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Monday, February 25, 2013

'ARGO', Jennifer Lawrence and Daniel Day-Lewis Crowned Oscar MVPs

Year after year, while watching the first hour or so watching the Oscars telecast, you can basically predict all the early category wins (including Christoph Waltz and Anne Hathaway). Then, an hour after that (this year amid one live musical performance after another), the ceremony is rushed for time and they are literally speeding through a barrage of unexpected winners over which you have no time to react (with the exception of Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln). 

This year those less predictable wins include director Ang Lee for Life of Pi (obviously not a movie the general movie going public is drawn to) and Jennifer Lawrence for The Silver Linings Playbook (a movie that divided both audiences and critics). And to cap off the evening, Argo takes home the top prize, best picture, cementing Ben Affleck's career as one of the best comebacks of all time. 

So, with that said, at least the Oscars kept it semi interesting this year? Check out the full list of winners below:

Best Picture: 


Best Actor:

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln

Best Actress: 

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actor: 

Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress:

Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables

Best Directing: 

Ang Lee, Life of Pi

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Chris Terrio, Argo

Best Original Screenplay: 

Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained

Best Documentary Feature:

Searching for Sugar Man

Best Original Song:

"Skyfall" from Skyfall, music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth

Best Original Score: 

Life of Pi

Best Animated Feature: 


Best Cinematography: 

Life of Pi

Best Costume Design: 

Anna Karenina

Best Documentary Short Subject:


Best Film Editing:


Best Foreign Language Film:

Amour (Austria)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

Les Misérables

Best Production Design:


Best Short Film (Animated):


Best Short Film (Live Action):


Best Sound Editing:

Skyfall (TIE)
Zero Dark Thirty (TIE)

Best Sound Mixing:

Les Misérables

Best Visual Effects: 

Life of Pi

Sunday, February 24, 2013

'Cinema in Noir' Takes on the Oscars, Spirit Awards and Silver Linings

Happy Oscar Sunday! To celebrate, my co-host Rebecca and special guest host, Henry of Geek Soul Brother, share our predictions for tonight's ceremony (and apparently, not everyone is over the moon for critical darling The Silver Linings Playbook).

We also discuss the trends of this award season. While this year wasn't as nostalgia heavy as 2012 was, we did get a few biographical attempts amid a generally diversely themed year with the inclusions of Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Also, we take aim at the qualifications to be nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Since, according to our hosts and a few cyber geeks, The Silver Linings Playbook is not so indie with its heavy marketing and big name stars. And is Jennifer Lawrence really as good as they say?

Tune in to a recap of tonight's episode below:

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

'THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK' Owns The Independent Spirit Awards

The Independent Spirit Awards, which honor the best of independent and art house cinema, are scheduled to air on IFC tonight at 10pm EST. But if you've been anywhere near the Internet, chances are the cyber geeks have already spoiled the winners list for you.

So you won't be alarmed to see that The Silver Linings Playbook basically swept the floor with the rest of the nominees, taking home best feature, director, screenplay and lead actress (Jennifer Lawrence). The rest of the acting winners are both Helen Hunt and John Hawkes from The Sessions...and (stunningly) Matthew McConaughey from Magic Mike.  Beasts of the Southern Wild, which went in with four nominations, only came away with a best cinematography win. 

See the full list below:

“Silver Linings Playbook”

David O. Russell, “Silver Linings Playbook”

“Silver Linings Playbook”

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

“Safety Not Guaranteed”

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – Given to the best feature made for under $500,000. Award given to the writer, director, and producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.
“Middle of Nowhere”

Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”

John Hawkes, “The Sessions”

Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”

Matthew McConaughey, “Magic Mike”

“Beasts of the Southern Wild”

BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director and producer)
“The Invisible War”

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM (Award given to the director)

16th ANNUAL PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD – The 16th annual Piaget Producers Award honors emerging producers who, despite highly limited resources demonstrate the creativity, tenacity, and vision required to produce quality, independent films. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant funded by Piaget.
Mynette Louie

19th ANNUAL SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD – The 19th annual Someone to Watch Award recognizes a talented filmmaker of singular vision who has not yet received appropriate recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.
Adam Leon, “Gimme the Loot”

