Friday, September 19, 2008

The Middle Aisle Critique: Fall 2008 Analysis

10 Films that have prospective chances for the awards season, in no particular order.
(Articles to Come)

10. Doubt

Faith is an issue these days (no matter who you are, you are somehow effected by faith, whether that be in God, Humanity, a vision, or an ideal), and many people have simply "thrown in their cards" because life is, well hard. Dealing with an issue like doubt, many turn and simply give up whatever choices they have made in the past (presumably for good) and simply lose what we would call hope.
In the new trailer for the upcoming film "Doubt", we have issues of faith put into question in regards to the character of Phillip Seymour Hoffman (who has quite surprised me these past few years). He plays a priest of what looks like a Chicago/New York parish, and is accused by the head of the sisters (played by Meryl Streep) to have committed a wrongful act to a student, by way of a statement made by a young sister (Amy Adams). The film has the look and feeling of an independent film, but boasts performances that could possibly ignite nominations. This is a film based on a play (one of two in this blog), and has the dimensions of dialogue and character development down (from what I hear). The question will be if the film can surpass its rather simple premise for an in depth look at deception, faith, and of course doubt.

09. W.

From what Oliver Stone is stating, W. is a film that is going to attempt both a satirical, and a sympathetic look at the life and career of our current commander in chief. Whether this will ultimately play out as a mockery, or a fair representation; we still have quite a cast to portray the politicians in question (everyone from Karl Rove to Tony Blair to Condi). Usually historical perspectives/analysis are done after someone has left office, or even passed on and so it is quite interesting that he chose such a pivotal time for this film to release (namely smack dab in the middle of the election!)

08. The Soloist

A couple years ago Robert Downey Jr. would have probably made very few top-ten lists of rising stars, he probably was not discussed in film speaking circles, and he certainly wasn't deemed to be anything more than a one time big shot (academy award nominee for best picture for the film "Chaplin"). With his post-rehab jumpstart behind him, Robert Downey Jr. has now become "the face of cool" among members of this generation. He struck several critics for his portrayal of Journalist Paul Avery in the film Zodiac (2007), Ignited a widely successful comic book franchise (which no-one thought would ever conceptually work) with Iron Man (2008), and managed to show some comedic prowess as the relatively "straight man" in Tropic Thunder (2008). Critics are flocking to him, big leading roles are being laid at his feet, the film going public is now listening, and in a matter of a few short months, our "Tony Stark" has become a household name (kind of like what happened with Johnny Depp, but less drastically). His upcoming project "The Soloist" will add some more dimension to Downey Jr's repertoire as it is another "based on a true story/drama/involving journalism" and it could easily be a good enough role to elevate him into much more dramatic roles (much like what he did in Chaplin, but with this super stardom at his side). 2008 is definitely the year of the Downey Jr. in this critic's opinion.

07. Defiance

With two WWII historical films in the works at this time it will be interesting to see which film will garner better historical accuracy. They deal with two different fronts in the war (South Pacific vs. Eastern Europe), which is actually a very beneficial way to examine the already largely interpreted subject. Defiance will basically either make Daniel Craig's career more than James Bond, or will simply be another film in a string of unnoticed performances (The Invasion, The Golden Compass...etc.)

06. Australia

Hugh Jackman's career of great interest as he has completely redefined who he is as an actor three times in the span of ten years (broadway star, action hero, dramatic actor) and still doesn't get much in terms of recognition. I can say that many of his performances have left me thinking that more could have been examined, yet other films I feel really examined his talents (The Fountain). Australia will also help Nicole Kidman, who in my opinion is the most overpaid, least interesting actress in Hollywood these days. There is really no reason to like her, yet Hollywood studios seem to put her on such a pedestal that can really only be defined as "post-tom cruise success". Australia though may be the saving grace for the both of them. Baz Luhrman is the key to the success (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!) and with his direction and early buzz concerning the trailers we might be looking at some nominations (maybe even for acting).

05. Milk

Controversy describes more than our insecurities, it uncovers something innate within the human psyche. Sean Penn is the kind of actor that likes to push boundaries, yet doesn't always do so in ways that garner authenticity. The film "Milk" will be an exercise in pushing people's buttons and that's why I would say that it represents a wild card during this movie season.

