Archive for February, 2011

Oscar Turnouts!

February 27, 2011 1 comment

Aaand the Oscars are over!  Here are the night’s results, with bolded movies predicted by either Apple or Orion.

Overall, Apple got 10 correct, and Orion got 9 correct.  See original prediction posts for correct ones.

1. Best Picture: “The King’s Speech.”
2. Actor: Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech.”
3. Actress: Natalie Portman, “Black Swan.”
4. Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, “The Fighter.”
5. Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, “The Fighter.”
6. Directing: Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech.” (Apple – I seriously thought David Fincher was going to take this one home.  As it was, “Social Network” barely got anything.)
7. Foreign Language Film: “In a Better World,” Denmark.
8. Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, “The Social Network.”
9. Original Screenplay: David Seidler, “The King’s Speech.” (Orion – not “Inception”?)
10. Animated Feature Film: “Toy Story 3.”
11. Art Direction: “Alice in Wonderland.”
12. Cinematography: “Inception.”
13. Sound Mixing: “Inception.”
14. Sound Editing: “Inception.”
15. Original Score: “The Social Network,” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
16. Original Song: “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3,” Randy Newman.
17. Costume Design: “Alice in Wonderland.”
18. Documentary Feature: “Inside Job.”
19. Documentary (short subject): “Strangers No More.”
20. Film Editing: “The Social Network.”
21. Makeup: “The Wolfman.”
22. Animated Short Film: “The Lost Thing.”
23. Live Action Short Film: “God of Love.”
24. Visual Effects: “Inception.”

Together, 13/24.  We missed a lot of the shorts, as well as the more specific categories.  Next year, everyone, next year!

Categories: Misc, Snap Judgment

Orion’s Oscar Predictions

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Update: Correct italicized.

In response to Apple’s frivolous and inaccurate Oscar predictions, I, Orion, will use my mighty psychic powers to correctly predict the outcome of the Oscars.

Best Picture: The King’s Speech
Best Actor: Jesse Einsenberg
Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush
Best Actress: Natalie Portman
Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo
Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Art Direction: Inception
Cinematography: Black Swan
Costume Design: Alice in Wonderland
Directing: The Coen Brothers (True Grit)
Documentary: Inside Job
Short Documentary: Poster Girl
Film Editing: Black Swan
Foreign Film: Biutiful
Makeup: Barney’s Version
Music Score: 127 Hours
Music (song): Tangled
Short Animation: Day & Night
Short Film: The Crush
Sound Editing: Tron
Sound Mixing: Inception
Visual Effects: Inception
Writing (adapted): The Social Network
Writing (original): The Kids Are All Right

Categories: Uncategorized

Apple’s Oscar Predictions:

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Update: Bolded ones correct.

Come Sunday night, thanks to a great idea by J, we will be watching the Oscars!  But this will be no ordinary Oscar-watching get-together, as we will have our pride and alcohol tolerance on the line.  The game goes like this: put up predictions for the big categories.  IF (prediction=true) {be happy} ELSE {take a shot!}.

Here are my predictions, based on personal movie experience, awards so far, and also the online critic mood.  (Nominations can be found here.)

  • Best picture: The King’s Speech (though maybe The Social Network?)
  • Best Actor: Colin Firth
  • Best Actress: Natalie Portman
  • Supporting Actor: Christian Bale
  • Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld
  • Director: David Fincher
  • Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network
  • Original Screenplay: Inception
  • Best Animated: Toy Story 3
  • Original Score: The Social Network
  • Original Song: Tangled
  • Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland
  • Cinematography: True Grit
  • Costume: The King’s Speech
  • Makeup: The Wolfman
  • Sound Editing: Tron
  • Sound Mixing: The Social Network
  • Visual Effects: Alice in Wonderland
  • Best Documentary: Inside Job
  • Short Documentary: The Warriors of Qiugang
  • Film Editing: Black Swan
  • Best Foreign: Biutiful
  • Best animated short: Day & Night
  • Best Live Short: Wish 143

Then again, last year I totally thought that either James Cameron or “Avatar” had to take home one of the two big awards, if not both.  What do you guys think?

Categories: Misc, Snap Judgment

March 2011 Movies:

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Rango – Johnny Depp voices a pet chameleon in the Old West.

The Adjustment Bureau – Matt Damon fights a strange group of men who control Fate?

Beastly – Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer in a modern Beauty and the Beast.

Battle: LA – Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez and aliens in LA.

Jane Eyre – Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre, yup.