STELLA ARTOIS TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD – The 18th annual Truer Than Fiction Award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features who has not yet received significant recognition. The award includes a $25,000 unrestricted grant.
Peter Nicks, “The Waiting Room”

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD – (Given to one film’s director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)
Director: Sean Baker
Casting Director: Julia Kim
Ensemble Cast: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve, James Ransone

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Look at the Oscar-Nominated Best Foreign Language Film, 'WAR WITCH'

Tribeca Film has released an extended peak at its first Oscar-nominated film ever, the African war drama WAR WITCH.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, the movie also marks the debut performance of its lead actress Rachel Mwanza, who was only twelve years old and reportedly living on the streets when she was cast in the movie. After attending last year's Berlin Film Festival, she was presented with the Silver Bear award for Best Actress.

According to the press release, the movie took ten years to make and was shot entirely in the Congo, where the crew was often mistaken for actual army rebels.

More on the film below in the synopsis:

Komona (Mwanza) is only 12 years old when she is kidnapped by rebel soldiers and enslaved to a life of guerrilla warfare in the African jungle. Forced to commit unspeakable acts of brutality, she finds hope for survival in protective, ghost-like visions (inspiring a rebel chief to anoint her "War Witch"), and in a tender relationship with a fellow soldier named Magician (Serge Kanyinda). Together, they manage to escape the rebels' clutches, and a normal life finally seems within reach. But after their freedom proves short-lived, Komona realizes she must find a way to bury the ghosts of her past.

I have yet to seen the film (which will be available On Demand starting February 26 and in select theaters March 1), but judging by the description and the below trailer, it looks pretty tremendous (especially the cinematography). I'll be interested to see how it fares at this Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony. Regardless of the outcome, I'm sure Tribeca will still continue to celebrate this unprecedented nomination.

Also, a note on the press release mentions that Mwanza is now in school and the filmmakers continue to provide her with a caregiver. Take a look at the trailer and photos from the film below:


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Poverty Porn, Cold Narratives, and the Appreciation of Life in 2012 Film (Motifs in Cinema)

Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across 22 film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2012 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea - Motifs in Cinema assesses how the use of a common theme across various films changes when utilized by different artists.
Last year, we saw a number of films marvel at the varieties of lives far and beyond--unfathomable to accessible. Specifically, audiences were fascinated to watch the many stories which showed how certain characters lived their daily lives under unimaginable duress, or in a somehow unorthodox way that doesn't compare to what we've seen or been exposed to in past films. In essence, these characters lived extraordinarily. They had a fierce appreciation for their own remarkable lives.

Take, for instance, Stéphanie played by actress Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone. In the beginning of the film, she had it all. She was a sought-after woman, both professionally and socially. The world was literally at her feet, until her legs were stolen from her in a terrible killer whale incident while on the job (she was a trainer). Though she was dejected, completely turned around and overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness and inadequacy, she later meets a man who, in his own sloppy and unintentional way, teaches her that she can still be that woman who is needed, envied and a master of a whole new domain. She becomes reborn.

And in Cloud Atlas, we got to see several parallel lives coincide in extremely vivid fashion. The title reflects the song lead character Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) struggled to conceive. But the film as a whole follows his story and those which it inspired and by which it itself was inspired; each vignette directly influenced another, providing a kaleidoscope of emotions and themes. Every character (from Halle Berry as a determined journalist to Tom Hanks as a tribal father in danger and Doona Bae as a futuristic Korean rebel  ) all start off as inquisitive yet cautious individuals at the turn of a major event that will shape not only their lives but those around them. They never truly get to realize how heroic their actions were, and how they will affect one another deeply and earnestly. But each story is cemented in its own time.

Then there is Zero Dark Thirty, which is a bit of a head scratcher with its often cold but determined storyline. The film, led by the single moniker character by the name of Maya (Jessica Chastain), is defiantly headstrong yet never allows us to get to know any of the characters. In their strenuous efforts to capture an infamous global terrorist (Osama bin Laden), there are several protagonists that become casualties. But even in their fateful moments, we are never allowed to mourn for them. No matter how long their screen time was, since we never truly knew them we felt nothing when they sadly didn't make it to the ending credits. However, it was the last few moments of the film that allowed us--and Maya--to take in all the amazing events which occurred. It granted her and us to recognize the exceptional series of events that led to this moment, those that we never had the opportunity to absorb before. It encapsulated all the emotions that were bottled up for most the movie.

