2008: A Cinematic Odyssey

Film Reviews and Other Pop Culture Happenings

2009: Ratings

Posted by Jesse on December 28, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen / F
Fame / D-
The Last House on the Left
/ D
Brüno / D+
Amelia / D+
He’s Just Not That Into You / D+
The Blind Side / C-
The Proposal / C
Watchmen / C
17 Again / C
Brothers / C
I Love You, Man
/ C+
Sunshine Cleaning / C+
Glorious 39 / C+
The Hangover / B-
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee / B-
Julie & Julia / B-
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
/ B
Away We Go / B
Los abrazos rotos (Broken Embraces) / B+
It’s Complicated / B+
Star Trek / B+
Drag Me To Hell / B+
Avatar / B+
Where the Wild Things Are / A-
The Princess and the Frog / A-
J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother) / A-
Nine / A-
An Education / A
(500) Days of Summer / A
Inglourious Basterds / A+
A Serious Man / A+
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire / A+
Up / A+
A Single Man / A+
The Hurt Locker / A+
Up in the Air / A+

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Long time no see! A 2009 Recap.

Posted by Jesse on December 28, 2009

So it’s been a while.. a long while!
After this year long hiatus, I am back and ready to maintain this blog.

I’ll start, like last year, by listing the major film-related events in pointform that happened to me this year:

  • Went to theatres to see the remake of Wes Craven’s cult classic The Last House on the Left… not impressed.
  • Saw, with friends, He’s Just Not that Into You… And I just wasn’t into it.
  • Was extremely excited for, but ultimately let down by Zack Snyder’s Watchmen.
  • Caught up with a friend and saw Up. The most fun I had at a movie all summer.
  • Saw the unfortunate sequel to the unfortunate film TransformersTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
  • Saw the embarrassing docu-style comedy Brüno.
  • Star Trek-ed it up and had an amazing time.
  • Was very impressed by the breakout comedy The Hangover.
  • Went to the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince after a long, long wait.
  • After a Jason Mraz concert in Toronto, finally saw (500) Days of Summer and it remained my favourite film of ’09 for most of the summer…
  • Until I saw Inglourious Basterds.
  • Saw the atrocious remake of Fame.
  • Attended TIFF ’09! ——- My second Toronto Film Festival experience.
  • Bought tickets for Valhalla  Rising, I Killed My Mother, Glorious 39 and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.
  • First film I saw was Valhalla Rising. I expected more, it was mediocre at best.
  • A friend and I then saw Stephen Poliakoff’s Glorious 39. In attendance was Poliakoff, Romola Garai, Bill Nighy and acting legend Julie Christie (the stars of the film). Overall, the film was more like a Hallmark TV movie, but I enjoyed it.
  • Third was Xavier Dolan’s critically acclaimed French-Canadian film I Killed My Mother. It was the best movie I saw all festival and one of the best I’ve seen this year. It’s also Canada’s submission to the Foreign Language Film category at this year’s Oscars.
  • Another friend and I waited in the rush line for Precious tickets for 4 hours, but were unlucky. We were lucky at celeb spotting that day, however: Oprah Winfrey, Gabourey Sidibe, Mariah Carey, Paula Patton, Robin Thicke, Mary J. Blige, Sherri Shepherd, Tyler Perry, Atom Egoyan and Julianne Moore. It was very exciting.
  • Lastly, I saw The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. In attendance were director Rebecca Miller, Robin Wright and Keanu Reeves. The film was solid and I enjoyed it very much. A nice conclusion to my TIFF ’09 experience.
  • Saw Where the Wild Things Are and was extremely impressed. Very fun and very charming film.
  • Was terribly disappointed by the mega-hyped Amelia after seeing it at an advanced screening.
  • Went to see the critically acclaimed and Oscar-buzzed An Education.
  • Saw one of my most anticipated films of the year, A Serious Man. It’s easily 2009’s best.
  • After being jipped at TIFF, finally got to see Precious. Astounding piece of filmmaking.
  • Saw Tom Ford’s directorial debut A Single Man. One of the best films of the year. Absolutely mesmerizing.
  • Saw a double feature: The Princess and the Frog and Brothers. Loved the first, disliked the latter.
  • Saw The Blind Side in theatres with friends. The trailer made it look like utter crap… and it was. Bullock was okay. Oscar-worthy? Not a chance.
  • Finally caught up and watched Julie & Julia. Meryl could win a third Oscar for this.
  • Watched The Hurt Locker after having it on my computer for months. All the hype over this film is deserved. It’s a masterpiece.
  • During my trip to Ottawa, saw Up in the Air with a friend.
  • My holiday break started with a 3-D experience: Avatar. Very disappointed. Doesn’t live up to the hype at all.
  • Finished off the year with another double feature: It’s Complicated and Nine. Both were wonderful.

