127 Hours

Spoiler Alert, he cuts off his arm.

127 Hours stars Freaks and Geeks’ very own James Franco. He quickly became famous in one of the most successful film franchise in history (even the bad one) and after a small run on a soap opera, this still-rising star shines in 127 Hours.

The film is based on the true biographical events of Aron Ralston’s canyoning accident in 2003. It chronicles the events of Ralston’s journey of getting his hand trapped under a rock and freeing himself by amputating his own arm.

Wait, a guy stuck in a rock alone sounds long and boring. False. That is why the 127 Hours is so good, the film makers take advantage of that and structures the film around them it to make it a very interesting adventure. Aron’s story was widely published, so everyone already knows what happens in the end. But still, you keep questioning, “Is this when he does it?!” because they keep you in suspense for a healthy amount of time.

You are supposed to feel stuck with Aron, but the pacing of the film is perfect. Right before each time the feeling of being stuck is about to turn into boredom, you are presented with something new such being taken away from Aron and the rock completely. Aron has multiple hallucinations, flashbacks, and possible flashfowards of what he should live for. These are used to break up the film into a nicely paced story.

The cinematography of the 127 Hours was beautiful and helps the powerful story. I enjoyed the film’s pallet of strong oranges and stong blues. The blue of the sky and Aron’s hat, along with the orange rocks and Aron’s shirt, help compliment each other into stunning images. The camera is utilized to make you feel stuck along with Aron in a minor claustrophobic way. Often times a God Camera is used for going into places that are impossible to show normally. Like when the omnipotent camera goes inside of Aron’s water tube, or showing the bone inside of arms in a creative way. The editing is very unique by sometimes using a tryptic style of showing three images at once. It’s used well when showing Aron is losing his mind as it drifts to many different thoughts.

Knowing the story works this time around. The film shows the inner and outer struggle of a person, and it is a very emotional ride. Each moment of the film is strong, but the powerful ending is brought to an even higher level with the help of a song by Sigor Rós. I will admit I cried at the very end with James Franco partial of Aron’s rescue, along with seeing the real life Aron Ralston with his family.

Not only is 127 Hours nominated for Best Picture, it was nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Actor. Even though I think that Colin Firth’s performance in the Kings Speech will win Best Actor this year, James Franco should still get some credit for supporting an entire film all by himself. If James Franco were a true method actor, he would have actually cut off his arm and taken home the Oscar. At least he gets his consolation prize is hosting the 83rd Academy Awards with Miss Anne Hathaway.

127 Hours is directed by Danny Boyle. Boyle also directed Slumdog Millionaire, the winner of 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture of 2008. And it is not just the director, both 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire share many of the same collaborators, including the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, the composer A. R. Rahman and the producer Christian Colson.

I believe that 127 Hours was hands down the most emotionally powerful film of the year but overall it is one of my top picks of the year. It’s hard to place it, but it might be my second favorite film of the year. I would have given it a higher rating if it would have kept its original title that was similar to last year’s Precious: “127 Hours based on the Novel Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston based on the real biographical events of Aron Ralston cutting his arm off while stuck between a rock and a hard place for 127 Hours.” Maybe that joke was too long and I should have cut it off at the arm.

5 out of 5 stars.

The Secret Of Kells

The Secret Of Kells is an Irish traditional animated feature film. The story is about a young boy named Brendan who lives with his monk uncle in the walled city of Kells. His uncle is very controlling and wants to protect Brendan and the city from the outside world. One day another monk comes to the city with a book that needs completed. He inspires Brendan to adventure beyond the walls of the city and to help complete the book. The story continues with very adventurous and emotional moving moments.

The first thing many people will notice about the film is the visuals. They stand out compared to all other animated feature films. The story is based around the Irish Book Of Kells. The beautiful ornate illustrations from the real book itself was the main inspiration for the film’s art direction. Every single shot looked likes like a completely different hand drawn Illustration that moves. Everything is very flat and geometric but there is still a very strong organic element to each image. Just because the style might look basic, the animation is still fluid and not choppy.

As a traditional animator myself, I found the film’s visual style extremely enjoyable. I am a fan of the video game series The Legend Of Zelda, which The Secret Of Kells had a very smiler style and story to the series. But many fantasy adventure stories have smiler plots and style. I am such a big fan of Zelda that the similarities actually made me enjoy the film more, instead of a negative factor.

