We got nominated for a 2012 LAMMY Award!!! Over the weekend, I was on the Lambcast podcast to take part in the inaugural Actor’s Career Draft. Each person had to create their own Tom Cruise marathon with the films available on the board. I opted to go with a particular theme when making my selections as you will hear in the episode.
While on the show, I was fortunate enough to help with the 2012 LAMMY nominations announcement. The LAMMYS are awards in which film bloggers vote for their peers in a variety of categories. To my surprise, Big Thoughts from a Small Mind got nominated for a LAMMY in the Best Festival/Award Coverage category. You can listen to both the Tom Cruise draft and the full list of LAMMY nominations in the player below:
Despite being heralded by many as one of the greatest directors of all time, the majority of the works by director Billy Wilder have shamefully been in my blind spot. My experiences with Wilder have been limited of Sunset Boulevard, Sabrina, Some Like it Hot and The Apartment, but after watching Double Indemnity I am determined to correct this. If you search the internet for lists of the best film noirs of all time, you would be hard pressed to find a list where Double Indemnity was not mentioned in some fashion or another. Having finally caught up with the film, I now understand why the film has received so many accolades. To put it bluntly this is masterful piece of filmmaking.
The film feels like a blueprint for what a film noir should consist of, while still managing to set a standard that few noirs will ever be able to reach. Based on the novel by James M. Cain, Double Indemnity tells the story of a successful insurance salesman, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), who falls for a married woman, Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), and agrees to help her kill her husband for the insurance money. Mr. Dietrichson’s (Tom Powers) insurance policy features a double indemnity clause which ensures that twice the amount gets paid out if the death is deemed an accident. Although Walter and Phyllis go to great lengths to ensure that the murder is made to look like a train related accident, not everyone is so easily convinced. Walter’s colleague Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), a claims adjuster, and Mr. Dietrichson’s daughter from a previous marriage, Lola (Jean Heather) both question the suspicious nature of his death. As more questions arise, Walter soon begins to wonder if he was a patsy in a much bigger plot.
There came a moment in 21 Jump Street when my wife nearly choked on her snack after being caught off guard by a joke. It was at this moment that I knew the film had finally cracked her cool exterior. Although she is still reluctant to call 21 Jump Street a good film, the amount of times the film made her laugh out loud tells a far different story. One of the reasons that some, my wife included, may be hesitant to acknowledge 21 Jump Street as a solid film is because the film really should not work at all. On paper, the idea of taking a 80’s television drama and turning it into a screwball comedy sounds disastrous. However, what no one anticipated was that directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller would turn the film in to a spot-on commentary of modern high school life.
The premise of the film finds two lackluster cops, Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill), being assigned to the undercover unit located at 21 Jump Street. Their first assignment finds the two men going undercover as high school students to infiltrate a drug ring. At first the assignment seems like the perfect job for Jenko and a nightmare for Schmidt. When they were both in high school together, Jenko was the popular jock who was a hit with the ladies, while Schmidt was the awkward nerd who faced humiliation on an almost daily basis. As the pair assume their new undercover identities, it quickly becomes apparent that a lot has changed since they were last in high school.
This past Saturday, Big Thoughts from a Small Mind decided to join the “.com” generation. The “blogspot” handle has been officially retired after several years of quality service. While this change will not impact our content, those of you who frequent the site may want update your bookmarks and links accordingly.
12 pm: Sean has a lukewarm response to the inaugural 360 Screening in Toronto. For those outside Toronto, 360 Screenings are a series of film screenings that incorporate interactive theatre into the cinema going experience.
Keyser Söze?” The answer to this question is revealed in the film’s final scene
and it’s quite a shocker. The film is an
intricate exercise in gamesmanship with a plot that weaves a bewildering tale
about five suspects in a police lineup who conspire together to pull off a drug
heist. Their common bond is that they
all fear a man they’ve never met – Keyser Söze.
