Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Top 10 Movies of 2012

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Although it’s rather late, here are my Top 10 Movies of 2012, in alphabetical order:

* Argo
* 56 Up
* Amour
* Chronicles of My Mother
* The Hobbit: A Unexpected Journey
* Les Miserables
* Life of Pie
* Lincoln
* Skyfall
* Zero Dark Thirty

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The Buddha

The two-hour PBS documentary, called The Buddha, directed by David Grubin and narrated by Richard Gere, can now be viewed online, in its entirety, via the official website.  To watch the video, click here.

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The film tells the story of Prince Siddhartha, who lived 2,500 years ago in Northern India, and his journey to understand life, death, and the nature of human suffering.  Told through a combination of interviews, narration, and animation, the film traces the life of The Buddha, or the “awakened one,” and the growth of Buddhism around the world.

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To purchase the DVD from the PBS website, click here.

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Summer Movies

The Summer 2010 movie season gets underway next month with a variety of bigger-budget, lighter fare, including Sex and the City 2, the much-anticipated sequel to 2008’s Sex and The City, The Movie, which grossed $150 million domestically and over $400 million worldwide.

Here’s the latest trailer from New Line Cinema.  The film opens May 27.

Other big summer movies include Inception, Salt, Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3 and Robin Hood.

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Top 10 Actresses

Although the award season for 2009 films is now over, here are my TOP 10 FAVORITE ACTRESSES, which changes from time to time.

* Kate Blanchett
*  Glenn Close
*  Judy Davis
*  Judi Dench
*  Faye Dunaway
*  Jane Fonda
*  Audrey Hepburn
*  Katherine Hepburn
*  Diane Keaton
*  Helen Mirren
*  Julianne Moore
*  Vanessa Redgrave
*  Gena Rolwands
*  Susan Sarandon
*  Meryl Streep
*  Elizabeth Taylor

And, oops, there are more than ten names in this list.

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To go to previous posts in the MY TOP 10 category, click here.

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Top 10 Cinematography

In honor of the 82nd annual Academy Awards, being held today in Los Angeles, CA, here is my list of the TOP 10 BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY.

NUMBER 1: Barry Lyndon; Cinematographer John Alcott, Director Stanley Kubrick (1975)

The remaining 12 (oops, could not stop at just 10, unfortunately) are, in alphabetical order:

*  Day of the Locust; Cinematographer Conrad Hall, Director John Schlesinger (1975)
*  Days of Heaven; Cinematographer Nestor Almendros, Director Terrence Malick (1978)
*  The English Patient; Cinematographer John Seale, Director, Anthony Minghella (1996)
*  Fanny and Alexander; Cinematographer Sven Nykvist, Director Ingmar Bergman (1982)
*  Godfather Part II; Cinematographer Gordon Willis, Director Francis Ford Coppola (1974)
*  The Last Emperor; Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, Director Bernardo Bertolucci (1987)
*  Manhattan, Cinematographer  Gordon Willis, Director Woody Allen (1979)
*  Out of Africa; Cinematographer David Watkin, Director Sydney Pollack (1985)
*  Reds; Vittorio Storaro, Director Warren Beatty (1981)
*  Tess; Ghislain Cloquet and Geoffrey Unsworth, Director Roman Polanski (1979)
*  The Thin Red Line; Cinematographer John Toll, Director Terrence Malick (1998)

To to go the official Oscars site from the Academy of Motion Picture and Sciences, click here.

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Above: Marisa Berenson as Lady Lyndon and David Morley as Bryan Patrick Lyndon, in Barry Lyndon.

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To purchase Barry Lyndon on DVD, go to Amazon.com by clicking here.

To go to previous posts of things on MY TOP 10 LIST, click here.

Watch the trailer for the film Barry Lyndon below.

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Top 10 Movie Actors

With the annual movie award season now at its peak, I thought this would be a good opportunity to select my TOP 10 MOVIE ACTORS (which changes from time to time), in alphabetical order:

* Jeff Bridges
* Robert DeNiro
* Gerard Depardieu
* Robert Duvall
* Colin Firth
* Gene Hackman
* Dustin Hoffman
* Ian McKellen
* Paul Newman
* Tom Wilkinson

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To go to previous posts of things on MY TOP 10 LIST, click here.

