Archive for February, 2011


Oscar Predictions

February 26, 2011

Notes from the Back Row Feb 22

Penelope Cruz has an Oscar, who will be this year's hottest winner?

Oscar Predictions

Lets get on with it. Whether you enjoy watching the Academy Awards or think it’s little more than a circle-jerk fashion show invented to sell more movie tickets, there’s not doubt that once the Oscars are over the quality of films released generally goes way up. As always, I am making my predictions based on the nominated movies I have seen, which is never all of them, but many of the Academy voters operate the exact same way so here we go.

I’ve already called for The King’s Speech lead Colin Firth to win Best Actor and Black Swan’s Natalie Portman for best Actress. There is a rumbling that Annette Bening might be the upset for her hard-drinking lesbian role in The Kids Are All Right but I doubt it.

Best Supporting Actor– Christian Bale goes way over the top playing a cracked-out ex-boxer in The Fighter and I think his commitment deserves the golden statue. Geoffrey Rush is the favourite though, for The King’s Speech, because many of the Oscar voters are as old as petrified dirt and things like crack junkies make them uncomfortable.

Toy Story 3 will mostly likely net Pixar their 8th Best Animated Feature award since 2001. That’s quite a run. Toy Story 3 is also up for Best Picture (it won’t win though.)

Best Documentary is a tough one because very few of the nominated flicks get wide release. I hope Exit Through the Gift Shop wins. It was one of the best films of the year but since no one even knows who renegade graffiti artist/director/shit disturber Banksy really is, things could get interesting.

Best Music (Original Score) is never easy to call but Hans Zimmer’s Inception score struck a nerve with filmmakers everywhere and deserves the win.

Best Original Song might just go to Country Strong because the academy loves Gwyneth Paltrow’s pedigree and no one expected her to be able to sing so well. (Plus she killed it with Cee-lo and the Muppets at the Grammy’s. Winning an Oscar is as much about how hard you campaign as how good you actually are.)

Best Adapted Screenplay– This is a close race but The Social Network should win because the dialogue has that old-school, zippy, back-and-forth thing going reminiscent of Hollywood’s golden era.

Best Original Screenplay is also very tight. The King’s Speech might take it but I think The Fighter was right up there too, the academy probably won’t back a boxing movie though because sports movies have a built in cliché structure and even if you don’t follow the formula the fact that everyone knows it’s there makes things a bit easier.

Alice in Wonderland should win for Best Costumes, Inception deserves best visual effects, it was a crappy year for Make-Up but Barney’s Version is the favourite, although I hate Paul Giamatti so I hope The Wolfman wins.

Best Cinematography is also tricky to say because when cinematography is really good you often don’t even notice. The swooshing steadicam dance scenes in The Black Swan really worked well but I think The Social Network deserves the win.

Best Director and Best Picture should be one and the same but the Academy generally treats the former as runner-up for the latter. I think David Fincher might take Best Director and The King’s Speech walks with Best Picture, the old farts in the Academy love period pieces. Dark horses are True Grit and Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours just because it’s tough to wring 90 interesting minutes out of one guy stuck in one place.

And that’s it. Enjoy the show. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.


Paul Giamatti blows.

February 18, 2011

She has nothign to do with any of the movies but I had to put this Swimsuit cover model up to offset all the Giamatti.

Notes from the Back Row Feb 15

I really dislike actor Paul Giamatti. I’ve never met him, and I did enjoy American Splendor but for some reason if I see Giamatti is in a film I get the urge spit on the ground. I can’t explain– the guy just has a smarty-pants vibe that bothers the piss out of me.  He sucked as the bad guy in Shoot Em Up, don’t even get me started on Lady in the Water (although that useless sad-sack M Knight Shamalayan can share the blame for that one.) I bought Giamatti as a divorced, loser English teacher in Sideways, I bought it but I didn’t like it– a movie about wine is way too adult for me.             And so is Barney’s Version, a Canadian flick screening this week at the Village 8 that’s based on the Mordecai Richler novel. Giamatti plays Barney Panofsky, a hard-drinking rascal/unreliable narrator who takes a look back at his life, and his three marriages, and serves up sorrows and triumphs but never really delivers the insights to elevate the flick into anything more than a too-long, too-literary, literary adaptation. It’s not grabage, and I think some of my friend’s parents will eat this up but the idea of two hours and twelve minutes of Giamatti sounds about as much fun to me as eating an open-faced turkey melt I dropped on the floor in the Garfinkels bathroom. (Interestingly, the three-second rule for dropped food was proven to be a sham on TV’s Mythbusters but did you ever notice the one Mythbuster, Adam Savage, kind of looks like Paul Giamatti? Yikes.)

