Monday, January 28, 2013

2012 Oscar Nominations PT 3

This adventure story features the journey of a young man who survives a shipwreck and ends up trapped in a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of the movie that did not take place on the boat. There were many places visited in the story of a young boy nicknamed Pi, whose family owned a small zoo in India. When the family moves, they pack up the whole zoo, load it up on a ship, and head off to Canada.

It is no spoiler to say that that the boy and the tiger end up in a lifeboat and there spend many months adrift at sea and learn to survive together.

The film is quite beautiful and much visually richer than one might imagine given such a confining sounding premise. However, in the final analysis, I found the film good, but not great.

This official Austrian entry which is also a nominee for Best foreign language film also got nominated in a number of other categories including Best Picture. The story follows an elderly couple as the wife slides into the decline of old age and her husband struggles to care for her. The film is wonderfully acted and starkly honest in dealing with the issues of aging. However, I found it leaning toward dull.

Just one more Best Picture Nominee to go - Les Misérables...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2012 Oscar Nominations PT 2


Quentin Tarantino's tip of the hat to Sergio Leone is fast and nasty. Like most Tarantino films Django is full of strongly drawn characters, goofy cameos, wildly creative dialog, plot twists,  overlong, and thoroughly entertaining. This is why he is brilliant and maddening at the same time. There are several sequences that could have just gone away and many others that could have been shorter.

I have a feeling that Django Unchained uses the 'N' word about 5000 times too many to actually win the Best Picture Oscar. Christoph Waltz certainly should win for his astonishing portrayal of a bounty hunter that hates slavery and takes Django under his wing. However, it is absurd that he is nominated for Actor in a Supporting Role. The only conceivable reason this isn't a lead role is that he is not the title character. Jamie Fox is terrific as well, but Waltz soars. Tarantino is also nominated for the Original Screenplay and may earn that, but I find it equally likely that award will go to Zero Dark Thirty.


The damaged people at the center of this Philadelphia-based quirky romantic comedy give this film a depth and humanity usually missing from mainstream romcoms. Bradley Cooper stars (and also Executive Produces) as the just sprung from psych ward Pat who snapped upon finding his wife in the shower with another man. He is sent home to live in his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) attic and to learn to adjust to his new life. Pat desperately loves his estranged wife and yearns to have her back.

The new girl, wonderfully played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a bundle of mess herself having lost her husband. Together they meet and push each other's buttons and settle into a messy friendship. The supporting cast is interesting and I was never sure if or how the story would ever get to a happy ending. The film is one of the best romantic comedies I have seen in a long time and worthy of the Best Picture nomination.

One thing that is very cliche in Hollywood films is the age difference between the two main characters. Cooper is 15 years older than Lawrence. She is just 22 now, so was 20 or 21 when the movie was made. That difference is how Hollywood operates, cycling through an endless series of 20-something leading women. Few last long before being replaced with younger stars.

That said, Lawrence plays the role with strength and charm. She fully earned the Golden Globe she won and should have as long a career as one can have in Hollywood.

De Niro and Jacki Weaver were great as Pat's harried parents annoyed at their son for his circumstances for returning to their home (yet lovingly concerned), and Chris Tucker is better than I have ever seen him (usually annoys me with the manic).

Odds makers will probably rate Silver Linings Playbook a longshot at winning the Best Picture award. I agree. Currently, I would put Lincoln and Argo at the front of the pack - but I still have not seen Life of Pi, Les Miserables, and Armour.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pulp of the Week - The Inexplicables

Cherie Priest
The Inexplicables
The Clockwork Century Book 5

The zombie filled, blight ridden, great-walled Seattle returns in this 5th book in the Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest. The story focuses on the young Rector Sherman, a victim of the blight, though he grew up in the region of Seattle outside the walls. That giant wall did not protect him enough, as he grew into an addict of that most addictive byproduct of the blight, its distilled and cooked up form called sap.

I found this tale a delightful return to the city that we first saw in Boneshaker, the first and best of the series, and Priest picks up the characters lives farther down their road of life, but she focuses on the young'uns - Rector, Zeke, and the Chinese boy inventor, Huey. That trio of friends propel the book through several new mysteries that shake up the landscape of the walled city. Where are the rotters (the zombies) going? Who are the strange newcomers and what are they doing to the wall? What is the Inexplicable?

The answers to those questions power this highly enjoyable novel that begins taking the walled city into a new era, and provide hope for the future.

The amazing cover painting of The Inexplicables is by Cliff Nielsen and I was thrilled to find that it is an illustration of a scene in the book as opposed to a thematic piece. When Rector and his pals reach this point, I flipped the book to the cover and marveled at the view.

