Category Archives: Academy Awards

“Legend” by Marie Lu: a book review

Realistic, Urban/Dystopian readers will enjoy this, but not as much as “Divergent” (4/5) or “The Hunger Games” (4/5).

While “Legend” is shorter than both, and more unique, it’s glaring flaws including forced loved sub-plot, 15-year olds who should be 18 or older because they act like it, and contrived “sleuthing” scene knock it down a point (3/5). It is good. Many will enjoy it, but not love it. I really, really, really wanna give it a 4/5, but that’s the entertainment value for the sap I am; writing and overall comparison to what else I’ve read is something different.

Luckily, it was a book that knew how long it was supposed to be. It could have easily been 75 extra pages by some other idiot novelist, so:  for trimming it down properly and having a second act that never sagged, I gave it a 3.5/5. Great action writing, cold murder scenes, biochemical warfare on civilians, and a mid-point and segue into the second half of the book that made you go “aw ,s***, I gotta see how this ends now.”

The sequel book due out late 2012 or early 2013 (?) she is currently writing will either hurt the series or lift it up. Reason: Will we actually get to see whats going on with the rest of the world or the country unlike so many other dystopians that only focus on one “area” or “city” and never expand to bigger philosophical or political ideas? Don’t they think we could handle it. Flesh it out! Dig deep! Give us an epic tale about our country that chills us to the bone! Not some half-baked trilogy to capitalize on the current market, your first time novelist hacks!

But, hey, I can’t read a bunch of gold ever time I pick up a book. Not gonna happen. And this grade is not bad. It’s better than average, one of the top 20 I’d say from last year in YA, but not quiet award worthy or one of my favorites. The movie would be sick and give The Hunger Games a run for it’s money. Yeah, it moves like that. People you love die, and there is something poetic and Shakepearian about the whole story. Marie Lu even admitted she was inspired by “Les Miserables” when writing. Go figure.

Her sequel, “Prodigy”, I can already tell you, is going to get a 3 or a 4.5 from me. There’s a TON of potential with this series. For more info:

Go, Lu!



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“Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”: a response to the film

This is less of a review and analysis and more of a immediate reaction and response to this film.



Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, I hated Oscar in the first 45-minutes of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” From taking the picture of Viola Davis crying, which was unsettling, to the flashback showing Oscar keeping his dead father’s voice messages from his mother. I didn’t care that he seems to have some social issues, possibly be obsessive compulsive, and clearly a career intellect. I don’t like “him” as a character. He is incapable of what many consider normal human interaction and watching this movie just made me mad.

The novel and the movie were highly praised, and yet, also controversial and divisive. It was nominated for Best Picture? Really?

It shows that not all novels can or should or deserve to be made into films. Having said all this, the actor who played Oscar was perfectly cast and his acting is superb for being so young. That doesn’t mean I liked the screenplay.


This movie is bloated with its own self-awareness, and if you take out the 9/11 aspects and just look at the film about a screwy kid who lost his father (Tom Hanks) in any sad way, it’s still just a story of a messed up kid searching to keep his father in his life. The 9/11 angle isn’t really important at all to the story, and this story could have been in any city. No themes or ideas of Americanism or Nationalism or terrorism were explored whatsoever, only the randomness and unfairness of tragic death; therefore, it is just an emotional backdrop and a wasted opportunity to say something interesting about this time of American History.

Furthermore, the story of this boy and his father could have been told artfully AND simultaneously with an American narrative. The novelist and the screenwriter were not that talented. Since it does nothing but focus on a boy’s tradegy, the 9/11 angle is purely, purely exploitative to sell tickets and novels and be featured in Entertainment Weekly. Period.

In the movie version at least, the issues of September 11th serve as nothing more than a cheap crutch to make the film “more important” and is a little shameless in that regard. The producers and director shot a beautiful film with too many A-listers and obnoxious voice over by a savant/prodigy child who was lied to by his father for his whole life who the audience cannot empathize with.


Only at the 48 minute when Sandra Bullock (the mom) and Oscar get into the huge fight about death not making sense and have the scary and truly emotional screaming match did this film get a second moment of curiosity from me and respect. Finally, a scene without voice-over that meant something, but again, wasn’t exclusive to a 9/11 specific death. The idea of chaos and dying on any given day is universal, and should NOT carry extra weight just because we are American’s and remember 9/11. I find the whole scene right after this emotionally manipulative. I don’t know how I would grade this movie had it been made 8 years ago just after 9/11 or 10 years from now. Would either date of release be better or worse? Who knows?