The film’s trickiest role is executed with smooth and supreme slyness
and the filmmakers provide a great many noticeable hints if you realize which
suspect bears the most scrutiny. Look
closely at everything and listen, too, and you might just unravel the mystery,
but I think the film is intended to be seen twice, for during the second time
around the head-scratching moments become clear and the subtle nuances become
There are some films that instantly take you back to a certain period in your life while still feeling relevant today. Jordans or Justice is one of those for me. Having grown up in the era where Michael Jordan reigned supreme in the NBA, and watched the evolution of the Air Jordan sneaker craze, I was curious to see how many of today’s youth embraced the “sneakerhead” culture of today.
Jordans or Justice looks at the phenomenon that is Nike’s Air Jordan shoes, simply referred to as “Jordans” by those in the know. One of the more telling moments in the film arrives when a young boy, who has no idea who Michael Jordan is, tries to explain what makes Jordans so special. The elements of the shoe he points out, such as “shoelaces” and “squares”, are nothing that you could not find on any other pair of sneakers. It becomes apparent that all this boy really knows about the sneakers is the image that has been feed to him via numerous marketing campaigns. What was once a symbol of basketball excellence have been reduced to nothing more than a fashion statement.
One of the first things that will come to mind after watching Spectra is The Powerpuff Girls. More specifically, the fact that there have not been many cartoons that feature strong and fun female lead since that show went off the air. In many ways Spectra feels like the perfect successor to that throne. The film centers around Spectra, a happy go-lucky girl who manages to bring colour to everything she touches. When an evil nameless villain tries to bring darkness to the world, Spectra and her friends jump into action. The scant running time makes Spectra feel more like an opening sequence for a television show rather than true short film. However, this does not take away from the overall entertainment value of the piece. The crisp and bubbly animation by director Kirsten Whiteley would fit nicely in any Saturday morning cartoon rotation. Even if Spectra does not end up as a series, though hopefully it does one day, Whiteley shows that she is a talent that we will be seeing a lot more from in the near future.
Spectra is playing in Program #2 – Our Zany Adventure at the festival on June 2, 2012. For ticket information, and the full list of films playing the festival, please visit the Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival website.
If you have ever worked in an office, then you most likely have had “the card” experience. This is when a card for a specific event, such as wedding, birth of a child, retirement, etc, gets passed around the office for the employees to sign. While it is meant to be a kind gesture, it is often an uncomfortable moment. It is at this point that it becomes clear that you have had very little interaction with the person the card is intended for. This lack of personal connection often results in generic comments on the card like “Best Wishes” or “All the best to you and yours“.
The awkward game of etiquette that occurs in the most workplaces is perfectly captured in the film Loss Together. Directed by Earl Oliveros, this bittersweet comedy focuses on a group of employees who must deal with the death of a co-worker, Joyce, whom none of them really knew. The closest any of them really got to the deceased was being “Facebook friends” despite never actually conversing on the social network site. While this may sound like a grim tale, Oliveros manages to create a satire that consistently hits all the right comedic notes.
On an icy landscape, a fierce battle rages on between a lone warrior and a fearsome beast. Though it is not clear at first what caused this battle, it is evident that the stakes are extremely high. It is only as the film progresses that it becomes clear that Spring is being held hostage. Haiwei Hou’s film Vernal Equinox drops the audience right into the heart of the battle. The animation in this film is absolutely wonderful! Vernal Equinox feels like a mash-up of modern Manga aesthetics with Disney sensibilities of the early 90’s. It is a film that manages to convey both action and emotion in a rather brief span of time. Vernal Equinox is a film that will leave audiences on a high long after film has ended.
Vernal Equinox is playing in Program #3 – A Different Perspective at the festival on June 2, 2012. For ticket information, and the full list of films playing the festival, please visit the Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival website.
Heart of Perception is a film that looks at a woman, Alice (Ashley Ross), who is struggling to connect with father, John (Jack Kwinter). What makes their relationship so unique is the fact that John is homeless. Besides the occasional visits from Alice, John only has the birds in the local park and his bottle of alcohol to comfort him. Although their lives have taken them on vastly different paths, their relationship begins to change when John buys Alice a camera. As Alice spends the day with her father taking photos, she slowly starts to see her father for the man he really is rather than what others perceive him to be.
