Friday, February 27, 2009

A to B Back and Forth Review: Slumdog Millionaire, Part III

A few days ago, Brad and I began our conversation about Slumdog Millionaire. Then we continued it. Now it's time for the wrap-up in the aftermath of the movie's Oscar victories.

BRAD
Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 11:35 AM


My closing thoughts here Reed-aroo!

The results have been tallied and Oscar has chosen. Slumdog taking the top prize at this point is not exactly surprising, is it?. Actually, I think if it had not won that would have been a bigger shock. Like last years World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies, Slumdog got hot down the stretch and took that momentum all the way to the prize.

I think Slumdog will certainly have longer legs than recent best picture winners Crash and Million Dollar Baby. These days I think the greatest way to measure a films lasting impact is longevity. Will we sit on your sofa in Buenos Aires and watch Slumdog via your Slingbox on TBS or F/X two or three years from now? My guess is yes. I think the exotic appeal of the films locations and quixotic lead will not only keep this film in front of our eyes, but will also likely spawn a host of imitators that will open India’s doors to the masses.

Your Springer Final Thoughts?

Tot ziens,
Kozy

ANDREW
Wed, Feb 25, 2009 at 11:07 AM


Kozy, now I know you're just trying to provoke me. Why else would you mention Crash to me? Seriously, that's like going to Applebee's for dinner and saying, "Well, I enjoyed this meal a lot better than that BMT from Subway last night." Let's just move ahead. The Phillies won the World Series? I had no idea. Baseball isn't exactly on Sportscenter here. I seriously question the legs of Slumdog. I definitely enjoyed the movie, but I don't have an urge to see it again. Maybe I'll buy the soundtrack, though.

All in all, Slumdog Millionaire is a fine film in a weak year that benefited by Oscar leaving eschewing the two best films from nomination. Oscar's always reliable that way. I would recommend this film to probably everyone, but would be cautious of contributing to the overhype that you mentioned earlier. Will India bring us more films along these lines? I sure hope so. There's a truly great film just waiting to be made, lurking beneath the pizazz of this one. Someone out there has the talent and artistry to pull it off. I can already see the posters, "It's like Slumdog Millionaire, but with a good story!" I can't wait.

Un abrazo,
A

One Word Review: Signs




66: Convenient

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A to B Back and Forth Review: Slumdog Millionaire, Part II

Yesterday, Kozy and I started with our analysis of Slumdog Millionaire, posting Part I of our back and forth conversation. Here's Part II.

BRAD
Sun, Feb 22, 2009 at 8:43 AM


Reed-O,

Before presenting my final answer on the game show question, let me briefly backtrack to the soundtrack issue. I concur with you that the soundtrack moved the movie and in many ways was the most innovative and interesting part of the film. The chase scene during the Christian raid on the boys village is my favorite sequence in the movie. Not since Run Lola Run have I seen music so successfully intertwined with the pace and balance of the storytelling. Rather, my point was that I will not be running out to Media Markt to buy the CD.

I also agree it is important to discuss the game show technique used to tell the story. At first glance, it appears somewhat interesting, non-obtrusive and novel, especially when compared to Slumdog Millionaire's Oscar competition. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button chose (or was it pre-destiny?) the worn-out, pathetic device of granddaughter reading grandmother's diary to her on her deathbed, I felt like I was watching Fred Savage and Columbo in The Princess Bride.
Anyways, the quiz show technique is of course not new, or novel. During Slumdog Millionaire I was actually thinking more of Running Man (as Schwarzenegger Sunday author, a film you are surely intimately familiar with) and Robert Redford's Quiz Show. But more distractingly, with the Rupee denominations getting higher and higher, the images dancing through my head were of Howard Stern and his radio bit Who Wants to Be a Turkish Millionaire, where strippers and other non-dilettantes provide stupid answers to stupid questions. Yes, having Stern and strippers running through my brain was a bit distracting.