On another note, just after the one hour point, I could believe I had an hour and some change left. This fuckwhistle drags. Pardon the creative French.

I just didn’t buy that “The Renter” (Max Von S.) would run around with a kid in NYC. It’s too fantastic and dumb. But then at the one hour fifteen minute mark, when Oscar is acting like a psychopath in a warehouse full of lockboxes, I was like, oh, of course the Renter is Oscar’s grandfather. How obvious. Oscar guesses this at the hour twenty mark.  I should have known. Well, now that that’s outta the way, let’s get Oscar some psychological help; something his mom, Bullock, should have done a year ago! But, no, they don’t do this.

And why the hell didn’t “The Renter” reveal his relationship? Why? Why!! What a bunch of asses Oscar has in his life! A mother who lets him run around the city alone and knows about it for weeks, a father who played a deeply deceptive game and should have stopped once he was no longer ten, and a grandfather who literally says nothing to his own grandson which may have been a big help for both of their characters to discuss Tom Hank’s character therapeutically and with family. Nope. That all makes too much sense to fix. It’s contrived, contrived, contrived, contrived.

Then, at the hour and forty-eight minute mark, Sandra Bullock explains to Oscar how she’s known all along what he’s been up to and has somehow found the time to contact and visit all of the people Oscar has been visiting and is due to visit soon. Does she have a job? With what time? Awwww, how sweet. You can tell because of the piano in the soundtrack. Awwww.


I hope the book is better than this, in fact, I’m sure it is, but if the story and the characters are anything like this I honestly am not going to waste my time. I’m not interested in it enough. It’s not an issue of the medium in which this story is being told—it is the story itself. It capitalizes on 9/11 and would be just as average, if not better, had it not involved “The Worst Day Ever.”


So prepare to be manipulated. “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” is forgettable and worth maybe one viewing. I just didn’t care, and I was paying attention. I gave it the benefit of the doubt, before and during. Rhetorically speaking — Does this film capitalize on American tragedy to sell false emotional excrement or is it a brave, bold American film facing our greatest tragedy. See for yourself. I didn’t cry, and I think “we” were supposed to throughout several scenes. Fail.

I almost didn’t want to finish this one, but it did get better after the unbalanced first act, and I don’t hate Oscar anymore… as much. I feel bad for him, because the people around him don’t seem to know how to make it any better for him and what he’s going through. Terrible parenting.

On a comical note about “Oscar”: I wish Thomas Horn was instead Macaulay Culkin circa 1992. LOL.

Only the acting and the cinematography make this enjoyable. Not the lackluster story (Eric Roth), basic editing, pretentious directing (Stephen Daldry), or sleepy, cliché musical score.

I just don’t care about this film. What a complex bunch of crap his father designed for him to end up looking under a swing. How contrived and just plain old crazy are both father and son.

What a waste of late 2011 hype.



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HUGO: a response to the film

If you look at what “Hugo” won (5 awards) and what they lost (6 awards), I agree with all 11 choices. And yet, having just seen the film for the first time, I feel utterly unsatisfied and feel bait-and-switched by the trailers and what the film delivered.

Who is this film for? The young? The families? The cineophiles? The Scorcese fans? All four categories will be let down in some small way.

Remember this about me — I’m a sap for good “magic” and I can certainly suspend my disbelief and become an unusually acute empathetic viewer. But this started with great intrigue and 30 minutes in just didn’t deliver, continuing to go where I didn’t see it going, and drifting from being about Hugo. This is about the movies. Change the title, Scorcese. Every character I could describe as well or better than Hugo, including all supporting roles. Alas, I digress…

Nothing is horrible about this film. Everything is good or better, but nothing “dazzled”. It’s a 2 hr 5 min film that is more about George Melies, the french director/writer/actor/producer, than anybody else. Hugo, the boy, existing in the film is merely happenstance. Sure he found a family, but the story line with his father is incomplete. Giving the nominations “Hugo” recieved, I’m stunned with the film I just saw. If any one else directed this thing, or if it wasn’t about George Melies, “Hugo” would have been just another family film with little to no buzz — and while that sounds like a “dis”, it’s really not. It would have been an improvment since it would then not be trying to do so many things and would have recieved a more modest amount of awards, like two. Other films in Hugo’s categories at the 84th Academy Ceremony deserved it just as much if not more. Just for example, Cinematography could have easily gone to “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” or “War Horse”, and Sound Editing really should have been a shoe-in for “Drive” or “Dragon Tattoo” again.

