Thursday, January 26, 2017

Oscar Nominations and Contest

Early Tuesday morning the Oscar nominations were announced. This annual event of pure spectacle celebrating everything I love was passed down to me by my Grandma Roth. She would collect clippings and pictures and news stories of the event into scrapbooks for years. These books were a wonder for me as a child as I perused all the glitz, glamor and a world that seemed so magical (it's also where I discovered Grace Kelly). But sadly, these books are gone as she succumbed to Alzheimer's in her later years and gave these scrapbooks away to neighbors.

Because of this fact, even though I have held competitions in the past; I am initiating the first annual Rita Roth Oscar Competition. This is to award the one who predicts the most winners from all available nominations. The prize will be awarded to the winner and will be film related. So everyone, sign onto and make sure that you have me friended on Facebook so we can track each other's progress. We will use their rules to determine the winner. So break out your predictions and let us celebrate cinema, competitions and my late grandmother, Rita Daly Roth!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Movie Review: Split - or, the return of M. Night

So, honestly M. Night Shyamalan has not made a good movie since Signs, so imagine my surprise that Split is actually, well….good. Of course, there are plenty of things that still give me pause. It’s pretentious, way too serious tone, exploits women (I will address that later) and has too many characters standing around doing very little. However, on the whole, it is a great creepy thriller and an excellent showcase for James McAvoy playing no less than 7 characters. Anya Taylor-Joy, whose face I can’t quite place plays the ‘heroine’ for lack of a better term who seems to survive the ordeal of being kidnapped with two other teenage girls by McAvoy’s psychotic personalities. Like most horror films, the plot of Split centers around on will they or won’t they escape. Shyamalan uses a confusing space, and even more confusing captor and just enough hope to have the viewer invested in the outcome.

The parts I do have an issue with are mainly annoyances. Why doesn’t anyone ever smile ever in any of his films? Why is are there so many characters that just stand around. The three kidnapped girls were so stock, I couldn’t decide if Shyamalan didn’t know what to do with them or they were just bad actors. Luckily Betty Buckley as McAvoy’s psychiatrist has some acting chops in this film. The part that really bothered me was the exploitation of the girl's innocence vs. trauma that propels one of the story arcs. The point is made well in this article. In flashbacks, we see that one of them has had to endure abuse in all too real scenarios at the hands of a relative. Using this contrivance neither strengthens the character, nor the story and hence is used merely for sympathy. I think it is dangerous to use female victimization so callously, it just re-victimizes the characters, as well as those who may actually have to endure it.

The best part of the film probably comes from the character building. It’s quite horrible the things that have to occur to create a true monster from McAvoy’s character, but that makes the payoff sweeter. I have always thought that M. Night has made only three good films…The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, and now we get a film that returns to those roots and even aligns in the same cinematic universe where those films could occur. The best part is that he doesn’t rely on his trademark twist-ending or big reveal to make the point. The emergence of the villain was not a surprise ending, but a slowly structured build up where we actually buy into a monster like him existing. The most telling sign that the film was good is that I’m actually excited to see the next Shyamalan film, and that’s really saying something!

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Friday, January 06, 2017

Movie Review: La La Land - or, why I love movies

It's been so long since I have written a movie review, it would take something of a small miracle for me to get back into the swing of things. That small miracle came in the form of La La Land, from a director I knew nothing about, but actors people pretty much know everything about. La La Land is a musical, but more than an earnest plea for artistry or a social commentary...It is a musical for the pure joy of celebrating music. It is flashy, spectacular, sad, infuriating, beautiful, messy and joyous all in parts. It brazen acceptance of itself as entertainment is what a movie going experience should be, rather than what we have come to expect with are super-sized CG samplings of destruction.

La La Land is the same story of all other great musicals, boy meets girl, fall in love despite all obstacles and sing their way through the ups and downs of a technicolor relationship. Ryan Gosling (boy) and Emma Stone (girl) are not the best dancers, singers or actors, but the way they approach their roles with such gusto and all out abandonment kept me enraptured the entire time. Literally, I was sitting forward in my seat watching the chemistry these two had in parts of the film. This film is truly the sum of the parts is way greater than their individual contributions. Stone's "my eyes convey way more than anything I say" stare will win her some acting awards for this and Gosling proves he is just as good a musician and awkward romantic as he is the cool heartbreaker.

But I have given away the icing on this cake. The film is a nod to everything I love about film. The sound design and choreography are the weakest parts and were still better than anything I have seen in the past decade. The cinematography reminded me of the Douglas Sirk melodramas and saturated tones of Hitchcock's Vertigo. The location was not happenstance and all the nods to Hollywood, the good, bad and magical almost made me tear up (especially everything going on in my old stomping ground on the Warner Bros back lot).