Sucker Punch – Zack Snyder’s imagined fighting action-fantasy.

Categories: Previews

Classic Capsules II: The Misfits, Bonnie and Clyde, Lady Sings the Blues

February 20, 2011 Leave a comment

“The Misfits” was written by Arthur Miller, author of plays like “Death of a Salesman.”  It was supposedly a gift to Marilyn Monroe, who he later married, and who is featured as the main actress in the film (I didn’t realize this until twenty minutes in, when I paused to read the Wikipedia entry on the movie).  Monroe plays a divorced woman who meets three different men – Clark Gable as a cowboy, Montgomery Clift as a rodeo rider, and Eli Wallach as a pilot.  They all, to some extent, fall in love with her, and the movie twists like a tornado with Monroe in its center.  Perhaps because of Miller’s background, much of the movie is made up on ornate dialogue, which can be frustrating at times, but overall, the film is pretty interesting.  3.5/5 – at the end, everyone heads up into the mountains to catch wild mustangs, and the shots of the mountains the horses are breathtaking.

“Bonnie and Clyde” is a 1967 film about the famous criminal duo, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.  Supposedly a landmark, and I think the tale goes something like this: after one major critic’s negative review got smashed by the young public, he resigned, noting that if he could no longer ‘understand’ new, ‘modern,’ movies, then perhaps he was no longer ‘right’ for reviewing.  I thought the movie told a good story, especially in the middle, when Bonnie and Clyde expand their two person gang to include a car mechanic, Clyde’s brother, and the brother’s wife.  The relations between the five members include tension, puppy love, dislike, respect, and it is all told in a way that is palpable.  Much of the time is spent on the road, and a car stuffed full of five people is a great place for interactions to flourish.  3/5 – perhaps because I am a modern viewer dulled to the supposedly shocking sex and violence that “Bonnie and Clyde” presented, I am not the ‘right’ person to review this either.  (In other news, the 2011 movie “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” is going to feature none other than Hillary Duff as Bonnie.  WTH?)

“Lady Sings the Blues” is a 1972 movie about Billie Holiday, with Diana Ross as the leading actress.  Ross does an excellent job with the complicated role, portraying Billie all the way from her tomboy childhood to celebrated singer to morphine addict; she sings all the songs in the movie, employing an especially detailed “on drugs” singing and “off drugs” singing style.  Similar to the more recent movie, “Ray,” this movie is about one singer’s rise to fame and subsequent struggles/fall due to drugs.  “Lady Sings the Blues” is a difficult film to watch, as Billie’s self destructive behavior spirals, cutting into her career and her relationship with her eventual husband, Louis McKay.  (A side note – Billy Dee Williams plays Louis, and I finally realized the reason he looks so familiar.  Billy Dee Williams played Lando Calrissian in the original “Star Wars” trilogy.  Weird.)  4/5 – this movie was painful, but elegantly so; Diana Ross does an amazing job portraying the legendary jazz singer, and her strength truly drove the movie to greater heights.

If you were any thinner, you wouldn’t exist: “The Machinist”

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Even before its release, “The Machinst” had drummed up plenty of news.  Christian Bale apparently starved himself for four months, losing a total of 60 pounds to fill out (no pun intended) the role of physically, emotionally, and psychologically emaciated Trevor Reznik, the main character of the movie.

Trevor has not slept in over a year when we begin the movie, and the thick black bags under Trevor’s eyes grow only darker as the movie progresses.  He works in a factory and is involved in an accident where a co-worker loses an arm.  Following this incident, Trevor begins to suspect everyone around him as being involved in some kind of revenge ploy.  His paranoia grows to encompass the only two women he trusts – a call girl named Stevie and a waitress whose airport café he visits every night.

The music in this movie is ominous from the beginning shots, which are dark and blue-toned.  Trevor’s apartment is strangely angular, with rooms that feel claustrophobic and triangular when we get the rare full view.  There are strange recurring images and phrases – a lot of déjà vu moments that tip us off to the extremity of Trevor’s psychological decline, including Route 666, being too thin, two path options, and a fishing photo.  In a series of scenes that reminded me of “Dexter,” someone appears to break into Trevor’s apartment to leave him post-it notes with a hangman game on his fridge.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  While it is certainly well done, shakily letting the audience glance into the mind of a man spiraling into madness, I’m not sure the point of the movie, or even if there is one.  Christian Bale does an excellent job as Trevor, staring at himself in the mirror, his bones jutting through his skin, his face looking more like a skull than a face; perhaps he does too well a job, because I don’t feel any connection to him.  The “twist” of having an unreliable narrator is not even interesting.  Even in one of the last moments, in what I’m guessing is supposed to be a moment of relief, where Trevor finally closes his eyes, I felt detached.

