Thursday, January 20, 2011

Advertising is Evil

In this business of show, January is a great time for honors, accolades, and heated competition. The Golden Globes, the various guild and critics awards, and of course, the Oscars all dole out a slew of statues to the best and brightest of 2010.

But there's another heated competition furiously brewing right over our heads. That's right, the battle for shittiest ad campaign. January and February are notoriously bad months for movies, as studios shovel out the films that just couldn't compete during any oter time of year. Occasionally a studio will try to sneak in and create some buzz for an out-of-season, underdog blockbuster, say, Cloverfield. But more often you find romantic and family comedies with B-list actors, washed up it-girls, and fading Saturday Night Live comedians (a la The Love Guru).

"Did someone say 'washed up it-girls and fading Saturday Night Live comedians?'" That's right, Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, I certainly did! First up in the battle for new "Worst Billboard Ever" is Just Go with It, which is also competing for "Most Forgettable Title Reappropriated from a Phrase in the Common Parlance."

Compared to most 'worst posters of all time', there's not a ton visually wrong with this one. Just one. glaring. error. That FIST POUND! Let us count the ways in which that fist pound is unappealing terrible by all rights worse than Snooki's A Shore Thing.

1) This is not the death of the fist pound. The death of the fist pound actually came all the way back when white people started doing it around 2001. Then it's memory was thoroughly desecrated when fat, old businessmen started doing it. Then one day my dad gave me a pound. Then it was raised from the dead in 2008 by the black magic of Fox News, as the zombie known only as 'terrorist fist jab'. Obama was elected, and its soul was again put to rest, all the way up until this poster came out, in which it's riddled corpse was once again exhumed, lit on fire, and then put out again by the salty urine of some Sony executive.

2) Why did they place the half-naked girl right behind their fists, as if their hands are wrapped around her legs? That's just stupid.

3) You can't get Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in the same room to take a picture for a poster. Whatever. I get it. But their hands are clearly not touching. In fact, Sandler's is overlapping Aniston's. If this is actually some new 'super pound' where one person's hand goes in front of the other's, please tell me. I definitely don't want to be the only not in on this thing. Otherwise, I think I would have preferred a poor photoshop of two hands obviously belonging to someone else, superimposed over the stars' hands, as long as I could tell the hands were touching.

4) Jennifer Anniston is looking at Adam Sandler's forehead, and that's because you couldn't worry about her sightline because you were concerned about their stupid hands lining up.

Up next: 2nd and 1st place in January's edition of "Worst Billboard Ever."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Every time a quiz is filled out on the internet, a kitten gets AIDS.

So, you'll almost never see me playing a game, or taking a quiz, or answering a survey, it is anyway, inspired by Annie Terracina and Mary Garis of the wonderful blog, A Tale of Two Cities. Feel free to do your own in the comments or whatever. (I don't really care.)

Note: Oh yeah, the quiz is about 2010. It's from a girl magazine or something.

Oklahoma's loss to Missouri was so not worth stressing over.
- In the end, we were in the same bowl game we would have gone to otherwise. (I don't really stress out. And if I do, it's probably worth it.)

All I could listen to this year was Kid Cudi.
- Obviously I listened to lots of other stuff this year, but I discovered Man on the Moon late in the game and could not stop listening to it. Pop music at its best.

This year I promise (to myself) to go out more.
- For most of my time in L.A., insufficient funds have kept me from going out. But that is less the case now. I've been here for three years and haven't hit the Hollywood Bowl, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Pantages Theater, or been to a concert or play that a friend wasn't performing in. Also I want to go to a Clippers game.

The best thing I ate in 2010 was Caitlin Mitchell's sweet potato casserole.
- Holy cow that ish was da bomb!

The night of the Lost series finale I was WTF else do you think, watching it.

Wow, I really don't give a rat's ass about this will be the new cupcake flavor in 2011.

I'm proud that I finished the screenplay I came to L.A. to write this year.

Remember when Kanye put out a remix of Justin Beiber's "Runaway Love" and it was fly as hell; released a new track every week for free; released another fantastic album; made a stunning 33-minute music video; reappropriated Bon Iver's "The Woods" to make another 'one of the greatest songs ever', or a bunch of other things that don't involve hating on him?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The 1st (Possibly) Annual "L.A.O.K." Awards

Thanks to a job that allows me to watch up to four or five new movies each weekend and access to Netflix: Watch Instantly, I was able to watch more movies this year than I probably ever have before. I watched 180 movies in total this calendar year, though that number does include a few repeat viewings.