(for all winners, go here.)

In closing: over-hyped. See it on the Redbox for $1.27

Went into it dying to love it and recommend it to everyone. I can’t. It’s worth watching once. Nothing more. People giving it more than a 7.5/10 must be doing so on merit of it’s aesthetic pleasure and technical accomplishments, which are, of course, excellent. But still… (7/10)

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The Descendants: a Novel Review

The Descendants is wonderfully touching, simple, but also complex in a very human way. Themes explored include love, revenge, trust, people’s impressions of others, and of course family; specifically, how we allow our family blood-line to affect our present day life and choices (those before us, those to come after us).

I’ve been meaning to see the movie with George Clooney that has just hit theaters (Holiday 2011), but when I heard it was a book, and I knew vaguely what it was about, I realized that I should read the book first. I made this decision for very specific reasons. Not all movies would I hold off from seeing just because I discovered they were first novels. I decided to read The Descendants before the movie because, frankly, it reminded me of three other movies about life, love, death, and family, which I watched only but never read. These books were Water For Elephants, The Help, and Up In the Air. Regarding all three of these movies: they are nomination worthy if nothing else, and two of the three books my wife had read and said they were even better. She’s an English teacher so her word is pretty solid. Plus, (and, not to brag) I’ve made her into something of a film buff. Without really forcing her, she’s broadened and strengthened her tastes and understands what to look for and how good story lines should grow and flow.

Even if I read …Elephants, The Help, and Up In the Air, they will not hit me the same way because I am not a “virgin” to their stories. I will have actors and actresses faces in my head; I will constantly compare the versions. What’s been cut out, added, and changed. So, it was with this mindset I decided if I get wind of a particularly enticing tale via movie trailer preview, or if I hear of a movie in the works with a lot of buzz about it being based on a book, I’m reading it first from now on.

Full discolsure: I did have Clooney’s face in my head for the whole book, but that’s the extent of what had been “ruined” for me, if you want to call it that. The book is dry, sad, and real. One of the most B.S.-proof books I’ve read in a while. And I can’t freakin’ believe it is the author’s first novel (K. H. Hemmings), a Hawaiian native. She rocks. Period. This book is visual, sexy, smart, and understated in a beautiful way. Characters actions carry real weight, and while she could dive into any of their heads at any time, which is the easy way out, she mastfully and carefully doles out moments she wants us in Matt King’s head (the main chracter and father of the two daughters). Speaking of them, if you ever saw and enjoyed Little Miss Sunshine or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, parts of this book, while mostly serious, will guarenteed have you laughing out loud. There are some shocking “wow” moments as well, and this is a read for 15-year-olds, as much as 35-year-olds, as much as 70-year-olds. The ten- and eighteen-year olds are charming and three dimensional, and the characters actually change, though some a bit more than others. It’s great to watch Matt King — a father who has never really been there to raise his two daughter — being force to do so now that his wife is in a coma. The twist is that she had a secret lover, and Matt now feels he has to take his kids on a trip through friends, islands, old haunts, and relatives to find out what to do now, including a face to face talk with his wife’s lover — once he find him, of course. Great stuff.

It’s a book that young male adults should not brush off as female-oriented, because it is really not. It’s not about being a particular sex and reading this. It’s about being a person and empathizing. Although this is a drama story at heart, 9/10 people are going to laugh, choke up, and recommend this book to others (like I did with the gem of a film Stupid Crazy Love which got nowhere near the praise it deserved when it came out). I bet The Descendants as a film will also have 9/10 people raving, and I encourage you lazy people who don’t want to read the book or hate reading to really try to see the film. I heard great justice was done by the director who offered great fidelity up to the source material.

One of the top ten books I’ve read in twelve months (Jan 2011 – Jan 2012).

