AEOS Update: Back to Blogging

To my friends, followers, and most important, my fellow movie bloggers,

I’m finally back! After taking a break from blogging about the movies for two years, I realized that NOW is the time to finally get back to my favorite hobby. Why now? Well, I’ve experienced a lot of life changes in the past few years. I’m starting to get settled, and I’m itching to write again. I can’t put into words how much I’ve missed being on the blogosphere, because frankly, there’s nothing quite like being a part of the coolest club in the world: the movie blogging community.

Everyone has their reasons for joining, leaving, or returning to blogging. My reason involves a lot of details, but I’m happy to share a few with those who are actually interested. I updated my About AEOS section, which you can find here. But for those of you who are a little lazy (like me), you can just read on, since I’m just copying/pasting the text below:

In the fall of 2010, I started this blog because I love movies. I discovered an online film community that welcomed me with open arms. All Eyes On Screen evolved over the next two years. Blogging about movies introduced me to fellow movie buffs all over the world, and my love for movies and writing about them has become a bigger passion in my life than I ever imagined it could be. Matt and KristinI’ve learned so much from disciplining myself to watch more, write more, write better, and be influenced by my fellow bloggers.

By the fall of 2012, my life changed in the best way possible: I met the guy of my dreams. But over the course of the next two years, my life also involved taking on multiple job responsibilities. By mid-2014, I changed jobs, moved states, and married that perfect man. As many of my fellow movie-blogging friends know, I started and quit blogging multiple times over the last few years, attempting to blog amidst my hectic schedule. Eventually, I lost my site URL, and I put blogging on hold until I KNEW I would be able to return to blogging at a regular and consistent pace.

Well, that time has finally arrived, and I’m happy to say that All Eyes On Screen is coming back in a big way: new posts, new movies to review, and new improvements are coming to All Eyes On Screen. I hope you’ll join the conversation and keep your eyes on screen as I write, critique, and chat about all the latest movies coming out.

Happy movie watching and writing,

Kristin

Advertisements

Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2012

Categorizing my favorite moves in 2012 was so much more difficult for me than it was in 2011. I had obvious, definite picks to close out 2011, and I have found myself nitpicking over which movies ought to make my top 1o favorites list this year. If you remember from last year, I picked up a movie for the tenth spot that performed horribly for critics and audiences alike, but I stuck to it, just as easily as it was for me to say that The Artist and 50/50 were the obvious stand-out movies of 2011 for me.

I haven’t finished seeing all the movies I want to see yet, including Flight and Beasts of the Southern Wild, which I can imagine will most likely alter this list. My assurance comes from being a big fan of Robert Zemeckis films, and I keep hearing great things for Beasts. So there’s a good chance a couple of these movies may be bumped off to make room! Other movies I think could possibly make it onto this list are Amour and Life of Pi, but my hopes aren’t as high for these as they are for the former two films I mentioned.

And a disclaimer before the list: I really enjoyed both The Impossible and Zero Dark Thirty, but they’re both the kind of movie that won’t get repeated viewings from me because of the subject matter. While both feats of their own, I really don’t care to watch either again with how rough and gritty it was. Another honorable mention that didn’t make my list was Lincoln. I enjoyed it immensely, but it’s running time had me looking at my watch a few times. The performances were incredible under Steven Spielberg’s direction, and I’m rooting for John Williams’s score to win the Oscar.

As of now, here are my top ten favorite films of 2012!

10) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

As of June last year, Seeking a Friend was my favorite film I had seen so far. It was a very different film and it struck a chord with me that no other end-of-the-world flick ever had. Steve Carell shined in his performance, and Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut was promising. More than anything, I appreciated the music and tone of this film. Scafaria stuck to her ending and I’m happy to add this movie to my top ten list of 2012.

9) Celeste and Jesse Forever

Another film I haven’t seen on anyone else’s favorites or top lists is Celeste and Jesse Forever, which made its first appearance at Sundance. Rashinda Jones both writes and stars in this film that offers an entirely different take on relationships. It’s complicated, but it’s a well-written, thoughtful screenplay that poses questions that are difficult to answer. Any Samberg shows more range than one would expect. I really enjoyed this movie and hope that it gets more exposed!

8) The Hobbit

After reading The Hobbit in January of last year, I grew more excited for the first film of three to be released in December. While there were disappointments, such as extended scenes and added parts that I believe took away from the film, I still really enjoyed it. Where The Hobbit didn’t lack was in the acting. It was great getting to see Sherlock‘s Martin Freeman star as Bilbo, and one of the strongest and best scenes of the film was the riddle scene with Bilbo and Andy Serkis’s Gollum.

7) Skyfall

For not being a huge James Bond fan, I really enjoyed Skyfall. I was hoping for something great after enjoying Casino Royale, and Skyfall does not disappoint at all. Daniel Craig does some of his best work here, and Javier Bardem makes for a great villain. The pacing and script are great and it gives a very satisfying end to the film.

6) Django Unchained

I wasn’t sure whether I’d love or hate Django going in, but it ended up being the former. For clocking in close to three hours, Django didn’t feel nearly as long as films like Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty, for me. It’s chocked full of Quentin Tarantino humor, and both Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio offer great supporting performances.

