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Well, we are right around halfway through the calendar year, so here’s my top five so far.  Hopefully the other Grouches follow.

1. Up

A fantastic movie, though I didn’t think it was as good as WALL-E.  Which isn’t really a knock, seeing as how I would have said the same thing about every other film from last year.

2. I Love You, Man

This film is funny, sure, but it also manages to generally keep up a compelling story.  It has been a long time since Jason Segel wasn’t in a movie in my top five.

3. Star Trek

As usual, John is wrong.  We’ll see if I can come up with some sort of rebuttal.

4. The Hangover

I know the point isn’t original, but goodness gracious did this movie rake in the dough.  It is gonna finish with $200 million domestic, and be safely in the top 100 domestic grosses all time.  The film was often funny and occasionally hilarious, but I had a few quibbles with it, specifically that it significantly tailed off at the end, and they had no idea what to do with Heather Graham’s character.

5. The Brothers Bloom

Has a fantastic beginning (and no, not just due to the two cameos), but the last third has serious issues.  Which is unfortunate, because I really wanted to love the film.  Con movies are really hard to pull off, and Rian Johnson puts forward a jolly good effort.  Bang Bang steals the show, in my humble opinion.  There’s also a line in the film that’s in the early running for my favorite movie quote of the year.

After two years of participating in this blog I can’t help but think about the Oscars even when in the midst of the summer blockbuster season. It’s a curse.

We’ve seen plenty of nominations from summer movies in recent years: Borat, Pirates of the Caribbean, Poseidon, and Transformers for example. The Bourne Ultimatum even managed to take home three (undeserved) trophies. These are usually in technical categories, but there’s no other way Norbit would be an Oscar nominee. So there will be a spark of Oscar thought in the back of my mind as I take in 2009’s summer slate of action flicks and sequels.

So apparently I’m one of only like five people in the world who didn’t like Star Trek. While moderately fun, it felt like one cliched vignette after another with a poor overall vision. Here’s the scene where our heroes, along with us, meet an important character at precisely the right moment. And here’s the scene where Kirk has to convince Spock to relinquish control in a conveniently-timed battle of wits. In a lot of ways it felt like a pilot to a TV show where everything and everyone are introduced without a lot of depth. I imagine the sequels will be better and less superficial.

But Star Trek is a big film with a hugely positive critical reception (95% on Rotten Tomatoes) that made a ton of money (pushing $250 mill). Combined with its action sequences and special effects, this really could have a Bourne-type impact on the Oscars.

Naturally I’m going to start whining now. The visual effects are fine if not spectacular. But lord did I hate the sound effects. Sound should be one of those things the casual filmgoer doesn’t notice while watching but I definitely noticed it in Star Trek. Specifically the punch sound effects that seemed like they belonged in a cartoon or an old Batman episode. I didn’t mind the lens flares but those horrible smack sounds during punches drove me nuts.

So this is one guy who won’t be happy if Star Trek ends up on the Sound Editing nomination list. And thus ends an important Sound Editing post 8 months before the next Oscars.

This is a blog and as such it is our solemn duty, when a celebrity dies, to entitle a post “RIP” and post a Youtube clip of that celebrity in order to neatly encapsulate his/her life.

The Golden Grouches have been grossly negligent in commenting on Michael Jackson’s passing and in so doing have assuredly upset the millions of his fans who read this site. Without this tribute the Internet would literally die.

Here is MJ inThe Wiz, a movie that terrified me as a child. The Wiz garnered four Oscar nominations: Costume, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Quincy Jones for Adapted Score.

And those are ALL the clips that Youtube has to offer. THANKS A LOT YOUTUBE! MICHAEL JACKSON’S MEMORY IS SULLIED FOREVER!

(When I was in kindergarten the school play was The Wiz. I played a munchkin. You better believe it was adorable.)