Other options? Of course it is rare to find Memento, Reservoir Dogs or even Back to the Future, movies that break the mold of traditional storytelling and present linear alternatives that are vastly better than what has been done before. Imploring a less traditional vehicle would have eliminated the smarmy one-dimensional game show host character and lessened the negative pre-destiny issue you refer to in your email, which I also found distracting. I will imagine that for the hopeless romantics out there, this notion of fate providing the ideal questions to this student of the streets is overly satisfying. The equivalent of me wildly cheering Rocky Balboa as he chops down the Russian in Rocky IV. But for a movie like Slumdog Millionaire, that is at its heart supposedly telling a serious story of abject poverty, it is hokey.

Of course I am interested in how you will relate Slumdog to Citizen Kane, The Usual Suspects and Trainspotting. Tonight is the 2009 Oscars. Unfortunately the time zone's are unkind to me and I will not be watching live. Will fate be with Boyle and crew tonight? We'll soon find out ...

Cheers,
Kozy

ANDREW
Sun, Feb 22, 2009 at 9:22 PM

Ah, Kozy,

I was actually thinking that I would totally buy this soundtrack. Maybe I can blast these tunes for you sometime and forcibly have them win you over. Regarding the gameshow, the whole thing played out in a very gimmicky way. I referenced Citizen Kane because the big theme of that film is, "How do you tell the story of a man's life?" For a 19-year old chaiwalah, it's remarkable that he has had enough trials and tribulations that his existence could warrant a feature-length narrative. The gimmick in this case has a paint-by numbers feel. Citizen Kane went through the character's life in sequence by talking to the people he encountered. The procedure used here also mirrors The Usual Suspects, with the police officer interrogating the main character as his responses tell the story. Maybe it's every person's dream that they could be on a gameshow and have every question be luckily tailored to their life. But that, again, makes for pretty hokey theater.

However, I did enjoy the ego battle between Jamal and the host of the show. As Jamal's confidence grew, he began to stick it back in the smug host's face, and was clever enough to defy him when he needed to. At that crucial moment of defiance, I couldn't help but think that everyone he's ever encountered in his life has screwed him over. He sensed that it was happening again and parlayed his instincts into millions more. I thought the same thing about Howard Stern at least five or six times. Incidentally, his grand prize nets out to $411,600 which doesn't sound like all that much, but in India, he'd be rollin' in doughnuts. As far as The Running Man goes, I certainly see how Richard Dawson's presence would improve this, or any movie. But I wasn't expecting Buzzsaw to ride by on his motorcycle swinging his chainsaw overhead at any point.
I mention Trainspotting just because you have to wonder if Danny Boyle has a strange fetish after sending two protagonists, uh, down the tubes. Well, that and the banging tunes while people are chased by police. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

As you mentioned at the oustet, the hype has been tremendous. It certainly seems fated that Slumdog will take home the big prize tonight. And I think it's right up the Academy's alley. They have a long track record of picking inaccurately, particularly on Best Picture (I'm looking at you, Dances With Wolves!). It's also clear that they didn't do a good job picking nominees this year. Other films such as The Dark Knight would have given Slumdog Millionaire a good run for its money. But if it wins, hey, what're you gonna do? It is written. God is great.

Let's see how the awards play out and then we can serve up our final thoughts.

Hasta mañana,
Reed

We'll be back with part III tomorrow

Thursday Youtube

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A to B Back and Forth Review: Slumdog Millionaire, Part I

I'm teaming up with longtime friend, Kozy of April 31st to review films. We're calling the segment "A to B" because I'm Andrew and he's Brad. And he lives in Amsterdam, and I live in Buenos Aires. We generally won't get the new releases when the States do, but hopefully we can either help you reminisce or head out to the video store. Our first review - Slumdog Millionaire.

BRAD
Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 12:57 PM


Hey Reed,

Last Thursday I caught Slumdog Millionaire at my local international movie theater chain – Pathe @ de Munt. As moviegoing experiences go, catching a flick here in central Amsterdam is fine, but it has its drawbacks. For starters there are a lot of Dutch people there – just kidding!! Really though, the things worth mentioning are 1) all subtitles are in Dutch, meaning that if an actor is not speaking in English I have no idea what they are saying and 2) going to the movies is quite inexpensive, so people tend to make it a social occasion, carrying on conversations and drinking heavily.

