Brodie’s 90th Oscar Picks

Will Win is my official pick. Should Win is what I would vote for were I a voting member.

Best Picture


Will Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: The Shape of Water
Also Nominated: Call Me By Your Name; Darkest Hour; Dunkirk; Get Out; Lady Bird; Phantom Thread; The Post; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Continue reading “Brodie’s 90th Oscar Picks”

The Best Picture Nominees [Reviews]

The Oscar Nominations were announced a few weeks ago, and I’ve finally had a chance to catch the few I still hadn’t seen. I’ll break down each of the major contenders and my thoughts on them. I’ll just go right down the list, in alphabetical order.

American Sniper

American SniperNominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, Best Adapted Screenplay- Jason Hall, Best Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing.

The problem I have with this film, besides Clint Eastwood’s trappings as a very mediocre filmmaker, is that he just kind of skims over everything. Like a pebble skipping on a pond, he glides just above the surface, dropping down to hit on an important thing every so often, but never really diving into the meat of the story until it hits the end of its run, but by then it has lost too much momentum to really make a splash. You’re left with the sense that there’s more to tell, and probably in the hands of a more nuanced filmmaker would have heard a better story.

But to Bradley Cooper’s credit, and despite Eastwood’s restrictions, he’s able to pull a deep, resonant performance of a man plagued by the horrors of war. There was one scene where a fellow soldier is praising him as a hero, and doing so in front of Kyle’s (Cooper) son, and the little that Cooper does in that scene speaks volumes. Cooper’s performance really deserved a better film.

Predicted Wins: 0 wins. If it does win, it will be for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, but it’s up against Interstellar and Birdman.


Birdman OscarsNominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor: Michael Keaton, Best Supporting Actor: Edward Norton, Best Supporting Actress: Emma Stone, Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Best  Original Screenplay: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

There was a theme in my favourite films of the year, and in my Oscar predictions (which will go up in full on Saturday the 21st), and that’s me siding with riskier material. The ones don’t follow the well-worn path to Oscar, and still turn out great and leading the pack.

Iñárritu’s direction is fantastic as he leads us down into a self-referential world of what it is to be an actor, that knows full well what it’s doing, has complete control of what it is doing, but never slides too far into overt parody.

Keaton masterfully anchors the cast, but never runs away with it, allowing his supporting cast room to fully develop and be their own entity and find their own voices. He leans on them, without using them as a crutch to bolster his own performance, and that brings out the best in everyone involved.

That fucking jazz score, though. What the hell?

Predicted wins: 1 win for sure, and that’s Keaton. The film has stiff competition in every category, going head-to-head with Boyhood.


Boyhood OscarsNominated For: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor: Ethan Hawke, Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Best Director: Richard Linklater, Best Original Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Best Editing.

Linklater is filmmaker who can say a lot when he says next to nothing. There’s no profound statement to be made here. There’s no hook to grab you. It’s just the story of this kid growing up. It’s not dissimilar to his breakout film Dazed & Confused (my all time favourite film) in that respect. What he does is, at the same time, present a wide focus of a narrow scope. We’re seeing Mason grow up, and we’re given this 12 year window into his life, but we’re not seeing big dramatic contrived events. It’s just this kid, and his experiences on how he becomes who he is as an adult.

It’s a film that speaks to the things that shape who we are. Boyhood flows very smoothly, never doing a harsh cut to the next stage in Mason’s life. Linklater opts to not caption each year, rather let the events clue you in to what’s happening, which pulls you into the story.

Predicted wins: 5 of its 6 nominations. This will be the big winner this year. Only Ethan Hawke will keep it from being a clean sweep, but he’s up against J.K. Simmons in Whiplash. Hardly Hawke’s fault.

The Imitation Game

Main Quad_AW_[26611] Grand BudapestNominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch, Best Supporting Actress: Keira Knightly, Best Director: Morten Tyldum, Best Adapted Screenplay: Graham Moore, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat

There are two films that I would knock out of contention right away, and this is one of them. It’s a very well made film, don’t get me wrong, and I liked it. I really did. But it’s just so by the numbers. The stock bio-pic is just so well-worn at this point. Sure it’s a well made film with fantastic performances. But really that’s all it has going for it.

Cumberbatch and Knightly give fantastic performances as Alan Turing and Joan Clarke, respectively. Matthew Goode and Mark Strong are just as noteworthy in their supporting roles. They just can’t get me over on this one as a whole piece of cinema. There’s just a sense of laziness to it.

Predicted Wins: 1 for Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s not the best in any of its categories, but that’s its strongest category.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Imitation Game OscarsNominated For: Best Picture, Best Director: Wes Anderson, Best Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup & Hair Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat

Anderson’s a director who is teetering dangerously close to falling off the Tim Burton cliff into self-parody. What saves him is that he’s actually just really fucking good (unlike Burton). The beauty of this film certainly overpowers the omnipresent quirk factor. And the beauty of this film is more than just the aesthetic. Everything comes together to work so well together to make a really great film.

