Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Wrestler - Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky is far and away one of the greatest directors of the young American wave. In 1998 he took a guerrilla crew through New York City and took the Independent film world by storm with his directorial debut, Pi, a Sci-fi thriller about...math. His follow up was nothing short of a genuine masterpiece. Requiem for a Dream showed a skill for the technical side of film making that is truly first class, and he had the vision of a born story teller. Well, Aronofsky is back ten years after his debut with his fourth feature, The Wrestler, this is the kind of film that comes along only a couple of times a year.

Although it is guised as a wrestling film, it is only such as much as Scorsese's Raging Bull or Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby were boxing films. There is plenty of in the ring action going on here, to be sure, but it is not Rocky VII; because, unlike the Rocky franchise (which I mean starting with Rocky II) the heart of this film is not found in the ring, but outside. Wrestling is what Randy "The Ram" Robinson does, and in many ways, it is who he is; it does not, however, define his entirety.

Randy has an estranged daughter, beautifully portrayed by the angelic Evan Rachel Woods, and a stripper would-be girlfriend played masterfully by Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei. The drama of the film revolves around Randy's incapability of being an everyday, normal human being. Coupled with an ailment that may not allow him to wrestle forever.

The Wrestler may very well be the best film of 2008, and Mickey Rourke's performance is one of the best of the decade. It is nothing short of a force of nature. He may not win an Oscar for the role, though he should; but, he will undoubtedly be nominated for it. And, I hope that he wins.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Some of the best of 2008

Today, I went with a friend of mine for a good old fashioned home made double feature. We went down expecting to see some good movies and have a good time, when we left the second movie we both realized that we had seen two of the best movies that this year had to offer.

The first film was David Fincher's Coming (and Going)-of-Age Tale, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the film is beautifully woven together by Fincher, who is quickly becoming a Grade-A director. On top of that the cast is pitch perfect from Brad Pitt to Cate Blanchett to the find of the year, Taraji P. Henson. There is only one flaw in the film, but if you see the film you will recognize it yourself. I didn't find it to be a true detractor, just a slight distraction.

The second film, Frost/Nixon, tells the story of the David Frost interviews with Richard Nixon. The film plays slightly more like boxing film than a political thriller, but it works. Ron Howard's direction is slight and down played perfectly for the David versus Goliath story he was weaving. And, speaking of Goliath, Frank Langella's powerhouse performance as the 37th President of the United States was nothing short of the giant's stature.

These two films are two of the best films released this year, and I had a ball watching both of them.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Screen Actors Guild Nominations

Best Leading Actor
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Best Leading Actress
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - The Changeling
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downy, Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Dev Patel - Slumdog Millionaire

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Kate Winslet - The Reader

Best Cast in a Motion Picture
Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Top 10 Favorite English Speaking Actors

*no order*

1. Marlon Brando
2. James 'Jimmy' Stewart
3. Robert de Niro
4. Jack Nicholson
5. Cary Grant
6. Phillip Seymour Hoffman
7. Daniel Day-Lewis
8. Tom Hanks
9. Al Pacino
10. Paul Newman

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The National Board of Review has spoken and the first lock for Best Picture is...

Best Picture
Slumdog Millionaire

Top 10 Films(Alphabetical)
Burn After Reading
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Gran Torino
The Wrestler

Best Actor
Clint Eastwood - Gran Torino

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin - Milk

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Christina Barcelona

Best Ensemble Cast

Best Director
David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Adapted Screenplay
Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Original Screenplay
Gran Torino

Best Animated Feature

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Godspell by David Greene (1973)

What an endearing little musical this is. More simple than most Jesus movies and more sound than Jesus Christ Superstar. Godspell takes the Biblical book of Matthew and puts it in the context of 1970's New York. Somewhere between a normal Jesus movie, Hippies and The Lost Boys (of Peter Pan fame, not the vampires of the 1980's Corey's) mixed in with some of the best movie musical music I've heard in a long time.

For fans of movie musicals this is right near the top of the list. It is about the life of Jesus, but it treats his teachings as teachings not as commands and merely suggests that maybe this is a better way to go. For fans of theological and Jesus movies, its near the top of this list as well. It is very articulate in its discussion of Jesus and a lot of the dialogue comes straight from The Gospel of Matthew.

Well worth the watch, and if you can't find it in the local video store it is available in parts on YouTube.