Friday, January 30, 2009


I know I'm really behind but I'm catching up. This is my second of the Best Picture nominees that I have seen. So here they are the Best Picture Nominees for 2008:

Slumdog Millionaire -
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button -
The Wrestler -
Frost/Nixon -
Milk -

"I'm Not a Crook." After those immortal words Richard Milhaus Nixon (Frank Langella)promptly resigned from the Presidency and was quickly pardoned before an investigation could ensue. David Frost (Michael Sheen), a has been British TV host, exiled to Australia to do meaningless interview shows, discovers a way to get himself back on top. He will pay Richard Nixon an insane amount of money to try and get the scoop of the century about Watergate and the Vietnam War. And this actually happened. In the late 70's David Frost--under scrutiny from the mainstream media in the U.S. and abroad got his 3 part Interview with Nixon and the rest is now history.That in a nutshell is the movie--David Frost was considered small potatoes. Even Nixon and his people though the interview would be a cakewalk, but David Frost did collect a crack team of American investigators in James Reston, Jr. (Sam Rockwell) and Bob Zelnick (Oliver Platt) who help dig up the information for David. There are also some good performances from Kevin Bacon as Nixon's former Chief-of-Staff Jack Brennan and also from Matthew MacFadyen who played David Frost's loyal Producer John Birt. In a sense this is a cat and mouse game of wits between the former President and the talk show host.There is no question that Frost/Nixon is a very compelling film with great performances---but like Milk, this should not have been nominated for Best Picture. Frank Langella is at his best here and is going to give Sean Penn a run for his money for Best Actor. There are also great performances from Michael Sheen and Sam Rockwell. But here's the problem, for a good portion of the movie it's just David Frost sitting across from Nixon having an interview. Yes it was interesting how Richard Nixon likes to play mind games with his interviewer and it becomes a battle of wits, but in the end it's just two guys sitting down talking. Now maybe others would disagree with me here, I know the Academy has it's biases, but I thought the Best Picture category was about mass appeal. Frost/Nixon has not done particularly well even as a Best Picture nominee--which begs the question? Should it have been nominated at all. Box Office, I'm sorry, has to be a factor for choosing Best Picture. So far since it's release in December it has made only 14 million dollars. That is pathetic for a possible Best Picture nominee.That all being said--Frost/Nixon is an interesting film to watch and you should watch it but I don't think you need to run off to the Movieplex -- it can wait till DVD.

Grade: 3 Buckets

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I got a chance to see this the other day as part of my quest to see as many of the Oscar - Best Picture nominees as possible. Even though I despise Sean Penn I really found myself rooting for this movie. My wife Tamar made an excellent point mid-way through the movie, she said, "The way his eye crinkles when he smiles, you can tell that he is kind." Now that is some damn fine acting if a scowl puss like Sean Penn can pull that off.

Milk comes months after a controversial vote in California taking Gay Rights about 5 steps back. The film takes place in the early 70's as Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) moves to Castro Street in San Francisco with his lover Scott Smith (James Franco) to make a business and a life for themselves in the open away from their secret life in New York. Harvey and Scott finally find a place they can call home as they campaign to build a strong Gay community in the Castro. Harvey tries to run for local office and is shut down over and over again. His base however continues to build as he brings on a tough Lesbian campaign manager, Anne Kronenberg (Alison Pill) and a kid from the streets who started out as a prostitute to become one of Milk's biggest promoters, Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch). In 1977 Milk finally wins as a city supervisor. But being the first openly gay supervisor has it's challenges as he is constantly put at odds by a fellow supervisor and homophobe Dan White (Josh Brolin).I'm going to reveal the spoiler here so be aware----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone (Victor Garber) were both murdered at the end of the movie. Now what makes this tragic turn of events even more shocking is that they were killed at City Hall where they both worked by their former colleague Dan White. It is shocking to me to learn that this murderer Dan White who killed two people in cold blood, did it in a Federal building, walked away with only a 5 year prison sentence. That they used the now famous Twinkie Defense to explain how and why he killed the two men, and that it worked is absolutely a slap in the face to the justice system, not to mention an affront to humanity.

In the end Harvey Milk is shown to be a man of warmth and character that was on the verge of taking his revolution to the next level until his life was cut short by a petty politician. And as much as I liked Sean Penn's Harvey Milk and I truly believe that if he wins Best Actor, it will be much deserved--I'm still not certain this should have been nominated for Best Picture. Gus Van Sant is a great director but he's kind of all over the place in this movie, my question throughout is what kind of movie is it? Is it a revolution movie or is it about Harvey Milk. They try to do a little bit of both and I believe it doesn't work because of this. I would have liked to know more about Dan White and his motivations--he's hardly in this thing. Honestly I'm not sure how Josh Brolin was nominated for this, when they could have easily nominated James Franco or Emile Hirsch in this category. Also what a waste of Victor Garber's talents as Mayor Moscone, he hardly appears in the movie at all. Overall with the help of the steady influence of James Franco and the sunny turn by Sean Penn, Milk is a movie you should definitely see.

Grade: 3 Buckets

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Presidential Inauguration 2009

Finally the day has come Tuesday January 20, 2009 where we throw out the old and bring in the new. Unfortunately I had to work but that couldn't stop me from watching the swearing in and the Inaugural address of President Barack Hussein Obama. For some reason it has felt like an eternity since Barack Obama won on Nov 4. I mean he's been the President-elect for three months and in that time the country has continued to spiral from bad to worse. I don't envy our new President and the challenges he faces, two wars and a crumbling economy but he seems up to the task. He gave a sobering speech yesterday and he really didn't pull any punches when he talked about the previous administration's missteps. He says in his speech, "Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age." If that wasn't a parting shot at W, then I don't know what is.For eight long years this country has struggled under a President who does not have and obviously never wanted to have the intellectual curiousity needed to sucessfully do his job as President of the United States. He has run roughshod over our nations Constitution with notions of terrorist evil doers twidling their mustaches and plotting their evil schemes. He lived in a bubble where he neither read nor sought opinions outside of his own. And perhaps his most egregious actions occured when he seemed to revel in his own ignorance, making up the facts to suit his ideals. Bragging about his C average in college and looking down on experience and education. And in the end after his term had expired and the country looked to hear some shred of regret about the mistakes made by his administration he acknowledged that he wished he had rethought the low fly-over above New Orleans after Katrina. Classy right?Yes these past eight years have been tough but I feel a renewed spirit and the promise of the possibility that no matter how many obstacles have been put in our way that we as Americans can rise above the detritus and become a great and powerful country once more. With Barack Obama as our 44th President maybe we can finally embrace the changes of the 21st century and usher in this new age of eco-friendly technology. Yes We Can.