Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fess Parker 1924 - 2010

Lately I've been pretty nostalgic for movies and shows I loved as a kid, mostly, so I can brainwash my son into loving the same stuff his old man was into. Hey don't blame me every parent does it! One of those things was Davy Crockett. I was home over Christmas and my Mom found my old coonskin cap I got from Disney World when I was like 6 or so. I gave it to my son and now he only wears it when he watches the Buckskin pioneer. On a regular basis we sing the King of the Wild Frontier song and let me tell you he knows every word by heart. So it was kind of sad to hear that the actor who played one my beloved heroes as a kid had died.Nathan watching Davy Crockett

Fess Parker, known for his roles as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, died of natural causes, he was 85 years old. My wife found out about this while driving to the store with the little one in tow. She caught him singing the Davy Crockett song, at first she thought it was a little out of the blue, usually when he is with my wife he sings songs in Hebrew. So that's when she realized that the show on NPR she was listening to was doing a tribute to Fess Parker. They were interviewing folk who grew up as kids in the 50's and 60's and they were sharing their memories of Davy Crockett and of course singing the famous tune. (If you haven't seen the original Disney classic, you might have gotten a taste of it, if you listened closely, in Back to the Future when Marty enters the cafe for the first time in 1955.)Davy Crockett was my first glimpse at the history of this country and how legends were made. It also revealed the courage of a young country looking to expand while showing compassion to the native people whose land this truly was. Was Davy Crockett the real life savior of the Native Americans? That isn't so clear, it is a legend after all. But Fess Parker's Davy Crockett teaches a valuable lesson to kids of all shapes and sizes that all people deserve to be treated as human beings no matter who they are or what they look like. And if you give your word you better damn honor it.Mr. Parker, You will always be remembered and Davy Crockett will be watched by current and future Marvins this I can guarantee.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Green Zone

What is compelling Hollywood to continue to ignore shitty box office numbers by making more movies about the bungled Iraq War? I guess after the Hurt Locker won all those awards at the Oscars they all thought, "what the hell, we'll keep trying this until something, anything sticks." Now putting Matt Damon in front of the camera and Paul Greengrass behind it is a great first step. The ads were excellent portraying Matt Damon as a good soldier trying to do his best during the horrors of war. They took the page from the Bourne script and showed us a little taste of what Bourne Ultimate-Ultimatum would look like. It was fast paced and intense with that dizzying hand held camera business that Greengrass has used so effectively in the past. They sold me on the trailer not to mention I had been curious to read the book this was based loosely on by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone.It is 2003 and the Shock and Awe campaign has begun. We follow Chief Warrant Officer Miller (Matt Damon) as he takes his unit to various sites around Baghdad looking for WMD. His frustration mounts as he is having no luck at finding these weapons. He begins to doubt the source and gets sucked into a political battle between the CIA and the administration that threatens to expose gross incompetence and faulty morality.I really, really wanted to love this film but I just feel that it came 6 years too late. Matt Damon is great as the no-nonsense Chief out to discover the truth. And it pains me to think that I chuckled a bit in the beginning when he said with all seriousness, "I can't find the WMD!" It comes across as funny because, we the American public, have known there wasn't any WMD in Iraq since at least 2004. Already after about ten minutes I knew how this was going to play out. There was almost no suspense at all. The action was great and you really felt for Chief Miller who obviously was in way over his head but again they didn't really bring anything new to the table. It was great seeing the time line unfold from Bush's speech on the Aircraft carrier to the Sunni walk out after the negotiations fell apart and the dismantling of Saddam's Republican guard. It was all very interesting to see these events from within Iraq, but it should have at least given us a stronger glimpse as to how these events affected the average Iraqi on the ground. Instead it was more like reading the news and seeing a snippet of overseas footage.Greengrass does do a great job ramping up the action scenes and showing us a bit of life in Iraq, but again it just feels too late because Kathryn Bigelow did the same thing with much more efficiency in the Hurt Locker from last year. I thought that the set pieces were really
fantastic. And even though his cinematography was at times vomit-inducing, it was extremely effective at showing the despair and insanity of the war zone. It was also helped by a great supporting cast in the pencil pusher heavy Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) and his rival in the CIA Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson). Also I swear that the lead Delta who had a hard on for killing Miller, Briggs was played by British actor Jason Issacs. (Go look at IMDB if you don't believe me) All I have to say is wow, that guy really bulked up for this role I truly didn't even recognize him. Didn't even sound like him. There was also Amy Ryan who played the reporter. Now don't get me wrong, I think she's a great actress but they just didn't seem to know what to do with her. I almost forgot she was in the movie, just now, which is probably not a good sign.Sigh, I'll say it again, if only they made this fucking movie a few years ago. The film would be completely scandalous because of their heavy hitting of the Bush administration and it would have been far more compelling. Now it just sort of seems like an I told you so movie but instead of new information coming to light, they just repeat the mantra. "No WMD!" and "The Administration lied!" It's not a terrible film, really, 5 years ago it would be a solid 4 Buckets....but since it's now 2010 I gotta go with a middling 2 and half. Dem's the breaks Hollywood, next time grow a pair and make the movie sooner.

