Monthly Archives: February 2011


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American Beauty

The American beauty–a rose indicative of not only romantic love but of lust and desire, a flower representative of the classic, classy romantic courtship, but also the beastly sexual lust for someone. American Beauty examines these relationships: the carnal and the societal, the appropriate, and the well, not so appropriate and it’s name is all too appropriate.

Kevin Spacey plays a man absolutely fed up with his life: the keeping up of appearances, the contempt that he feels for everyone around him and the disdain they feel for him right back. After falling desperately in lust with one of his daughter’s friends, he decides that he couldn’t care less about his job, family and appearances and gives it all up for simple joy and unmasked contempt in his life. His wife, played by Annette Bening, is the complete opposite, obsessed with appearances and trivialities, while his daughter is a typical teenager, angry and confused.

The movie is a simple masterpiece, one that explores the relationships between the family members, as well as their relation with their new next door neighbors. Spacey gives an absolutely brilliant performance, playing a man who has yet to have crossed to insanity, but every once and awhile, a glimmer of crazy creeps across his face, an insanity in his eyes that shows his momentary break into losing it all. Bening’s character is so suppressed that when she cries she full out slaps herself, a sign of her self-oppressive nature and her uptight personality. Their daughter becomes engaged with their neighbor’s son, played by Wes Bentley, who’s dramatic and striking features make him beautiful, but always with an edge of danger and fright about him.

The script is fantastic, and the movie itself is very literary–much of the dialogue contains it’s own imagery and promise, and it goes beyond simply the shown but into another level of meaning. Spacey’s voice-overs are moments of genius and insight, and while the family is a bit exaggerated, there is a truth located in their interactions and speech that connects with any family.

This film may well be one of my new favorites, and watching this movie it is hard to understand why any other film has ever won best picture.

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The Oscars are this Sunday (finally) and so I will finish up my post on Best Pictures. I’ll pick up on them starting 1977. Here goes.

1977: Annie Hall: We all love Woody Allen, right? The nerdy, goofy, comical, very Jewish New Yorker. And Diane Keaton? She’s great too. This film is definitely Allen’s masterpiece in my opinion. It’s a great “rom com” also, and one that should be seen by all, but a best picture? Looking at what else was out that year, it was a good choice–the script really is fantastic and it truly is the pinnacle of Woody Allen films.

1979: Kramer vs. Kramer: This is a truly fantastic film. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, it’s the story of a couple struggling over custody of their young son, and the growth of the relationship between the son and his father, Hoffman. Both Hoffman and Streep give expert performances, and it’s extremely moving. Recommended and deserving.

1982: Gandhi: I understand why this film won, and I don’t think it’s undeserving because it is a well acted and directed movie, but overall I think it’s too long, leading to it being rather boring at stretches. I wouldn’t take away it’s Oscar, but it definitely is not my favorite film, although a classic so it should be seen.

1988: Rain Man: This movie, Oscar winning or not, is a must see. Dustin Hoffman gives one of the most amazing performances I think ever given by an actor. The relationship between him and his brother, played by Tom Cruise, is one so moving and realistic that I don’t think I’ve really ever seen paralleled in a film. Hoffman’s performance is truly remarkable–he never breaks character, and portrays his character’s autism with realism and justice. A fantastic film, definitely deserving of it’s award.

1991: The Silence of the Lambs: Beyond this movie’s greatness, it is such a source of pop culture reference that it’s impossible not to see as a film lover. On top of that, it does happen to be a great film. Good performances by all–creepy, but not scary per se. Definitely a mental thriller, entertaining and yet still intelligent.

1993: Schindler’s List: I’m actually a pretty big fan of this film. Although it is very long, I think that it definitely carries it off. It handles the situation extremely well, portrays all of the people in a correct light, is well acted and well written. Ralph Fiennes gives a stunning performance as a Nazi officer, in love with a Jewish woman, sending him into a rage of massive proportions. It’s a terrific film, except for the last scene. I won’t spoil it, but Liam Neeson’s last performance as Schindler is so out of character that it almost ruins the rest of the film. A must see, and deserving of it’s title, but is flawed.

1994: Forrest Gump: I think I’m probably the only person in America who doesn’t like this film. Getting to the point, I think that Tom Hanks breaks character frequently and that really bothers me. I also think that the screenplay is fantastical and cheesy. I don’t hate the film, but I also don’t like it. Especially as Shawshank Redemption was out the same year, I have to give that my vote.

