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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hypothetical Casting - How to Marry a Millionaire

Good evening everyone. For those who keep a close eye on my humble blog, I hope you enjoyed my most recent post that provided a possible casting list of Dan Brown's extraordinary Lost Symbol screen adaptation. Why do I have such a desire? Well, the following post will be of a similar nature (in case you were not already aware of the title and new label). Yes, I shall make this sort of posting a habitual "thing" because, well, I enjoy bringing literary characters to life. (That is, if I liked the novel enough to do so.) Along with book-to-screen adaptations, there are many other genres of film to provide a Hypothetical Casting for, such as remakes, biographies, and films that had awful casting to begin with (I'm looking at you, My Week With Marilyn). With this particular post, I shall share a potential list of actors for a remake of a beloved classic: that being, How to Marry a Millionaire.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Celebration and Suspense

Interesting title, is it not? There is a reason for such intrigue, as always and for everything, except government conspiracies which are fueled with energy by the development of conspiracies. (On a brief side note, I, for one, have an insatiable obsession for conspiracy theories, much like the ones found in the remarkable Robert Langdon series of Dan Brown. Now if only he would write more. Just because you're the highest-paid author does not give you the privilege to be lazy, in fact quite the opposite. Keep your admirers interested. Moving on.) This past weekend (and by "weekend", I am referring to my recent visit to my dad's haven of film), we watched the ever-so engrossing Emmy awards show as well as a pair of excellent suspense films. The following is my analysis of each celebratory-slash-suspenseful evening. (I sounded like my--former--physics teacher. Worth mentioning, and thereafter regretting.)

The Emmys - Ah, the most prolific event for television, aside from the Golden Globes. Though it is rumored that they even surpass that event, which is odd because IMDb lists the Golden Globe wins of actors ahead of the Emmys. Plus the Golden Globe winners are among the potential Oscar candidates, which is thrilling, no question. But I digress. This event was, certainly, eventful, though the host could have been better strategically chosen. In other words, someone other than Jimmy Kimmel, a pseudo-witty late-night talk-show host, could have assumed the helm. Bill Maher, the television equivalent to Ricky Gervais, perhaps? Now, that, I would both watch and enjoy. Alas, Jimmy Kimmel was there as the master of ceremonies, which wasn't as annoying as, say Jane Lynch or Neil Patrick Harris. (Conveniently, both are homosexual. Was it wrong to point out this blatant actuality?) One little stunt that did bother me was Jimmy Kimmel's supposedly-funny parody on the "In Memorium" tradition of every awards show. He decided to commemorate those still living, which could prove to be interesting, but then it turned out that he was just bragging about his own accomplishments. Oh, ha ha, you're still alive and successful, but there are still those truly talented who have tragically passed on. (Thankfully, there was an "In Memorium" portion of the show.)

Ideal winner.
Anyway, onto the victors of the evening. When it comes to television, my purpose for watching is to await the comedy achievements, and the reason for this is that, well, no one truly has time for one-hour dramatic programs. At least I don't have such a luxury. Therefore, the dramatic winners had an indifferent effect on me. I didn't care who lost or won, simply put. That said, allow me to discuss the comic victories of the night, starting with the ultimate champion, Modern Family. Let me just quote my dad on saying that this show is revolutionary, a distinctive landmark in television history. On its third season--third season-- it has become an icon of television, worthy of a place among such great comedy shows as Seinfeld. For a consecutive third year, Modern Family has dominated the categories, including Best Comedy Series, an impressive feat matched not even by Seinfeld itself. Even its more-similar counterpart, Arrested Development, achieved such fame; sadly, that show was prematurely cancelled, to the eternal shame of FOX. Modern Family gathered a total of five Emmys this evening, in addition to its overall total of sixteen wins, which (last Sunday) included Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen receiving Outstanding Supporting Actor statuettes. I must comment here: While Eric Stonestreet is wonderful as the overly-dramatic, and therefore hilarious, Cam (Mitchell's significant partner), and I am glad he received the award as opposed to that guy from New Girl. However, I was very much hoping that Ed O'Neill would take home that interesting-looking statuette because, for one, he's never had the honor of accepting one. And isn't that just appalling? Not only has Al Bundy never been revered for his fantastic portrayal of the typical lower-class American, but now Jay Pritchett is damned with the same disrespect. Utterly reprehensible. Ed O'Neill's hilarious yet also heart-warming performance as the Pritchett patriarch is one that should not stand to be ignored for long. Either he receives a Golden Globe this January, or the Academy (all Academies, I'm sick of them) can just rely on the audience of uninformed gossip hounds. There's my passionate statement of the day, let's continue.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus received the title of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, to my delight and relief, as I did not want to see either Tina Fey or Amy Poehler walking on that stage, which is reserved for true talent only. Seeing Elaine Benes up on that stage, looking as incredible as she does at fifty, was such a pleasing nostalgia, bringing me back to when she was funny. It took me a while (in this case, two episodes of Veep and five years after New Adventures of Old Christine had its plug pulled) to finally take her seriously in a funny way as Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Yet, I still see her as Elaine. Those who are smart enough to watch Seinfeld would probably agree. For the Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series, Jon Cryer, assuming the lead acting position for the first time since Charlie Sheen departed, received the honor, to which I respond with satisfied indifference. Why? Because I did not wish to see either Jim Parsons or Louis C.K. walk up on that stage and accept an award they absolutely did not deserve--I repeat, they are not worthy of that title. I honestly anticipated one or the other to win, on account of that aggravating buzz surrounding each of them. Especially Louis C.K., who, to my dismay, won two other awards that evening for his stand-up act. I have to be frank here, I watched a few clips of that performance, and it was so familiar. By familiar, I am not complimenting him, if it could be wrongly interpreted that way; when a comedian's show comes off as familiar, it means that he is repeating a fellow comedian's act, which is considered plagiarism. Let me emphasize: Louis C.K. is in no way funny. No, he is unfunny. I dislike him very much. How he has become so blown up in fame, as well as in ego, is one of those arcane, unsolvable mysteries in life. As for Jim Parsons, he stole this award from Steve Carell twice in the past, and I really don't find The Big Bang Theory as funny as critics are portraying it to be. Like Louis C.K., that show is unfunny. That just about does it for the Comedy sector. As for the Drama, I've mentioned how none of the results affect me, so I will not mention anything about it. Apologies to those Homeland and Mad Men viewers.
The main attraction in the Miniseries category was Game Change, a great political movie enlightening viewers on the circumstances of John McCain's 2008 campaign, where the truth of Sarah Palin's shocking stupidity was revealed. Julianne Moore received the Outstanding Actress accolade, rightfully too, as she depicted the striking image of Sarah Palin, including her mannerisms and accent. The fact that I disliked her character in the film displays her excellent performance, for only greatness deserves an award. I highly recommend that you all watch Game Change, as it will change your entire perspective. (Mediocre attempt at a pun. Disregard it, and watch the damn film, will you?) In the Variety category, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart won everything once again. I'll alert the media.