But no 2012 film is more encompassing of this theme of appreciating life more than Beasts of the Southern Wild. A few months ago, there began an flurry of think pieces across the web simplifying the film as "poverty porn."  Obviously, poverty is something that is very much real, and it is incomprehensible to think of it in terms of something that can be seen as glorified.

Now, I have never been poverty-stricken myself, but I can't imagine how anyone can mistake a story of people simply living their life in severely humble circumstances as some kind of frivolous notion subjected for mass entertainment.

In the movie, the characters have been wrought with severe storms and the demolition of their homes in the New Orleans area. Despite dire conditions, they have chosen to stay in their homes, what little is left of them. They continue to celebrate joyous occasions, laugh like they have nothing to mourn, and live like they are surrounded by rainbows, fine silverware in a house that could rival any Robin Leach could sell you.

In reality, the lead character, a mere 6-year-old Afro-donned youngster named Hushpuppy (Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis) takes comfort in the various elements in nature--from seashells to stray animals. And she learns how to make a meal out of cat food she discovered in the middle of the debris circumventing her and her dad's shack. From afar, she looks like a little girl at play. After all, it is her story we are captivated by; it was her tale that screenwriters Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin took special care to spotlight in her naive yet poignant narration of the story.

How can you belittle and trivialize the consumption of a narrative told by a young girl? Both Alibar and Zeitlin  are sensitive in not only how the story is told, but also how audiences receive it. It's not supposed to be just another sad drama about a family who essentially lives in a disaster area, so to speak. The film encourages you to see these people from the eyes of its smallest member, to comprehend how a young girl could perceive life in what people on the outside would consider a relentlessly abysmal situation. One that continues to get worse as the film progresses.

Flimsily categorizing this film as "poverty porn" is not only lazy, but vastly inaccurate and condescending. It may be difficult to see these lives as any of which someone may take pride but, while pity-inducing, these are the only lives they have. Don't hate on them just because you may not be able to appreciate their means. Not only is this a realistic story, but it's one not to be taken lightly. It is as heart-wrenching to watch in its more horrific scenes as it is enchanting to discern. It is truly magnificent.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

'A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD' Is a Bad Day for John McClane and the 'DIE HARD' Franchise

In one of many throwaway lines in Bruce Willis's latest action trek as iconic hero John McClane, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, his son Jack (played by Jai Courtney) recites a line that goes like this, "Kind of thought we'd just wing it. Run in, guns a blazin' make it up as we go."

And that's exactly what I think the filmmakers of this project did when they decided to reunite Willis with his now rickety yet sturdy alter ego, without having a real story (especially one that is at least cohesive enough to enjoy) and while essentially shooting up everyone and everything in sight. That's putting it nicely.

When we first meet John, he's randomly and with no real explanation on his way to Russia on vacation (which he explains at least 5 times throughout the movie). Coincidentally, he runs into his estranged son (now working as a spy) while dodging bullets in a major shootout in the middle of the street (to which not a single member of law enforcement responds). The brouhaha is between Jack and a fugitive in his custody, and a whole bunch of bad guy Russians (this is all we really ever know about them for the duration of the entire movie).

Seeing his son in distress and losing the battle, John decides to join forces with him (having just as much knowledge as the audience ever knows about the what Jack is even doing--none). Together, the two team up for a wild, ridiculous action bromance riddled with haphazard comments from John hinting that this extremely dangerous situation that they're involved in is also a really nice way for them to bond.

Granted, Willis has always be able to sell a movie, even the dumbest of kind. But here he really has to bring out his best one liners, often in self-deprecating form targeting his age, to at least give this depressingly stale movie any glimmer of the goodness that once came from the Die Hard franchise.

Last year, audiences complained about the nearly nonexistent shaky camera effect in The Hunger Games, but if they couldn't bare that then they won't be able to possibly endure the shockingly aggressive camera panning as the director tries to balance between aerial and tight shots. It makes no sense, and it will give you a headache.

