True Grit

100% truth.  I had no interest in seeing this movie.  The only reason I did was naturally because it is a nominee for best picture at the Oscars this year.  Here's the deal, I read the book as a kid and I also suffered through the movie.  I really hated both of them.  Maybe they didn't appeal to my middle school sensibilities, who knows?  All I remember was I was bored to tears and I really didn't like the story.  Sadly, that still rings true all these years later.  The thing is...the Coen Brothers made it much more bearable for me in a couple of ways.

Roger Deakins is the Director of Photography and his eye is simply spot on.  This film marks his ninth Academy Award nomination and he stands a good chance of winning.  The other notable standout is young Hailee Steinfeld who is nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category.  I have to say, I find it interesting that it's the supporting field.  Her character seems to own the bulk of the story more so than the marshall (played by Jeff Bridges).

Kings of Pastry

Kings of Pastry is an inside look at the pastry chef competition in France.  It's a great peek at how grueling the preparation is and how much skill is involved to even make it to the finals.  The event takes place once every four years and only a few will earn the prestigious title of Best Craftsman in France.  Trailer here!

Waiting for Superman

Waiting for Superman is a documentary that everyone in America should see.  It's eye-opening and shocking.  If every single person felt even a fraction of the way I felt when I finished watching this movie, something would be forced to change.  It's a travesty what has happened to education in this country.  Sure, you know it's bad.  Sure, you just hope that you live in a place where your kid can go to a good school - or, you make enough to send said kid to a private school.  It's really very sad.  We're the US!  Educating our people so they can participate in society is the most fundamental part of what makes us tick.  We're failing, big time.

This film is not lighthearted fare nor does it depress you to the point of no return.  There is hope and there are change agents however awareness is key and this film is a terrific jumping off point.  Watch it.  Tell your friends.  Engage people.  This is what documentary filmmaking is all about.

The Hurt Locker

I have been trying to watch The Hurt Locker for almost a year now.  I rented it, borrowed it from the library, thought about seeing it in the theater but something inevitably stopped me from watching it.  I spent a lazy rainy Saturday morning finally getting through it and after so much hype I'm not sure where I landed on this one.  

Director Kathryn Bigelow has always stood out to me because there are such a handful of female directors out there and even fewer who go beyond making romantic comedies.  Bigelow helmed one of my favorite guilty pleasure flicks, Point Break and I found the film to be surprisingly masculine.  The same can be said of The Hurt Locker.  It tells the story of a bomb squad in Iraq who are at the edge of death on a daily basis.  It's gripping but I left very unsatisfied without knowing why.   The film won an Oscar for Best Picture in 2009 as did Bigelow for Best Director (first woman to win the award).  There were 10 films nominated for Best Picture and I remember being very frustrated that Inglorious Basterds didn't win.  For me, it was a masterpiece and the best film that year.  There were several other films in the category that seemed very worthy, and after finally seeing The Hurt Locker I truly think the Academy made the politically correct choice as opposed to the right choice.  But hey - they have a knack for doing that I suppose.


Catfish.   This film seemed WAY more interesting to me than The Social Network in terms of the real power of social networking.   For those that know absolutely nothing about it - good.  I'm not going to tell you too much because doing so would spoil the movie.  What I will tell you is simply that Catfish is a documentary about a relationship that blossoms on Facebook.  It brings up a plethora of interesting topics that have kept me thinking about it intensely for the past few days.  15 years ago we would never be talking about any of these things but now, in our techie, modern, and connected lives it's one of the most relevant and current films to come along in ages.  What do you really know about anyone that you meet virtually?  For example - you're reading this blog.  I'm assuming that a fair number of you actually know me.  You know my quirks and mannerisms, how tall I am, where I work, etc.  I'm guessing though that a bunch of you don't know me and somewhere in your brain you've developed some notion of who I am and what I'm like "in real life".  Isn't that odd to think about?  Watch Catfish and then think about it some more.  You won't be able to help yourself.  I'm not including the trailer because I really think this film is better the less you know about it going in.