If you see this book in a book store, read the first few pages which are littered with snippets of praise from a dozen magazines and newspapers and know that every one of them is 100% true.



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16 Years of Toy Story: a trilogy review

Buzz Lightyear. Woody. Rex. Slinky. Mr. Potato Head.

Andy and his toys. His friends.

You probably get an immediate image in your head when I mention these names and you’re not alone. I dare you to find anybody who doesn’t know who these Disney characters are, and that is in part due to the fact this 90s blockbuster was the first of its kind, was truly heartfelt, would touch several generations of people, and would change the look of animated films forever. Period. Don’t argue.

If you are reading this, then you have seen at least one of these films, driven by PIXAR. You know Tim Allen, you know Tom Hanks, and you know Randy Newman’s silly voice singing all the silly opening songs. I must tell you here and now that I will be focusing on the overarching themes and impacts of the trilogy which took fifteen years to come to fruition. If you haven’t seen Toy Story 3 (2010) then please go see it before you continue any further—unless you want my opinion of it first.

Here is my opinion: go see it now! Especially if you grew up with copies of the original or the sequel in your home. You owe it to yourself to cry with Andy.

The Toy Story films are more than original; they were the first to animate and personify toys, which is brilliant when your audience is kids who love toys. Duh. Secondly, you have not hand-drawn art, which I do love, but rather exclusively computer generated images for the first time. No drawn art, no live shots of people or objects. This movie was made entirely in computers. Many computers. And this created new challenges, opportunities, ways of editing and directing, and new hurdles in creativity and sound design. If you could dream it, you could probably make it happen, and you don’t need to damage anything or anyone. You don’t need stunt doubles. None of the “Actors” need coffee or “pee” breaks. They’re digital!!! And if a particular take doesn’t quite hit that facial feature you were looking for, there is no need to call back in the actor for a re-shoot, simply open the program, and make the smile on Woody’s face bigger or more shallow. Kind of crazy when you think about it.

Besides the technological advancements which many are already aware of, what of the cultural impacts? How did this family movie become one of the most important films of the twentieth century?

Firstly, it was the themes and the story being told. Without that, it didn’t matter how great it looked. It would be seen as a little fluke, as a small movie with fancy graphics: nothing more. But the story was relatable. The characters diverse, and the morals and motivations of the main and supporting characters were things the audience had dealt with in the past or would deal with in their youth. Betrayal, fear, loyalty, being parted from loved ones, putting aside differences to get back “home”, and most importantly, love. Had this animated franchise been about “Cars” or “Tall blue creatures”, they would be easily forgotten. But a child’s youth and innocence are not easily forgotten.  Family, a good one, reigns supreme. These emotional responses are deep-seeded, and frankly, genius of the filmmakers to tug on. Brilliant.

In 1995, Toy Story was released to theaters in November. The marketing and advertising was genius. The movie makes it own path for merchandising: Toys.

For god’s sake, how easy is that? Just make the toys that are in the movies and sell them. Bingo.

This continued for over a decade; through the 1999 release of Toy Story 2, arguably, the weakest in the trilogy and least satisfying of the three. Regardless, the characters popped up in Disney land and Disney World, and soon there were shoes, socks, t-shirts, lunchboxes, pencils, folders, sleeping bags, bed sheets, plates and plasticware—all dedicated to the money maker. I don’t mean to make it look as if they only cared about the money. I really mean to show that the films were so enjoyed by the public that all this crap was actually demanded for and sold very well. People loved these characters since the films had something for kids as well as teens as well as the parents. Disney has always been pretty good at creating films which don’t placate to solely children, since they realize “hey, the parents are going to be in the theater too. I guess we shouldn’t torture them.” Lion King and Aladdin are good examples of films with a higher level of quick wit and suggestive charm aimed at appeasing the 30+ yr. old chaperones.

Without fail, a third film would come, but not for eleven more years. I admit, when I first saw that huge blue and yellow number “3” on the movie poster at my local theater, I was bemused and skeptical. Why had they waited so long? Is this necessary to the overall story or is this just to make money? The answer is both! I decided to skip it in the theater and see the film first thing when it came to DVD. There was a huge fuss over the film while it was in the theater and I wanted to understand what the fuss was all about.