Sure, the movie had good tension and a nice setup.  In one scene where Trevor rides a gruesome amusement park ride, where every turn was suspenseful, there is a moment when he comes across two paths – one leads to “salvation” and is bright, one leads to “hell” and is dark.  Later, when Trevor is underground, escaping through tunnels, he sees almost the exact same setup.  And at the end of the movie, he is once again faced with a decision regarding two paths.  Usually, I would love parallels, but after a while, “The Machinist” just became too repetitive.  It feels like we never hear anything about Trevor that doesn’t have to do with the matter at hand – even the brief moments about his mother are only revealed in the context of a conversation with Maria the waitress, who has her own role in Trevor’s paranoia.

Overall – 2.5/5; well done but not particularly interesting.  I’m not sure why this has such a high rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Best regards,


Prince of Persia—Orion’s Take

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

This is not the worst fantasy action-comedy romp I’ve ever seen.  That dubious distinction goes to the absolutely terrible “Clash of the Titans.”  That being said, the only positive things I can say about this movie is that it gathers a lot of talent, talent absolutely wasted on a movie like this.

The plot is worse than the plot of the video game, which is a new low for action movies in general.  Basically, the Prince of Persia is framed for his father’s death, and there are a series of twists (which obscure nothing at all, because the true villain is obvious from the get-go), which reveal a villain, who then almost wins, but is foiled by the brave efforts of the Prince.  This somehow is wrapped up in the last 20 minutes into a nice, happy ending, despite the fact that everyone, even the Prince, dies at some point in the movie.

While the action scenes do well enough, Jake Gyllenhaal is lackluster and is short his usual charm in his turn as the young Prince of Persia.  With no plot dedicated to the explication of the Prince’s character, Gyllenhaal is forced to play two radically different characters: the brash and arrogant Prince of the beginning, and the heroic, romantically minded Prince of the end.  This explains why he looks so confused all the way through.  Ben Kingsley, why oh why did you choose to do this movie?  It’s a waste of your talents to play a one-dimensional character like Nizam.  You aren’t even given any action scenes, except at the end.  As for Gemma Arterton, I have no idea why she agrees to take up these stock female roles in fantasy action movies (Io in “Clash of the Titans,” anyone?).  Nothing to see here.  The only redeeming facet of this film is the rather humorous Alfred Molina, who tries with all his might to offer the audience a few laughs.  The fact that he succeeds tells you more about his acting ability than about the humorous touch of the screenwriter.

And to answer the question you are all thinking, yes, this movie is worse even than Eclipse.

2/5 Waffles


Classic Capsules: a series of mini-reviews on older movies

February 13, 2011 Leave a comment

So, it’s been a slow quarter for movies, and apologies for the lack of fresh reviews on Apple and Orion.  I’ve been watching a lot of older movies lately, for a class I’m taking on film criticism, and rather than full reviews, I’d like to share some short reviews with you guys, in a format my professor calls a “capsule review.”  Is that not an adorable term?

“Double Indemnity” is a 1944 film noir directed by Billy Wilder, about an insurance salesman who teams up with a lonely wife to plot the murder of her husband, and reap in earnings from his life insurance.  At first, I didn’t particularly like this movie – I thought the acting was stiff and that the plot was rather boring.  However, I changed my mind after reading a very analytical review that looked into homoerotic undertones between the salesman and his colleague, a claims adjuster who is amazingly apt at sniffing out false insurance claims.  On a second viewing, the film seemed much more multifaceted, with quite a handful of subplots and devious interactions, and I liked it a lot more.  3.5/5 – if you pay attention during this movie, you’ll catch a lot more than what the basic plot shoves at you.


“The Lost Weekend” was another film directed by Billy Wilder, albeit a very different one.  This movie spans a long weekend, and tells the story of a deeply alcoholic writer, Don, and his relationships with his girlfriend, brother, bartender, and a series of other characters.  Honestly, I thought this movie was depressing and unpleasant, especially when it explored Don’s struggles with withdrawal and hallucinations.  However, it was a smash at the 1946 Academy Awards, taking home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay.  2.5/5 – this movie certainly has an important story, but it was just too much of a downer to be enjoyable.


