Jan 7, 2010

150: Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Capitalism: A Love Story

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL (Sacha Gervasi, 2009): Seemingly poised to go down as the true-doc equivalent to This is Spinal Tap, Anvil! chronicles the herculean efforts of the still-kicking, mostly forgotten titular rock band to once again make their mark on music culture. What follows transcends thrash metal culture and becomes a working class tale of doing what you love at all costs, as the band slogs through modest day jobs to pay bills and raise families, all the while having churned out a dozen albums and occasionally touring abroad since the mid-80's, now striving to raise the not-insubstantial production fees to record the aptly titled This is Thirteen. Anvil never condescends to its subjects - two best friends for life whose passion knows no bounds, even as it steeps itself in potential delusions of grandeur without a place in the "real world" (an interview in which a family member calls them out for being overgrown boys is practically heartbreaking in its insensitivity, even if it is true from a common sense perspective). If the band seems on the verge of rediscovery by the film's end, such is a development director Sacha Gervasi seems acutely aware of, framing their (spoilers ahoy) climactic appearance at a Tokyo rock festival less as an arrival at a long-awaited destination than as a triumphantly new beginning. B

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY (Michael Moore, 2009): Moore's heart is in the right place, but Capitalism ultimately proves too half-assed a cine-essay to bear any substantial impact outside the choir it eagerly preaches to. From an emotional standpoint, this excavation of the decaying capitalist values further widening the gap between the American rich and poor fails to stoke the flames of moral atrocity high enough to qualify as expertly rendered propaganda, instead shifting focus too quickly from the tragic and unjust (the powerful gorging themselves on the losses of others; the "dead peasants" section is a must-see) to the tritely sentimental (a trip to his father's former place of employ in Flint, Michigan) and meekly scabrous (his usual gadfly-esque demonstrations come off as limp-dick here). Capitalism ultimately hopes to suggest a dawning sense of empowerment in the American people via a strike sequence in which factory workers barricade themselves inside their workplace. The real tragedy here, however, is that it more or less lets off the hook the greedy fuckers responsible for exploiting the lower classes, effectively tossing pebbles at its targets when it should be heaving boulders. C+

Jan 6, 2010

OFCS Awards: Winners

I guess it's a good thing I gave Melanie Laurent those extra five points with my second-place vote. Here is the full list of winners. Respectable, even if I'm already sick to death of Anvil (not a bad film, but dammit if it isn't relatively meaningless in comparison to The Cove).

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Actor: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Best Actress: Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Best Adapted Screenplay: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on a book by Roald Dahl
Best Documentary: Anvil!: The Story of Anvil
Best Picture Not in the English Language: The White Ribbon
Best Animated Feature: Up
Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson, Inglourious Basterds
Best Score: Michael Giacchino, Up
Best Editing: Chris Innis and Bob Murawski, The Hurt Locker

Voted: 5 (36%)
Predicted: 8 (57%)

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UPDATE 1/7/10: Here's something new: the OFCS has prepared via webcam their own Awards ceremony of sorts, replicated here for your viewing pleasure. I haven't actually looked at these yet myself; I tend to find this sort of thing embarrassing, even when it's not me on display (and yes, I have found myself as the proverbial deer in the headlights once before in such a manner, but I'll be damned if I'm going to say when, how, or where).

Jan 4, 2010

150: (500) Days of Summer, The Princess and the Frog

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket (500) DAYS OF SUMMER (Marc Web, 2009): Bearing a degree of emotional sincerity atypical to its indie-approved brand of self-identifying quirk, the gimmicky (500) Days of Summer can be said to succeed in spite of itself. Honesty is key here, as the central conceit - the roughly year-and-a-half long emotional rollercoaster the main character, Tom Hansen (the always superb Joseph Gordot-Levitt), experiences as a result of his relationship with Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) - is explicitly titular, explored in bits and pieces shuffled back and forth in time. Many have compared the film to Annie Hall (which also begins post-breakup looking back), but more appropriate to these eyes is Scenes from a Marriage, albeit through a far inferior, twee lens. Abound conventions (the supporting characters en masse) and the occasional nugget of overwrought wit (the final "gotcha" moment) threaten, but fail, to cripple the leads' revelatory sincerity, best marked by two scenes, both transcendent, one an upper (bluebird), the other a heartbreaker (park bench). B

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (Ron Clements and John Musker, 2009): While at times suggesting a manic greatest-hits package of Disney's modern catalogue - complete with ready-for-Broadway musical numbers and supporting characters bordering on racial stereotypes - the emotionally earnest The Princess and the Frog more routinely reminds one of the Mouse House's original golden days. Much has been touted about the utilization of an African American character - the first among the Disney line of "princesses" (to say nothing of other ethnic backgrounds already represented) - but advertising campaigns be damned, the film is most progressive in its decision to not emphasize the color of its hard-working heroine's skin, but rather the cultural and economic roots that drive her desires and passions (see an interesting angle on the film's purported race card here, and then here). The New Orleans setting is surely an olive branch apology of sorts for Katrina and its portrayal of history a bit idealistic, but as far as instilling humanistic values across class boundaries (far and away more substantial than the racial kind, argues the film), The Princess and the Frog is nearly unparalleled. B+

Jan 2, 2010

OFCS Awards: Ballot

Kept things simple this year, voting for only one movie per category (as opposed to ranking all five), two at most when the competition was close enough. Last year my selections proved 75% accurate; I seriously doubt I'll be that elated come the announced results this year. Full roster of nominees can be found here. When different, I've included my predicted winners in parenthesis.

Picture - Inglourious Basterds (The Hurt Locker)
Director - Quentin Tarantino (Kathryn Bigelow)
Actor - Joaquin Phoenix (Jeff Bridges)
Actress - Tilda Swinton, Mélanie Laurent (Gabourey Sidibe)
Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz
Supporting Actress - Diane Kruger (Mo'Nique)
Original Screenplay - Inglourious Basterds (The Hurt Locker)
Adapted Screenplay - Fantastic Mr. Fox (Up in the Air)
Documentary - The Cove (Anvil! The Story of Anvil)
Non-English - Abstained, haven't seen enough (Summer Hours)
Animated - Fantastic Mr. Fox (Up)
Cinematography - Inglourious Basterds (The Hurt Locker)
Score - Fantastic Mr. Fox (Up)
Editing - Inglourious Basterds (The Hurt Locker)