All About XENOmorph00010
For anyone following the Academy and film each year like me, it should go without saying that I was beyond dissatisfied with the nomination choices this year, and normally I think they do a fair job at nominating the right films and people. But we've all vented our frustration, and tonight, the awards will be handed out. A number of people have made their predictions for who they think will win, and there seems to be a fairly common consensus. So I'll be contributing my thoughts, both in regards to what I expect to win and, for the categories I feel I've either seen all or, in my opinion, most of the nominees, which I'd personally pick. If I don't provide a "Who/What I'd Pick," it's probably because I haven't seen any of the nominations.
Best Live Action Short Film
What Will Win: Raju
Best Animated Short Film
What Will Win: La Luna
Best Documentary Short
What Will Win: Incident in New Baghdad
Best Feature Documentary
What Will Win: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Best Visual Effects
What Will Win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
What I'd Pick: Hugo or Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Best Sound Editing
What Will Win: War Horse
What I'd Pick: Drive
Best Sound Mixing
What Will Win: Hugo
What I'd Pick: Hugo
Best Original Song
What Will Win: "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets
Best Original Score
What Will Win: The Artist
What I'd Pick: War Horse (but to be honest, any of the nominees is worthy of this award except for The Adventures of Tintin)
What Will Win: Albert Nobbs
Best Costume Design
What Will Win: The Artist
What I'd Pick: The Artist
Best Art Direction
What Will Win: The Artist
What I'd Pick: The Artist or Hugo
What Will Win: The Artist
What I'd Pick: The Artist
What Will Win: The Tree of Life
What I'd Pick: The Tree of Life
Best Foreign Language Film
What Will Win: A Separation
Best Feature Animated Film
What Will Win: Rango
Best Adapted Screenplay
What Will Win: Moneyball
What I'd Pick: The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay
What Will Win: The Artist
Best Supporting Actress
Who Will Win: Octavia Spencer in The Help
Best Supporting Actor
Who Will Win: Christopher Plummber in Beginners
Best Lead Actress
Who Will Win: Viola Davis in The Help
Who I'd Pick: Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best Lead Actor
Who Will Win: Jean Dujardin in The Artist
Who I'd Pick: Jean Dujardin in The Artist or George Clooney in The Descendants
Who Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Who I'd Pick: Martin Scorsese for Hugo
What Will Win: The Artist
What I'd Pick: The Artist or The Descendants
I'm not majoring in a field that (directly) pertains to film, and there are countless people out there with way more experience and legitimate backing to their thoughts on any film, but I'd like to consider myself one who knows more than most my age. Some of the movies I've watched this year are ones I'd be a bit surprised if my friends even heard of, which is partly thanks to my college's film club (for the meetings I was able to attend). Every week they'd show a film and, oftentimes, they'd pick a lesser known movie that would also be a bit older than me. So with that out of the way, here's a list of some of the standout films I've watched recently.
Put up with this franchise as long as I have, you wouldn't be smiling too much either.
Summer Fiesta: I have to open up and say that 2011 has been an incredibly underwhelming year for film; hardly anything has really caught my eye and those that have are, as always, given limited releases. The spring and summer all brought films that were anywhere from bad to above average at best. On the lower end we had The Hangover Part 2, which failed not because of its regurgitation, but because it's almost completely devoid of any good comedic material. Then, on the higher end, we got films like the promising Moneyball and surprisingly engaging Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I'll admit that my expectations weren't too high for Moneyball based on the trailers and, critical acclaim aside, I think it mostly met my moderate expectations. It's better than most of what we saw up to its point of release, but other than that superiority in mind, I don't think it really has anything Oscar-worthy beyond the script. It's interesting that a lot of people think Pitt should be in the running for a Best Lead Actor nomination when he's mostly just doing a better job than usual playing his typical character type. If anything, I'd say Jonah Hill's the real star of the film, finally stepping into something different, which he accomplishes with great success.
Most of the other releases this year have proved unremarkable and hardly worth more than a sentence of summarizing each. As a fan of the first two films, Transformers: Dark of the Moon was a real disappointing bore; Green Lantern was a mediocre but entertaining watch; then there were the worthwhile action films like Thor, Captain America, X-Men: First Cla ss and Fast Five, all of which were great theatrical viewings that proved to be better than the trailers indicated. Other brief mentions include 30 Minutes or Less, a sparingly entertaining film with one of the worst endings I've seen in some time; Immortals, a film so unsatisfying that even Mickey Rourke couldn't save it from borderline atrocity; Limitless, which I enjoyed despite the supposedly "contrived" ending since we didn't get something preachy, and Deathly Hallows Part 2 which, though a relatively solid film, still felt rushed and only made me wish the films were left in better hands past Goblet of Fire (in fact, they should've had Mike Newell do all the films after the fourth).