Now, let's move on to the suspenseful portion of the post. I have to warn you, it may be frightening....

Captive Suspense - It took me about fifteen minutes to come up with that subtitle, which signifies an upcoming shortage of thought and ability to write well. The following films are not preferably my choice of genre, as I enjoy the warmer, romantic/comedic types of films, or serious dramatic pieces that involve tears or invoke poignancy. This particular night was an exception. (Read the remaining post with an eerie tone.) On an evening that has grown more and more common, one where my dad and I are clueless as to what to watch, we settled on a film called Derailed (after close to an hour filing through an array of genres). The film stars the dashing Clive Owen, who everyday I regret is not James Bond, and the oddly sexy Jennifer Aniston, who everyday I see on paper. I'll try to be vague about the film because there is a shocking twist I really don't want to reveal. Even that was too much. The film starts out like any other suspense: slow with that "what could possibly go wrong" vibe that often accompanies it. When the movie is successful in puzzling the viewer, in that the viewer has absolutely no idea where the suspense could possibly emerge, then the filmmaker has achieved the coveted task of making a good movie. (Quite a mouthful of words.) Basically, Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston spark up an illicit affair upon meeting on a train. And that is all I shall reveal. How's that for staying true to my promise? Earlier, you may have noticed that I called Jennifer Aniston "oddly sexy", and this is because I thought I would never characterize Rachel from Friends as anything near to sexy. Such a seductive term applies to more than just appearance, but also and especially to attitude and acting. Here, Jennifer Aniston has proved that she is more than just romantic-comedy royalty or that widely-loved actress in magazines; she has unleashed a side I never imagined possible. She actually acted, and well at that. While she is nowhere near as great as Angelina Jolie, whose performance in Changeling still has me enthralled, Jennifer Aniston is still a damned good actress for her "area of expertise". I don't see her winning an Oscar, nor do I see her deserving a Razzie. Perfect balance. Clive Owen was marvelous, as always, and so incredibly attractive that it pains me that he is absent from the screen today. And now he's sprouted a mustache? Oh, Clive Owen, what I'd risk to have you in Daniel Craig's shoes. Did I mention that Daniel Craig is terrible? Anyway, Derailed was a shocking film, in that I did not expect to like it as much as I did. Though I didn't tell the story as usual, it should make you want to watch it that much more. Because how often do I exclude the entire plot synopsis? Watch it, I implore you, as the twist is an experience worth waiting for.

The next film, which really wasn't planned at all, according to my dad who "just wanted to give me a taste". It transformed into an extended evening involving two movies instead of one. Still craving suspense, I requested another blackmail/ransom subject and had my wish met with Trapped, starring the beautiful and enormously talented Charlize Theron and Kevin Bacon, in a role that allowed him to express his acting ability. The basic plot involves a kidnapping scenario, though here the criminals are conducting their fifth "smart kidnapping", so there won't be any unexpected complications. (Oh, but there will. Bad guys finish last.) Unlike the previous film, Trapped does not have much of a surprising element, like a shocking twist, but that certainly doesn't diminish its great quality. Acting is the primary attraction here, as Charlize Theron, naturally, delivers a phenomenal performance as a daring mother willing to make potentially fatal mistakes in order to ensure her daughter's safety. (Here's a shock: little Dakota Fanning plays her daughter. There's a hint of sarcasm there, for she was taken for any child role back in the day, that day being ten years ago.) Kevin Bacon, likewise, was chilling as the demented kidnapper with a hidden motive that will place you in a state of shock and awe. Not really, but it is pretty surprising if you're not expertly intuitive. One performance I will admit is worth a Razzie, and that would be Courtney Love, who acts as if she's both high on dangerous drugs and a sick mixture of sleepy and horny. When she's on the screen, I really want to look away, and I do just that. Look away, because she is truly a ghastly sight. Aside from that minor flaw (depending on how you view it), the whole film was definitely top-notch for a suspense, and keep in mind that I'm not as experienced in this field as most. Therefore, if you found this movie to be a typical, overblown kidnapping thriller, well, I thought it was very entertaining.