1997: Titanic: And here comes the big one. I knew we’d get here, and I think that it’s finally time that I came out with the truth: I am probably one of the biggest Titanic haters that lives in the world today. I hate Leonardo DiCaprio in his heart throb roles, and I think as he’s aged he has become a better actor, but when younger was horrendous. I like Kate Winslet in almost everything she’s done except for this because I think she got too romantic and fluffy in the role and her character is completely unlikable and annoying. I think the script is mediocre. It’s way too long and has very long boring stretches. The music makes me want to vomit, especially that horrendous song I can barely speak of, “My Heart Will Go On”. Overall? Least favorite movie of all time. I don’t care what anyone says I will never change my mind and I will never be able to fully respect those that hold this film dear. I hope that I never have to bring this subject up again.

1998: Shakespeare in Love: I love this movie, but I don’t think it deserved best picture. I think the acting is good, and the script is wonderful–it’s quick and witty, and if you really know your Shakespeare is extremely well done with rather obscure references and jokes that a Shakespeare lover understands. But underneath this lies a romantic comedy, a fantastic one, yet one not quite deserving of its title.

2000: Gladiator: If you haven’t seen this film you have to go out right now and rent it. It’s well acted, well scripted, extremely entertaining, with great set pieces and fantastic music. Although maybe not an “intellectual” film, it was extremely well done, very historically accurate and, again, extremely entertaining. I think it’s deserving and recommended.

2003: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: I’m conflicted about this film. I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan (more of the movies than the books, though I’ve read them), and think that all three of the films are extremely well done. The sets are absolutely fantastic, as are the costumes. It was well cast and acted, and the music is some of my favorite. Overall, I think that the first movie was probably the best, and I’m not quite sure why they felt that the third one should win best picture. I’m not opposed to it, it just confuses me a little. Sometimes I think that a movies grandeur and profit definitely factor into it’s winning, and although I’m realistic about it, sometimes I think it shouldn’t. But I definitely recommend it, along with the other two films, and think that it was a good movie.

2004: Million Dollar Baby: As great a movie as this was, I think that perhaps this was a little bit of a “we owe you an Oscar” Oscar to Clint Eastwood. But I’m not complaining. A very moving film about a female boxer and her relationship with her trainer starring Eastwood and Hillary Swank, it was an extremely well written film. Very sad and very good.

2005: Crash: This film was good, but I am a firm believer that Brokeback Mountain should have won that year. Crash though I do recommend–a film with multiple stories that all intertwine, most of them are simply heart breaking. A recommended film that I think in any other year should have won, but in this year I had conflicting interests.

2008: Slumdog Millionaire: I really liked this film–even though it was sad, it was very “feel good” and I enjoyed the plot and music a lot, but I don’t think it was a best picture. I think that it was chosen as best picture partly because of a lack of anything else and partly because of its subject matter. A little hint, the academy loves those that overcome things (which is why Christian Bale, beyond the fact that he did a magnificent job, is going to win best supporting actor this year). Recommended, not deserving.

Would you believe it if I said that I hadn’t seen The Hurt Locker? Unbelievable, I know, but I haven’t. I’ll definitely be sure to get on that. Tonight I say 127 Hours though and so will definitely be doing a post on that soon.

I suppose that overall a best picture has to fulfill a certain mindset in order to truly feel like it deserves it’s title. I know that that shouldn’t factor in, but in my mind there is a certain grandeur to a best picture beyond what your run of the mill indie film can achieve. There definitely is a big budget aspect to the whole thing, and while it doesn’t necessarily have to have the biggest budget or make the most money (Avatar’s loss being proof of that last year), it definitely has to have a certain social standing in the history of the film in order to truly be deserving, I think, of it’s title.

Who will win this year? My money is probably on The King’s Speech even though I don’t necessarily think that this was truly the best picture. I think that The Social Network would be a fine deservor, and if nothing else David Fincher should most definitely win best director.

Tune in Sunday with me as we watch the winners role out.

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I’ve got it!

After my existential blog crisis last night, I came up with the answer while watching TCM. Although I have ragged on overexposure of the Oscars for… well… awhile, it’s just this year’s Oscar films that have been overexposed. I am going to engage in “Oscar month” and do the good, the bad and the ugly of past Oscars. So, while I embark on this journey, if you get sick of my posts (which I hope you don’t) or want to read move about Oscar awards and oddities, TCM is a great resource, and if you click here you can check out their Oscar month schedule.

So I shall start with best picture! Of course I haven’t seen all of them, and I can’t fit them all into this blog post, but I shall begin with the ones I’ve seen, let you know which ones are worth seeing, and if they deserved to win their best picture award.

