This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Movie Listed: 15 Standouts

I keep a list of every movie I see. Yes, I know this may seem weird to most people. When I first started doing it, it felt weird to me, too. After a short amount of time though, it became a habit. If you're a movie-lover or a film professional, keeping a movie list of some sort makes total sense. Most of the films I see are new to me, but I bust out my favorites ever so often, too.

The best part about having a list, is that I can look at it at the end of the year and know how many films I've experienced for curiosity's sake. I'm also reminded of the standouts-- the movies that truly made a difference for me... or the ones I'll remember for years to come.

Here are 15 standouts for me from the last couple of years (in no particular order.) Some of the films were released in 2010, but not all. None of them were in 3-D. Thank you very much. Additionally, some 2010 favorites like 'Black Swan' and 'True Grit' are excluded from this list since I viewed them... in 2011.

*FROST/NIXON (Dir: Ron Howard) / 2008
A drama. Historical. Political. Sure, doesn't sound particularly interesting on paper, but believe me, it's oddly compelling and the acting is superb.

*INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (Dir: Quentin Tarantino) / 2009
When I first saw the preview, I had no desire to see this. Luckily, I didn't skip it because it proved to be one of my favorites-- in fact, I dare say, one of Tarantino's best.

*BOB AND CAROL AND TED AND ALICE (Dir: Paul Mazursky) / 1969
How open-minded are you when it comes to marriage? An interesting romp from the tail end of the '60s.

*AN EDUCATION (Dir: Lone Scherfig) / 2008
A beautiful coming-of-age story. I can't imagine anyone being better cast than Carey Mulligan. She deserves every ounce of recognition she got from this role!

*THE LOVELY BONES (Dir: Peter Jackson) / 2009
Some die-hards panned this movie. In fact, I didn't see it for a long time because I was a huge fan of the book. But a book is not a movie. Stanley Tucci's performance was fearless and Saoirise Ronan's was hauntingly beautiful. The kaleidoscope of Susie's depictions of heaven are downright gorgeous and I'll admit: I cried.

*CRAZY HEART (Dir: Scott Cooper) / 2009
A good ol' story about a down-and-out country star who's seen his better days and a woman reporter who makes him examine himself from the inside out until he is motivated to become a better man.

*WHIP IT (Dir: Drew Barrymore) / 2009
A surprisingly well-done directorial debut for Drew Barrymore. The sense of girl power and the motto of "Be Your Own Hero" are both things I can get behind when they're done well, as they are here.

*CYRUS (Dirs: Jack and Mark Duplass) / 2010
There are times I squirmed because the moments were so awkward and so funny because they were awkward. Very well-written and a good turning point for Jonah Hill. He should do more like this.

*EASY A (Dir: Will Gluck) / 2010
Emma Stone owns this role! This film could easily be slighted because it appears to be a high school flick about a girl's tarnished reputation, but it is so much more than that!

*THE LAST STATION (Dir: Michael Hoffman) / 2009
I knew nothing about Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy and I was fine with that, until this film made me care. An exploration of the tension and struggles between Tolstoy and his wife in his final years.

*IT MIGHT GET LOUD (Dir: Davis Guggenheim) / 2008
A jam session and open discussion between guitarists Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, The Edge from U2, and Jack White of the White Stripes.

*SEARCHING FOR DEBRA WINGER (Dir: Rosanna Arquette) / 2002
An intimate discussion with actresses of a certain age and the challenges they continue to face in Hollywood.

*SMILEY FACE (Dir: Gregg Araki) / 2007
OK, not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination. Anna Faris though? She rocks it into absolute hilarity with her portrayal of a chick that is so high on life that she can barely hold it together.

*WONDERFUL WORLD (Dir: Josh Goldin) / 2009
Few people probably saw this. In fact, it may not have even had a theatrical release. The unlikely blossoming of a relationship between Ben Singer (Matthew Broderick) and his roommate's Senegalese sister proves that opening yourself up to other cultures and ideas can truly alter your life in amazing ways.