Also opening this week, Unknown– a rehash of the Cold War espionage genre but without the Cold War. Liam Neeson stars as a doctor who goes to Germany, gets in car accident and wakes up four days later to find that he no longer exists, his wife doesn’t recognize him and, worse, she’s screwing some other dude who is using Liam’s identity. Is he crazy, or is a crazy conspiracy? Diane Kruger (Inglorious Bastards) plays an illegal cab driver and the only person who can help.

Liam Neeson, at age 58, still makes for a decent action star but Unknown is a far cry from the ass-kicking awesomeness of Taken. Instead it’s more like Salt but without Angelina. Unknown is PG-13, and not terrible, but it certainly won’t change your life.

The last new flick opening is DJ Caruso’s I am Number 4 about a superhero/alien type kid who gets sent to earth with 8 others but they are all separated and don’t really even know they have powers until someone starts killing them off sequentially. And now it’s Number 4’s turn. Except he just met a nice girl he really likes and shucks, can’t he just be a normal kid for once?

There’s a lot of hype around this one and new actor Alex Pettyfer, but there were no pre-screenings (bad sign) and while DJ Caruso usually delivers (Salton Sea, Taking Lives, Disturbia, Eagle Eye) judging from the teaser I am Number 4 looks way too Twilight-y and sappy for my liking. It also wins for shittiest title of 2011 thus far.

The download of the week (because let’s face it, DVD rental is dead) is Unstoppable. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine have to stop a runaway train before it kills a bunch of school kids. It sounds stupid, (it is kind of stupid) but in an entertaining, tense kind of way, with solid acting on all sides.

My half-informed Oscar predictions will be back next week, just in time for the big show, and it’s safe to say I don’t foresee any wins for Paul Giamatti.


Beibs and Boobs

February 11, 2011

Notes from the Back Row is a weekly movie column published in Pique Newsmagazine, Whistler BC

Every time i see the trailer i ask, "Who is that girl?"

Her name is Brooklyn Decker. The girl in the bikini in the trailer for Adam Sandler’s new movie Just Go With Ither name is Brooklyn Decker.

Brooklyn Decker is the reason anyone is going to see that movie this weekend. She’s also a Victoria’s Secret model and she recently graced the cover of the 2010 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Her acting experience is limited to music videos and TV cameos (Chuck, Ugly Betty) but Esquire Magazine recently crowned her the “Sexiest Woman Alive.” No shit.

But can Brooklyn Decker save Just Go With It? Probably not. For anyone distracted by Decker’s personali-tits during the trailer, the gist of the film is this– Sandler wears a fake wedding ring to help him score chicks but when the girl he really likes (Decker) finds the ring he has to invent a fake soon-to-be-over marriage with his assistant (Jennifer Aniston) and her kids. Of course, Sandler’s one little lie snowballs and soon everyone is riding the PG-13 RomCom express on their way to reunited bliss.

There were no pre-screenings available for this one, that’s always a bad sign. So is the involvement of Jennifer Aniston, whose best film appearance was 1999’s Office Space. To Jen’s credit, she seems to suit this role and it will most likely be director Dennis Dugan who ultimately drops the ball. Dugan has a few hits to his credit (Happy Gilmore, Saving Silverman) but for the most part he’s been the director behind Sandler’s dwindling career, helming flicks like Grown Ups, Don’t Mess with the Zohan, and Big Daddy. The saving grace might be a script by Timothy Dowling (Role Models, Thank You for Smoking) but don’t hold your breath. Of course, Brooklyn Decker’s bikini scenes are worth admission but the PG-13 keeps things from ever getting epic.

Also opening this week, and also decidedly un-epic, is Justin Bieber – Never Say Never. To me, Bieber’s music is a lot like a pap smear in that I’m pretty unfamiliar with what it actually is, but I don’t think I would enjoy it.

Of course a billion little girls (and probably some of their moms) disagree, at least about the music, and this concert video/origin story traces the Biebs’ rise from a small-town Canadian kid following his dream into an Internet sensation and eventually a worldwide Brand.

