81st Annual Academy Awards Predictions and Drinking Game

 

The 81st Annual Academy Awards aired Sunday Night, February 22, 2009. Below were my predictions for the winners in the major categories. The actual winners were filled in after the Oscars were announced.

Well, the telecast was a shoddily edited, over-directed, over-hyped painful bore to sit through — oh wait, that was Slumdog Millionaire — and there were no major surprises, though a-typical host Hugh Jackman was quasi-funny with his opening number in a weird I-had-no-idea-he-was-so-THEATRICAL!  kind of way.  But really, Academy, if you have any good sense left, bring back a comedian host next year.  I want to laugh, not cringe while watching Hollywood pat itself on the back. 

At any rate, it’s a miracle I was able to stay awake to tally that I scored 18 correct out of 24 in my predictions, which obliterated everyone else in my Oscar pool and is a new personal best topping my 17 correct predictions two years ago…when movies were still good. Continue reading

A Review of Tom Tykwer’s “The International”

Clive Owen is here to tell us this Istanbul-sh*t is about to hit the fan in THE INTERNATIONAL.

Clive Owen is here to tell us this Istanbul-sh*t is about to hit the fan in THE INTERNATIONAL.

Classy Globe Hopping Thriller Pays its Dues, 16 February 2009
8/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

A world-weary but determined INTERPOL agent (Clive Owen) teams with a District Attorney from New York City (Naomi Watts) to bring down a corrupt bank funding arms deals in Tom Tykwer’s accidentally timely globe trotting conspiracy flick, The International.

My drab one-line plot synopsis in no way prepares you for this film’s smartly executed centerpiece, an outlandish and wildly entertaining shoot-out at the Guggenheim Museum that is both a bullet-riddled blood-soaked multi-media homage to Hitchcock and an artistic F-you to all of the mindless “shattered glass” suspense thrillers that have come down the pike in the last twenty years.

Tom Tykwer saw this and envisioned a chase scene with bullets and blood.  Now thats art!

Tom Tykwer saw this and envisioned a chase scene with bullets and blood. Now that’s art!

Those who have been keeping tabs on director Tom Tykwer’s career, from the frenetic originality of Run Lola Run to the ungodly weird epic sumptuousness of Perfume, might mistakenly think he was doing this one just for a paycheck. However, The International is far more ambitious than its genre conventions imply. Tykwer and his crew create an engaging and twisty film that combines the thematic elements of our modern CSI-style detective shows with the visual elements of Hitchcock’s 1950’s vista-vision thrillers. Here Tykwer’s vistas are architectural landmarks from around the world that serve as picture-perfect set-pieces and back-drops for the carefully stacked plot and action.

In a modern movie world where thrillers are currently regulated to the pulse-pounding non-stop movement of the Jason Bourne films or the dumbly torturous sentimentality of something like Taken, it’s refreshing to see a film of this ilk built in such a classical way.  The International begins “in medias res” with one of those clichéd secret meetings gone wrong, then delves into a series of expository scenes that lead to a masterfully staged assassination attempt in Milan that leads to rising action (during which I overheard a viewer behind me proclaim so succinctly that the suspense was killing her) culminating in the aforementioned Guggenheim shoot-em-up that leads to falling action that ends with a roof-top chase over the lively markets of Istanbul.

Naomi Watts does her best Veronica Lake INTERNATIONAL style.

Naomi Watts does her best Veronica Lake INTERNATIONAL style.

In its attempt to keep the plot one step ahead of the viewers, and the viewers one step ahead of the characters, the sometimes convoluted screenplay loses its footing and sense of pace. The cast, however, is game to play against this jaw-dropping architectural scenery. No further proof is needed beyond this film to show Clive Owen would’ve been a superior James Bond. Naomi Watts, whose natural charms and beauty are felonies of their own, is a bit miscast, but she does her best with the role. The revolving door of supporting players is top notch as it goes through the requisite motions. All transmitted through the keen eyes of Tykwer, The International crackles with tension and arrives on the world scene as a refreshingly old-fashioned suspense thriller in a post-modern milieu.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database.

The Best Screenplays of All Time

On Sunday February 22nd at the Oscars, Martin McDonagh will be competing for the Best Original Screenplay for In Bruges.  For me, this was one of the most brilliant scripts in years–darkly comic, heartfelt and compelling, expertly paced and chock full of quotable lines.  Sadly I don’t think it will win–oh, please prove me wrong, Academy–but it made think of all the great scripts from Hollywood’s past.   What films were memorable not just for their imagery, but for the writing as well?  What films contained amazing performances that were great because of the material the performers were given and the dialogue they spoke?

What screenplays are deserving of being considered the best of all time?

Well, here’s this writer’s list:  Continue reading

A Review of Pierre Morel’s “Taken”

Don’t Be Taken for a Fool, 3 February 2009
4/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

And now producer/writer Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel present the comedy event of the year!

Here’s the pitch: Two spoiled obnoxious teenage girls from California go to France and get kidnapped by a group of Albanians trafficking dumb tourists into sex slavery to the highest bidders–and you guessed it, one of those high bidders is a Middle Eastern sheik. But oh yeah, did I mention one of those girl’s fathers just happens to be a retired Jack Bauer-style super-spy who’s about reign down a sh*t-storm on the streets of Paris in order to rescue his idiot daughter? And guess what–it’s Liam Neeson!

Yes, there is a bit of a novelty factor in watching the guy who played Oskar Schindler go against type and get crazy on these moronic dirt-bags. And gosh darn it, Liam does his best with the role. I can’t remember the last time a film was sold to the American public entirely on the sound of one man’s voice reading dialog. He alone makes the otherwise unbearable film watchable. However, let’s be honest. As much fun as it is to watch Liam Neeson outrun a speeding car or electrocute some guy or kill a dude with a broken bottle, Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino was a far better and more refined example of grizzled old guy “badassery”, and it was a hell of a lot funnier, and fancy that, had a moral.

What we have here in Taken is tone deaf French filmmakers sticking their nose up at Americans and spreading xenophobia abroad. I’m pretty sure they thought there were making a slick black comedy that no American would see through. Had they manifested this with a harder edge or more overtly satirical tone, they might’ve been on to something. Instead we get a second-rate episode of “24” watered down by a PG-13 rating that takes away any possibility of entertainment on even an exploitative level.

Bottom line: Don’t be fooled by Liam Neeson’s voice. He commanded our attention in the teaser trailers, but this should be film not taken.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database.