The fuss was that it was just as good as the first film, and it was the end.

Those words: The end. I hadn’t even thought about it. Apparently, the writing team did.

We all grew up with Andy and these characters and this was a warm and affecting movie in which we say goodbye to the films and the characters just like Andy must say goodbye to his old toys. We’re all moving on and Andy is going to college. The time between the second and third film was well thought out and paid off… big time.

I will say that I am surprised this film got a “G” rating and not a “PG” rating. Films like “Finding Nemo” and “Tangled” are PG (could’ve been “G”), but Toy Story 3 is rated only “G” and has a pretty terrifying scene where the toy are literally all about to die and are holding hands. That was one of the saddest scenes in a Disney film I can remember, and would probably upset some kids. That is PG to me, and this film was heavier at times that a “G” should be. Let’s move on.

While Toy Story 3 was not flawless and suffered from some weird scenes and a drag in the end of the second act, the film is a must see. “A-” film at best. Some argue that that is too high of a score and that were getting our emotions confused with how this film is as a “stand alone.” I respect that you could say that about any film that is part of a series, but this is different. I say let your emotions and connection to the past films get the better of you. Is this a good film? Yes. Is it a great film? Award-worthy in more respects than just special effects? Only if you let your emotions get the better of you, which is one of the reasons I believe it was up for “best picture” in the 2010 Academy Awards. This was not going to win that category, but I understood that its inclusion was because it was the end of an era and was a tip of the hat. This films is probably not a masterpiece, but goddamn, our hearts sure think it is! I cried at the end of 3. Don’t tell anyone.

In the end of the day, this was the best Disney trilogy made so far, without question. Many sequels and trilogies by Disney, as you may unfortunately know, go through different director’s hands, different calibers of writers, and sometimes are direct to DVD. Never a good sign. Toy Story on the other hand is a remarkable success story which was given the red carpet treatment from day one; years of development went into making the first one. 800,000+ hours of frame capturing. Wow.

I deeply recommend checking out at least the first link below the ratings, which takes you to graphs showing voters vote on their top trilogies or series. Toy Story is always up there with Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and other classics.

MH (you gotta friend in me)

Toy Story 1 rating: 10/10

Toy Story 2 rating: 7.5/10

Toy Story 3 rating: 9/10


The graphs –

The contrived part of the film:

Story structure, scripting, and brilliant act by act, point by point, breakdown:


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There Will Be Blood: Movie Analysis & Review


This analysis and review was a major work I wrote in October of 2009 in a film History and appriciation class. I have just made some minor additions and corrections. Enjoy.


There Will Be Blood: A Stubborn Battle of Shifting Times

There Will Be Blood (2007)

            There Will Be Blood is a film rich with substance for discussion; philosophically, thematically, and cinematically. The film is intense, unique, and stands out in contrast to the other releases in 2007, if not the decade. It has a timeless quality that makes it feel like it could have been made in any decade since 1930. The script is intelligent; the strong acting is brilliant and complex, and the cinematography from beginning to end is breathtaking. This is a film whose merit falls not in the special effects or action, but rather its strength as a story, its sound mixing, unique orchestration, seamless editing, and emotional content (arguably, more difficult and rewarding to capture on screen). The minimalistic approach makes the script and its ideals carry the narrative along.

 The opening shot is beautiful, just as every wide shot in this film is, but it also resembles a place without many people (if any people at all). This image is juxtaposed with the eerie clashing of string orchestration which continues to come and go for the duration of the film. The disharmonious musical score is effective in drawing an emotional response and putting the viewer in its environment; both geographically and psychologically. The dissonance is wonderful and not something often heard in American mainstream cinema post-2000.

The film is almost a silent movie for the first fourteen minutes; besides the sound effects, there is no dialogue. It is 1898, and Daniel Plainview is in a mine, presumably looking for oil. The editing rhythm of the film here makes one feel the time it takes to be hacking away in a mine. It’s edited to be seven minutes long; we see him working and sweating. We feel the solitude and see the lack of light deep in the ground. The sound effects are realistic, well-mixed, and conservative.