I am happy the film was nominated for the Academy Award For Bet Animated Feature. Even though it did not end up winning, the nomination alone will make more people watch this film that could have easily gone over looked. I still wish The Secret Of Kells had actually won because its story and style were just as good as the rest of the collection. The film is appropriate for all ages, but adults might understand it a little more. So I highly recommend this film to everyone.

The best way to describe the film is to simply show you more images.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of my favorite films of the year. It is based on the book by the same name by Roald Dahl. The story is about Mr. Fox, voice by George Clooney, who is forced to quite his risky job as being a thief at the request of his wife, voiced by Merly Streep. Years later Mr. Fox has a more boring job of writing a news paper column and now have a son, voiced by Jason Schawrtzman. His family moves to a brand new house and with three neighboring farms. This inspires Mr. Fox to start up thieving again. He slowly gets more people involved in his plan and starts putting his family and friends in danger when the three farmers try to take revenge. Including one friend, voiced by Bill Murray.

The film has a unique charm to it. I always found myself smiling while watching it. There is many funny and quirky parts, including a punch line at the end of almost every scene. A constant joke was how human-like the animals acted, but randomly and suddenly they would turn back into the animals they are and act out their animal instinct. It had a lot of adult themes and ideas that would go over children head. Nothing is inappropriate, so I would have to say that this film is made for adults, but can easily be watched by children.

Fantastic Mr. Fox’s visuals and animation where very original. The director Wes Anderson helped make this film stand out from all other animated films. Animator Henry Selick actually worked on part of the film before he moved on to work on his own project, Coraline. Since Wes Anderson is not an animator, but a live action director, he treated the film as if it was just another live action film, resulting in the film’s unique style. Wes Anderson is already a stylized director but this new thought towards animation makes it stand out from other animated films and even his own filmography. He uses lots of close up on the stop motion characters, which means that you can see all the hair on the character’s body swirl around because of people touching it during the animation process. Which is very uncommon in stop motion animated films. Another idea Wes Anderson brought to the production was to not record in a sound stage like nearly every animated film, and even live action films method of rerecording dialog. Instead he would record the voices and performance of the actors outside and actually have the actors digging into the ground if the animated characters were doing just the same. This added a warmness to the voices. All these new perspective of how to make animation did not detracts from the film, but actually added to its charm.

I enjoyed Fantastic Mr. Fox so much that I feel it could have been included in the top 10 Best Picture nominees. Maybe that is just me wishing for more animated films being nominated for Best Picture. Even though, I am very happy that it did get nominated for Best Animated Feature.


Coraline is one of the most beautifully animated films ever made. It truly shows that stop motion animation is not dead, and that it should not be overlooked. Coraline is based on the novel by the same name by Neil Gaiman. It is about a little girl named Coraline, voiced by Dakota Fanning. Coraline and her parents, voiced by John Hodgmen and Teri Hatcher, move to a new house. Coraline finds this new place boring, even though she meets crazy neighbors. She soon finds a small door in her house that leads her into an alternate version of her house. Everything is more magical, wonderful and fun there. There are versions of her parents and neighbors, who she finds more fun and interesting. Even though this new place seems fun on the out side, Coraline is smart and quickly realizes that this world is much darker and twisted than it may appear.

Half way through the film is when it gets a little stranger. It gets very video game like at two different points. First the the second darker would actually brakes apart and reforms again, as if she was inside of a computer, Matrix or Tron style. Right after this she is instructed that she needs to collect three different objects. Which feels very much like any modern platform adventure game. The story progressively gets darker and scarier. Coraline is rated PG and is made to be a children film. But the story gets so dark and twisted that it is easily one of the scariest PG films I have ever seen.

I was lucky enough to watch the film in Stereoscopic 3D. This added an extra element of depth and amazement to the already rich visuals of Coraline. The best part about the film is that there is always something new and interesting to look at. With the two different worlds, the scenery always switches up before it gets stale. The stop motion animation was so fluid and believable, in this area of computer generated images, I was constantly questioning if it had just been created in the computers. I know better to question it because I know that it is fact all classic stop motion. One very interesting aspect of Coraline’s production was they did use the help of computers, but not how Pixar uses those tools. The entire film of Coraline was created by stop motion animation puppets in camera. The interesting thing was how they actually created the puppets. With the help of 3D programs, they created character and objects on the computer. Once completed, they actually used a 3D printer to print out the finished parts. Then they would have the characters and object in the real world to animate in camera, the classical stop motion way.