When I was a sprout, I used to try to see all the movies nominated for Best Picture. Then I tried to see them all before they were nominated. Then last year I was able to watch every single movie nominated (see my last post, written in March), and now this year, for the first time, I've seen enough movies to feel confident creating my own 'best of' list. And so here it is.

Best Picture

My top five:
Black Swan
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Toy Story 3

Wow, this was a really hard choice. What a great year for movies. It came down to two of these (each of which was better than anything last year, in my opinion): The King's Speech and Black Swan. I instantly loved The King's Speech, which was impeccably acted and directed, and just a great story with really likable characters.

Black Swan, on the other hand, was the kind of movie that just sticks with you for days and days. So daring, so original, with its own fantastic cast and direction, I just have to applaud Darren Aronofski for making this movie. And the scene in which Nina finally dances the black swan is jaw dropping.

Edit: Looking back at this post now, I can't really count out Toy Story 3 either. It held the top spot on my list for many many months. It was just so well done and such a well crafted story (more on that below). Had I a vote in any actual awards program, I would have to seriously consider giving it to Toy Story.

And the Layokie goes to...
The King's Speech

The next five:
Another Year
Catfish (Please do yourself a favor and see this movie.)
Inception (Might have done better for me if I had only seen it once, instead of three times. Christopher Nolan's writing really doesn't stand up to repeat viewings.)
The Town
True Grit

Best Director

My top five:
Darren Aronofski – Black Swan
David Fincher – The Social Network
Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech
Christopher Nolan – Inception
Edgar Wright – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Another close, close contest. As I write this, I haven't even picked one yet.

I so often hate it when awards shows reward a director for making a great movie, and not for being the best director, (It should be about style!) but Tom Hooper does so much with so little in The King's Speech that I can't deny him. He makes a scene of two people sitting in chairs talking, or a man standing in front of a microphone for five minutes, completely dynamic. And he does so with no more than a few interesting angles and slow zooms. Whenever you find yourself sitting in a movie thinking, Wow, this is really well directed, you know it's something special, but that's especially true in a movie with as good a story and performances as The King's Speech.

There is nothing specific about Aronofski's style that stands out in Black Swan, but the choreography is photographed beautifully, and the the movie rides on its tone (as well as Natalie Portman's amazing performance). Like I said, the film stays with you for days, and its impossible not to credit Aronofski for it.

Even though it shows up on this list quite a bit, I'm really not as big a fan of The Social Network as everyone else seems to be, but it was a great movie to be sure. I put Fincher here almost solely for The Social Network's tilt shifted rowing scene set to the classical piece, "In the Hall of the Mountain King."Anyone who knows me knows that I hate trends, so bringing a YouTube fad into a feature film would seemingly turn me way off, but Fincher makes it work. It was just a brillaint piece of filmmaking. 

And the Layokie goes to...
Tom Hooper (But if I was really voting, I could easily see myself switching to Fincher at the last moment  in order to reward him for Benjamin Button.)

Best Actor 

My top five:
Jeff Bridges – True Grit
George Clooney – The American
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
James Franco – Howl
Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right

And the Layokie goes to...
Colin Firth

I love all these actors and these performances. Not really a tough choice though. (Stupid Colin Firth, I really wanted to give this to Mark Ruffalo.) 

Best Actress 

My top five:
Sally Hawkins – Made in Dagenham
Lesley Manville – Another Year
Julianne Moore – The Kids Are All Right
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Hailee Stienfeld – True Grit

Sally Hawkins didn't perhaps deserve this nomination, but I just like her a lot, and couldn't really think of any one more deserving. I missed Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine (screened the day after I flew to OK), Tilda Swinton in I Am Love (but will try to catch it on Netflix: Watch Instantly), and Halle Bary in Frankie and Alice (imagining it sucked anyway). And I just wasn't that impressed by Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone or Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole.

My other four nominees, however, were all fantastic. Lesley Manville and Hailee Stienfeld were wonderful surprises, and I can't wait to see what Hailee Stienfeld does next (please not teen comedy, please not teen comedy). This really came down to Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, and while Portman's performance was, let's say, visceral? I remember being blown away by Julianne Moore. My mind could easily change. I can't wait to see both of these films again.