Now we can deconstruct the goals of this man, as early on as this one scene. Why is he alone? Mining is surely a project for more men than just he. He then injures himself after finding some promising looking rocks which could signify oil. With a broken leg, he crawls and slides his way into town through desolation, but not before putting some of the ore or shale into his pocket. Rather than going to the hospital first, he goes to the oil/real estate people first to claim rights to the property. He lies on the floor with his broken leg and then signs his name on a paper. Here we learn early on something of Daniel Plainview that is both a strength and weakness. He is very ambitious, forgoing medical attention for profit, and above all things will try to succeed by his self if necessary.

Still in silence, we jump to 1902, where he now has a crew drawing oil from the ground. Still, no words are spoken. We observe the primal and dangerous nature of the early pioneers of industry. When a man dies down in the well from an accident, Daniel takes in the dead man’s baby and names him H.W. It seems to be compassion, but that first instinct would be wrong. He uses the boy throughout the entire movie to inspire sympathy and work the angle of being a “family man”, even going as far as telling people his wife died in childbirth. It is cold and calculated, but effective. The fact that there is no dialogue in the first fourteen minutes of the film only accentuates the minimalistic, dissonant musical score and the realistically placed sound effects. Without dialogue, something modern audiences are very accustomed to, the filmmakers have still given us so much information about the character, something only the film medium can do.

Daniel is a man of — not few words — only necessary words. He can talk a lot, but often, not at all. Unless he’s trying to get something from someone, he sees no reason to talk. He feels that most people are terrible; that there’s nothing worth liking. Daniel will say anything, however immoral and manipulative, to get what he wants. He is direct, aggressive, sly and collected.

His doppelganger and enemy in the film, Eli Sunday, is fascinating, and perhaps the most complex character in the film. When we first meet Eli, he introduced himself as Paul Sunday and tells Daniel there might be oil by the Sunday Ranch. Daniel goes to where they live where something bizarre occurs. “Paul” said that he had a brother, Eli. We quickly discover that the name he has given, Paul, is actually a fake name, and there is only Eli. But why Eli has said this is quite ambiguous, and as the film continues, Eli’s very sanity is put into question. He even goes as far as to re-introduce himself as Eli to Daniel Plainview as if he they had not met just days ago. He says things in a haunting fashion and his mannerisms are sometimes very strange. The scene where Eli is giving a sermon at his church is certainly unsettling and cult-like (also, an amazing, long take of character acting). At this point, one could say that either Eli is truly crazy in general, or that he really believes in his sermons and that he has been touched by God. Maybe even worse, he is a lying false prophet and is actually the same type of person as Daniel.

But an important comparison must be drawn here: Daniel Plainview and Eli Sunday both use a form of pageantry and deliver grandiose speeches when in front of people to get what they want. Whether they believe in what they are saying is irrelevant – they have power; Eli with his church and followers, Daniel with his swindling of families as if there was something in common with their ways of life.

Eli and Daniel both have enormous ambitions. From the time these two characters first clash until the end of the film, there is a great competition and slow building hatred between the two of them. The difference is that where Daniel wants to succeed for the sake of money, Eli perhaps wants to build community recognition for himself and be a figure of spiritual enlightenment. They want two very different kinds of power, as can be proven from the first time Eli is on the screen, saying “God Bless” to everyone. Daniel only cares and talks about oil, whereas Eli only cares and talks about his church and tries to get funds from Daniel. In different ways, they are both ambitiously using people and the debate between who is more righteous or whose ends justify the means can be debated indefinitely. On a larger scale, one could look at their battle of pride and stubbornness as a metaphor for the changing times in which There Will Be Blood is placed – the turn of the century. During this time, business and religion were clashing.

The film could be making a statement about the massive ideological differences between capitalism and religion. The battle of the times is manifested in the characters Eli and Daniel. And in the end of the movie, when “capitalism” clubs “religion” in the back of the head and religion dies (symbolized in Eli’s death), the movie perhaps makes a statement about a new power and evolution of man which is beginning to leave religion behind. Capitalism roars on as religion stumbles during the changing times. Even today, science is doing similar things to debunk religion.

