The Avengers ***

Usually I do a spiritual piece on Sunday, but just not in that mood. I may be this week with my father-in-law Walter Maheux’s graveside funeral on Thursday.

So I saw “The Avengers”, would have been fine waiting but Lanna really wanted to see it this weekend.

It was fun, it was a lot, loud, and frankly kind of long.

In the Marvel Avengers movies so far would put in 3rd out of 5.

My favorite is easily the breezy, fun Iron Man ***1/2; and least favorite a movie like The Avengers that had the disease of more (ie too many, plots, characters, etc.) Iron Man 2 **.

Second would be the suprisingly good popcorn movie Captain America ***. Honestly, it’s close between Thor and The Avengers, I really enjoyed the part of Thor on Earth, but not as much on Asgard. For the Avengers, there was fun in the battle scenes, but a lot of the middle felt very long. For now both get ***, but have The Avengers ahead of Thor.

So, it’s good. I am hoping “The Amazing Spider-Man” and the “Dark Knight Rises” are better. Have high expectations for both, especially Dark Knight Rises.

And Samuel L. Jackson, you are a cool dude, but don’t diss on A.O. Scott for not liking your movie.

Why I Prefer Seeing the Movie First

People who follow me at all know I read a lot.

I read books now more than ever, used to read more newspapers and magazines.

But, I hear all the time, I want to see say “Hunger Games” but I need to read the book/books first. I personally prefer seeing the movie first.

Books are a totally different format, richer, longer, have subtext, a medium of words. Film is a medium of images and sounds, and quite a bit shorter at around 90-120 minutes. The average screenplay is 95-125 pages long, the average book is around 300 pages. It’s simply different.

For me a good example of this is Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”. Although the book the “Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick is very cinematic, and the look is in the movie, Scorsese adds scenes, depth of character and a few other things I don’t see in the book. I did see “Hugo” before reading the book, and think if I read the book first I would have used my image of the book to cloud the movie and not loved the movie for what it did well but get trapped in comparisons.

An example of a book I did read first which clouded my judgment of the movie is “Jurassic Park.” I quite enjoyed Micheal Crichton’s novel, and I missed several scenes (especially the river scene) that were in the book in the movie. Although Spielberg does a good job with it, I find actually the monster movie “The Lost World” to be more fun. I think this is partially because my view of the book hurts the movie.

Another example for me from a recent movie is “The Hunger Games.” My wife has read through this series twice already, and I am still around 20% in the first book. I quite enjoyed the movie, and wonder if my judgement of the book would have clouded how I see the film.

Basically movies and books are entirely different mediums. If you try to make the movie just like the book you get boring movies like Chris Columbus’s Harry Potter 1 and 2, which although good and nowhere near as rich to me as Cauron’s version that shares the vision of the book but doesn’t feel the need to get everything in Harry Potter 3 (still the best of the series to me.

What do you think?


Ranking the Best Picture Nominees

My favorite film of the year Super 8 isn’t nominated, and another of my favorites, the Muppets isn’t (which isn’t surprising). Movie I think most deserved from love was Harry Potter 7:2 after being one of the most successful movie franchises of all time.

These are in my order of preference:

1) Hugo ****1/2 My #2 movie of the year. A great homage to moviemaking, and amazing child acting (along with Super 8), wonderful movie.

2) Midnight in Paris ****1/4 … Wonderful dream of a movie, my #3 of the year. Excellent movie on nostalgia.

3) The Artist **** … Uggie gives the best pet acting performance of all time, sad he has to retire from acting. Wonderful silent film, and another movie about movies just like Hugo.

4) The Descendants **** … Excellent acting, wonderful movie about death and dying. Clooney has an excellent chance for best actor.

5. The Tree of Life (Guess 3-4) … The movie I haven’t seen of the 9, I want to see the most. Looks interesting, rich and fascinating.

6. The Help (Guess 3) .. Looks like a nice movie. The biggest hit of the 9.

7. Moneyball *** … Just like “The Social Network” very dissappointing, well made, but left me cold.

8. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Guess 2 1/2) … Not really sure why this was nominated given that it’s only around 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, this should have been Harry Potter’s spot.

