You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Star Trek’ category.

Thanks to everyone who has followed along.  This exercise took a little longer than I expected, and I shudder to count all the words I wrote, but I’ve enjoyed it every step of the way.

10. Up in the Air

I know Adam has said this movie spoke to him as a business traveler, and while I’m not quite at his level, I did just reach Premier status on United, and I am writing this from the Las Vegas airport on my way to Tulsa, so I think I can empathize a little.  You can read plenty about we thought of this Oscar nominee here.  I actually read the script to this one first, then saw it in theaters with my fellow Grouches, then watched it again in a plane a few months ago.  Side note: I’m not really sure this film sends the message airlines want their passengers receiving, but that’s a different debate.  I’m happy this film was nominated for Best Picture, but in the end, I think it received the exact number of Oscar wins it should have.  The movie did almost everything very well, but I’d hesitate to call it exception on any level.  That’s not really a knock on the film, I don’t think.

9. The Hangover

There was always the chance this breakout hit would get some Oscar love, it was just very very remote.  The film was all over our hopes and wishes posts, both for Best Picture and Best Song.  I’d also humbly submit that Zack Galifinakis should have received some supporting actor consideration.  Not to harp on the same point over and over again, but Matt Damon for Invictus was a stronger performance?  By what standard, exactly?  Anyway, so many things went right here.  The script snapped and popped.  The casting was sublime, with the main characters but also supporting actors like Ken Jeong or Mike Tyson’s cameo.  My only complaint of any real substance was that Heather Graham’s character never gets quite integrated into the film.  But the movie was just as movie watching it a second time as it was the first.  It is hard to choose, but my favorite line may be: “Tigers love pepper….they hate cinnamon.”

8. The Hurt Locker

I gotta say, when I saw this one in theaters with Adam over the summer, I did not think I had just seen the Best Picture winner.  The astounding thing to me is that when you pick it apart, this really isn’t my kind of movie.  The plot, such as it is, doesn’t exactly go anywhere.  Stuff happens, but not for any apparent reason.  But the word I keep over and over again when discussing this film is “taut”.  I was held in rapt attention throughout the movie, regardless of whether anything was going on.  The cast is really really strong here, and probably deserved more awards attention than they received.  Do I think the film is perfect?  No, far from it.  Maybe it wasn’t possible to keep the suspense while having a more coherent plot, but I’m skeptical.  If you are interested, you can read out thoughts on the film here.

7. Star Trek

Adam and I have had some fun ragging on John for not liking this film.  Scorn well-deserved.  In my mind, there’s really only one valid beef with this movie (coming from someone who is pretty well versed with the original and fairly familiar with ST:TNG).  In my mind, the Star Trek franchise was founded on morality plays.  And yeah, maybe it has moved away from that a little over the years, but I think the series was often most effective when it was trying to get a little preachy, and I didn’t see that here.  Otherwise, though, this movie was really really good.  It had action and intrigue and humor and a good story and was sexy and was a note perfect way of rebooting a series.  The sprawling cast was uniformly solid across the board, and the film managed to grab a number of actors whose stars are on the rise.  I’ve seen a few other Chris Pine movies and I’m not sure I would have picked him for Kirk, but I would have been wrong.  Eric Bana maybe needs to step back from heavy drama for a bit, but John Cho, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, and Zoe Saldana were all great.  I still just can’t see why this missed with anyone.

6. I Love You, Man

That’s  right, Adam.  John and I are teaming up on a comedy where you missed the boat.  Saw this one in theaters and just could not stop laughing out loud.  Saw it again a few months ago after a party and it was still just fantastic.  Even if Brian fell asleep.  Oddly, the writers of this film (Larry Levin and John Hamburg, who also directed) had hands in writing: Dr. Doolittle, Dr. Doolittle 2, Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, and Zoolander.  A spotty pedigree, perhaps, but sprinkle in some of the Apatow crew, and a little Rush and you get magic.  Paul Rudd trying to say “Slappin’ da bass” with a Jamaican accent.  Or trying to come up with a nickname for Jason Segel.  “I love you, Tyco Brohe”.  Jason Segel doing pretty much anything.  Telling Rashida Jones to return the favor.  “You know what?  I saw Chocolat and it was delightful.”  Thomas Lennon is funny, as is the always solid J.K. Simmons.  Just a really great comedy.

