“Our Idiot Brother”

Apparently, Director Jesse Perentz couldn’t decide whether he was making a satire, a rom com or a stoner movie. So, he made all three in this one very misguided film. Ugh. Even calling this a film is giving it too much credit. The shorter version of this review would have been: “Written by the idiot and directed by the idiot.” End of story. Even the talented Paul Rudd, who actually was the only character to give whatever gravitas the movie had, couldn’t save “Our Idiot Brother.”

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“Rabbit Hole”

A stunning portrayal of grief, forgiveness and healing. Director John Cameron Mitchell gets it so right, this film deserved to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Its lack of a nomination is proof only that there are no “small films,” only “small minds” when it comes to evaluating the criteria of what makes a film “Best Picture-worthy.” From the very beginning, the film palpably creates the overwhelming feeling of emptiness not just in the hearts of the two main characters (Nicole Kidman’s “Becca,” and Aaron Eckhart’s “Howie,”) following the tragic death of their four-year old son,  but in the physicality of their home. The dialogue rings so authentically true that it’s heartbreaking, especially when it’s delivered by pros like Dianne Wiest. It’s a joy to see both Eckhart and Kidman in an intimate drama such as this one. Eckhart goes through the motions of each day but with a heart so heavily despondent that he seems to personify the concept of a heavy heart physically. Kidman infuses Becca with such a restless, twitchy, energy, that every moment spent with Becca feels seat-squirmingly like tip-toeing across a field of land mines. The score? It’s the first time I’ve ever considered what a sad lullabye might sound like. The  story is told gently, delicately, slowly so that by the time a key figure is revealed, it has the impact of a terrible car crash. A tough, tough movie for people to watch who have been through a similar tragedy, but so authentically depicted that it might actually be cathartic for some. “Rabbit Hole” is a film not to be missed.

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An Open Letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Dear Academy, it’s time fix the annual Oscar telecast in a  big way. You know, like in a global-event sort of way.

1. It’s about the MOVIES. Not the songs, not the ridiculous Busby Berkeley numbers. Focus on the MOVIES. Show more of the MOVIES. I may not have seen all the nominated films and their nominees. This might actually make me want to see them. Even the hosts (whomever they are) green screened into scenes from the nominated films is acceptable because it’s funny.

2. Don’t try to appeal to a younger age group by being hip. Everyone knows when you try to be hip, you’re not.

3. It’s about QUALITY remember? Not quantity. Never in the history of film have the offerings been so weak as in the past five years. 10 Best Picture nominees? Are you kidding? Stick to the Top 5 films.

4. Best Scene. If you want to add a worthwhile category, add Best Scene. Sometimes a scene is so powerful, it pulls you out of your seat. It can even transform your life. Honor these individual scenes.

5. Upgrade the interviewers. The show is not helped by the utterly INANE same 5 questions the ditzy interviewers ask celebrities making their way onto the red carpet. If you’re going to make the pre-show an hour, get better interviewers. They can still keep it light but not stupid.

6. The good behind-the-scenes stuff on the DVD? Add it to the telecast. Interviews about the making of are still about the MOVIES. We love the MOVIES.  Outtakes and flubs? The show can always use some levity. We like to see celebrities enjoying themselves and their craft.

7. Celebrities: Speak from the heart or have a great acceptance speech prepared. Anything less bores the shit out of those of us at home watching.

8. Use good judgment. Don’t play the friggin’ music when the acceptance speech is heartfelt, real/genuine, exceptionally articulate or memorable for some other reason. All acceptance speeches are NOT equal. If they don’t bring something to this moment, then get them the hell off stage – no matter who they are.

9. You want a better show? Stop using the same old conventional producers. Have some courage. Give the producing chore (because that what the telecasts seem like) to someone much younger, hipper and not a slave to the old guard/Hollywood establishment.

