The 7th Annual Davies Awards in Film

Hollywood zeroed in on real drama and history in 2012, and they hit their mark.

Hollywood zeroed in on real drama and history in 2012, and they hit their mark.

A Look Back at 2012:

There’s so much to say about the year in film that was 2012. In many ways it was like two distinct years. The first half was grim and borderline torturous with the only bright spots being two films that came out of the blue to depict with great grit and emotion man vs. his own nature (guised as man vs. nature) in The Grey and The Hunter. In the summer, we were met with art house films critics were too eager to gush over. Yes, Moonrise Kingdom was Wes Anderson’s most charming film in a while, but it was still a Wes Anderson film. And yes, Beasts of the Southern Wild had a cool title and interesting set-up, but it really didn’t make any sense.

Oddly, at the multiplex things were clearer as some of the heavy hitters were well above average. The Hunger Games offered a new series positively literary when compared to the god-awfulness of The Twilight series (finally put to rest this year). Many people didn’t like it, but I still got a kick out of Prometheus while The Dark Knight Rises was a fine conclusion to a fine trilogy. Even The Avengers (overrated by fanboys) was above average…though it was still a comic book movie. This trend continued into the fall with the best James Bond film of the modern era, Skyfall, lighting the box office on fire.

Quietly simmering beneath all of this pop-culture hubbub was a snarky good year for neo-noir with the twisty sci-fi yarn Looper at the multiplexes and art houses runneth over with films like the Russian melodrama Elena, Friedkin’s southern-fried piece of Americana trash Killer Joe and the Twin Peaksian French entry Nobody Else But You.

But it wasn’t until the fall that things got real and filmmakers tapped into history to deliver highly polished professional products of the most prestigious order.
Continue reading

Advertisements

A Box of Kittens for Kirsten Dunst and Michael Fassbender

A box of Kittens for Kirsten Dunst and Michael Fassbender

It’s The Schleicher Spin’s annual “Box of Kittens” consolation prize to those snubbed by the Academy.  A lot of kitties in boxes will be going out this year.

My dear Kirsten, you tried to pull a Natalie Portman, but l’Academie snubbed you.  Michael Fassbender, you starred in every film under the sun (hey, it worked for Jessica Chastain – nominated for the least of her roles in The Help) but it didn’t get you a nod. 

Also snubbed this year – Tilda Swinton, Charlize Theron, Albert Brooks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling, Patton Oswalt and Michael Shannon.

But cheer up, the kitties are on their way.

Rooney Mara, Gary Oldman and Terrence Malick – congrats – I thought you were going to get snubbed, too, but you snuck in.  No kitties for you.

Here are your Nominees for Best Picture, which I predict to be a two-horse race between the year’s most overrated films, The Descendants and The Artist, with Scorsese’s out-of-character Hugo as the dark horse:

  • War Horse
  • The Descendants
  • The Artist
  • The Tree of Life (hooray!)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (what? really?)
  • Midnight in Paris
  • The Help
  • Hugo
  • Moneyball

Check out the full list of nominees on the IMDB.

The Soundtracks of Our Lives

People don’t listen to music the same way they used to.  Everything is downloadable.  We pick our favorites on a song-by-song basis and almost gone now is the extended play and enjoyment of a full album/cd.  Even I fall victim to this with iTunes and my iPad.  But I’ll still listen to CD’s in my car on occasion, and my stereo at home is so old it not only has a 3-disc CD changer by also duel cassette players!  I keep it because the surround sound speakers are pretty bad-ass, but it also makes me feel like by never upgrading (who needs to with all the other portable devices now?) in my own insignificant way I’m sticking it to the man. 

There are some albums I will never tire of and will always find a home in my car or stereo.  Here are three albums (not surprisingly all from my high school or college days) that I love to listen to every track in entirety in order over and over.  Sure, more than three albums fit this bill, but when it comes to something like Muse’s Absolution or Wolfmother’s debut album – I gotta be in the mood to listen to stuff like that.  These three all-time favorites I don’t need to be in any kind of mood to listen to.  At any hour on any day in any given year, I could pop these babies in and not skip a beat or miss a lyric. 