5) The Avengers

Earlier in 2012, I had seen The Avengers four times in theaters. If you had asked me in 2011 what movie I was planning to see the most in 2012, my answer would certainly not be The Avengers. But I’m completely won over, having seen Captain AmericaThor, and both Iron Man films multiple times before seeing The Avengers. It’s a solid film that delivers on multiple fronts, not only entertaining, but also works as an excellent inclusion of multiple characters to make one grand superhero film fit together.

4) Argo

Early in 2012 I had caught wind of a little movie called Argo to be directed by Ben Affleck. It was one of my most anticipated films of the year, and I consider it one of the best films to come out in 2012. It’s unfortunate that the Academy did not nomimate Affleck for Best Director as he brought to film one of the most interesting and thrilling political stories. I’m rooting for Argo to perform well at the awards!

3) The Dark Knight Rises

I wasn’t expecting to place DKR so high on my list, but in conjuction with everything I’ve seen in 2012, I can’t not put it so high. Even with its many critiques by fanboys and critics alike, Christopher Nolan’s epic end to his Batman trilogy is so good that people really have to fight a bit to be critical about it. While Batman Begins is still probably my favorite of the trilogy, it’s a great problem to have to be able to pick the “worst” of the three when all were solid films. Nolan set a foundation for character films to follow by placing the bar high enough for critics to like and modest enough for audiences to really enjoy.

2) The Perks of Being a Wallflower

When I first saw the trailer for Perks, I was convinced that it would be one of my favorite movies of the year. And while I’m usually wrong and set my expectations too high going in, Stephen Chbosky’s book and now film (which he also directed and wrote the screenplay for) won me over. It’s a coming of age story, but it’s written and acted out so beautifully, that I had a difficult time pinpointing what exactly it was about Perks that made it so likeable for me. The actors actually looked more of the ages they were playing rather than mid- to late-twenties adults playing high schoolers, as they do in most teen-based movies.

1) Silver Linings Playbook

And my top favorite film of the year is Silver Linings Playbook. It’s my favorite film of 2012 because it has the two qualities that attract me most to any film: strong writing and interesting characters. Based off the novel by Matthew Quick, Silver Linings tells the story of a man who is blissfully unaware he has issues. Bradley Cooper gives a stunning and turning performance which will hopefully afford him better roles in the future. Again, Jennifer Lawrence gets nominated for an Oscar, and rightfully so. It’s an interesting and different film, directed by David O. Russell, who’s known to like telling stories of dysfunctional families, his latest film being The Fighter. Even De Niro gives an unforgettable and entertaining performance in this movie. Moving, endearing, and performance strong, Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite movie of the year.

Welcome, 2013: Free Screenplays, Interview with a Quvenzhané, and an Angry Tolkien

The Oscar nominations are in, and I find it interesting that 2012 film does not a pose a strong #1 film that will take down Oscar this year. Perhaps that will happen regardless, as it does most years, but with so many great movies that came out, I really do wonder who will take Best Picture.

Within this past week alone, I have seen Django UnchainedSilver Linings Playbook, and The Impossible. I’m gearing up for Zero Dark Thirty‘s release tomorrow. Oh, and I’ve made a list of movies to see yet before Oscar date February 24:

When all the top 10 lists start popping up, I can’t help but mentally compose my own for the movie year of 2012. So many of the heavy-hitters didn’t get released in Chicago theaters until early 2013, so I’m battling to see many of the films in their short theater runs before they slip away, their DVD releases not arriving until after the Academy Awards air.

I am only dying to post my Top 10 Favorites of 2012, but before I do that, I need to cross a few of those off my list. It’s difficult to catch all the great movies before the Oscars, but my goal is to post a top 10 list by the end of January. In the meantime, I’d like to offer up some film goodies:

  • Oscar Screenplays Available for Download — Now I cannot take credit for this because my boyfriend, Matt, knows how much I love film, and he found this online. Perhaps you’ve already seen these, or you’re not one for screenplays. Even so, this is quite the motherload of screenplays for several critically-acclaimed films of 2012. I know they’ll be available only for a limited time, so I’d recommend downloading your favorites while they’re available.
  • Roger Ebert’s Interview with Quvenzhané Wallis — Quvenzhané Wallis is the youngest person to ever get nominated in Oscar history. It’s a pretty extraordinary achievement! Now while I haven’t seen Beasts of the Southern Wild yet, from the trailer, the interview, the article, the reviews of this film and her performance, I can only imagine how powerful her performance must have been.
  • Christopher Tolkien Disenchanted with The Hobbit film — This is quite the read for anyone interested in the Lord of the Rings world J.R.R. Tolkien created, be it the books, maps, languages, or most well-known, the Peter Jackson film adaptations. After reading this, I can’t help but see both sides of issue. Credit goes to my friend Deb for the find.

As of now, one of the movies I saw this week holds my #1 slot for favorites films of 2012, with a couple films following that I haven’t see on anyone else’s top 10 list.

What’s your #1 film of 2012? What are your first thoughts on the Oscar nominations?