But before I can even begin discussing Slumdog Millionaire, I have to call a time-out to talk about one of the previews. Reed, I am not sure if you have seen the Marley & Me trailer yet, but if you haven't, it's a must, for one simple reason – Kathleen Turner Overdrive. For all of you guys out there with hot wives or girlfriends, let these words be your warning – very very bad things can happen to once beautiful women. About four months ago I caught Body Heat (1981) on TV. While not a great film, it certainly plays to its advantages, which are mostly a very very hot, scantily clad and sometimes nude Turner. She was unquestionably a babe back then. Even ratcheting the clock forward 20 years, while no longer a prize, she still looks acceptable in 1999's The Virgin Suicides. Fast-forward 10 more years and now we have a Kathleen Turner that looks like she is gunning for Anne Ramsey's role as Mama Fratelli in an upcoming Goonies sequel. Yes – it is that bad! "Come to mama Slothy, come on hmm?"
You gotta admit, Brad makes a compelling argument

Needless to say that got me in a good mood to watch Slumdog Millionaire. At this point this is unquestionably a very hyped movie. Earlier in the week I watched Danny Boyle and crew clean-up at the BAFTA awards, so I knew that I would have to temper my expectations. Hype often leads to disappointment and this was no exception. Walking home after the movie I knew that I liked the movie, but there was something about it that just did not resonate. Still, a week later, the only thing that I can really point to is that I could not relate to this story whatsoever; and I believe that that has nothing to do with geography or socio-economics. Rather, I think it has to do with age and the story.

I found the story to be unexceptional in every way - a classic tale of friendship, love, heartbreak and making good. Of course a great story is not needed to make a great movie. Especially when the real story is the country of India and the city of Bangalore. Boyle super-charges the movie with amazing action sequences around the city slums, set to pounding dance music. Unfortunately, I found some of the cinematography to be distracting, and the music overwhelming. Roger Ebert compares this movie's poverty to City of God, a movie I loved. Unfortunately, I just don't see the connection. I agree that City of God is as much about the city as it is about the characters – and that is what set it apart. But with Slumdog Millionaire, I got lost in the style and for me that style (and music) overshadowed the story the city was trying to tell me.

The issue of age is usually not a problem for me. I love high-school based movies, university based movies, etc ... but you know all of this Reed – simply put, I am a man who has seen Can't Hardly Wait no less than 10 times. But with this movie, while the story spans 15 years of the characters' lives, I rarely found myself identifying with them at any of the ages. I think they were simply to young for me to relate to at a peer level, and I am not old enough yet to identify with them from a parental viewpoint.

I'll halt my opening salvo there. What do think about all this?
Cheers,
Brad

ANDREW
Sat, Feb 21, 2009 at 12:17 AM


Kozy!

Interesting that you bring up Body Heat while: (a) It was 40 degrees here in Buenos Aires yesterday. For those that don't speak metric, that means 104. I sweated through my shirt and left salt stains all over it. I was a wet, stinky mess. It felt like India. (b) We're about to see another acting legend who was quite the hottie in that film, but has since seen it all fall apart, but I'll leave those comparisons for the next review. Yes, Kathleen Turner was almost impossibly sexy in Body Heat, but I'd say she hit the wall like no other when she played Chandler's dad in an episode of friends in 2001, and pulled it off a little too well. Unfortunately, "Marley y Yo" has come and gone. I'll have to wait to skip that one on video.