5.  In the Loop

John called the film the “single best written” film of 2009.  And the Grouches pretty much agreed (at least when it came to Oscars).  Obviously, the Britishness was hard to sell on us Americans, but I remain stunned that this film didn’t take DC by storm.  It really is a workplace comedy, where that workplace happens to be the political arena and all that goes on behind the scenes.  The jokes come rapid fire in this fast-paced satire.  And really, the only problem was that often as I was laughing at the last joke, two or three ones whizzed by me.  Peter Capaldi is lights-out fantastic and in a just world he gets and Oscar nom.  Still, I was tickled pink with the writing nomination, because overlooking this film would have been outrageous.  I could be mistaken, but I believe this movie is the second highest ranked one featuring a U of C alum (Anna Chlumsky).  If you haven’t seen this movie, and aren’t turned off by cursing, please do.

4. (500) Days of Summer

Most of our posts on this film were mine, unsurprisingly.  Coming out of the theater with Adam, I would have pegged this one a little lower than 4th overall.  There probably weren’t a whole lot of elite movies this year.  But my expectations were extremely high, and it says something that the film came close to hitting them.  I put Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Best Actress and Best Actor, and I really have no idea how the script missed a screenplay award.  There were plenty of bits big (musical number, the split-screen scene) and small (Yvette Nichole Brown!, the first scene in the elevator) that were pure magic.  The movie probably could have developed the characters a little bit more, maybe lingered on Deschanel a little longer in an effort to flesh her out a touch more.  Also, the opening credits could have not told me Minka Kelly was in it, so that I was thinking about was part she’d play as the movie went on.  I like Clark Gregg, and that was Chloe Moretz as the younger sister and Mr. Christina Hendricks as the friend.  It also had two of my favorite lines of the year.  The opening titles: “The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Especially you Jenny Beckman. Bitch.”  And, Clark Gregg reading a card that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has written: “Roses are red, violets are blue…Fuck you, whore”.

3. District 9

We covered this one a little bit.  I’ve no idea how this one got any Oscar nominations, much less Picture and Adapted Screenplay.  Perhaps voters didn’t see the film, so didn’t realize it was an action flick, instead hearing that was a provoking metaphor on race relations.  It did have a political message, sure, but honestly, I found that mostly irrelevant.  At its heart, this is an action movie with an underlying sadness that is quite touching.  It is an underdog film without a saccharine ending.  It is actually pretty hard to classify this film.  A scifi-action film with a heart shot in a documentary style?  In any case, it was a breath of extremely fresh air, and I can’t say enough positive things about it.

2. Up

John and I gushed about this one some.  Honestly, if you took the opening montage, added however much screen time of just blank space to make it count as a full-length picture, it’d probably still make my top ten.  The scary thing is that the film minus that montage would make it as well.  Like with most Pixar films, this one made me want to cry and laugh.  Was tons of fun, but had a meaning, too.  I don’t think I have the words to describe how amazing this picture really was.  Plus, Ed Asner is a U of c alum.  Oh, and its funny because the squirrel got dead is obviously one of my favorite lines of the year.

1. Zombieland

This one gets its own post, to follow shortly.  But for now, here’s my favorite line from each character;

Little Rock – “No!  She’s only famous when she’s Hannah Montana!  She’s only famous when she’s wearing the wig!”

Wichita [said like Janine from Ghostbusters] – “Hurry!  He’s in the chandelier.”

Tallahassee – “I’m not great at goodbyes, so…that’ll do, pig”

Columbus – “Someone’s ear is in danger of having hair brushed over it.”

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We’re tackling some of the smaller categories this year too. And there’s nothing twenty year old guys enjoy more than costumes and makeup!

Jared tackles Best Costume

Nominees: Bright Star, Coco Before Chanel, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Nine, and The Young Victoria

I only saw three of the contenders, so my opinion here means even less than usual.  I would like to take a second to note that however bad you think the Academy is with falling in love with period pieces, the Costume Design category is even worse.  It is the respite of the Oscar contenders no one saw, and which were just a little too crappy to get nominations anywhere else. 

