Sunday, January 25, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: A Must-See!

I am so glad this movie came to Abilene. I don't know much about the history of how this movie garnered international attention, but God bless Fox Searchlight for putting it in widespread release! I wouldn't be surprised at all if it won the Oscar for Best Picture. The movie is actually nominated for 10 Academy Awards.

Here's a quick plot summary. A young man, a "slumdog," winds up on India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and answers his way to a level no one has ever reached. Because of his poverty status and complete lack of education, he's arrested under suspicion of cheating. But Jamal Malik proves that life's lessons are the greatest of all and that everything is possible when fate is on your side.

The story was at the same time hard to watch and hard to look away from. It delves into the level of poverty that makes us Americans squirm. Jamal was happier living in a landfill than I ever remember being at that age. The movie highlights the best and the worst of human character and shows just how far you can go in life when you choose justice over revenge.

The colors, music, editing, and especially the story line were totally over the top, but the story still felt very real. I'm guessing that's true Bollywood fashion, even though I've never really seen a Bollywood movie.

While I would love to recommend this movie to everyone, it is rated "R" for violence, adult themes and children in peril. I definitely didn't leave feeling as if I had watched a rated "R" movie, though.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

And the Nominees Are...

The nominations are in for the 81st Annual Academy Awards!

"The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" leads the way with 13 nominations, including Best Picture.

Hugh Jackman will host the Academy Awards presentation on February 22nd. ABC will televise the awards live from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Here is a complete list of nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Awards:
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

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

Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet - The Reader

Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey, Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant - Milk
Stephen Daldry - The Reader
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire

The Baader Meinhof Complex - Germany
The Class - France
Departures - Japan
Revanche - Austria
Waltz with Bashir - Israel

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire

Down to Earth -- WALL-E
Jai Ho -- Slumdog Millionaire
O Saya -- Slumdog Millionaire

Kung Fu Panda

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Frozen River
In Bruges

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Encounters at the End of the World
The Garden
Man on Wire
Trouble the Water

The Conscience of Nhem En
The Final Inch
Smile Pinki
The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306

La Maison en Petits Cubes
Lavatory - Lovestory
This Way Up

Auf der Strecke (On the Line)
Manon on the Asphalt
New Boy
The Pig
Spielzeugland (Toyland)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire


The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rourke, Winslet, Slumdog Shine at Globes

Slumdog Millionaire, Kate Winslet, John Adams, and 30 Rock walked away as the big winners of the night. However, the biggest winner had to be an actor who just two years ago could land a job.

Tonight, we witnessed the resurrection of Mickey Rourke’s career. He won Best Actor in a drama for his role in The Wrestler. The crowd roared as an emotional Rourke walked onto the stage an accepted the award. He thanked just about everyone…including his dogs past and present.
Slumdog Millionaire won for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Score. The film, shot and set in India, follows a young man from the slums of Mumbai who appears on a game show and exceeds people's expectations, raising the suspicions of the game show host and law enforcement.

Kate Winslet did what few – if anyone – have done in the past. Winslet won awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. She seemed overcome with emotion following both victories. Winslet happened to thank her makeup and hair team before thanking her husband or longtime friend Leonardo DiCaprio.

30 Rock and John Adams nearly swept all the awards for TV shows. 30 Rock won for Best Comedy, Best Actor and Best Actress. Tracy Morgan may have made the funniest speech of the night giving “shout outs” to just about everyone and anyone you could imagine. Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney each took home awards for their performances in John Adams. Adams was a miniseries produced by Tom Hanks.
No surprise, Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor for playing the joker in Dark Knight. It was nice to see Tom Cruise lead the standing ovation for Ledger. Whether you think Ledger deserved it or not, it definitely a stirring moment. Director Christopher Nolan accepted the award for Ledger.
What could be the most talked about incident of the night: Rene Zellweger’s see-through dress. This picture doesn’t quite do it justice. You could pretty much see it all. After cameras took a wider shot, they went back in closely to my surprise. Was I the only person who saw this?
Thanks to everyone who participated in tonight’s live blog on It was our first try at it. By the end of the night, we had nearly 50 comments from readers. I hope you had a good time. If you didn’t get to check it out, I’m sure we’ll do it again soon.