August: The Dead Month of Movies?

For a year that was highly-anticipatory for film, January through April took its sweet ‘ol time passing through, delivering only one fairly memorable film–The Hunger Games–and made all us viewers wonder if 2012 was really going to deliver, or just release a few biggies during the summer and Oscar seasons.

Finally, May rolled around and The Avengers blew everything away for the past 4 months. Then June opened up with some fun summer films, notably Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman (would everyone please stop talking about Kristen Stewart already?!), and The Dark Knight Rises showed up in July along with The Amazing Spider-Man. And now we’re sitting in August, dealing with 80s remakes and unsuccessful franchise continuations and not a whole lot of films to look forward to until October/November/December sweeps.

All of this begs me to ask, is August the “dead” month of movies? Both Total Recall and The Bourne Legacy came with their disappointments, though the latter succeeded the former with its storyline and acting alone (talking to you, Jeremy Renner!). Premium Rush is the only film I see with a hint of promise for the month. There’s a little hope with Lawless, watching Shia Labeouf attempt to win people over after his run through the Transformer films.

The only film I feel gipped for missing is Celeste and Jesse Forever, which opened only in very limited release, Rashinda Jones’s first writing project that performed successfully at Sundance.

We’re in that busy month of the year where everyone’s going back to school, and no one’s really focused on going to see a good film, with studios optimizing on the summer and Christmas breaks to release the films people most look forward to.

So ease my mind and tell me, have you liked any of the films August has offered so far? Or is it really the dead month of the year for film? What do you look forward to for the rest of the month? 

The Boy Who Loved Batman — Up Close with Executive Producer Michael Uslan

Little did I know a few weeks ago that meeting Michael Uslan, executive producer of all batman films, that I would find some of the greatest inspiration to pursue my passion for film. After finding my way into the right building at Harper College, I paid the seven dollar fee, saving myself a few bucks by handing the teller my college student ID that I unfortunately still seem to resemble. I grabbed a seat in the front middle section, not knowing what to expect.

But this post isn’t about me, it’s about Mr. Uslan, the 8-year-old son of a stone mason, who, through his love of batman and comic books, latched himself onto one of the greatest film series to have hit screens.

Michael Uslan’s Story, As He Told It

Michael grew up loving comic books. He said by the time he graduated high school, there were over 30,000 comic books stacked up, sitting in the garage. He knew he loved comics, especially about Batman. I don’t think he knew entirely what he wanted to do with his life, but I will never forget how much he spoke of his parents supporting him in whatever endeavors he wanted to pursue. His brother and he watched as his dad would get up early to work hard every day, staying out late working oftentimes, both of them desiring to have that same drive to spend their lives being passionate about their work.

One day in college, Michael said he decided he wanted to pitch the idea of teaching a comic books class at the university. He needed a department to back him before he could make the pitch. After having accomplished this, he stood before a group of professors and deans gathered to hear this idea–that comic books could be considered art–and that Michael was capable and qualified to teach this class. He described himself as having long hair and wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt. I can only imagine what the teachers must have thought of his appearance. About 2-3 minutes into his pitch, the head dean stopped him, telling him that he didn’t need to go any further. Whatever this silly idea was that Michael was pitching, the dean considered it irrelevant. Can you imagine taking a comics book class at college? At the time, that was unheard of. The dean dismissed Michael, telling him that he had read Superman comic books as a kid; they certainly weren’t art then. Why would they be now?

At this point in his story, Mr. Uslan slowed his story, looking at the audience. With a bit of frustration lingering in his voice, he said, “I wanted to walk right out. I wanted to turn around and leave. But I didn’t.”

Michael then respectfully (so I assume) asked the dean if he could ask him two questions. The dean hesitantly agreed. First, Michael asked, “Do you know the story of Moses?” When the dean replied yes, Michael then asked him if he could recall a summary of it for them. The dean then went on to tell the story of Moses, starting with how the Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians, and that in order to save baby Moses’ life, that his mother placed him in a basket which she put in a river. There, an Egyptian family raised him as their own. Later, Moses grew up to be a leader to save the Israelites from the Egyptians.

After the dean’s summary, Michael then reminded the dean that he was knowledgeable on Superman, given that he had read the comics as a kid. He then asked the dean if he could recount the story of Superman. So the dean gave in again, telling how the planet Krypton was about to be destroyed, so his parents put him in a ship in order to save him, sending him to earth. There, a family found him and raised him as their own. As Superman grew older, he eventually became a leader and savior to the people.

As soon as the dean had reached that point, he stopped mid-sentence, telling Michael, “Fine. I get it. You can teach your comics book class.”

And that’s how Michael Uslan became the first professor to teach a comic books class.

But as he was walking away, happy to have successfully convinced the board of deans and professors to accept his proposal, he said he recalled words of wisdom from his mother: he ought to market himself. From there, he said he went home and called a news station. When he was finally able to get a reporter on the phone, he changed his tone. He was angry, and he started shouting phrases regarding America’s youth, and how news people should not have let things get to such a bad place. The reporter on the end was thoroughly confused. The reporter then asked what Michael was so upset about. Michael started again with lines like, “You really don’t care about taxpayers’ dollars do you? Do you have any idea what’s going on? Our kids in school should be getting a proper education!” When the reporter failed to follow where Michael was going with all this, Michael responded, “Did you know that the university is allowing students to be taught about comic books? I heard they just hired someone to teach them a comic books class! This is ridiculous!”