I have spoken out against this film, but that primarily has to do with that first statement. I worry how long Anderson can maintain. He’s already starting to wear on me. I dislike having to begrudgingly say that it’s a good film, which circles back around to fueling a bit of animosity towards it. But it is, in fact, a well oiled machine of a film where the amount of things right with it is only eclipsed by the amount of things not wrong with it. The cast is precise, to the point that I could imagine this as an expertly rehearsed stage play and not even know the difference.

Predicted wins: I don’t seeing it picking up more than 2 of its 9 nominations, and that would Production Design and Costume Design. It could be a spoiler for Cinematography.


SelmaNominated For: Best Picture, Best Original Song: “Glory” by John Legend and Common

It would be easy to dismiss this as a by-the-numbers bio-pic, which I addressed in my entry for The Imitation Game, but I’ll leave that for people who haven’t actually seen the film.

Gone from Selma are the sweeping parallels between what happens in the narrative timeframe and the flashbacks to the subjects youth. Gone is trying to dissect the person to view them in the grand scheme of things. What we are given is an examination of a pivotal moment in a pivotal era of American history, and the pivotal man behind the moment. A more intimate think piece on the civil rights movement. It doesn’t attempt to deify or demonize it’s subject. It just wants to examine that moment in time and let us, the audience, sit with it. To the film’s credit, despite the existence of true heroes and villains in the film, it refrains from condescending finger-wagging.

Should it have been nominated for more awards? Certainly. Can I go through each category it should have been nominated in and replace a less worthy nominee with Selma? Certainly. But here we are.

Predicted wins: 1 for Best Original Song. It may be a consolation win for getting screwed over, but its chances for Best Picture are weak.

The Theory of Everything

Theory of EverythingNominated For: Best Picture, Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne, Best Actress: Felicity Jones, Best Adapted Screenplay: Anthony McCarten, Best Original Score: Jóhann Jóhannsson

It speaks volumes when I could copy past a review, change a few names, and no one would notice.

That said: Everything I wrote for The Imitation Game, just change a few names.

To be fair, I would have made that joke had Theory of Everything come first and Imitation Game second. But the alphabet being what it is…

Predicted wins: 1 for Best Original Score. Redmayne is Keaton’s biggest competition, but Keaton’s slowly pulling ahead into a comfortable lead.


Whiplash OscarsNominated For:  Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Best Adapted Screenplay: Damien Chazelle, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing

Whiplash would be nothing without the powerful performances by Miles Teller and Simmons and wonderful script Chazelle provides them. Chazelle makes several sloppy directorial decisions that definitely hinder it from being an overall stronger contender, and is certainly the weaker of the 8 Best Picture nominees. But the examination of artistic passion and how that’s brought out in the two men and the stark contrast in their approaches really drive the film home. You can read my full review here.

Predicted wins: Definitely 1 for J.K. Simmons. He’s a lock. I wouldn’t be surprised if it picks up Sound Mixing, for that final scene.

Best Films of 2014

These are my favourite movies of the year. As per usual, it’s based on what I’ve seen. So if a movie you liked isn’t on the list, I either haven’t seen it yet, or I didn’t think it was as good as you did. Note on the “Honourable Mentions” areas, those aren’t ranked. It just goes “This one guy was the best actor, but these other two turned out performances of note, too.”


Honourable mentions: The One I Love, Nightcrawler, Locke, Begin Again, This is Where I Leave You