After that rather long update of my 2009 cinematic journey, I’m going to leave you with my top 10 films of 2009.
I still have a few to see (The Lovely Bones, Invictus, Sherlock Holmes, Fantastic Mr. Fox, District 9, The Last Station, Coraline, The Road, Bright Star, The Messenger and The White Ribbon, but I’m getting there).

Top 10 of 2009:

  1. UP IN THE AIR
  2. THE HURT LOCKER
  3. A SINGLE MAN
  4. UP
  5. PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL “PUSH” BY SAPPHIRE
  6. A SERIOUS MAN
  7. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
  8. (500) DAYS OF SUMMER
  9. AN EDUCATION
  10. NINE

Until next post, Auf Wiedersehen. —–

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Film Update – 15 December 2008

Posted by Jesse on December 14, 2008

Here’s a re-cap of the films I’ve seen from 2008 so far and what I think of them:

  • Jumper / F
  • High School Musical 3: Senior Year / D-
  • You Don’t Mess With the Zohan / D-
  • Rambo / D-
  • 27 Dresses / D+
  • The Incredible Hulk / C-
  • I Could Never Be Your Woman / C-
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull / C-
  • 21 / C
  • Bonneville / C+
  • Cloverfield / C+
  • Then She Found Me / B-
  • Charlie Bartlett / B-
  • Get Smart / B-
  • Religulous / B-
  • The Life Before Her Eyes / B
  • Pineapple Express / B
  • Quantum of Solace / B
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall / B
  • Be Kind Rewind / B
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day / B+
  • Wanted / B+
  • Tropic Thunder / B+
  • Kung Fu Panda / B+
  • Iron Man / B+
  • Blindness / B+
  • Funny Games / B+
  • Changeling / B+
  • Gran Torino / B+
  • [Rec] / A-
  • Burn After Reading / A-
  • In Bruges / A-
  • Happy-Go-Lucky / A-
  • Frost/Nixon / A-
  • The Reader / A-
  • Rachel Getting Married / A
  • The Wrestler / A
  • Doubt / A
  • WALL-E / A+
  • The Dark Knight / A+
  • Milk / A+
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button / A+
  • Slumdog Millionaire / A+

I still need to see Revolutionary Road, I’ve Loved You So Long, Frozen River, The Visitor, Bolt, Defiance and a few others before I can sum up the year.

But for now, this is what I rate the year as a whole:

2008 / A-

A great year for film… not nearly as good as 2007, but better than most other years this decade.

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The Golden Globe Nominations Announced Today!

Posted by Jesse on December 11, 2008

This morning at 8 AM, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, along with its four celebrity presenters (Brooke Shields, Rainn Wilson, Elizabeth Banks and Terrence Howard) announced the nominees for the 66th Annual Golden Globe Awards.

The nominees are as follows:

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television

  • Eileen Atkins / “Cranford”
  • Laura Dern / Recount
  • Melissa George / “In Treatment”
  • Rachel Griffiths / “Brothers & Sisters”
  • Dianne Wiest / “In Treatment”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in  a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television

  • Neil Patrick Harris / “How I Met Your Mother”
  • Denis Leary / Recount
  • Jeremy Piven / “Entourage”
  • Blair Underwood / “In Treatment”
  • Tom Wilkinson / “John Adams”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama

  • Sally Field / “Brothers & Sisters”
  • Mariska Hargitay / “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
  • January Jones / “Mad Men”
  • Anna Paquin / “True Blood”
  • Kyra Sedgwick / “The Closer”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama

