Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Frozen River

I've been very busy this past week and I haven't had time to blog about Sundance. Basically, the films at this year's festival were very strong. We saw 6 films, one animated short, and attended a screenwriters workshop. We met the director of each film after each screening, and we met the cast members from 4 of the 6 films.

The films we saw include; American Son, Under the Bombs, Momma's Man, North Starr, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (Documentary), and Frozen River (which won the Top Prize for Best Dramatic film).

RW and I both loved Frozen River, in a nutshell, it's the story of two women, a single mother of two and a Mohawk Indian girl. Both are desperate and struggling to make ends meet. They become acquainted under unforunate circumstances and team up to smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States from Canada.

It's one hell of a film and obviously we weren't the only ones who loved it. Sony Pictures Classics purchased Frozen River for less than $1 million, and Quentin Tarantino raved about the film stating that it's ''a wonderful depiction of poverty in America.''

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Curtis's Top Films of 2007

In honor of the 80th annual academy award nominations announced today, I figured I'd unleash my best of film 2007 list. This list is comprised of my favorite films of last year (if their my favorite, they must be the best). Drum roll please!

My Top 15

15. (tie) No Country For Old Men
15. (tie) Joshua
14. Superbad
13. Talk to Me
12. Gone Baby Gone
11. Dan In Real Life
10. The Savages
9. The Jane Austen Book Club
8. Waitress
7. I Think I Love My Wife
6. Knocked Up
5. Year of the Dog
4. Juno
3. Eastern Promises
2. Once
1. Before The Devil Knows You're Dead

The Curtis Awards

Best Actor - Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood
Best Actress - Ellen Page in Juno
Best Supporting Actor - Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men
Best Supporting Actress - Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone
Best Director - (Tie)
David Cronenberg for Eastern Promises
Sidney Lumet for Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Golden Tear Award - Once
Best Song in a Film - Falling Slowly from the film Once, music by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
Best Documentary - My Kid Could Paint That
Rookie of the Year - Ben Affleck for Gone Baby Gone (directorial debut)
The next big thing 2008 - Chiwetel Ejiofor

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Live from Sundance 08

Tonight I'm reporting live from Sundance 08. So far we have seen some very good films and attended a panel discussion on writing (and rewriting) screen plays. It feels good to be around this much inspiration, and it has motivated me to get my ass in gear and write! Although tonight I'm struggling to find the words. Struggling to articulate my thoughts. I feel empty like I have nothing worth saying. But nevertheless, I figured I'd try and string a few sentences together before I put my head down for the night.

So many of these filmmakers, writers, directors, etc... have spent years of their lives to tell their story. Many times they thought about giving up but they didn't. They were persistent, patient, and some how found support, self-confidence, and/or motivation to not give up. I've told myself that I don't have to be the most talented if I'm persistent and I work really hard at my craft.

More on Sundance 08 later...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Constant Craving

All day today I was craving a big fat juicy steak. So instead of indulging in red meat tonight I decided to have some fancy cheese, crackers and a bottle of (homemade) wine. I picked up the house, lit some candles, and because I'm a bit of a masochist, I put on some vagina music (that's what the tough guys are calling it these days) to purposely make me feel introspective and pensive. This is how I roll.

Here's what I'm listening to tonight:

Natalie Merchant - Tigerlily
I don't know what it is about this cd. It's so simple and soothing... like comfort food. It fills me up (like empty carbs). Plus, Merchant has always struck me as the kind of gentle woman that I might see at the local farmers market on any given Saturday morning. She would smell of sun tan lotion and burt bees lip balm. Her hair pulled back in a pony tail, not yet dry from her morning shower. She wears earth tone colored clothes, slightly wrinkled, or one of those long and thin tie dye skirts.

Once - the Motion Picture Soundtrack
This film made me cry like a little bitch. It's hard not to revisit the emotions portrayed in the film. These lyrics are universal and capable of really hitting me where it hurts.