I was thinking about you when I saw the subtitles. I was able to follow the Spanish, but kept failing to notice when they shifted away from English, so I often missed a few lines. But it was effective for the story and added to the verisimilitude. The real power behind Slumdog Millionaire has nothing to do with the love story, which I will politely call hokey. Of course you can't identify with these kids. They have grown up in abject poverty. You have nothing in common with them. It certainly appears that they really filmed this story in the slums, and that gave the movie power and energy that we never get to see, especially in a hokey love story. We don't have poverty quite like that here in Argentina, but there is a level between India and, say, Chicago, that does exist. There are people who live in clusters of sheds made from sheet metal. Most of them work a job picking through garbage. They get their kids started in the family business early, and you know those kids never have a chance. They don't get an education, and will end up in the same place. Becoming a chaiwalah would be a great success for them, even if we don't have chaiwalahs here. And to me, that was where Slumdog Millionaire was affecting. Because they live here on the same planet we do, and Boyle did a good job of showing that existence.
I must disagree with you on the soundtrack. I thought it was amazing. It carried the movie, providing a consistent, energetic tone that pulled me into the story. Honestly, I think the music was my favorite aspect of the film. But in general, I came away with a similar feeling that you did. At its core, what is this movie? To sum up the story, it sounds brilliant. Two brothers who are born into hopelessness, and see nothing but poverty and tragedy, yet still manage to make it big. But the characters are painted with such broad strokes, it's hard to connect to either of them, as you say. And when fate is running the show, as we are expected to believe, it removes free will from the characters. All that said, the younger they were, the more engaged in the movie I was. Being chased through the slums by police with a boomin' system banging out beats will do that to you. The big problem with this is that as the movie went along, I became less engaged.

I couldn't help but think of Boyle's 2004 film, Millions, and how it similarly followed two kids who got into all kinds of mischief. But he clearly learned from the mistakes of that movie, avoiding making this one a kids' film. These children had a lot more life in them, and I can see why people are so enamored with the story.

But we haven't talked about the gameshow setting, and the technique they used to tell the story. I'll throw out these titles that I felt the movie borrowed from in various regards:
Citizen Kane
The Usual Suspects
City of God (yes, I see the connection)
Trainspotting

We'll be back with Part II tomorrow.

One Word Review: Prince of the City



71: Straight

Monday, February 23, 2009

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

One Word Review: Closer




54: Stunted

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

5-4-T: R.I.P. Louie Bellson

I can't remember the first celebrity I ever met. It may have been the punter for the USFL's Chicago Blitz. I can't quite recall. But when I was 14, my high school jazz program put together a show with some famous musicians, just like they do every year. Visiting the school were trumpeter Clark Terry and drummer Louie Bellson. I played the French Horn, not exactly the most prolific instrument for jazz, but came to the workshops to see what all the fuss was about. I can't remember anything he said, but was immediately impressed by just how freaking cool Bellson was. He was already an old man, but captivated every young mind in attendance. This was a real musician, a craftsman who didn't even need sticks to wow us on the drum kit. He met with each young musician in the room, and couldn't have been any nicer. Needless to say, learning that he passed away Saturday at the age of 84 was sad news to hear. Bellson was still pounding the skins right up until his death. So for today's Five For Tuesday, we turn control over to Louie and his frenetic hands. And if your neighbors ask you to turn down the racket, tell 'em to cool out.*

1) 1950


2) 1957


3) 1960-ish?


4) 1980


5) 1988 *If you can only watch one of these, this is the one:

*special thanks to whoever richcapo is since he put most of 'em on Youtube.

6) UPDATE - 'cause this one turned up later and is also worth sharing:


Monday, February 16, 2009

One Word Review: Whale Rider



88: Zealous

Friday, February 13, 2009

Unyielding Commissioning Has a Case of the Fridays

Kreepy Kissing - Scene Stealers delivers the Top Ten weirdo/unlikely couples in the movies. Speaking of creepy, the dudes from Spinal Tap are looking ooooold. And looking for sponsorship. I recommend Isotoner Gloves.

I'd like to thank Police Academy - Did these notable actors ever win an Oscar? A quiz from Mental Floss. I notched 13/15, but only becuase I got stupid halfway through.

I can see the music! - Roger Ebert pushes the bounds of existential blogging. Uhhh, I don't even really get this one. Can anyone help?

Don't bring me down, Bruce - Also from Scene Stealers, in case you are in need of a last-minute gift, buy yourself some extra time by sending a Saint Balentines e-card to your sweetie right away. If you don't get it, then it isn't funny. But it's funny. See?