I'm going to end this fine post with an outburst of relief because I am simply exhausted. I hope you appreciate my labor of fatigue which produced this (hopefully) comprehensible post. Enjoy the remainder of your week, and, please, follow at least one of my recommendations. You do follow recommendations, right? Or listen to them? One or the other. Good night, and good luck.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hypothetical Casting - The Lost Symbol

For the second time, I have read Dan Brown's novel, The Lost Symbol, and I am, once again, enthralled by the author's outstanding talent. His amazing ability to fuse intriguing history, conspiracy, and engrossing plot ceases to stun me any time I have the pleasure of reading his books. I've stated this many times outside of the sanctioned domain of this blog, mind you. This book, as well as its predecessors Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, was such a major success that they were all optioned for a screen adaptation. What they all have in common, aside from the captivating conspiracies, is the charismatic protagonist, Robert Langdon, a prominent Harvard professor who always gets into life-threatening predicaments within a twenty-four hour period. (I believe this character is an additional reason for the books' great quality, as Dan Brown's other novels without Robert Langdon are not as impressive, nor did they get transferred onto the big screen.) Portraying Robert Langdon on-screen is the revered Tom Hanks, which demonstrates one of the greatest casting choices in cinematic history. As I read each novel, I could practically see Tom Hanks ease into the role with perfection. Without watching the film-version first. By reading the novels first, I places myself into an unfortunate position: I did not enjoy the movies one bit. This appears to be more-or-less common when it comes to novel-to-screen adaptations, though I cannot think of an example right now. (Twilight, for one, but teen novels are really simple to adapt. Shame on those filmmakers, as well as the person who chose Kristen Stewart to play Bella.) Anyway, both The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons proved to be far more entertaining in the form of a book. While Tom Hanks performed his part exceedingly well, it did not make up for the immensely long film's dragging quality. What makes this more upsetting is that Ron Howard directed each of them, and this is sad because I happen to like Ron Howard. (Though he has made some disappointments, such as the more recent dud, The Dilemma.) Despite all that's been said, I do not hate the film versions, or find them to be horrible movies. They were just disappointing as all, which isn't too surprising in retrospect because Dan Brown's books were simply extraordinary.

Moving on to the point of this post. I've recently finished reading The Lost Symbol, and am pleased to discover that it, too, will receive a film adaptation with Tom Hanks returning as Robert Langdon, along with a new director, Mark Romanek. (Perhaps that substitution will enhance the film.) While there is no release date for the film, nor are there any rumored cast members, I've taken the opportunity to list my own possible cast for the film, based on how I imagined the characters in the novel. Here they are:

Michael Fassbender as Mal'akh
This image was so fitting to support my casting him.
Honestly, he was not my intended choice. I was looking up images of James McAvoy, actually, when I found a few images of this dashing man and thought, "Say, he would be even better!" That's the origin of my casting him as the sinister, monstrous villain, Mal'akh.

Liam Neeson as Peter Solomon
I chose this picture because Peter Solomon is meant to have gray strands of hair.
See those strands in Liam Neeson's mane? They're there.
This shouldn't be surprising because he's chosen to play the dignified, mentor-type in films. While I notice that he is only four years older than Tom Hanks, and in the book the two characters are supposed to have a ten-year-plus age difference, I don't think it's that important. There have been many issues such as this in the past. Furthermore, I realize that Peter Solomon is supposed to have a Mediterranean appearance, but, then again, not too drastic to consider. What is somewhat accurate is the Irish actor's slight resemblance to Michael Fassbender. (For those who read the book, you'll know why that's important. Though I feel I may have given it away anyway.) You must agree that Liam Neeson would be suitable as the wise, sophisticated Peter Solomon. You simply must.

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Katherine Solomon
She embodies the role, as I see it, flawlessly.
There is no better choice to play an intelligent woman in distress than the radiant Catherine Zeta-Jones. No explanation needed, frankly, as she is absolutely ideal for the role...in my opinion. Once again, I realize that she and Liam Neeson look nothing alike, and I say "once again" because this is yet another context/adaptation error. And, based on how strongly I feel about each of the casting choices, I must say again: It's inconsequential, my dear.

Morgan Freeman as Warren Bellamy
An expected choice, but that's because it's meant to be
.
When choosing an African-American actor to portray an esteemed, older gentlemen of acclaim, there can be only one option, and his name is not Laurence Fishburne or Forest Whitaker. It really goes without an explanation of why I picked Morgan Freeman, right? Of course.

Linda Hunt as Inoue Sato
Yet another uncanny match.
Now, I've been perusing over many other "potential casting" boards, and found that many have listed Michelle Yeoh as their choice to play the formidable Inoue Sato. There is only one response to that: Inoue Sato is meant to be horrifyingly disgusting and intimidating and short. While I, myself, have made my share of inaccurate casting decisions, I find that to be unacceptable. This short little woman can be a very good Sato, if, that is, she be intimidating. For the sake of resemblance, I'm hoping she can. (Also, I imagine a very strict, unfunny Edna Mode, from The Incredibles, in the role of Sato. Funny notion, yet agreeable.)

Peter O'Toole as Reverend Colin Galloway
I know this is a Pope's attire. Move past the small difference.
Reverend Galloway is intended to be an ancient, blind man of God who has wrinkles of wisdom within his face. Who better than the revered Peter O'Toole. Not much to explain here. Though, if the filmmakers do happen to stumble upon my blog and follow my suggestions, they should hurry before the actor passes. It's not a cruel or dark joke, it's a tragic fact that will occur sometime soon, unfortunately.

And last but not least...

Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon

Well, I sincerely hope you've enjoyed my little presentation of possibilities. Perhaps at least one of these actors will be considered, or even obtain the role! How neat would that be! Though not very likely. After a second glance at this list, I now find myself desperately wishing Michael Fassbender would audition for and win the role of Mal'akh. Such a terrific actor, he could benefit from playing a calm, menacing villain. And he's so attractive. With that, I bid thee good evening!

P.S. I am still watching Desperate Housewives.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Spontaneous Spotlight: Nancy Meyers

This might be a frequent thing I'll do, which is why I've created the title Spontaneous Spotlight. That way, in the future, you'll know what to expect. (When you're expecting. Movie pun, let's move on.) The layout may look familiar, for I often compose these special posts on the day of the talented person's birthday. You should know what I am referring to. Anyway, sometimes, like today, I stumble upon a rather extraordinary member of cinema, whether they be a writer, actor, or director. And on those occasions, I think to myself, "Say, this would be a lively post full of passion for that person! I should write a post and save it for their birthday!" Sadly, there are times when that person's birthday is months away, or, even worse, just passed. On those instances, I shall compose a "spontaneous" post commemorating their undeniable talent. And maybe I'll mention when their birthday is, too. For now, here is an awe-inspired look at Nancy Meyers. Note that she wrote the screenplay for and directed each of these fine films.