  • Gabriel Byrne / “In Treatment”
  • Michael C. Hall / “Dexter”
  • Jon Hamm / “Mad Men”
  • Hugh Laurie / “House M.D.”
  • Jonathan Rhys Meyers / “The Tudors”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Comedy/Musical

  • Christina Applegate / “Samantha Who?”
  • America Ferrera / “Ugly Betty”
  • Tina Fey / “30 Rock”
  • Debra Messing / “The Starter Wife”
  • Mary-Louise Parker / “Weeds”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Comedy/Musical

  • Alec Baldwin / “30 Rock”
  • Steve Carell / “The Office”
  • Kevin Connolly / “Entourage”
  • David Duchovny / “Californication”
  • Tony Shalhoub / “Monk”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television

  • Judi Dench / “Cranford”
  • Catherine Keener / An American Crime
  • Laura Linney / “John Adams”
  • Shirley MacLaine / Coco Chanel
  • Susan Sarandon / Bernard and Doris

Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television

  • Ralph Fiennes / Bernard and Doris
  • Paul Giamatti / “John Adams”
  • Kevin Spacey / Recount
  • Kiefer Sutherland / 24: Redemption
  • Tom Wilkinson / Recount

Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television

  • Bernard and Doris
  • “Cranford”
  • “John Adams”
  • A Raisin in the Sun
  • Recount

Best Television Series – Comedy/Musical

  • “Californication”
  • “Entourage”
  • “The Office”
  • “30 Rock”
  • “Weeds”

Best Television Series – Drama

  • “Dexter”
  • “House M.D.”
  • “In Treatment”
  • “Mad Men”
  • “True Blood”

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Der Baader Meinhof Komplex
  • Maria Larssons eviga ogonblick
  • Gomorra
  • Il y a longtemps que je t’aime (I’ve Loved You So Long)
  • Waltz with Bashir

Best Animated Film

  • Bolt
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • WALL-E

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

  • Clint Eastwood / Changeling
  • Alexandre Desplat / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • James Newton Howard / Defiance
  • Hans  Zimmer / Frost/Nixon
  • A.R. Rahman / Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

  • “I Thought I Lost You” / Bolt
  • “Once in a Lifetime” / Cadillac  Records
  • “Gran Torino” / Gran Torino
  • “Down to Earth” / WALL-E
  • “The Wrestler” / The Wrestler

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

  • Eric Roth, Robin Swicord / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • John Patrick Shanley / Doubt
  • Peter Morgan / Frost/Nixon
  • David Hare / The Reader
  • Simon Beaufoy / Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director – Motion Picture

  • Danny Boyle / Slumdog Millionaire
  • Stephen Daldry / The Reader
  • David Fincher / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Ron Howard / Frost/Nixon
  • Sam Mendes / Revolutionary Road

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

  • Amy Adams / Doubt
  • Penelope Cruz / Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Viola Davis / Doubt
  • Marisa Tomei / The Wrestler
  • Kate Winslet / The Reader

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

  • Tom Cruise / Tropic Thunder
  • Robert Downey Jr. / Tropic Thunder
  • Ralph Fiennes / The Duchess
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman / Doubt
  • Heath Ledger / The Dark Knight

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical

  • Rebecca Hall / Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Sally Hawkins / Happy-Go-Lucky
  • Frances McDormand / Burn After Reading
  • Meryl Streep / Mamma Mia!
  • Emma Thompson / Last Chance Harvey

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical

  • Javier Bardem / Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Colin Farrell / In Bruges
  • James Franco / The Pineapple Express
  • Brendan Gleeson / In Bruges
  • Dustin Hoffman / Last Chance Harvey

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

  • Anne Hathaway / Rachel Getting Married
  • Angelina Jolie / Changeling
  • Meryl Streep / Doubt
  • Kristin Scott Thomas / Il y a longtemps que je t’aime (I’ve Loved You So Long)
  • Kate Winslet / Revolutionary Road

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

  • Leonardo DiCaprio / Revolutionary Road
  • Frank Langella / Frost/Nixon
  • Sean Penn / Milk
  • Brad Pitt / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Mickey Rourke / The Wrestler

Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical

  • Burn After Reading
  • Happy-Go-Lucky
  • In Bruges
  • Mamma Mia!
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Motion Picture – Drama

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • The Reader
  • Revolutionary Road
  • Slumdog Millionaire

And those are the nominations.