Mr. Uslan said it took three days following that phone conversation for that reporter to make it to the university to find out what was going on. And from there on, Mr. Uslan said that there were multiple reporters, camera men, even celebrities who would pop in and sit through one of his classes. He made it in a large article in multiple newspapers across the country and even in Europe. His phone was constantly ringing with newsreporters and job offers. And one day soon following his overnight fame, Michael received a called from Marvel, offering him a job in New York City.

For the first few years, Mr. Uslan didn’t say that he did anything all too significant at Marvel. Then one night, when he was just about to leave for the evening, he heard yelling and screaming. He walked over towards the sound and found one of the editor’s furious. Apparently the editor had a script assignment for the Shadow comic due the next day, and he could think of nothing to write about. Fortunately for that editor, Michael said he had an idea. After some pulling and tugging away and random ideas that came to mind, Michael had convinced the editor to let him write the script. Michael pulled an all-nighter, and handed in the script the next morning.

A few weeks later, one of the major writers at Marvel walked by Michael. He stopped Michael, saying that he had read his Shadow comic. He commented that it wasn’t bad. Michael was about to keep walking, but the writer stopped him again. This time, he asked him a question: “Would you be interested in writing Batman comics?”

Clearly, Michael’s answer was “yes.” At this point, Mr. Uslan transitioned his story, remarking that he reached a point in his life–and at an early stage–where he had achieved his dream. The big question lingering in his head was, “What now?”

Michael wasn’t able to answer that question for himself until the first Batman show premiered on TV. Mr. Uslan mentioned how excited he had been, with all the anticipation leading up to this. FinallyUnfortunately, Michael didn’t totally dig the silly, light-hearted, slap stick humor of the show. He wished Batman would be taken a little more seriously. He wanted to see that human, realistic side to Batman. After all, Batman really was just a human. He wasn’t bitten by a radioactive bug. He wasn’t an alien sent to Earth to save all of humanity. He was a human, who just happened to have a lot of money and desire to help other people.

Mr. Uslan said it was that moment that he vowed to himself that somehow, some way, he would bring Batman to the big screen in a big way. But not just in a big way–he wanted the world to see the raw and humanistic side of Batman. He wanted the superhero who had influenced and inspired him as a child to influence and inspire other people in a way where they weren’t just laughing at him. So he set out to do just that.

To shorten this seemingly long story, I’ll cut the final part of this short. Mr. Uslan described how he went about buying the rights to Batman. He got married. He went to school again and became a lawyer for four years. He quit his job, moved to California, pitched the idea of a Batman movie to every studio and was turned down by every single one of them. It was another ten years until someone by the name of Tim Burton thought a lot of Michael’s idea.

And according to Mr. Uslan, the rest was history.

After the Story

Following his story, there was a short question and answer time. I was lucky enough to have caught his eye, having him answer my question. I asked him about breaking into the film business, specifically screenwriting. He gave short, but thoughtful advice that I truly appreciated.

When the Q/A time came to a close, I stood in line and bought his memoir, getting one of the last three copies there. I then had him sign it. The batman symbol he drew was awesome! As he was drawing, I talked to him, telling him a little bit about how I grew up not being allowed to watch movies. He was encouraging and kind, and strangely answered that Wes Craven grew up the same way. I really wonder about that now.

From the post, you can also see that I got a picture with him. I have yet to think or imagine another moment in my life when I was as inspired to go after my passion like Michael Uslan did. With no connections to people, he still got to where he wanted to be. He kept his promise to himself to do what he wanted to, or to at least try, try, and try again, knowing he gave everything within himself to his dream. It’s neat to think that his life somewhat mirrors that of batman’s–he fell so many times, but he fought his demons. Now he’s rising.

So if you have yet to see The Dark Knight Rises, look for Michael Uslan’s name in the credits. And when you do, think about how I got to meet him up and close and personal, and get to talk to him about achieving dreams. It’s people like Michael Uslan rather than actors or celebrities, that I look at and call successful, because it wasn’t a name or connection or physical appearance that got him to where he wanted to be. His drive and determination and desire to fulfill his dreams were what got him to where he is now. And possibly the coolest part about it all? He said people were looking into the film rights for his memoir. Keep a look out for that one, folks.

I couldn’t help but find it most appropriate to be posting about the executive producer of the Batman films with The Dark Knight Rises opening this weekend. I’ll be leaving to see the film in less than four hours.

I can’t wait.