The Parent Trap - Otherwise known as the movie that made Lindsay Lohan a star. A child star, anyway, After this, and a few other amusing Disney-type films, there was no turning back from her awful decisions. It is well-known precisely what went wrong, though not important enough to discuss here. This wonderful film may actually be one of the very first I've watched and remembered, as well as remained wonderful after all these years. The story involves twins discovering each other in summer camp, years after their parents decided to separate them since they were no longer in love. (Actually, that seems really tragic, to have two children but never know one of them? In reality, that would be heart-breaking, agreed?) Well, these two clever girls (both played by the single Lindsay Lohan) plan to switch places, so they can meet the parent they've never seen. Each of the scenes where the girl meets their new parent is so heart-warmingly sweet, it's worth to watch the film just for that. And for the getting-to-know-and-love-them process, of course. Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson are the girls' parents, and, may I say, they are a perfect casting choice, as well as surprisingly compatible. (I'd like to take a moment and recognize Natasha Richardson's tragic demise in 2009, at the even more tragic age of forty-five. Rest in serenity.) Although I like Dennis Quaid, and found him to be one of cinema's greatest dads, he was a bit clueless when it came to his wretched, Disney-evil fiancee, Meredith, who was deceiving him as the typical evil stepmother. Of course, back when Disney films were good enough to make it enjoyable, the pranks against Meredith were entertaining. And when Natasha Richardson and Dennis Quaid were reunited (the scene scored by Benny Goodman's "In The Mood", ideal music for this situation), I'll just say that it was both amusing and heart-warming. That should make you want to watch it for yourself, I reckon. I'd also like to mention the supporting cast, or as they are recognized in the film "the help", who are the kind British butler and the caring Californian housekeeper. Very adorable all throughout, and I highly suggest you watch and enjoy. No, watch and have your heart warmed up. Yes, that's sweeter.

Something's Gotta Give - Oh, how I wish to experience this wonderful film yet again. So far, I've seen it about three times, and each time was even sweeter than the last. (Aside from the very first encounter. One can never recreate such an initial impact as that.) Starring two elder, revered actors, Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, one wonders over why these two never met the other on the silver screen before. (I wouldn't count Reds. I just wouldn't.) The two have such a sensational chemistry, not in the passionate way that Jack and Rose did (you know who I'm talking about), but the adorable one that old people tend to share. I find it that older actors have a more potent compatibility than young actors do. Maybe it's based on the idea that, even in your later years, you can still discover true love. Plus, who doesn't enjoy the traditional antics between a suave silver fox (Jack Nicholson) and an uptight romantic broad (Diane Keaton)? You may be aware that Keanu Reeves is one of the leading characters in the film, playing the role of "the perfect guy who's conveniently an 'attractive' doctor" who falls for Diane Keaton. For one, I found it a bit disturbing that someone as young as him pined over someone as old as Diane Keaton. (She can do much better than him.) The fact that someone as repugnant as Keanu Reeves played the role of someone "perfect" is something I am vehemently opposed to. Nevertheless, he couldn't taint this film. Truthfully, he was not so irritating here, since he smiled more than usual and had to convince audiences that he found Diane Keaton sexy. Sure, she's pretty for her age, but nowhere near sexy. Once again, Nancy Meyers has created an exquisite romantic-comedy, one I'm sure anyone of any age will certainly enjoy. Sometimes, this genre needs fondly recognized actors in the leading roles, as opposed to these new kids, like that annoying Channing Tatum. I just had to throw that in here. Who would ever think he would be a great romantic lead? Again, Something's Gotta Give: a work of adorable writing and one that should be watched at least twice a year or more.

The Holiday - There are very few movies that I watch every year on Christmas day. Let me repeat that: on Christmas day. Only a special few can be devoted that rare spot in my repertoire, and Nancy Meyer's romantic yuletide creation holds one of those places. There are several keen points in this film that make it such an admired work of cinema, in my opinion. From Cameron Diaz's inability to cry to Kate Winslet's tragic predicament with a man she hopelessly adores, this film has so many opportunities for you to weep, whether with joy or sympathy. That moment when Cameron Diaz finally does shed a river of tears for love, and when Kate Winslet realizes that she is, indeed, a "leading lady", are such fine demonstrations of the ideal romance. One very appealing part of the film is the character of Eli Wallach, who portrays an old Hollywood player with an Academy Award or two as well as an unfortunate elderly affliction: being old and forgotten. While my dad finds him annoying (how dare he!), I consider him to be one of the sweetest, most wonderful supporting players in a single film. Eli Wallach's performance should have easily replaced Alan Arkin's place on the Supporting Actor nominee ballot. (That way, Eddie Murphy or Djimon Hounsou could have rightfully won. Seriously? Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine? Come on!) Every element of this Christmas romance is perfect...except for the male lead who ends up with the lovely Kate Winslet: Jack Black. I hope this doesn't need explaining, but Jack Black is one of the many actors who I find detestable, and for him to be the one who Kate Winslet falls in love with? That's just a crime in cinema. Nevertheless, even he cannot ruin this film, nor prevent it from being one of my Christmas day films.