One Word Review: Batman Begins



64: Videogamey

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday Youtbe: Creepy American History Edition

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, a man I once dubbed "the most badass of American presidents." I stand by that proclamation. To mark this historic date, we bring you two creepy youtube videos.

Creepy Video #1 - a computer-generated voice reads the Gettysburg Address as a portrait of Lincoln mouths the words:


Creepy Video #2 - The Whitest Kids You Know reenact Lincoln's fateful night at the Ford Theater:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

5-4-T: Elevator Action

I've been riding in elevators a lot lately. It got me thinking about the most memorable elevator scenes in movies. There are many. Some that didn't make the cut today but could have: Pulp Fiction, Die Hard, Gremlins 2, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Hudsucker Proxy, Terminator 2, Top Gun, What About Bob, The Blues Brothers, The Departed, Rain Man, Liar Liar, Metropolis, The Doors, and Mission: Impossible solely because they killed off Emilio Esteves in the first ten minutes of the movie, and we never heard from him again. Are we sure they didn't actually kill Emilio???


5) Who Framed Roger Rabbit
When I was a kid, my friends and I tried to reenact this scene all the time. It was impossible. Droopy is more lithe than he lets on...


4) Total Recall
In our Schwarzenegger Sunday Roundup, we deemed this the most severely brutal killing of a rough and tumble henchman in Arnold's esteemed career of delivering rough and tumble henchmen severely brutal deaths they so richly deserve. (photos from Moviedeaths.com)


















3) Borat
Unfortunately, the correct picture was unavailable. Borat actually features two memorable elevator scenes, but the second one pretty much makes us forget all about the first. For the unitiated, Borat chases his girthy partner Azamat into a public elevator while both are completely nude. He chases him with a rubber fist. Azamat's breasts are huuuuge.


















2) The Matrix
The end of this scene left an indelible impression. Someone used Bowie here. I dug it.


1) The Silence of the Lambs
There's no picture anywhere on the net. There's no Youtube. And maybe that's just as well. For those who've seen the film, you remember it all too clearly. One of the most tense scenes ever put to celluloid, and it made me a little creeped out every time I boarded an elevator for the next two years.

Monday, February 9, 2009

One Word Review: Junebug




69: Drawled

Friday, February 6, 2009

One Word Review: The Aristocrats



57: Schlocky

Friday Youtube

Friday Youtube? What the hell? We never do that! Well, this was too good not to share. Not safe for work, y'all:

In The Know: Are Reality Shows Setting Unrealistic Standards For Skanks?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Unyielding Comissioning Is Awestruck

Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Something - Roger Ebert drops the best blog posting I've ever read. I have been repeatedly linking to the majority of his posts, as his blog has clearly been a new outlet for him that has taken his writing in directions. This time, he riffs openly about everything imaginable, including: Bushy, Creationism, when to hold one's tongue, Gene Siskel, his most shameful moment, and many others... I urge you to read it.

Free Bird - Mentioned this earlier, but you can check out a live recording of Andrew Bird's performance from the other night here. Well worth the listen, of course. When's Bird coming south to Argentina??? Uhhh, nothing scheduled at this time.

They remixed the fuck out of it! - In case you don't find yourself tired of Christian Bale's tirade, /film gives us 8 remixed videos of the explosion. Thanks for collecting all the fun in one place, dudes!

For all you creative types - 10 reasons to keep on keepin' on!

Thursday Youtube: Dental Surgery Edition


This has seriously made the rounds already, but if you've already seen it... watch it again. "I can't see anything." "I don't feel tired." "Is this real life?" That is all.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

One Word Review: Reel Paradise



71: Different

First Blush: Franz Ferdinand - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

Glasgow's Franz Ferdinand burst onto the scene in 2004 with the smash hit, "Take Me Out." Their second record, while not as strong as the first, still served to build their popularity and

Track 1 - Ulysses
An incredibly simple and calm beat begins everything. Lead singer Alex Kapranos then comes in with a whisper. He sounds like Mike Muir on dopamine. This is weird. Then at 40 seconds, we punch in with some LCD Soundsystem stuff. And it starts to kick by the time we get to 1:00. "Lah, lalala, Ulysses. I find a new way, I found a new way baybaaah!" I mean, that sums up this dance tune better than I could. Also, this is friggin' AWESOME.