KD Lang - Ingenue
This album, much like Tigerlily above, is simple and comforting. Yet, it also encapsules an underlying despair and sexual longing that hasn't resurfaced in any other Lang recordings.

I think it's ironic (and f*ckin hilarious) that she titled her 1995 album "All You Can Eat".

Bens Folds - Songs For Silverman
I don't consider Ben Folds vagina music, but 4 or 5 of these songs really effect me every time I hear them. Folds writes thoughtful, witty, and sensitive lyrics that appeals to my self doubt and restless mind; "we'd hit the bottom, I thought it was my fault... and in a way I guess it was" (from the song Landed).

Good Night.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

There Will Be Blood - Movie Review

There Will Be Blood (R) 158 minutes B-
Oil bleeds, Greed leads
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano, Ciaran Hinds, and Kevin J. O'Connor

There Will Be Blood sounds like the name of a Quentin Tarantino slasher film, but indeed it is the latest film by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Hard Eight, Boogie Nights). Loosely based on the Upton Sinclair novel titled Oil! Blood has been hyped as one of the best films of the year.

Daniel Day Lewis is magnificent and definitely deserving of an Oscar nomination, but the film doesn't hold the momentum it so intriguingly builds in the beginning. Anderson seems to lose focus during the last quarter with scenes that are either brilliant or baffling. At 158 minutes long the film drags near the end, but overall I give Anderson credit for creating a very ambitious adaptation of Sinclair's novel.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Best of Music 2007

My top 10 favorite albums of 2007 (released in 2007)
Drum Roll Please....

10. (tie) Once - Motion Picture Soundtrack
10. (tie) Elliot Smith - New Moon
9. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
8. Michael Penn - Palms & Runes, Tarot & Tea
7. Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero
6. Dinosaur Jr - Beyond
5. Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
4. Josh Ritter - Historical Conquest
3. Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis
2. Radiohead - In Rainbows
1. Nine Inch Nails - Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D

Overall I thought this was a pretty decent year in music. I seem to listen to less and less "new" music as the years go by, but 2007 found me in a peculiar mood in which I purchased a lot of 2007 albums. I continue to be disappointed with a lot of music out there today, but finding those musical treasures always keeps me coming back for more.

This is the first time ever a remix album has ever been crowned my album of the year, and it tops a great year for Trent Reznor as far as I'm concerned. Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D is catchy, funky, and seductive. Reznor took a good album in Year Zero and totally transformed it into an exceptional stand alone record.

Radiohead continues to deliver goods with In Rainbows. Believe the hype! These guys are amazing.

This was also the first time in a long time (and maybe ever) that a hip hop/rap album didn't crack my top 10. Ironic because hip hop/rap really made a comeback for me personally. I reconnected with hip hop in many ways, but it was mostly older albums and Ipod (individual songs). Lupe Fiasco and Talib Kweli both had solid outings this past year and would probably fall into my honorable mentioned category.

And although I'm not writing these albums off, I admit I was most disappointed with new albums by Bruce Springsteen, Thurston Moore, Suzanne Vega, Wilco and River Cuomo. Not that these albums were bad, but I had extremely high hopes for all of them. Chances are, now that I have no expectation of them, I might learn to like them more in 2008.

As for the upcoming year, Right now I'm looking forward to new albums by Freedy Johnston, Morrissey, Counting Crows and many many more.

"When I was young we didn't have MTV; we had to take drugs and go to concerts."
- Steven Pearl

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Beth Lisick at the Tattered Cover

I was unfamiliar with Beth Lisick until I read a brief description of her new book in the Sunday paper. Tonight RW and I attended her reading at the Tattered Cover in support of her new book, Helping Me Help Myself: One Skeptic, Ten Self-Help Gurus, and a Year on the Brink of the Comfort Zone.
Apparently she's quite the renaissance woman; a writer (NY Times bestselling author), humorist, spoken word artist, poet, filmmaker, etc... She was down to earth, neurotic, and cool in an effortless sorta way, and I look forward to reading her book. Plus, she wrote "you're perfect" inside the front cover of my copy. What is it with these celebrity babes? First Neko Case drew a heart on my cd, and now this, Beth Lisick thinks I'm perfect. Maybe I really am bringing sexy back :-)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War - Movie Review