  1. Birdman – There’s so much right with this film, that it’s so difficult to find something wrong with it. Michael Keaton gives a powerfully personal performance that’s as manic as it is brilliant. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s careful crafting of the film, with the help of his cinematographer, create a frantic atmosphere, even during the more intimate scenes.
  2. Gone Girl – I’ve long been a fan of David Fincher. There’s a quiet tension he builds, layer by layer, throughout the film that is right on the brink of boiling over, then explodes into another layer that keeps you right there with it. It’s one of the few films that made me utter an audible “Holy shit” once the credits rolled. Affleck’s renaissance has been a slower burn than the McConaughssance, but has been just as, if not more, fascinating.
  3. Whiplash – Despite aesthetic flaws and Damien Chazelle’s rookie mistakes behind the lens, his script delivers an engrossing film about passion and drive. Simmons and Teller each play to both of those notions, and are perfect counter points for each other. Highlighting the extremes different personalities will go to for what they love.
  4. Boyhood – Richard Linklater’s beautiful examination of growing up could have easily been overshadowed by the gimmick of shooting it over the course of 12 years, but it ends up working in the film’s favour. Because we get these short snippets each year, we’re given a whole story and wide scope of Mason’s journey from childhood to adulthood, but without the over-sentimentality that plagues coming-of-age dramas.
  5. Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson has such a meticulous eye and ear for characters that he fits everyone together like an intricate game of Tetris. The ensemble is magnificently anchored by Joaquin Phoenix, who brings a sense of reservation to an oddball character, which helps build the world of a 1940s film noir set in 1970, carefully bridging the worlds of the old-school squares and the new age hippies.
  6. The Theory of Everything – I was admittedly unimpressed with the trailer. It just looked like another stock bio-pic, not really offering much. But the film pleasantly surprised me with the strong performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, and the script deftly maneuvering between Hawking’s professional development and personal relationships, and how his fight with ALS affected both. And much like Boyhood, it narrowly dodges being overly saccharine in its depiction of the man’s life.
  7. How to Train Your Dragon 2 – 2010 was a turning point in animated films. It marked Pixar’s last year as the gold standard Toy Story 3. It was Disney’s return to greatness with Tangled. And it was the year that other studios finally started clearing that bar set by Pixar in animation. And no animated film was better that year than How to Train Your Dragon. HTTYD2 continues that grand tradition of being exquisitely animated and fully utilizing the capabilities of the technology by creating a fully engrossing and beautifully drawn world. The icing on the cake is an emotional, well written story that doesn’t pander to the audience.
  8. Chef – Where Michael Keaton was able to bring a personal touch to his performance in Birdman, Jon Favreau does the same as writer/director/star of Chef. While on its own, it’s an incredibly fun film that brings Favreau back to his small-scale roots after going big-budget studio for the first to Iron Man flicks, there’s a real sense of him working out his frustrations of being under a studio’s thumb. We as an audience are left with a film that’s a treat to watch and enjoy.
  9. Snowpiercer – A true rainbow coalition of production. A joint Korean/Czech production based on a French graphic novel with a predominantly American and British cast. It’s a well choreographed and shot action film that cuts deep into the post-apocalyptic sci-fi standard of last men standing. The contemplations on life after the world ends are quiet and thoughtful, mixed with explosive action sequences that make it a thoroughly enjoyable film.
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy – It’s just a tight, well done film. It has a lot of fun with its premise and characters, and James Gunn goes to town. Embracing the weirdness was this film’s strength, and everyone was on board. That’s the only way it was going to work. And it did. They fold you into the world they’ve created and you’re with the characters for the ride.

Best Action Films (non-comic/superhero):

  1. Snowpiercer
  2. The Raid 2
  3. Edge of Tomorrow

Best Comic/Superhero:

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy
  2. Captain America: Winter Soldier
  3. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Best Comedy:

  1. Chef
  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
  3. St. Vincent

Best Sci-Fi:

  1. Interstellar
  2. Edge of Tomorrow
  3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Best Animated:

  1. How to Train Your Dragon 2
  2. The LEGO Movie

5 Worst Films of the Year (Absolute worst is #1)

  1. Trans4mers: Age of Extinction
  2. A Million Ways to Die in the West
  3. 300: Rise of an Empire
  4. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
  5. Lucy

Best Actor

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Honourable Mentions:

  1. Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything
  2. Tom Hardy in Locke

Best Actress:

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Honourable Mentions

  1. Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
  2. Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins

Best Supporting Actor:

JK Simmons in Whiplash

Honourable Mentions:

  1. Edward Norton in Birdman
  2. Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Best Supporting Actress:

Emma Stone in Birdman

Honourable Mentions:

  1. Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
  2. Naomi Watts in St. Vincent

Best Ensemble Cast:

Guardians of the Galaxy

Honourable Mentions:

  1. Snowpiercer
  2. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Director:

Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman

Honourable Mentions:

  1. David Fincher for Gone Girl
  2. Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Best Screenplay:

Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Honourable Mentions:

  1. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo for Birdman
  2. Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl

Best Cinematography:

Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman

Honourable Mentions:

  1. Robert D. Yeoman for The Grand Budapest Hotel
  2. Kyung-pyo Hong for Snowpiercer

Best Score:

Jóhann Jóhannsson for The Theory of Everything

Honourable Mentions:

  1. Hans Zimmer for Interstellar
  2. Trent Reznor for Gone Girl

Best Song:

“Yellow Flicker Beat” by Lorde and Joel Little for Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Honourable Mentions:

  1. “Glory” by John Legend and Common for Selma
  2. “Everything Is AWESOME!!!” by Tegan & Sara, The Lonely Island and Mark Mothersbaugh for The LEGO Movie

2014 Oscar Live Blog-o-Thon!

As The Empty Theatre Podcast comes to a close tonight with our live streaming commentary of the Oscar telecast, I re-launch the blog, which has been tragically neglected. One movie will get reviewed per day. Whether I’m seeing it for the first time or it’s an old favourite. That’ll push me to write more, and watch more movies. That will all start tomorrow, and I’ll review the 8 of 9 Best Picture nominees I’ve seen.