And speaking of aches and pains, if you're a Die Hard-er like I am you'll know that John could pretty much handle a building falling on him and walk out with maybe a limp and a bandage on his knee, if anything. But in   A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, it looks like he might actually be immortal, and he may be able to fly. Seriously, this 50-something (albeit, still kickass) man and father takes flight into the air with no wings, escapes buildings that are engulfed in flames (on account of his own ignition, which means that the fire started right in his own hands), and falls numerous flights down a tower into glass windows and concrete. And apparently he's passed that trait along to his son, because he was as invincible as his dad. But each only walks away from the disaster with maybe a splinter and a daffy nod to their faux reconciliation.

This does not a good movie make.

First off, Willis is the man. And he is beyond this, and I'm sure he'll rise again and away from this nightmare. But A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD just leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It makes you think that the previous movies, or the first three really great ones, were all just a fluke. John McTiernan, you are sorely missed. That'll teach Hollywood to leave a sacred franchise in the hands of the guys who brought us Max Payne (director John Moore) and Swordfish (screenwriter Skip Woods).

Rating: D+

James Franco Teams with Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez for a "Girls Gone Wild" Video by the Name of 'SPRING BREAKERS'

So, I'm not entirely sure what to make of this. It seems as though James Franco, formerly of fallen Academy Award hosts fame, is now starring in a small film dramatizing the goings on of Spring Break for naive and horny young adults. And for the life of me I can't tell the difference between this and the infamous Girls Gone Wild videos, except it as Hollywood flare and a little more prestige (for some reason unbeknownst to me).

In any case, the film is titled SPRING BREAKERS and stars James Franco as some lowlife criminal type who lures dumb unsuspecting young'uns into doing obscene things after he bails them each out of jail on a petty charge. And...that seems to be about it, but the press release may be able to clench you:

From visionary provocateur Harmony Korine comes a bold new vision of the seasonal American ritual known as spring break — the bacchanalia of bikinis, beach parties and beer bongs that draws hordes of college students to the Florida coast and elsewhere each year.
Brit (Ashley Benson), Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) are best friends anxious to cut loose on their own spring break adventure, but they lack sufficient funds. After holding up a restaurant for quick cash, the girls head to the shore for what they discover is the party of a lifetime. They’re thrown in jail — and quickly bailed out by Alien (James Franco), a local rapper, drug pusher and arms dealer who lures them into a criminal underbelly that’s as lurid as it is liberating for a close-knit gang of girlfriends who are still figuring out their path.
In the tradition of the landmark indies KIDS and GUMMO, Harmony Korine unleashes a ferocious, feverish and furiously alive youthquake examining the sights, sounds and sensory overload of a new generation of restless youth. Featuring a stellar ensemble cast, hypnotic visuals by the cinematographer Benoît Debie (ENTER THE VOID, IRREVERSIBLE, THE RUNAWAYS) and a hallucinatory musical score by Cliff Martinez (DRIVE) and Skrillex, SPRING BREAKERS is an electrifying pop poem to girls gone wild from the enfant terrible of teenage kicks.

I don't know about you, but my eyes widened at the sight of Martinez's name, after falling in love with his nostalgic Drive soundtrack in 2011. And the fact that Korine and his movie Kids is mentioned here also piques my interest (and may indicate that there may be more to this movie than the trailer shows). James Franco used to do good work, so I can only hope assume this is another great project to add to his repertoire. I can't comment on the rest of this Disney-like cast.

SPRING BREAKERS will be released exclusively in New York and Los Angeles one week early on March 15. It will expand nationwide on March 22. Check out the new trailer below:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Top 10 Break-Up Scenes In Black Movies [VIDEO]

Studies have shown that Valentine’s Day is not only known for pushing diamond ads and boosting already overpriced restaurant sales; it’s also known to be one of the most popular days of the year for break-ups. Yes, fellas, that same day when you’re struggling to come up with the most elaborately romantic plan, other guys are plotting to kick their girls to the curb.