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1,000 Best Movies

The New York Times has made available on their website a list of “The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made,” which includes links to the full review that appeared in the print edition of The New York Times.

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To go to the complete list, click here.  To order a paperback version from Amazon.com, click here.

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Top 10 Movies

UPDATED:  4/4/10

Although 2009 will likely not be remembered as a great year for movies, there were some very good films, along with a couple breakthroughs, as well.  Since many of the films that are expected to be the front-runners for the annual awards season have not yet opened in the San Francisco Bay Area, here’s an incomplete list of my TOP 10 FAVORITE FILMS of 2009.

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TOP 10 FAVORITE FILMS OF 2009 (in alphabetical order):

*  A Single Man
*  An Education
*  Avatar
*  Crazy Heart
*  Every Little Step
*  The Hurt Locker
*  Julie and Julia
*  Precious
*  Sin Nombre
*  Up
*  Up in the Air

(I included 11 entries instead of ten.)

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What were your favorite films of 2009?  To review my Top 10 Favorite Films of All-Time, click here.

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Top Film Songs

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The American Film Institute (AFI) compiles a variety of lists that honor films over the past 100 years.  Among them is the Top 100 Film Songs which showcases the most memorable songs from movies.  An excerpt of the top 35 entries is shown below.

The #1 ranked film song is “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz (1939).

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To view the full list of 100 Years 100 Songs from the American Film Institute, go to their official website by clicking here.

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Today’s Quote

“I believe we have two lives. The life we learn with and the life we live with after that.”

  – Iris Gaines (played by Glenn Close) to Roy Hobbs (played by Robert Redford), from The Natural (1984), written by Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry, based on the novel by Bernard Malamud

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Julia on Top

Wrtier-Director Nora Ephron is back on top with her commercial and critical hit, Julie and Julia, which opened nationwide a few weeks ago.  After a several misses, including Bewitched (2005) and Hanging Up (2000), it’s great to see Nora Ephron return to the romantic comedy territory she explored so successfully in You’ve Got Mail (1998), Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and When Harry Met Sally (1989).  

In Julie and Julia, Ephron masterfully weaves together two stories, each set in its own timeframe.  In the larger and clearly more interesting story, we learn about the early years of chef, author and American culinary icon Julia Child when she studied French cooking at the Cordon Bleu and started writing the landmark book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” while living in Europe with her husband Paul.  In the second story, we follow 30-year old New York office worker Julie Powell, who spends a year cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook, while blogging about her experiences, in the tough days following 9/11.

One of the biggest joys of watching this very lovingly-made movie is the relationship between Julia Child (Meryl Streep, in another amazing performance) and husband Paul (played by Stanley Tucci), who share a love of food and wine, and for each other.  I enjoyed seeing Streep and Tucci paired in this movie, particularly after the terrific moments they shared together in The Devil Wears Prada.

Not surprisingly, Julie and Julia focuses a good deal of attention on food– from Julia’s delight in savoring the flavors of French cooking and shopping for produce or fresh fish to Julie’s tireless efforts to recreate each dish from the cookbook.  If the movies doesn’t inspire you to cook, it will certainly inspire you to eat.  It also serves as a great reminder that food can bring people together and create bonds that last a lifetime.

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“A consummate entertainment that echoes the rhythms and attitudes of classic Hollywood, it’s a satisfying throwback to those old-fashioned movie fantasies where impossible dreams do come true.”

   — Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

“Few movies are as delightful as Julie & Julia.”

   — Mick LaSalle, The San Francisco Chronicle

“Julie & Julia is one of the gentlest, most charming American movies of the past decade.”

   — David Denby, The New Yorker

“Streep and Tucci enjoy a terrific, infectious onscreen chemistry as soul mates for whom food and entertaining were part of one long, sensuous continuum.”

   — Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post

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To read A.O. Scott’s review of Julie and Julia in The New York Times, click here.

To purchase Julia Child’s landmark cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, from Amazon.com, click here.