By the end of the film, 1927, we have watched Daniel slip into madness and loneliness. He still hates that he had to bend to the will of Eli and be baptized at his church years ago in order to gain land for his pipeline. Though he knows he will do anything it takes to succeed, his damaged pride infuriates him, and he will not only beat Eli at his own game, but literally kill him. He wants “no one else to succeed,” as he states in the film. A sickly looking Daniel sits beside a dead and still bleeding Eli as he utters the final line of the film. “I’m finished,” Plainview says. Yes he is – in all the ways one could mean it. He has beaten Eli, beaten the false prophet, and he is perhaps “finished” in his career and his life if he is found guilty of murder. Has all of these years been worth it? And for what? Money? Pride? It is one of the most memorable film endings in recent history which surely has audiences conversing and thinking as soon as the credits roll, as all good films do. The film’s significance is only amplified considering all the events leading up to this scene. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Both actors (Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano) really put on a show in the final scene; a phenomenal display of acting, which won Daniel Day-Lewis an Oscar for Best Actor in 2007.

Every corner of this film was realistic and controlled, and yet elicits fears and reactions from the viewing audience. Parts are visceral, unsettling, and physically affecting, which is a great testament to the medium when superb art can make people really “feel” something. Great writing by the screenwriter and director Paul Thomas Anderson. Bravo. That is an achievement in filmmaking.

The long takes, deep focuses, complex mise-en-scene, and slow zooms/camera dollies were not distracting and only added to the experience. Without unnecessary bells and whistles, this film keeps the drama and tension going. However, some may say that it is too simple or slow in some areas; its length, and general meter/tempo as a whole could be lost on some viewers and be seen as boorish where “nothing really happens.” But this response could be rebutted by pointing out all of the rich, cerebral themes from the film; there are conflicts and ideologies lush for discussion: Greed, Ambition, Deceit, Capitalism, and Religion – all centered on the turn of the twentieth century in the United States. Observing the effects of oil, money, and social power on different peoples within a community was a study all its own, and quite interesting.

Though not a movie for everyone, if one is inclined to enjoy character studies or films which feel like novels, well, buckle in and get ready to work your brain. There is a lot going on in There Will Be Blood.

(There Will Be Blood is a film based on the Upton Sinclair novel, Oil! from 1927, but is much different from its adaptation.)


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83rd Annual Academy Award Predictions

I love a good story. I love a good movie. And more movies than you may think are based off of novels. See how uninspired Hollywood grabs the good through another medium?

There are a few reasons for this: for one thing, the story is already written in a novel and usually is overflowing with content. With what is basically a huge “treatment,” a production company will then get a screenwriter (or team of them) to adapt the work for the screen. Characters can be lost, dialogue changed, and whole scenes deleted or added, but, one would hope, with such substantial source material a sweet screenplay would be written up with all the good stuff from the book, right? Not always.

To prove my point, simply look at the Harry Potter Series, Jurassic Park, No Country For Old men, and Never Let Me Go.  I use these examples because they are all different and aI have read these novels. Jurassic Park is way, way different. Whether these are good or bad adaptations will change depending on whose opinion you listen to. The point is that things change from the book, and that’s because it is in a different medium and a new way to tell the story is necessary while simultaneously making you feel what you felt while reading it. Not freakin’ easy. There is now sound to your story, a written score of music, cadence of lines delivered from actors, and cinematography which needs to convey an ambiance.

This year for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, set for Sunday, February 27th at (8pm East/5pm pacific), several movies (like every year) are adaptations. Most of the best films often are. 127 Hours, The Social Network, and True Grit are this years films which were written by others first then optioned for a film. As you may know, not only is True Grit an adaptation from a book, but it is also a remake from the 1969 version with John Wayne.

The best part, for me anyway, is comparing the two mediums for myself: book vs. film. Everyone has different expectations, and what I think is a flop, you might think is a home-run. And that’s the best part for me–that conversation and comparison. It’s fun!

Below are all the categories and all the nominees. I have “boldened” my predictions for each category. I really believe nearly all of these films deserve their recognition. Great year, 2010! Who are you rooting for? (Comment at the bottom.)