So, in honor of Valentine's Day AND Black History Month, if you or a friend hopes to make the leap to bachelorhood this V-Day, get inspired with our list of the most memorable breakup scenes from black movies:

10. Ali (Will and Jada Smith): We all thought it was cute seeing this real-life couple Jada Pinkett and Will Smith portray husband and wife Sonji Roi and Muhammad Ali in Ali. But their onscreen newlywed bliss quickly turned sour once Sonji started flaunting flashy clothes in public while Ali was trying to lead the simple Muslim life. With less than two years of marriage and a quickie divorce, this once promising couple was a thing of the past.
9. Ray (Hit the Road, Jack): When Margie Hendricks of the Raelettes (Regina King) tells Ray Charles she’s pregnant with his baby, it should have been a happy moment. It would have been if Ray didn’t already have a wife (Kerry Washington) and family waiting for him at home. So when Charles didn’t take the news as she had hoped, she went off on him as he sat at his famous piano, inspiring one of his most popular songs to date, “Hit the Road, Jack.”

8. Why Do Fools Fall in Love?: Ladies, if your man has you on the streets hooking to pay the rent like Elizabeth “Mickey” Waters had to do to keep a roof over hers and late singer Frankie Lymon’s head, you know there is something wrong in your relationship. AND he drops your dog out the window? It’s time for him to go.

7. Jungle Fever: You know you did something wrong when you come home to find your good suits sprawled out all over the concrete, your jilted wife hanging out the window screaming obscenities, and all your neighbors on the block instigating the whole thing.
6. The Color Purple: Just how much heartbreak can one woman take? Ask Celie (Whoopi Goldberg), the woeful and abused wife of tyrant Albert (Danny Glover) who seemed destined to spend the rest of her life as a victim. We all cheered when she found the courage to stand up to him, leaving him for the first time speechless in the movie’s pivotal dinner table scene.

5. Something New: We thought Kenya (Sanaa Lathan) and her pale boo Brian (Simon Baker) had it going on in this movie, until he said one thing out of pocket, on the wrong day. Their argument in the grocery store about office politics between blacks and whites was one of the most honest scenes in recent romantic movies.

4. Mahogany: Even one of the most iconic cinematic romances of all time hit a few snags along the way. On the one hand we have a high-powered fashion fatale (Diana Ross) well on her way to superstardom, and on the other is her lover (Billy Dee Williams) whose adoration for her means leaving her career behind. They just don’t make romantic dramas like this anymore.

3. Middle of Nowhere: In one of last year’s most profound and slept on films, this independent gem featured a young woman (Emayatzy Corinealdi) yearning to hold on to the love between her imprisoned boo (Omari Hardwick). But when a new beau (David Oyelowo) comes into her life, she must learn to part ways with her former love. Heart-wrenching, powerful and an instant classic, this film reminds us that breakups can be both devastating and freeing at the same time.

2. Waiting to Exhale: Her man cheated on her, paraded around her office with another woman, and she worked for him. Even the female Keith Sweat herself, Mary J. Blige, had to sing about it. But while watching your car burst into flames would bring a tear to anyone’s eye, it sure did look good to watch Angela Bassett singe her man’s whip in an act of revenge in the movie.

1. What’s Love Got to Do With It?: It was clear early on in this movie that forever and ever really had to be cut short, what with Ike Turner slinging Tina from one side of the room to another. But as the film progressed, we weren’t sure when would be enough for the badass icon. So when Tina finally stood up against her hubby in this clip, it was all we could do to keep from giving her a standing ovation.

This post was originally published by The Urban Daily

Sunday, February 10, 2013

'Cinema in Noir' Lists the Best On-Screen Couples

Valentine's Day is just days away, so we at "Cinema in Noir" try to get into the spirit with a list of our favorite onscreen couples past and present. From Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams in Mahogany to Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci in Easy A and Sanna Lathan and Omar Epps in Love and Basketball, leave your picks below in the comments box. 

And in honor of tonight's Grammys, we also share our casting wishlist of of potential musical biopics (Sophie Okenedo for Sade anyone?). Check it out, plus our film news and reviews of Identity Thief and Side Effects, on a recap of today's show below:

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Ben Affleck and 'ARGO' are Major Winners at the BAFTAs

It looks like Ben Affleck and #TeamArgo have taken over another academy. The born again thespian, Affleck, and his latest film took home top prizes (best director and film) at today's The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTAs). 

Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained took home two awards, one for its supporting actor (Christoph Waltz) and the best original screenplay. Meanwhile, Daniel Day-Lewis, Emanuelle Riva and Anne Hathaway grabbed the rest of the acting awards for their films Lincoln, Amour and Les Misérables, respectively. 

Take a look at the full list of winners below:


ARGO Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney


SKYFALL Sam Mendes, Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan


BART LAYTON (Director), DIMITRI DOGANIS (Producer) The Imposter


AMOUR Michael Haneke, Margaret Ménégoz


SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn


BRAVE Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman


ARGO Ben Affleck


DJANGO UNCHAINED Quentin Tarantino








CHRISTOPH WALTZ Django Unchained


ANNE HATHAWAY Les Misérables


SKYFALL Thomas Newman


LIFE OF PI Claudio Miranda


ARGO William Goldenberg


LES MISÉRABLES Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson


ANNA KARENINA Jacqueline Durran




LES MISÉRABLES Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John Warhurst


LIFE OF PI Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer


THE MAKING OF LONGBIRD Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson


SWIMMER Lynne Ramsay, Peter Carlton, Diarmid Scrimshaw

THE EE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public)


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Neutering the Male Character and the Problem with Too Many Romantic Movies Today

Before you read on, you may already assume by my relentlessly snarky comments that I'm not exactly what you would call a fan of romantic comedies. But you'd be wrong. I actually love certain films that fall within the genre (I go hard for Pretty Woman and, more recently, Celeste and Jesse Forever. For Goodness sake, I'm not dead inside. Plus, I have a few guilty pleasures that will remain nameless), just not many current titles.

I think most of that is due to the fact that as I've gotten older (and, for the most part, wiser), I don't easily fall head over heels for the storyline that paints the guy as a hyperbolic Prince Charming whose only goal in life is to sweep his lover off her feet. We never get to know much about him, except that he is the object of her affection. This leads to a terribly unilateral premise. Meanwhile, we get all the info on her--her desires, pet peeves, hopes and dreams. The guy is ultimately a piece in her story, which typically involves her fiercely successful professional life overpowering her crippling and near pathetic personal life. (Or the somewhat mess of a woman who can't seem to get anything right until this guy enters her life and saves it, which seems to be what Safe Haven is all about). After several of those in a row, that tale just becomes stale.

While the male character simply becoming an accessory in mainstream romantic comedies is a refreshing change from the day when it was very much the opposite, to write him in a way in which he essentially becomes neutered, flawless and fairy tale-like, willingly catering to the exact arrangement of the female desire is equally as unattractive to me. That said, the male character has no give, no allowance to be human and make a mistake or not be the man she wanted him to be. Must he always elaborately show his love by orchestrating a flash mob in the middle of Grand Central Station to the tune of their favorite song? (Yes, Friends with Benefits still annoys me to this day). Can't he sometimes take her to a run down space hotel for a little "us" time like Ryan Gosling did for Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine? That was....romantic, kinda. And their relationship was not all roses. Sorta made you feel better about your relationship, right?

That's why I hold the film Boomerang, and other modern romantic comedies from the male perspective on a higher level than many films today. The guys are real, like people you may actually know, and charmingly imperfect about their own intentions and attraction. They have an actual point of view you rarely get to see. You get to hear their side, their thoughts (which aren't always pure, but you love it anyway). You appreciate them more that way. Granted, they're not always doing what you believe to be the right thing, but at least they're acting in a way that indicates they're human and not a figment of someone's imagination.

I believe this is where the idea of chick flicks came from (which, admittedly, has spiraled off into other misogynistic degrees). It's the notion that these films cater to the woman's ideals in a relationship, whereas forgoing those of the male character. These films are essentially about and for these women and real women like them, and not for anyone else, especially men (even though there is a man floating around in this faux relationship as well). It makes me want to shout, For crying out loud, let the man be a man in these movies! Let him have a voice!

It's understandable and even tempting to create a big screen fable where the man generically pops right out of a Ken and Barbie gumball machine. But 1) it creates an unnecessary ideal for women and girls who don't know any better but to expect this man in real life, and 2) it's just dull. And must the movie always have a happy ending?! Get some conflict in your movie, some real romantic challenges and then come talk to me. Take a cue from iconic movies like Mahogany, which features both the man and the woman deeply in love with each other who both have gigantic other aspects of their lives to foster and navigate. Give the audience something to cling to, and stop underestimating what we can and cannot handle. After all, we're human too. We'll understand.

