Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Real Dogs of Slumdog Millionaire

If you've been following the news, you know that India isn't too happy with the film Slumdog Millionaire. Rick at Coosa Creek Cinema has recently written a piece about this.

In the comments section there, it was revealed that the two boys that play Jamal and Salim as children are actually from the slums of Mumbai and have not benefited from the success of the film. In fact, they've barely benefited at all. One of the boys was paid a little over $1,000 for his work and the other was paid $3,600. You can read the full story here. In addition, you can see reaction from Boyle and company here.

According to the Screen Actors Guild site, the basic rate for an actor is around $2,600. Of course this can fluctuate depending on negotiations, but let's just assume that's the case. And based on the fact that the boys are in about half the film, one could assume that shooting with them involved several weeks. Needless to say, the boys were not properly compensated for their work. Word is that there were several agreements in place between the boys and the production company, including money to stay in school and a trust fund set up for them.

Here's an idea. How about you pay them what they deserve? If it is decided that they receive additional monies for school or their future, that's a separate issue. But at least pay them a basic salary as it has been set for so many others. It is unconscionable to me that this sort of thing could happen. This is the ugliest underbelly that Hollywood could expose.

Actually, when you think about it, it would make for a perfect movie. Show a scene of Boyle and company accepting the Golden Globe on stage, all mugging for the cameras. Juxtapose that with scenes of Rubina and Azharuddin running through squalor in the slums of Mumbai. Cut again to Boyle and company drinking champagne and hitting all the after parties, all mugging for the cameras. Juxtapose that with Azharuddin and his family living under a plastic sheet since their house was recently torn down because it was deemed illegal.

Oh, the irony.

One can only hope that this bad press causes 20th Century Fox to do right by these boys. And then may they rot in hell for their sins.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Slumdog Is The New Crash

Can you feel it? It's electric. The momentum behind Slumdog Millionaire is undeniable. As sure as Heath Ledger will take the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, Slumdog Millionaire will win Best Picture and in every other category it's nominated for. And it will win for all the wrong reasons.

When Slumdog Millionaire ended and the lights came up in the theater, I turned to my wife and asked her what she thought. She said "yeah." Allow me to clarify. It wasn't a "YEAH" like "SHIT YEAH." It was like "yeah?" Now, she will deny this as she has done so since we saw it, but it was there and I heard every bit of it. And what's more, I agreed. She might as well had said "meh." It's about the same thing. And that's Slumdog Millionaire in a nutshell and I would say most of this year's Oscar picks. Everything should have worked, but it didn't.

Slumdog has taken the top prize at the Golden Globes and more recently at the SAG Awards. In conjunction, news channels have been running stories about the slums of Mumbai as if we never knew there were slums there before. There is a feel good factor working here and it has nothing to do with great filmmaking.

A great picture is the result of everything working together. Everything. And while Slumdog provides us with a few positives, the most obvious being the story structure, it's lacking in several categories. But right now that doesn't seem to matter. What seems to matter is that Slumdog Millionaire is making the world a better place by exposing its ugly parts. We've seen this happen before with Crash. And the hangover from that has yet to go away, all these years later.

Feeling good about a movie is not a bad thing. But it can't be the only thing. Everyone is so caught up in the story on and off the screen that they're not realizing this film is seriously lacking in the best picture department.

I guess we will see come Oscar night.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Top 5 Tuesdays (T5T) Is Taking Suggestions

My inspiration as it relates to Top 5 Tuesday ebbs and flows. At one point, the ideas are flowing like fine wine. The next, I got nothing. So today, I will be taking your Top 5 suggestions for Top 5 Tuesday Topics.

I am at your creative mercy. Let me have them.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Clint Eastwood got snubbed.

I watch the Oscars but I don't take them seriously. Not since Dances with Wolves beat Goodfellas.

But I still like to bark now and then about who got left off the list.

I thought Clint Eastwood was tremendous in Gran Torino. I know that Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn are locks, but surely there was a place left for Clint. He is one of the few truly iconic actors left and this might have been his most personal, powerful performance. I suppose you can dismiss Eastwood for not having the range of a Sean Penn, a Phillip Seymour Hoffman or a Robert Downey, Jr, but nobody is a better Eastwood than Eastwood.