I think there were many snubs and many inclusions which are definitely not deserved.

But then again, the Golden Globes are all about star-power and who they can reel onto the red carpet. So I can’t say I’m surprised.

I will have more to say about the nominations later today.

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Oscar Predictions – 8 December 2008

Posted by Jesse on December 8, 2008

Okay, let’s get right into this. My predictions for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Animated Film will be posted here today.

Best Animated Feature Film

  • Kung Fu Panda
  • WALL-E
  • Waltz with Bashir

Best Costume Design

  • Catherine Martin / Australia
  • Jacqueline West / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Jenny Beavan / Defiance
  • Michael O’Connor / The Duchess
  • Albert Wolsky / Revolutionary Road

Best Art Direction

  • Catherine Martin / Australia
  • Donald Graham Burt / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Nathan Crowley / The Dark Knight
  • Briggite Broch / The Reader
  • Kristi Zea / Revolutionary Road

Best Cinematography

  • Mandy Walker / Australia
  • Claudio Miranda / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Wally Pfister / The Dark Knight
  • Chris Menges / The Reader
  • Roger Deakins / Revolutionary Road

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Eric Roth / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • John Patrick Shanley / Doubt
  • Peter Morgan / Frost/Nixon
  • Justin Haythe / Revolutionary Road
  • Simon Beaufoy / Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Screenplay

  • Dustin Lance Black / Milk
  • Jenny Lumet / Rachel Getting Married
  • Woody Allen / Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Andrew Stanton / WALL-E
  • Robert D. Siegel / The Wrestler

Best Supporting Actress

  • Taraji P. Henson / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Viola Davis / Doubt
  • Rosemarie DeWitt / Rachel Getting Married
  • Kate Winslet / The Reader
  • Penélope Cruz / Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Supporting Actor

  • Heath Ledger / The Dark Knight
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman / Doubt
  • Josh Brolin / Milk
  • James Franco / Milk
  • Michael Shannon / Revolutionary Road

Best Actress

  • Cate Blanchett / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Meryl Streep / Doubt
  • Sally Hawkins / Happy-Go-Lucky
  • Anne Hathaway / Rachel Getting Married
  • Kate Winslet / Revolutionary Road

Best Actor

  • Frank Langella / Frost/Nixon
  • Clint Eastwood / Gran Torino
  • Sean Penn / Milk
  • Leonardo DiCaprio / Revolutionary Road
  • Mickey Rourke / The Wrestler

Best Director

  • David Fincher / The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Christopher Nolan / The Dark Knight
  • Ron Howard / Frost/Nixon
  • Gus Van Sant / Milk
  • Danny Boyle / Slumdog Millionaire

Best Picture

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Dark Knight
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk
  • Slumdog Millionaire

Well, that’s what I have to say for now. My next predictions will come after the Golden Globe Awards are announced on Thursday, December 11th. I will review these and post updated ones in a week.

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Film Update – 8 December 2008

Posted by Jesse on December 8, 2008

Since I haven’t utilized this blog since July, I will take it upon me to update my top 10 of 2008, my Oscar predictions and everything else that has happened in the film world since July. At least I will try…

Here’s a point form list of what I have done relating to film since the end of July:

  • Attended the gala premiere of the film Blindness at the Toronto International Film Festival
  • Attended a screening of the film The Wrestler at the Toronto International Film Festival
  • Saw the Coen Brothers’ new film Burn After Reading in the theaters
  • Saw the disgusting sequel High School Musical 3: Senior Year in theaters
  • Attended a special presentation at my school, York University, from cinematographer Paul Sarossy. He screened one of Atom Egoyan’s films that he worked on: Where the Truth Lies.
  • Saw the 22nd Bond film, Quantum of Solace, in theaters
  • Saw Clint Eastwood’s film Changeling
  • Attended a special screening of David Fincher’s new film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at an AMC in downtown Toronto on December 3rd
  • Finally watched WALL-E on DVD

That’s pretty much all that has happened since the beginning of August. Sad, I know.

But I also have three exciting films that I will be seeing all in one day on Wednesday, December 10th, 2008. These films are: Milk, Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire.

