Up

Up is a fully computer animated feature film created by Pixar and Disney. It is an adventure film, and like all Pixar films, it is meant for the entire family. The story is about an old man named Carl Fredricksen, voiced by Ed Asner, trying to achieve his dream of one day going to South America. He attaches thousands of balloons to his house to make it fly. Mistakenly, a little boyscout named Russell tagged along. As the two adventure on, they meet new friends and enemies, that will help them and hinder them on their journey.

Up is a very emotional film. At the very beginning of the film it shows a montage of Carl Fredricksen and his wife’s life. There are two extremely sad moments in the montage that that will leave a grown man crying, myself included. Even multiple viewings still make me tear up a little. Then through out the rest of the film, Carl comes up agents struggles that are hindering him from achieving his dream. These moments are also very emotionally overbearing. Little Russell talks very briefly about his personal life, and it is very sad. The friends that Carl and Russell meet up with also have problems of being hunted and outcasted by others.

If I had to fault Up for anything, it would be the evil old man villain story line. I felt that was much weaker than the rest of the films plot. It was kind of weird to have an evil old man villain, contrasting with a emotional journey to achieve someones dreams. I understand that they needed a major conflict in the film, but I think they could have come up with something better. Maybe Pixar should have extended the journey itself and made it a bigger conflict than it already was.

Like all Pixar films, the art direction and animation was outstanding. They created a very interesting world that was familiar but different. The character designs are stylized enough that they will never look out of date. These things make this film an instant classic. It is sadly not my favorite film created by Pixar, but it is many unique qualities that separate it from the rest of the collection. I would have to place Up on the top half of my list of favorites out of the 10 best picture nominees. I am happy this film is nominated for best picture because it is very rare for animated features to be nominated. Up is only the second ever to be nominated, Beauty and the Beast being the first.

A Serious Man

A Serious Man is about a Jewish American man in the 1960s as every aspect of his life falls apart. From the extremely large spoiler heavy things, to the completely minor things, like the TV going out, there is nothing in his life that is untouched. It even extends to his entire family, with all of them having parts of their own lives falling apart. My review is very spoiler heavy and becomes less of a review and basically becomes an analysis of the film because so many people did not understand it. Read on if you have already watched the film or do not mind spoilers.

The opening scene of A Serious Man features a seaming unrelated story on the surface to the main film, but it has a deeper purpose. It features an older Jewish family in the early 20th century in Europe. They never explicitly states that the main character in the film is related to them, but by the rules of Chekhov’s gun, not only are they related to the main character, but their own miss actions are the cause of the main characters misfortune. The opening scene could have three other major points; the idea of telling far fetch family stories, the old idea of curses, or just to show a traditional European Jewish family in the early 20th century. So maybe in the end, it was actually needed.

Spoiler Alert, here is where I get spoiler heavy with the plot and ending. The entire film loops around back to the exact spot where it started. Ignoring the opening scene, the very first scene we see, is the main character’s son trying to pay off the another kid at school. He loses the money and though out the entire film he cant pay the kid back. One of the son’s few problems he has to deal with. The son finally gets the money back and in the very last scene we see is him, in the exact same manor as that the very beginning of the film, the son gets ready to hand over to money to the other kid before the film cuts to the credits. The second scene we see is the main character at the doctors office. The second to last scene the doctor calls the main character to come into his office for bad news. So the film ends on the same note as in began.

A lot of peoples problems with the A Serious Man is that there is no resolution to anything but instead the film cuts to credits even before the final climax. At first I was shocked when I saw the credits rolling but then seconds later I realized everything and actually thought it was funny what the Coen Brothers did. Through out the entire film they blatantly stated multiple times the idea of no resolution to a story.

The opening scene had no resolution, unless the entire main part of the film is the actual resolution to the minor story.

The main character has multiple dreams but wakes up during the climax, so there is no resolution to any of them.

The main character is a professor of physic and explains two different ideas about quantum mechanics. Lucky for me, I have already read up on the basic ideas of quantum mechanics to under stand it when it comes up in media, such as this film. So I already knew both quantum mechanics ideas that were explained before viewing this film. The first, he explaining Schrödinger’s cat. A very deep and complex idea but to put it simply; It is a thought experiment of the idea of putting a cat in a box with acid and closing the box. Then you do not know if the cat is alive or dead, thus no resolution. The second theory he talks about was the Uncertainty Principle. The name alone tells you that you can not know everything because some things will be left uncertain.

Then the most blatant of them all. The main character is told a long pointless story that has no resolution. The main character even goes as far as to state that there was no resolution and that he wanted to know. The story teller response by saying who cares.