“Pickup on South Street” is a movie that starts with a pickpocket (Skip) who steals a woman’s (Candy) wallet.  Unbeknownst to either of them, the wallet contains top-secret microfilm that Candy’s ex-boyfriend was smuggling to communist agents.  The American secret agents tailing Candy and the communist agents both struggle to get their hands on the film, leading to a tangled plot and dynamic story.  In my opinion, the best part of this movie is actually a minor character named Moe, who is a self-declared peddler of information.  She lives by herself, making a living by selling ties on the street and selling the addresses and styles of pickpockets.  Her only goal at this point in her life is to save up money to buy an expensive burial plot for when she dies; she is remarkably cheerful about this, and it isn’t until late in the movie that we learn just how exhausted she truly is.  3.5/5 – unfortunately, the main character Candy is a rather stupid girl, falling head-over-heels for pickpocket Skip and also failing to catch on to the plot around her, but because of Thelma Ritter’s wonderful portrayal of Moe, this movie is saved from being awful.

Of explanation and discussion: Screen Rant’s articles on “Shutter Island” and “Inception.”

Who doesn’t love a movie with an ambiguous ending?  Who doesn’t love to discuss and argue whether or not Cobb was dreaming at the end, or if everything that happened on Shutter Island was a big setup?  (Side point – notice that both of these movies include Leonardo DiCaprio, and both characters have crazy wives.)

Well, apparently many people do NOT, in fact, feel satisfied with ambiguity.   After pushing through our own collection of data, Orion and I turned to the internet to settle our differences, and we found two excellent articles on the website, Screen Rant.

Here ( is the link to discussing the ending to Shutter Island.  I have to say that the fire/water theory is quite sharp, and well hashed-out.

Here ( is the link to an explanation of the details in Inception.  I discussed reviews that babbled over Inception’s complexity (one described it as taking a test and failing over and over again) with my friend Kathy Huang, and we agreed that we both felt like we had a solid understanding of the film, and I still feel like there wasn’t too much to handle.  Nevertheless, the Screen Rant discussion is neat, and links to a well-done and rather creative visual rendering of the ‘dream levels’.   You all know I’m a huge sucker for good graphs and charts (hence my love for XKCD and Indexed).

(Image by Dehas, link here -

I’m starting to think I should quit reviewing films and work on explaining unresolved endings instead.

Categories: Misc

What an excellent day for an exorcism: “The Exorcist”

February 6, 2011 1 comment

“The Exorcist” is foremost renowned for being one of the scariest movies of all time.  However, when we watched it for Religion in Human Experience, our TA reminded us that it is more than that; having been nominated for a slew of Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, “The Exorcist” is more drama with a dose of horror than vice versa.

We are currently studying the effects of the supernatural in defining the human, and furthermore, human faith in the divine.  I think “The Exorcist” is certainly an interesting theater through which to examine this concept: it tells the tale of a young girl (Regan) who becomes possessed by the devil, and the priest (Father Karras) who seems to rediscover his faith through his experiences with her.  Unfortunately, almost half of the movie is Regan’s mother, Chris MacNeil, going from psychologist to psychologist, looking for an answer and become pretty crazy as she goes.  Only in the very end does the priest we are introduced to in the beginning, Father Merrin, return to the movie to attempt an exorcism.

I think the movie is interesting for placing possession in a (relatively) modern light – Chris struggles to find a scientific explanation for Regan’s behaviors for quite some time before turning to a supernatural explanation.  I’m not sure how much I liked the specific characters, but the movie was certainly plump with strong themes.  The ideas of science as opposed to the supernatural, the potential for evil to bring good to light (to even restore one’s faith in good) – there’s a set of nice dualities, which I love!

As for the horror, I was super stressed by the movie.  Talking to my friend Kathy Huang about one movie, “Let the Right One In,” she explained her feeling throughout the film as being “when will this be over?”  That’s how I felt about “The Exorcist” – each scene was not particularly gruesome or scary (although the x-ray scenes in the hospital are rather squeamishness-inducing), but as a whole, the movie falls properly under the horror genre.  I had another friend, Hansang, who was absolutely not afraid of scary movies.  He sought thrills in the real world instead – there was an abandoned asylum near his school (supposedly haunted) that he visited once at midnight, with no light but the screen on his cell phone.

Overall, 3/5 – while strong themed, “The Exorcist” is far from perfect, with a slow start and rather flat characters.  However, it is certainly a classic for a reason, and I don’t know why it took me so long to see.

Best regards,



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