I will post here with an even more up-to-date top 10 of 2008 list after I see those films.

But for now, this is my current top 10 of 2008:

  1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  2. The Dark Knight
  3. WALL-E
  4. The Wrestler
  5. Changeling
  6. In Bruges
  7. Burn After Reading
  8. [Rec]
  9. Funny Games U.S.
  10. Blindness

I have to say I am pleased with this list so far… but I know [Rec], Funny Games and Blindness will not be on the list for much longer.

As for what has happened Awards-wise… the National Board of Review announced its winners on December 4th. They were as follows:

Best Picture of 2008 Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director – David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Actor – Clint Eastwood for Gran Torino

Best Actress – Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married

Best Supporting Actor – Josh Brolin for Milk

Best Supporting Actress – Penélope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Original Screenplay – Nick Schenk for Gran Torino

Best Adapted Screenplay – Eric Roth for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire

Best Foreign Film Mongol

Best Documentary Man on Wire

Best Animated Feature WALL-E

Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actor – Dev Patel for Slumdog Millionaire

Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actress – Viola Davis for Doubt

Best Directorial Debut – Courtney Hunt for Frozen River

Spotlight Award – Melissa Leo for Frozen River & Richard Jenkins for The Visitor

Best Ensemble Cast Doubt

Top Five Foreign Films The Edge of Heaven, Let the Right One In, Roman de Gare, A Secret, Waltz with Bashir

Top Five Documentaries American Teen, The Betrayal (Nerakhoon), Dear Zachary, Encounters at the End of the World, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired

Top Ten Independent Films Frozen River, In Bruges, In Search of a Midnight Kiss, Mr. Foe, Rachel Getting Married, Snow Angels, Son of Rambow, Wendy and Lucy, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, The Visitor

Top Ten Films Burn After Reading, Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Defiance, Frost/Nixon, Gran Torino, Milk, WALL-E, The Wrestler

Overall, I was pleased with the winners. The ones that surprised me the most were Clint Eastwood for Best Actor and Gran Torino for Original Screenplay. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I just don’t understand the constant Eastwood love. I hope the film is great and Eastwood deserves it, otherwise I will be very angry. I also don’t quite understand why Mongol, a film nominated for the Foreign Film Oscar in 2007, won the award here for this year. Either way, the awards were all great and undoubtedly well deserved.

In my next post I will discuss my Oscar Predictions as of now.

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TIFF ’08: The Toronto International Film Festival

Posted by Jesse on December 8, 2008

On September 6th and September 13th, I attended The Toronto International Film Festival. The Festival, which started on September 5th, was full of wonderful films this year and I was lucky enough to see two of them. On September 6th, I attended the gala premiere of Fernando Meirelles’ new film Blindness. On the 13th, which was the closing day of the festvial, I attended a screening of Darren Aronofsky’s new film The Wrestler. Both of these films were great and the experience will stick with me for a long time. It was my first film festival experience, but it definitely won’t be my last.

Alice Braga in Blindness (2008)

Alice Braga in Blindness (2008)

The best part of the festival had to be seeing all of the stars walk down the red carpet at the gala premiere of Blindness. Stars like John Malkovich, Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo, Gael Garcia Bernal, Geoffrey Rush, Evangeline Lily, Dominic Monaghan, Danny Glover, Sandra Oh and the extremely lovely Julianne Moore walked only steps in front of me down that luminous carpet. After waiting outside for a long time to get into the theatre, a friend and I took our seats in the second row and awaited the speech from director Fernando Meirelles. Once he walked out onto the stage I was in awe. He was literally six feet away from me speaking about his work on the film and how proud he was to be presenting it at the Toronto International Film Festival. Meirelles is one of my favourite directors and watching him speak with such passion about his art was really inspirational. After he spoke, he introduced his cast and had them walk out on stage. Having Julianne Moore stand only eight feet away from me is something I will never erase from my memory. She looked fantastic and I was so lucky to share the viewing of this film with its fantastic cast and director.

Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (2008)

Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (2008)

The screening of The Wrestler, however, was not a gala premiere. There were no stars or director on a red carpet, but the experience was still wonderful. The film screened in one of Ryerson University’s theatres and we once again got decent seats. This film was miles better than Blindness and I was in shock over Mickey Rourke’s performance. I never knew the man could act like he did. This is a film that will, or at least should, be recognized come Oscar season.