I'm pretty ticked about this. If I get an invite to the show, I might not attend.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

For All Your Movie Needs Shop Smart. Shop S Mart.

Army Of Darkness is probably one of my most favorite movies. And it is one of my most treasured DVDs. There are a lot of versions of this movie out on DVD. It's pretty sick really. And by "sick" I mean fucking awesome.

This is the Standard Edition. Not much here.

Retail Price: $8.99.

S Mart Price: $2.49 plus a free pack of gum. Strawberry flavor only.

This is the Special Edition. 2 Discs. Some say this it's the best edition to have.

Retail Price: Discontinued. Prices range anywhere from $10 to $60

S Mart Price: $10 Bundle with Maniac Cop and Assault On Dome 4

This is the Boomstick Edition. 2 Discs. Not really different from the Special Edition.

Retail Price: Discontinued. Prices range anywhere from $17 to $100

S Mart Price: $16.59 regular price or $8.93 with your I'm A Super S Mart Shopper Card.

This is the Official Bootleg Edition. The Director's Cut. 1 Disc. Great packaging, but lousy edition.

Retail Price: Discontinued. Prices range anywhere from $20 to $40.

S Mart Price: It's a bootleg so you have to go to the counter where they sell cigarettes and ask for Larry. Give him the code word "Henry the Red" and you'll get it for free.

Limited Edition Director's Cut. Probably the coolest looking cover, but the worst edition to have due to lack of film quality.

Retail Price: Discontinued. All prices are around $25

S Mart Price: Free with any shotgun purchase.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Won't you come back, Billy Bob?

Pipes and I had a nice talk about the groundswell of appreciation for Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. Mickey’s comeback has ignited a critical firestorm of fondness for his past performances in movies like Diner, Rumble Fish, Body Heat, Pope of Greenwich Village and Barfly. He's a genius in the rearview mirror.

So Pipes and I started wondering what other actor has left us standing at the cinematic altar. Billy Bob Thornton. He had an amazing run between 1996 and 2001. He created a slow, homicidal original in Sling Blade, a whip smart political strategist in Primary Colors, a dimwit who can’t get out of his own way in A Simple Plan and a racist prison guard in Monster’s Ball.

One minute he’s drinking Angelina’s blood out of the bottle, the next minute he’s a 140-pound singer in The Boxmasters. Come back, Billy Bob. Make us proud again. Play a washed up country singer who used to be a great actor. You’ll get an Oscar nod for sure.

Top 5 Tuesdays (T5T) Is Acting All Presidential

We've seen lots of Presidents come and go in the movies and on TV. Some have been good. Some have been bad. And some have been named President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho.

Today, as we witness the swearing in of our 44th President, give a moment to list your Top 5 Film or TV Presidents. Here are mine in no particular order.

1. Peter Sellers as President Muffley in Dr. Strangelove He was calm. And strange.

2. Dennis Haysbert as President Palmer in 24 About as badass as they come.

3. Martin Sheen as President Bartlet in The West Wing Could there really be a President as smart as he?

4. Donald Pleasence as Mr. President in Escape From New York He was an incredible ass, but how can I pass up an opportunity to give a shout out to Carpenter.

5. Michael Douglas as President Shepherd in The American President There are many similarities between Bartlet and Shepherd, but I feel Shepherd is a bit more approachable. In short, if I got cornered by him I don't think I would get a lecture about the not-so-well-known National Parks throughout our great Nation.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Joaqin Phoenix Falls Off Stage - Trips Over Crazy-Ass Beard

What Say You? Slumdog Millionaire Dance

Over at Film Babble Blog, there's an interesting conversation going on in the comments section about Slumdog Millionaire. Specifically about the ending dance number. Someone had mentioned how it ruined the movie for them because how could Jamal dance in celebration right after his brother had been killed? Someone followed up with a defense by saying that Jamal had just won a million dollars and found the love of his life, so that's why he was dancing. I thought it interesting that someone would try to justify why Jamal and Latika would or would not be dancing at the end. I didn't see it as a conclusion to the movie, but more of a free-hanging homage to Bollywood involving the main characters. Either that, or an after curtain bow of sorts as a reminder that it was all just a movie.

