Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fun Film Fact 06/30/11

Despite the fact that she plays Regina George's mother, Amy Poehler is only 7 years older than Rachel McAdams.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Coming Soon: War Horse

The first trailer for Steven Spielberg's new film War Horse was just released and it's pretty awe-inspiring.  

War Horse is based on both a successful children's book published in 1982 and a 2007 stage adaptation of the same name. The play, which started out in Britain, was recently brought to Broadway and it just took home the top prize at the Tony Awards a few weeks ago.

The thing that excites me about this story is that it is completely unique. It's something we've never seen before. War Horse is the story of World War I, told from the point of view of a horse. The horse, Joey, is owned by a young boy, Albert, but at the beginning of the war Joey is sold into the cavalry and sent to the trenches. We experience the war by following Joey into battle.

I'm also excited by how b-e-a-utiful this trailer is. The cinematography just looks gorgeous. It's been a while since I could say that about a Spielberg-produced movie. Feel free to disagree, but I don't think good cinematography was high on the list for the Transformers trilogy.

Spielberg's best projects, in my opinion, are the ones about wars: Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, The Pacific, Letters from Iwo Jima. He just seems to thrive when he's given such a huge and dramatic canvas on which to paint a story. It's been 12 years since he took home the Best Director Oscar for Saving Private Ryan and by the looks of this trailer and the many articles I've read, he seems to be on his way to securing another nomination. Studios tend to release the films they think have the best chance of getting Oscar nods at the end of the year, right before awards season and War Horse comes out December 28. It would be cool if War Horse won the Tony and the Oscar in the same year.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fun Film Fact 06/27/11

Happy Birthday Tobey Maguire!
Here's a fun fact about SPIDERMAN (2002)
Chris Columbus was approached to direct the film, but he opted to do Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone instead and the job went to Sam Raimi.

Favorite Movie Scores: "Charlie Wilson"

As I've said before, I LOVE movie scores. Currently, my iPod playlist titled Movie Scores has 512 songs, but it is constantly growing.

Music is an integral part of a film. Without music, a film feels incomplete. A piece of music can completely change the way a scene plays. The best movie scores are ones that don't force you to feel emotion. The movie's score should enhance the already existing emotion.

Because I love movie music so much, I've decided to regularly highlight a favorite piece of music. This probably won't be daily thing like my Fun Film Facts, but I'm going to do it as often as possible.

First up, the main theme from Charlie Wilson's War (2007) called "Charlie Wilson." If you haven't seen Charlie Wilson's War, here's a brief description. It's based on the true story of Charlie Wilson, a partying, womanizing, Texas congressman, who was the main driving force behind the covert war that helped the rebels in Afghanistan beat the Soviets in the 80s. The film's tagline reads "When the world wasn't looking, he changed it forever." Tom Hanks plays Wilson and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Julia Roberts costar. It's directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Catch 22) and the script is written by Aaron Sorkin.

I really love this piece of music because it encompasses all the aspects of Charlie Wilson's character. It starts out sounding Middle Eastern and then shifts into that twangy electric guitar riff that sounds very Texan. At 1:15 it moves into a soft melody played by a solo instrument. That melody is then picked up by a number of violins. This change from a solitary instrument to many instruments symbolizes how Charlie's covert war started as just himself and an idea and then grew into this enormous historical moment. I find the violins incredibly beautiful. As this series of posts continues you'll find that I tend to enjoy pieces of score that heavily feature strings as opposed to other instruments.

If you haven't seen Charlie Wilson's War check out the trailer.

The movie is very relevant these days because of the War on Terror. There's a quote from Charlie Wilson in the movie that goes: "These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world... and then we fucked up the endgame." It means that we helped Afghanistan drive out the Soviets and then we stopped caring about them and look what happened...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Favorite Movie Monarchs

"If the British monarchy is good for nothing else, it's superb at producing the subjects of films."
                  ROGER EBERT

Some of my favorite movies are about monarchs. I think this is because the format for a movie about royalty is often grand and dramatic. (I also have a thing for British movies, but that's an entirely different discussion...) I've found that my favorite movies about kings and queens are not ones that show how lavish and fabulous their lives are. My favorites are usually films about the downside of being royal, monarchs struggling with public perception or the sheltered nature of their lives.

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite movie monarchs:

Queen Elizabeth I
Played by Dame Judi Dench

The main reason that the arts flourished in the Elizabethan Age is because Queen Elizabeth loved the theater. She would have theater troupes perform for her at the palace. Judi Dench doesn't do anything half-way. She completely gave herself over to this role. Despite the fact that she is on screen for less than 15 minutes, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and rightly so. In Shakespeare in Love, Queen Elizabeth has a sharp tongue and fierce way about her that I love. Men and women alike find her incredibly intimidating.

Favorite Royal Moment: After the performance of Romeo and Juliet, Viola is in danger of being revealed as woman and the queen comes to her defense and speaks my favorite line from the movie: "I know something of a woman in a man's profession. Yes, by God, I do know about that."