Written and directed by Fabiola Alliu, the film tries hard to avoid the typical conventions that come with films dealing with homeless characters. Alliu never really explores what led John to being homeless. There are comments and jesters throughout that lead the audience to believe that John may be dealing with a case of schizophrenia, but nothing is ever truly confirmed. Instead the film focuses on a specific moment in time in these characters lives. Alliu is more concerned with looking at family bonds and the little things, such as photography, that can bring people from different facets of life together.
Recently I sat down and revisited a Curtis Hanson film that I love, but often gets overlooked, 8 Mile. Two things struck me about the film on this particular viewing, the first was how far Michael Shannon and Anthony Mackie have come since their roles in this film. Both actors, who were still relatively unknown at this point, have gone on to be prominently featured in indie films like Take Shelter and The Hurt Locker as well as mainstream films. The second thing that crossed my mind is the lack of films about hip hop. Despite the fact that 8 Mile had a stellar 51 million dollar opening weekend at the box office, which made it the second highest opening for an R-rated film at the time, very few films about the world of hip hop have hit theatres.
Sure there have been several successful dance related films, such as Save the Last Dance and the Step Up series, which use hip hop music as a catalyst to help non-hip hop listener achieve their dreams. However, outside of 8 Mile and Hustle & Flow, both Oscar winning films for best original songs mind you, Hollywood seems at a loss when it comes to films about the hip hop genre. Outside of the two aforementioned films and the critically panned films Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and Notorious, which poorly tried to replicate 8 Mile’s success, the majority of films about rap have been satirical comedies.
I know that criticizing Speed 2, Cruise Control is like shooting fish
in a barrel, but I remember as an impressionable youngster going to
watch it at a theatre with a sense of excitement. Sure, it would be
silly, but it would at least be fun, right? Right? Sadly, the movie was
not fun at all. Not only did it begin an irrational and deep-seated
resentment of Sandra Bullock that lingers with me to this day, it
reinforced that I should be wary of anything calling itself a "sequel."
If you're not familiar with it, Speed 2 is the story of a flaky
but fun lady (Bullock) and her sensible police offer boyfriend (Jason
Patric) who go on a cruise and get more adventure than they bargained
for. Little do they know that a disgruntled former cruise ship employee
(Willem Defoe) is planning to redirect the ship and its cargo of
vacationers into an oil tanker.
While most of us are taking it easy on this holiday Monday, Toronto J-Film Pow Wow’s own Chris MaGee is hard at work putting the finishing touches on his fourth annual Shinsedai Cinema Festival. The festival runs from July 12 – July 15. Here is a sample of what will be screening at this year’s festival:
CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival (WSFF), North America’s largest short film festival, is pleased to announce the line-up of films for its 18th annual edition. Showcasing the best short films from around the world, WSFF presents a selection comprised of 244 films from 35 countries. This year’s programming was chosen from over 4,700 submissions, surpassing 2011’s total of 4,200. As the premier venue for the exhibition and promotion of short film in North America, WSFF is dedicated to celebrating quality and creative range in short film.
This year’s collection of short films is comprised of 207 premieres; with 38 World Premieres (an increase over 2011’s 24 World Premieres). Programming includes a variety of genres, made up of live-action, animation, experimental, documentary and music videos.
I was completely transfixed when I saw Elizabeth, which is when I was first introduced to the
extraordinary actress known as Cate Blanchett.
When I think about her career, it’s amazing to me how diverse it’s
been. She’s played practically every
role imaginable from an elf to a queen to Bob Dylan to Katherine Hepburn. She’s different all the time and she’s a phenomenal
character actress with a leading lady’s career.
As I was thinking about Blanchett’s great roles, I started to recall some
of the great leading roles by women in film that I think Blanchett could have
played. The purpose of this post is not
to suggest that Blanchett should have been cast over the actresses who actually
played the parts, but rather to consider ten films that, if they had been made
today or if they’re ever to be remade someday; Blanchett would be a great
casting choice for:
1. Ellen Ripley, Aliens
I can imagine Cate Blanchett uttering the famous line: “Get
away from her, you bitch!” with as much command and tenacity as Sigourney
Weaver did. Blanchett has proven that
she can get physical and kick ass in films like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Hanna.
