay is our weekly column that shows new DVD/Blu-Ray releases and if they are worth the purchase.

March 1st, 2011 –

127 Hours — Buy it!

127 Hours was nominated for Best Picture at this year’s academy awards. It also brought in nominations for Best Actor, Best Song, Best Score, and Best Adapted Scr eenplay. Danny Boyle’s newest is definitely worth the price.

Burlesque — Skip it!

Burlesque came in at a depressing 37% on http://www.rottentomatoes.com. It won Best Original Song at this year’s Golden Globes, but was not nominated for an Oscar under any category.

Faster — Skip it!

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s latest action romp seemed to split both the audience and the critics. Watch it at your own risk!

Love and Other Drugs — Rent it!

Both of our Oscar hosts have DVDs coming out today. Love and Other Drugs is able to successfully bring out some new ideas in the usually stagnant genre of romantic comedy. Yet it isn’t quite fresh enough to spend too much money on.

Let us know in the comments what you’re picking up today!

New Layout and Header

In an effort to make the blog more thematic, I’ve changed the layout once again. I did this because I came across an amazing photo that I had to have. I wanted to use the photo in it’s original format, but unfortunately, I don’t have the web design skills to know how to do that.

The image was photographed by Tom Magliery. He was also kind enough to let us use that picture for the blog. After you’ve realized how wonderful the picture is, please visit Tom’s Flickr page and check out the rest of his wonderful photographs at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mag3737/

Monday Poll: Best Picture

Oscar Winners 2011: List of Academy Award Winners and Nominations

>Analysis: Blue Valentine

>Blue Valentine is a fragmented story of a fragmented marriage. As the writer and director, Derek Cianfrance is the artist of this dismal and unapologetic depiction of a marriage that’s lost it’s love. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams play Dean and Cindy, two young lovers whose marriage has dissolved to a loveless schedule. They do what they are supposed to do as a couple, but there is no love.

Plot: Told from two different times, the beginning and end of their relationship, Blue Valentine shows what could be interpreted as the disease of love. The film breaks up the plot into two separate times, the past and present. It’s occasionally hard to follow when the plot cuts through different times. The actors underwent major transformations to portray the two different times, but the darkness of the film made that hard to notice at first. This plot structure deals in dichotomies: a young, unstoppable love and a dead, withering marriage. This style also lends itself to a critical viewing of the early times. I found myself looking for personality quirks or pet peeves that could lead this marriage to the fate we see on the other side, but there seems to be nothing that alludes to the unfortunate outcome.  The absence of the middle, or the act II of their marriage, is missing, but let’s explore that in the story section.

Story: What could have happened to cause these two people to fall out of love? When showing their courtship, the couple seems fearless in their love. Dean pursues Cindy and finally manages to talk her into a goofy night on the town in which the couple behave like two giddy lovers, dancing and playing the ukulele in the streets. The scenes of their courting are reminiscent of other films’ portrayal of a couple destined to be together forever. Flash forward to the present time, and we find that not to be the case. The fact that the film doesn’t show you the middle of their relationship is a unique choice. As a viewer, you find yourself wanting to see that section, to comb through and discover catalyst of this deterioration of love. I believe that Derek left this section out on purpose, that in the story of these character’s lives, there was no single event or action that caused their relationship to fall from grace. I would imagine that the real people that this sort of event happens to do the same thing, they look back on their relationship to find out what went wrong. I’m sure they have as much trouble finding a cause than we did in the theater.

Characters: As I just stated, judging just by the courtship scenes, we feel like we’re watching a couple whose love is infallible, but we know more about their lives than this, at least that’s true about Cindy. Cindy, it seems, doesn’t know what love is. Her father is a violent and abusive husband to her mother. She resigns herself to ask her grandmother what it feels like to fall in love, but it seems as though grandmother experienced the same plight that Cindy will. Dean is given less of a back story, but one that seems similar to Cindy’s. We find out that his mother and father split up when he was young, and that he no longer has contact with his mother. That loss of a maternal relationship has to have a negative effect on a child. Knowing this, we can see through this young love to find an splinter of doubt that will lead these star-crossed lovers to their eventual declination. In the present tense, there’s an interesting display of their relationships. Dean lives his life for his family. His job is not so much the thing he goes to as much as the thing he comes home from. His life is with his family and he aims to make his wife and daughter happy. He fails miserably at the latter. The only time Dean ever displays any passion is when it comes to Cindy. Cindy never offers us an insight into why she’s so unhappy. You’d think that living with someone whose only goal is to make you happy would be a gift, but it would appear not. She asks him during a drunken foray into a cheesy, futuristic sex motel why he doesn’t pursue the things he’s good at. She essentially asks him why he’s content with the way they are right now. She phrases the question in terms of what would be best for him, but there are definitely undertones in her question. Could she be asking him to chase his skills as a musician to enhance their lives or to get him to leave her? There’s also the possibility that she’s so depressed that she’s asking how can he be content with living with someone like her.

