Titanic Directed by: James Cameron Written by: James Cameron Starring: Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Billy Zane and Kathy Bates
Looking back 15 years to when Titanic first came out brings back nothing for me except being left with a babysitter while my parents went and saw it. That’s just it, though. In 1997, Titanic was the movie worth getting a babysitter for; a cultural touchstone that became almost as famous as the disaster it depicted. My first experience with the movie was on my first airplane flight, though the humor of showing a disaster movie in that scenario never struck me until a few years later.
Hugo Directed by: Martin Scorsese Written by: John Logan (screenplay), Brian Selznick (book) Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley and Sacha Baron Cohen
Hugo would be a good place to start in a film history class. Not only does it glide through the early history of silent movies, but it also utilizes the latest digital filmmaking technology in doing so. Martin Scorsese has created a film worthy of the 3D technology that is infecting every big Hollywood blockbuster, and he has done it by using not as a showy gimmick, but as a storytelling tool.
Here, that third dimension immerses us in the movie’s world, drawing us into an opening sequence that transforms from turning clock gears to an overview of Paris, into a train station and finally back into the walls full of clock gears as the young boy Hugo (Asa Butterfield) zooms through these tunnels with make-shift abandon. In one of the most finely filmed sequences of the year, Scorsese keeps track of him with a clever tracking shot that simply pans as he turns corners. If this had been converted to 3D instead of filmed that way, you’d already have whiplash.
One of the biggest box office cash-ins in Hollywood today is also one of the boldest talents. The career of Leonardo DiCaprio has had many growing pains, but now that he’s grown up and knows exactly what he wants out of his career, he appears unstoppable. His gift is to take us inside the often harrowing mind of the male psyche by manipulating and subverting the things that make people sympathize with it. He often yearns for connection in his films, whether it be from an unrequited love (Inception, Shutter Island) or just a human to be normal around (The Departed), he takes us to these places with ferocious skill and unbreakable humanity. Rarely does he crack a smile these days, but that makes them all the more meaningful when he does. If there is any hope that the art house can continue to have a big budget, it’s because stars like him appreciate the art they work in, and not just the huge salary it gives them.
Sanctum Directed by: Alister Grierson Written by: Josh Garvin & Andrew Wight Starring: Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, and Alice Parkinson
It’s hard to remember the last time I wished death on a character as badly as I wished it upon Carl (Ioan Gruffudd). Carl is an unconscionable douchebag; a character so poorly written and acted that to watch him in Sanctum is to experience more agony than any of the characters.
For the most part, that’s how it works in this movie, which is to say nothing really does work. Like last year’s Unstoppable, this is a monster movie with no actual monster. Instead, the lame-duck characters swim their way through an unexplored cave network that slowly but surely claims most of them in a series of unfortunate and completely stupid events. It’s the latest in 3D “event” filmmaking.
A big buzz in the film industry these days, mostly amongst critics and purists, is whether or not, in the age of Pixar and Avatar, traditional cinema still exists. Does printing your shots on 35mm make them any different than a digital projection? It enriches the colors, it enhances the experience, and, in my opinion, it limits the audience. Sure, traditionalists may cry “Off with his head!” at anyone who dares suggest a movie can be enjoyed outside the confines of a movie theater. However, it’s impractical. Movie theaters enhance the experience, there’s not doubt about that, but it’s absurd to think a typical person not being shown the movies for free can afford to enjoy every film in a multiplex. It’s also absurd to think they can’t still enjoy it at home.
Since the invention of such devices as the Beta, VHS, and DVD we’ve been trying to bring the theater experience into the living room, and we’ve gotten progressively better at it. If you’ve got a dark room, a gigantic television and a Blu-ray player, you’ve almost effectively recreated the experience.
CyniCritcs reviewer Matt Erspamer posted his Oscar predictions and hopefuls a while ago here. For a second opinion on the main categories and a look at some of the technical awards, Luke Miller posts his picks and favorites here.
The Blind Side
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
Up In the Air
Will Win: The Hurt Locker. Avatar may have audiences at home swooned away with its big glitzy effects, but with the new preferential voting system in place, The Hurt Locker has a lot less haters than Avatar which makes me believe it will be found on more number two and three place ballots of those who get cut in the early rounds. Avatar winning at this point would be one big upset after losing at the PGA, WGA, DGA and BAFTA which are all huge precursors to the Oscars.
Should Win: Up In the Air. I can’t really summarize how great this film is without ranting into a whole essay. You can read about it here in my review however.
Left Out: The following films that are better than The Blind Side: Star Trek, Away We Go, Moon, (500) Days of Summer, Public Enemies, State of Play, The Road, or Where the Wild Things Are. Personally, I would have chosen a comedy to put in this bunch and Away We Go had the best blend of funny and heart to rank it up with Juno or Little Miss Sunshine. Continue reading →
Even though there are 10 Best Picture nominees this year, as usual it comes down to a couple front-runners. As the March 7th air date approaches, two films, one of which is unexpected, have emerged as clear front-runners.
In this corner, the people’s champion; James Cameron’s high budget, jaw-dropping 3D epic Avatar. In the other corner, the critic’s darling; Kathryn Bigelow’s low budget, highly praised, action face-melter The Hurt Locker. So, how did it come to pass that these two films made it to the top?
Avatar was always a front-runner. Ten years in the making, big twelve million dollar camera, 3D visuals to die for- combine these three things with James ‘Titanic’ Cameron, and you have yourself a sure-fire hit. However, it was initially speculated that either Up In the Air or, way earlier in the season,Preciouswould square off with it. As the many daunting awards ceremonies have shown though, Jason Reitman’s film is really only going to expect a screenplay award, while Lee Daniels can only expect Mo’Nique’s Best Supporting Actress win for his film. How did Bigelow edge them out then?