But that's me. Was the dance at the end of Slumdog Millionaire the big finish? Or just a really well choreographed dance number?


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Once In A Lifetime

No knock against any of the performances of the actors below. But
could you reasonably expect any of them to ever win more than the
one Oscar? It's truly one great performance in a career:

Haig S. Ngor
Martin Landau
Linda Hunt
Reese Witherspoon
Julia Roberts
Robin Williams
Halle Berry
Adrien Brody
Forest Whittaker
Peggy Ashcroft
Geraldine Page
Helen Hunt
Whoopi Goldberg
Geena Davis
Jack Palance
Marlee Matlin
Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Kim Basinger
Tatum ONeil
Mira Sorvino
Jennifer Hudson
Marisa Tomei
Mercedes Ruehl

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

9 Things That Will Haunt Me in 2009

Also known as the New Years Resolution Meme as tagged unto me by Adam at DVD Panache.

I love resolutions. They're empty promises. I'm like a politician walking through a room glad-handing every special interest I see. Lower cigarette taxes? You got it. More guns? Of course. No hydrogen cars until 2024? Done and done. I could do this all day.

Of course once you make the commitment that you're actually going to commit - that's when things get hairy. That's when it goes from crazy declarations like "I'm going to drop 100 lbs" to much tamer stuff like "I think I'll lay off sugar pop for a week."

All that being said, who knows if I'll commit to these or not. Check back at the end of the year and see. I'll probably lie, because how the hell will you know if I've done them or not?

First, here are the rules:

1. Post a list of nine movie-related resolutions for the new year. These can be as serious or light-hearted as you want them to be, and it also gives you a topic at the end of the year to post about when you take a look back at the resolutions.

2. Tag five other people with completing this meme.

3. Link back to my blog in your post so I can keep track of how many cool people are going along with this, and also for the purpose of compiling a list of the most interesting resolutions.

Okay, now on with the resolutions

1. Immerse myself in films of the 60's and 70's. I'm a little sparse in these areas. I'm a little sparse in a lot of areas, but this is where I'll start.

2. Watch Heaven's Gate. I've never seen it and yet I talk about wanting to see it a lot which causes people to say "shut the hell up and see it already."

3. Rewatch The Big Lebowski. I'm giving it one more chance and then if I don't like it, get off my back!

4. Show my collection a little love. There are about a dozen movies in my library that I have never seen. Stuff like Two-Lane Blacktop, Youth Of The Beast, The Ruling Class, Ran and Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance to name a few.

5. Begin to become an expert in a genre. Not something broad like Action or Science Fiction. But something more obscure like Japanese Horror. It's a lot cooler to be an expert in something only two people give a shit about.

6. Concentrate really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really hard on Rob Zombie discovering his love of whittling, causing him to forget directing altogether thus making sure that Halloween 2 never gets remade.

7. Host a movie night in my backyard where adults get drunk and try not to fall asleep on my lawn forcing me to bring out the hose.

8. Refer to modern movies as "talkies" from now on.

9. Singlehandedly get Sam Raimi's Crimewave on DVD or Blu-Ray. I'm coming for you Sam and I'm bringing treats.

And here are the people I'm tagging.

Marilyn at Ferdy on Films (course)

Chuck at Out 1

Alex at Film Forager

Dirtyrobot at Filmopia

Movieman0283 at The Dancing Image

Words Of Wisdom From Jack Torrance

I found this little discovery over at Hollywood Elsewhere. It's available right here at I have no idea what lies betwixted these covers, but I can't wait to find out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Top 5 Tuesdays (T5T) Is Boom Or Bust in 2008

Alright, we're still reflecting right? Right? Or have we just thrown 2008 into the toilet along with some poo poo. I'd like to think that with the Golden Globes just ending and the Oscars upcoming that we're still thinking on the past year. So with that being said, give me your Top 5 Best or Worst movie moments of 2008. Could be movies. Scenes in movies. An actor doing something great or something stupid. Could be all good things. All bad things. Or a nicely seasoned mixture of the two with a side of sour dough to soak up all that extra dressing left at the bottom of the bowl. You decide.