1939: Gone With the Wind: The ever immortal film brought home a little gold man in 1939. The epic was a definite deserver of it’s award. The movie, based off of the Civil War epic novel, is one hell of a production. Even if you don’t enjoy the film, it’s a necessary see just to witness the shots of wounded soldiers and the vast scope of the scene. It is a true spectacle and in addition, a rather excellent film.

1943: Casablanca: This film is a personal favorite of mine, being the Humphrey Bogart lover that I am. Ingrid Bergman is simply exquisite, and beyond the fact that it’s an excellent love story, well filmed and well directed, it’s script is top-notch and referenced everywhere. Deserved, and a must see, kid.

1946: Best Years of Our Lives: Although now the title conjures up images of day-time soap operas, this movie is the story of three WWII veterans who return from the war and their attempt to readjust to their lives. The acting is fantastic, and the stories are bittersweet to tragic. It’s a beautiful film and one I think is deserving of it’s best picture title.

1951: An American in Paris: This movie is one of my favorites. Gene Kelley never fails to make me smile, and I am a complete lover of Gershwin. The choreography is great, even while the storyline is rather fantastical and predictable. While this movie is a must-see for me, and one I watch every time I’m home sick, I really don’t think it was deserving of it’s best picture title. It’s a fluff film, and while a classic, not an Oscar deserving title. Especially since that year both A Streetcar Named Desire and A Place in the Sun were out, one of those should have taken home our buddy.

1953: From Here to Eternity: I believe that I’ve reviewed this movie before and I am in love with it. Burt Lancaster (who my father has the biggest man-crush on), Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra–a WWII story of the Pacific, and a love story as well, it’s an extremely well-acted, well scripted movie that deserves it’s award. And don’t forget that famous beach scene…

1959: Ben-Hur: I understand why this one, being such an epic and all, but I don’t think it deserves it at all. It’s screenplay is strange, the dialogue is cheesy, the acting is over dramatic and over all the movie is extremely dated. That year North by Northwest, and Some Like it Hot also came out and neither were even nominated! Definitely a disappointment in the academy for this one.

1961: West Side Story: This very well might be my favorite movie of all time. Natalie Wood stars, music by Bernstein and Sondheim, choreography by Jerome Robbins–it is one of the best musical movies I’ve ever seen and I am absolutely in love with it. I’m not sure how I feel about musicals winning best picture though. It is an absolutely fantastic film–not “fluffy” at all, well acted, well danced, with amazing cinematography, but I am still not certain about it’s best picture worthiness. What makes me even more reluctant is that Breakfast in Tiffany’s also was released that year, and it is probably Audrey Hepburn’s finest. Whether deserving or not, definitely a must-see.

1964: My Fair Lady: And with talk of musicals comes this one. This is completely not deserved. It’s one of the worst movie musicals I’ve ever seen. Hepburn is awful and stiff, and the whole movie is boring and comical (not because it’s supposed to be). Not a must-see and not deserved.

1965: The Sound of Music: So clearly the academy had some music lovers during these years. This movie is hard for me to comment on. I think that it is well sung and well acted, but I am absolutely so completely sick of it that my opinions are horribly skewed. As there was not much else nominated that year, I give my permission for it to have won. If you are looking for some excellent Julie Andrews though, I suggest you look to Victor/Victoria.

1972: The Godfather: Must-see and deserved. That’s all.

1973: The Sting: This is an interesting one for me. I love Paul Newman, he’s one of my favorites, and Robert Redford also is good. It’s a very good heist film, and I thoroughly enjoyed it but I’m not sure about best picture. The music is great and the acting is terrific, so definitely a must-see.

1974: The Godfather Part II: The first sequel to ever to win best picture, it’s also a must-see. It’s not as good as the first, far better than the third, and is referenced in so many places that I can’t even begin to describe.

This turned into what was not supposed to be an epic post, but now is, and I apologize. My next post will be best pictures from 1975 to the present. I’ve seen many more of them and have much stronger opinions. In the meantime, go! Watch TCM and educate yourself about some of these fantastic films.

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I think to keep me focused more on movies and less on my random tangents (vacations, Essie nailpolish… etc) I need a goal. Maybe an A to Z kind of thing? Perhaps playing a kind of six degress of separation on with actors, featuring them and then writing about their movies?

Please suggest something so that I’m less squandering for ideas and more writing about things.

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He’s an ACTOR?

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present to you, the new Superman, Henry Cavill!!