Grade: 2 & 1/2 Buckets

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Bucket's Oscar Picks

The Oscar telecast is almost upon us and I thought that I would weigh in on the biggest awards of the evening. Like many of the viewing public I haven't seen all of the nominees but I'm going to try to weigh in with as much info as I possibly can. You can watch the Oscars on ABC Sunday March 7th 8/5 central.

Leading Actor:

Jeff Bridges
- Crazy Heart
George Clooney - Up In the Air
Colin Firth - A Single Man
Morgan Freeman - Invictus
Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker

The Bucket calls it for Jeff Bridges - HE'S A SHOE IN, according to me and pretty much everyone else. I have yet to see the Crazy Heart but I am well aware of Jeff Bridges ability and I would say it's about time. My gut tells me that he's the one that's gonna walk off with the Oscar. - Jeff
I will be SHOCKED if he does not win this. The movie was The Wrestler part 2 for me but Bridges performance in this one was heartbreaking. He truly shows the audience a man on the brink of self destruction. - Jen

Jeremy Renner -The RUNNER UP, even though Bridges is going to probably walk away with the award I'm kinda hoping that Jeremy Renner pulls an upset. It's a little unfair because I have seen the Hurt Locker and not Crazy Heart, but Renner is really fantastic in this role. -Jeff

Best Cinematography:

- Mauro Fiore
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - Bruno Delbonnel
The Hurt Locker - Barry Ackroyd
Inglourious Basterds - Robert Richardson
The White Ribbon - Christian Berger

There is some disagreement between us at the Bucket as to who will win in this category. I think it will go to the Hurt Locker, with it's gritty and intense war scenes that perfectly capture the essence of the Iraq war. I definitely think it's warranted. Although I would personally lean toward Inglourious Basterds which looked beautiful and stylish, so I'm kind of leaning toward that. But there are others who believe Avatar is going to take the top prize, for obvious reasons. And don't get me wrong it was wonderful watching the film, but there is so much CGI it's hard to tell where the CGI ends and the cinematography begins.But I digress it'll be between Avatar and the Hurt Locker, with Avatar getting the edge. - Jeff

Supporting Actor:

Matt Damon - Invictus
Woody Harrelson - The Messenger
Christopher Plummer - The Last Station
Stanley Tucci - The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds

Now this category I'm pretty behind I have only seen one of the films listed here. Thankfully I've seen the one that most folks say will walk home with the oscar and that is German native Christoph Waltz who was amazing as Hans Landa, the Jew Hunter in Inglourious Basterds. After that first scene in the film I knew this guy would and should take the Supporting Actor award. The guy speaks 3 languages effortlessly and uses that to his advantage in this film. - Jeff

I would put money on Christoph Waltz. With his smooth and calculating demeanor, he has most definitely made my top 5 list of most terrifying villains. The beginning of the movie with him in the house with the glass of milk was brilliant. I am excited to see what this guy chooses to do next. He also seems like a real class act. - Jen

Leading Actress:

Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side
Helen Mirren - The Last Station
Carey Mulligan - An Education
Gabourey Sidibe - Precious
Meryl Streep - Julie & Julia

It looks like this one has already been determined. Sandra Bullock is steamrolling her way to the win. I will admit I have not seen this movie but it just seems to cookie cutter for me and even worse it feels like it panders to the audience. Yeah I get it's based on a true story but it just feels like it rings false for me, and I really like Sandy and all but a best actress nod for, this? Personally I'd like to see Gabourey Sidibe get the award she plays a young woman in the Bronx who, unlike Oher from the Blind Side, is completely ignored by everyone. It's a horrifying film to watch but her performance absolutely stunning. It's a long shot but I'm really hoping for her. - Jeff

I honestly have no idea how this one will pan out. I never made it out to Julie & Julia but I hear Streep was fantastic. I love Bullock but I'm not sure her performance was Oscar worthy. I adore Carey Mulligan and based on performance I choose her - but I have a feeling she will be ignored as she is rather young and unknown. The air of mystery will make this one fun to tune in for. - Jen

Supporting Actress:

Penelope Cruz - Nine
Vera Farmiga - Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal - Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick - Up In the Air
Mo'Nique - Precious

This also is sewn up for the right reasons in favor of Mo'nique and damn what a performance. I have never been a big fan of her's but when I saw her in this and I was blown away. Kendrick and Farmiga were very good in Up In the Air but they don't hold a candle to Mo'Nique. - Jeff

Mo'Nique - This is another one I would put money on. Her performance is so shocking and unpredictable in Precious. The villains will take over the supporting category this year. - Jen

Visual Effects:

District 9
Star Trek

This one is fairly obvious as well but I really did love the effects in both District 9 and Star Trek, yeah I know the lens flare bothered a lot of people in Trek but I kind of dug it. In a normal year either one of these would be a shoe in to win but this is no average year. Avatar is going to take this by a large margin, so.... Avatar. Duh. - Jeff

Best Director:

Avatar - James Cameron
The Hurt Locker - Kathryn Bigelow
Inglourious Basterds - Quentin Tarentino
Precious - Lee Daniels
Up In the Air - Jason Reitman

This is a tough category for me, I really liked all of these films and thought that the direction was truly Oscar worthy from all, but there can be only one and so we have to choose between them. I think Bigelow is going to get this one and she truly deserves it. Although Jimmy could sneak in there I'm not sure if the Academy wants to give him another one, "I'm the King of the World, " um no. This needs to go to his ex-wife, damnit!- Jeff

Kathryn Bigelow - She has won so many of the other awards - I don't know how Cameron could win this one. - Jen

Best Picture:

Avatar Inglourious Basterds
The Blind Side Precious

District 9 A Serious Man

An Education Up

The Hurt Locker Up In the Air

So here we are at the cream of the crop the biggest award of the night. First off I am not a fan of adding 5 more nominees to the pot, I always thought five was enough. But there are some really good films on this list. I will start by saying that I think Avatar is going to walk away with this. It was an incredibly visual film and it made a boatload of cash, even now. It does deserve to win. But in some instances so does the Hurt Locker, it didn't make as much money it was a near perfect film. Also I wouldn't be doing it credit if I didn't mention District 9, which was a great movie too. Completely underrated in my mind. The way they told the story of Alien refugees informed and entertained us and it created a star out of Sharlto Copley. So I would hope that the Academy thought long and hard before voting, but I'm not gonna knock them if they end up voting for the blue people. - Jeff

AVATAR - To me this movie is on the level of Star Trek or District 9. All enjoyable movies, but win the Oscar? -I don't know. True he has done amazing things with the look of the film but my vote is not going to be for this one. - Jen

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Oscar Watch: The Hurt Locker

I had intended to see the Hurt Locker way back in October but due to busy schedules and a very limited release date I was forced to wait. Thankfully now it's out on DVD and I was able to finally sit down and watch it over the weekend. Now I have been reading and hearing for months about how great the movie is and how it captures something about the war in Iraq that has previously gone unnoticed. With this much hype how could it possibly live up to all of my expectations? Thankfully, it did that and more. Now the Hurt Locker does not pontificate or harass the audience about the folly of war. Instead it gives us more of an intimate portrait of 36 days in the life of a Bomb disposal unit in Iraq. It is intense and I think captures the tone of that war perfectly.As I stated above the film follows 3 soldiers in a bomb disposal unit in Iraq. There is Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) who is the cautious but precise second in command. He serves as a bit of a Mother Hen to the crew. Especially for Spc. Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), who is the most green of the bunch. Through a good portion of the film he is feeling guilty for not acting quickly enough to save the life of a fellow soldier, which causes him trouble as the film develops. Last but certainly not least SSG James (Jeremy Renner), the seemingly cool headed and slightly gonzo leader of the team. The reality is you would have to be at least a little crazy to do what these guys do. James, at first seems like an overconfident hero-type but as the film goes on you can see that he is just as fragile as the rest of them.Director Katheryn Bigelow does a great job of building the intensity as these guys are constantly tested by low-tech bombs placed in clever ways to maximize the damage. They show how easily paranoia can take over when it is not clear who your enemy is. She really captures the tone of being in the Suck and how it can shape your worldview, especially a scene near the end where one of the characters is standing in a grocery store back in the states and he is looking at the rows and rows of cereal and you start to get a sense of how different and strange it is to be home after going through hell. The pacing was great in the film and it was fun to see all of these big stars in small roles. But I was scratching my head at the bare bones part for Evangeline Lilly as James' estranged wife. It felt like they shot a whole lot more footage with this storyline and then cut it to about two scenes. I swear she says about two words in the whole movie. These scenes feel a little off and disconnected from the picture, but I think that may be the point. The other big name guys who have teenie-tiny parts are Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce. They are small scenes but they are memorable. Overall I really enjoyed this flick it is tense and smart and Renner really does a great job balancing this very tough film. There are some truly great directors up this year but I will certainly be satisfied to see Bigelow walk home with the golden man.So just for a re-cap of the ten nominees for Best Picture, other than Hurt Locker, we have reviews for: Avatar, Inglourious Basterds, District 9 and Up In the Air will be posted shortly. You can check those out when you click on one of the above titles. I had hoped to see Up, Precious, A Serious Man, An Education & the Blind Side before the Oscar telecast but that doesn't seem likely at this point. But I welcome you guys to share your thoughts on some of these films especially the ones we were unable to provide reviews for.

Grade: 4 Buckets