Ellen Degeneres hosts the 2014 Oscars.
Ellen Degeneres hosts the 2014 Oscars.

Tonight is the traditional Blog-o-thon! You can listen to our live stream commentary here (myself, my Empty Theatre co-host Cherrine and Special Guest Oscar Commentator Caitlin).

And I’ll have my running commentary here, possibly different jokes that I didn’t say over the air. And I’ll update you with winners and random goings on. Join me in less than an hour!

18:45- Still the Red Carpet… Bunch of dresses and tuxes. Love me some Cate Blanchett.

18:51– Jennifer Lawrence fell on the red carpet… getting it out of the way early. Damn she’s gorgeous.


19:41– That’s my first correct guess. Go Jordan Catallano!

20:01 – I’m now 2 for 3. I missed Costume Design (went with American Hustle), but I got Make-Up & Hair!

20:16 – 3 for 5! Best Animated Shot went to Mr. Hublot (I chose Get A Horse). Best Animated Feature went to, no surprise, Frozen.

20:21– And now Gravity wins its first award of the night with Best Visual Effects. I’m 4 for 6. I need 11 more correct guesses to beat my all time best of 14 for 24.

20:32 – I am now 6 for 8. Did good in the short categories, with Live Action Short going to Helium and Documentary Short going to Lady in Number 6.

20:38– I originally chose 20 Feet From Stardom, but once I found out what The Act of Killing was about, I changed it. I should have stuck with my gut instinct. I’m 6 for 9.

20:49 – And Best Foreign Language Film goes to Italy, The Great Beauty! I’m 6 for 10, as I went with Denmark’s The Hunt.

21:08 – Gravity takes home both Sound Mixing and Sound Editing. I’m at 8 for 12. I had a feeling it would take the tech awards. Good job!

21:15– Congratulations to Lupita Nyong’o! A much deserved win for Best Supporting Actress! 9 for 13.

21:27– And Gravity keeps on sweeping the tech awards with a win for Best Cinematography! 10 for 14.

21:32 – I stupidly went with NOT Gravity for best Film Editing. I chose 12 Years a Slave. Now 10 for 15. I’ve matched last year’s picks.

21:44 – Huzzah for The Great Gatsby for winning production design! Very beautiful and flashy design, great job. 11 for 16.

22:15 – Crap. Went with Philomena for Best Original Score instead of Gravity, but I got “Let it Go” from Frozen on Original Song. 12 for 18.

22:27 – Well, I got Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay! Good for Spike Jonze! Her totally deserved it. As did 12 Years a Slave. I’m 14 for 20, which matches my best ever. One more correct pick, and I set a new personal best.

22:35 – YES! I knew it! Any one other than Alfonso Caurón getting this award would have been a complete crime. 15 for 21! A new personal best!

22:51– And the hits keep on coming! I totally got Cate Blanchett for Best Actress, and she was fantastic in Blue Jasmine. Do see it if you haven’t.  But it was a misstep for Best Actor. I was sure DiCaprio was gonna get it. Good for McConaughey. I’m happy for him. But god damn what does DiCaprio have to do?! I’m at 16 for 23

22:57– FUCK YES! 12 Years A Slave! Best Picture! That’s 17 for 24.  A 71% success rate. And 12 Years A Slave totally deserved it. Good for all involved. Great damn film. Loved it. Great show.

The Wolverine

The WolverineThe Wolverine

3 stars

Starring Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima and Will Yun Lee

Directed by James Mangold

The most fascinating aspect of Logan/Wolverine is how alone in the world he is. At this point, he’s pushing 130 years old, he’s been put through the ringer, mentally and physically. And no X-Men film to date fully realized that part of his character until now. It’s a solid entry into the cinematic canon, and a bold risk that pays off by not even utilizing the other X-Men (save for Jean Grey, who appears only in his dreams)(shut up, that’s not a spoiler, it’s brought up in the trailer).

James Mangold’s work up until now hasn’t been impressive. His films aren’t really bad, but they never really stand out, and he’s a jack of all genres. But one thread that’s weaved through all his films is the character study. From drug addiction and psychosis in Girl, Interrupted to the bizarre psychological thriller Identity, the opposing forces in his remake of 3:10 to Yuma, and of course dealing with rock stardom in Walk the Line. However ultimately mediocre the films end up being, the characters never fail to draw you into their world for that briefest of time. And that’s what he achieves with one of the comic book world’s most tortured, storied and favoured characters. While the film overall is only slightly better than most, and definitely not the best adaptation of the year, its franchise or its publisher, it does achieve what most fail to do, and that’s examine the humanity of the super-human.