Prince Edward
Played by James Marsden

The reason I love Enchanted so much is because it's a send-up of the great Disney princess films and Prince Edward is a perfect example of that. In the film, Edward ventures from his perfect, animated kingdom of Andalasia to New York City to find his lost love, Giselle. He is well-intentioned, but also incredibly narcissistic and dumb. If you think about it, most Disney princes are very one-dimensional. They exist only to brandish a sword, sing a song or two, and then save the damsel in distress. James Marsden plays Edward so over-the-top and he's even more hilarious when compared to Patrick Dempsey's uptight lawyer. Edward is definitely the funniest character in the film.

Favorite Royal Moment: The chipmunk, Pip, is trying to mime to Edward that Nathaniel is not trying to save Giselle, he's trying to kill her, and Edward keeps guessing wildly wrong things. The scene is funny for a number of reasons: First, whenever you play charades, there's always that one person who is terrible at guessing and the writers are making fun of that. Also, Edward's guesses are wonderfully vain. When Pip keeps miming "dying" and "death" and Edward guesses, "I'm even handsome when I sleep!" and "You'd die without me here!"

King George III
Played by Nigel Hawthorn

The Madness of King George is about King George III's descent into insanity and the political and royal corruption that takes place as a result of his inability to properly rule. The film starts a few years after the colonies have won their independence, which was very trying for the king. For years his insanity ebbs and flows. The film is also about the sorry state of medical practices in the 1700s. There are many scenes where the king is forced to endure many terrible treatments that were thought to cure mental illness. Nigel Hawthorn was not very well known to film audiences because he was mainly a stage actor in Britain, but he was an incredible actor. He played King George III in a way that was both darkly comedic and very sad. He completely carried the film. I would say that the insanity spread to the Academy voters who gave the Oscar to Tom Hanks instead. (I love you, Tom Hanks, but come on, Forrest Gump was not deserving of an Oscar.)

Favorite Royal Moment: There are many comedic moments in the film and my favorite is a scene where the king discusses the new country of America with one of his advisors.
KING GEORGE: What of the colonies, Mr. Pitt?
PITT: America is now a nation, sir.
KING GEORGE: It is? Well we must try and get used to it. I have known stranger things. I once saw a sheep with five legs...

Princess Ann 
Played by Audrey Hepburn

Roman Holiday is my favorite Audrey Hepburn film. She plays Princess Ann, a young woman who is bored with her over-scheduled, sheltered life. The writing never actually tells us what country she is from, but that doesn't matter. When her good-will tour of Europe takes a stop in Rome, she sneaks out and spends a day in the city with a young American writer. The very first scene of the film is one where Ann is at a ball and she has to greet hundreds of foreign dignitaries. As she meets them, the camera cuts to a shot of her feet under her dress. She takes her sore foot out of her shoe and her shoe falls over and during the rest of the introductions she tries to get her foot back in her shoe. It's such a charming way to introduce Ann. Sometimes people underestimate how funny Audrey Hepburn could be. This is the role that introduced Audrey Hepburn to the world (her credit reads "Introducing Audrey Hepburn") and it was quite an introduction, an Oscar-winning introduction in fact. Hepburn is incandescently beautiful in all her movies, but I think she never looked lovelier than in Roman Holiday.

Favorite Royal Moment: In the evening, Ann and Joe (Gregory Peck) go out dancing and two of Ann's secret servicemen spot them and there is a skirmish as Ann and Joe escape. However, before they escape, Joe throws a few punches and Ann gleefully smashes a guitar over a secret serviceman's head. I love it because it's the polar opposite of how Ann is introduced, all prim and proper. The scene is a lot of fun to watch.

Queen Elizabeth II
THE QUEEN (2006)
Played by Dame Helen Mirren

For the most part, I find the British monarchy ridiculous and unnecessary, but I have to say, I like the current queen very much. She's always struck me as very smart and strong-willed, as if her pampered lifestyle didn't affect her the way you would expect. Did you know that at the age of 18 she was a mechanic in World War II? She basically watched the job kill her father and then became queen at the age of 27. The Queen is about a small section of her reign. The film is about the aftermath of Princess Diana's death. Many felt that the queen handled it very poorly. She refused to fly the flag at half-mast above Buckingham Palace and it took her days before she spoke publicly on the matter. Though the royals could be thought of as the "bad guys" in this film, Helen Mirren, in an Oscar-winning role (are you sensing a trend in this list?), plays the queen with real strength. You get the feeling that she's not malicious (as the media made her out to be), she's conflicted.

Favorite Royal Moment: I love the scene where Prime Minister Blair (Michael Sheen) meets HRH for the first time since getting elected. He is sort of overwhelmed and she is very straight-forward with him. She holds the power the entire scene. The meeting is short and formal, but there are some great lines. It's an impressive scene for Mirren.