Friday, February 8, 2013

'BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD' Annihilates All Competition at Last Night's Black Reel Awards

One of my personal favorites from last year, Beasts of the Southern Wild, took home four awards at last night's Black Reel Awards, including Outstanding Actress (Quvenzhané Wallis) and Outstanding Picture. Lets hope this is an indication of their success at the Oscars later this month.

Meanwhile, a film that was snubbed by the Academy, Middle of Nowhere, also made out like a bandit at the ceremony. Its writer/director Ava Duvernay won Outstanding Director and Screenplay. The acting categories went to other deserving talent like Denzel Washington for Flight, Naomie Harris for Skyfall and Samuel L. Jackson for Django Unchained.

“The culmination of a special year featuring some very special films and performances is highlighted by a fantastic job by our voters, recognizing some of the year's true gems,” said Tim Gordon, President and creator of the Black Reel Awards. “This was a very special year for many of us.”

Overall, these are very pleasing results. Check out the full list of film winners below:

Outstanding Film
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Outstanding Actor
Denzel Washington | Flight

Outstanding Actress
Quvenzhane Wallis | Beasts of the Southern Wild

Outstanding Supporting Actor
Samuel L. Jackson | Django Unchained

Outstanding Supporting Actress
Naomie Harris | Skyfall

Outstanding Director
Ava DuVernay | Middle of Nowhere

Outstanding Screenplay (Original or Adapted)
Ava DuVernay | Middle of Nowhere

Outstanding Documentary
The Central Park Five | Sarah Burns, Ken Burns & David McMahon

Outstanding Ensemble
Django Unchained | Victoria Thomas

Outstanding Foreign Film
The Intouchables | France

Outstanding Score
Dan Romer & Behn Zeitilin | Beasts of the Southern Wild

Outstanding Song
John Legend "Who Did That to You" | Django Unchained

Outstanding Breakthrough Performance
Quvenzhane Wallis | Beasts of the Southern Wild

Outstanding Voice Performance
Dennis Haysbert | Wreck-it Ralph

Outstanding Independent Film
LUV | Sheldon Candis

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Elizabeth Banks Causes Major Traffic Jam in Los Angeles (With Her New Movie)

Elizabeth Banks, who I love despite a few of her questionable movies (*cough* The Next Three Days *cough*), is starring in a new comedy that looks right up her alley--WALK OF SHAME. Though the film hasn't even hit theaters yet, it garnered quite the audience this past weekend when the actress literally stopped traffic on a major highway wearing nothing but a teeny weeny itsy bitty yellow spandex dress. Full explanation below (from a Film District press release):

Los Angeles, February 6, 2013 – This weekend Hollywood was responsible for Los Angeles’ recent major road closure as the production of WALK OF SHAME stopped traffic –literally! – inspiring the term Shameaggedon. The comedy, starring Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden and Gillian Jacobs, currently in production in Los Angeles closed the roads due to filming – taking over the 710 Freeway from the 10 Freeway to the Valley Boulevard exit. The road closures lasted over six hours both Saturday, February 2 and Sunday, February 3.

Written & directed by Steve Brill (WITHOUT A PADDLE, MR. DEEDS), WALK OF SHAME stars Banks as an aspiring reporter whose dreams of becoming a network news anchor are compromised after a one-night stand with a handsome stranger (played by Marsden) leaves her stranded in downtown Los Angeles without a phone, car, ID or money – and only 8 hours to make it to the most important job interview of her life.

Saturday and Sunday (also known as Super Bowl Sunday) traffic on the 10 was diverted to other exits such as Fremont and Eastern, while traffic heading north on the 710 Freeway was diverted onto the 10 East and West to Fremont or Eastern. 

WALK OF SHAME, which commenced principal photography in January, will wrap next month and is projected to hit theatres some time early next year. Produced by Lakeshore Entertainment and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, the film’s cast has been rounded out by an impressive group of comedic talent including Bill Burr, Liz Carey, Ken Davitian, Willie Garson, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Oliver Hudson, Alphonso McAuley, Kevin Nealon, Tig Notaro, Ethan Suplee and Sarah Wright. This group joins the previously announced actors Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden and Gillian Jacobs. The film is being distributed through FilmDistrict.