In a nutshell, 2011 has been a stark contrast to 2010, which had several films added to my personal favorites list. In fact, up to this point, the only film I'd give a 4.5/5 to is Hugo. I'll comment on the 3D first of all and say that the first 5-10 minutes it's utilized magnificently, but after that it becomes, like most of the 3D in The Lion King's re-release, negligible. Regardless, it's a superb film that anyone with a passion for film should definitely watch. The child actors do a solid job, with Chloe Grace Moretz playing a character who completely contrasts the one of HIt-Girl in last year's surprise hit Kick-Ass (but she manages to be equally likeable here, I think she's the next to star to keep an eye out for). And of course there's Ben Kingsley, who provides the most convincing performance in the film; he should be in the running for Best Supporting Actor--I'd even say his performance here rivals the one he provided alongside Liam Neeson in 1993's Schindler's List. The big surprise with the film, however, is Sacha Baron Cohen as the Inspector. While we're led to think his character will be a carbon cutout, he actually has more depth thanks to a few small scenes that truly add up and made me admire the film all the more because of it.
You-your key...completes me!
So yes, I was quite impressed by Hugo overall, but something I was appalled by is how, when I saw it a few days ago at 7 PM, I was literally the only person in the theater. What's worse: I've heard from at least one other person that they were alone in their theater when seeing it. And yet we have trite trash like Twilight being stormed as if The Dark Knight Rises was being given an early, full-blown screening.
But I'm not one to stay on insignificant matters for too long, so for some actual movies I've seen released prior to 2011...
Capote: I remember just starting middle and one night asking my mother what constituted good acting, to which she said "when you can't tell when the actor is acting." For the longest time, this type of effect escaped me, even when I began to watch more and more films. Recently, however, I've seen it happen a few times, but I think Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance in 2005's biopic Capote was the first time I got the impression I wasn't even watching him as an actor. It really helped getting into the deliberately slow-paced film a lot easier. Additionally, his intensifying relationship with Perry helped lend a sense of tension during the second two acts. I think it's incredible how Hoffman managed to nail down the look, sound and feel of Capote, from losing 40 pounds for the role, looking equally shorter than usual, the high pitch voice and of course his mannerisms and psychology. It's actually an experience in and of itself, one that I think anyone with the least bit of interest in acting needs to watch.
My voice gives me Academy Award status.
Erin Brockovich: I wouldn't have even bothered with this film had it not been for the fact one of my roommates had to watch it for his course. He completely despised it and me, being one who's aroused when films are abhorred in such a passionate manner, was curious to see what it would be like. To my pleasant surprise, I found it a very enjoyable and earnest film. Roberts definitely provides a terrific, memorable performance alongside Albert Finney and, to my surprise, Aaron Eckhart. And almost instantly I could tell that the score was done by my personal favorite contemporary composer, Thomas Newman, so that was a nice touch. Needless to say, the verdict between my roommate and I between the film could hardly be any different.
Amelie: Here's a film I heard all about but never bothered to watch until I had to watch it for my second French course during the Spring semester. Going in, I wasn't sure what to expect since the cover makes the title character seem a bit...off, and imagining the director who gave us Alien: Resurrection do a drama/comedy sounded like an equally curious transition. Thankfully, it turned out to be a entertaining and engaging film. Audrey Tautou provides a wonderful performance and helps make Amelie an irresistibly lovable character. She's shy and timid in some ways, but outgoing and hilarious in others--we're constantly taken into the picture even further thanks to this and other strengths. Even if you're not crazy about films with romantic plots and are put off by foreign language movies, I'd still encourage this film because of how easy it is to enjoy the story and characters.
After Hours: I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't heard of this film, it's a lesser known effort by Martin Scorsese that he did after The Last Temptation of Christ. A bit of a black comedy in some ways, but also crude in other means, After Hours is the kind of film you watch to be reminded how your night could be so much worse. While I've only seen four of Scorsese's movies (including this one) and find one to be among the most overrated films of all time, this was a fun and crazy experience that I'd definitely recommend.
Angel Heart: Okay, most of the movies up to this point have been recommendations, so let's tackle something different. Angel Heart is another under-the-radar film nowadays but back when it was released, it drew quite a bit of controversy over a scene with Lisa Bonet, which was altered to avoid an X rating. The film stars a young, almost unrecognizable Mickey Rourke and an appropriately cast Robert De Niro. Conceptually, it seems like a good recipe, but it's completely predictable and, because of it, even the absurd scenes only seem to make the film more (needlessly) convoluted in attempt to distort what most viewers should be able to figure out early on. While De Niro turns out a good performance as Louis Cyphre, I feel that, aside from some great lines, Angel Heart is little more than an absurd yet predictable drag.
