Five Movies to Celebrate Family

If there was anything I noticed missing on the dinner table this Thanksgiving, I could tell you it is nothing I would put salt or pepper on. All the years of Thanksgiving I have had in the past, I celebrated by sitting around with my family appreciating the things we had, like a big turkey dinner, a home over our heads, time off from school and friends to see movies with later that night. But when I sat around with those people I called my family, I didn’t realize the things we thankful for weren’t any of those things combined. Instead it was just the fact that we were all in the same room, mood and had the company and joy of each other for a single afternoon. Comfort is the only word I can put on it.

It seems like a simple concept that we are told all the time, but cannot truly grasp until we’ve had to spend Thanksgiving thousands of miles away from the memories and people we so badly long to be with.

In honor of my little revelation I offer a handful of films that give me a great warmth and sense of family, the sweetest Thanksgiving treat, as a theme.

Up in the AirSure Ryan Bingham, the corporate executioner fighting to save the old school ways of his job, is known for flying solo. Without friends at work, without family in his empty apartment, and without the company of a lover, Bingham may seem like quite the loner when in fact he couldn’t feel more confident and content with his ways. However, after two women enter his life and take him for a life changing ride, Bingham reconsiders his philosophy on family and people in general. It is a beautifully endearing film and a story for the ages.  Continue reading

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The Big 10: No Easy A’s

Out of the dozens of reviews we’ve done since we started this blog, we’ve had only 10 A’s.  For a movie to deserve a perfect rating here, it doesn’t have to be perfect: it needs to be different.  It has to bring something new to the movie table, or do something old so well that it feels new.  Here are our 10 ‘A’ reviews, as diverse as an obese teenager’s quest for societal independence or a man avenging his father’s death in 19th century America.  (Side-note:  though we rarely hand out straight A’s, we’ve also only awarded one F… to a movie ironically called The A-Team.)

Amélie

Being John Malkovich

Casino Royale

District 9

Gangs of New York

A History of Violence

In the Loop

Precious: Based On the Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire

Up in the Air

Where the Wild Things Are

Complete Oscar Coverage

OSCAR PREDICTIONS

Matt Ersmaper’s Picks

Luke Miller’s Picks

BEST PICTURE NOMINEES REVIEWED

Avatar

Verdict: The film is titanic in every way, from its dazzling images and special effects to its messages and attention to detail. But with big budget comes big demand, meaning Cameron must make a crowd-pleaser. Dumbing down the dialogue, character depth and dynamics, he creates a universal story the whole world can understand and enjoy. Avatar is whatever movie you want it to be, a love story, a message movie, or an visually imaginative heyday, but to sophisticated moviegoers it’s only meh. Grade: B- Full Review Here

The Blind Side

Verdict: John Lee Hancock’s bombastic, preachy and watered down The Blind Side is the one movie nominated for Best Picture this year that didn’t deserve its slot. This is the crowd-pleasing, melodramatic sports movie that moved both the Monday Night Football crowd and Sarah Palin wannabes to tears.  Hancock directs this film with a style right out of the sports film playbook, taking no chances and milking every crowd-pleasing scenario for maximum fluff. Grade: D Full Review Here

District 9

Verdict: District 9 is the greatest display of gritty sci-fi, with its scathing political undertones and pulse pounding action.  Blomkamp is able to mesh aliens seamlessly into a very real human world that echoes our own. While the obvious political undertones make this an allegory for apartheid, more conceptual parallels can be made with our current human rights, terrorism, and corporate moral dilemma. It’s expert movie making from top to bottom.  Grade: A Full Review Here Continue reading

Oscar Predictions: A Second Take

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.

Best Picture

Avatar

The Blind Side

District 9

An Education

The Hurt Locker

Inglourious Basterds

Precious

A Serious Man

Up

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

BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Up in the Air

Up in the Air
Directed by: Jason Reitman
Written by: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (screenplay) Walter Kirn (novel)
Starring: George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, Vera Farmiga and Jason Beitman

There is something about Jason Reitman’s ability both as screenwriter and director that enables him to do the most audacious tasks. Whether it’s clearing the smoke on the dubious debate between government and tobacco industries, bringing life to a taboo tale of a pregnant teen or travelling the gap between corporate America and the American, Reitman is always on board.

Ryan Bingham (Clooney) is in a business that thrives off of America’s deteriorating businesses. The old school corporate executioner travels all over the US, city to city, visiting companies with lists of middle managers and other white collars who are to be fired due to the economy. When bosses are too cowardly to break the bad news, it is Bingham’s job to sweep in and let them down as softly and suavely as his persona, which is why he does his job so well. In addition, he gives them a load of garbage about all the new opportunities and resources available to them. It only makes sense that he gives motivational speeches about the same sorts of subjects at business seminars and conventions. He does it well, and he loves doing it. Living a life of a nomad business man is exactly what he wants, so that he can detach himself from family, materialism and miserable grounded lifestyle led by the people which he fires.

Bingham is flying high until his company looks toward a young ivy-league hotshot (Kendrick) who proposed the company begin using an online model to cut out the travelling budget, putting Bingham’s job and lifestyle out of business. The new challenges he now faces are similar to the great challenges America is facing. Streamlining and digitizing isn’t just for corporations anymore, it’s for people, and it’s making us change the way we look at business and our lives. There is a constant back and forth between the traditional and the new.  It is an interweaved story of relevance and at the forefront is a fantastic character who must understand why he’s wandering through the world and what he needs to start bringing with him. Continue reading

The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar: Stuck Between a Bomb, and a Blue Face?

Image courtesy of New York Daily News

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, Precious would 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?

Continue reading