1.  Weezer – The Blue Album – (1994) I’m not sure, but this may have been one of the first CD’s I ever bought when I was a freshman in high school.  And it still plays like a champ – ahh – quality technology these CD’s are.  Favorite Track: Holiday

  Continue reading

The 6th Annual Davies Awards in Film

A Look Back at 2011:

At times entering a movie theater was like wandering into a vast wasteland in 2011…but there was light…I swear…

Box office receipts were down in 2011 – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a very solid year for cineastes.  A sluggish economy; the ascendance of launching specialty films through VOD; and an unseemly glut of similarly minded, awkwardly titled sequels, prequels, threequels, reboots, preboots, 3D flicks, animated tales and family films left most moviegoers either broke, confused or disillusioned.  Despite this seeming rut, there were still plenty of diamonds in the rough both in the art houses and the cineplexes during this long, weird year in film.  Like Smetana’s Die Moldau (used so righteously by Terrence Malick in The Tree of Life) these great films whispered to us quietly at first, almost like a hum from the distant past…and then announced themselves with bombast.  Memory, myth and the magic of cinema were boldly on display for those willing to indulge.

For those lucky and daring enough to see it, Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul took us down the cosmic rabbit hole and cycled through time in Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (a film technically from 2010, but that didn’t see its limited release stateside until March 2011).  It was a fitting way to start the year, as what emerged from this cosmic cycling for the observant filmgoer was nostalgia run gloriously amuck.  All year-long nostalgia was evidenced in just about anything that gained traction – from multiplex concoctions like Super 8 and Captain America, to art house fare like Midnight in Paris and The Artist, to populist Oscar-grab flicks like Hugo and War Horse.  This longing for the simpler, happier days of the past seemed to be at war with films overwhelmed by an impending doom (see Melancholia, Take Shelter or even Margin Call). Filmmakers were simultaneously hung over from the global economic crisis and fascinated by the 2012 apocalypse predictions.  Meanwhile, the big studios lazily greenlit a ton of stuff we’ve seen before…but in handing these projects over to up-and-coming directors trying to prove something rather than the usual hacks, films like X-Men: First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol were far more entertaining than they had any right to be.  Continue reading

Strange Bedfellows on Sunday Nights

Ever since the heyday of The Sopranos, HBO has conned me into appointment television on Sunday nights.  It’s the only night of the week I watch TV religiously.  Over the years when my favorite HBO show has been on a long hiatus or they occasionally produce a dud (John From Cincinnati, I’m looking at you, lame surfer dude!), AMC and Showtime have been there to pick up the slack.  Sometimes two great series will be running at the same time…but not since Mad Men and Dexter ran parallel seasons a few years ago have there been stranger back-to-back bedfellows on Sunday nights than The Killing (on AMC) and Game of Thrones (on HBO). Continue reading

Sidney Lumet Dead at 86

Legendary filmmaker Sidney Lumet (1924-2011), whose cinematic depiction of his hometown of New York is rivaled only by Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen in terms of lasting and prolific impressions, passed away in Manhattan on Saturday, April 9th, at age 86 from lymphoma.

You can’t say the man didn’t have a long and fruitful life, as he directed films for over half a century from the 1950’s all the way through the 2000’s, with successful stints directing stage and TV as well.  I had feared for a while Lumet might be near the end as the workaholic who never turned down a job had no projects in the works since 2007’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, which I initially named as the second best film of that amazing year behind only There Will be Blood.

For me, Lumet will always be remembered for directing one of my top five favorite films of all time – Network. Continue reading

83rd Annual Academy Awards Predictions and Drinking Game

Anne Hathaway and James Franco are wondering, too, how they got the gig.

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards aired Sunday Night, February 27th, 2011.  Below were my predictions for the winners in the major categories.  The actual winners were filled in after the Oscars were announced.