King George VI
Played by Colin Firth

Let me first start off by saying that I saw The King's Speech four times in theaters and it never gets old. Colin Firth was pegged for the Oscar win MONTHS in advance. Sorry James Franco and Jesse Eisenberg, but no one else had a chance to win. He plays Prince Albert (soon-to-be King George VI), who had a terrible stutter. He was never meant to be king, but his older brother Edward abdicated the throne in order to marry his mistress, Wallis Simpson. The theme I love most in the film is the fact that Albert was really the first monarch who had to be king on television and on the radio. There's a line in the film where he says, "In the past, all a king had to do was look respectable in uniform and not fall off his horse. Now we must invade people's homes and ingratiate ourselves with them." As prince and then as king, Albert was expected to give grand speeches and make public appearances. Firth plays him with so many layers. He's incredibly self-conscious, but also very stubborn. In his early scenes with his speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) he is proud and haughty, but then there are some beautiful and emotional scenes with Helena Bonham Carter, who plays his wife, where he cries and pours out his soul to her. There is not a false step in the entire performance.

Favorite Royal Moment: Albert has a terrible argument with his brother who makes fun of his stutter by calling him B-B-B-Bertie. As Albert vents to Lionel, his speech therapist, he drops a few swears and Lionel points out that he doesn't stutter when he swears and encourages him to shout as many swears as he can think of. Then follows the most hilarious part of the movie. Colin Firth starts shouting swear after swear, louder and louder and faster and faster as Lionel eggs him on. "Yes! Defecation flows trippingly from the tongue!" The first time I saw it in the theater, I was afraid the 80-year-old woman in front of me was going to die from laughing so hard.
A close second is the scene where he makes up a bedtime story for his daughters, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

Queen Victoria
Played by Emily Blunt

Other than The King's Speech, The Young Victoria is the best movie about royals released in a long time. Emily Blunt portrays Queen Victoria during the turbulent first years of her reign. She became queen when she was just 18 and there were many people who wanted her to sign over her duties until she was older, but she refused. The film largely focuses on her relationship with Albert and how they fell in love and ruled as a team. Albert was an incredibly devoted spouse, even taking an assassin's bullet for her. In terms of historical power couples, Victoria and Albert are right up there with John and Abigail Adams. It takes a very good actress to play a role like this and Emily Blunt plays it beautifully. Blunt is one of those actresses whose career I'm very excited to watch. She is incredibly talented. If you want a good picture of her abilities, watch The Young Victoria and Sunshine Cleaning.

Favorite Royal Moment: One of the first times Victoria meets Albert, they play a game of chess. They are very closely watched by her mother and a number of other women who are in the same room, so they carry on a very quiet conversation so they can't be overheard. Victoria talks about how sometimes she feels like a chess piece, as though she's simply being moved around by powerful politicians.
ALBERT: Then you had better master the rules of the game until you can play it better than they can.
VICTORIA: You don't recommend I find a husband to play it for me?
ALBERT: I should find one to play it with you, not for you.

And there you have it. A few of my favorite movie monarchs.

Who are some of your favorites?

Fun Film Fact 06/26/11

There's a scene at the end of the film where Sam runs after Frodo into the river and nearly drowns. The shot of Sam underwater was not shot underwater at all. Sean Astin was just standing in a studio with a powerful fan underneath him to make his cloak appear as if it were floating.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fun Film Fact 06/25/11

Judy Garland was paid $35 a week and the dog who played Toto was paid $125 a week.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fun Film Fact 06/24/11

Bob Peterson, an artist and director at Pixar, has voiced a number of characters in Pixar's films. Before animation begins on a film, the entire movie is story-boarded and then the story boards are cut together into a rough version of the film. Often the filmmakers will voice the characters themselves just to get an idea of how the film will play. Bob was so good during some of these rough cuts that they didn't bother trying to find a voice actor to replace him. Thus far he's been Roz in Monsters, Inc., Mr. Ray in Finding Nemo, and Dug and Alpha in Up. 

Magical Moments: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

With the finale of the Harry Potter franchise fast approaching, I thought I'd take some time to look back at the past 7 movies. Sure, as a book-purist there are many things about these films that make me unhappy, but the things that do make me happy out-weigh them a hundred-fold. So, over the next few days I'm going to choose my favorite moments from each film. First up, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone:

The Prologue: This scene sets the magical tone for the film. Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall both have fantastic entrances. Dumbledore appears out of nowhere in the fog on Privet Drive and McGonagall transforms from her tabby cat animagus. The scene between Richard Harris and Maggie Smith is merely a tease for the embarrassment of riches that is the cast of this film. Oh, how I miss Richard Harris. He will always be the Dumbledore I picture when I read the books.

The Title Card: Baby Harry's scar transforms into the title card and we get the first real display of Hedwig's Theme. I'd say that Hedwig's Theme has taken its place in the Movie Score Hall of Fame, right next to Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia, and Titanic.