Favorite Five Films of 2012 (January–June)

I’ve been seeing some of these posts pop up on friends’ sites, so I decided to add my own. I actually have found the first half of 2012 to be relatively uneventful and dull at the movies. There have been just a few hits that I’ve seen, and even fewer films that have resonated with me. I really see the 2012 movie year starting in July as not only big films like The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight Rises arrive on the scene, but also films like the next slice of the Bourne series hits theaters; the Total Recall reboot; the end of the Twilight mess series; the next movie featuring Viola Davis (Won’t Back Down); Tom Hooper’s sophomore Oscar attempt/highly anticipated musical, Les Miserables; Quentin Taratino’s next big looks-to-be-a-hit Django Unchained; Leo DiCaprio’s latest attempt at getting recognized by the Academy/major book-to-film adaptation (The Great Gatsby), and many, many more films I have left out.

Unfortunately, I have missed out on a few films that I think could have made this list, namely The GreySalmon Fishing in the YemenMy Sister’s Sister (geez, big year for Emily Blunt, eh?), Being Flynn, and Moonrise Kingdom (this is killing me as I’m typing this–wish I would have seen this while it was in theaters).

Honorable Mentions

The Woman in Black — You can see my post on play and film comparisons/contrasts.

This Means War — While the film was silly and thoughtless in parts, it was entertaining to watch throughout.

Five Year Engagement — The Sesame Street impersonations were worth the admission price.

5) The Hunger Games

This movie makes it on the list for a lack of better options. From a film perspective, it had its issues, but was very moving and done well in enough parts that I was able to get sucked into the story. The supporting cast performances really held the film together, and Jennifer Lawrence owned the lead role.

4) 21 Jump Street

Some of the best movies tend to be unexpected, and with leading dudes Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, expectations were flying especially low in my mind. However, the film exceeded many film critics’ opinions as well, landing a high score on Rotten Tomatoes. It was hilarious, it was well-acted, it was entertaining, and it had one great cameo in it. I look forward to watching this again.

3) The Avengers

I won’t admit to the number of times I saw The Avengers in theaters, but it’s safe to say that I loved the film. Great direction and writing from Joss Whedon lended itself nicely to the collaboration of multiple superheros sharing the screen in a project that clearly took years to fully develop. Hilarious and action-packed, The Avengers fed comic book and movie geeks alike the pure geekdom on screen that we crave.

2) Friends with Kids

loved this movie. It was so unexpected and underrated for how hilarious and touching it was. Jennifer Westfeldt wrote, directed, and starred in this film, and she deserves some serious recognition for accomplishing those feats. Westfeldt and Adam Scott shared a natural chemistry on screen, and the duo provided a fresh perspective to an idea that, while appearing impulsive and clumsy on the surface, really works well for a film.

1) Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Perhaps I’m still on a high from seeing this film a little over a week ago, but I have yet to get the film out of my head. I’m already wanting to see it again. I’ve already downloaded half the songs from the soundtrack. This movie is a fun, thought-provoking treat from the hands of rookie director Lorene Scafaria. It’s heartfelt, it’s sweet, it’s funny, and it’s entirely worth watching in my humble opinion.

OK, what has been your favorite film of the year so far? What do you think of my favorites? Any hidden gems from the first half of the year that you’d recommend I see?

Three Final Weeks of Movies

I was a little inspired after seeing Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and I thought it would be a cool to ask myself–and all of you out there–the following questions:

What movie would you watch if you had only 3 weeks left to live?

Dodge and Penny had only 3 weeks left, and obviously they didn’t watch any movies. Look, I get it. If you had three weeks left to live, you would probably be spending it with friends and family, not watching movies. But let’s take all other factors out of the equation–if you had only three weeks left to watch any movies, which ones would they be?

What would be your final 3?

Looking at the upcoming 3 weeks on the calendar, which theater movies would you shell out cash to see?

I think back to an early episode of The Office when Ryan started the fire, and the whole office had to wait outside. Jim started a game of, “If you were on an island, what movies/book/etc would you take with you? Dwight typically doesn’t get involved in these childish games, but when Jim questions him about what book, this is Dwight’s response:

Dwight is all about survivor mode. Good for him.

OK, here are my answers:

What movie would you watch if you had only 3 weeks left to live, and why that movie? 
Well,  I’m not all about “survivor mode” like Dwight, so I’ll be far less conventional and just pick a film I love: Elizabethtown. (For regular readers, this is no surprise.) I would have chosen (500) Days of Summer, because it currently sits as my favorite film. However, since I’m pretty close to death, I’d like to end on a happier note. And those of you who have seen (500) Days know that it does end kind of on a happy note–one of hope. And that’s a little ironic considering there’s little hope left if a meteor were to crash into the earth.

What would be your final 3?
If I had to choose 3 movies as my last 3 movies to ever see, they would be The Artist, Inception, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

Looking at the upcoming 3 weeks on the calendar, which theater movies would you shell out cash to see?
This is an easy answer–The Dark Knight Rises, of course!

OK, people, it’s your turn. There are no wrong answers, so don’t be shy. Dr. Horrible is one of my final three, so you have no reason to be embarrassed by any of your answers! What movie would you watch if you had only 3 weeks left to live, and why? What would be your final 3 movies you could watch? And looking at the upcoming 3 weeks on the calendar, which theater movies would you shell out cash to see?