Themes, Motifs, & Symbols: Love, or rather the absence of love, is the major theme here. The absence of love in the marriages of the character’s lives is the foreshadowing that explains what could have happened to these characters who were once so in love. In the opening scene of the film, we find out that Cindy forgot to lock the gate to their dog’s pen who has escaped. This results in the dog’s death. This event plays as both a precipitating event as well as a symbol for this family. I believe it provides a metaphor for them to realize that their love is dead. The final image of the film was strikingly oblique and was one that I’m continuing to think about even now. The film ends with Dean walking away from his wife and daughter after she asks for a divorce, and in the background, children are shooting off fireworks. Fireworks, obviously are usually reserved for celebrations, and as we know, nothing on screen is an accident. It makes me wonder what CianfranceCianfrance is trying to say.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=widgetsamazon-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0036TGTDO&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

>Oscar Picks

>

Well, it’s Oscar weekend. You know what that means! Grabbing the biggest drink you can find, ordering a pizza, and settling in with an excitement that tapers off by the third hour when your ass starts to hurt from sitting for so long. Here, I will present whom I expect to win for this year’s Oscars. I’ve not seen every film that’s up for an award, so where I’m lacking in personal experiences (almost all of the shorts), I’ve made up for in research.

Who will win and who should win aren’t always the same. So, if necessary, I will list beside who I think should win.

Best Picture

– True Grit
– The Social Network
– Black Swan
– 127 Hours
– The Fighter
– The King’s Speech
– The Kids Are All Right
– Toy Story 3
– Winter’s Bone
– Inception

Who Will Win: The King’s Speech
Who Should Win: The Social Network

Although I believe that The King’s Speech was a wonderful movie, I believe that, in time, it will fall by the wayside as The Social Network continues to define the era in which it was made.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

– Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
– Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
– Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
– Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
– James Franco (127 Hours)

Who Will Win: Colin Firth
Who Should Win: Colin Firth

Firth remains one of cinema’s greatest actor. Winning last year for A Single Man, I fully expect him to take home the gold again this year.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

– Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
– Anette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
– Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
– Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)
– Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

Who Will Win: Natalie Portman
Who Should Win: Natalie Portman

Natalie just did awesome in Black Swan. I wouldn’t be upset if Jennifer Lawrence won though.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

– Christian Bale (The Fighter)
– John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
– Jeremy Renner (The Town)
– Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
– Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)

Who Will Win: Christian Bale
Who Should Win: Geoffrey Rush

Actually, I think Christian Bale should win too, but I wanted to talk about Geoffrey Rush. I wouldn’t be upset if he won, his character was great in The King’s Speech. But he’s going up against fan-favorite Christian Bale who always gives 110% to his roles.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

– Amy Adams (The Fighter)
– Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)
– Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
– Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
– Jackie Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Who Will Win: Melissa Leo
Who Should Win: Amy Adams

I enjoyed Melissa Leo’s character, but I was more interested in Amy Adams’. Either way, The Fighter is definitely bringing the supporting actors’ Oscars home. Poor Marky Mark.

Best Animated Feature Film

– How To Train Your Dragon
– Toy Story 3
– The Illusionist

Who Will Win: Toy Story 3
Who Should Win: How to Train Your Dragon

If you don’t already know my preference of How To Train Your Dragon over Toy Story 3, then I suggest you look here.

Best Art Direction

– Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
– Inception
– The King’s Speech
– Alice in Wonderland
– True Grit

Who Will Win: The King’s Speech
Who Should Win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Period pieces often win this category, but I think that Harry Potter did a wonderful job in the art department of staging a magical world in reality and making it look like it actually exists. I am highly biased though.