I can easily picture Blanchett putting an arsenal together, riding the
elevator down to the lowest level of the spaceship and raging against the Alien
Back in university there was a guy on my floor who was a huge Bob Marley fan. He had almost every box set and rare recording ever made. However, the one thing that I always remember about him was when he remarked that “most people who claim to love Bob Marley only have listened to Legend.” His message was clear, most only have a greatest hits understanding of Bob Marley’s music. Although his comments were geared towards fellow university students, these words came rushing back to me during Hot Docs as I prepared to watched Kevin Macdonald’s latest documentary Marley. Would the film merely appeal to those who only know the hits? Or would the film only satisfy those, such as my former university residence friend, who were hardcore fans?
Fortunately, Marley manages to find a happy medium that should please both groups. Macdonald’s film offers up a detailed account of all the major moments of Bob Marley’s life. Everything from what it was like growing up a “half-breed”, his father was a white officer, in Jamaica all the way up to his death at age 35. Along with using archival footage, Macdonald interviews those close to Marley, such as his family, former bandmates, politicians, and even mistresses, to create a well-rounded view of the man whose life and music impacted so many people.
It has been over a week since I saw The Avengers and it dawned on me that I never wrote an actual review of the film. To be honest, I was so exhausted after Hot Docs that writing another review was the furthest thing from my mind. Plus it seems that everything there is to say about The Avengers has already been said. Instead of regurgitating the same praises that critics and other blogs have already showered on The Avengers, I wanted to look at where the franchise goes from here?
There will be no shortage of films coming down the pipeline with sequels to The Avengers, Thor, Captain America, and, of course, Iron Man 3 already in the works. Marvel also recently announced that, to no one’s surprise, a new Hulk film would be coming in 2015. Proving with the Hulk franchise that if at first you do not succeed, reboot and reboot again. While The Avengers is a huge success, I cannot help but wonder if the formula Marvel has established will work again? Or will the franchise stumble like the show Heroes did in the second season?
The first season of Heroes was all about building to the point where all the various superheroes would unite and save the day. After the first season of Heroes, fans were extremely excited to see what life as a superhero team would be like moving forward. However, the show made the fatal mistake of trying to replicate the first season’s success by separating all the heroes once again and building to yet another team up. The problem was the audience no longer cared about the individual stories and wanted to see how everyone interacted on a regular basis. It is one of the reason’s Lost was so successful, despite highlighting one character in each episode, it still showed how they connected to the greater story.
Since audiences now have to sit through more solo films before seeing another Avengers team-up, the question becomes whether or not audiences will still find the characters as entertaining on their own? Besides the original Iron Man, a film universally liked by both comic book fans and non-comic book fans alike, the other Marvel films have been hotly debated as to their levels of success. The Avengers got everyone is jazzed to see a new Hulk film, but can the Hulk be as entertaining without his interactions with Iron Man? Let’s not forget it was only a few years ago when The Incredible Hulk, a film I enjoyed, was disliked by many of the people who now proudly proclaim they are Team Hulk. Though I thought he was the best element in The Avengers, the film did turn the Hulk into a Chris Tucker-like figure. What I mean by this is that the Hulk that is shown in The Avengers is entertaining in doses, but it is rather questionable in regards to whether or not he can carry a film on his own. They have had two attempts now and still have not found a way to sustain the perfect balance of humor and depth that the Hulk in The Avengers managed to achieve.
Besides the fact that the audience may not be as keen to see certain solo films, there is also the issue of needing to have some form of continuity running throughout the franchise. One of the major problems I had with Iron Man 2 was the fact that the whole film felt like one long commercial for The Avengers film. Does this mean that we will have to sit through five more feature length commercials prior to the next Avengers film? Hopefully now that the team has been established, the individual films can finally carve out their own unique path without the weight of The Avengers 2 hanging around their necks. However, even this does not exclude the films from suffering from a lack of tension moving forward.