Roger Ebert, Film Criticism, and Writing

I had no plans to blog about film criticism or review, about Roger Ebert, or about blogging. But then again, I read that today is Roger Ebert’s 70th birthday, and thought I ought to pay the man homage in the only way I know how: talk about film criticism.

Gary Susman wrote a fascinating article about Ebert on MovieFone, titled “Roger Ebert at 70: Did He Save or Destroy Film Criticism?” (I highly recommend you movie buffs read it.) And instead of regurgitating the article to you here, there are a couple interesting points that Susman brings up that I’d like to discuss. He inserts Ebert only part of the time, primarily talking about how film criticism and review differ, whether film criticism is dead, and essentially, the roots of film criticism, with Ebert’s almighty thumb heading it–and now all his fingers typing away to keep the film criticism wheel turning.

Susman does all of us a favor and differentiates between film review and criticism. Take a look:

“There’s a lot of confusion over the difference between reviewing and criticism, and what each ought to be, or that there even is a difference. It’s a distinction that confuses even many critics and reviewers. One way to look at it is this: reviewing is a consumer service, directed toward people who haven’t seen the film yet, telling them whether or not it’s worth their money. Criticism is an analysis of a movie for people who’ve already seen it, part of the never-ending conversation that exists about each film. Reviewing is based on the (perceived) taste of your audience or readership; criticism is based on your own taste. “

I agree with the unfortunate thought that Susman makes on criticism in general today: it’s based on one’s own taste. It’s a popular thing to have an opinion and to be independently-minded today. Being learned and educated on a topic isn’t nearly as popular. Many readers and consumers today don’t seek enough counsel, review the options, or consider the possibility that words or products are(n’t) accurate today, depending on the source of the words or product.

I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say this, but perhaps the choir could use a little preaching once in a while. My opinion and your opinion don’t lack importance, but rather, are often based too much on the importance in which we place upon our own opinions. Each of us is a little voice in this loud and crazy world called the “Internet,” and I daresay that your voice and my voice do matter and have value. My point, however, is that is all that our voices have become today: opinions. An opinion about this movie, an opinion about the music, the acting, the visuals in this or that film.

And I would believe that to be a neutral thing. It’s neither bad nor good that an opinion is just that: an opinion. But when does a person’s opinion become just another voiceless blog in the Internet crowd, and does it matter whether it attains to be more than that?

An old friend and I used to joke about how many views we would get on our sites. He has an entirely different site than I have–a photography one, and he doesn’t score nearly as many views on average as I do. But how many of my views are from search engines, and how many are from actual people? I brag on my film blog community–it’s the first time I think I’ve ever had a voice on the Internet. He expresses himself via photos, while I use words on a specific topic: film. What I’ve learned is that in the beginning, being heard is far more important than influence. Because in order to influence at all, you first have to be heard.

Roger Ebert would never be such a huge voice of influence, previously on TV and now on the Internet, until he got his start at age 16 as a copywriter, living in an entirely different time and world than what today’s world has become. And not only us lowly film bloggers aspire to write about film the way he does. So do the other critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Ya know, the ones we’ve never heard of, but tend to grab attention when they disagree with the mass and purposefully write some cynical review in order to gain an audience? Susman lays it out.

“Unfortunately, what the inevitable copycats took away were the elements that made for good spectacle on TV: the pithy verdict and the heated rhetoric. Pretty soon, movie reviewing on television — and in print — was something anyone with an opposable thumb could do. Audiences became lazy, demanding no more of their reviewers than thumbs-up or thumbs-down. So newspaper editors and TV news producers filled reviewer jobs with people who lacked Siskel and Ebert’s qualifications or love of movies. (You can’t imagine news bosses hiring political pundits or sports commentators just on the basis of gushing fandom or snark, but that’s often how they hire movie reviewers.) Even in magazines that prided themselves on the literary quality of their prose, reviewing and criticism became acts of performance, meant to show off the writer’s erudition and wit rather than to engage the movie on its own terms.”

Speaking for myself and the friends I have made on the blogosphere, I believe I speak in truth when I say that we write because we love the movies. We love the analytical process of peeling apart each element of a film and putting it back together again, the creative process of understanding how each part of a film makes it a whole, and the enjoyably lazy process of escaping into a film and not thinking a single intelligent thought for a full two hours.

We notice the little details and appreciate the inspiration books have had on film. We make fun of the Kristen Stewarts and Katherine Heigls and we never forget the scenes in the movies that make us hold back a few tears so our friends don’t think we’re weird for crying. We love movies because they’re complicated and full of complexity, and at their foundation, are just simple entertainment that are fun to watch.

I’ve watched Ebert on his TV show since I can remember, and when he lost his ability to talk, I arduously followed his regular column on the Chicago Sun-Times. I still do, probably like many of you. Ebert believes that we live in “the golden age of movie critics.” Everything has moved on to blogging. When I first read that, I thought, Oh no, that must be a bad thing. Ebert doesn’t think so. Perhaps because he’s found some film blogs out there worth his time. In his article about this golden age, he praises many of the young critics he has found. In fact, he even offers great advice, first given by a friend of his named David Thompson, about whether or not a person with a love and interest in film, ought to pursue a career in it. Both Thompson and Ebert reached the same conclusion, summed up in one line:

“Don’t train for a career–train for a life.”