Anyway, with that off my chest, I didn’t see Coco Before Chanel, but it is a film about fashion, so that seems pretty cheap.  The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is the other one I missed, but I’m not sure it would setting a good example for the kids to pick a nominee so clearly influenced by drugs of some sort.  The lockiest of all locky locks may have been The Young Victoria in this category. The costumes left no particular impression on me.  My problem with Nine is that it is so obviously informed by 8 1/2, so the costuming feels a little less original.  So, Bright Star it is.  And I’m kinda OK with that.  Their period garb seemed to be of a type I hadn’t seen all that often.  And it was refreshing to see period attire from a class other than the elite or the poor.

Next, John looks at Best Makeup

Nominees: Il Divo, Star Trek, The Young Victoria

The Young Victoria is primarily a hairdressing nomination, which is fine but sort of uninteresting. Star Trek has crazy alien makeup so it wins. But my main joy in this category is that Academy members will seek out Il Divo, a dense Italian political drama that’s absolutely unintelligible. The utter confusion I’m sure it caused amongst the Academy voting public gives me mischievous delight. But it does some really terrific aging makeup that I didn’t even notice while watching. Check out the before and after photos.

I also just rewatched District 9 and its exclusion here is absolutely dumbfounding. There are some incredible prosthetics in this film, along with the effects of the main character’s transition from human to alien. It’s so realistic it’s disgusting. And yet the hairdos of a queen snuck in instead.

Oscar nominations will be announced on February 2.  We’re counting down to the big day by offering some hard-hitting analysis and incisive opinions on the toughest questions surrounding the nominees.  We tend to focus on the “major” categories (acting, directing, writing, picture), but let’s take a look at the artistic and technical categories.  What would you like to see happen in these lesser profile categories?

John: I Am the Grand Poobah of Smaller Categories

I’m having a hard time choosing just one hope for the smaller categories. The three I really care about, The Informant! and Avatar for Score and “The Weary Kind” from Crazy Heart for Song, are already probably nominees. So I’ll highlight a few that were noteworthy to me, all of which I thoroughly like but whose exclusion will not cause me extraordinary pain.

Depression Era” from stalled Hal Holbrook vehicle That Evening Sun for Song. It’s a simple, soulful folk tune from Drive-By Truckers front man Patterson Hood. The Song selection is sort of weak this year but this one stands out.

I’d also like to plump for one of Karen O’s tunes from Where the Wild Things Are for Song; “Hideaway”  and “All Is Love” are eligible. Beyond those mentioned above, some scores that made me sit up and take notice include those from The RoadPonyo, and The Secret of Kells, though I think the final one is ineligible for Score.

I love me some An Education so some recognition in Art Direction and/or Costume would be wonderful.

Finally, how about some love for The Brothers Bloom for the costumes? I didn’t enjoy all of the self-conscious quirky elements of the film, but I did enjoy the clothing, which did serve to develop the film’s offbeat characters.

And, oh yes, I can’t finish without whining again about the obnoxious sound in Star Trek.

Adam: What do tigers dream of? Oscar gold.

Since my Dracula’s Lament piece last year failed to sway the Academy (and yes, most Academy members read our blog), I’ve decided to tempt failure again and make my plug for “Stu’s Song” from The Hangover. Another Hangover piece you say? Yes. While I did thoroughly enjoy the movie, the reason I am picking it again is it is a no brainer for these types of posts – i.e. great movie that will get no love. I would pick Zombieland, but John is a Blog-Nazi and won’t let us pick something that has no shot at any kind of nomination…*cough* LAME *cough* *cough*.

Oh, right, “Stu’s Song”. Apparently humor and originality don’t factor into the nomination process for the Oscars. Like “Dracula’s Lament” last year, this was a hilarious song, well written, and original. What about it makes it unviable? I mean, it’s short, but why does that matter? The video just has clips from the movie, but that actually adds to the song. It’s in a comedy – and I think we have a winner. Once again the Academy shows it’s small-mindedness by completely overlooking a legitimate contender because it does not fall within their comfort zone. Well done.