10. The hosts actually matter the least. Stop fixating on the host and fix the damn show.


The iCinemaniac

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Waiting For Superman

I used to think that the tobacco and gun lobbies were among the most dangerous organized groups in America. Add Unions to this list; organized labor, especially the teachers unions. The fact that the teachers unions (NEA and AFT), backed by the academic minds that are responsible for educating our children, labor to perpetuate an anachronistic concept like tenure AND THINK IT’S OK speaks volumes in and of itself. First, they are positioning themselves as commodities, which is just…stupid. Educating America’s children is so vitally important to our future that it cannot and should not be left to people who think that it’s reasonable to expect – be entitled – to KEEP YOUR JOB FOREVER REGARDLESS OF PERFORMANCE. Anyone who thinks this is acceptable really does not have the intellectual firepower required to teach our children. NO ONE HAS THE RIGHT TO EXPECT TO KEEP THEIR JOB FOREVER REGARDLESS OF PERFORMANCE, whether they are a physicist, a factory worker, a teacher or the CEO of a giant company. Are you kidding me teachers? To anyone who believes in the idea of “tenure,” SHAME ON YOU. As many of us in corporate life know, the so-called “democratization” of merit raises for example, does nothing but demoralize the high performers and reward the mediocre. It is concepts like tenure, which have long outlived the reasons for which they were established, that is going to kill this country. Clearly, it is the mediocre performers who cloak themselves in union rhetoric. It’s both cowardly and easy to hide behind the shields of the unions. But that kind of behavior is characteristic of the mediocre middle. Meanwhile, the United States of America continues to fall behind in almost every single category you can imagine. How can this country possibly innovate and lead the world forward when we are busy rewarding mediocre talent in every field, especially those who are entrusted to educate up-and-coming generations of children? Oh and by the way, keeping those teachers who are crappy in their “lifetime-appointed jobships,”  prevents potentially excellent teachers from getting a job. Wake up America. The concept of seniority is as dead as a Triceratops. The teachers unions’ tone-deafness to the tenure issue makes them ripe for evolutionary failure. This movie made me so angry, I want to tell everyone I know to start demanding at every level of government that teachers be held accountable for their performance JUST LIKE THE REST OF US ARE EVERYDAY IN OUR JOBS. Exactly what planet are teachers living on anyway? You should be motivated to perform at the highest level possibly everyday. And if you can’t do that, you’re in the wrong field. GET OUT. Guess what, for the rest of us, those who don’t teach, our performance is measured against goals and objectives which we strive to attain EVEN THOUGH WE DON’T HAVE COMPLETE CONTROL OVER SOME OF THE DECISIONS THAT OUR COLLEAGUES OR BOSSES MAKE. The POV of the teacher’s unions simply demonstrates how hopelessly delusional they are and how out of step with the world they continue to be. A frightening prospect by itself as once again, these are the people filling our children’s heads for roughly 7 hours a day. If you are a parent, you owe it to your children to see this film. And you also owe it to them to actively help to reform the educational system starting with abolishing tenure. HATS OFF TO MICHELLE RHEE AND NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE. What you are doing MATTERS GREATLY. I urge everyone to see Waiting For Superman. Demand Great Schools. Email your elected officials easily right here.


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The King’s Speech

The best picture of the year. And the best actor of the year. Colin Firth gives a heartbreakingly nuanced performance as King George VI, who ascended to the throne when his brother King Edward,  abdicated to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson. You cannot help but feel his emotional pain every time he tries to speak. I found Firth’s skillful performance to be exceptionally moving. The camerawork in the film is also stunning, accentuating the essential loneliness that defined King George, the result of his lifelong stammer. A man, “a naval officer” who recoiled from any spotlight is thrust onto the world stage during an extraordinary period in history. The always exceptional Geoffrey “Shine” Rush is wonderful in an understated performance as Lionel Logue, the unconventional speech therapist who helps King George find his voice. Thankfully, Helena Bonham Carter is back in the type of period piece in which she excels after spending the last decade or more of her career essentially in wickedly creative costumes in the oddball films of her husband, the brilliant and eccentric Director Tim Burton. In this film, as Queen Elizabeth, Bonham Carter, in an underwritten role, brings a natural warmth to the film, always demonstrating her unconditional love for her husband and her unwavering confidence in him. The King’s Speech is not slowly paced, but because it is thoughtfully telling a worthy story, it is not for those seeking an amusement park ride.


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The Fighter

Good boxing movie, great family drama. A Greek tragedy. Mark Wahlberg plays real-life folk hero “Irish” Micky Ward as the hometown hero being pimped out to the boxing world by his manager mother and his crack-addled trainer brother and former local boxing legend, Dickie Eklund. Like many of the Boston-area films directed or produced by Walberg or Ben Affleck, it looks, feels and smells authentically like the urban cities and forgotten suburban-urban towns that one thinks of as the rough-and-tumble turfs of “Boston.” Melissa Leo (“Frozen River”), who plays the mother of both Micky and Dickie, and Amy Adams (“Julie and Julia”), playing Micky’s girlfriend give such authentic and powerful performances that it’s hard to believe they are not the people whose characters they inhabit. Their performances particularly moved me. And while Christian Bale’s performance as Dickie is unforgettable as well, his oddly layered British-Boston accent calls too much attention to itself as did all the squirrelly mannerisms. I wish I could say that Wahlberg’s performance rose to the same level as his co-stars but it doesn’t. Wahlberg has quietly and shrewdly been making a name for himself as an Executive Producer (The HBO series “Entourage” for one) and perhaps in this film he just “stayed on the ropes” and let his co-stars shine, but I can never forget that I’m watching Mark Wahlberg. I’d love to see him take on an unheroic role where he disappears into the character and I never for a second think I’m watching Mark Wahlberg. I think he has it in him, but no Director has been able to pull a transformative performance out of him yet. Still, The Fighter is one of the best films of the year.


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127 Hours

Director Danny Boyle sure knows how to move a film along…and with great style. In the hands of most other Directors, this film could have been a giant snoozefest (like Social Network). After all, most of the film takes place in the claustrophobic confines of a canyon crevice in a Utah desert. Granted, the original story by trapped climber Aron Ralston, which was superbly written, clearly paints a picture of breathtaking natural beauty which Boyle magnetically captured on film. But it could have been achingly dull. Instead, Boyle’s visual style with fast multiple cuts and image layering, brings a raw energy to the film which is tonally apropo. And the music is equally moving, hitting all the right notes from the splendor and majesty of nature’s beauty to the fun and funky lifestyle of independent, adrenaline-fueled spirits like Ralston. James Franco is simply a joy to watch in the role. Even though I know how the story ended (just like we all know how the Facebook-based Social Network story ended), I found myself rooting for Franco’s character from the very beginning. The amputation scene, starting with the cracks of the two bones in his arm which I actually found worse than the amputation itself, is what you’d expect, but I found myself so wrapped up in his struggle, that I wanted to do the job for him. That’s how good Franco is in 127 Hours.

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