I’ve also often read and heard the popular cliche that you must write what you know. WordPress offers lots of cute little ditties after you publish a post, often some general and witty quotes about writing. I don’t remember the exact quote, but I do remember the gist of one of the sayings went along the lines of, “the greatest ideas for writing come to you not when you’re sitting down at your desk, but when you’re out living.”

I couldn’t agree more. I started blogging way back when because I loved writing. I didn’t know what I wanted to write about then, so my posts were much more limited. Even on days when I’m facing a little bit of writer’s block, I’m assured that tomorrow or next week, I’ll have something to write about, because the film world keeps turning. It doesn’t stop. And I love that aspect about writing and blogging as well. There will always be something to write about. There will always be something to blog about. And when I need inspiration, I turn to my friends’ blogs, and I read Roger Ebert’s blog, and wonder if someday I’ll be able to write to the level he does. I guess it’s not so important to be able to write like one of the world’s top film critics. As a writer, as long as you write about what you love, what else matters?

If My Life Were a Movie

What if your life were a . . .  movie?

OK, I agree . . . that’s a highly implausible possibility, but who says we can’t be dreamers? I’m not one for self-indulgence, but every now and then, it’s fun to imagine what my life would be like if it were a movie . . .

Cast List

Female Lead (playing me)

  • First choice: Emma Stone
  • Second choice: Anna Kendrick
Reason for choices: No actress who is my age has handled dorkiness (House Bunny), drama (The Help), or comedy (Superbad) better than Emma Stone. She’s miles prettier than I am, but I couldn’t imagine anyone else able to play me. My second choice is Anna Kendrick because she’s great at playing awkward. And well, sometimes, I am just awkward.

Male Lead (playing opposite me)

  • First choice: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Second choice: John Krasinski
Reason for choices: Who else but Joseph Gordon-Levitt? I love him in every film he’s in. I think he brings something new and fresh to the table in all of his roles. That, and he’s hot. John Krasinski looks like the everyday guy that almost any girl wouldn’t mind falling in love with. I know I wouldn’t mind.

Dear ‘Ol Dad

  • First choice: Colin Firth
  • Second choice: Steve Carell
Reason for choices:  After seeing Colin Firth in What a Girl Wants, I knew I would be perfectly fine if he were my dad. On the other hand, Steve Carell is an entirely different choice. He can make the littlest things entertaining, yet he still has an endearing side to him that would make him an excellent father figure.

Mother Dearest

  • First choice: Susan Sarandon
  • Second choice: Meryl Streep
Reason for choices: It’s hard to describe what it is about Susan Sarandon that assures me she would make the perfect mom. She just seems like she’d be an awesome, fun mom. Meryl Streep is my second choice–I think I’d like her just for all her cooking in Julie & Julia, even though Julia’s a character. She seems like someone who’d have a lot of wisdom to offer.

Really Strange, But Awesome Sibling

  • First choice: Andy Samberg
  • Second choice: Adam Scott
Reason for choices: Andy Samberg embodies “strange, but awesome,” in my opinion. He has a bit of a douchey side to him in most movies he’s been in, yet he’s hilarious as heck on Saturday Night Live. Between Parks and Rec and Friends with Kids, I could only imagine Adam Scott as the perfect second choice to play a funny, but awesome older brother character.  

Crazy Uncle

  • First choice: Jim Carrey
  • Second choice: Jack Black
Reason for choices: Jim Carrey is known to be one crazy, hilarious dude, although I think he has a great handle on dramas too. He’s great at playing a variety of characters. Is it really necessary for me to explain either of my choices in this category? You tell me!

Villain of the Story

  • First choice: Ryan Seacrest
  • Second choice: Kristen Stewart
Reason for choices: Ryan Seacrest may sound like a nutty first choice for the villain, but one has to imagine he has to have some anger and frustration from hosting American Idol. Plus, I’d love to see the guy let loose and go crazy. Kristen Stewart . . . she already has the face down. She looks angry at the world.

Comic Relief

  • First choice: Aziz Ansari
  • Second choice: Neil Patrick Harris
Reason for choices: Aziz Ansari is hilarious. Few will ever deny this. Although I had a rather late introduction to him (30 Minutes or Less), he is comedy gold. From being an avid fan of How I Met Your Mother, I’ve learned that Neil Patrick Harris is one of the funniest dudes out there. Either making cameos or playing some small role as comic relief would be awesome.

Director

  • First choice: Marc Webb
  • Second choice: Nancy Meyers
  • Third choice: Cameron Crowe
Reason for choices: I’m still really all over the place with who I would choose as director. Hence, why I chose three different people. Marc Webb is responsible for directing one of my favorite movies of all time, and many of you already know what that is–(500) Days of Summer. For someone to incorporate that much reality into a film, with well-developed characters, yet somehow still include a musical dance number and make a film as endearing as it is? I can’t imagine a better director. Nancy Meyers is another fun choice because I’ve very much enjoyed several of her films, especially The Holiday and It’s Complicated. I think she really knows how to make a full, in-depth film with a female protagonist without making it feel too chick-flicky or overly romantic. She seems to be one of the few female directors out there who really has a specific vision, and when you see the film, you know that it’s a Nancy Meyers film. My final choice is Cameron Crowe. He would have been my first choice if I thought he could incorporate more comedy, but I see Crowe as a director who has a lot of heart and definitely some drama. And that’s what I love about him.