Charlie Wilson's War (R) 97 minutes B
Assman takes on the Soviet Union
Starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Ned Beatty

Sometimes I am a little leery of star-studded films like Charlie Wilson's War. Films this top heavy can sometimes be more flash than substance. Starring Oscar winners Julie Roberts, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Hanks, as well as Oscar nominees Ned Beatty and Amy Adams. I feared that this film might be a late season, big budget bore. But I underestimated Oscar winning director Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Primary Colors, Working Girl and Closer), and multiple Emmy winner Aaron Sorkin (screenplay).

Hanks, Roberts and Hoffman work well together as a trio, and although the film lacks edginess, it does do a nice job of balancing comedy and serious drama.

Charlie Wilson's War tells the story of congressman Charlie Wilson, he's living the dream of power, prestige and gettin' booty. It seems that the Texas congressman has been skating by for years until Houston socialite (and friend-with-benefits gal pal) Joanne Herring (Roberts) ropes him into going to Pakistan for her own political reasons.

After seeing the refugee camps in Pakistan and hearing the accounts of Soviet atrocities, Charlie finds inspiration and motivation to actually do some congressional work. With help from Herring and CIA bad-boy Gust Avrakotos (Hoffman), Charlie brings down the Soviet Union and ends the Cold War.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman has had a phenomenal year (Before the Devil Know Your Dead, The Savages) but I predict he will be nominated for an Oscar for his role in this film. Also, kudos to Emily Blunt who gets the "sexiest cameo in film award 2007" for her brief presence in this film, wow!

This film is good... especially for fans of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

Starting Out in the Evening (PG-13) 111 minutes B-
Old Man & Me
Starring Frank Langella, Lauren Ambrose, Lili Taylor, Karl Bury, Anitha Gandhi, Sean T. Krishnan, Jessica Hecht, and Adrian Lester

Heather (Ambrose) has ruby red lips, long red hair, and eyes you can drown in. Poised, beautiful, and smart, she's a heart attack waiting to happen if your Leonard Schiller (Langella). She's also an ambitious and alluring grad student who wants to reintroduce novelist Leonard Schiller to the world.

But Leonard is an old man now, author of 4 out of print novels, and plugging away on his fifth and final novel for the last 10 years. It seems as though Heather might be the inspiration Leonard needs to finish his novel, but is she more trouble then it's worth? Either way, every (old) man needs a thrill.

This film bleeds of longing, and to a certain degree, regret. It also tells the story of Leonard's daughter, 39 year old Ariel (Taylor). Unlucky in love, never married and desperately wanting to have a child, I found the Ariel character very likable and realistic in a vulnerable kind of way. The two plot points with the father and daughter kind of intersects, but nothing here is wrapped up nice and neat like many of the Hollywood films today. Starting Out in the Evening leaves us to interpret and imagine the outcome of these character's lives on our own.

The film is a good chamber drama but probably not for everyone. Fans of May-December romance and Literature drama might find this especially appealing.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Savages - Movie Review

The Savages (R) 113 minutes B+
Had a Dad
Starring Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Philip Bosco

The Savages stars the luminous Laura Linney and the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman, perhaps the best on-screen duo in 2007. But when I initially saw the trailer for this film I wasn't impressed. I didn't think it looked bad, but it didn't look particularly good either.

Quarreling siblings Jon (Hoffman) and Wendy (Linney) Savage are use to being the center of their own universe. So when the two are obligated with the inconvenient task of caring for their estranged father, they fall apart then come together.

The film is an excellent exercise in family, love and mortality. Well-acted and well-directed, The Savages brings perspective, keenness, and positivity to a sad and difficult subject.