Scourge and Transparency

The Rise and Fall of Advanced Social Journalism during the Early Twenty-First Century

Archive for January 2009

Chris Nolan is a fine filmmaker who should be rewarded for his artistic achievement

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…and other critiques of the ’09 Oscar nods.

Apparently an African American is now the President of the United States of America but not surprisingly my interests are elsewhere – on Hollywood. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced their 2009 nominations and the winners will be broadcast on the 22nd of February. My beefs with this year’s picks go all the way from the big boy – best picture – down to favourite score.

2008’s movies, I believe, pale greatly in comparison to 2007. There was a solid junk of truly entertaining and cinematic films produced that year and The Academy did a pretty decent job of recognizing (at least with mostly nominations) the film achievements of P.T. Anderson (although I would argue There Will Be Blood is better than No Country for Old Men), The Coen Brothers as well as the creators of Michael Clayton. However in ’07 they did leave out some fantastically unique films – Zodiac, The Savages, The Darjeeling Limited and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead being the best among them.

As we enter a new year I look back on 2008 and see it as a period of blockbusters. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, Ironman, Hulk and Quantum of Solace were all big hits at the box office and theatrically entertaining movies. However, the film that was not only the highest grossing movie of the year but second only to Titanic in total US gross in the history of motion pictures is, of course, The Dark Knight.

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Director/Producer/Writer Christopher Nolan broke down countless barriers that go along with the many genres that the Batman sequel is a part of. Firstly, it is probably the only widely excepted sequel, besides The Godfather Part Two, that is better than the first. Secondly, never has an action movie had such a great cast (Aaron Eckhart and Christian Bale need mention here because Heath Ledger’s justified attention has over-shadowed their parts). Thirdly, it proved that a comic book movie could be more that just a summer blockbuster – it can be an intellectually profound piece of cinema. In fact, The Dark Knight’s greatest achievement is that it is one of the few films to have the distinction of being a huge hit as well as respected cinema.

Unfortunately the Liberal Hollywood Elite has very short memories. As many of you know The Academy rarely recognizes films with a release date prior to October of the year in question. The movie that esteemed film critic Richard Roeper called “a near masterpiece” received no major nominations outside of Best-Supporting Actor. Even James Newton Howard & Hans Zimmer’s outstanding score was not garnered with a nod. The Dark Knight soundtrack, like the movie itself, has a memorable and engrossing feeling that is equally stimulating when listened to separately from the film. Chris Nolan for Directing Achievement, as well as Best Picture has been pushed aside for the likes of Ron Howard and Frost/Nixon. This is an academy that gave not only Best-Picture nominations for all three Lord of Rings movies but voted The Return of the King the best motion picture of 2003. Don’t get me wrong I am fan of the Lord of Rings series but I think most people would agree that there are shots and scenes in The Dark Knight that are on a much higher level than anything in the whole Middle Earth series.

One of probable reasons for the recognition of Lord of Rings was its’ presence at the box-office. The Academy reacted partly to the response the movie got from the public at large. I would argue this same reasoning was responsible for Titanic’s achievement for Best Picture in ’97. Remember that the same year Titanic won we saw both L.A. Confidential and Good Will Hunting being left in the dust. And in the year of King The Academy chose Peter Jackson over Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Maybe the mentioned losers were too “arty” for the Oscars. But The Dark Knight didn’t even get nominated for Best Picture/Director and it is arguably better than most of the big Oscar picks this year.

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I have seen four of the five movies currently nominated for Best Picture – excluding The Reader. All I would say are at least good but none are truly great. Frost/Nixon is hugely overrated, although an interesting story and great performance by the actor playing Nixon, Ron Howard’s mockumentary style is distracting and unnecessary. Slumdog Millionaire has great cinematography and a heart-warming story but it does not lead up to expectations. Benjamin Button is visually stimulating but dull in parts. Gus Van Sant’s Milk is probably the only one that comes close to being excellent. The Academy also left out acclaimed films Revolutionary Road and The Wrestler. Sam Mendes’ new Kate & Leo pic, although not fantastic, is one of my favourite movies of the year. Even though Winslet and DeCaprio were nominated for Golden Globes, both did not get much-deserved Oscar nods. I think Leo DeCaprio is starting to become a “Tom Cruise” type character – no matter how good he is in a movie nobody wants to give him the credit he deserves.