Coraline was directed by Henry Selick. The true man behind the animation of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, not Tim Burton. This was Henry Selick’s first full stop motion animation feature film without Tim Burton, and in my opinion, hit a home run. I am looking forward to Heny Selick’s next project.

Up In The Air

Almost anyone who has seen the film Up In The Air can easily tell you that it is one of the best film of 2009 and I agree wholeheartedly. Up In The Air is about Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney. His job is to fly around the country and lays off employees for bosses who are unwilling to do so themselves.

His disconnected and hollow life might seem unappealing to the outside observer, but Ryan enjoys it and would not want his life any other way. Since he has no real life prospects to look forward to, the only thing he has, since he flies so often, is to save up his frequent flier miles to reach a goal of 10 million miles. This is his only goal in life and he would be the 7th person to ever achieve it. He also gets by with making small connections with random women in between flights. Ryan’s latest minor connection with another frequent flier is Alex Goran, played by Vera Farmiga. They enjoy each others company enough they start a casual relationship by comparing flight scheduling to see when they will meet up next.

Ryan’s own boss, played by Jason Batman, grounds Ryan and makes him return to the home office to find out that ironically his own job is threatened. A new young employee, Natalie Keener played by Anna Kendrick, has a new cost saving plan. Instead of spending a lot of money physically flying people around the country to perform a layoff, they now would layoff people over the internet with a video call. Ryan is upset by this because his shallow way of life and job, that he personally enjoys, is now disrupted. Ryan convinces his boss to allow him to take Natalie with him on his next round of layoffs the old fashion way. The rest of the film involves Ryan showing Natalie the old way versus the new way, and Ryan actually trying to make a real connection with another person for once, Alex.

Up In The Air is very well paced. Featuring many funny, dramatic and unique true life moments. The delivered and performance of the witty and smart dialog helped emphasis the great quality of the writing. After the first viewing of the film I thought it was the best film of the year. On a second viewing of the film, it reconfirmed that my choice was right. The film was actually better the second time around, which I did not think was possible. On the seconded viewing, now having the foresight of what will happen in the film, it was even more clear of how well the film was structured. The character’s actions and development are true to life but still very original.

Even though the film is based on a novel from almost 10 years ago, this film truly captures a unique perspective on this current financial economic crisis. It is a very realistic and relatable film. An interesting thing the director Jason Reitman did, was include real people that had actually been fired from their job, in the film. This is done three times through out the film. They basically slightly look past the camera and talk about the what it feels like to be fired. The footage was used by inter cutting between George Clooney and the person that had been fired, making it appear as if he had just fired them. Almost every word the real people said about losing their job was heartbreaking.

Out of the 10 Best Picture nominates, Up In The Air is my favorite. Hope it wins as many Academy Awards as possible. There are many other films that I hope win as many awards as possible, but then there are films that don’t need to win many.

Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire

This is  easily one of the most depressing films of the year. Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire is set in 1987 and focuses on the troubled life of a young African American girl, Claireece Precious Jones, played by Gabourey Sidibe. Precious has many problems and issues in her life. I rather not spoil the problems because they are the basis for the entire film. Also, there are too many to even list, as more issues arrive and they build on top of each other through out the film.

One of the most prominent problems is Precious’ abusive mother, played by Mo’Nique. Her mother is one of the most evil characters in cinema history. The scariest part of her character is that, unlike many other cinema villains, there are people like her in the real world. The majority of the film is hard to watch, but all scenes featuring Mo’Nique are truly stomach turning. She was supposed to be a hated character so of course I was impressed by her acting. Along with the acting skills by the rest of the cast. Especially how they were all able to make themselves look so ugly and almost unrecognizable.

During emotionally scarring moments in Precious’ life, she day dreams. In these dream sequences Precious always places herself in a different better life. I felt that they were completely disconnected from the rest of the film. I understand that she used the day dreams as an escape from something completely horrible but what was shown was a completely different tone from the rest of the film and I did not enjoy them and felt they were unnecessary.

The film is, once again, unrelatable to me. I had troubles connecting with a young African American girl with so many problems. I did feel sorry for Precious. Very sorry for her and for anyone who would have to experience only a single one of her issues in an entire life time. This is what makes the film so difficult to watch. Not only do you have visually watch a character in a film experience so many problems, but you are also forced to realize that there are many people in the real world with the same issues.