Although comic books, and movies based them, rarely kill off the main character, the best ones figure out how to build in that “they might not make it out alive” style tension. Both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight had these moments that, even if for a split second, made you think “how is he going to survive this?” This is one of the things that the films Iron Man 2, Captain America, and Thor where missing. Those films felt more like you where just waiting for heroes to be triumphant over the villains, rather than having the edge of your seat moments that the Christopher Nolan’s films had. Again, part of this is due to the fact that you knew The Avengers film was coming so the stakes were minimal at best in the solo films. Who knows, maybe the solo films will work better now that all of the origin stories are put to bed. For example, S.H.I.E.L.D can finally play a bigger role in the Captain America series and Iron Man can finally get more interesting villains. Still, it will be interesting to see what direction Marvel takes this franchise. Although I am a comic book fan, I would be content with two more Avengers films and call it a day. Mainly because I fear that the more they try and milk the solo films, the more watered down the franchise will feel as a whole. Of course I have been wrong before, for all I know Marvel may already have the master plan mapped out while giving the illusion they are making it up as they go.
So, my husband and I recently bought a new house.The house we currently live in has been a bit
of a fixer-upper; requiring more fixing up than we first realized when we
bought it.With all of the work we’ve
had to do on it – windows, the roof and flooring – we started to lovingly/frustratingly
call our home “The Money Pit.”Last
weekend, we were hanging out at home in front of the TV, channel surfing, when
we happened upon The Money Pit.I’d seen the movie several times before,
but during this particular viewing, after our experiences as first-time
homeowners of a house that’s claimed a lot of our money for various repairs, I
enjoyed it (and came to appreciate our house and all of its problems) on a
completely different level.
If you’ve seen The
Money Pit, you’ll recall that everything - and I mean everything - that can
go wrong with a resale house, goes wrong for the couple who buy it.The unfortunate couple is played by Shelley
Long and Tom Hanks who out of desperation buy a country estate at an extremely
low price.The movie’s plot consists of
little more than one sight gag after another, but it’s those sight gags that
keep you watching for some inexplicable reason. Sure they’re monotonous and
they go on and on and on, but you can’t help but to keep watching to see what
horrible catastrophe is going to happen next.
The problems with the house start when Walter Fielding (Tom
Hanks) slams the front door and it falls off its hinges.Walter has suspected that something is
seriously wrong, and boy, are his feelings bang on.We see a staircase connecting the first and
second floors completely collapse.The
bathtub in the upstairs bath falls through the floor and shatters into tiny pieces
as Walter is filling it.The pipes don’t
function and all that pours out of them is brown, muddy goo.The electrical wiring is so defective that it
catches fire and burns a trail around the kitchen, and the oven explodes.
The film relies entirely on slapstick comedy, outlandish
sight gags and special effects, and as the movie progresses you can see the
inventiveness start to strain when the perils that befall the couple become overly
repetitive.The scene where Walter falls
through a hole in the floor and is stuck there for hours becomes groan-inducing
because it lasts much longer than it should. The most memorable scene is when
Walter makes one misstep that sets in motion an elaborately choreographed
collapse of a series of scaffolds involving paint and plaster, construction
workers and tools.It’s a pretty
impressive spectacle that is quite amazing to behold if you consider how much
time it probably took to shoot that scene and the finesse it required to pull
Though the film tells a simple story with repetitive gags
for 91 minutes, I couldn’t help but be entertained by Hanks and Long who make a
great comedic duo. Hanks’ sarcasm and manic reactions are complimented
perfectly by Long’s wry comedic style. You can see the next gag coming and
watching the house fulfill my worst expectations is what provided the most
enjoyment.Some might find this film
unfunny and witless, but I enjoyed watching it again and it left me
appreciating my own money pit that much more.
Extraterrestrial forces land on Earth. Unknowing of our planet and society, it is up to you to educate them by picking five films from the history of cinema that represent humanity. What titles would you choose and why? This is the challenge that my pal Sam Fragoso, the creator of Duke & the Movies, sent out to the blogging world in his extraterrestrial inspired blogathon. After giving it some thought, here are five films that I think would give extraterrestrials a good representation of what humanity is comprised of:
This film has been on my mind a lot recently, which is probably a good indication that it is time for me to watch it again. Regardless, I think Baraka is a great example of humanity on a global level. While the film does show how corporations are changing the nature of life on earth, the film also highlights many of the other aspects of life that makes humans so interesting, especially in regards to our unique customs and cultures.