As always here are mine in no particular order.

1. The first 45 minutes of Wall-E. Perfect filmmaking, animation or not.

2. The return of Mickey Rourke. You just want to root for the sorry galoot.

3. The end of the writer's strike.

4. Rachel Getting Married. The more time that passes, the more that I think it's the best movie this year.

5. Frank Miller officially taking the directing reins. I'm still pissed at Rodriguez for this.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Somebody Should Make A Movie About This

Everybody loves a comeback. Quick get Avildsen on the phone and pitch it to him. But whatever you do, don't cast Mickey as the lead. That guy doesn't have a face for showbiz.

And just in case you missed it, Nick did some wonderful live blogging at Nick's Flick Picks.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Beautiful Ramblings From A 5 Year Old

The measure of a great screenwriter is the ability to write dialogue. To be real. To be bold. And most importantly to be believable. To be believable, you can't dig deep into the bag of familiar. You have to show an honesty and vulnerability. A few great screenwriters possess this talent.

That being said, there isn't a single screenwriter living or dead that could create this e-mail to me last night as dictated to my wife by my five year old daughter. This is human. This is real. And it's simply too good not to share. Please enjoy.

Dear Daddy,

I hope you had a nice trip. This is your email from me and I hope you had a good flight. See you tomorrow night and I love you lots of love behind all the places we explored today and I can't wait to tell you all about it. Dear Sing and Dear Daddy we've been friends for a while and we've been all around the world. Dear Dad. My friends and I miss you. Daddy and me been lots of places every day and we explored. I'll see you tomorrow night and I loved you all the nights between and I love Daddy and I can't wait to tell you all about the places I've been today dear Daddy.
And me and everybody except Daddy is not here. I hope you can be home dear father daddy all nice to everyone we're all the family members we ever had and we're not the perfect ones dear daddy. Dear Daddy I do not want to waste your time you need to come home soon. All the stories I wrote about you Sing and Father daddy.
I rented all the adventures I wanted to show you all day long but you're not here so I'm writing an email about you Sing story email will be all the delighted emails we had for you every day.
Daddy's big day.
I hope you had a nice day at your place and you didn't know how much you had at your trip so you write all the numbers can you give me some coupons in the mail.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Doubt And The Dutch Angle

I wanted to like Doubt. How can you go wrong with Hoffman and Streep trying to one-up eachother in the acting department? It may have suffered from the same dilemma as Frost/Nixon. Meaning it was at the hands of a director who was not worthy of the material. I speak of John Patrick Shanley. Yes, he wrote it and yes he directed the stage production. But there are vast differences between the stage and the big screen.

Doubt offers up no answers. You know as much leaving the film as you did going in. And that's not a bad thing. Like Mamet's Oleanna, the strength of the film is in how it makes you feel. The internal struggles that you suffer as you try to finish the story in your head so you can sleep at night. What bothered me is something I like to call Movie Manipulation. I'm trying to trademark that phrase so don't go throwing it about at cocktail parties because I'll come after you.

Movie Manipulation (remember, it's being trademarked) comes in many forms. Could be narration. Could be a music score. Techniques that are used to either enhance your movie experience, or to fill in the gaping holes left by a bad script or bad direction. As a movie watcher, the director wants to make me aware I'm watching a film or not. It's not uncommon for a film to have the character break down the third wall and speak directly to the audience. This sometimes works and it sometimes doesn't. I think you lose a little something when you tip your hat to the audience. I don't always like being reminded I'm watching a movie. Sometimes I just want to watch a really good story unfold.

Of course this doesn't happen in Doubt. Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't turn to the camera and say "can you believe this shit? This crotchety old nun thinks I'm hitting it with one of my students." But Shanley reminds me I'm watching a film in the way he uses the camera. Specifically, the dutch angle. It's used several times throughout the movie and each time I saw it, I was suddenly sucked out of the story and reminded I'm watching a movie. And then suddenly it's a battle between me and Shanley right there in the theater. He throws his dutch angle at me and I counter with a "hellz no, you're not going to make me uneasy with your dutch angle. How simple do you think I am?"