Cinematography

– Inception
– True Grit
– The King’s Speech
– Black Swan
– The Social Network

Who Will Win: Inception
Who Should Win: Inception

I expect Inception to win most of the visual categories.

Costume Design

– True Grit
– I Am Love
– The Tempest
– The King’s Speech
– Alice in Wonderland

Who Will Win: The King’s Speech
Who Should Win: The King’s Speech

Period pieces ALWAYS win this category. If one of those pieces is Best Picture, consider it a shoe-in. I used to hate that they always won until I talked to a costume designer about the intricacies that go into accurate costumes. I am no longer bored by costume design.

Best Direction

– Darren Aronofsky (The Black Swan)
– David O. Russel (The Fighter)
– Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
– David Fincher (The Social Network)
– Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (True Grit)

Who Will Win: David Fincher
Who Should Win: Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky is a master at bringing mental issues to the surface. Add in some extreme creepiness, and he has my vote for this year. Too bad the Academy won’t agree.

Best Documentary Feature

– Exit Through the Gift Shop
– Restrepo
– Gasland
– Inside Job
– Waste Land

Who Will Win: Exit Through the Gift Shop
Who Should Win: N/A

I’ve only seen two of these features: Exit Through the Gift Shop and Restrepo. The votes seem to be tied between Exit Through the Gift Shop and Inside Job. It basically boils down to popularity against content. Even though I wasn’t that big of a fan of Exit Through the Gift, I think it will pull ahead due to popularity and the fact that everyone wants to see if Banksy shows up to accept.

Best Documentary Short Subject

– Killing in the Name
– Poster Girl
– Strangers No More
– Sun Come Up
– Quigang

Who Will Win: Killing in the Name
Who Should Win: N/A

I didn’t see any of the entries in this category, so I don’t actually know who should win. Before I did my research, I picked Killing in the Name simply based off its title. It seems the internet agrees.

Film Editing

– 127 Hours
– The Fighter
– The Social Network
– The King’s Speech
– Black Swan

Who Will Win: The Social Network
Who Should Win: The Social Network

This category is kind of a toss up. Based on unique editing styles, I’d say 127 Hours would win, but in straight story-telling editing, The Social Network will pull it in. Editing is a process I’ve not learned much about, so accept my pick in the category at your own risk.

Foreign Language Film

– Biutiful
– Dogtooth
– In A Better World
– Incendies
– Outside the Law

Who Will Win: In A Better World
Who Should Win: N/A

Again, I didn’t get to see any of these, so take this recommendation with a grain of salt. The interweb seems to agree on In A Better World to win the category.

Makeup

– Barney’s Version
– Wolfman
– The Way Back

Who Will Win: The Wolfman
Who Should Win: Barney’s Version

I only think Barney’s Version should win because it’s the only other one that I’ve seen besides Wolfman, and I don’t want Wolfman to be able to say it won an Oscar. It was not good.

Music (Original Score)

– How to Train Your Dragon
– Inception
– The King’s Speech
– 127 Hours
– The Social Network

Who Will Win: The Social Network
Who Should Win: The Social Network

It won a Golden Globe, so I think it has the best chance to win the Oscar as well. Oh, also, it was good.

Music (Original Song)

– “Coming Home” (Country Strong)
– “I See The Light” (Tangled)
– “If I Rise” (127 Hours)
– “We Belong Together” (Toy Story 3)

Who Will Win: “We Belong Together”
Who Should Win: “If I Rise”

Maybe I’m just anti-Toy Story 3, but I want A.R. Rahman (the winner from Slumdog Millionaire in the same category two years ago) to win.

Short Film (Animated)

– Day and Night
– The Gruffalo
– Let’s Pollute
– The Lost Thing
– Madagascar, a Journey Diary

Who Will Win: Day and Night
Who Should Win: N/A

Day and Night was the only one I saw because it was before Toy Story 3. It was really interesting though. The internet agrees with me.

Short Film (Live Action)

– The Confession
– The Crush
– God of Love
– Na Wewe
– Wish 143

Who Will Win: Na Wewe
Who Should Win: N/A

Afraid I didn’t catch any of these either. Internet says Na Wewe. Never disagree with the internet.

