Merry Christmas and happy holidays from The Best Picture Project. Enjoy time with family, friends, good food and good movies. May I suggest A Christmas Story?
One of the biggest trilogies of the new millennium came to a close over this year. Since the summer of 2005, Christopher Nolan has taken the comic book based film genre into a higher sense of realism than it had ever seen. Though these films are far from kid friendly, audiences have embraced the newest depiction of Gotham’s caped crusader.
The films work well individually as well as in one unit. Each has its own story involving a main villain trying to destroy Gotham in his own way. Scarecrow, The Joker and Bane, if you want to use their common comic book villain names, keep pushing the stakes for Batman/Bruce Wayne higher with each film. If you watch closely, the city of Gotham grows and changes film to film with the characters. On top of that, I believe each film has an individual theme tying everything together; fear, chaos and pain, respectively.
Join me, if you will, as I review and celebrate each of these three great films and one amazing trilogy.
When The Descent was first released to theaters, I was a lowly popcorn sweep at a local cinema. During some slow evenings, I would quietly watch at the side of the theaters, hidden in the shadows. It was the best spot to watch the audience and The Descent was one of the best movies to check out their reactions. I saw people jump, scream, and cover their faces cringing at the terror on the screen. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the entire film in theaters, but alone on my couch on a sunny morning. Some of my reactions made those squirmish people in the theater look brave.
The Descent is about a group of adventurous British women. The film opens with a white water rafting trip. While the actual rafting is a success, the ride home ends in tragedy for Sarah (Shauna Macdonald). A year later, the same trio of friends, plus a few new ones, get together to explore an Appalachian cave. They seem competent and confident in their spelunking abilities, but soon things start to go wrong. And in the darkness, lurks creatures that are waiting to attack.
This may be one of the very few films around that stars only women and makes them all very badass and strong. The night before their cave exploration, they hang out in their cabin, but it’s not a stereotypical girls night in. They drink beer, smoke, cuss and don’t braid each others hair or have pillow fights in their underwear. When trouble arises, they’re rightly scared but do not crumble. The whole story could be the same if this were a group of men, and I love that.
Alone in my own home, I have never felt so ridiculous and scared. Anyone who doesn’t jump at all to The Descent has either seen it too many times or lived it. There are a lot of very tense moments in exploring the cave that had me on the edge of my seat in fear and anticipation. Other moments just scared the shit out of me. At one point, I jumped to violently I knocked my laptop off the couch. Never done that before; it was amazing and so fun!
The Descent makes excellent use of darkness and small spaces. Once deep inside the cave, the only light sources are the helmet lights, flashlights and the occasional flare or glow-stick. There is so much around the characters that they cannot see, at one point that delivers one of the biggest shockers. Some of the passages the women shimmy through are ridiculously small. The camera gives us perfect vantage points to see how tight and narrow some places are. It gave me a very nerve wracking feeling of claustrophobia.
One creative way to show us more terrors in cave is the use of a handheld camera, on night vision mode. In pitch black moments, one of the characters will hold the camera and see the surroundings on the screen. At one point we discover that they are walking over piles of bones. The best camera moment is a very up close encounter with one of the cave creatures.
I love caves and before seeing this movie, I would have gone spelunking in a heartbeat. Mind you, the amateur kind, with a tour guide and all, but still. After The Descent, being in a cave screams bad idea and nightmares to boot! The tight passages and risk of cave ins feel all too real and claustrophobic. Even though you can tell me there are no creepy albino monsters lurking around, I’ll still see them creeping in the darkness.
“Hey, there’s something down here…”
Fellow film bloggers Ian, Fogs and PG Cooper have been discussing different directors for a few months now in their Director Talk series. I’ve been a big fan since their first talk about James Cameron. Naturally, I was thrilled when they invited me to be a guest in their latest talk. The topic, the notorious Quentin Tarantino! I had a ton of fun talking Tarantino with the guys. You can read the entire talk here at PG Cooper’s Movie Reviews. Thanks again Ian, Fogs and Cooper.
Fandango Groovers has thought of yet another amazing idea for a blogathon: My Movie Year. Really, I have taken every year in terms of Oscar nominated films, but let me think about what was the best year of memorable movie experiences for me. I think I’ll have to go with 2005. You see, that summer I was 19, just about 20, and working at a movie theater all the time. When I wasn’t at the theater working around the movies, I was at home watching them with my family. And when the summer was over, I went back to college and became part of the films committee on the student union board. It was probably the first year I was surrounded by movies all the time. Here are some movie memories from my 2005.
Star Wars III Revenge of the Sith
Working at the theater, I was required to work at the midnight showing for last Star Wars movie. That night itself was a harrowing experience. So many people demanding popcorn and armed with plastic lightsabers. But one little perk that hardly anyone knows about, was that some of the workers got to see the new Star Wars before anyone was even lining up in Jedi robes. Wednesday evening, we all stayed after work and watched it, technically so that we could make sure the film was put together by our manager properly. And being a huge Star Wars fan, it was just awesome. I remember driving home around 3 a.m., in my junky old truck looking up at the moon and thinking about how I was one of the few people that had already seen the last Star Wars movie. I was so giddy with excitement and it made my little brother so jealous.