Eastwood Tops Box Office

Movie goers flocked to see the Clint Eastwood drama "Gran Torino" this weekend, giving the 78-year-old actor and director his biggest opening weekend ever. The movie brought in $29 million dollars to take the top spot at the box office according to Warner Brothers Pictures. The best weekend previously for Eastwood was 2000's "Space Cowboys," which earned $18 million in its first few days. It was the first weekend "Gran Torino" was in wide release, as it had been shown in fewer than 100 theatres in the previous month.

It was followed by the debut of the comedy "Bride Wars" starring Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson with $21.5 million and the supernatural thriller "The Unborn" ar $21.1 million.

In fourth was the movie which spent the past two weeks atop the charts, "Marley & Me," at $11.4 million. It was followed by "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" with $9.5 million dollars in receipts.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Benjamin Button: NOLA on My Mind

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was a great movie. From the concept to the dialogue to the photography to the visual effects, the film didn't disappoint in any way.

I often watch movies thinking, "Why did they do that? This should have been in that order. That character looks too much like this one and it's confusing." But I lost myself in Benjamin Button's story. It made no sense, but I didn't feel it had to. Brad Pitt did a fantastic job playing a character that ranged from an 80-year-old child to a 17-year-old aging man.

One place where the movie lacked was a catalyst that led to Benjamin's strange birth.

The story begins during World War I with a clock maker who intentionally constructs a clock that ticks backwards. He's figuratively turning back time, wishing the men killed in the war had never left home. But there was no instigating moment that explains why Benjamin ages in reverse. Maybe he was born at the moment the clock started ticking? No. Maybe he was the son of the clock maker? No. If you're going to make me buy the story of an elderly baby, give me a reason to fall for it.

I guess I did sit there criticizing a little bit. But I'm done.

The hidden message of the movie is a surprising one. Yes, the world would be a better place if people maintained the innocence of a child into their adulthood. Yes, growing up would be easier "if only we knew then what we know now."

But the real message is all about New Orleans. F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story, which the movie is based on, takes place in Baltimore. Okay, movie makers are offered great tax breaks to film in Louisiana, but you can make Shreveport look like Baltimore in a second. No, New Orleans is more than a setting. She's a character in the movie. Her sights, her sounds, her culture... In Benjamin Button's New Orleans, all are equal. Everyone is content with life the way it is.

The story is bracketed by Cate Blanchett's aging character dying in a New Orleans hospital as Hurricane Katrina approaches. The final scene is that famous backwards clock sitting in a storage room as the flood begins to seep in. The clock continues to tick backwards.

"If only we knew then what we know now..."

Maybe New Orleans will one day get back to the way it was. Maybe the world can reverse itself to a time when people were more connected. Maybe the world can fast-forward itself to a time when we'll judge each other less and open ourselves up to people who are the exact opposite of ourselves.

In Benjamin Button's world, nothing is impossible.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

'Valkyrie' Entertaining, Decent

You've undoubtedly seen movies highlighting the atrocities of the German Nazis. Now, we have a movie shining the spotlight on the Germans who tried to stop one of history's most feared factions.

Tom Cruise tackles the role of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a countryman who realizes the only way to restore Germany's reputation in the world is to assassinate the Fuhrer. Stauffenburg emerges from a role on the battle lines in North Africa (where he's seriously injured) to a position labeled as "the hope of Germany" by one character.

The movie doesn't focus on why the Nazis were bad for Germany; the film presumes you know that. Instead, it's all about a group of grave German's devising the battle plan to win their country back. Though a drama, the movie transforms into a thriller. Director Bryan Singer manages to keep moviegoers on the edge of their seats wondering what might happen next...when we all know what the outcome will be.

The rough patch in this movie for me was the emotional impact. Anyone who knows a little history knows someone dies when the Titanic sinks, not everyone's going to walk away from Pearl Harbor, and it won't end well for the Hitler conspirators. While I prefer the emotional impact of the other films, we instead received a rerun of the Last Samurai. In fact, you could probably confuse the two pictures at times if you listened instead of watching them.

That being said, you'll walk away with a good feeling....knowing that not everyone in Germany drank Hitler's Kool-Aid. And, there were at least 5 men were brave enough to do something about it.