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Up is Up and Away

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Up,” the latest animated release from Disney-Pixar, follows in the best tradition of WALL-E  and Toy Story by delivering some of the most touching and haunting sequences in animated film.  It’s another remarkable achievement for Pixar and easily the most memorable film of 2009 to date (along with Sin Nombre).  There are two particularly stunning sequences in the film, which like the opening scene in WALL-E , are delivered in breathtaking animation, with wonderful music, and almost no dialog.  In the first sequence, we watch the lead character, Carl, a shy young boy, as he meets a rambunctious and lively young girl, Ellie, who shares his fascination with a famous world explorer named Charles Muntz, voiced by Christopher Plummer.  The two youngsters grow up with a dream of adventure, get married, and grow old together, without being able to get away to the hidden place in South America, as they had both dreamed as children and younger adults.  After her death, Carl is left alone in the house they shared together for a lifetime.  The passage of their years together is shown in an extended sequence with virtually no dialog, and it’s an amazing feat of animated filmmaking.  The second sequence occurs late in the movie after Carl, played by a wonderful Ed Asner, crosses paths with the explorer Muntz who is living in the jungles of South America.  Here again, there is very little dialog, yet the scene packs an enormous emotional whallop. 

The movie offers loving and sentimental nods to such classics as The Wizard of Oz and Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo.  Although the movie, like the best of Pixar’s other films, deals with serious topics such as death, lonelinesss, disappointment, and lost dreams, it’s also enormously hopeful and life-affirming.  Hats off to Pixar on a masterful work of art.  Up is truly up, up, and away.

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Watch the Up trailer from YouTube below.


 

“To watch Up with any attention is to be moved and astonished by the economy with which specific visuals are invested with emotion throughout. “

   — Mick LaSalle, The San Francisco Chronicle

“Rarely has any film, let alone an animated one powered by the logic of dream and fantasy, been able to move so successfully — and so effortlessly — through so many different kinds of cinematic territory. “

   — Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

“Up is a breathtaking ride into the realm of pure imagination. Up shames the pap that now passes for family entertainment (yes, Night at the Museum 2, I’m talking to you). “

   — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

To read more about the Disney-Pixar movie Up, go to the official movie website by clicking here.

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Every Little Step

It’s been 34 years since A Chorus Line took Broadway by storm and transformed the way we think about the American musical.   Conceived and directed by Michael Bennett, with book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante, lyrics by Edward Klebanm and music by Marvin Hamlisch, A Chorus Line was an unprecendented critical and commercial hit, winning nine Tony Awards in 1976, including Best Musical, and the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  The show ran for 6,137 performances, making it the longest-running production in Broadway history at the time.  A revival of the show opened on Broadway in 2006, following an initial run in San Francisco.

Every Little Step, a new docu-drama, produced and directed by James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, opened in the Bay Area this week.  The film includes original footage of Michael Bennett, together with interviews with Marvin Hamlisch, Bob Avian, former New York Times theater critic Frank Rich, and original Broadway cast members Donna McKechnie and Baayork Lee.   It also includes some of the audiotapes made at the early workshop sessions as well as behind-the-scenes footage of the audition, rehearsals and performances of both the 1975 production and the 2006 revival. 

I saw the original national touring version of A Chorus Line and the 2006 pre-Broadway revival in San Francisco.  Remarkably, the show successfully retains all its original energy, dazzle and relevance after 34 years.  Every Little Step offers a fascinating glimpse into the development of the early concepts for the 1975 Broadway show and the subsequent impact of the show on American musical theatre.  If you’re a fan of A Chorus Line, you’ll surely enjoy Every Little Step.

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You can view the official trailer of Every Little Step, a 2009 Sony Motion Pictures Classic release, below.

 

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 ”Every Little Step is a large triumph.”

   –  Joel Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

“Tracing A Chorus Line from its creation in 1974 by Michael Bennett and his dancers to its 2006 Broadway revival, Every Little Step is a thrilling combination of documentary and musical dazzler. “

   –  Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Vist the official website of “Every Little Step” from Sony Motion Picture Classics, by clicking here.

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A Chorus Line is #5 on my list of Top 10 Favorite Shows.  To go to a previous post with a complete list of my Top 10 Favorite Shows, click here.

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Rainbow Film Festival

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This month the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, in Memory of Adam Baran, celebrates its 20th anniversary with the screening of 33 feature- and short-length films at the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii’s premier art museum.  The festival runs from May 21-24 in Honolulu and from May 29-30 in Hilo and Kona, respectively, on the Island of Hawaii. 