The Film Festival experience of mine was truly memorable. I shared it with good friends and I know they won’t forget it anytime soon either. I cannot wait until next year for TIFF ’09! I will certainly be going and seeing even more films in the upcoming year.

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The Tragic Tale of The Dark Knight

Posted by Jesse on July 21, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)
director: Christopher Nolan
starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman

-Before you read this review, know that there are many spoilers herein-

As you all have heard by now, this is the greatest film of the year. If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re behind and if you have seen this movie, you must understand that this is a great cinematic achievement. What The Dark Knight brings to the table is exactly what Batman Begins did, but with much more detail, gloom and realism. If you thought Batman Begins displayed a strong sense of realism, you’re right, but it doesn’t even come close to even compare with the unstoppable force called The Dark Knight. This film is epic, revolutionary and groundbreaking. Comic book films have never been known to be deep, dark or poignant. The Hulk, Fantastic Four and Daredevil, to name a few, were examples of what Marvel transformed into film versions in order to capitalize on the titles and make a decent dollar (which is exactly what happened). In 2004, Spider-Man 2 was released. This was the first comic book adaptation to actually delve deeper into social and political issues and tackle a much broader subject. Iron Man was the next comic book adaptation to have such success in both the box office and with the critics. However, no comic book film in history has ever amounted to the success of The Dark Knight. This second installment in the revitalized Batman franchise is perhaps one of the greatest crime dramas I have ever seen. It displays self-awareness in terms of genre, strong themes which aren’t usually associated with comic book films and corrupt characters which have such profound importance that you can’t help but find inspiration in Christopher Nolan’s filmmaking.

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)

This is the first Batman film that doesn’t actually have the word “Batman” in the title. This film’s title, The Dark Knight, is more suitable than any other title this film could have received and it’s better this way. If “Batman” was in the title, it would have made the film seem less mature than it is; this film is an exercise of societal understanding. Through it’s blatant corruption and downfall, this film automatically becomes one of the most dark crime dramas ever made and giving this film a title such as The Dark Knight allows not only Batman to battle his character, but gives us insight into the other characters’ battles as well. This quote that Harvey Dent says perfectly describes the outcome of the film: “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Ultimately, what this film depicts in its finale is the destruction of society’s trust in a hero. After Harvey Dent is killed as Two-Face, Batman decides to protect society by posing as the villain and letting Dent be recognized as the hero. Even though Dent was corrupted by The Joker and went on a vicious killing spree, Batman and Detective Gordon both understood what needed to be done in order to preserve the stability of society in Gotham; Batman let Dent be seen as the hero for he believed that a hero should have a face and relate on a human level to the citizens (even though Dent later destroyed his “white knight” reputation). Batman knows he can no longer be acknowledged as a hero and finds it hard to relate to the public through his costumed self. Batman lacks human qualities and this adds to the study of his identity crisis, but in this film, the one thing that allowed us to see the humanity in his character was his love for Rachel. When that was destroyed, Batman hit a dead end and became corruptible again. The deep character analysis of Bruce Wayne/Batman is lengthy, but it is one that’s more philosophical than any other character out there.

The character relationships in this film are somewhat complex, but very understandable. The three main characters are Batman, The Joker and Harvey Dent. In a detailed triangle of conflicts, all three of these characters are foils to one another. The most evident foil being between Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent. Aside from the main Batman storyline, Harvey Dent’s storyline is probably the most important in the film. Dent is easily a character which we can sympathize with and feel his pain. Once Dent is transformed into Two-Face, he becomes an agent of vengeance and his character development deepens. Literally having two faces allows his character to openly battle his identity and dilemmas (good versus evil in most cases, which is why his coin is also an important symbol). He has incredible importance to this film in terms of exposing Batman’s corruptibility and the degradation of law and order in Gotham.