It's Complicated - One could call this a copy of Something's Gotta Give, considering it surrounds the love between two older characters. Or, one could deem this to be another one of Nancy Meyer's sensational romantic-comedy successes. The latter of the two would be my own viewpoint, as it is indubitably ingenious. (That doesn't mean the opposite of "genius", mind you. Look it up yourself.) Of course, having Meryl Streep as the leading lady is a sure thing for a delightful picture. Mixing in comic alums like Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, and you've got yourself an absolute gem of a film. For those who don't know the plot, let me enlighten you: Meryl Streep plays a woman who sparks up an affair with her ex-husband, Alec Baldwin, who is newly remarried, while also starting a relationship with her architect, Steve Martin. Oh my! Now, doesn't that sound just wonderful? Who wouldn't want to see that? (Uninteresting, dull people, obviously.) What makes this film all the more charming is John Krasinski, who plays Meryl Streep's son-in-law aware of her shocking affair. This is the film where I initially fell in love with him, just so you know. (And I find it absolutely adorable that he's married to the equally charming Emily Blunt.) From the impeccable title, It's Complicated is far from being yet another predictable, "run-of-the-mill" romantic-comedy. It has reached a sought-after status of immense geniality. While that may be an improper adjective for the film, let me make a simple declaration: It's a warm, sweet film that is just one of few that make you feel oh-so comfortable and relaxed. Also, watching Meryl Streep create culinary displays accomplishes satisfying another sense. (That being smell/taste.)

There you have it. Merely a sampling of Nancy Meyers's glorious written talent, and what she will surely contrive in the future. Many have called her Nora Ephron's twin (or, more suitably now, her replacement, may Nora Ephron rest in serenity). I am guilty of making this comparison, as well, though I no longer find it unfortunate for either one of them. To be compared with such a bright mind as Nora Ephron is truly a blessing, and to actually create screenplays that hold up to her standard, or even surpass it at times, is something to refer, not pity. Like confusing two actors' appearances (such as Skeet Ulrich and Johnny Depp), people find it tragic for the lesser-known actor to be typecast as "that guy who looks like Johnny Depp". To resemble another person really establishes your position in Hollywood, therefore reducing them to just a look-alike who could never reach the fame their more well-known "twin" had, such as with Skeet Ulrich. However (I feel I'm going down a different path), Nancy Meyers has successfully established herself in Hollywood as one in herself, a unique individual capable of creating works worth loving for years to come. For this reason, I pay homage to her by composing the very first Spontaneous Spotlight in dedication to her.

P.S. This post, also, took me a few months to publish. It's good to know that the wheels are finally in motion.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Presidential Trailer - Lincoln

If anyone was debating over who would win the Best Actor statuette in February, Academy Award, that is, here is your answer.

When I started to watch this two-minute trailer, I expected yet another affectionate homage to the sixteenth president of the United States. Yes, we're all aware that Lincoln freed the slaves. Hoo-rah. Though, I must ask, was it for better intentions? Don't mistake that for a violently racist comment, because it really isn't. What I mean is, did he, Lincoln, intend for African-Americans to be equal to white Americans? If so, then he has to be a hypocrite. From what I recall my dad telling me about the Civil War, I know that it had nothing to do with slavery. In fact, Lincoln had no concerns about slavery whatsoever; his main objective was to "fix the Union". I don't want to get too in-depth in this because I may be spewing false statements. And I wouldn't want to be embarrassed for acting as if I know what I'm talking about. Anyway, returning to my initial expectations of this trailer, that it would be overly pro-Lincoln, I was surprised to see some animosity against Lincoln. And not the stereotypical "evil villain" either, but respectable officials opposing Lincoln's tactics. Therefore, this movie appears to be objective. How endearing! And with Steven Spielberg directing, I was sure he would take the simple route and flatter Lincoln throughout. I owe him an apology, it seems. One more thing: Daniel Day-Lewis. And the Oscar goes to...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Godfather

I've never been a big admirer of The Godfather films. Of course, I recognized its significance in cinema, as well as its good quality; that it is, indeed, an impressive film. I am not saying that I did not enjoy the film, just that I did not enjoy it as much as, say, a male critic. It is a well-known stereotype, which is always based on truth, that The Godfather appeals more to men than to women. This, in no way, objectifies women as prissy moviegoers who only enjoy epic romances or romantic-comedies. (Why even introduce such a conjecture?) Upon watching it for a second time, I found myself to be absolutely captivated by the utter genius and mastery of the marvelous film, which shows just how much I've grown in the past few years. Regardless of my initial reaction to the film, the first time I watched it was a major milestone in my life. The Godfather marks my entrance into the spectra of intellectual cinema. Before this extraordinary trilogy, I was in the dark, figuratively speaking, when it came to watching movies, as I would simply watch for basic entertainment, to fulfill a need and time wasted. With The Godfather, my eyes were opened to the mastery of film, the intricate details that compose a film into the brilliant moving portrait it is. Let's journey into this magnificent family saga.

It is accurate to say that the general plot of this film is known to all, even if it is as vague of an understanding as "it has something to do with the Mafia." Of course, it is much more than that basic generalization, as the film extends beyond the average expectations of moviegoers and of true cinephiles. (Remember, cinephile merely means one who loves film. Philia is one of the greek words meaning love. It is society who has attached the gross connotation to the sound of any "phile" word, particularly pedophile. Disregard this tangent.) This film is a genuine gem in cinematic history, therefore one can imagine how stunned and amazed viewers were when it was released in 1972. Back then, the only films of the crime genre were those gangster films of the 1930s and 1940s, such as James Cagney movies. And to think that this was originally a low-budget project distributed by Paramount simply to make a quick buck. From what I've read on the production's history, Paramount hired Francis Ford Coppola (reluctantly, mind you, as he had only made flops until then) and specifically directed him to make it "as simple as possible." That's a paraphrase, I don't know exactly what they told him, but it was in that general area. Fortunately, Francis Ford Coppola does not take shit from anybody. (Did you sense the forced purpose in that derogatory comment? Well, maybe not derogatory, but simple-minded and common.) This entire film was his production, and his alone, as he independently made casting decisions without allowing Corporate to interfere. Because of the director's passion in bringing Mario Puzo's masterpiece to life, we have an unquestionable relic of golden cinema, alluding to the Golden Age of film.