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Academy-award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (pictured above) will be the keynote speaker during Closing Night of the 20th-anniversary film festival on May 24.  Black, 34, won the 2009 award for Best Original Screenplay for “Milk,” the bio-pic based on the life of San Francisco activist and politician Harvey Milk, from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Screen Writers Guild of America.  The festival will feature a special screening of Milk, which was nominted for eight Academy Awards and won for Best Actor (Sean Penn) and Best Original Screenplay (Dustin Lance Black).

To purchase passes to the film festival, click here.  If you want to learn more about the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival or to make a tax-deductible donation, go to their official website by clicking here.

Congratulations to Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival Executive Director (and dear friend of Jankenpon) Jeffrey Davis and Founder Jack Law, as well as the HGLCF, on the 20th anniversary of the film festival.

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To go to a previous post featuring Dustin Lance Black’s speech as he accepted the Oscar Award for his original screenplay of Milk at the 2009 Oscar Awards ceremony, click here.

Photo Credit:  Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival

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Sin Nombre

Last week I was finally able to see ”Sin Nombre (Without Name),” the stunning feature film debut of Director-Writer Cary Fukunaga, a native of Oakland, CA, which won Best Cinematography and Best Director awards at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.  Using a cast of largely unknown actors, Fukunaga weaves a gripping tale of two stories and lives that collide in an attempt to cross the USA-Mexico border.  In the first, more traditional story, Sayra (played by lovely Paulina Gaitan) is a young Honduran woman who joins her father and uncle on a long, dangerous odyssey across Latin America in order to cross the USA border and rejoin other members of her family in New Jersey.  In the second story, Willy/Casper (played by Edgar Flores with quiet subtlety), a member of a brutal street gang, is seeking a way out of his violent past and attempting to elude his fellow gang members whom he has betrayed.  Their lives and destinies become linked while traveling as stowaways atop a train making its way across Mexico toward the USA border. 

Cinematographer Adriano Goldman bathes the film in beautiful colors, with many scenes shot in the golden moments before dusk, and Fukunaga allows the camera, and his story, to linger on small, tender moments, many of which are shot with little or no dialog.  The dreamlike-scenes where the Sayra and Willy/Casper ride atop a train across the Mexican countryside were reminiscent of some of the great visuals from “Bound for Glory” and “Days of Heaven.”

Sin Nombre was filmed in Spanish, and is shown with English sub-titles.

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Here’s the official trailer for Sin Nombre, a 2009 release from Focus Features.


 

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Above:  Lead actors Paulina Gaitan (Sayra) and Edgar Flores (Willy/Casper) in a scene from Sin Nombre.  Below: Cary Fukunaga, the 32-year old Writer-Director, who made his feature film debut with Sin Nombre. 

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“The scope is epic and the achievement, though solidly grounded in conventional storytelling, is a revelation. “

   –  Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

“A big new talent arrives on the scene with Sin Nombre. Writer-director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s enthralling feature debut takes viewers into a shadow world inhabited by many but noticed by very few. “

   — Todd McCarthy, Variety

“The caressing, honeyed light in Sin Nombre beautifies and softens every ugly moment in this equivocating story about geographic and moral border crossings. “

   — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“Sin Nombre is my favorite film of 2009 (to date).  To learn more about Sin Nombre, visit the official website from Focus Films by clicking here.

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Today’s Quote

“I believe life is magical.  It is so precious.  
And there are so many kinds of life in this life. 
So many kinds of things to love. 
The love for a husband or a wife. 
A boyfriend or girlfriend. 
The love for children. 
The love for yourself.  And even material things. 
This is my love.  It is mine. 
And it fills me and it defines me. 
And it compels me on.”

   — Peggy, played by Molly Shannon, referring to her love of animals, in the film “Year of the Dog,” 2007, Written and Directed by Mike White

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Watch the trailer of the film “Year of the Dog,” starring Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Laura Dern and Peter Sarsgaard, below.

To order a copy of “Year of the Dog” on DVD from Amazon.com, click here.  To learn more about “Year of the Dog” from the Internet Movie Data Base (IMBD), click here.

 To go to previous entries in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

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Jai Ho!