Should've taken my offer on that egg, Johnny.
Bellflower: Here's an indie film that was released earlier this year and, despite gaining some acclaim, turned out to be another viewing I can't say I particularly enjoyed. If there's anything I took away from this film, it's that you could use it as proof that we need authority. The film essentially has increasingly hectic events occurring, all courtesy of people who probably aren't even 25 years old. Things get twisted around as the rising action begins to reach a climax, but it's around this point that things just fall apart and the film itself seems unsure what to do for a resolution.
The Docks of New York: This movie was an interesting experience for one reason: it was the first time I saw a silent film. Despite being a sharp divergence from what I'm used to, this didn't offset my chance to take things as they should be. There are some great shots in the movie that would probably give many directors nowadays a turnaround. The film's lead actor got me and other members of the film club thinking of Robert De Niro and Alec Baldwin a lot, but we leaned towards the latter because of their mannerisms. If you happen to stumble across this movie, I'd suggest checking it out, there's some good comedy and fun to have with solid directing to boot.
It's funny how this probably constitutes a lengthy blog when I've probably only mentioned about half of the movies I've seen recently. Though I'd like to talk about many others, I'll save the space for now and mention other movies I've watched along with what I'd rate each:
Thank You For Smoking: 3.75/5
Harry Brown: 3/5
The Princess and the Frog: 3.75/5
Broadcast News: 3.5/5
The Magnificent Ambersons: 3.75/5
Dances with Wolves: 4.5/5
Stardust Memories: 3.75/5
Charlie Wilson's War: 3.75/5
Blade Runner (The Final Cut): 3.5/5
Bowling for Columbine: 5/5
The Girl Cut in Two: 2.5/5
Battle: Los Angeles: 3.5/5
The Majestic: 3.75/5
If you'd like to know specifically what I thought of any of the above films, just let me know in a comment and I'll get back to you.
Perhaps giving a major (catch-up) blog is irrelevant when my last major posting was back in July, but hey, when you're a year from finishing college and have a full schedule of upper level (English) classes, freedom doesn't tend to hand itself over. Now that the semester has ended, however, I can let everyone know what's been going on with me and the good ol' MGM's (movies, games and music).
Not Quite on the Front
I remember being in high school, back when I had far more time (and money) to spend on most upcoming videogames. Now it's a vastly different situation, with only a few games compelling me to purchase (or try) them. In fact, the only game released this year that I've purchased is Forza Motorsport 4. Even though I can't tell you how a car truly runs or the what little details really mean, I'd still consider myself one who knows more about cars than the average dealership consumer. This, combined with my love of the first three Forza Motorsport games, should make my interest in the fourth iteration all the more obvious.
Having gradually worked my way through the World Tour, messing around with a couple car designs, taking part in the occasional car tunes and owning about 1/4 the game's total car roster, I'd say I've had my fair share of time dedicated to this release. Though most of the changes made to the game are minor, they're generally appreciated and, in the case of the car handling/physics, actually makes a great difference. The AutoVista mode is a bit of a novelty, but it's still enjoyable to mess around in--I'm just disappointed there aren't any muscle cars or DLC AutoVista vehicles yet (unless you count the Ford GT as muscle instead of exotic). Some visual details are very welcome too, thanks to the enhanced lighting engine (I was ready to cry when I saw the reflections off my cars in the Maple Valley bridge).
Not all the changes made are welcome, however. For one, I hate how you need to have Xbox Live Gold in order to receive gift cars, even if, like me, you bought the LCE for VIP status. Between college and finding out a couple people I know have had their Xbox Live accounts hacked and banned (with horrible customer service from Microsoft), I've had little incentive to upgrade my account. And given how cheap everyone was online when I raced during the free weekend over Thanksgiving, I'm even less compelled to pay for a feature I'll seldom use. Even worse: Microsoft love to make it annoying to cancel auto-renewal unless you buy a card in stores. Tsk tsk.
Other games have caught my attention this year as well, especially after the distinct lack of interesting titles from last year. I managed to rent and beat Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary since, given the unfaithful multiplayer component, even a $40 price tag feels rather steep. I'll say that the audio/visual presentation is a welcome touch and, thankfully, framerate drops were far less prominent (as I was hoping). Some of the levels were a bit easier to see and navigate through, such as The Flood and Keyes. But even for all the nice visual improvements, I still found some quibbles in the presentation. Many of the cutscenes are given different slightly different shots, angles and animations. While this is certainly understandable and, in the case of the latter, meant to make them appear more natural, many weren't too appeasing to me. Not to mention the lip-syncing is absolutely horrible (there was a point I said "this is worse than Metal Gear Solid 3").