04. Revolutionary Road

This film represents the traditional drama that we are used to seeing during the Oscar season. This is the type of film that the Academy flocks to, but in recent years hasn't been as elevated as it once was. Attention span has a lot to do with it as many American film goers don't have the patience for a dialogue-driven, period piece drama. But the most important thing about these types of films are not the words that they are saying, but rather what they are not saying. What they are not saying speaks much louder. I would propose that films like this are ultimately reflects of modern time, yet are like photographs taken in a different time and place (a different context, if you will) and thus it feels familiar yet also distant.

The Next three films are my top three choices for success during the fall/winter movie season leading up to the Academy Awards:

03. Frost/Nixon

The play by Morgan Peter is both a character study of real life individuals and an interesting study of introspective journalism. Frank Langella and Michael Sheen both reprise their roles from the acclaimed play, and just from the trailer we get the impression that they are attempting to translate the compelling play into a full fledged drama. I think they both could very well get nominated for performances, but I don't think that the trailer completely justifies the tone of the film until the last 1:00 minute of it. The trailer gives off a comedic lighthearted tone and shifts to a much more dramatic swing. It will be interesting to see a balance of both considering the breadth of the subject material.

02. The Road

Viggo Mortensen is definitely one of the most underrated actors working today. His work in the Lord of the Rings films, Eastern Promises, and even Appaloosa are examples of an actor's dedication to a film role (much like the Brando school of acting whose best example is last years Academy Award winner for Best Actor in a leading role: Daniel Day-Lewis. The Road (by Cormac McCarthy, who has become quite a hot topic around Hollywood these days) looks to be a gripping post-apocalyptic morality film that will be both a drastic example of single individuals striving against insurmountable odds, and a introspective look at the effects of scarcity in civilization (as most of the population has died).

01. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Brad Pitt will receive a nomination, I am just preparing you for when it happens. He went away for awhile (doing Humanitarian work) doing a film here and there (Oceans 13, Mr and Mrs. Smith) but is starting to make a comeback (with Burn after Reading). David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, Zodiac) is to me, one of the most original directors of this generation and if anyone could defy expectations for a film like this it would be him. I feel plenty of nominations on the way, as well as plenty of critical acclaim. It could all just be an estimate though.

A friend and I were discussing the Academy Awards the other day, and we both found it very perplexing that politics play into the choices so intricately that they already have the choices for what will be deemed "the top films" of the season. One the one hand I support the Academies decisions, but on the other hand I don't understand why they would "mark" certain films before they have even been viewed/critiqued.

Let the Night Surround You, We are Half-way to the stars.

Tonight I have been trying to piece together these past three weeks and for no rhyme or reason have found that I haven't really transitioned the whole way.

I have found that I have spent way too much money at Yaks (which should for all logical purposes should be cheaper)

I have found I have wasted so many hours in my room playing PS3.... no fault to my roomate for buying it, but it majorly distracts me...haha

I have come to finally realize how many relationships I have left at Simpson, what with so many gone with graduation and other obligations...

I have found that lacking a car at 21 is one of the most difficult things, and one hell of a blessing in some cases (money!!!!)

I have found that my presence at Simpson is not very defined...

I have found that my pursuit of someone was overshadowed by my pursuit of an answer and thus become virtually disconnected this past month to the point where I no longer can really do anything.

I have noticed that I am beginning to try and branch out.

I have noticed that I haven't met anyone...

I notice the night...and everything that comes with it (joy or sorrow regardless)...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Race + Culture (The Changing Face of the World) + Thoughts and Concessions from an educated middle class white male christian moderate..Reflections IV