The DVD and Blu-Ray versions of Slumdog Millionaire, the 2008 winner of eight Academy awards, including Best Picture of the Year, are being released this week.  The exhilarating and hugely popular film, which has grossed nearly $300 million worldwide, also won five Critics’ Choice Awards, four golden Globe Awards and seven BAFTA awards, including Best Picture. 

In celebration of the film’s relatively quick  release on DVD (considering it’s still in first run in many locations around the world), here’s a video of the film’s Academy award-winning Best Song, Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny), which is played as part of a Bollywood tribute during the film’s end credits.

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To order the DVD from Amazon.com, click here.  To view the official Slumdog Millionaire website from Fox Searchlight Pictures and to view the official trailer, click here.

In my list of  Top 10 Favorite Movies for 2008, Slumdog Millionaire tied with WALL-E as the #1 film.

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Today’s Video

Among the winners at the 81st annual Academy Awards held last night in Los Angeles, CA, I thought 35-year old TV and film Writer/Director/Producer Dustin Lance Black delivered the most memorable and heartfelt speech in accepting the award for Best Original Screenplay for “Milk,” a film based on the life and times of politician and activist Harvey Milk, which was directed by Gus Van Sant, and filmed in part in San Francisco.

An estimated 800 million people worldwide watched the broadcast of the Academy Awards show.

Milk won two Oscars, including Best Actor in a Leading Role for the remarkable performance by Sean Pean.

To watch the official trailer for the movie, Milk, click here.

To review previous posts in the “Today’s Video” category, click here.

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Top 10 Movies 2008

UPDATED: 3/8/09

Here are my 2008 TOP 10 FAVORITE MOVIES, which are not necessarily the “best” movies.  With the exception of #1, the entries are shown in alphabetical order.

#1 (Tie) Slumdog Millionaire and WALL-E
*  Chris & Don: A Love Story
*  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
*  The Dark Knight
*  I Loved You So Long
*  Milk
*  The Reader
*  Revolutionary Road
*  The Visitor

The runners-up were (in alphabetical order):

*  Doubt
*  Frost/Nixon
*  Gran Torino
*  Mongol
*  Roman de Gare
*  Tell No One
*  Vicky Christina Barcelona
*  The Wrestler 

To view my list of TOP 10 FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME, click here.

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Year-End Movie Rush

It’s not unusual for many big-budget, high-profile and “serious” films to be scheduled by their studio for wide release at year-end, in order to take advantage of holiday crowds and to qualify for annual award consideration.  This year, it seems that there is an unusually large number of big films (and likely award contenders) competing for screens at the local multiplex during Hanukkah and Christmas week.  The line-up is remarkably strong, including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, Gran Torino, The Reader, Revolutionary Road, and The Wrestler, among others.  Meanwhile, other prominent films that opened after Thanksgiving are now getting wider release, including Slumdog Millionaire (one of my current favorites), Milk, Rachel Getting Married, and others. 

The result?  A big rush of major movies packed into the final few weeks of the year, and a long, long dry spell during much of the remainder of the year.  The question?  Is the public really unable to absorb and support more serious films at times other than year-end? 

In any case, enjoy the holiday movie season.  And check back here within the next week or so for a list of my TOP 10 FAVORITE MOVIES for 2008.   In the meantime, click here for a link to a previous post with a list of my all-time TOP 10 FAVORITE MOVIES.

 

 

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Christmas Time is Here

Each holiday season, I look forward to watching the 30-minute classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which debuted on television in 1965 as the first of a series of specials based on the classic Peanuts characters created by Charles M. Shulz.  This beloved show was re-issued on DVD in October with remastered video and audio.  

To purchase the remastered deluxe edition DVD from Amazon.com, click here.  

One of the highlights of the film is the haunting song “Christmas Time is Here,” written by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson.  To hear Christmas Time is Here in an excerpt from the show, click on the arrow in the video image below.