Now, my dear readers, as much as this may not surprise you, it is a very surprising fact that Mr. Cavill is in fact, an actor! (Cue gasp).

The movie industry has had horrible luck with Superman–beyond the fact that he’s a super hero from another era, making him a little dated in today’s world, they also have always cast models as the man of steel. Well, they seem to have learned their lesson from those pretty yet horrible model types and have turned to a pretty and yet still talented actor. I first saw Cavill in The Count of Monte Cristo as Edmund Dontes’ son, and then again on the HBO show The Tudors, which is fabulous if you haven’t seen it. It definitely is something to check out. He was interviewed by Entertainment this week (and was featured on the cover). You can check out part of that interview here.

While I’m still not sold on the prospect of Superman, Henry definitely has my attention and I feel a sliver of hope rising for this franchise.

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Next week is vacation and since I’m not going to be home I either could be posting a lot, or not at all (probably the former), so I thought I’d fit in at least this one if not another later.

Since I still haven’t seen any new movies, and almost all of the movies out recently look dreadful, I thought I’d do another tangent post, this time about my vaca.

I’m not exactly looking forward to vacation, but I’m not exactly dreading it either. First, we head to Philly…

A patient of the Wills Eye Clinic, I have been to Philadelphia more than almost anyone I know who doesn’t live there. I go every six months to see my eye doctor. I have a coroidal nevus in my left eye, which could potentially be a melanoma spot and so I’ve been watching the spot since I was extremely young. So far it hasn’t changed and it’s not a danger now (nor will it ever be fatal) so please don’t freak out on me. (See that building in the corner?? The one that says hospital?? that’s my doctor!!)

We also will be making a stop in the University of Pennsylvania admissions office–my second visit to the school–to simply say hello, sign in, maybe bribe some admissions officers with cookies or large sums of cash…

Although Philly means a doctor appointment, it also means dinners out! In the winter I have a hard time motivating myself to get dressed up, put on tights and actually look nice to go anywhere. After New Years Eve I’m pretty much done, but with the rising temperature here I have become so much more inspired. About a month ago I went shopping and purchased some fabulous items which have yet to seen the outside of my closet. So I shall be first adorning a backless sweater dress, red tights and nude pumps, and then the next night a sequined L.B.D, with my newly purchased, Nine West (on sale!!) cage booties. They’re probably the most fabulous shoes I own so it’s a bit of an understatement to say I’m excited to wear them.

From there we move on to Ohio. Here is where the less than excellent part of our trip begins. We’ll be visiting my grandparents out in Akron (near Cleveland). Okay, I know, get your Ohio jokes out of your system, but since I’ve been there at least twice a year for my entire life, it’s actually not that bad. Not that there aren’t parts of the state that are middle-of-nowhere-we-have-more-cows-than-people, but Cleveland is actually an amazing city, with one of the most amazing art museums in the country, as well as the best orchestra. My grandfather isn’t doing so well, so we’ll see how this visit goes… Also we have to drive through the never ending state of Pennsylvania to get there so that always is a “fun” time. (Notice how fun was in quotes).

Then we travel back through the never-ending state of Pennsylvania and make a stop in New York. Reader, you may think that because we’re going to New York City, I should be excited–the bright lights, the energy, the people, the fashion, ooh lala!–but no readers, this trip is not about Times Square or Dylan’s Candy Bar or walking around SoHo. My other grandparents live out in the Bronx, and we shall be visiting them in their apartment for an overnight pitstop and then continuing home to Boston. (Weirdly enough that photo below is actually of my grandparents’ apartment building… I found it on google. Technology these days…)

So, there you have it. My vacation in a nutshell, filled with driving, doctors appointments and grandparents, it should be less than exhilarating. The thing pulling me through? My clothes. Beyond the outfits already mentioned, I have a great backless new top from the Gap (very on sale) as well as a great high-waisted, pleated skirt from the Gap as well (…all of my clothes seem to come from the Gap these days…). I am finally going to motivate myself to put on some tights (we’ll see about colors) and look cute for once in my life. Maybe I’ll even through on some earrings (GASP).

Oh, did I mention that I have to read two Shakespeare tragedies over the break? Not that I don’t love William and all (which I do, I adore him), but after two months of reading nothing but, I can’t wait to get back to Chuck Palahniuk, Margaret Atwood and that new collection of short stories Stephen King put out. Come to think of it, I don’t even think it’s new anymore. Sigh.

Your vacations? Spill spill! I’m living vicariously here.

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