Track 2 - Turn It On
More LCD Soundsystem. Clearly this was intentional. This is reminding me of that hit song Elastica that one time they had a hit song. We're missing the punch we had on track one. And it's not as catchy as it should be (despite the solid drum work).

Track 3 - No You Girls
Spooky beginning, turns into a stomp that sounds almost exactly like "Talk about love" by Led Zeppelin (which was probably a ripoff of someone else), except not as rock and roll. Then at the 55 second mark, we hit the hook - it yanks us right along before combining itself with the Zeppelin riff. At 2:40, it breaks down boring just to build back up again. Good tune, derivative though it may be.

Track 4 - Twilight Omens
80s music. Not sure which one, but one of the lesser 80s genres. Like, way weaker than Bronksi Beat. Later we get just a bit of an edge here. But seriously, I half expect Anthony Michael Hall's bouffant to come around the corner at any moment. All that said, it's pretty good.

Track 5 - Send Him Away
The intro here is half Gary Glitter, half Yeasayer. But then it gets into a singsongy, dopey tune that sounds like it didn't make the cut when the Stranglers recorded it the first time. Rock N Roll Part III it is not. I'm hoping this is just a weird interlude track and not something about to derail the whole album.

Track 6 - Live Alone
Now they stole the boops and beeps from Funkytown! And the sound of a smoke machine! Then the beeps multiply and the vocals are waily, but not in a good way. Things are derailed. I suppose they're going for an MGMT thing here, but they are not pulling it off. It has devolved back into LCD Soundsystem again. Which is all fine and good, but I thought this was a rock album.

Track 7 - Bite Hard
A sparse, beaty intro goes into a Franz Ferdinand version of The Fratellis, which is weird because the bands are kinda similar, from the same town, but Franz Ferdinand has always been a lot better. The track's pretty fun, if overtly basic.

Track 8 - What She Came For
The bottom has dropped out. The vocals are kinda weak, and aside from the drums there ain't much else here. And I still feel like we're kinda back in Funkytown for some reason. It rocks in an obvious way at 1:20. They're mailing it in at this point. The song finishes a bit more triumphantly with a double-time stomp, but it was a lot to endure to get here.

Track 9 - Can't Stop Feeling
Practically a cover of LCD's "Tribulations". Not Franz's strong suit.

Track 10 - Lucid Dreams
Whoah. At nearly eight minutes, this is almost double the longest song they've ever released. I think that's a good sign. A dreamy beginning leads into a busy groove. But then at about 3:30 I'm starting to get bored. Perhaps I was wrong about the length premise. At 4:45, they seem bored. 6:52 - uhhh, yeah. That didn't work.

Track 11 - Dream Again
Pink Floyd echoey vocals at the outset. The vocals just don't seem very good on this record overall. Maybe in the two previous albums, their weakness was covered up by the guitar and, for some reason, they left them more naked this time around. Anyway, they're still bored. This is like one of those b-sides that you think, "yeah, no wonder they left this off the album. It's boring and doesn't make much sense." But it's on the album.

Track 12 - Katherine Kiss Me
Franz Ferdinand songs with girls names in them usually deliver. But this is downright sleeeeeeepy. I think they've been listening to The National. They shouldn't do that.

Well, what started off very promising ended up merely good. But in this day and age, I'll take merely good. There are a couple pretty fantastic tracks, but I don't see myself spinning the whole record much. Hopefully I'm wrong and will get the subtlety. But historically Franz Ferdinand hasn't been about subtlety. I can't really recommend it, but download those first four tracks and play 'em at your next party for sure.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Unyielding Commisioning Digs Deep During a Slow News Week

Blooooood! - Stumbled across an old posting of the Top 70 Vampire Movies of all time. As you might imagine, it's rather comprehensive. No, Once Bitten is not among them, thus adding to the validity of the list. I wonder where Twilight would end up if they revamped it. Uh, did I just say "revamped"? My apologies.