All these things add up and everyone should have not been surprised when the film had no resolution. First off the films resolutions could only go in two direction. Second it would actually be boring an unnecessary to see it. Either the doctor tells the main character he is fine, or there is seriously something wrong. The doctor called the main character over the phone, but forced him to come in, which means only one thing, there is something seriously wrong. As for the main character’s son, either him and everyone else dies from the tornado, or they survives it. Both parts we do not need to see. This is my third favorite film out of the 10 best nominated for best picture. I think very highly of this film and it is in third place only because I like the other two just slightly more.

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.

Inglourious Basterds

In all of Quentin Tarantino’s films, he never likes to tell a story in a plain vanilla style. He normally likes to use a nonlinear story instead. This time around, Inglourious Basterds tells two different linear stories that start off disconnected and jump back and forth between each other, but then the two stories finally come together and dovetails nicely at the very end.

Inglourious Basterds is set in Nazi occupied France during World War II. The first story shown is about a young Jewish girl, played by Diane Kruger, who barley escapes capture by the main Nazi villain, played by Christoph Waltz. The second story is about Brad Pitt‘s character who has gathered a team of Jewish Americans to be his Inglorious Basterds. A team that runs around seeking revenge on Nazis by killing and branding as many as possible, with the ultimate goal to take down Adolf Hitler.

Quentin Tarantino likes to use a strong female lead, like in the films Jackie Brown and Kill Bill. Or instead of a central lead, he will have a strong all male team, like he did in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. With Inglourious Basterds, he was able to have both a strong female story along with a story of a strong all male team. Quentin Tarantino also place his films in two distinct worlds. One is the real world where normal rules apply, featured in his films Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. In the other world he uses, which is set in the Hollywood movie world, most rules do not apply. Like Kill Bill, it is often bizarre and over the top. Inglourious Basterds walks a fine line between the two worlds. I feel that the story line about the Jewish girl is set in the real world, with long drawn out realistic moments. Where as the story about the Inglourious Basterds themselves, is set in the movie world, with over the top actions, comedy and even a narrated introduction of the team.

Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker who truly loves films. He shows this off in Inglourious Basterds by having a premiere of a Nazi propaganda film play a central plot. Along with playing a main character in the main film, Eli Roth directed the propaganda film within the film. Like always Quentin Tarantino has to use many long drawn out slow scenes but Inglourious Basterds uses this the best out of all of his films. All of the scenes feature either a group of Jewish people hiding from Nazis, or a group of Jewish people undercover talking with Nazis. They have to be careful because any wrong move will reveal who they actually are or where they are hiding, thus the slow drawn out scene builds tension and work perfectly for this film.

All the characters in Inglourious Basterds are great and will go along well with the collection of already classic and unique characters Quentin Tarantino has created. Brat Pitt plays a guy who is too full of himself and is actually kind of dumb which leads himself into trouble. Eli Roth plays an absolutely crazy Nazi killer, which is very funny and I would like to see him act more, instead of write and direct. And Christoph Waltz plays an manipulative two faced Nazi who is always playing a game with someone. He is such a great character that he over shadows Adolf Hitler in this film. It was also great to see minor roles go to B. J. Novak from The Office and Samm Levine from Freaks And Geeks.

Out of the 10 films nominated for Best Picture of 2009, I will have to say Inglourious Basterds is my second favorite film of the year and possibly my second favorite Quentin Tarantino film. I am not a big fan of guns but I will be first in line when they start selling punch guns. Inglourious Basterds is a comedy and drama, set both in the real world and the Hollywood movie world, and features both a strong female storyline and a strong all male team storyline; Quentin Tarantino for the first time gets to have the best of both worlds.

The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is a well paced realistic look at a United States Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team during the Iraq War. The film is about a highly skilled team leader of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit play by Jeremy Renner. He rubs the rest of his team the wrong way because he likes to do everything is own way, even if it is extremely dangerous. The film is about him connecting with his other teammates as they are put in many risky situations.

The pacing was the first thing I noticed about the film because it starts off with a bang. The film continues this trend by feeding the audience a healthy amount of downtime of the soldier just living, between all the thrilling action. The opening of the film also makes the statement that anything could happen at any time. So all the characters did feel like they were in danger all the time, unlike many other films where main characters are completely invincible. Along with that, the films visuals had a quality to them that made you feel as if you were watching a real life documentary, unlike most unrealistic Hollywood movies. The near documentary style helped make the characters more real and thus allowing the audience to connection to the characters more and have them appear to be in greater peril. Even though the film is fictional, it puts perspective on the idea that this is a very real job that people actually risk their lives doing.