Most interesting is the old home video footage of the Biebs banging away on the pots and pans (to his credit, at least he plays instruments.) Least interesting is the kid himself, although I guess at age 16, you can’t blame a guy for coming across as vague and aloof. Overall, this “documentary,” made by John Chu (Step Up 2 & 3), reeks of publicists, handlers and Brand Managers.   Local youngsters might be upset that Whistler can’t screen Never Say Never in 3-D but from what I hear the 3D on this one is a sham cash grab and the movie is no better for it.

Finally, in keeping with my “all speculation, no facts” theme of last week, the next Oscar I’m gonna predict is Natalie Portman in Black Swan for Best Actress. I haven’t seen three of the other flicks nominated but Portman’s incredible ballet skills bring a new physicality to the craft that Oscar voters should dig. Speaking of physicality, both Portman and fellow nominee Michelle Williams had cunnilingus scenes in their nominated movies but advantage goes to Portman because hers was lesbo.

And finally, since we are talking best actress, I’ve already picked out the Oscar winner for 2012. Her name is Brooklyn Decker.

Brooklyn was in the running for 2011 cover as well


The Roommate, The Sanctum, The Tar Sands

February 4, 2011

Leighton Meester is my kind of roommate

so is Minka Kelly


Notes From the Back Row is a weekly movie column published in Whistler BC’s Pique Newsmagazine

Notes from the last row- Feb 1


Since subjective guessing and presupposition are so hot in Whistler right now I’m going to start my Oscar predictions early this year – Best Actor in a Leading role goes to Colin Firth for playing King George VI in The King’s Speech. (Please note that I haven’t seen all the films nominated, but hey, facts-schmacts!)

The King’s Speech was one of those movies where you never laugh out loud, no tears are produced, your heart rate stays the same the whole way through, and yet somehow it’s quite enjoyable. Working with strong visuals and a bang-on supporting cast the always-bankable Firth sticks to the now-classic Tropical Thunder Oscar-Formula (“Never go full retard,”) and so the Oscar is his.

But that’s getting ahead of things. This week the Village 8 is opening The Roommate, which looks really dumb (and way too much like Single White Female) but I’m stoked to see it anyhow because Leighton Meester stars as the bat-shit crazy chick. Of course, I’m generally a 90210-over-Gossip Girl kind of guy, but there’s no denying Meester is the best looking chick on either show. Plus, when Leighton was born her mom was serving time for taking part in a marijuana smuggling operation so that makes both of them even hotter as far as I am concerned.

The good news about The Roommate is that Meester’s co-star/victim is played by equally-hot Minka Kelly. The bad news is it’s PG-13 and Christian E Christiansen directs, with a name like that it’s no wonder his movie looks like remake.

Also opening this Friday, Sanctum the latest foray into the 3-D world of James Cameron, who is only credited as an Executive Producer but they shot this film on underwater versions of the Avatar cameras and the story is based on a true caving-disaster story by Andrew Wight, Cameron’s longtime collaborator.

A team of underwater cave divers/stock characters are exploring “the last uncharted place on the planet,” when a freak storm fills the cave with water and traps them. In between father/son issues and comic relief about getting the clap in Mexico, there looks to be some tense, claustrophobic diving sequences and a few gory deaths.

Cameron and Wight’s 3D technology creates true tension in Sanctum, unfortunately, feeling claustrophobic and on the verge of drowning is hard to pull off for an hour and 45 minutes. This is essentially a B-Movie and would have worked better if it were B-Movie length –88 minutes– but the real kick in the nuts is that Whistler still doesn’t have 3D capabilities so much of the effect of the film is lost.

James Cameron also makes an appearance in the CBC’s The Tipping Point, a 90-minute Nature of Things documentary that aired last week. James takes a flight over Alberta’s toxic oil sands developments and down the Athabasca River to meet the 1,100 residents of Fort Chipewyan, a mostly-native community that has a cancer rate 3 times what it statistically ought to be.

The Tipping Point also features scientists who put a pretty strong case forward that the oil sands, the largest industrial project on the planet, might not actually be as clean and healthy to live downstream from as the Government of Alberta promises. Ft Chipewyan people catch fish covered in tumours, and they’re afraid to drink the water they’ve drunk for generations. It’s all very Avatar-esque except real people are dying up there and no one in charge seems to give a shit. Sure, we need oil but for the prices I pay at the fuel pumps, is it too much to ask for oil that isn’t systematically killing people? How much profit are 1,100 lives worth?

Watch the movie here