One of the prime themes of The Godfather is the rise of Michael Corleone, how he transformed from an innocent war hero to the malicious patriarch of a notorious Mafia family. I cannot envision a more ideal actor to portray the prodigious son of Don Corleone, the Godfather himself, than Al Pacino. Most know him as the hot-tempered, often-crazy man who shouts and yells, or as the so-called awful actor starring in "hits" such as Jack and Jill. (Unfortunately, relating that abominable film to the great actor has become somewhat of an annoying reflex.) In The Godfather, Al Pacino is generally calm and reasonable, unlike his enormously rowdy older brother, Sonny, who was originally meant to take over after their father would no longer be able to be the Don. I could just picture that: Sonny, as easy to provoke as he is, sentencing absolutely anyone who so much as glares at him to an unthinkable death, preferably by his own hands. Really, Sonny's "conclusion" was inevitable, and rather theatrical, as much of the film's scenes beautifully are. Theatrical. (That term, perfectly describing The Godfather films, was coined by my dad. Kind retribution.) Michael's other brother is Tom Hagan, whom everyone in the family considers direct blood after they lifted him from the cruel streets of New York. While Tom is incredibly intelligent in the inner-workings of the Mafia, as well as in the outside world of non-Mafiaso, which makes him all the more valuable and indispensable for the family, he could never really be the Don. I think it's because he is not actually Italian, or a true Corleone. Nevertheless, he is a beloved part of the family, just as much as Sonny and Michael. He, also, happens to be one of my preferred characters in the saga, which intensifies my remorse for the way Michael treats him in the second part. Michael's other brother is Fredo, who is, for lack of a better word, a moron. In no way whatsoever is he cut out to be in the Mafia, as he is naive, clueless, and tragically impulsive. Why tragically? Let's just say his "conclusion" isn't as loud as Sonny's, more on the lines of desolate and unnecessary. (Note that this would be another mark on Michael Corleone's con list.) Now that we have an overall knowledge of the Corleone line-up, let's explore Michael Corleone himself.

From the moment Michael returns home from the war for his sister's wedding, with pretty-as-a-doll Diane Keaton on his arm as the WASPy Kay Adams, he is fated for becoming involved in the criminal mechanics of the Family. I'll be capitalizing the word Family when it refers to the Corleones from here on. Sure, he seems to be totally indifferent to the workings of the Family, as well as its reputation, considering he was an American war hero and attended college. And dating a non-Italian, all-American girl further supports his detachment from the Family. However, when his father is shot, nearly to death, he begins to stay closer to home, which brings along completing secretarial tasks and keeping watch at the hospital where his father lies. (For some reason, spell-check always fragments "lies" when used in the form of lying on a bed. It insists that I say "where his father lay." Now, I ask you, does that sound right?) Soon enough, Michael is granted the daunting task of "taking care of" two major enemies of the Family, crime-boss Sollozzo "The Turk" and the corrupted police captain-bastard McCluskey. The scene where this takes place exquisitely defines Michael's entrance into the deep chasms of the Family, transforming him into a shrewd, sly member of the Mafia.

I'd like to alternate to a different character in the film, if I may: Don Vito Corleone would be him. You might be surprised that this is the first instance in which I mention the grand, wise Don of the Corleone Family, since he is indeed considered the main character of the film. And why not? He is the head of the Corleone Family. However, the character himself rarely appears on the screen, compared to, say, Michael Corleone. When I first watched The Godfather, I was unimpressed by Marlon Brando's drowsy portrayal of the crime boss, as his speech was overly slurred and I did not sense much emotion on his part. Upon viewing it a second time, I must admit that his performance was that of an icon, a damned magnificent icon. While he may not have been as awe-inspiring as Al Pacino in the film, in my opinion, Marlon Brando rightly deserved his Best Actor statuette, for he remarkably brought an interesting man to life better than anyone would have expected. (Currently, I am reading The Godfather book by Mario Puzo, and, from what I've read so far, Marlon Brando portrayed Don Corleone superbly.) To think that Lawrence Olivier was the original choice to portray the formidable Don Corleone is somewhat of a joke, not to disrespect the royal British actor, because, well, he's British. Could you imagine Hamlet making an offer no one could refuse? I certainly can't.

In the sequel to The Godfather, a majority of the film is dedicated to Vito Corleone's beginnings in America, as a Sicilian immigrant aspiring for greatness in this promising land. Playing the role of a young Vito Corleone is a young Robert DeNiro. You know Robert DeNiro, don't you? Of course you do, I'm simply being coy. In the film, he speaks mainly Italian. Or does he speak Sicilian? Is that a language? Anyway, it was strange to watch Robert DeNiro as a completely different person. That's what he was, wasn't he? He spoke a different language, in what I would assume to be the perfect dialect, and looked so young, so fresh in this world of cinema. I must always allude back to cinema, mustn't I? Once again, the "two time's the charm" effect has ringed true, for the second time around I enjoyed this segment much more. Initially, I found the part with the young Vito Corleone quite dull, wishing for it to move on back to Al Pacino's reign in the present era of the 1950s. Robert DeNiro demonstrated his true potential in this industry, why he rose so impressively to the status of legend that he assumes today. Even in a different language, Robert DeNiro proves his marvelous acting prowess. Very impressive, indeed. To support my own subjective opinion, Robert DeNiro garnered an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the film, allowing Vito Corleone to be the only character with two Oscars to his name.

Al Pacino, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. Nominated twice for his performances as Michael Corleone, Al Pacino failed to win himself an award for a role he delivered excellently. (He would not win an award for his achievements until 1992 for Scent of a Woman.) In the first film, he was absolutely brilliant, truly deserving for the title of Best Supporting Actor that he did not receive, even compared to his competitors, James Caan and Robert Duvall. For Part II, Al Pacino was promoted to a Best Actor nomination for his sinister portrayal of an utter villain. Once again, my initial view of this second segment was much, shall we say, higher, as in I was immensely captivated by his performance, reflecting on my overall admiration of the film itself. However, once again, a second time around proved to alter my judgement, for the worse in this instance. (Or is it for the worst?)