*SOCIAL NETWORK (Dir: David Fincher) / 2010
How do you make a Facebook movie? Make it about a guy with an immense, almost hypnotically determined desire to succeed. Add conflict, tension, intense success and shitloads of money beyond anyone's wildest imagination and explore how that strains all the relationships in a guy's life. Make it all talk and fast-paced. Cast great actors. Done.

©2011 by KLiedle

Monday, January 10, 2011

From The Big Screen To The Palm Of My Hand

The magazine rack is where I noticed him first. He was in his sixties, bearded, a bit scraggly, thumbing through a Hollywood Reporter.

"This the Awards edition?" he asked me.

"Not exactly," I told him. It's the new format of The Hollywood Reporter." [Slick and glossy. Nestled next to People Magazine's announcement of the newest baby bump and a bunch of US Weekly knock-offs.]
He seemed displeased.

"You know how hard this was to find? There' s no newstands anymore. There isn't even a bookstore in this mall. Remember Rolling Stone? The large format? A buddy of mine was a journalist at Rolling Stone. There aren't journalists anymore. Remember LIFE? You're too young to remember, but..."

"I remember Life!" I protested. "I'm not too old for that," I assured him. Then, I backed away slowly to extract myself from a conversation I knew would go on for far too long.

I do remember life. Life when 3-D was just a matter of walking outside and experiencing the world. Life was when the feature presentation of a movie presented itself in 35mm on the big screen and you were happy to share this experience with other people. Laugh when they laughed. Cry when they cried. The floor might've been sticky and the popcorn might've been stale, but you were having this shared experience with strangers.

A couple weeks ago, when I went to see True Grit in Hollywood, the theatre manager apologized as he told us they were having problems with the digital format of the film. Instead, they'd thread up the 35mm print.

35mm. In the Cinerama Dome. For a modern take on the old-fashioned western by none other than the Coen Brothers. I couldn't think of anything better. Indeed, the 35mm print was richer and more layered than even the crispest digital print could've been.

I enjoy seeing films on the big screen. I also enjoy seeing them at home. Like most people, I've embraced most of the newest entertainment viewing options. DVDs, Netflix, even streaming on my Wii. To each advance, there is a loss that is never completely re-gained.
For instance, how do I deal with subtitles on a streaming movie? Sometimes there's no option to turn them on and other times, they're rendered useless when they are cut off at the bottom of the frame. If the film's been re-formatted to fit my screen, I can't help wondering what's going on along the edges I can't see. Streaming films don't offer the director's commentary and other extras that DVDs typically offer either.

Recently, I read [in the print version of The Los Angeles Times] that during this awards season, Fox was experimenting with allowing SAG members to download award screeners from Itunes. In many ways this makes sense, saves money, and levels the playing field for films to be viewed to the wider audiences of award-voting guilds.

I think voting members would feel somewhat obligated to view the contenders in their respective categories. But who has the time? Downloading the movie to your ipod/pad/laptop/fingertips allows you to do your "homework" on a transcontinental flight, bring it with you while you're hiking, or heck, bring it into the bathroom with you while you're also brushing your teeth. It's called multi-tasking. Why not?

I just worry about what's lost when a film meant for the big screen gets shrunk down to something the size of my palm. Could I, in good faith, judge its art direction or sound editing? Would the wide-screen cinematography be as breathtaking? Would I get swept away with the story? Would I be as immersed in the time and place or as invested in the characters? I don't think I would be. How can something as special as a film seem bigger than life if I can hold it in the palm of my hand?

I agree wholeheartedly that the various entertainment guilds need to look at different ways to get their members to screen award contenders. I also think that those members have to consciously think about how they are viewing and judging films... and if their viewing habits are doing justice to the filmmakers and entertainment professionals that put it all together.

©2011 by KLiedle
Photo credits:
Library Of Congress/Commons