Best Picture

    * “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
    * “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
    * “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
    * “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
    * “The King’s Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
    * “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
    * “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
    * “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
    * “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
    * “Winter’s Bone” Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Actor in a Leading Role

   * Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
    * Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
    * Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
    * Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”
    * James Franco in “127 Hours”

Actor in a Supporting Role

   * Christian Bale in “The Fighter”
    * John Hawkes in “Winter’s Bone”
    * Jeremy Renner in “The Town”
    * Mark Ruffalo in “The Kids Are All Right”
    * Geoffrey Rush in “The King’s Speech”

Actress in a Leading Role

    * Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
    * Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
    * Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter’s Bone”
    * Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
    * Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

Actress in a Supporting Role

    * Amy Adams in “The Fighter”
    * Helena Bonham Carter in “The King’s Speech”
    * Melissa Leo in “The Fighter”
    * Hailee Steinfeld in “True Grit”
    * Jacki Weaver in “Animal Kingdom”

Animated Feature Film

    * “How to Train Your Dragon” Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
    * “The Illusionist” Sylvain Chomet
    * “Toy Story 3” Lee Unkrich

Art Direction

    * “Alice in Wonderland”
      Production Design: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara
    * “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1”
      Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
    * “Inception”
      Production Design: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
    * “The King’s Speech”
      Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
    * “True Grit”
      Production Design: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

Cinematography (tough one! I’m picking two!)

    * “Black Swan” Matthew Libatique
    * “Inception” Wally Pfister
    * “The King’s Speech” Danny Cohen
    * “The Social Network” Jeff Cronenweth
    * “True Grit” Roger Deakins

Costume Design

    * “Alice in Wonderland” Colleen Atwood
    * “I Am Love” Antonella Cannarozzi
    * “The King’s Speech” Jenny Beavan
    * “The Tempest” Sandy Powell
    * “True Grit” Mary Zophres


    * “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
    * “The Fighter” David O. Russell
    * “The King’s Speech” Tom Hooper
    * “The Social Network” David Fincher
    * “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Documentary (Feature)

    * “Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz
    * “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
    * “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
    * “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
    * “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

Documentary (Short Subject) (simply haven’t seen them)

    * “Killing in the Name” Nominees to be determined
    * “Poster Girl” Nominees to be determined
    * “Strangers No More” Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
    * “Sun Come Up” Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
    * “The Warriors of Qiugang” Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon

Film Editing

    * “Black Swan” Andrew Weisblum
    * “The Fighter” Pamela Martin
    * “The King’s Speech” Tariq Anwar
    * “127 Hours” Jon Harris
    * “The Social Network” Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Foreign Language Film

    * “Biutiful” Mexico
    * “Dogtooth” Greece
    * “In a Better World” Denmark
    * “Incendies” Canada
    * “Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi)” Algeria


    * “Barney’s Version” Adrien Morot
    * “The Way Back” Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
    * “The Wolfman” Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Music (Original Score)

    * “How to Train Your Dragon” John Powell
    * “Inception” Hans Zimmer
    * “The King’s Speech” Alexandre Desplat
    * “127 Hours” A.R. Rahman
    * “The Social Network” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Music (Original Song)

    * “Coming Home” from “Country Strong” Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
    * “I See the Light” from “Tangled” Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
    * “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
    * “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3″ Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Short Film (Animated)

    * “Day & Night” Teddy Newton
    * “The Gruffalo” Jakob Schuh and Max Lang
    * “Let’s Pollute” Geefwee Boedoe
    * “The Lost Thing” Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
    * “Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” Bastien Dubois

Short Film (Live Action) (simply haven’t seen them)

    * “The Confession” Tanel Toom
    * “The Crush” Michael Creagh
    * “God of Love” Luke Matheny
    * “Na Wewe” Ivan Goldschmidt
    * “Wish 143” Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite

Sound Editing

    * “Inception” Richard King
    * “Toy Story 3” Tom Myers and Michael Silvers
    * “Tron: Legacy” Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague
    * “True Grit” Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey
    * “Unstoppable” Mark P. Stoeckinger

Sound Mixing

    * “Inception” Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
    * “The King’s Speech” Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley
    * “Salt” Jeffrey J. Haboush, Greg P. Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin
    * “The Social Network” Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten
    * “True Grit” Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland

Visual Effects

    * “Alice in Wonderland” Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips
    * “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi
    * “Hereafter” Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell
    * “Inception” Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
    * “Iron Man 2” Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

    * “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
    * “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
    * “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
    * “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
    * “Winter’s Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Writing (Original Screenplay) (Can’t pick one!)
    * “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
    * “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
      Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
    * “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
    * “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
    * “The King’s Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler

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