Stand By Me
The bonds of family and friendship are what have kept humanity going for all these years. Stand By Me is not only a great example of friendship from a childhood stage, but it is also a great coming-of-age tale. The loss of innocence is a thing that every human must encounter at some point in their life. An outsider could use this film to get a better understanding of how complex this particular stage of human development can be.
It is responsible for mankind’s existence, evoked numerous religious and academic debates, started wars, changed friendships, shaped gender dynamics, brought marriages together, caused divorces, and continues to sell us every product under the sun. That is right, I am talking about sex. It is one of the things that has been an important part of humanity for years, but we still are uncomfortable talking about it. This is why Kinsey would be the perfect film for this list. It provides a look into the life of a man who shaped many of the ways we interpret sex today.
While I enjoyed Blindness more than others I know, it is not a film that I would go to bat for if a debate arose. Having said that, I think the film is a perfect example of both the best and worst of mankind. On the positive side it shows the selflessness that humans have when it comes to trying to help the ones they love. However, the film also shows how quickly humans would revert back to their most primal desires if the rules of society where to go away. Though we take pride in the fact that rules and morals are what separate humans from animals, we are really just one big disaster away from total chaos.
Probably the most obvious choice on the list, District 9 is a perfect example of mankind’s inherent fear of “the other”. It would be nice to think that we would show our extraterrestrial visitors respect. However, the truth is we would most likely force the aliens to live in shanty towns while we study their weapons and do genetic testing on them. The one good thing about District 9 is that mankind can learn from walking in someone else’s shoes. So hopefully that will be enough to keep the aliens from invading.
What five films would you show visitors from another planet?
I’m sure we’ve all felt at one time or another that we’ve
been pushed to the breaking point; that sometimes the common frustrations of
everyday life are all a bit too much.Some of us exercise to release the tension, others take a hot bath or go
for a massage, and some may kick back with a glass of red wine in front of the
TV to unwind.Essentially, most of us
cope with the crap and forge onward.
In Falling Down, we
see what happens when a man is stretched beyond the breaking point and snaps.He’s lost his job, has gotten divorced and he
cannot see his ex-wife and child because there is a restraining order against
him.The film is an effective thriller
that shows what happens when a man who thought he had it together and all
figured out slides towards madness because after several years of hard work was
told that he was no longer necessary.He
woke up every morning with nothing to worry about until his sense of relevance
and his personal life crumbled and he fell to pieces.We see what results when he’s pushed beyond
the brink and unleashes his darkest feelings because he decides he’s not going
to take it anymore.
Michael Douglas plays the man known only as D-FENS, after
his vanity licence plate.He is already
unhinged when he abandons his car in a freeway tie-up and sets off on foot
across Los Angeles. During his walk, his frustration rages as he repays a
series of random injustices that he’s experienced throughout his life.In one situation, he trashes the store of a
Korean grocer who won’t give him change to use the payphone.Later, he steals a bag of guns from some
punks who crash their car in a failed drive-by shooting.
In the scene stealer, D-FENS walks into a fast food joint
called Whammyburger at 11:33am for breakfast.He is told by the manager, who calls him “Buddy,” that he can’t have
breakfast because they stopped serving it at 11:30am."I don't want to be your buddy,"
D-FENS tells the manager. "I just want breakfast." "Well,
hey," says the manager, "I'm really sorry." "Well, hey, I
am too," D-FENS responds in kind.Now
locked and loaded thanks to the bag of firearms he stole, D-FENS pulls out a
gun. The smug fast food manager who denies him breakfast is another common
frustration that exacerbates the nagging civic despair D-FENS already
feels.With gun in hand, he goes on to
express his displeasure with the dwindling quality of customer service and food
preparation, which though literal frustrations, also serve as commentaries
about his feelings about the decline of, well, everything.This is a great scene in an interesting and
thought-provoking film that does a good job of representing the familiar feelings
of stress and upset we experience due to common frustrations, but it takes one
man’s reaction to those common frustrations to the extreme.