War of the Worlds
This was another movie I stayed late to watch before it was officially out in theaters. Since I wasn’t regularly reading about upcoming movies yet, I was completely unaware of nearly everything about to happen. That first loud noise from the tripods nearly scared the crap out of me, and I loved it. When I took my brother and sister to see it (free tickets were what I lived for then) my brother was so freaked out at one scene he hid his face and cried. I love reminding him of that today. And all summer, I kept track of each theater, so I could watch the audience during certain scenes in the film. I still love watching a packed house jump.
Walk the Line
This came out in the fall, my mom and sister dying to see it. I still got free tickets and walked right in like I owned the place. Growing up on country music, I immediately loved the soundtrack. This was one of the first movies I really started to notice a great acting performance. I could really believe Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. There was real pain in her face and voice, and the way she carried on and tried to restrain is was perfect and heart wrenching. This was one of the first years I was really excited about the acting categories at the Oscars.
In my review, I already talked about my parents warning me against seeing this movie, only too late. The story behind seeing it is a little slap-dash, but fun. My roommate and I were simply bored one weekend night. We thought about seeing whatever the student union board was playing (were were both members of the films committee) but decided instead to drive into town and see Brokeback Mountain. On the way there, I made the realization outloud, “You realize we could have walked ten minutes and seen a movie for free, but instead we’re driving twenty minutes and paying eight bucks to see a movie about gay cowboys, right?” I believe my roommate said something along the lines of, “And that’s what makes us awesome.”
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
What makes this movie memorable was the way I perfectly and accidentally ruined a possible date for two friends of mine in college. But hey, if you nonchalantly ask a group of people if they want to see Harry Potter tomorrow and are casually trying to score a date with just one person, do you homework and make sure everyone else is going to be busy. I got the stink-eye from my guy friend for a while, but I didn’t care, I snuck in some candy, sat myself in the middle and had a fun time. All awkwardness has since been forgiven.
What’s your movie year?
The re-release of Titanic in 3D has been going strong for over a week and I had enough willpower to resist it, until Friday. Who was I kidding? I was in the middle of Titanic’s centennial and I love both the history and epic movie. Besides, back in good ol’ 1997 I saw Titanic in both a regular theater and in IMAX, I just had to add 3D to the list. Now, I’ll level with you; the 3D here isn’t as great as it was in Hugo, but for a movie not originally set in 3D it ain’t too shabby. But rest assured James Cameron, if you plan ahead and set up a 50th anniversary re-release in 2047 in 5D holographic smell-o-vision, I hope to get my wrinkly old self in to see it again.
In case you have been on the fence about seeing Titanic in 3D, here are some of the main reasons that make it all worth it.
10. If My Heart Will Go On really is your favorite song in the world. You shouldn’t tell anyone that, but that is a good excuse to see Titanic.
9. Kate Winslet’s boobs. Though the 3D didn’t really enhance them, they’re still a cornerstone of film nudity. For my generation, they were probably the first set we saw outside of a health video.
8. If you were too young to see Titanic back in the wilds of 1997. Now is your time tweens!
7. That shot where the hallway seems to explode from the water rushing all over. The 3D gimmick works particularly well there.
6. When the ship breaks in half and the stern smashes into the water, crushing people below.
5. That guy that hits the propeller. Anyone who’s seen Titanic knows which guy I’m talking about.
4. That final minute as the stern of the ship is sucked under. The new sense of depth added is most thrilling here.
3. The last half hour of the ship sinking. That’s where the 3D pulls some magic.
2. To teach kids that Titanic was a real event. Really, this is just sad.
1. If you just have a real love for the movie, experiencing it again is totally worth it.
With The Academy Awards ceremony last night, my Oscar predictions were busted. While I was rooting for Hugo the whole time (and for a while things were looking good for Scorsese and the gang), I’m very happy for The Artist and all those involved with our new Best Picture winner.
Anyway, let’s do a quick wrap-up on where my predictions went wrong:
While Viola Davis had all the hype in the running for Best Actress, it was finally Meryl Streep’s time to shine again. It had nearly been 30 years since her win, as lead actress in Sophie’s Choice. With 13 Oscar nominations between then and now, the win is well overdue.
Hugo took both sound categories. Looking back, that feels like the obvious choice. I’d like to say my eyes were too engrossed to let my ears realize the Oscar quality.
Film editing went to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which seemed to surprise everyone, including the recipients.
For both Director and Picture, I went against the hype and with my heart on Scorsese and his film, Hugo. That was also a way to play it safe, for 6 years now Director and Picture have gone to the same film, and I was not expecting the Academy to really pick a foreign and independent film. Nonetheless, I’m happy to see Michel Hazanavicius win Best Director and The Artist win Best Picture.
But wait, not only has a black and white, silent film from France just won Best Picture, but this is the first time since 1986 that The Academy Awards have agreed with The Independent Spirit Awards. Indie films have been making headway for years, especially in the past decade at the Oscars. Perhaps a change in the wind is coming in Hollywood. I look forward to seeing what surprises lie ahead.