There were no real surprises this year.  Anne Hathaway did her best, but to no avail, next to lifeless co-host James Franco, who appeared as if he hadn’t even shown up for rehearsal and couldn’t care less that he was there.  Next year, Academy, give us a comedian.  The speeches were nothing special, though who would’ve thought that of the two, Melissa Leo would’ve out “bat-shitted” Christian Bale?  Meanwhile, after batting under .500 in my predictions last year, I rebounded nicely by scoring 16/24 correctly and regained my family Oscar pool crown. Continue reading

Robbie Gil Live at The Tin Angel

Straight from New York as part of his East Coast tour, Robbie Gil will be playing at The Tin Angel in Old City, Philadelphia (at 20 South 2nd Street).  He’s set to take the stage at 8:30pm on Thursday night, January 27th, 2011.  Be there or be square.

As any New York City independent music scene fan with true grit knows, a Robbie Gil show is not to be missed, and it’s a special treat to have him playing the streets of Philadelphia.

Check out past Spotlights on Robbie Gil’s live shows and his newest album, Save Yourself.

For more details and tour dates, check out Robbie Gil’s official site.  To purchase tickets for Thursday night’s Philly show, check out the website for The Tin Angel.

Robbie’s CD’s are available for purchase at his shows, through iTunes or on the web at cdbaby.com.

Written by David H. Schleicher

A Box of Kittens for Christopher Nolan

Cheer up, Mr. Nolan!  You may have been royally snubbed by le Academie (yet again!) and robbed of a Best Director nomination…but they did nominate your film and your screenplay…and we’d like to offer you a consolation prize:

A box of kittens!

A Box of Kittens for Christopher Nolan

Alas, perhaps you would’ve been happy with a pin wheel.

The 83rd Annual Academy Award Nominations were announced this morning, and there were zero surprises when it came to the 10 Best Picture nominees.

In the world of snubs, there was no love for Christopher Nolan – The Director (though they love what he produces and writes), Leonardo DiCaprio, Ryan Gosling, Naomi Watts, Julianne Moore and early favorites Shutter Island and The Ghost Writer were totally shut out, though (aghast!) Alice and Wonderland and The Wolfman even managed to secure technical nods.

Though clearly this is a two-horse race between The King’s Speech and The Social Network, here are your 10 Best Picture Nominees:

  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter’s Bone

Check out the full list of nominees at the IMDB.

Written by David H. Schleicher

The 5th Annual Davies Awards in Film

A Look Back at 2010:

In 2009, Hollywood went to war and for the most part blew us away if not with the actual quality of their output, with their audacity at least.  In 2010 they took a deep breath and dove back into the shadows and dark alleys of the mind.  It was the year of the Neo-Noir Renaissance.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 (2nd movement) is probably one of the most recognizable and widely used pieces of classical music.  Filmmakers have returned to it over and over again – Tom Hooper just did for the excellent closing montage to The King’s Speech.  But I feel this piece of music represents clearly what the 2010 year in film was all about:  dark, brooding, steady, prone to dramatic swells, often formulaic, but very well crafted.  Tell me you don’t see a bit of the same madness in Carlos Kleiber conducting that we saw in Scorsese, Nolan and Aronofsky directing in 2010.

Unlike most years, it started off like gangbusters with two masters delivering wildly entertaining larks that owed as much debt to their own past efforts at they did to Hitchcock:  Martin Scorsese’s “in your face” Shutter Island and Roman Polanski’s more subtle and refined The Ghost Writer.  The trend towards neo-noir continued and reached its zenith in the summer with two polarizingly opposite films:  Debra Granik’s independent and devilishly simple Winter’s Bone and Christopher Nolan’s wickedly complex mega-blockbuster Inception.  Even some of the heavy-hitters at the end of the year, like Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan or The Coen Brothers’ True Grit owed some debt to noir.

Overall, it was a solid, consistent year for films and a nice way to kick-off a new decade of cinema.  There was nothing earth-shattering or revolutionary, but there were plenty of reasons to be entertained in 2010… Continue reading