As I progress in writing this important post (important because it describes and honors one of the greatest masterpieces of cinema), it seems I will list a series of facts about the film in a structured, organized manner. Of course, as you have already seen, I will incorporate my own views on the films, as well. Just thought I should inform you now before you become confused as to what exactly my purpose is. I feel I should always caution you in my writing--moving on.

Allow me to explain exactly what my initial judgment of Part II was. To sum it up, I considered it to be the greatest sequel in the history of film that I have seen thus far. In fact, I thought it more than surpassed the first one, being, quite frankly, a damned fine masterpiece, from the proportioned length to the brilliant acting. However, this gaspingly admiring description very much declined on a second-time viewing. I'm not implying that this was the worst sequel in the history of film, as it was a pretty great sequel considering what it competes with. (Part Two: The Demanding Sequels.) Upon a second appraisal of this film, I found my opinion to be greatly changed from what it once was. Now, I find myself with more than a few complaints, including the drastic change in setting and a certain character's demise in respectability. In the first film, the Corleone Family remained in its familiar home of Long Island, New York, a home that moviegoers have similarly become adapted to. Part II takes the audience across the country, eradicating the Corleones from their home in Long Island to the barren Western coast in Nevada. The basic plot of the second film involved Michael Corleone branching his crime syndicate to Lake Tahoe in Nevada. Also, in the background of this change of scenery was the chaos surrounding pre-revolutionary Cuba. Forgive me, but this feels a little too much like Scarface, only quieter. Of course, I cannot expect a sequel to follow every point that was followed in its predecessor, for that would just be copying-and-pasting, but creating something new that isn't better is also a wrong turn.

An additional issue with the second installment was the decadence of the primary character in the film, the decline I mentioned earlier: that of Michael Corleone. Upon a first viewing of the film, I found Al Pacino's leading performance (as opposed to his previous supporting performance) to be exceptional. In that alternate past, I found myself infuriated with the fact that he did not receive a Best Actor statuette as he rightfully deserved. (Even now, I still feel he should have won, compared to his competition. Art Carney in Harry & Tonto? That just sounds ridiculous.) From the subtle, rational premature (not to be confused with immature) Don of the Corleone Family he had transformed into in the first film, Michael Corleone degenerated as a character by acquiring a new-found narcissism that has blinded his once-good judgement. To make my point, allow me to provide the example of his ordering his own brother's death. (We all know the famous quote, "You broke my heart, Fredo," a quote I once revered and associated with chilling betrayal, so there's no need to cry out spoiler-alert.) The Corleone Family is recognized for its enormous regard and consideration for the Family. Nothing is more important, Don Vito may have said sometime in the first one. With that in mind, to witness Michael commit such a harsh and unnecessary punishment is simply shameful to the fictional Family audiences have come to admire. You might have noticed that I italicized, and therefore emphasized, the unnecessary element of Fredo's murder. Fredo was merely a harmless, if not simple-minded, young lad who, really, couldn't hurt a fly; so him being murdered for something as inconsequential (in comparison to the whole situation, that being his murder) as betrayal? It's just tragic, as all. In addition to unnecessary, it was also very poor judgement on Michael's part, who is supposed to be an analytical patriarch who places Family in front of business. Because the Corleones are in this business solely based on their loyal status as a Family. Am I right? I feel I've been rambling for the past few sentences, so I'll move on.

I hesitate in writing about The Godfather Part III for this reason: it was positively awful. Now, while I do love bashing films, because it comes easily and people usually get pleasure from reading something critical rather than praise, I still linger in continuing on. This wonderful Family saga is wonderful because of the first two, this being an obvious statement I'm sure. Moreover, I wouldn't even label The Godfather as a trilogy because it would have to bring up the issue of the third one's disappointment, as well as the mistakes the film made in its production. To mention, and in turn criticize, Part III would suggest that it ruined the entire saga, and even question the original two films as being excellent pieces of cinema. For one, and this may be the source of the film's failure, Robert Duvall did not return as Tom Hagan, a character I happen to admire; the reason for his absence was a matter of salary, as it almost always is. So, instead of a plot involving a feud between the egotistical Michael and the more reasonable Tom Hagan, Francis Ford Coppola decided to make it about...something else. Honestly, the whole beginning was so dull, I didn't bother in actually focusing on the film. I doubt doing so would have changed my opinion of the movie. Also, another major error was adding his dopey daughter, Sofia Coppola, in the movie as a, for lack of a better word, stupid whore. Stupid because she seems mentally slow/incapable, whore because she is desperate to get her cousin into bed. (Cuz.) Andy Garcia as Sonny's equally rowdy, pompous son was a little over-the-top, and absolutely nothing compared to James Caan's memorable performance. It was very apparent that Andy Garcia's intention was to recreate, and even surpass, his screen-father's performance. The rest of the film, though there was barely anything eye-catchingly horrible left, was basically Michael Corleone, now an old geezer, pining over his failed love for Kay, also an old geezer. There are moments, when I awoke from my boredom, of extended, supposedly "romantic" montages of them two in the country, which is just so pointless--overall, it's all very, very aggravating. The final scene was the highlight of the film, as well as a source of more laughter. Call me heartless, but I'm sure you laughed too.

Breaking News: It has come to my attention that a prequel based on a screenplay Mario Puzo drafted years ago has been released in the form of a novel, under the title The Family Corleone. In a (not so recent) recent article in Entertainment Weekly, the dramatic lawsuits against this book and the Puzo family estate (for "copyright infringement") and the counter-suits against Paramount ("go to the mattresses") is only the intriguing silver lining to an even larger discovery: the possibility of a fourth Godfather film. After Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola collaborated on The Godfather Part III, the original author decided to begin writing Part IV, and, according to his editor, it had "all the wonderful flavor of the Godfather movies." (Doesn't quoting from a respected publication make me sound pseudo-intellectual?) When my eyes came across those hopeful words, my face did a spasm it usually does when I experience shock and awe. Then again, would another Godfather film be the most logical choice? Keep in mind the infectious misfortune sequels have received lately. Of course, this would be a prequel to the saga, after Robert DeNiro's Vito Corleone and before Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone. One can recall the success of X-Men: First Class. The prequel in question would take place during the time when the Godfather's Mafia was in its unstoppable prime, and there was very little attack targeted against them. Think of it as that glorious time between the two World Wars, a sort of Midnight in Paris-esque era of wonder and joy. As of this time, no trial date has been made for the lawsuit at hand, nor has any official word been released that there will be a fourth Godfather film. (This breaking news is brought to you by a May 2012 issue of Entertainment Weekly.)