Dudley Trapped Behind The Glass: On a trip to the zoo for Dudley's birthday, Harry accidentally makes the glass of the boa constrictor's exhibit vanish and sets the snake free. Director Chris Columbus added the little part where Dudley falls into the cage and then gets trapped because the glass reappears. I love this moment because it's my favorite Dursley family moment. Dudley cries for his mother, Aunt Petunia shrieks her head off, and Uncle Vernon catches Harry laughing. The best shot is a shot of Dudley with his hands pressed up against the glass on one side and Petunia screaming and mirroring him on the other side.

Owl Post: I love the scene where hundreds of Harry's Hogwarts acceptance letters flood the Dursley's living room because it's my first memory of the Potter films. The very first thing I can remember about these movies is seeing a promotional picture of this scene in National Geographic For Kids.

Harry's Wide-Eyed Wonderments: After Harry learns he's a wizard there's a series of scenes that I like to call Harry's Wide-Eyed Wonderments. It's basically one scene after another where Harry learns something new about the wizarding world and smiles and stares with enormous eyes. Diagon Alley, Gringotts, the Nimbus 2000, getting his wand, seeing Hedwig for the first time, watching Percy Weasley go through Platform 9 and 3/4. Dan Radcliffe has quite large eyes which makes it all the better.

Flashback to Godric's Hollow: As Hagrid tells Harry how his parents died there's a flashback that shows Voldemort murdering Lily and James. This isn't the scene that scared me the most (we'll get to that in a bit), but I did find it very scary. Voldemort is just a faceless, cloaked being. You see Lily holding baby Harry and yelling "James!" Voldemort blows down the nursery door and kills Lily. A fun fact about this scene is that J.K. Rowling wrote this part of the screenplay because she was the only one who knew exactly how it happened.

Meeting Ron and Hermione: Parts 2 & 3 of the trio are introduced just the same as in the books. Ron is lovable and easy-going and Hermione is a charming know-it-all. Of the three main actors, I think Emma Watson is the stand-out in this first film.

Harry's First Night in Gryffindor Tower: After the Sorting and the Welcoming Feast there's a short, wordless scene of Harry in Gryffindor tower. He's in his pajamas and he's sitting in the windowsill looking out at the Hogwarts grounds. At this point in the book there's some narration about how Harry feels like he's found a home. As the camera pans past him, Dan gives the tiniest of smiles. It's a heart-warming moment.

Troll Aftermath: There's a little deleted scene that takes place after they've fought the troll that I really like. It's the moment where they really become friends. It's quite cute. Check it out:

Christmas in Gryffindor Tower: I love the two Christmas scenes in this movie, but there's one particular shot that's my favorite. Harry wakes up to find that he has presents for the first time ever and he runs down the stone steps and into the Common Room. I don't know why, but I love the shot of him running down the stairs. It's just very little boyish and cute. Some of Dan's acting in this film seems a little forced at times, but this happy moment just feels very real.

The Yelling Book: And now we come to the scene that scared the begeezers out of me the first time I saw it. Harry sneaks into the restricted section of the library and opens a book. A face bursts out of the book and starts yelling loudly. Now that I'm more secure in my life it doesn't scare me at all, but I think I found it so scary because it was so tangible. I was smart enough to know that a dark wizard wasn't going to kill me in my sleep, but there were hundreds of books in my house.....

Harry's Sweaters: This is another one of those random things that I find charming. Harry has an impressive collection of cable-knit sweaters. He wears a blue one when Oliver Wood teaches him about Quidditch. He wears a red one when he sneaks into the restricted section of the library. He wears a green one when they visit Hagrid and meet Norbert. And finally, he wears another red one when the trio goes through the trap door. This sweater gets torn up by the flying keys and the chess game, but it makes a reappearance in Chamber of Secrets and it is somehow perfect again. Hmmmm..... It's almost like magic...

The Chess Game: The chess game is my favorite scene in this movie for many reasons. First, I like how little it makes them all look. This never occurred to me when I watched Sorcerer's Stone when I was younger because they were the same age as me, but know that I'm older and I've watched Dan, Rupert and Emma grow up, it's fun to see how little they look next to the ginormous chess pieces. Secondly, I love how Ron is given his shining moment. Of the four Potter directors, Chris Columbus treated Ron with the most respect. Yes, Ron is often comic relief in the books, so it's okay for him to be comic relief in the movies. But Ron is also very smart and brave and intensely loyal to his friends. (There's a reason his patronus is a terrier.) What's NOT okay is the way he was made to be nothing but dumb and goofy in movies 3, 4, 5, and 6. Without Ron, Hermione and Harry would never have won the chess game. Ron sacrifices himself in order to win the game. The end of the scene is the best because it's a real moment of unity for the three of them. It's the moment where they each seem to understand what their role is in this friendship. Ron understands how high the stakes are and he will do anything for his friends, including being knocked unconscious by a chess queen twice his size. Hermione is very much the care-taker of the group. She stays with Ron and alerts Dumbledore to what is happening. Harry is the leader of the pack and goes on to fight Quirrell and Voldemort, but he knows that he would not have made it through the many protective enchantments without Ron and Hermione.