Hugh Jackman has, over the past 13 years, been able to fully explore the character in a way that allows him reach down into the heart, the core, of Logan. It helps that he’s grown as an actor as well, having been one of the high points of last year’s Les Miserables that earned him a well deserved Oscar nod. He carries the weight of over a century of hard living  so well that you’re rooting for the smallest of wins. It’s a testament to Jackman’s craft that he’s been able to bring the character so far over the past decade and a half, from the cold, stand-offish Wolverine wandering the halls beneath Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, to the weary, beaten Logan scrambling for something to hold on to.

The largely international cast (mostly Japanese, but Jackman’s an Aussie and there’s a Russian thrown in for good measure), bring an interesting flare to the film. Jackman’s been immersed in American cinema for some time now, but the two Japanese female leads were making their feature film debuts, while Svetlana Khodchenkova (guess where she’s from) is known for her Russian work, and the male Japanese leads have dabbled state side, but their popular in their home country. So seeing all these sensibilities and experiences come together gives it a very unique feeling for such a large budget, franchise tent-pole film. There are times when it feels like a smaller film than it really is.

But then the stock 3rd act shows up where our hero has to face a big bad and we’re reminded that it’s a comic book movie, and most of that good will that was built up over the preceding 90-ish minutes gets run over by exactly what we’ve come to expect. Thanks mostly to X-Men for kick-starting the decade-plus long comic book movie craze.

It’s a good movie, it really is, there’s a lot to like about it. But just when you think we’re being treated to something different, something more, something better… we’re handed exactly what we should have expected all along. And it’s just utterly disappointing.

A Fond Farewell to Burn Notice


Goodbye to a Good Show

Since 2007, I’ve always made time to sit down and watch Burn Notice. Wherever I was living, whatever the situation, Burn Notice was a must watch for me. It’s without a doubt one of my favourite shows on TV, but I’ll never call it one of the best shows on television.

It’s not the multi-layered character study that Mad Men is (the show that I do call the best show on television). It’s not the hard-hitting, complex morality tale that Breaking Bad is. It doesn’t have the glorious and expansive mythos of Game of Thrones or Doctor Who, the absurdity of Community or Psych. It is what USA excels at (besides NCIS marathons): procedural. The show follows a simple formula episode to episode, and does it very, very well.

When the show first started, my roommate commented “This is basically The A-Team: The Next Generation.” A team of highly skilled mercenary outcasts putting their skills to good use helping the wronged and the less fortunate of Miami. Yeah, the A-Team.

But what drew me in, and kept me around for these past 7 seasons was that it never lost sight of the overall narrative arc of the show, the one thread that tied everything together, and that was “Who burned Michael, and why?” And each season they upped the ante. Every time he got close to the answer, he got close to the truth, the stakes were raised, the danger was heightened, the conspiracy went deeper. To me, nothing ever felt like a cop-out, or as a too big suspension of disbelief.

And ultimately, it was just a big, fun show that never felt like an insult or guilty pleasure. No “I know this is bad, but I can’t stop watching.” They constructed a narrative that worked and kept me watching, and made it enjoyable to watch. It was pure entertainment. Escapism at it’s finest.

It certainly won’t go down as one of the best shows ever to grace the small screen. But it will always be one of my favourites. With the 7th and final season premiering tonight, I just want to thank Burn Notice for being a constant source of entertainment the past 7 years, and you’ll leave a hole that won’t soon be filled.

New Holidays Based on Movies

Now, I’m an atheist. I don’t get holidays. Sure there are plenty of secular holidays for me to observe throughout the year like Independence Day, New Years, Thanksgiving (there’s dispute on that, but I view it as secular). But I don’t have a Christmas or Easter, a Hanukkah or Yom Kippur, a Ramadan or even a Lycaea. So I thought, what could I, an atheist movie nerd, observe as a holiday?

I put together a tentative list. The rules were quite simple: 1) the day/date had to be significant in the film. 2) The film had to be significant to me.

May the 4th is NOT included, as it’s based on a play on words, not an actual date. As much as I would like to include Star Wars…. it just doesn’t fit. Also, the anti-Empire nature of May the 4th clashes with the pro-Empire nature of Rex Manning Day.

March 24th – Breakfast Club Day

The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club

March 24th becomes a day of reflection. You come to the realisation, that despite your differences with the people around you, you’re all fighting the same battles internally, and you actually grow closer because of the differences. It’s a day for the promotion of peace, both personal peace and world peace.

Traditional meals: A Captain Crunch & Pixie Stix sandwich for breakfast; a bag of chips, chocolate cookies, three sandwiches, milk, a banana and an apple for lunch; Sushi for dinner; Vodka whenever

Traditional celebrations: Dancing around a library to a killer 80s soundtrack; Hashing things out, emotionally; Venturing out to get marijuana.