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer

Fun for all that children call

Their favorite time of the year

 

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

 

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

 

Christmas time is here
We’ll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year…

CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE
Written by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson
 
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Movie: Slumdog Millionaire

This week I saw Slumdog Millionaire, a remarkable new film by Danny Boyle (of ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Shallow Grave’ fame), that tells the harrowing, moving, and ultimately reaffirming story about Jamal Malik, a poor orphan who rises from the slums of Mumbai to win the big jackpot on an Indian TV quiz show.  The film, written by Simon Beaufoy and based on the debut novel “Q & A” by Vikas Swarup, is a thoroughly-original, audacious and deeply disturbing story that is shrewdly laid out in non-linear format.  It also features a wonderful, vibrant fusion of Indian music, dazzling cinematography in deeply-saturated colors, and sharp editing, combined with remarkable performances from a predominantly young cast.  As a bonus, the film includes an exuberant song-and-dance sequence during the final credits, which serves as a nice homage to traditional Bollywood films.

The National Board of Review yesterday named ‘Slumdog Millionaire” as Top Film of 2008.  To read the complete list of all 2008 awards from the National Board of Review, click here.

Slumdog Millionaire joins WALL-E, Chris & Don- A Love Story, Mongol, and The Visitor as one of my favorite films of 2008.  I am guessing that Slumdog Millionaire will nab at least five Oscar nominations– Best Picture, Best Director (Danny Boyle), Best Adapted Screenplay (Simon Beaufoy), Best Achievement in Cinematography (Anthony Dod Mantle), and Best Supporting Actor (Dev Patel).

To learn more about Slumdog Millionaire, visit the official movie website from Fox Searchlight Pictures by clicking here.  To find showtimes at a theatre near you, visit Fandango.com by clicking here.  To read the review from The Los Angeles Times, click here.   And to read the review from The New York Times, click here.

“The best old-fashioned audience picture of the year, a Hollywood-style romantic melodrama that delivers major studio satisfactions in an ultra-modern way.”

   –Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

Watch the trailer from Fox Searchlight Pictures by clicking on the arrow in the video image below.

Photo Credits: Fox Searchlight Pictures

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Movie: Chris & Don

I recentlty saw “Chris & Don: A Love Story,” the sleeper hit at the Telluride Film Festival from filmmakers Guido Santi and Tina Mascara, which is currently showing in San Francisco, and in limited release in major U.S. cities.  It’s my favorite movie of 2008 (to date, anyway) and an extraordinarily tender and moving story. 

Here’s a synopsis from Zeitgeist Films’ official website for the film:

“CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY is the true-life story of the passionate three-decade relationship between British writer Christopher Isherwood (whose Berlin Stories was the basis for all incarnations of the much-beloved Cabaret) and American portrait painter Don Bachardy, thirty years his junior. From Isherwood’s Kit-Kat-Club years in Weimar-era Germany (the inspiration for his most famous work) to the couple’s first meeting on the sun-kissed beaches of 1950s Malibu, their against-all-odds saga is brought to dazzling life by a treasure trove of multimedia. Bachardy’s contemporary reminiscences (in the Santa Monica home he shared with Isherwood until his death in 1986) artfully interact with archival footage, rare home movies (with glimpses of glitterati pals W.H. Auden, Igor Stravinsky and Tennessee Williams), reenactments, and, most sweetly, whimsical animations based on the cat-and-horse cartoons the pair used in their personal correspondence. With Isherwood’s status as an out-and-proud gay maverick, and Bachardy’s eventual artistic triumph away from the considerable shadow of his life partner, CHRIS & DON: A LOVE STORY is above all a joyful celebration of a most extraordinary couple. ”

One of the film’s most interesting and effective story-telling techniques is the use of animation to bring to life the characters that Isherwood and Bachardy affectionately used to identify themselves in written notes and drawings to each other- a horse for Isherwood, and a cat for Bachardy.  It’s a charming use of animation and really adds insight to their relationship.

The film features extensive interviews with Don Bachardy, now 74, and living in Santa Monica, CA, old amateur video footage from Isherwood and Bachardy and others, animation, commentary from friends and colleagues (including actress Leslie Caron and director John Boorman, among others), as well as narration by actor Michael York.

I think this is brave and very powerfu film, and I’m thankful that the filmmakers chose to make it and that Zeitgeist Films had the courage to produce and distribute it.  Go see it.

 ”A tender, extremely touching documentary.”

   –The New York Times

The portrait of a marriage as full and enviable as the greatest unions in literature.”