To conclude this uncharacteristically long post (uncharacteristic because it has been a while since I have released some interesting insights in the realm of film), I must, again, emphasize what a "major deal" this saga is. Seriously, it may be the most prolific trilogy in the history of cinema. Can you name one that surpasses this? (If so, comment below. Who knows? I just might peruse it myself. Most likely not.) The Godfather is a cinematic classic, one that viewers will continue quoting, admiring, and, for those rebels out there, criticizing. The fact that this movie calls forth much criticism (shocking yet happens still) truly reveals its extraordinary quality, doesn't it? Well, no, disregard that. I, myself, have never heard a foul word uttered against this magnificent trilogy, aside from the third film, which was just a mistake altogether, as you should be aware. No, the first two films, the real trilogy attributed to the Godfather legacy, are bulletproof from any criticism. So far, at least. Those who dislike these films by giving them a one-out-of-ten star on IMDb are just ignorant rebels who rate low to be different. But that's really neither here nor there. Once again, to conclude, for those who have not yet experience the amazing pleasure of watching the Godfather saga really should and soon. And if you really want to adore it for all its glory, skip the third one. It's just not good. All watching it would do is make you feel remorse for how awful it was, and how it somewhat tarnished the entire trilogy. Oh, but it did not tarnish the entire trilogy, not for me at least. Even a film as terrible as The Godfather Part III cannot diminish such an incredible classic as The Godfather. Because, once more, the film is just that brilliant. A true cinematic gem, to stress it one last time.

P.S. For the record, it took me five months to dish this baby out. (I hesitated in typing that sentence, so you're aware.) I don't know why I delayed it for such a long period, but I figured better late than never, and it would be a fine start to what would hopefully be a productive year in my steady posting.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Magical Photo Album

Well, it appears my last post was written nearly three weeks ago. Shameless of me, to be straightforward with the subject. No, no; it's shameful. As in, I should be ashamed of myself for not writing anything. Surely, you are aware that I was in Walt Disney World, the most magical place ever realized if I haven't mentioned that enough already. And before I jump into what's expected of me as the writer of this blog (i.e. discussing the films I've watched), allow me to express just how much I enjoyed my recent adventure. Rather than explain with adjectives of the words "amazing" and "serene", I will post several pictures of proof that I truly had a sensational time. Here are just a few.

Jack and Bailey's Chocolate Mousse
One of the best desserts here.

Yummy crab cakes. Very yummy, indeed.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends
How I love Finding Nemo.

Entrance to Main Street U.S.A.

Cinderella Castle
The enchanting icon of Magic Kingdom.

The lobby inside the Polynesian Resort at night.

A little wine in the afternoon in Italy (pavilion at Epcot).

Mushroom Filet Mignon at Le Cellier in Canada (pavilion at Epcot).
Perhaps the greatest entree in Disney World. So succulent.

Standing by as the monorail zooms past us.

Deeply enjoying my Mickey Mouse waffle.
I had actually already bitten into it as the photo was taken.
Yes, it's that good. so crunchy yet soft and golden.

Having a blast in Mexico (pavilion at Epcot).
Actually, just waiting for our table at San Angel Inn...

Sneaking a sip at a strict restaurant ('Ohana at the Polynesian).
It's a mixed drink inside a whole pineapple! Neat!

Red Velvet Cheesecake at the Sci-fi Dine-In
Surprisingly, one of the tastiest desserts.

I was actually in the original Singin' in the Rain, that's why it looks so ideal.
(I'm simply teasing, of course.)

The iconic Sorcerer's Hat in Hollywood Studios.

That's me on the left with the Mickey Mouse ears.
I included this photo to point out our guide on this Adventure Cruise.
Throughout the ride, he was flirting with me.
See that? He's looking at me. Case and point.

In the waiting queue inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
Greatest ride in Magic Kingdom that's not Space Mountain.

Standing in front of the Chinese Theater (replica) that houses the Great Movie Ride.

Meet me at the Derby!
A saying at one of Disney's nicest restaurants, with such a cozy atmosphere.
And excellent cuisine.

Once again, holding up some scrumptious Mickey waffles.

Waiting for a monorail at the Contemporary Resort's station.
Behind me is the resort's wonderful gift shop, with the adorable Mickey Mouse archway.

The Epcot ball at night. Even more magnificent.

Cutting into my sweet, delicious Tonga Toast at Kona Cafe.
It's French toast stuffed with bananas and covered in cinnamon.
Once more, delicious. And my last breakfast here....

One final sip in Disney World!
I'm drinking something called The Abyss at the Coral Reef restaurant.
It has pineapple juice and rum. Yes, I'm of age.

Last of all, the marvelous Banana Toffee Tower at the Brown Derby!
Maybe that was just a tad more than a few. And that was only one-twelveth of my collection! I truly had a magical time, as you can see. Well, although it has been a long three weeks since you've last heard from me, this is the end for now. Never fear, for I should be back up and running when I've settled into "work" again. Yes, that time of year has come. The end of summer, the beginning of yet another grueling year of work. Fortunately, my bosses seem to be nice enough. For now, anyway. Here's to a hopefully great year, full of more posts by me, no question. (I would say "no doubt", but that sounds a bit like slang.) Once more, have a terrific week.