[As John points out, don’t miss Helms’s tailoring of the song for Conan: http://incontention.com/?p=21285]

Jared: Destroy Visual Effects

I’m really happy John proposed we tackle this question, because I otherwise spend very little time thinking about these categories.  Part of it, I suppose, is that I tend to believe I’m appreciating a movie for its story, so I pay less attention to its visual or auditory approach.  I’m clearly not qualified to talk at all about some of these categories (for the sound categories, if you haven’t already done so, I’d urge you to check out the really cool stuff at SoundWorks Collection).  I’m the last person in the world to notice costume design, for example, but it strikes me as a little odd that so often the nominees are predominantly period pieces.

Anyway, I’m here to plump for 2012‘s visual effects.  Granted, I may enjoy Roland Emmerich’s movies a little more than the next guy.  But the point, I think, is that when you think Emmerich, you think of sh*t done gettin’ destroyed.  Unlike some other films likely to get nominated here, 2012 doesn’t have any sort of coherent storyline or fascinating turn of events.  No, in this disaster movie, you get exactly what you’d expect.  Nonstop, relentless, continuous destruction of every landmark (natural or manmade) imaginable.  But, to me, at least, it doesn’t get boring.  And kudos for that, in my mind, should be placed squarely at the feet of the visual effects crew.  Tasked with creating tons of scenes of destruction, they came through brilliantly, and it seems odd to me that their work could be diminished just because their movie was little more than the results of their efforts.

Brian: Single Man Deserves Recognition — Say What?

I can’t believe I am actually writing a mini-post in favor of A Single Man, considering I found it absolutely boring and pretentious (I rated it less than a 4 out of 10), but I’m pretty surprised to see that it is not expected to be nominated for either Art Direction or Costume Design. If fashion-designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford knows anything, it’s style, and his movie has lots of it. Colin Firth is quite particular about his shirts and suits — and while I didn’t enjoy Julianne Moore’s big OSCAR(!!!) scene, her apartment and outfit seemed apropos of both the character and the film overall. Maybe this is just Mad Men withdrawal, as both of them cover the same time period, and both have problems with pacing and that all important thing called “plot,” but I’d be pretty disappointed if Single Man got an Oscar nom for best picture, but was left out for what it did best: highlighting both the cool and the isolation of early 1960s America.

I’d say over the course of a year I see most films that come highly recommended. Not all of them fit into the discussions we have on this site. I try to talk about the ones I love in lists or separate posts but not every one lives up to expectations. Instead of giving these films a pass via my silence I have decided to pillory them here. That’ll show ’em.


Star Trek and Whip It
(95 Rotten Tomatoes, 83 Metacritic; 82 RT, 67 MC)
I feel like I covered most of my objections here and here, but is there a plot point or line of dialog in Star Trek that isn’t a cliche? Or a scene or shot in Whip It?

Sunshine Cleaning
(72 RT, 61 MC)
A textbook case of a movie trying too hard. This film has enough themes and subplots for three Sundance films. And unfortunately too few go anywhere and few I cared about. The one where Emily Blunt befriends Mary Lynn Rajskub is just confounding. Alan Arkin’s character is almost a carbon copy of his work in Little Miss Sunshine. I didn’t care for Emily Blunt. One aspect I found quite interesting was the family’s burgeoning relationship with a one-armed cleaning supply shop owner, played by Clifton Collins Jr. He’s a real revelation in a film that doesn’t do enough with him.

Goodbye Solo
(94 RT, 89 MC)
I expected this movie to be right up my alley. I usually find myself drawn to small, slow, slice-of-life character-driven dramas like this. See my outspoken (at least amongst the Grouches) support for 2008’s The Visitor and Frozen River. And I know Ramin Bahrani is a Next Great American Director. But holy shit this was boring. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen or to get fully involved in a character or their world, but no.

Sugar
(93 RT, 82 MC)
On the one hand, it’s a film about baseball. On the other, it comes from the team behind the Grouches-reviled Half Nelson. Could any film tear Jared apart more? Actually I do hope he sees it because I’d be curious about his take on it and what he thinks of the film’s baseball scenes. Sugar follows a Dominican baseball player as he arrives in America to play minor league ball. More than baseball it’s about the modern immigrant story. I was totally on board for about a third of the movie before it began to lose me. I became less interested in Sugar and his travails. The whole thing just never coalesces into anything particularly interesting.