All About Eve

I really cannot believe I had not seen this movie through 6 years of film studies.  All About Eve is the very definition of classic.  Betty Davis stars and Anne Baxter shines as rival actresses on the Broadway stage (oh yes, that's Marilyn Monroe on the background).  Our friends at Wikipedia tell me that until Titanic no film had matched the 14 Academy Award nominations that this one did (and it won 6 of them).  It's chalk full of drama.  Fabulous!!

The Town

Admittedly, I had a Ben Affleck crush since...well okay, a while ago.  I'll do my best to be unbiased about this one.  What's interesting is that I don't even really need to.  He's proven himself a far better filmmaker/writer than actor over the years (unless of course we're counting Armageddon.  Come on.  Does it get any better than "Harry, for real now, I love her"?  I don't think so).  He also continues to focus his lens on his home turf, Massachusetts.  I keep assuming audiences will get sick of it but they're (I'm) not and his films continue to do well at the box office and gain critical acclaim.

It all began fairytale style with pal Matt Damon with Good Will Hunting.  Then just four years ago he released a supremely solemn and strikingly good film starring his brother Casey, Gone Baby Gone.  And now, The Town - a look at a band of "townies" who spend their days on a dizzying array of robberies.  It's solid.  I can't say it was one of my favorites from this year.  For me, the story just lacked a certain something.  Don't you love it when you can't even pinpoint exactly what it is?  Yeah, me too.  I think it has vaguely something to do with rooting for a criminal.  Sure, but he's a good guy and he can't help his situation.  Can he though?  I don't know.  I wasn't feeling it.  Besides my small inner conflict with the premise, the film was engaging and I'd certainly recommend it as a rental.  Oh, and if Ben doesn't entice you - maybe someone off this list will: Jon Hamm, Blake Lively, Chris Cooper, Jeremy Renner, & Rebecca Hall.  Pretty decent cast, right?  See the trailer here

Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows Part I

Allow me this nerdarific posting readers.  I saw this flick twice and neglected to write about it.  Not sure why, let's say for argument's sake that I just forgot to.

It's no secret (or it shouldn't be if you've read any of my other postings) that I love a good story and fantasy/sci-fi certainly enhance that love.  It's through that lens that I write this note.  When I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I remember feeling like I couldn't have asked for a better resolution after years of following these characters through their magical fight for justice.  After Part I of the movie concluded I was so pleased that there was still more to come, the end had been stretched, yes...but logically - not just to make a quick extra buck, though I'm sure Warner Bros didn't make out too badly. 

At the film's conclusion, the young boy in the seat behind me on opening night said to his friends "just when it starts to get interesting, they make you wait months to see what happens".  Yes, they do - but I guarantee you - it will be worth the wait.  We're so used to getting everything immediately now.  You no longer wait for a roll of film to be developed and your prints to come in.  We don't need to wait to get a letter in the mail because we can receive one in a matter of seconds via email - forget that - how about immediately via text?  The 'nowness' of our society makes the waiting game oh so much sweeter.  In the case of Deathly Hallows the waiting yielded three young actors who have grown immensely through the tutelage of such British theatrical icons as Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, etc.  It's remarkable really.  If you look back at where the journey started with a trio of wide eyed kids and Christopher Columbus' vivid magical tapestry and then you juxtapose it with where it is now the transition is as special as Harry's story.  Even the filmmaking techniques have been taken up several notches for this final installment.  I can't wait for the last film.  I have a feeling that just like the book I will experience a sense of satisfaction that can only come from expertly realized creative craftsmanship. Trailer here!

Good Hair

If you have ever been remotely curious about the world of hair you MUST see this movie.  If you have no interest, STILL see this movie.  It will make you curious and it's kind of fun to learn more about it, no really, totally serious.  Chris Rock produces and stars in Jeff Stilson's informative journey through weaves, relaxers, and what it all means for little African American girls in the US.  Totally enjoyable and ready and waiting for you at Netflix.  Trailer here!