   — San Francisco Chronicle

“What could have been sordid emerges instead as fiercely funny and touching. Even the animated sequences featuring the lovers the way they imagined themselves — Chris as a horse, Don as a cat — resonate with feeling and blunt truth. “

   –Rolling Stone Magazine

“A celebration– of love, commitment and devotion until the bitter end. “

   –The Washington Post

Here’s a short trailer for the film from YouTube.com:

 If the movie is playing in your area, go see it.

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China’s Stolen Children

HBO is currently airing a powerful and heartbreaking 90-minute documentary, called China’s Stolen Children, in a directorial debut by Jezza Neumann, that focuses on child trafficking, a tragic by-product of China’s “one-family, one-child” policy.  According to the film, nearly 70,000 children are abducted and sold each year, perhaps for less than US$1,000.  Although a few children are successfully located and subsequently reunited with their families, most of the abducted children are never found.  In some of the most emotional scenes in the film, a young, distraught married couple turns to a private detective to help them find their abducted 5-1/2 year old son, Chen Jie.  

Check you local program guide for schedules.

Here’s the trailer for the film, which won the 2008 BAFTA Award for Best Current Affairs program.

 

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Top 10 Favorite Movies

UPDATED: 12/9/08

Although this list changes periodically, here are my TOP 10 FAVORITE MOVIES (which are not necessarily those I consider as the best movies, by the way):

1.   The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2.   The Godfather, Part II (1974)
3.   Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
4.   Annie Hall (1977)
5.   The Godfather, Part 1 (1972)
6.   Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope (1977)
7.   2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)
8.   Raging Bull (1980)
9.   Sunset Boulevard (1950)
10.  Chinatown (1974)

And, oh well, I might as well toss in the next ten (11-20):

11.  All About Eve (1950)
12.  Reds (1981)
13.  Days of Heaven (1978)
14.  Barry Lyndon (1975)
15.  Midnight Cowboy (1969)
16.  Manhattan (1979)
17.  The Seven Samurai (1954)
18.  The Day of the Locust (1975)
19.  Sophie’s Choice (1982)
20.  Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Oh, and here’s the next 50 (21-70), as well, without rankings (in alphabetical order):

* The African Queen (1951)
* An Unmarried Woman (1978)
* Apocalypse Now (1979)
*
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
* Bound (1996)
* Cabaret (1972)
* Chris and Don: A Love Story (2007)
* Chuck and Buck (2000)
* Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
* The English Patient (1996)
* Fargo (1996)
* The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)
* The Godfather, Part I (1972)
* Goodfellas (1990)
* Gone with the Wind (1939)
* The Great Santini (1979)
* Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
* House of Flying Daggers (2004)
* House of Games (1987)
* Interiors (1978)
* Islands in the Stream (1977)
* Julia (1977)
* The Last Picture Show (1971)
* Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
* Longtime Companion (1990)
* Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
* Monsoon Wedding (2001)
* My Brilliant Career (1979)
* The Namesake (2006)
* New York, New York (1977)
* No Country for Old Men (2007)
* Once Upon A Time in America (1984)
* Out of Africa (1985)
* Paper Moon (1973)
* Plenty (1985)
* Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
* Saturday Night Fever (1977)
* Silkwood (1983)
* Sin Nobre (2009)

* Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
* Summer of ’42 (1971)
* Slumdog Millionaire (2007)
* Summertime (1955)
* The Thin Red Line (1998)
* The Last Wave (1977)
* WALL-E (2008)
* The Way We Were (1973)
* Wetherby (1985)

To see other lists in the “TOP 10 FAVORITE” series, click here.

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The Visitor

I saw The Visitor (2008) this week and thought is was a compelling and thought-provoking film, with tender and affecting performances by the the four  leads (Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman in an amazingly understated performance, Denia Jekesai Guirra and Hiam Abbass), in a film written and directed by Thomas McCarthy.  It touches on some very moving (and topical) issues– emotional isolation, US immigration policy in a post-9/11 environment, American xenophobia, the universal language of music, and the healing and restorative power of love.  In spite of its many darker and sobering messages, I found it very hopeful and life-affirming. 

Get more details on the movie from IMDB or read various reviews from Rotten Tomatoes.

To view a previous post with my list of Top 10 (Favorite) Movies, click here.

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