Fantastic Mr. Fox
(92 RT, 83 MC)
Wes Anderson has made no more than 2/3 of a good movie since his brilliant Rushmore / Royal Tenenbaums run. (That good 2/3 was the front end of Darjeeling Limited.) I loved this book as a kid and the stop-motion animation intrigued me, but it just gets bogged down in Anderson’s increasingly tiresome style. He’s so betrothed to his special Wes Anderson trademarked quirks that he forgets to make a movie that’s actually good. Every touch that seems like it should be clever (Mr. Fox’s mid-life crisis, a badger lawyer/side-kick) are just ill-conceived. I think of Jason Schwartzman’s bored, monotone voice acting as Mr. Fox’s son and I’m reminded all over again why this film was a collasal disappointment.

I realize it is a couple weeks late, but here’s my top five through October.  Well, I guess through the second week of November.

1. Zombieland

2. Up

3. District 9

4. (500) Days of Summer

5. Star Trek

Not much movement, I know, but I expect that to change in the near future (it isn’t from lack of trying, I’ve seen at least a dozen films since the last list).  I don’t believe I’ve said anything about Zombieland before.  It is darn near a perfect movie.  Taut, consistently funny, surprising, and well-cast.  One of those films where I understand if someone doesn’t like it much, I just probably can’t be very good friends with that person.  Jesse Eisenberg is who people want Michael Cera to be.  Woody Harrelson was just about born to play his role (and I’m hoping he gets a nomination for The Messenger because I’ll consider it half a vote for this).  Abigail Breslin, well, maybe I better let Brian chime in.  And I’m madly in love with Emma Stone.  If I’m not writing a ridiculous post advocating that this script should get a nomination, it will have been an insanely good year.

While I have the floor, just wanted to point out something.  The latest Gurus O’ Gold list went up a few days ago.  Their predictions are always interesting and one of the bets resources out there.  But I was struck by how few films the experts think have a shot to get a Best Picture nomination.  For ten spots, they seem to agree that only eleven have any real shot.  I realize that no one really knows how the change to ten affects anything, and that it is still relatively early in the game.  But this is stunning to me.  I thought part of the point of the change was accepting that a wider swathe of movies can be good than the Academy generally deems.  But this wouldn’t be progress at all.

Right now might be my favorite part of the year, in terms of movie-watching.  We’ve seen the summer blockbusters, the interesting films I didn’t see in theaters (e.g. Sin Nombre, Sugar, Sunshine Cleaning) are rolling out on DVD, and we’re pretty much at the exact point right before Oscar contenders become legit Oscar contenders.  Nobody knows anything, because most of the big films haven’t really been seen at all, but everyone wants to know something.  To wit, the first edition of the Gurus O’ Gold is out, and if you haven’t seen it, check them out.  And you all laughed when I said Star Trek was in the conversation.  The important festivals, Telluride, TIFF, and Venice are just getting underway.  Even as short as a week from now, we’ll have a better idea about the Oscars.  But now, now is when absolutely anything is possible and we can still be full of hope that this will be a great Oscar year.

1. Up

If Up were to get a Best Picture nom, I’d be thrilled as all heck.  And while it should have been WALL-E, it would unfairly diminish this film to call it a make up nom.  Of course, I guess I should allow for the possibility I’ll seen ten films I like more than this.  Man, that would be something.

2. District 9

One of the two new additions to the list since my last post.  Maybe this is nostalgia talking, but I think that recent scifi/action films have tended to forget what makes their genre so great.  In my mind, it isn’t the special effects, necessarily.  It is the stories that couldn’t be told any way other than explosions, mindless violence, and a few broken laws of physics.  Anyway, District 9 bursts out of the scifi/action genre to become a truly great film.

3. (500) Days of Summer

The other new add.  It may have been the movie I was most looking forward to this summer, so there’s something to be said for it being able to stand up to my hype.  It wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, but it was certainly close.  There are some neat tricks in there, which manage not distract from the film, and the story is a generally compelling subversion of a romcom.

4. I Love You, Man

Sure, Rush jokes will pretty much always be funny in a movie.  But someday, someone will build a film around TOTO jokes.  And then I’ll have to stop watching movies.

5. Star Trek

John is still wrong.

And a special honorable mention to The Hurt Locker, which was in my Top Five for at least a little bit.  Actually, I think there was a week when Away We Go made it as well.

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.

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