The Joker is also a vital character in the film. His origin and motives are unnamed, but this is for a reason. The Joker doesn’t need an origin for he illustrates mayhem and anarchy and isn’t really that significant other than for the sole purpose of wreaking havoc and being a catalyst for the battle between Batman and Two-Face. Comparing The Joker with previous film villains might reveal other integral facts about his limited importance. Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men and John Doe from Se7en are two characters which come very, very close to The Joker in terms of origin and motive. Having none allows this character to be completely chaotic. As I said in my review of Se7en, the villain character completely goes against the normal conventions of cinema and takes it to another level. The same goes for this film. The normal film conventions of the villain are completely diminished almost instantly in the first scene of the film in which The Joker (masked as a bank robber), murders all of his accomplices and keeps the money to himself. Having no morals, values or ethics brings The Joker that much further in the state of corruption and evil that is being placed upon Gotham.

Christian Bale as Batman in The Dark Knight (2008)

Christian Bale as Batman in The Dark Knight (2008)

As an ensemble, this cast is excellent and as singular performances the cast is even better. Assembling a cast of great actors like this and having them all play characters with such vital roles could not have been easy to do. Utmost congratulations to Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer for creating such terrific characters and a masterful screenplay. The Bruce Wayne/Batman character was written with much more depth than it was in the first film. Allowing Batman to have such a strong character foil that is Harvey Dent gave him a huge obstacle to overcome, which only lead to a tragic ending for everyone. Aaron Eckhart was also fantastic as Harvey Dent. Dent is a character that takes a great actor to play and that’s what we received with Aaron Eckhart. He takes his performance to higher levels each time we see him on the screen, especially when he is transformed into Two-Face and exudes a dying hope in humanity that makes it easy for him to be compared to one of Shakespeare’s tragic leading men. Supporting performances from Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are all fantastic and each of them have at least one part in which they steal the scenes. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes in the role of Rachel Dawes, the love interest of Bruce Wayne (and Harvey Dent in this installment). She is a vast improvement over the dull Holmes and gives an emotionally wrought performance that still sticks with me days after I’ve seen the film.

I’ve tried to leave the best for last and this is a better time than any to mention the powerhouse performance by Heath Ledger. The Joker is visibly an extremely tough role to play and Ledger not only played the role perfectly, he embodied the character and nailed every single intricacy. Talks of an Oscar nomination for his role are going around and I cannot help but support the campaign for a posthumous nomination. No one has ever played a villain with such commitment and Ledger’s performance ranks up there with Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter and Perkins’ Norman Bates. His portrayal blows Jack Nicholson right out of the water and makes him look like a fool for ever trying to play The Joker like he did. Not only is Ledger’s performance the best of this film, but easily one of the best performances I have seen by an actor. I will continue to praise Ledger and spread news of his performance and I hope he gets the recognition he deserves for this performance which is truly haunting. Rest in peace, Heath.

In general, this film exhibits such mastery in its way of dealing with such topical issues. Christopher Nolan’s direction is not only superior to that of his first installment, but superior to any other director that has attempted this kind of cinematic commentary before The Dark Knight. As Peter Travers stated, this film has come along way and breaks the barriers of being known as just a comic book film and delves into the depths of cinema and grounds itself with such masterpieces as Goodfellas, Heat and The Godfather. It’s a crime drama like no other that not only displays an acute sense of social and political emphasis, but much more interesting relationships like that of William Shakespeare’s tragedies. Many connections can be made between this film and Shakespearean plays such as Hamlet, Macbeth and even Romeo and Juliet. It would be ridiculous of me to even bother saying I highly recommend this, because that’s obvious. This film is an epic masterpiece and a vehicle for success. It will go down in history and be praised for a long, long time, guaranteed.

Theatrical trailer for the film:

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TOP 10 #1: Favourite Movie Posters

Posted by Jesse on July 21, 2008

The is the first entry of a TOP 10 list. Once in a while I will be posting random Top 10 lists which relate to either film, music or some kind of other pop culture.

In this first edition of TOP 10, the subject is Favourite Movie Posters. The following list is my top 10 favourite movie posters of all time. There were some which I had to leave out, but I have decided that these 10 are my favourite. In reverse order, here is the list:

#10 Lord of War (2005)
Lord of War Poster

#9 Straw Dogs (1971)
Straw Dogs Poster

#8 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Silence of the Lambs Poster

#7 Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)
Breakfast at Tiffany's Poster

#6 Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary's Baby Poster

#5 All About Eve (1950)
All About Eve Poster

#4 Brick (2005)
Brick Poster

#3 The Descent (2005)
The Descent Poster

#2 Downhill Racer (1969)
Downhill Racer Poster

#1 Paris, je t’aime (2007)
Paris, je t'aime Poster

That’s it for this TOP 10.
Check back soon for the next edition of TOP 10.