One move I agree with The Academy on was actor Michael Shannon nomination for a supporting role in Rev Road. However, this is the most crowded category this year: my man PSH for Doubt, Josh Brolin for Milk (what the fuck happened to W? Great movie!), for some reason Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder and Heath are all nominated for non-leading roles. I don’t understand the reason for RDJr’s nomination – if they wanted to give it to a comedic role it should definitely go to Mr. Gucci by Gucci himself – James Franco. Anyone who has every bought drugs will tell you his role in Pineapple Express was right on the money. And furthermore he was fan-flippin-tastic as Sean Penn’s love interest in Milk.

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In short, I think Slumdog is going get for it for Director/Picture and you’re going to see a lot of smiling faces on stage. Lead actor will go to Mickey Rourke, who was good but I lean more towards Sean Penn when it comes down to it. Leading lady I can’t say because I’ve only seen Doubt but I’d say the odds are on either Streep/Winslet. Supporting man is justifiably going to The Joker himself. Supporting lady is a toss up and I think they are all lovely. The screenplay awards I have no idea, maybe BB or Slumdog for adapted. And I’m almost certain The Dark Knight will win the other SEVEN awards it’s nominated for…hint…hint – it’s a good fucking movie!

This year The Academy especially left out a lot of good movies and good artists even considering it was a slow season as far as films go. TDK – best movie of the year, Doubt, Rev Road, Milk & The Wrestler honourable mentions but nowhere near the Caped Crusader.

Written by shanedantimo

January 27, 2009 at 5:55 am

Criticizing the Critics

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Watching Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and viewing the archival review by the Siskel and Ebert made clear that movie critics cannot always be trusted. People read commentary on movies to get an idea of whether a movie is good or bad, recommended or not, see it or skip it, thumbs up or thumbs down. It’s not an exact science but it usually comes down to either a positive or negative review. The problem with film critics is that their range is too broad and they are film scholars – not everyday moviegoers. They want every movie to be about something. No matter how many classic gags are in a movie if it doesn’t have message it’s a thumbs down. What critics don’t understand is that comedy movies are just there to make us a laugh and people who watch Billy Madison or Half Baked just want to see some funny shit happen, they’re not watching Adam Sandler light shit on fire to learn some sort of life lesson. Sure, sophisticated jokes and dramatic scenes can help make a comedy a better movie but they’re not always necessary. The At the Movies crew loved Knocked Up, Superbad and Tropic Thunder but they couldn’t recommend both Ace Ventura movies, the classic Happy/Madison duo and oddly enough Harold and Kumor 2 (although some how they liked the first one).

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Siskel and Ebert called both Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler annoying when they first saw their early work. Gene Siskel even compared the Ace Ventura character to Ernst from those Ernst goes wherever movies. People from my generation grew up watching and quoting classics like Dumb and Dumber and Happy Gilmore and after almost 15 years it still hasn’t gotten old. Even great, sophisticated, artistic, thought-provoking films can’t be watched over and over again like Super Troopers can. The point is that some comedies are a completely different class of entertainment; they are a pill you pop that just makes you laugh – nothing more, nothing less.
And as far as H&K goes why couldn’t they recommend part two if they thought so highly of the first one? They’re both equally funny and both criticize stereotypes. Part two even pokes fun at the overly authoritative; post-Patriot Act Bush government officials characterized by the hilarious Rob Corddry (in his best role since leaving The Daily Show).

The mainstream critics lack of insight for comedy movies makes me think there should a tomato-meter judged exclusively by people between the ages of 15 and 30 who have tried and enjoyed marijuana.