I'm here for Banks. So hopefully WALK OF SHAME is at least worth the price of admission. According to IMDB, it should be in theaters sometime next year. Are you excited to watch it?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

'WARM BODIES' is a Clever Twist on the Popular Love Story Between Human and Undead [REVIEW]

You can blame Buffy, The Vampire Slayer for our love affair with the human/undead romance. The idea of a warm-blooded living being locking lips with a scary pale supernatural being is so unbelievable that you can't take your eyes away from it. But the impossibility of this dynamic somehow worked, even to this day (example: every single Twilight movie).

And up until now this flirtation has mostly played to the favor of the woman, with the narrative primarily revolving around her story. That is, until writer/director Jonathan Levine (5/50) flipped the script with WARM BODIES.

Levine, who's spent the last few years earning his cred with films like 2008's The Wackness, proves his staying power with a wickedly funny yet sensitive adaptation of Isaac Marion's 2011 novel about a young man (Nicholas Hoult) known as "R" trapped in the decaying body of a zombie. He spends most his days in the confines of an abandoned airport with a multitude of other ghouls, grunting wordless conversations with them and schlepping along with cinder blocks for legs.

The hours treading through the hangar, witnessing the remains of other lives frozen in time and dodging the Bonies (antagonistic skeleton-like beings) have all but blended together for R. Hoult's witty and disarming narration throughout the movie, especially in the opening scenes, makes it easy for you to sympathize with his lonely and seemingly never-ending predicament. His realization of the banality that has become his life, and his ability to find humor in it, is wildly entertaining to watch.

And until he happens to meet Julie (Teresa Palmer), daughter of a hard core zombie resistance fighter played by John Malkovitch, he had grown accustomed to having an impending expiration date. It is that moment, when he is so taken by her beauty that he protects her from a zombie takeover, that the Buffy dialogue gets kicked into high gear--the conflicted romance between the two and the melodrama of their situation in the heart of a true zombieapocalypse. But rather than making their absurd love be the central plot driver (something which has been played in the movies to no end), WARM BODIES pits them right in the middle of a real revolution, which changes the disposition of each character and propels the film to something much deeper than an unorthodox love story. It becomes a movement that is merely sponsored by this courtship.

Tying in nicely with R's self-deprecating humor is the movie's ability to even makes fun of itself. Not in an Easy A obvious type of way, but rather it employs authentic colloquy, for instance, between the young heroines (Palmer and Analeigh Tipton, who plays her BFF) that you can actually believe could transpire between the two in this outrageous predicament. Why bother to keep gorgeous makeup when your chances of going out on a date in the middle of a supernatural catastrophe are slim to none? How can you convince your friend--and the audience--to get on board with this strange relationship long enough to champion it?

With Levine's near flawless screenplay and spectacularly painted scenes, an awesomely nostalgic soundtrack, and Hoult's perfect performance of a young man desperate for human interaction, WARM BODIES is simply the first must-see movie of 2013. Bank on that.

Rating B+

'RED TAILS' Wins Best Picture at Last Night's NAACP Image Awards (Yes, You Read that Right)

Apparently the NAACP Image Awards were handed out last night. Samuel L. Jackson was named best supporting actor for his brilliant performance in Django Unchained, and this is really all I care about. Oh, and Beasts of the Southern Wild and Flight's Denzel Washington earned some love at the ceremony as well, which should make up for the bogus Red Tails win for best picture....but it doesn't. 

Check out the full list of film winners below:

Film/Motion Picture

“Red Tails” (Lucasfilm)

Actor in a Motion Picture

Denzel Washington “Flight” (Paramount Pictures)

Actress in a Motion Picture

Viola Davis “Won’t Back Down” (20th Century Fox)

Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Samuel L. Jackson “Django Unchained” (Weinstein Co.)

Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Kerry Washington “Django Unchained” (Weinstein Co.)

Independent Motion Picture

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Fox Searchlight Pictures) & “Red Tails” (Lucasfilm)

International Motion Picture

“The Intouchables” (Weinstein Co.)

Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television)

Benh Zeitlin “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

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