Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fruitvale Station Movie Review

There has been a change for the better in this country – and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that it has happened during the tenure of our first black president – with respect to public knowledge and outrage at the unjust killings of young black men. Trayvon Martin’s death is the one that made huge national news headlines, but unfortunately his death is one among many that occur year after year because someone, usually a while man and often a police officer, mistakes him for a threat. These young men become names in the news and we learn little about who they were outside of the specific circumstances in which they died.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Oscar-nominated Live Action Short Films Review

After three years now it’s safe to say I have made a tradition of seeing the Oscar-nominated short films at IFC Center in New York. And I have the same observation this year that I had last year about the live action shorts. There’s something so refreshing about short films. It’s like being freed from the confines of what’s involved in a two hour plus feature. You know with each one that the resolution will come quickly and that there won’t be any subplots. It’s also fascinating to realize that many short films could very easily be expanded to feature length. Therefore the converse must be true and suddenly you start thinking about all the features that might have been better as restrained short films. This year’s crop of five nominees represent not only five different countries, but also very different subject matter and styles of storytelling.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Short Cut Movie Review of Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.

I’m certainly no fan of the entire “Jackass” entertainment concept. The idea of a bunch of guys basically daring each other into performing increasingly outlandish stunts and filming them for mass consumption is just bottom feeder garbage. It is about the lowest form of entertainment and the emotional equivalent of a monkey throwing feces. But Johnny Knoxville started doing a little more with the franchise in creating the old man Irving Zisman character, who was strong enough for a movie of his own. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa is a real movie and it actually works surprisingly well for a hidden camera prank movie.

Special 500th Movie Review: Magnolia - a Modern Classic From My Collection

In choosing a movie to watch to mark my 500th full length review, I went with Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia because, along with Pulp Fiction and The Godfather, it’s one of my top three movies of all time. By that I mean I consider it not only a great film, but that I find it endlessly watchable. Incidentally, I chose it several weeks prior to, and started watching the night before, Philip Seymour Hoffman's death. It was merely a thematically fitting coincidence. I have tried to watch it about once a year since it came out in 1999 and have mostly kept up on that vow. I think I may have watched it twice during my five years in Spain and possibly only this time since returning two and a half years ago, but I am intimately familiar with the movie. I also chose it because so much time has passed since last we met.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Death of Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967 - 2014)

That was devastating news to hear yesterday that Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose. I was at work when I heard the news and, for a few minutes, fell into a sad slump. I remembered suddenly that I had read about his recent stint in rehab. And I remembered thinking he seemed such an unlikely candidate for that kind of drug addiction. If someone had said he was an alcoholic, I would hardly have blinked. Lots of people drink and many of them have a problem with it. But maybe we tend to think of heroin addiction as relegated to a certain corner of society, to certain members within it. In our minds, heroin is for rock stars or street junkies, but not for world class actors who earn critical praise, win awards, and seem to be otherwise normal. I think what this demonstrates is that you never know who may be hiding a secret drug addiction and those addictions can affect anyone.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

25 Years Ago This Month: February 1989

I always start with what I've seen...

Director Stephen Herek's second feature, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure was released in February 1989. Herek started with Critters and went on to a career of directing second tier Hollywood movies. He has never made a major film. Even when I was in fifth grade, even at the tender, inexperienced age of ten or eleven, when most people have absolutely no discerning critical taste, I knew that Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure looked stupid. I had no interest then, no interest through the following years of middle school when friends talked about it and quoted it, no interest when the sequel arrived in 1991. And I certainly have no interest now in watching Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter play a couple of illiterate and retarded teenagers who time travel through history to help themselves write a school essay.