I am becoming depressed by just writing the review and thinking back on the film. Since the film was unrelatable to me and I had a hard time watching it, I have to put this film as my least favorite film out of the 10 Best Picture Nominees. If you did not already know, Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire is in fact actually based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

An Education

An Education is set in the 1960s and based on a true coming of age story of a young British girl who wants to fulfill her and her parent’s dream of attending a university. This dream is halted when she meets a much older man, played by Peter Sarsgaard. Her strict father, played by Alfred Molina, is unhappy with the idea that she would throw away her dream just so she can run off with an older man. Her father grudgingly agrees to allow her to date the other man as she tries to decide which directions she wants her life to go.

Halfway through the film I realized that it was based on the memoir of British journalist, Lynn Barber. This is when I was spoiled and presumed the outcome of the story since they don’t usually make a film about a real person who threw their life away and never achieved anything? I was unaware of who Lynn Barber was until I watched this film, but I assume she has more prestige in her native country. But how famous is Lynn Barber really? Because her Wikipedia article is very short and it is only a small fraction of the size of a fictional space weapon.

Sadly, not only did I guess how the story would end, but I failed to connect with the main character. She was completely unrealatble to me because she was a young British girl in the 1960s deciding between school and an older man. I do understand why the film is gaining so much praise and honer, but I have to put it on the lower half of my list of favorite films out of the 10 nominated for Best Picture Of 2009.

District 9

I went a very long time without watching District 9. I was lucky enough to not be spoiled by the film’s plot during that time. When I finally watched the film, I was genuinely surprised at the direction the film went. I am a bit saddened that I saw Avatar before District 9 because both films have a lot of the same plot points. I do think District 9 was stronger than Avatar, but I believe if I had watched District 9 before Avatar, I would have enjoyed it even more.

District 9 is an adaptation of the short film Alive In Joburg. The feature film is in a documentary style and set in 2010. The film opens with humans talking about how an alien ship suddenly appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa back in 1982. The alien ship just sat idle for an extended period of time until the humans sent a team to investigate. They found the aliens in a weak state. The humans removed all the aliens from the ship and brought them down to the city below. The aliens were suppose to live among the humans in Johannesburg, but very quickly, racial conflicts arose. The aliens were forced into a government controlled camp called District 9. The documentary style continues with the human interviewees talking how the aliens are now going to be removed from District 9 and forced into a new camp. An under prepared human, played by Sharlto Copley, was put in charge of the team that would move the aliens.

After a few scenes of the team trying to force the aliens to move, something goes wrong unexpectedly. This is when the film has a dramatic shift in its story and its tone. Before, the film was a documentary with talking heads and now it becomes a hand held action drama with Sharlto Copley character trying to fix the mistake he made. I did enjoy the direction the film went, but it was unexpected, and not what I assumed the film would be about. I believe I would have enjoyed the film even more if it were all in the documentary style and a story that would have fit that style.

This film is far from the normal action packed alien Sci-fi movie. The main theme of District 9 was xenophobia. The entire film was a metaphor for the Aparthid in South Africa. I would put District 9 in the middle of my list of favorite films out of the 10 Best Picture Nominees Of 2009. The production of the film had a very low budget but still managed to produce amazing visuals. I am, once again, saddened that Avatar’s revolutionary visuals and technique overshadows District 9, especially since District 9 used a fraction of the budget that Avatar did.

District 9 was directed by Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson. The two were originally teaming up to create a Halo movie, but they created District 9 instead. I am very happy this deeper and more thoughtful film was created instead of a weaker, geared towards frat boys, video game movie.

The Blind Side

I am not into sports, especially football, but The Blind Side is not that kind of film. Football is just the rails that this movie rides on to tell a powerful moving true story. The Blind Side is about the football player Michael Oher as a young high school boy struggling at life. He is an African American who had an impoverished upbringing and no safe place to live. Everything gets turned around one day when he meets Sandra Bullock‘s character and she slowly integrates him into being part of her the family.

I originally was not interested in The Blind Side at all because I am not into sports films. It turns out that there are only two or three different scenes in the entire film where football is actually played. The overwhelming majority of the film deals with character development and the struggles of Michael Oher as he finally become part of a family.

I did enjoy the film and would recommend it to others but it is on the lower half of the list of my personal favorites out of the 10 best picture nominees of 2009. Sadly there is nothing really more to say about the film, which might be its problem.