Overall the film is a very interesting look at the nearly unbelievable job and life of the main character, plus his wife is Evangeline Lilly. Out of the 10 Academy Award Nominated For Best Picture Of 2009, I would have to place it in the middle of the list of my favorite. Not only is the film up for Best Picture but for Best Director. The director is Kathryn Bigelow, who is the ex-wife of James Cameron. His film, Blue Aliens Are From Pandoria And Under Developed Characters Are From Earth, is also nominated for Best Picture and Best Director. This fact does not actually matter, but Hollywood’s second biggest export behind movies is celebrity gossip that does not effect anyone but the ones who are involved.

Update –
Congratulations to The Hurt Locker for winning Best Picture and Best Director among many other awards. It might have not been my favorite out of the ten Best Picture Nominees, but I completely understand why it won Best Picture and happy that it won because it beat out the majority of other films that did not even deserve the award.

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.

Avatar

Avatar is a film that only a few people might have heard of. It has gone under the radar for far too long. Everyone must know that Avatar is easily the greatest film of all time, if not greatest thing of all time.

In all seriousness, James Cameron’s Avatar is just another mediocre blockbuster movie that is now the highest grossing film of all time.

The story of Avatar deals with humans invading the planet Pandora for its resources but the native humanoid alien race, The Na’vi, are unhappy with the humans. The humans created a handful Na’vis that they can control with their minds and inhabit the body of with the help of machines. One human in his Na’vi avatar body goes rouge and gets involved with the native Na’vi culture. He struggles with being a human in a Na’vi body as the struggles between the humans and the native Na’vi worsen.

The story conflict of Avatar is simple, Man VS Animal. You may try to find a more complex conflict of it being Man, with the motivation of Greed and with the help of Machines VS Animal, with the motivation of Faith and with the help of Nature. However, Avatar’s basic story helped it become so successful. It is so generic that the story could be a metaphor for many different real world conflicts from the past and present and from round the world. This is appealing and relatable to many people and cultures around the world.

I did enjoy Avatar and had more fun during the viewing of it than many of the other 10 best picture nominees of 2009. But that is the problem with Avatar, it was just a movie experience that was made for you to have fun while watching it. Once the last frame of Avatar is shown, the experience is finished and you do not think about the movie itself again. You might think about the amazing visuals, but not about the story or the characters or about the film as a whole. All the other best picture nominees are long lasting deep films and have made me think about the story and characters weeks later. Many of them were depressing with characters struggling through real world situations. Since the others nominees were depressing, that is the only reason why I can say I had more fun viewing Avatar but it did not make me think or care about the film like the other depressing films did. The only thing Avatar has going for itself is the visual 3D roller coaster ride for your eyes.  The visuals might be amazing, but that does not make a good movie. The music was just as bad as the visuals were good. The story and characters were undeveloped and there was too much Papyrus.

Avatar is a movie made to be a movie. It will be nothing more than just a movie. It is an experience meant to be had in theaters with 3D glasses on, like I did with my friend Michelle Fischer. I would recommend anyone to experience Avatar this way, but I could not recommend Avatar as a simple home viewing. Because of that, Avatar fails at being something more and is just a simple short term experience.

Californication and Dexter season finales

Showtime’s two starring bad boys had their season finales last night. No matter how many bad things these guys do, everyone can not help but love them, and their shocking season finales only leave you wanting more mischief.

Californication is not one of my favorite shows of all time like Dexter is. I am only teaming these two shows into one post instead of two due to the fact I don’t want to spoil either finales, so lack of content to talk about. I had only started watching Californication right before the start of this season. It has grown on me, each season better than the last. The third season had some really great comedic episodes with a nice amount of drama sprinkled throughout the season to make it the best season so far. The season three finale had a more dramatic tone with a story that spanned all three seasons and concluding with a shocking final scene. David Duchovny plays the main character, sex addicted Hank Moody, who always gets himself into situations but always smoothly manages to get out out them. The finale deals with a long running situation Hank started in the first episode of the series and had to deal with for the past three seasons. Everything finally spirals out of his control and for the first time, Hank may not get out of it. I have no clue what to expect from season four, but the series has taken itself into an interesting direction.

The season four finale of Dexter was fast paced, shocking and emotional. Of course they wrapped up the main plot of season four but they also had a good subplot that was building up from four seasons worth of content, calling back to many elements, especially season one. Like always, Dexter’s finale narrative was amazing with many twists and turns and another shocking final scene. This scene was completely unpredictable and extremely emotional. I will admit that I cried my eyes out.