The Hospital Wing: This scene is my favorite Richard Harris moment. When Harry wakes up in the hospital wing after the fight with Voldemort, Dumbledore has all the answers. He is so loving and whimsical. ("Alas, earwax.") However, there is a moment I wish they had kept in. In the book, when Dumbledore talks about how Harry's mother died to save him, Harry starts to cry. Dumbledore purposefully becomes interested in something else to give Harry time to dry his eyes. It's an emotional moment, but J.K. Rowling adds in a bit of humor in a way that only she can. 

Ten Points To Neville: At the closing feast Dumbledore gives out a few last minute House Points to Harry, Hermione, and Ron, but he also gives 10 points to Neville. Matt Lewis' look of astonishment is one of the great comedic moments from all 7 movies.

Hogsmeade Station: Harry says goodbye to Hagrid who gives him a photo album of pictures of his parents. I mostly love this scene because of the music. The track is called "Leaving Hogwarts." It's a sweeping, joyful melody that makes the film go out on a high note. The last line of the movie basically sums up Harry's feelings about Hogwarts: "I'm not going home. Not really."

And there you have it. My favorite moments from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. 
What are some of your favorites?

Coming Soon: Winnie the Pooh

The new Winnie the Pooh movie comes out on July 15! This movie has been in the works for some time and it's finally here.

When I watched the trailer for the first time, it made me so nostalgic for my childhood. I was a huge fan of Pooh when I was little. My sisters and I would watch VHS tapes of the Pooh movies all the time. I was Winnie the Pooh for Halloween one year. When I was ten, I still had a Winnie the Pooh border running along the walls in my bedroom. When my family went to Disney World when I was 12, I didn't even bother with Mickey or the princesses. All the souvenirs I bought were Winnie the Pooh: a Pooh Bear t-shirt, an Eeyore key chain, and an alarm clock with all the characters on it. I've read all the original A.A. Milne stories more than once. Needless to say, I am very excited for the film.

I love use of the Keane song "Somewhere Only We Know" in the trailer. If you listen to the lyrics, it fits perfectly.

Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I've been dreaming of?
Oh simple thing, where have you gone?
I'm getting old and I need something to rely on

Recently, the only Winnie the Pooh around has been a terrible 3D computer-animated show on Playhouse Disney.

In the trailer it even seems like Disney is acknowledging that they've steered Winnie the Pooh in the wrong direction. There's a title card that says "Back where they belong."

The movie is a return to the original Winnie the Pooh that we all know and love. The hand-drawn animation is fun and whimsical, like it should be.

The early reviews are quite positive. The movie is clearly geared toward children (the running time is just 69 minutes), but I wouldn't mind spending an hour with the Hundred Acre Wood gang. After watching Harry Potter, I'm thinking I'll need something I'll be smiling through rather than crying through.

Are you as excited as I am?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fun Film Fact 06/23/11

Clint Eastwood directed the film AND acted in it AND produced it AND composed the music for it. He must have been busy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fun Film Fact 06/22/11

Three generations of Astins have made movies with Peter Jackson. John Astin played The Judge in The Frighteners. His son, Sean, played Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings. And Sean's daughter, Alexandra, played Elanor Gamgee (Sam's daughter) in Return of the King.

I know I've been posting a lot about Lord of the Rings recently. For some reason they've been on my mind a lot these days....

I promise I'll branch out :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fun Film Fact 06/21/11

The first time Elijah Wood, best known for playing Frodo Baggins in The Lord of Rings, ever appeared on film is in this movie. He plays "Video Game Boy." He's the little kid playing the arcade game in one of the scenes in the diner. He's the kid in the red. (And yes, his eyes were enormous back then too.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fun Film Fact 06/20/11

STAR TREK (2009)
The Starfleet ship at the beginning of the movie, the U.S.S. Kelvin, is named after director J.J. Abrams' grandfather, who inspired Abrams to become a filmmaker.

Coming This Fall: Moneyball

The first trailer for the new film Moneyball came out this week and it got me very excited. I've been tracking this movie for a while because it's Aaron Sorkin's latest project. It's based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis, who also wrote The Blind Side. The premise is this: It's the story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players. (Thank you IMDB for that quick description.)

Basically, the Oakland A's had a very small budget, thus they could not get big players who demanded big salaries. (The A's had a budget of about $41 million while the Yankees had a budget of about $125 million.) Billy Beane put together a team of excellent players who were cheap because they were undervalued. In the trailer the team is referred to as The Island of Misfit Toys. In many ways, the success of this theory changed the game of baseball. Here's why I'm so excited about the movie:

  • The Writers: Moneyball is co-written by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian. Aaron Sorkin is one of my favorite writers and he just won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay for The Social Network. His other films include Charlie Wilson's War, The American President, and A Few Good Men. He's also written three of my favorite television shows: Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. If you've seen any of those movies or shows, you know that Sorkin's dialogue is musical. It is usually very fast-paced and it has a certain rhythm to it. Steven Zaillian has written Schindler's List, Mission: Impossible, A Civil Action and Gangs of New York to name a few. It will be really interesting to see how both writers' styles mesh together.
  • The Director: This is only Bennett Miller's second feature film, but his first film, Capote, was SO good. I have high hopes for this film as well. Aaron Sorkin dialogue in the hands of the wrong director can be disastrous, but I think Miller has what it takes to pull it off.
  • The Cast: Brad Pitt (Billy Beane) is not exactly my favorite guy in Hollywood (his public persona sometimes makes it hard for me to take him seriously) but there's no denying that when he's given a great character, he can be a great actor. Jonah Hill plays Peter Brand, the wiz kid who comes up with the low-budget-team theory. Jonah Hill is a great comedic actor. He's been in a lot of Judd Apatow movies. It will be interesting to see him in a more serious role. And I've saved the best for last: Philip Seymour Hoffman. He plays Art Howe, the manager of the A's. Philip Seymour Hoffman played Truman Capote in Capote, so he knows Miller, and he also had a role in Charlie Wilson's War, so he knows Aaron Sorkin as well. Philip Seymour Hoffman rarely chooses bad films, so the fact that he's in this movie makes me happy.

    The film is still 3 months away, but it's already getting Oscar buzz for its acting and writing. Aaron Sorkin could become the first writer to win two years in a row.

    The movies opens on September 23.

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Fun Film Fact 06/19/11

    TITANIC (1997)
    The set of the Titanic's exterior was actually built in a real body of water and because the filming of the sinking was so dangerous, about one-fifth of the extras were certified lifeguards in case anyone fell in the water by mistake.

    My Top 15 Movie Dads

    In celebration of Father's Day here's a countdown of my favorite movie dads.
    Mind you, this is not a list of the BEST dads (Jimmy Markum and Darth Vader could use some parenting classes). It's just a list of my favorite father figures from film. <<Bonus points for alliteration

    #15 Mr. Fox
    FANTASTIC MR. FOX (2009)
    Voiced by George Clooney

    If you haven't see Fantastic Mr. Fox (which a lot of people haven't because it tanked at the box office) I would definitely recommend it. It's based on a Roald Dahl book and it's a beautiful little stop-motion movie made by Wes Anderson about a community of animals (foxes, badgers, weasels and the like) who decide to take on the three terrible farmers who are constantly trying to kill them. Yes, it sounds generic and fluffy, but it's not. It's really funny and witty. Mr. Fox is a master at breaking into the various farms and stealing chickens and apples and cookies, but when he and Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) decide to start a family, he has a hard time settling down. The best relationship in the movie is between Mr. Fox and his son Ash. Ash is shy and self-conscious and Mr. Fox is sometimes disappointed that his son isn't bold and daring like he is. Go rent it. I know you'll like it.

    #14 Lord Elrond
    Played by Hugo Weaving

    Lord Elrond is in all three Rings movies, but his fatherly role is best in the third film. He loves his daughter, Arwen, very much and it breaks his heart to see her fall in love with Aragorn, a human. If she chooses to stay with him, she will forfeit her elven immortality. He tries to make her leave Middle Earth with the other elves to save her, but she ultimately chooses to stay with Aragorn. My favorite Elrond moment in all three films is a scene where he doesn't even say a word. It's at the end when Aragorn is crowned king and he sees Arwen for the first time since leaving Rivendell back in Fellowship of the Ring. There is a two-shot of Arwen with Elrond in the background. As she goes to Aragorn, Hugo Weaving has the most incredible look on his face. It's a combination of happiness for his daughter and sadness for her mortality. It's a beautiful acting moment.

    #13 Daniel
    LOVE ACTUALLY (2003)
    Played by Liam Neeson

    Daniel is a widower and when his wife died, he was left to take care of her son, his stepson. Love Actually is all about love in its many forms. My favorite relationship in the film is between the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) and his assistant, but a close second is the relationship between Daniel and Sam (Thomas Sangster). (As a side note I would just like to say that I'm not sure I've ever seen a kid with bigger eyes than Thomas Sangster's.) The relationship spins out basically just how you would expect: They start out distant and slowly but surely events in their lives bring them closer together (in this case it's that Sam needs advice about how to get a girl in his class to notice him) and by the end they're as close as if they were biological father and son. Though the plot line is fairly generic, the acting is great and there are some fantastic scenes between the two of them. My favorite is the scene where they watch Titanic together. The scene ends with the greatest line: "Come on, Dad. Let's go get the shit kicked out of us by love."

    #12 Chris Gardner
    Played by Will Smith

    In The Pursuit of Happyness you watch Chris Gardner's situation go from bad to worse to almost unwatchable destitution and all the while he has his son with him. After they get evicted, they go from one homeless shelter to another, just barely getting by. I have a hard time watching the scene where they are forced to spend a night in the bathroom of the subway station. But Chris is incredibly devoted to his son and almost everything he does is meant to ensure a better future for Christopher, Jr. A cool fact about the film is that Christopher, Jr. is played by Will Smith's actual son, Jaden Smith.