It seems that every semester of my college education has followed patterns in the subject matter. Regardless of the classes primary goal, it seems that certain concepts/ideas/figures become intricate to the education process of a liberal arts, westernized understanding of society and the utmost cosmos. Last year I found that much of the focus was on the media, and literature. This year I feel (at least this semester) the focus has been on culture, race, philosophy, and politics. I am currently taking a political science introduction, as well as several communication classes, Intro to Theology, and cross cultural conflict. Every class seems to complement the next, which makes it easier to group together (for study purposes), but more difficult in terms of defining differences of opinion.
In High School I remember my friend Nick Moffit and I spent an entire lunch period discussing the unfairness of the current scholarship program. We realized that as single, white males who were not Jewish, of a minority, not going into a specialized profession (like Engineering), part of a cult (like the Mason's), and not playing a particular sport (although curling has always been a love of mine..ha ha) we were not going to get any sort of assistance when it came to paying for college. It was both depressing and humorous (I remember Nick was gonna pretend he was Jewish just to get some Orthodox Judaism Society scholarships), but it ultimately led to make many assumptions that I am still dealing with today.
Racism and Prejudice are awful things, and I say this with the sincerest means available. Ignorance plagues our perceptions of other cultures to a point that we compartmentalize people just because they are "not like us". We have (for the most part) lost that individual racism that was so prevalent for the past 100+ years, but our society is not free of racism. We discussed this in my Group communication class the other day, that individual racism (dependent on one's own view of another) is no longer the biggest issue; but rather Structural racism (which is dependent on historical institutional views/stereotypes/misconceptions that are seemingly still resonating within us, even if we ourselves are not outwardly expressing these ideas) that keeps us from accepting others. It is in essence societal I suppose, but does not have to be that way! The caste systems of India may be far away from the shores of America, but within our own constructs we deal with just as resounding of an issue, namely the issuing of unfair prejudice upon people who haven't had a chance to live out "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" that guys like John Adams, John Hancock, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson fought for in our countries independence.
When thinking in terms of our country today, we face an issue that is not new, yet is ever changing (just as our country itself) and that is immigration of other cultures. However even though the positives of culture can improve society itself, it seems that the negative aspects weigh heavily on the other side. Now is that to say that because of immigration to the United States (and up to this point I am talking about the United States) we are not able to provide opportunities for ourselves? No, but what I am suggesting is that because of the cultural influx that is affecting America on so many levels (economy, crime, safety) we have begun to lose what cultural identity America did have, because it has now become a less definable quality. There are people who move to America (legally or illegally) that will not learn the language, will not follow the law, will not follow the culture, because they want the freedoms but not the repercussions. It seems that what was once deemed as an escape has become a lack of institutional responsibility. It simply is not enough for those within the nation (already citizens) and those coming in (legal or not) to say things like: "Oh I didn't know" or even "That's not my problem, lets let someone else deal with it".
I am making very bold statements here, and I hope that no one is offended. I simply feel the need to express this frustration openly, because I feel that it is an issue that is rarely discussed to a degree such as this. Am I saying that we should expel immigration? No, Of COURSE NOT!!
I would even go as far as to say that much of the immigration within the country and the improvement of minority situations have been able to keep America thriving so well (considering our birth rate is not as high as it could be).
If anything I think that as a nation of people we should be promoting culture within our communities (of all kinds), as well as finding a definable ability to say "This is what America is". We don't lack an American culture (like many believe), we just fail to recognize it (whether that is out of ignorance, or a lack of adhering to what everyone else is doing). I am saying all this because I have become worried about the future of this nation. I fear that one day in the future my children will walk down the street and not be able to communicate with those around them. I fear a time when racial injustice becomes as prevalent as it was before the Civil rights movement.
I have great respect for people like Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders who stood in the face of oppression and not only stood ground but faced the opposition with both truth and love. As I look upon my own heritage (Irish-Welsh-Italian), I see times in history where my ancestors were treated injustly in coming to America. In fact there was a time when the Irish and the Italians were considered to be racial "mongrels" during times of immigration in the early 1900s. You couldn't even get a job if you were Irish! I look back at that time and it makes me cringe! While we (the Irish/Italians) never had it as difficult as the Blacks (and I would never compare the two) we still struggled just as any other immigrant race struggles within America.
We talk of being politically correct and of not offending those around us, yet it seems that as long as you don't say anything bad about every other race (besides white) you are safe, and that placing the blame on every white person for the sins of many seems to be unjust. It is both a difficult issue and one that resonates with every person (none of which have it completely figured out).