Traditional songs: Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds; We Are Not Alone by Karla Devito

April 14th/15th – Askew


Askew is a 2 day affair of philosophical contemplations. You can discuss a wide range of topics, from the minutia of pop culture to expounding on your relationships with other people.

Traditional meals: Chocolate covered pretzels; Coke; Gatorade; lasagna; at least one meal must be eaten in a mall food court; Skip breakfast to play Sega.

Traditional celebrations: Skipping breakfast to play Sega; Crash a wake; Play hockey on a roof; go to the mall; watch a Dating Game rip-off; Going out on a schooner. Or a sailboat.

Traditional decorations: Magic Eye; poorly made signs written in shoe polish.

Traditional songs: Can’t Even Tell by Soul Asylum; Shooting Star by Golden Smog; Build Me Up Buttercup by The Goops; Susanne by Weezer

May 6th – Rex Manning Day

Rex Manning
Say no more, mon amour

It’s a day commemorating the heroes who boldly took a stance against the man and said “DAMN THE MAN! SAVE THE EMPIRE!” Remember those who sacrificed their watches, their life savings, their art to stand up to corporate music stores.

Traditional meal: A shoplifter deep-fried in a vat of hot oil; special brownies.

Traditional celebrations: Taking off to Atlantic City (or Vegas, depending on what side of the Mississippi you’re on) to put everything one roll of the dice; AC/DC party session; late night block parties.

Traditional Songs: Say No More, Mon Amour by Rex Manning; I Don’t Want To Live Today by Ape Hangers; Crazy Life by Toad the Wet Sprocket; Til I Hear It From You by Gin Blossoms; If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It by AC/DC

May 28th – Dazed & Confused Day

Dazed and Confused
Dazed and Confused

This holiday marks seasonal change. It’s a time of change, moving from one era of our lives into another. We celebrate our accomplishments, and look forward to new challenges.

Traditional meals: Smoked or liquid lunch; Fried bacon; Top-Notch burgers (or similar drive-in burgers)

Traditional celebrations: Taking in a baseball game; Hazing rituals; Whack-a-mailbox; Pool/billiards; Party at the Moon Tower; Aerosmith concert.

Traditional songs: Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith; Slow Ride by Foghat; Anything on this list

June 5th – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Ferris Bueller
Ferris Bueller

A day of jubilation, relaxation and celebrating all that life has to offer. Take a day for yourself and your friends and family. The motto of the day is “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Traditional Meals: Ballpark hotdogs; Snooty french meals

Traditional celebrations: A parade featuring a city-wide dance/sing-along; Baseball game; Going to the top of a skyscraper; driving a fancy, expensive car

Traditional songs: Twist & Shout by the Beatles; Danke Schoen by Wayne Newton; Oh Yeah by Yello

November 5th – 12th – Enchantment Under The Sea Week

Enchantment Under The Sea
Enchantment Under The Sea

A week-long event of true reflection of where we came from. As people. Both individually and collectively. A journey through our own personal histories and how everything that happens make us who we are today. And how thankful we are to be who and where we are, knowing that even the slightest changes could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe!

Traditional meals: Delicious diner food; Milk. Chocolate;

Traditional celebrations: Skateboarding through the town square; Zip-lining from the clock tower to the street below; A formal dance at the end of the week.

Traditional Songs: Power of Love by Huey Lewis & The News; Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry; Earth Angel by Marvin Berry & The Starlighters; Night Train by James Brown

December 24th/25th – Nakatomi

Die Hard
Die Hard

Beginning at sundown on the 24th, lasting through sunrise on the 25th, Nakatomi is a day of remembrance and reverence for those who would fight to keep us safe.

Traditional meals: Watered down champagne; Twinkies; Swiss cheese; Nestle Crunch Bar

Traditional celebrations: Crawling through an air-duct; Walking around barefoot; Bungee jumping off a building; driving around in a limo

Traditional songs: Christmas Hollis by Run DMC; Ode To Joy by Beethoven; Let It Snow

Traditional greeting: “A yippie-ki-yay motherfucker to you!”

So that’s it. The new holidays for all you movie nerds out there. This list isn’t comprehensive, there are plenty I missed and should be added. If you want to see a movie holiday added, let me know! (No Groundhog Day. That holiday already exists).

Mark your calendars!

Real Steel and Moneyball

Real Steel
Hugh Jackman, ATOM and Dakota Goyo in Real Steel

Real Steel

3.5 stars

Starring Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo and Kevin Durand

I don’t particularly care for the actual sport, but I am a sucker for boxing movies. Love them. So much drama. And I love robots. So I was kind of excited for Real Steel. And the movie delivered exactly what I expected.

A down on his luck ex-boxer turned robot-boxing promoter reunites with the son he left 10 years prior for one last shot at redemption. Both in the ring, and with his kid.