    #11 Mac MacGuff
    JUNO (2007)
    Played by J.K. Simmons

    So often in movies geared toward teenagers the parents are made to be one-dimensional ding-bats, but in Juno both of Juno's parents are so wonderfully three-dimensional. Mac MacGuff is a hard-working blue-collar dad who loves his kids very much. My favorite scene with him is the scene where Juno tells her parents that she is pregnant. Instead of blowing up and being incredibly angry, he's disappointed. He's also sad for his daughter because he knows it means she's going to have to grow up a lot sooner than planned. It's that sort of unconditional love for his kids that makes me love Mac MacGuff. He also has some of the best one-liners in the movie. His response to learning that Bleeker is the father makes me laugh so hard. "I didn't know he had it in him."

    #10 Arthur Weasley
    Played by Mark Williams

    There are a lot of father-figures in the Harry Potter books and films and, though he isn't my favorite father-figure, I adore Mr. Weasley. Mrs. Weasley is very much a substitute mother to Harry, but Mr. Weasley isn't so much a substitute father. He's more of a loveable, absent-minded uncle. Arthur is the father of seven and he works so hard at a thankless job. The thing I love most about the Weasley family is that no matter how poor they are, they are always so happy and loving. My favorite quality in Mr. Weasley is his love of Muggles. The best scenes with him are when he mispronounces things or asks Harry endless questions about batteries or rubber ducks. Mark Williams is perfectly cast. When he is introduced in Chamber of Secrets you like him right off the bat. His first scene is the morning after the twins and Ron rescue Harry in the flying car. Though Mr. Weasley scolds his children, he is secretly impressed by the brilliance of their plan. 

    #9 Jimmy Markum
    MYSTIC RIVER (2003)
    Played by Sean Penn

    When his teenage daughter is murdered, Jimmy Markum sets out on a violent crusade to avenge her death. Instead of letting the cops do their job, he decides to take things into his own hands. Sean Penn, in his first Oscar-winning role, plays him with such ferocity and intensity. Though he is angry and violent, Jimmy also has two other daughters, which softens him up a bit. This is my favorite Sean Penn performance because of the incredible range he displays. There's the scene at the beginning of the movie where he makes funny faces at his daughter as she walks down the aisle at her First Communion that's so heart-warming and fun. Then there's the scene at the very end in the bar where he and two of his friends corner the man he suspects of murdering his daughter. It's an intensely disturbing scene. My favorite acting moment is the scene where he learns his daughter has been murdered. As he screams and yells and cries, he has to be restrained by seven policemen. I found it hard to watch the first time I saw it. Clint Eastwood shot it in a cool way, with the camera slowly pulling away overhead.

    #8 Robert Parr/ Mr. Incredible
    Voiced by Craig T. Nelson

    In the beginning scenes of The Incredibles Robert Parr is bored with his job and annoyed with having to keep his superpowers a secret. He loves his wife and kids, but he's stuck in a rut. He jumps at the opportunity to reclaim his super-identity and in the process of becoming a superhero again, he becomes a super dad. My favorite scene is when he thinks his family has been killed by Syndrome. The preceding scene of Helen Parr and the kids dodging the missiles is intensely exciting and so the next scene is intensely sad. Those geniuses at Pixar....

     #7 Ben Parker
    SPIDERMAN (2002)
    Played by Cliff Robertson

    I know Ben Parker is Peter's uncle, but for all intents and purposes, he's Peter's father. Uncle Ben is so loving and joyful and I just adore him. Uncle Ben's death is what ultimately makes Peter decide to become Spiderman and he influences a lot of Peter's actions even after he's dead. Cliff Robertson plays Uncle Ben with such warmth and understanding. He also has the greatest line ever in a superhero movie: "Remember, with great power comes great responsiblity." The Spiderman franchise is being rebooted and the first film, The Amazing Spiderman, has just wrapped filming. I am SO jazzed about the new cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Sally Field and guess who's playing Uncle Ben. MARTIN SHEEN! I love everything Martin Sheen does: The West Wing, The Departed, Wall Street, so I can't wait to see him as Ben Parker.

    #6 Mufasa
    THE LION KING (1994)
    Voiced by James Earl Jones

    I would have to say that Mufasa is the most powerful dad on this list. Not only does he have an incredibly powerful voice, he has an incredibly powerful onscreen presence, which is very rare for an animated movie, especially one about animals. I'm not sure if there's another animated character that even comes close. It's also rare for a movie geared toward children to have such a prominent death theme. Almost every scene Mufasa is in, he talks about death. In the scene where he shows Simba the pridelands, he talks about how death is just part of the circle of life. In the next scene, he saves Simba from being killed by the hyenas. Then in the next scene, he talks about how the stars are the kings of old and how he will one day join them. And then finally, he has a death scene. I love how honest Mufasa is with Simba. I always believe the truth is best and I hate it when adults lie to kids because they don't think the kids can handle the truth. Sure, a lie protects them for the moment, but the truth is always better in the long run.