Now for the rating... In terms of this series (which I like quite a bit) I would rank The Inexplicables as third favorite of the series, right in the middle, though only by the smallest fraction above Clementine. I would rank the books in this order [the bracketed number is the series number] from best to least best (I won't say worse, because these books are all good.)

Boneshaker [1]
Ganymede [4]
Inexplicables [5]
Clementine [3]
Dreadnought [2]

With all that said, I give The Inexplicables an 8.75...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012 Oscar Nominations PT 1

Well, the Academy Award Nominees have been announced and it is no shock that Lincoln got the most nominations. It's a Spielberg movie, it's Daniel Day Lewis, and it's historical drama. Sally Field doesn't hurt your chances either...

I'm not going to run the list of all the nominees, but will give my take on the Academy's picks.

Here are the Best Picture nominees and the number of nominations they received:


Lincoln - 12
Life of Pi - 11
Les Mis - 9
Argo -7
Silver Linings Playbook - 7
Django - 5
Amour - 5
Zero Dark Thirty - 5
Beasts of the Southern Wild - 4

First of all, I have to applaud the selection of the startling performance of Quvenzhané Wallis, the young girl in Beasts of the Southern Wild. She was amazing. She went from joyful to sad to thoughtful to triumphant over the course of the story. She may be a natural, but she was great and the movie was good. She is the youngest Best Actress nominee ever. Coincidentally, Quvenzhané happens to be 76 years younger than one of her fellow Best Actress nominees, Emmanuelle Riva from Amour, who at 85 is the oldest nominee ever.

The pundits will cry "SNUBBED!!!" for the exclusion of Argo, Django, Les Miserables, Zero Dark Thirty from the Best Director category, but when you have 9 Best Picture plus 5 Best Animated Feature nominees and only 5 Best Director nominees, there are going to be 9 people 'snubbed'. Not to mention the thousands who weren't nominated for anything...

The snub that I will decry is the utter exclusion of Cloud Atlas, especially in the Hair and Makeup category. I mean really. This wonderful film of interwoven stories spanning time and space has multiple actors playing multiple parts and there were times when the makeup was so well done that I had no idea it Tom Hanks or Susan Sarandon or Halle Barry playing the part. The ambition and variety of the character makeup is astonishing and well done. Actors play multiple ages, genders, and ethnicities. In addition, Cloud Atlas should have received nominations for editing, makeup, costumes, and production design. Instead, they got zero. Conspiracy theorists—get busy...

I thought this film about the Iranian Hostage Crisis was great. While I remember the events of the Embassy standoff well, Argo tells a true story of an amazing rescue that no one had ever heard of (classified for decades) and it involved an epic science fiction film that was never made... Ben Affleck made a great movie and his third film shows that he is not a one (or even two) trick pony. He is a real director. I guess he'll have prove it to the Academy by not starring in his next movie, although I understand why he casts himself... He's a movie star!

I was thrilled to find this is not a biography, but rather a Congressional thriller about the passing the 13th amendment and Lincoln's struggles with the war as well as his government. Lincoln is Steven Spielberg's best movie in years and the opposite of the cloying, vacuous, and frankly terrible War Horse. Lincoln will be seen in schools for decades to come as both a history lesson and a primer on how difficult it is for our messy government to get anything done. Daniel Day-Lewis is very good as Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones is his man that gets things done in the houses of government.

Not surprisingly, this is another great film, but Beasts is the wild card of the Best Picture choices, The Little Engine That Could, the underdog indie film that somehow achieved enough noise to get noticed. The movie is a little rambling, but the story is good and the performances exemplary. It is a bit fable, a bit magic realism, and wholly charming.   Quvenzhané Wallis as the adorable, plucky Hushpuppy carries the film and anchors it with her mesmerizing force of will.

Tense. Dramatic. Dangerous. ZD30 is by far the most talked about film of the year with the news and the election forcing the release date to be delayed until after the election. The film is a wonder of making the mundane thrilling, and the nominated performance of Jessica Chastain is well deserved. Kathyrn Bigelow has delivered a unflinchingly raw, engrossing thriller.

Part two of this series will follow...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Studio Spectre is now in print!

Here is the final cover with the front and back 'unfolded'. Once again, Mike Fyles has delivered a nifty cover evoking mystery and suspense...

Yes, it's true. You can now get the print version of The Studio Spectre at Amazon in print form - just use one of those handy Amazon links to the right...

Coming Soon... The Claim - the Novella length version of the story that started all this pulp madness. Here is a sneak peek at the Mike Fyles cover...