Yesterday, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced that starting this year there will be ten best picture nominees.  The world clamored for the Grouches’ response to the news, and the Grouches obliged.  In a chat room, naturally:

Brian: so, the Oscars expanded to 10 nominations for Best Picture
your first thoughts
John: I’m curious to hear a quick yea or nay from everyone
Jared: i like that
Brian: yea
John: nay for me
Adam: yea
John: qualified nay. I’m curious to see how it works out
Jared: well, sure
Brian: well we all are
Adam: way to adjust your opinion to satisfy the masses
John: I think it smells of desperation
Brian: but Im curious to see any change made to the Oscars cause why not?
they’re trying to compensate for so many of their members having bad taste
John: I think it’s clear they’re trying to get more popular films involved to get the ratings back
and frankly the Oscar monetary bump isn’t what it used to be
but you know, it wasn’t that long ago that big budget, major productions were dominating the oscars
Gladiator, Erin Brockovich, Braveheart, Titanic, A Beautiful Mind
and that was awful because these mediocre movies were dominating by virtue of their size
the cycle has turned back onto smaller productions. I think given time trends would change again

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In “Silence Is Not Golden,” we are attempting to take a look at some modestly-released films through the eyes of the filmmakers themselves.  This installment features writer/director team the Deagol Brothers, who were kind enough to answer our questions about Make-Out With Violence, a sort of coming of age zombie movie which has been hitting the awards circuit with a fervor, including winning awards at Oxford and Atlanta, and playing SXSW.  Check out the film’s official site here, the Non-Commissioned Officers (the band behind the film’s soundtrack) here.

Golden Grouches: People seem to have difficulty pigeonholing Make-Out with Violence, with its coming-of-age story in a teen drama with a romantic triangle and a zombie.  Did you intentionally set out to make that defied genre, or is that just where the story took you?

The Deagol Brothers: We set out to make something interesting, that could be accomplished on a minimal budget.  A John Hughes-esque Rite-de-passage seemed like a doable genre given our resources – we are 4 writers in our mid-20’s who are old high school friends.  The horror element came into play after we saw Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre and loved how odd it was.

Initial drafts of the screenplay were written in a more straightforward narrative that worked with a typical zombie movie trajectory – a third act involving a last stand against the zombies coupled with a big reveal of what was causing the dead to walk the earth.  Most of us were coming to filmmaking from a non-narrative experimental video, painting and fine art background but we thought something that was very traditional and genre-specific would allow us to cement a reputation as feature film directors and we could worry about any “artistic” inclinations later in our careers.  Or at the very least it would be easy to get into Horror film festivals and hopefully make a splash.

Although early drafts of the script had a traditional structure we tried to add as many weird and ostentatious details into the setups and payoffs as we could.  This resulted in an amalgam of body horror and teen comedy that could only be described as Cronenberg meets American Pie.  No one was happy with the direction the script was taking.

It was decided if we were going to make the commitment to shoot this feature we should personalize the story to a greater degree and resolve ourselves to stick with what elements we found interesting not what we thought commercial.  The new story began to heavily reflect our shared experiences in high school.  We became less concerned with the undead story thread and thought it more appropriate Wendy’s back story remain a mystery.  The writing process became about exploring unresolved and unrequited past loves and taking the story into unexpected places emotionally.

For the most part the film’s supporters seem to embrace the plot’s dream logic and liken it to stories of magic realist literature.  Our detractors just think the movie doesn’t make any sense and feel jerked around by the constantly shifting genre elements.

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aka summer is boring for awards blogs

Christian Bale is in every damn movie these days. He’s a good actor and I don’t dislike seeing him. But when does he have time to sleep? He was great in 3:10 to Yuma and The Prestige and perfectly fine in the Batman flicks. Dude did some ridiculous stuff putting up with certified crazy man Werner Herzog in Rescue Dawn, which was basically shot like the film-in-the-film in Tropic Thunder. And in Terminator Salvation, well, I have no intention of seeing it. Has any actor ever proliferated so rapidly into so many big name projects? He has Public Enemies coming out soon too.

Do you have a film with a nice mix of action and dramatic heft in the works? Christian Bale is your man!