    #5 Marlin
    FINDING NEMO (2003)
    Voiced by Albert Brooks

    Marlin is another perfect example of unconditional love overcoming all odds. After his wife is eaten by a barracuda, Marlin is terrified of the ocean. He sees danger everywhere, so he shelters Nemo from everything. When Nemo is taken by scuba-divers, Marlin's only mission is to find his son. His fears go out the window because Nemo is all that matters to him. He escapes sharks, jellyfish, and whales and rides the EAC with totally mellow sea turtles, all in pursuit of Nemo. As the pelicans say, "That's one dedicated father."

    #4 Jimmy Braddock
    Played by Russell Crowe

    Cinderella Man is based on the true story of Jimmy Braddock. During the Great Depression James Braddock was a down-and-out boxer who made a huge comeback. He was seen as a sign of hope by many destitute Americans. I love the tagline of the movie: "When the country was on its knees, he brought us to our feet." In the movie, Jimmy and his wife Mae (Renee Zelleweger) have three children to care of during a time when it is extremely difficult to find work. Many families around them have sent their children away to live with relatives who can take care of them, but Jimmy refuses to let his children go. I have two favorite fathering moments in this movie. The first is a scene at the beginning of the movie where one of the young sons steals a salami from the deli. Jimmy scolds him and takes him to the deli to return it and they have a wonderful scene outside the deli. Jimmy tells Jay to never steal again and Jay admits he stole it because he knows how poor they are and he wanted to help. My other favorite scene is when Mae decides to send the children away without telling Jimmy. Jimmy has been shut out of the boxing world for some time and he comes home to find the children gone. He immediately goes to Madison Square Garden where he begs for money from the boxing big-wigs who are all still prosperous. He is literally hat-in-hand. Certain movies make me cry, but I also have certain actors who, when they cry, make me cry. Russell Crowe is one of those actors and that is one of those scenes.

    #3 Darth Vader
    Played by David Prowse, Voiced by James Earl Jones

    Darth Vader is one of the most well-known movie fathers of all time. Even people who haven't seen Star Wars know "I am your father." (He never says "Luke, I am your father." Get your facts straight people.) Given that he repeatedly tries to kill his children and then slices off his son's arm, I would say that Vader lands on the lower end of the 'good parenting skills' scale. However, he eventually sees the error of his ways and has a very sad final scene with Luke as he dies.

    #2 Dr. Wilbur Larch
    Played by Michael Caine

    Dr. Larch is the doctor at the Saint Cloud Orphanage. Though he isn't anyone's biological father, he is the only male on the staff, so he becomes the father-figure for all the children at the orphanage. Homer Welles (Tobey Maguire) grows particularly close to Dr. Larch and Dr. Larch trains him to be a doctor. One of my favorite lines of Larch's is during a voice-over at the beginning where he talks about Homer: "I named him Homer, after the Greek poet, and Welles because he seemed...deep." Michael Caine won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this role, and rightly so. Dr. Larch is loving and caring, but also very lonely. He has many demons, including an addiction to ether. The writing (which also won an Oscar) is beautiful and Dr. Larch is an incredibly realistic character. Every night when he puts the boys to bed, he reads to them and there are a number of fantastic scenes where he reads from David Copperfield. And each night as he turns out the light he says, "Goodnight you princes of Maine, you kings of New England." One of the reasons I love The Cider House Rules so much is because it is a beautiful movie about New England. 

    #1 Captain Von Trapp
    Played by Christopher Plummer

    The Sound of Music is my absolute favorite musical and I love Capt. Von Trapp because of his character arc. He is a widower and a retired naval officer and, though he appears to be more of a drill sergeant than a father at first, he loves his children very deeply. At first he finds Maria's presence in his home irritating and her love of music unacceptable, but he soon falls in love with her. The Nazis want Capt. Von Trapp to serve in the German navy and he is vehemently opposed to the idea, so he devises an escape plan. Capt. Von Trapp will literally climb mountains for his children. Christopher Plummer is a master actor. In the beginning scenes when he is ordering his children around with a whistle, he can come off as a one-note character, but Plummer's acting makes the character seem real. And of course by the end of the movie he is expressing his love towards his children and Maria in a much more overt way. My favorite scene is when he sings "Edelweiss." There's some serious acting going on as he sings. (I know he's dubbed, but this is one of those cases where I just don't care.) It's a beautiful scene.

    And there you have it. My Top 15 Movie Dads. Let me know who some of your favorites are in the comments!


    Fun Film Fact 06/18/11

    Sir Ian McKellan (Gandalf) is wearing a prosthetic nose that makes his nose bigger and pointier because the filmmakers wanted him to look just how Gandalf is described in the books.

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Fun Film Fact 06/17/11

    Anthony Hopkins won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, though he is only on screen for 16 minutes. This is the record for shortest amount of screen time to win the lead actor Oscar.