Written by shanedantimo

January 19, 2009 at 6:46 am

Why Tim Hortons is what’s wrong with the day-to-day activities of everyone in this nation

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Tim Hortons is definitely the most popular coffee shop in Canada. It offers inexpensive coffee and a wide array of other bake goods, sandwiches and soups. But it’s known primarily for its coffee. I think it costs around $1 -$1.75 for a cup (depending on the size). According to Wikipedia Timmy’s is Canada’s top food service operator – ahead of McDonalds. People line up every single day to get a hot cup of joe at their local (and there are many) Tim Hortons. This is the biggest waste of time and money conceivable and so many Canadians are willing victims of it. It’s coffee, it’s just fucking coffee! Not a hot meal, not a beer, not even a hand job. I am looking presently right at my coffee maker and coffee container, which was provided like many other young people living at home by my parents. I can make this shit for free! It takes seconds! I didn’t pay for gas; walk through the snow and use cash (some Tims don’t even take credit/debit) to get coffee from my Black and Decker 12 cup coffee maker. Even if I had personally paid the $30 for the coffee maker and the $10 for the coffee, the coffee maker will last a decade and the coffee last months – I would still be better off.

People go to this coffee shop everyday. That means these many Canadians on average pay $1.50 five times a week (excluding weekend visits and afternoon/evening purchases) 52 weeks a year. That equals $390 a year and this can go on for years and years and that doesn’t include the money it costs them to travel there and the time they are taking out of their day to go and pick up coffee. I’ve seen drive-throughs (god-forbid you turn off your car [it’s not like there is anything wrong with the environment] and walk 15 feet from your parking space to the restaurant) with at least 10 cars in a line up that could be waiting for at least 10 minutes for just effin coffee. It’s takes me 5 seconds to walk from my bedroom to the coffee maker and press a fucking button.

Tim’s coffee is not even great coffee. It tastes like the shit you make at home. The regular joe there is exactly like the stuff you have in your kitchen. And don’t give me this fresh bullshit, every store that provides coffee makes it fresh and any capable adult can make fresh coffee in their house. It’s not feat or any kind of amazement that the coffee is fresh – that is just a given. And don’t tell me you don’t have time to make coffee. It’s not like time does not exist when your go to Tim Hortons. How can you have time in the morning to travel and pay for coffee but not pour some water, scoop some coffee and press a button? Don’t piss on my shoe and tell me it’s raining, please. It’s not an orgasm, it’s a cup of coffee, you can do it whenever you want.

Now, I’ve drank this shit, under certain circumstance. People have bought me Tim Hortons or sometimes when I’m traveling and I need to have my morning/afternoon caffeine fix. That’s the thing; I’m addicted to coffee. I’m not a non-coffee drinker criticizing people that need to have coffee everyday; I drink at least 3 cups a day. I’m a coffee-addict criticizing other users that waste their money on the same shit they have in their kitchen.

And then there is this whole social aspect to it – “let’s go out for coffee!” – I don’t know…I don’t get it. Alcohol is a good thing to go out for – it is the social lubricate. But if getting intoxicated is not your bag then there’s food – everyone needs to eat. And yes, coffee is a simple and quick thing to have a conversation over. But why go to a place that charges you for shit that everyone in the Western World can make in their house. Why not really splerch and go to Starbucks or Second Cup and get a drink that tastes a lot better and you probably can’t get at home. SB and SC probably cost around double of what you pay for coffee at Tim Hortons, but that doesn’t make too much difference if you’ve saved hundreds of dollars by not traveling and purchasing Timmy’s everyday of your adult life. Plus in the winter Tim Hortons smells like shit with the wet muddy snow being dragged in.

Obviously the economic factors for avoiding Timmy’s are overwhelming, but let’s not forget the environmental factors. I will bet the cost of a college education that Tim Hortons is responsible for at least 1/3 of the litter in Canada. I worked at a park this summer and I picked up endless used coffee cups. And this was out in the boonies I can only imagine the amount of used Tim Hortons cups and packaging scattered around the streets of the big cities in Canada, or for that matter the public’s personal garbage that may consist heavily of Tim’s rubbish that just sits in land fills for generations.

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I grew up in the great city of Hamilton – the birthplace of the restaurant that eats and destroys the common sense of so many Canadians. Everyone could save hundreds, even thousands, of dollars over years of their lives and the environment would be a much better place if we all cut back on this incredibly avoidable activity that is Tim Hortons.

More of this complaining and commentary is to come…

Written by shanedantimo

January 11, 2009 at 12:00 am