The dutch angle is usually reserved for a Batman TV show. Or a Sam Raimi movie. These are fun movies where manipulation takes many forms and anything goes. In short, it's kind of a joke. Almost an homage of sorts. Only why? It's here that Shanley should have just taken a page out of his stage direction book. It's page 26 and it clearly states DON'T FUCK WITH THE SCENE. JUST LET IT HAPPEN.

Shanley was trying to inject tension in a scene where all he had to do was let the actors do it for me. Think of the coin flip scene in No Country For Old Men. Can you imagine a dutch angle there? It was completely unnecessary because the tension was created by the actors. By the action. There was no reason for the director to do anything except get great performances out of his actors. So why Shanley would decide it necessary to add any drama to a scene involving Seymour and Streep is beyond me. It's like he took off his white glove and slapped them both across the face for failing him. Only he failed them. He was the one who had doubt. And we all suffered from it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

20 Redheaded Ladies

Some of the most beautiful and most talented actresses are redheads. Only they don't get their due. Until now. For my 20 Actresses Meme (I was tagged by Adam Ross at DVD Panache and the Meme was originally started by Nathanial at Film Experience) I have selected 20 redheads: for their talent, for their beauty and for those feisty red locks. Burn, baby, burn.

Ann Margaret

Carol Burnett

Eva Green

Julianne Moore

Rita Hayworth

Amy Adams

Kirsten Dunst

Kate Winslet

Cate Blanchett

Jill St. John

Nicole Kidman

Honor Blackman

Emily Blunt

Emma Stone

Isla Fischer

Iben Hjejle

Christina Hendricks

Molly Ringwald

Elizabeth Banks

Jessica Rabbit

Friday, January 2, 2009


When I arrived home from seeing Frost/Nixon I immediately ran to the computer to check out Ron Howard's filmography. I was looking for a reason why he was given this gem of a movie. I thought maybe I had missed something.

It has always been my assumption that certain scripts demand certain directors. Obviously a comedy deserves an Apatow/McKay type director. A courtroom drama deserves a Lumet-type director. So where in the wide, wide, world of sports did someone come up with the idea that Ron Howard should be directing this film? And since when is he considered one of "the" directors? Don't get me wrong. I like the guy. Splash, Cocoon, Parenthood. He's an entertaining director. Just not a great director. And what Frost/Nixon needed was a great director.

Since we can easily view the original interviews on YouTube, the entertainment doesn't lie in front of the interviewing camera, but behind it. And it was here that I was expecting an All The Presdient's Men/Zodiac type fact gathering treatment as Frost and his team prepared to give Nixon the trial he never had. Here Frank Langella shines. As Nixon, he knows this interview is a slam dunk, but he's still looking for a formidable foe in Frost. But Michael Sheen never delivers the gigantic ego that David Frost possesses. Instead, he walks through the entire film with the wide eyes of a 10 year old frightened child. And rather than let the scenes capture the emotions of the times, Ron Howard relies on the laziest of narration - the one on one interview with the principles involved in the movie. It's a cop-out and a glaring sign that Howard doesn't trust his audience to keep up. Or he doesn't trust himself to deliver any real drama.

On the surface, this movie seems like a no-brainer. And it looks like Hollywood approached it that way. Let's just cast the stars of the theater production for the movie, then turn on the camera and let them chew up the scenes like it was a well seasoned piece of meat. And in looking at it that way, you really could have had anyone behind the camera. Maybe that's why they picked Ronnie. He was the least likely person to screw it up with any kind of... oh I don't know... directorial style. Only that's what screwed up this movie. It risks nothing. Ron delivers the movie almost as if it were a documentary. He adds no point of view. And then one wonders what he really brings to the table. A couple of dozen movies to his career, could anyone really say what kind of a director Ron Howard is? Or wants to be?

I am more angry that Frost/Nixon was an average movie, than I would have been if it would have been a terrible movie. All the pieces were there. Except the director. Andy, go fetch the fishing-pole, Opie is in the creek and he's in way over his head.