-j.taylor

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Film Update – 20 July 2008

Posted by Jesse on July 20, 2008

This is my first film update on this blog. In these film updates I will be talking about the films I have seen in the past few days, what reviews are coming soon and some brief thoughts on the week film-wise and otherwise. Lists will undoubtedly be common to these posts, too.

This past weekend (18 July – 20 July), I’ve seen some very amazing films. Some new ones and some that I decided to re-watch.

On July 18, I went to the local Cineplex to try and buy tickets for The Dark Knight. I knew I was going to be unsuccessful, but I thought I’d try anyways. There was over 1,000 people in line and it was way passed the sold out point. So I just bought tickets for the Saturday night show (10:30). I came back on Saturday and waited in line for forty-five minutes. I must say it was worth the wait. The Dark Knight is not only the greatest film of 2008 thus far, but one of the best films I have seen. It had everything I was looking for and it blew my expectations right out of the water. It was brilliant and I will definitely be seeing it again very soon.

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)

Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)

Apparently The Dark Knight has set two box office records, also. It has the highest opening day numbers with well over $67 million and the highest three-day weekend numbers with well over $155 million. It just surpassed Spider-Man 3‘s numbers by a few million dollars to take the record. The Dark Knight was also successful on www.imdb.com. As of July 20, it has been voted by its users to be the #1 film of all time. Naturally, it will drop back down on the list, but this is quite the achievement. The Godfather has been holding that position firmly for many, many years and only one film has come close to dislodging it; The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in early 2004 (which peaked at #2). I wish the film good luck and I hope it will break more records and be successful not only in North America, but worldwide.

I also have to mention the late, great Heath Ledger. His performance in the film as The Joker was absolutely phenomenal. Talks of a posthumous Oscar are undeniably possible. He makes Jack Nicholson look like Betty Boop and brings a new meaning to “comic book villain”. I will write more on Heath in the upcoming review of the film (which I am very excited about).

So far, this year has been good. Not as impressive as 2006 or 2007 yet, but we still have Awards season to get through which I have high hopes for.

My ten most anticipated films of 2008:

  1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fincher, USA)
  2. The Dark Knight (Nolan, USA)
  3. Revolutionary Road (Mendes, USA/UK)
  4. Blindness (Meirelles, CAN/BRZ/JAP)
  5. Burn After Reading (Coen, USA)
  6. Vicky Christina Barcelona (Allen, USA/SPN)
  7. Changeling (Eastwood, USA)
  8. Australia (Luhrmann, USA/AUSL)
  9. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Yates, UK/USA)
  10. Iron Man (Favreau, USA)

Also, here’s a list of what I consider to be the ten best films of the year so far. Keep in mind, I haven’t seen many films. I’ve only seen a few, but these ten stood out.

Top 10 of 2008 Thus Far:

  1. The Dark Knight
  2. [Rec]
  3. Funny Games (U.S.)
  4. Kung Fu Panda
  5. Iron Man
  6. Wanted
  7. Be Kind Rewind
  8. The Life Before Her Eyes
  9. Charlie Bartlett
  10. Then She Found Me

I also re-watched the following movies this week (and updated some ratings):

  • Fight Club (1999, Fincher) [10/10] ♥30
  • The Usual Suspects (1995, Singer) [10/10] ♥50
  • Paris, je t’aime (2007, various) [9.5/10] ♥150
  • Hable con ella [Talk to Her] (2002, Almodóvar) [10/10] ♥30
  • Goodfellas (1990, Scorsese) [10/10] ♥20

* s indicate the placement of the film on my favourite films list (eg., ♥50 means the film is in my top 50 of all time)

That’s it for this update. A review of The Dark Knight will be coming soon along with reviews of Taxi Driver and The Edge of Heaven (Auf der anderen Seite).

-j.taylor

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