23 February 2009

Oscar recap

81st Annual Academy Awards

The producers of the 81st Annual Academy Awards, presented Sunday night at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, promised big changes this year. And they mostly made good on that pledge.

Hugh Jackman, best known for portraying the surly mutant Wolverine in the X-Men movies but a song-and-dance man on the stage, was an inspired choice as host. His good nature and enthusiasm seemed to spread throughout the room from the moment he took stage. The show could have used more of him as it plodded on toward midnight.

No matter how many entertaining bits it has, the show is still too long, coming in this year at about three and a half hours—10 minutes longer than last year. Cutting an hour would make it a much more manageable length.

20 February 2009

Oscar preview

This year, the Oscars go to India.

Not literally—the 81st Annual Academy Awards will be presented Sunday night at the usual spot, the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. But the frontrunner for the top prize is Slumdog Millionaire, British director Danny Boyle’s film, set and shot in India, about a young man (Dev Patel) from the slums of Mumbai who becomes a contestant on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Nominated for 10 awards and having been honored repeatedly during the last few months (including best picture from the Golden Globes, best director from the Director’s Guild, best picture from the Producer’s Guild and best cast from the Screen Actor’s Guild), Slumdog is the safe bet for best picture, director and adapted screenplay Sunday night.

12 February 2009

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th

Sex, drugs, decapitation, a young woman burned alive—all before we even see the words Friday the 13th on the screen.

This re-imagining of the classic 1980 slasher movie has everything fans of the series would expect. And it’s made with more care and keeps a much firmer grip on reality than most of the sequels churned out throughout the ’80s.

Rather than a straight remake of the original Friday the 13th—we see Mrs. Voorhees (Nana Visitor) only in a short prologue, in which we learn she has killed all but one of the Camp Crystal Lake counselors following her son’s drowning and see her demise at the hands of the lone survivor—screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift (Freddy Vs. Jason) borrow elements from several of the earlier movies. The result is a film that feels both new and familiar—an admirable achievement, whether you’re a fan of this kind of movie or not.

Welcome back, slashers

Jason Voorhees, everyone’s favorite machete-wielding, teenager-killing, masked madman, is back. And he’s joining other familiar faces—Leatherface, Michael Myers—at the slasher movie revival party.

Friday the 13th, a re-imagining of the 1980 film that introduced moviegoers to Camp Crystal Lake, hits theaters today, the latest in a long line of what Roger Ebert derisively refers to as “Dead Teenager Movies.”

The filmmakers, however, have deep affection for their source material.

“The greatest thing about the films was the experience of sitting in a theater with other people and being scared out of my mind,” producer Brad Fuller said of the previous Friday the 13th movies. “I went to a summer camp in Maine and one of the big reasons most people get so scared watching the films is because so many of us have had a summer camp experience or have gone camping.”

07 February 2009

The Wrestler

The Wrestler

What do you do when one thing is all you know? If you're actor Mickey Rourke or aging pro wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson, you keep doing it, even if no one is watching—and, in the Ram's case, even if it means putting your life on the line.

The parallels between actor and character in Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" are uncanny. One ultimately finds redemption; for the other, it's difficult to say.

The enlightened among us will say pro wrestling is "fake." Indeed, much about Randy is fabricated. His bleach-blonde hair? The result of regular dye jobs. His bronzed skin? Tanning beds do the work. His muscles, still bulging two decades past his prime? A virtual smorgasbord of steroids runs through his veins. His real name? Robin Ramzinski.