I’m just going to come right out and say it… unless there’s a brilliant sub-plot, or if the boxing angle is the sub-plot, a boxing movie is going to be pretty standard. The Fighter was amazing, not just because it was a well crafted piece of cinema, but the core of the film wasn’t the boxing, it was the relationships Mickey had with his brother, his mother and his girlfriend.

Real Steel was Rocky with robots. It follows a very similar narrative trajectory, and even ends the exact same way.  Boxing was the main thing, and the negligent father sub-plot was almost an afterthought. But as a sucker for boxing films, I fell for it. It hit me in all the right ways.

Much of that credit should go to Hugh Jackman (X-Men, The Prestige). Jackman continuously shows promise. He never fully realizes his potential as an actor, but he’s always right on the cusp. He’s able to show a bit more of what he can do in Real Steel, accessing some emotional points previously unseen. I’m waiting for him to pop as an actor, instead of as a star.

I was most impressed with director Shawn Levy’s (Night at the Museum, Date Night) transition from comedy to sci-fi. The film is put in the not too distant future (only 2020), so we, as the audience, can still recognize aspects of contemporary life, but acknowledge the future of tech and information. He really made it an accessible future.

It’s a fun, popcorn movie, but really doesn’t have much else going for it. Do see it for some light fair, but don’t look at it too hard



4.5 stars

Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Pratt

I always moan a bit when I hear of another “True Story, Inspirational Sports Film.” It’s not that they’re bad… they’re just all the same, and the filmmakers ratchet up the drama to make a compelling narrative. But I was more than satisfied with how Moneyball turned out.

Unable to compete financially with the likes of the New York Yankees, Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) decides to approach team building from a different angle: pure statistics. With the help of young economist Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), Beane pulls talent no one else wants, much to the dismay of Team Manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who refuses to play by this new plan.

What makes this film work is the script from Steve Zaillian (American Gangster) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network).  Zaillian reigns in Sorkin’s trademark cadence (see The West Wing and Sports Night) to create a slower paced, dialogue driven sports film. It’s all about the interactions between the characters. It’s a baseball film that contains little playing of the actual sport. But the audience is still engaged in the action and involved in the characters.

Much like Shawn Levy and Real Steel, Oscar Nominated director Bennett Miller (in 2006 for Capote) makes an interesting genre jump, but manages to leave his impression on it. He paces it exactly right so as not to completely lose the feel of a sports movie, but keep it as a solid drama.

The only detriment to the film was the acting. Not that it’s bad, it’s quite good, from everyone, including Hill (Superbad, Get Him To the Greek) who makes a genre shift of his own. He’s much more restrained than he’s exhibited in his previous work, and I like the way dramedy looks on him. But with such a great script and capable director, I was just expecting more from Pitt (Inglourious Basterds) and Hoffman (The Ides of March), who are usually dependable. They were good, I guess I was expecting great.

Great sports film that bucks the clichés and becomes one of my all time favourite baseball films. Definitely go see this one, I highly recommend it.

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 1 of 4

I closed out 2010 with a look back on the films that made up the year, but here are the films I’m looking forward to in the first quarter of 2011, January through March. Unfortunately, the movie calendar doesn’t start to get exciting till March.


The Green Hornet – I’m approaching this with cautious optimism. Sure it could end up being mostly forgettable, but Seth Rogan in a genre shift, the great Christoph Waltz back in villain mode and visionary director Michel Gondry, the stars may align on this one.


Unknown – I get a distinct Frantic meets Taken vibe off of this one, but both were tight thrillers and I’m a Liam Neeson fan, so we’ll have to see where this one goes. The inclusion of Diane Krueger is also enticing.


Rango – Gore Verbinski re-teams with his Pirates of the Caribbean crew and star to bring us this interesting animated feature.

The Adjustment Bureau – It’s a sci-fi thriller with a great cast in Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It could be a modest hit, but the trailer looks good.

Apollo 18 – A smallish sci-fi flick from Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego. It’s another “found footage” style film, but handled right, it could be the best of the sub-genre.

Poster for Apollo 18

Battle: Los Angeles – This looks like the film that 2010’s Skyline wanted to be, but didn’t because it was horrible every step of the way. Mature sci-fi has seen a resurgence over the past few years and I’m hoping this keeps the tradition alive.

Paul – The comedy giants from both sides of the pond join forces for this geek-tastic film. Simon Pegg & Nick Frost team up with Seth Rogan and director Greg Mottola (Superbad and Adventureland).

Sucker Punch – I get the feeling that I stand in the minority as far as Zack Snyder goes, but I’m a big fan of the guy. He’s one of the most visually exciting directors around, he  has tight plots, great characters. He’s just had the misfortune of adapting properties with built-in fan bases (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen) that didn’t like HIS vision. So I’m excited for his first original work.