We'll do it live! - In case you haven't heard Christian Bale's meltdown on the set of the new Terminator film, it's worth a listen. I already had major doubts about the McG-helmed picture, but this.... does not bode well.

Awwwwww - Eric drops his Top Ten RoCos!

Yeah, but what about how dirty your fingers get? - Roger Ebert compares reading the paper to reading the web. Worth a read. Ugh. Let's just stop there, OK?

5-4-T: Movies that Beat the Book

Conventional wisdom dictates that movies based on books can be great, but pretty much never surpass the quality of the book. And that makes sense. A book has a more captive audience and can take all the time it needs to tell its story. But every once in a while, a skilled director manages to take us on a journey even better than the author originally hoped. Generally, the conventional wisdom is right, and you're going to be let down by the film. But here are five that managed to make an improvement. Here are some honorable mentions: Blade Runner, Psycho, Dr. Strangelove, Apocalpyse Now.

5) About a Boy
It's becoming increasingly clear that Nick Hornby's never going to write a book that's better than High Fidelity. And that's probably OK because it's friggin' hilarious. About a Boy is a far more plodding tale that has its high points, but lacks a bit in terms of enthusiasm from its characters. Still, it's a sweet story and worth the read. Directors Chris and Paul Weitz along with screenwriter Peter Hedges manage to fix the biggest problem (the Kurt Cobain worship, an easy deus ex machina if there ever was one), change the ending, and tailor everything to Hugh Grant who gives one of his better performances.

4) The Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris' first book, Black Sunday, was apparently ahead of its time. It focused on a terrorist attack at the Super Bowl. He followed that with Red Dragon in which he created the character of Hannibal Lecter before giving Lecter a bigger role in The Silence of the Lambs. It's a good read to be sure, but the movie delivered by Jonathan Demme transcends anything that Harris put into his work. One of three movies to sweep the "big five" Academy Awards, it sets remarkable tone that hits the viewer on multiple levels. It's hard to imagine a better crafted movie.

3) The Godfather
Mario Puzo published The Godfather in 1969, introducing themes and lingo to the reading public which would remain indelible. Words like consigliere, Cosa Nostra, and omertà became instantly recognized, and the book was a huge hit. But it doesn't compare with the film made by Francis Ford Coppola. Until the Dark Knight fanboys started messing with the system, it was always atop the IMDb's Top 250, and is lauded by critics and fans alike. I don't know anyone who doesn't have the movie in their personal top 50, and most have it in the top 5. It's #2 on the AFI top 100 list. In sum, the book is fine, but Copolla's work took it to the highest imaginable level.

2) Goodfellas
Somehow, Martin Scorsese stayed true to the source material in Nicholas Pileggi's non-fiction account of mobster Henry Hill's life and times, and yet made a more compelling, artistic story. I can't think of a movie more consistently liked by everyone who's seen it. Men, women, old, young. It has something for everybody. Everyone who acted in this movie gave the performance of their life (except DeNiro, but everyone else). Despite its length and desperate ending, it's one of the most rewatchable movies ever made. Put simply, Scorsese has never made a better film.

1) Fight Club
One could argue that Fight Club is all gimmick and no story. The premise is so far-fetched that the whole thing can be dismissed out of hand if the viewer wishes. But somehow this movie resonated, particularly with men. It's #22 on the IMDb's list and developed a cult-like connection to younger men who were drawn to the new-world message. You are not your fucking khakis. Furthermore, director David Fincher presented a highly stylized look and feel alternately pensive and frantic with a gloomy hue that nonetheless had a certain crispness to it. Chuck Palahniuk's book is pretty much all premise. An easy read that's not that well written, and has a goofy ending, it still connected to certain readers. Maybe it was a story meant more for film, but Fincher and screenwriter Jim Uhls were able to take a used Toyota Corolla and turn it into a Porsche (and then blow it all up just for shits and giggles).

So which movies that beat the book did we forget?