Above all, the pacing was masterful...moving from 5-minute continuous dance shots to quick staccato emotional montages that told a fictional masterpiece story. I was dumbfounded that I could be smiling so big in a film while simultaneously crying my eyes out. That's the best way to describe this film, a contradiction of expectation.  So if you are willing to forgo a film that uses special effects, sex, celebrity, superheroes or space to bombard your senses, try La La Land. Reward yourself with a modern gem of a film that will leave you thanking the filmmakers for relying on story and entertainment to give you something way more satisfying for a change.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

NFL Rankings - 12/16/14

So, a lot still remained at the top, but the Packers loss slides them down a bit. He's the details:

  1. Seahawks - up 1
  2. Broncos - up 2
  3. Patriots - same
  4. Packers - down 3
  5. Cardinals - same
  6. Bills - up 8
  7. Steelers - down 1
  8. Bengals - down 1
  9. Colts - down 1
  10. Cowboys - up 2
  11. Lions - down 2
  12. Chiefs - up 8
  13. Ravens - down 3
  14. Saints - up 4
  15. Rams - down 4
  16. Eagles - down 3
  17. Falcons - down 2
  18. Chargers - down 2
  19. Raiders - down 2
  20. 49ers - down 1
  21. Panthers - up 4
  22. Browns - down 1
  23. Dolphins - down 1
  24. Texans - down 1
  25. Vikings - down 1
  26. Bears - same
  27. Jets - same
  28. Giants - up 3
  29. Redskins - down 1
  30. Buccaneers - down 1
  31. Jaguars - down 1
  32. Titans - same

Friday, December 12, 2014

NBA Jazz Player Value - Quarter

Time again to look at the player value of the jazz purely from a stats standpoint. I've basically averaged how much they make by their output to come up with their value. Being 1/4 the way through the season, I felt it was time to asses their contributions based on how much we're paying them. Can't wait to see what new player Patrick Christopher brings to the team.

Above the Line:

1. Joe Ingles (same) - Still at the top because he gets paid so little, and leads with the lowest average for steals, assists and points.

2. Trey Burke (same) - still going strong!

3. Rudy Gobert (same) - averaging a team best $10,066 per rebound, he also leads the team in Field goal percentage at 60.30%

4. Alec Burks (up 1) - Still my favorite player on the team. Basically runs the offense.

5. Rodney Hood (up 1) - With Burks out for a few games, hood had a chance to start and upped his value. He is still last on the team in FG 29% and 3-point average 26.30%.

Below the line:

6. Trevor Booker (up 2) - is this close to being above the line!

7. Dante Exum (same) - is just ahead of Hayward on the value scale, but making only 59.10% of his free throws won't help him.

8. Gordon Hayward (up 2) - making strides in his value index.

9. Ian Clark (down 5) - the largest drop is due to his underutilization, but he's still making a team best 50% of his 3's and 100% of his Free Throws.

10. Enes Kanter (up 2) - I hope he proves me wrong, but we need someone new.

11. Derrick Favors (same) - not doing much as far as value is concerned, but making a huge impat on the court.

12. Steve Novak - (down 3) - not much playing time, but fills a good role. He's tops on the team with 50% 3 pointers.

13. Jeremy Evans - This guy just never gets to play.

Exodus: Gods and Kings - Review

There is a part in Exodus that sums up the movie perfectly..A vengeful God who looks nothing like you probably would imagine, throws a fit of rage as he wants the Pharoah to get on his knees before him, and then calmly says something profound to a lost Moses (Christian Bale), before the next scene evolves into something out of a Jaws movie. Such is the highs, lows and everything in between film of Gods and Kings. The Mood shifts from reverent to violent on a dime and not enough time is spent developing the charaters enough so that we care if they live or die. That could be a good thing since it spares us from a 4 hour run time like the 10 Commandments.

Christian bale plays a confused Moses who doesn't know he's Jewish, and never really accepts it while Joel Edgerton plays his brother-like king Ramses who is as conflicted and twisted as he is a loving father. I have no clue why they promote Sigurney Weaver, she has.. like, 1 line. Ridley Scott is the director and with that dream team assembled it seems like the movie should be way better than it really is.

The move in General is really good. The way the plagues are presented is graphic and realistic, giving this tale more of a sense of dire survival rather than spectacle. The parting of the Red sea is also particularly realistic and incredible. Other elements could have been fleshed out and conversations in the bible never happen on the film. God is inconspicuously absent in most of the film, giving Moses's decisions a sense of desperation rather than obedience. For a film about the works of God, you would expect him to have a larger (both literally and figuratively) role.

Final Consensus:
See it now!!!!
See it in theaters!!!
Rent it on DVD/BluRay!!
Wait for it on TV!
Don’t Bother Share

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

NFL Rankings - 12/9/14

So, here are my latest rankings based on quality wins. Let me know if you have any beef! Good luck to all those who made it to Playoffs in their Fantasy Leagues! I made it to all three of mine. WOOT!!
  1. Packers - same
  2. Seahawks - same
  3. Patriots - same
  4. Broncos - same
  5. Cardinals - up 1
  6. Steelers - up 13
  7. Bengals - down 2
  8. Colts - up 8
  9. Lions - up 2
  10. Ravens - up 11
  11. Rams - up 3
  12. Cowboys - up 8
  13. Eagles - down 6
  14. Bills - down 6
  15. Falcons - down 6
  16. Chargers - down 6
  17. Raiders - up 8
  18. Saints - down 6
  19. 49ers - down 6
  20. Chiefs - down 5
  21. Browns - down 4
  22. Dolphins - down 4
  23. Texans - down 1
  24. Vikings - same
  25. Panthers - up 5
  26. Bears - down 3
  27. Jets - down 1
  28. Redskins - down 1
  29. Buccaneers - down 1
  30. Jaguars - down 1
  31. Giants - same
  32. Titans - same