Sound Editing

– Inception
– True Grit
– Toy Story 3
– Unstoppable
– Tron: Legacy

Who Will Win: Inception
Who Should Win: Inception

Again, I’m thinking Inception for both sound categories.

Sound Mixing

– Inception
– The King’s Speech
– Salt
– The Social Network
– True Grit

Who Will Win: Inception
Who Should Win: Inception

Best Sound Mixing is one of those categories where no one actually knows what they’re talking about, myself included. So take this with a grain of salt. Just don’t take Salt.

Best Visual Effects

– Alice in Wonderland
– Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
– Inception
– Hereafter
– Iron Man 2

Who Will Win: Inception
Who Should Win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Again I say, Harry Potter’s visuals make it an accessible fantasy film. Strange category though. Alice in Wonderland was dumb. Could you see any effects through all of the Dr. Pepper ads in Iron Man 2? And did anyone actually see Hereafter?

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

– The Social Network
– 127 Hours
– Toy Story 3
– True Grit
– Winter’s Bone

Who Will Win: The Social Network
Who Should Win: The Social Network

Aaron Sorkin is one of our best writers. Combined with a film the quality of The Social Network and we’ve got a winner.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

– Another Year
– The Fighter
– Inception
– The Kids Are All Right
– The King’s Speech

Who Will Win: The King’s Speech
Who Should Win: The King’s Speech

Read about the creation of the story of The King’s Speech. It’s really interesting. Inception, was an interesting story, but it was too full of plot holes and inconsistencies to take home the trophy, I believe.

So there are your picks. I hope you enjoy the Oscars this year. Maybe Anne Hathaway and James Franco will breathe a breath of fresh air into the traditionally boring ceremony.

>How To Train Your Dragon > Toy Story 3

>When the category for “Best Animated Feature” began at the Academy Awards in 2001, DreamWorks Animation took home the prize with the help of Shrek. With the exception of one other win for Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, DreamWorks has come up short to Disney/Pixar almost every year. When Kung-Fu Panda was up against Wall-E in 2008, Jack Black said it best when he said, “Each year I do one DreamWorks project then take all the money to the Oscars and bet it on Pixar!”

Don’t misunderstand my post as anti-Pixar in the slightest. Though I loved Kung-Fu Panda, it didn’t stand a chance against Wall-E. And generally, Pixar is more infallible that DreamWorks as evidenced by Monsters vs. Aliens which I consider their worst since Over The Hedge. No, this article is geared more towards this upcoming Oscars’ category specifically.

It seems the general consensus is that Toy Story 3 is a shoe-in for the win this year. It’s easy to see why. Toy Story was Pixar’s first film, and Toy Story 3 has been the highest grossing film for them yet, earning over $1 billion; more than twice as much as How To Train Your Dragon.

My base argument here is that, although Toy Story 3 was a “good” movie, I don’t believe that it really added anything new to the series. It was merely the same characters on a new adventure. I’m not against sequels, but although the overall time sequence is furthered, the general plot of the movie is not much different from the other two predecessors. Toys that come to life get separated from their owner and must make their way back while dealing with their own personality quirks.

How to Train Your Dragon presented with a new and well-thought-out idea. They created a world in which dragons are a nuisance and feel like a real part of that world. Adding interesting characters that were very well voiced by unique actors upped the plot to a fun and inspiring adventure. I’m always interested when a person can create a new universe of plausibility through details. How to Train Your Dragon has many plot elements such as: dragons vs. humans, familial and communal acceptance, misunderstandings, as well as your token love-story.

This film was also the only one of the past year in which I felt like I didn’t waste money for a 3D ticket. I thought the application of 3D in this film was used to perfection. There weren’t any silly, gimmicky shots. The most memorable scene was one in which the 3D did exactly what it was supposed to do, enhance the scene without drawing attention to itself. In the scene, Hiccup and Toothless have finally perfected their symbiotic flying method and are experimenting by soaring through the clouds. This film single-handedly changed my opinion on the necessity of 3D. I’d all but given up on the effect.

I have a feeling that familiarity and money will put Toy Story 3 at the top, but I hold out hope that a sweet, sleek and unique film might bring home the gold.

P.S. – The Illusionist was boring and exceptionally “French.”