Monday, February 2, 2009

2008 Kaelin Award Nominees - The Most Worthless People of the Year

Revealed to the public for the first time around a year ago, the Kaelin Award is bestowed annually on the individual who, having no discernible talent or ability, accomplishing nothing to society's benefit, and lacking any connection to a true art form or even remotely positive endeavor has been nonetheless repeatedly shoved down our throats. We didn't ask for these people. They have been forced upon us, and no matter how little media one chooses to consume, we have been unable to avoid their media blitzing. Last year was too close to call, so we had a vote before Heather Mills was declared the winner of the award. This year, please submit your comments in support of any candidate. Or feel free to offer up one that the committee may have overlooked.

Without any further ado, here are your 2008 candidates:

Kendra Wilkinson Reasons For: Is only famous for having had sex with an octogenarian in exchange for lavish gifts and television exposure. Is setting up for another reality show in which she likely talks audibly, sure to drop the intellectual abilities of any horny teenagers watching. Bothered to tell a gossip rag that she cheated on her octogenarian manfriend. Reasons Against: Schtupped an octogenarian at least a few times, which we're pretty sure is punishment enough. Her 15 minutes are likely expired.

Megan Fox Reasons For: Intentionally saying things that she probably doesn't mean, alternately claiming that she's a sex fiend, into girls, and that she thinks she's a "tranny, a man" that resembles Alan Alda. Reasons Against: Is insanely hot. Is relatively inoffensive and at least acts in movies, albeit not that well. Is insanely hot.

Ummmm. We don't see a resemblance here.

Drew Peterson Reasons For: Is only remotely known because he probably murdered two of his ex-wives. Went on Larry King Live, Studio B, Dateline NBC, and The Today Show just to draw attention to himself (sadly, opening the door for his governor to do the same). Is a complete and total scumbag. Reasons Against: Was just avoidable enough. I think.

Dane Cook Reasons For: Is somehow one of the most popular comedians in the country despite not being remotely funny. Gets to make out with women like Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson in impossibly horrible movies. Reasons Against: Technically has earned his fame. Still not sure why. Nobody has watched said movies.

Heidi Montag/Spencer Pratt Reasons For: Media whores who are pretty much defined by the award's descriptions above. Endorsed John McCain before switching to Obama. Reasons Against: I really don't know a whole lot about these people, so how throat-shoved can they be?

Joe the Plumber Reasons For: Not really a plumber. Not really a Joe! Plucked by the McCain campaign and then started showing up all over the damn place. Claimed a vote for Obama is a vote for the death of Israel. Thinks he belongs on television. Thinks anyone other than the McCain/Palin campaign gives a damn about what he thinks or says. Reasons Against: Has done most of his damage in 2009, for instance going to "report" on the Gaza Strip situation while claiming that reporters shouldn't be allowed to cover wars. Once again proved The Onion prescient.

Sarah Palin Reasons For: Plucked from obscurity by the McCain campaign, then utilized her time in the forefront to bash the following people and places: Community organizers, cities, people who live in cities, the media, Katie Couric, the government, liberals. Repeatedly winking during a vice-presidential debate. Refused to give a press conference. Can't freaking speak English. Over-Joed-it on the campaign trail. Reasons Against: Did very few interviews, which generally is the opposite of what we expect from one of these candidates (not to mention for vice presidential candidates) - really subpar for a Kaelin winner, even more subpar for a VP candidate. Turkey-slaughter video may have been her professional death knell (but probably not).

Elizabeth Hasselbeck Reasons For: Is sooooo self-assured in her religious and political proclamations. Hijacks the most mind-numbing show on television simply because she's the biggest imbecile there (surprisingly beating out Sherri Shepherd). Cried boo-hoo-hoo when she wasn't invited to the White House Christmas party. Reasons Against: Shouldn't she have won this a while ago, then? It's not like she's doing anything new. Still looks pretty good.

Sound off with your opinion on the most worthless person of the year in the comments section. Winner to be announce next Monday.

One Word Reviews: Hotel Rwanda



86: Affecting