Film Composer

  • First choice: Hans Zimmer
  • Second choice: Nancy Wilson
  • Third choice: Henry Jackman
Reason for choices: Hans Zimmer is a master. He’s brilliant at developing new, ear-catching themes that outlast even some of the films he has scored for. Ultimately, Zimmer is my first choice to score a film. Nancy Wilson, although more of a rocker with far less experience, is still a talented musician with the ability to create a beautiful score, such as her work for Elizabethtown. Henry Jackman may sound like a strange third choice–I mean, why shouldn’t I choose someone far more experienced, like James Newton Howard or Alan Silvestri or Danny Elfman, all of whom I love? Jackman may has less experience, but he’s great at what he does. And he’s newer to the film score drawing board, similarly matching myself in that I’m still young. After falling in love with his work on X-Men: First Class score, I decided he would be a great back-up plan.

Theme Song

  • First choice: “Uncharted,” by Sara Bareilles
  • Second choice: “Ironic,” by Alanis Morisette
Reason for choices: I’m not as great as coming up with a good theme song. Instead of thinking long and hard about it, I just picked a couple songs in my library that I like a lot. I think both songs describe a lot of my own feelings about my life, so that’s helpful. I guess I could have chosen “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness. Wahaha.

Genre

  • Primary genre: Comedy
  • Secondary genre: Drama
  • Optional addition: Musical number
Reason for choices: No matter how I look at my life, through the big highs and lows, there always seems to be someone who finds things about me hilarious. I’ve always been attracted to people with a good sense of humor, comedy TV shows and movies, and I’ve even attended a small share of stand-up comedy.

What can I say? Sometimes I think the greatest escape to reality is surrounding yourself with people and media that can make you laugh. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve also had my share of drama. And I mean, honestly, whose life doesn’t at least have a little unwanted drama in it? And just because I love musicals so much, I think there just has to be musical number thrown in, just for good measure.

I tried to think of some nifty titles, but nothing came to mind. So I guess all of THAT will just have to do. I must admit, I had a tons of fun putting this together. So now, it’s YOUR turn, people!

If your life were a movie, who would you cast as yourself? and opposite you? Any specific director or cinematographer or costume designer you’d demand? What kind of genre would it be? Share it, or copy and paste mine and fill it in with your own choices! Add and take away what people you would include. What do you think of my choices? 

Five Memorable Courtroom Scenes

I feel like I should be writing a “Phenomenal 5” post for Keith of Keith and the Movies, who is currently keeping it real in none other than Paris, France right now. However, inspiration for this post spurned from finally getting around to a little movie called To Kill a Mockingbird. How I have not seen it until now comes as a great surprise to me too. But what’s the line? Oh, right, “better late than never.”

Placed in no purposeful order, here are five memorable courtroom scenes in movies.

To Kill a Mockingbird

The courtroom scene in To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most intense and emotional scenes in the film. We hear statements from all the witnesses, and Brock Peters, who plays Tom Robinson, gives a heartfelt, honest account of what really happened. Following all the witness accounts, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) challenges the jury to do the right thing, concluding his speech with the famous words, “In the name of GOD, do your duty. In the name of God, believe Tom Robinson.”

Legally Blonde

This list would not be complete without including Legally Blonde. Dressed head to toe in her theme color, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) takes on the role of lawyer and solves a case that a girl cut only from the cloth of an Elle Woods type would know. Too bad they went ahead and made a sequel. That was a disaster waiting to happen. And that isn’t me being biased because I’m a brunette, k?

Miracle on 34th Street

What’s more memorable than a lawyer arguing the realness of Santa Clause in court? I actually really enjoyed both the original 1947 film as well as the 1994 remake. You can’t help but feel a little warm and giddy inside when men start carrying all the mail addressed to Santa into the courthouse, or not crack up a little when the opposing lawyer’s son is used to support the existence of good ‘ol Saint Nick.

A Few Good Men

The line “You can’t handle the truth” is one of the most well-known lines to come from a film, delivered by a deliciously slimy and arrogant Jack Nicholson. The back and forth between Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) engrosses viewers as Kaffee defends innocent men on trial who were following orders. A Few Good Men is one of my favorite Tom Cruise films, and I believe it makes up some of his best work.

Liar Liar

If you’ve seen Liar Liar, it’s practically impossible to forget the courtroom scene from the movie. Fletcher Reed (Jim Carrey) is forced to tell the truth, and well, being a lawyer . . . that doesn’t make easy for your job, especially someone who lies as often as he does. The physical comedy Carrey is able to produce is incomparable, and while over the top, is hilarious and very much a trademark of Carrey’s acting.

What are your favorite courtroom scenes? Which ones are the most memorable to you, and why?