Thoughts on the Plot & Cast for Gilligan’s Island: The Movie

Gilligan's Island

First of all, I’d like to discuss the general tone of the flick. I don’t think will (or should) go the slapstick parody route (think The Brady Bunch), rather play it straight. This is a post-Lost pop culture era we’re dealing with, and while Gilligan planted the castaway flag first, the landscape has changed. Lost will hold an indirect influence on the story. Sure, it won’t go the sci-fi mystery route, but in the great strides we’ve made in the past 45 years of TV and film, slapstick wouldn’t be the appropriate route to go. Turn up the smart, sly and dry, and you’ll have a damn good script, and assembling the right actors and filmmakers could make this a strong TV adaptation (which there are few of).

As for the story, when you really get down to the basics of it, the whole premise of the show is completely ridiculous, and makes no logical sense. But there are some fixes to make it just a bit more plausible.

To start off, Gilligan and Roy Hinkley (The Professor) are now brothers. They live in Hawaii. Roy is obviously a professor at the university, and let’s say it’s in marine biology. Their uncle, the Skipper,  runs a boat tour service, showing off the sights of the islands, and Gilligan works for him. Roy wants to show one of his benefactors (Thurston Howell) the work he’s doing with a unique research project, so he asks his Uncle to take them out to sea. Howell is wealthy business man and also sits on the board of directors of the University. Roy brings his girlfriend/research assistant Mary Ann. Howell brings his wife, Lovey, and niece, Ginger, who’s an actress, thinking it’s just going to be a quick trip, and a fun way to see the ocean. Then the storm happens, they get blown off course, they crash on an island, guidance and comm systems aren’t working, so they now have to figure out a way home.


A few names sprang to mind when coming up with the right guy to play Gilligan. In this era, he does have to be good-looking, but there needs to be a nerdy quality to him. Something earnest, sweet, naive, and very funny. Again, slap stick just won’t work anymore. Jason Segal was the first name, and he’s done well with I Love You Man, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and How I Met Your Mother, but there’s just something about him. He’s just a big guy. A big, oafish kinda guy, but still with all those aforementioned qualities. Yes he’d be good, but there’s one small screen actor who would be great- Chuck‘s Zachary Levi. Levi’s got an endearing quality about him, you can’t help but like the guy. He’s relatable, unsure of himself, slightly awkward, but still affable. I think Zach Levi be the perfect Gilligan.


When picking the right actor to play the Skipper, I wanted to take into account the tonal shift the story and spirit would have to take to appeal to modern audiences. The bumbling, pudgy, middle-age guy just wouldn’t cut it. I thought of a few guys who could do it, and for a while, the strongest candidate was Kevin Kline. But then I was watching Out of Sight and Michael Keaton caught my eye. I started thinking back on his career, the characters he’s played, the things he’s done, and I knew that Keaton is the perfect choice for the Skipper Jonas Grumby.

Thurston Howell III & Lovey Wentworth Howell

This was another role that I spent a lot of time thinking about. But most of that was how to cast it. Each role individually, or together as a couple? How old or young did I want to go? Of course they’d still be the elder of the castaways, but did I want to go late 40’s or pushing 70? What’s the age range? But what it eventually came down to is a chemistry between the two characters, and the ability to be funny as well. And when I took into account certain creative liberties they may (and I think should) take, there were only two people I wanted for the roles of the Howells, a great Hollywood couple in their own right, William H. Macy & Felicity Huffman. Their interaction in the video comes at the 3:45 mark.

Ginger Grant

For Ginger Grant, you need that classic bombshell look, but not a party girl socialite that dominate the headlines of today. The character was a legitimate actress in her time, and to play the character any other way, would be a disservice. Two actresses could and should do it, for all the right reasons. Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks or Quantum of Solace and Prince of Persia star Gemma Arterton. Now I of course am basing my casting choices around potential story alterations that I will go into after the casting choices, but as of right now, based on my choices… Gemma Arterton. Hendricks is just a tad too old. In the video, she’s the one with the short, black hair.

The Professor

This was perhaps the most difficult role to cast. He had to be a handsome actor, yet still believably academic. He had to be close in age to Gilligan, Ginger and Mary Anne, who are skewing younger, but not too close, I did want an air of maturity about him. I started out with an idea of David Duchovney, but he’s just too old at this point, I was basing that decision on him 10-15 years ago. But I had a starting point. And because of the story alterations I’ve come up with, I’m going with John Hamm. He’s only 6 years older than Levi, so they could conceivably play brothers.

Mary Ann

For Mary Ann, I needed an actress with the perfect amount of “girl next door” appeal, and to be about the same age as John Hamm. There was one name, and one name only that sprang to mind for this one: Elizabeth Banks.

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