But what really puzzles me is that he is now the star of two big movie franchises in Batman and Terminator. How does either franchise benefit when it shares its main face with another franchise? Successful franchise frontmen are iconic and unique for their time period: Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones. Mark Hamill is Luke Skywalker. And now Christian Bale is John Connor AND Bruce Wayne.

Of course it’s not that stars shouldn’t be in other movies or even other franchises. But these are probably two of the five most successful franchises in film today and they both are using the same guy. No one else was available?

So Jared’s right, the MTV Movie Awards were an adequate amount of fun. I don’t think the ridiculous mix of teen and serious films received sufficient mockery. What was the point of Kate Winslet’s nomination for The Reader? A half-baked attempt at legitimization?

But it was mostly an interesting, irreverent program, especially when assisted by DVR. Thankfully I didn’t fast-forward through the jaw-droppingly awful New Moon trailer.

Here are a few more things the Oscars could borrow from MTV:

  • Sandra Bullock bouncing awkwardly to hip hop.
  • JJ Abrams keyboard solos.
  • Nominee homages from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
  • Classy “Jizz in My Pants” renditions.

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Get cracking, Academy! You’re just a nom for Bullock – The Proposal looks like a sure winner – and a token hip hop Best Song nomination away…

In “Silence Is Not Golden,” we are attempting to take a look at some modestly-released films through the eyes of the filmmakers themselves.  This installment features writer/director Marc Fienberg, who was kind enough to answer our questions about Play the Game, which has a national release date of August 21st.  Our thoughts on the film can be found here and be sure to check out the official website at:

Golden Grouches: I’ve read that Play The Game is, at least in some ways, a very personal project, the idea stemming from conversations you had with your own grandfather over his foray back into the dating pool.  But another reason the story felt so fresh was the relative paucity of romantic comedies (or really movies in general) with a major plot revolving around the elderly.  Did that concept of bringing something somewhat new to the genre impact the writing and filmmaking process at all?

Marc Fienberg: The film was inspired by my own grandfather who started dating again when he was 89 years old.  When he started sharing the details of his love life with me, admittedly I was a bit uncomfortable with the images popping into my head, but when I started to see my grandfather go through the all the same emotions and issues of a schoolkid in love, (Should I talk to her, what should I say, what if she doesn’t like me, what if she DOES like me, etc.) I found it amazingly touching and endearing.  And that range of emotions that I experienced in learning about the love life of a older person was the same range of emotions I wanted to bring the audience through in the film.  And so throughout the filmmaking process, I didn’t pull any punches with the “senior sex” scenes.  Very little is shown, as the film is PG-13, but I wasn’t afraid of making people in the theater a little uncomfortable.  So the biggest effect of having the senior storyline in the film was making sure that it stayed true to the life of real seniors, not diluting it at all out of fear of offending people.  Strangely enough, those scenes are the ones that bring the biggest laughs from the audience, so I’m glad we didn’t cave to the pressure of making it more mainstream.

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Oscarwatchers generally don’t have much love for the MTV Movie Awards.  And hey, when Twilight and High School Musical 3 dominate the list of winners, it isn’t hard to feel that the distaste is warranted.  But I actually have a lot of respect for the MTV Movie Awards and think they have something to teach the Academy:  It is OK to be passionate about movies.

I certainly hope members of the Academy like movies, but sometimes I’m left with the impression that they don’t really love films.  Oh, sure, they may wax rhapsodic about cinema, but can you imagine very many of them waiting in line for a midnight screening of something?  Say what you will about Twilight and HSM3, but they inspired mass hysteria in a pretty sizable chunk of moviegoers.  That shouldn’t be a bad thing.  No one is suggesting the Oscars should switch to fan balloting or only nominate movies seen by lots of people.  But how many people loved Frost/Nixon or The Reader?  The fact that you are coming up with a name for each only proves my point.  The Dark Knight met with riotous fan approval, but also near-universal acclaim.  It shouldn’t have been punished because its supporters were loud.

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June 2009