While these aren't significant faults in and of themselves, there was one problem I encountered that ultimately left a very bitter final impression. During the last cutscene, the audio and visuals were about 3 seconds out of sync, so music and effects (like Halo blowing up and falling apart) came before it actually occurred on-screen. And yet the dialogue still matched what was happening during the cutscene. Not good, not good. And if you're wondering, I did find and check out all of the terminals, most of which I didn't think much of, though there were a couple I appreciated (one where Guilty Spark goes into detail about all the Halos and the one on the level Keyes come to mind).
One of my friends is also letting me borrow a couple of his games: Skyrim and Saints Row: The Third. I haven't gotten around to the former yet, but I've been playing Saints Row and am about 40% through the game. Being a fan of the previous two iterations, I must say that this latest entry has been a bittersweet experience. While some of the fundamentals are still here like some hectic activities with easygoing, pick-up-and-play gameplay, I feel like much of what made the previous two games so fun is now lost. The city doesn't look or feel as interesting, several activities have been eliminated or cut back (while the awful Escort and paparazzi missions return intact--working for an annoying pimp speaking in autotune nonetheless). And while the game is still fun, it's one that I can only tackle in small bursts because most of the main missions essentially consist of you shooting through the same repetitive enemies and confrontations. As a result, I've been going through the game more for the sake of completion rather than an honest desire to actually finish the game.
There are other recently released games I'm hoping to try out. Gears of War is a series I'm hoping to finish, since I'm in the minority who actually feel some sort of a connection to the storyline (namely thanks to the second game). And even though I didn't bother with its predecessor, I'm interested to try out Arkham City, though I'd rather play Arkham Asylum first. Then there's the craze over Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3, which I'd encourage any possible readers to watch Ben Croshaw's review of Modern Warfare 3 to get my thoughts on both (despite not having played either specific entry). One release I'd like to purchase that seems to have a limited supply is the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection since I'm a huge fan of Snake Eater and would like to actually finish MGS2 (long story to why I never did).
Where's the Orchestra?
I haven't been particularly attentive to music for the second half of this year either, but there have been some recent and slightly older albums I've gotten around to hearing. To be honest, many of my favorite bands seem to be going downhill with subsequent releases, which is a shame, as their recent efforts definitely had potential. One of the immediate indications was Iconoclast by Symphony X, which only had 2 memorable tracks (Iconoclast and Heretic). Similar could be said for Amorphis' most recent studio effort, The Beginning of Times. Both have their moments and are functional albums, but are remarkably stale for bands who can at least provide a few strong tracks amidst less-than-stellar works.
Even worse, I recently listened to Imaginaerum by Nightwish and I have to say that they're only heading further downhill. The interesting part is that, like Dark Passion Play, this has less to do with Annette being an inferior (though still good) singer compared to Tarja, but with how the album tries to cover so much ground without taking initiative. What's equally curious is that with an album like Century Child, the runtime felt way too short while both Dark Passion Play and Imaginaerum, conversely, feel like overkill on the runtime. I think this says a lot, coming from someone who still holds Nostradamus (by Judas Priest) in high regards.
On a more positive note, I think Dream Theater followed up Black Clouds & Silver Lining pretty well with the misleading A Dramatic Turn of Events. It's still very much the same Dream Theater that fans and haters have come to know, so it's a conveniently safe release. Whether it matches its predecessor is debatable, but I'm just glad they still avoided making another slump a la Systematic Chaos. Were it not for college, I could have seen the band live too, but slightly higher ticket prices than what I normally pay and assignments didn't make it too feasible at the time. Fortunately, I did manage to see Symphony X back in May (shame that Soilwork and Nevermore dropped the show, but we got to hear all of the 24-minute epic The Odyssey) and also saw Opeth and Katatonia in September, which was a great show. Unfortunately, I still haven't gotten around to hearing Heritage.
Will It Have a Happy Ending?
If there's any field I've still managed to set time aside for this year, it's that of film (despite 2011 being an incredibly lackluster year). Though I'm majoring in English/Creative Writing and have never tried my hand at a screenplay, I'd like to imagine myself being involved with films for a career. Over the past year I've seen several movies which I could delve into with plentiful details, but I feel it would be best suited for a separate blog because of how many I've seen and would like to talk about to some degree.
Until then, I'll let De Niro and Rourke maintain your attention: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQfiuHK_U84
My Recent Reviews
A music video I made for the upcoming 360 game Too Human set to the song "The New World" by In Flames. This was a quick make, got it done in one class in one day.
10,000 B.C. Review. This is my review of the movie 10,000 B.C. Hope you enjoy.
In response to Jack Thompson's several remarks about videogames compelling people to commit violent acts. I decide to touch upon the issue he's brought up. This isn't meant to change anyone's perspective, it's merely to get my opinion out.