And the Layokie goes to...
Julianne Moore

Best Supporting Actor

My top five:
Christian Bale – The Fighter
Sean Penn (as himself) – Fair Game
Barry Pepper – True Grit
Jeremy Renner – The Town
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

Jeremy Renner and Barry Pepper were both great surprises here. I didn't think much of Hurt Locker, or Renner's performance last year, but I thought he really showed his chops in The Town. Barry Pepper I didn't even recognize for his first few minutes of True Grit screen time, but I have to say that it was his subscription to the Gary Oldman school of acting that really impressed me.

And the Layokie goes to...
Christian Bale

For his believable turn as a regular person being interviewed on camera.

Honorable Mentions because I just like them a lot:
Charlie Day – Going the Distance
Jon Hamm – The Town

Best Supporting Actress

My top five:
Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Carey Mulligan – Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Kristin Scott Thomas – Nowhere Boy
Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

And the Layokie goes to...
Carey Mulligan

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was much better than I expected, and in no small part to its solid cast. Shia LaBeouf again made me forget the type of person he is in real life, and Josh Brolin and Michael "Golden Globe nomination because he has cancer now" Douglas were both likable villains. Frank Langella and Susan Sarandon each played surprisingly well developed side characters, and very very old actor Eli Wallach played a very very old man to a tee.

But even among all these, Carey Mulligan was the clear standout, proving that you don't necessarily need maudlin material (Never Let Me Go) to turn in one of the great performances of the year.

Best Adapted Screenplay 

My top five:
Rowan Joffe - The American
Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network
Ben Affleck and two other guys - The Town
Michael Arndt (but if you know how the process works there it's probably more apt to just say Pixar) - Toy Story 3
Joel and Ethan Coen - True Grit

And the Layokie goes to...
Toy Story 3

Structure-wise, Toy Story 3 has got to be one of the best stories ever put on film.You know those movies that seem to go by really fast, and when they're over, you can't believe that you were sitting there for two hours? Toy Story is one of those movies, and the reason is good structure. The screenplay is very very tight, flowing (seemingly) effortlessly from one scene to the next because of cause and effect. It starts in the very beginning with Andy "throwing away" his toys because he has to college, and follows that same line all the way to the climax. Even in slower scenes, say Woody's time at Bonnie's house, a throughline of tension (needing to get back to Andy's house before he goes to college) is palpable, and moves the story always forward.

Apart from that, the story is in turns hilarious, emotional, and incredibly bleak. The only criticism I could give the screenplay is that it takes a tad too long to get to the resolution, and that part where they're in the trash bag on the curb and Rex says "What's the point?" and then Buzz says "Point?.....Point!" and then uses the point of Rex's tail to break out of the trash bag. People don't really make discoveries like that. But then again, toys don't really talk.

Best Original Screenplay 

My top five:
David Michod - Animal Kingdom
Mike Leigh - Another Year
Christopher Nolan - Inception
Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg - The Kids Are All Right
David Seidler - The King’s Speech

Each one of these is so great. A really really tough choice. I respect and admire Nolan so much for being able to come up with such an amazing premise and then write a fantastic story to take place in it. I don't think anyone writes as interesting or believable characters as Mike Leigh does. But The Kids Are All Right has both great characters and a great story, and I think that taken as a script alone, with no performances or visuals, it's just an inch more satisfying than The King's Speech.

And the Layokie goes to...
Cholodenko and Blumberg

Best Cinematography

My top five:
Roger Deakins - True Grit
Dick Pope - Another Year
Martin Ruhe - The American
Matthew Libatique - Black Swan
Wally Pfister - Inception (Full disclosure: I've met Wally Pfister and have exchanged witty email banter with him. [Fuller disclosure: I only told you that to sound cool, and it really doesn't affect my decision.])

And the Layokie goes to...
Martin Ruhe, for helping lure audiences into what they thought would be a Clooney-action-spy movie, and then showing them a poignant, slow film with the sensibility of foreign art house fare.

Worst Movie of the Year Decade Century

Best Child Actor
The kid from The Switch

Glaringly Absent on Purpose
Shutter Island
Winter’s Bone
Rabbit Hole
127 Hours
Never Let Me Go