9. War Horse (Guess 2-2 1/2) .. This movie doesn’t really appeal to me at all and had only good reviews, not really sure why nominated. I do love Steven Spielberg, but this and Tintin didn’t really interest me at all.

Rooting for Hugo, think Midnight in Paris should be happy to be nominated. If “The Artist” wins as expected will be one of the best recent Best Picture winners. Best since for me “No Country for Old Men” ****.

Here is a list of all Best Picture winners:


So, I had no idea what to write tonight.

I was listening to my favorite radio station in Portland, WPMG 90.9 listening to the amazing Midnight Sun radio show (5-7pm blues/soul Monday-Friday), and heard her like “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” and “The Artist”.

The “Extremely Loud” review didn’t bother me, but I was only 1/2 listening to “The Artist” review and realized she was going over much of the plot which I didn’t know, and realized I was glad I wasn’t really listening.

My wife is much worse about spoilers then I am, but I want to know the movie/book/etc. was good or bad, what was done well, good acting, etc.

I don’t want to have a plot summary.

A perfect example of a spoiler would be some of the previews for “Contraband” the new Mark Wahlberg movie. Me and Lanna saw a preview before I think “The Descendants” and after the 2 minute trailer, felt like we just saw the whole movie, plot twists and all.

Here would be an example from a movie hopefully everyone has seen by now: “The Empire Strikes Back” ..

Good review: Darker then the original, more exploration of the force and the mystical energy of this universe, a richer film.

Bad: Listing every major plot point of the movie, and all the many rich surprises, yep I couldn’t do spoilers for a movie that is part of the collective experience of the world and has been spoiled as a joke in everything from the Simpsons to South Park.

So, let me know you loved something, loved the acting, loved the characters; don’t tell me what happened.

Ok, Cheers!

Hugo ****1/2

I love the movies.

I have since Star Wars came out when I was 3 in 1977.

Star Wars was the movie that got me into reading, with books with read along LPs. I loved the tales of the empire, the jedi and the force.

Hugo is a wonderful movie. One that use tropes of juvenile fiction and “kid’s movies,” but is not a kid’s movie itself.

It’s hard to review movies when your partner considers everything a spoiler. It’s also interesting that my friend Keith said the movie was too long for 3-D. After seeing it I understand what he means.

I find 3-D tiring, especially with my childhood amblioypia (ie lazy eye) and having a much worse left then right eye.

Hugo is magic. It is told in a magical place of clocks, and gears, and trains and friendships. It shows the wonder of being a child, the love of the power of movies, and some of the best child acting I can remember (as does my co-favorite film of 2011, Super 8).

The movie starts slow, and in the warm clock towers of one of the main Paris train stations sometime post World War I. You see a child of about 12 frantically winding clocks and living in an amazing, surreal place. You wonder why he is there, and why there are no adults.

The tale of the Hugo Cabret is the center of this story, the boy who knows how to fix things, even though he is broken himself. The boy who can fix broken men and bring dreams again. I want to say more but that would go again into spoiler territory.

This is also a movie about a love of movies, and how movies bring us the language of dreams. It is beautiful and one of the best movies I have seen in many years. I love Martin Scorsese and this would be on my top 3 for him (with the extremely different Taxi Driver and GoodFellas).

It also has amazing acting by it’s three leads: Ben Kingsley, Asa Butterfield as Hugo Cabret, and Chloe Moretz as the other child lead.

It’s wonderful, see it in the theater if you can, and I think it will be on DVD soon. The movie is due for tons of technical awards, and makes you realize why you love movies.


Was talking to someone on Facebook why SOPA should pass for artists.

It’s an argument.

But, considering the MPAA/RIAAs stance on almost anything new, I am dubious of them making a good bill.

The recording industry lost an entire generation or maybe more of fans when they attacked anyone downloading music online and vilified fans. The recording industry should have been smarter and dropped the insanely high nearly $20 retail price for a CD and realize a more realistic price would be $5-$10. They should also lower catalog pricing.

An example of way to work within the system for our era is the studios agreements with Amazon Prime/Netflix/Spotify. This allows payments and for people to get media at a reasonable price easily. If people want to own DVDs/CDs they can or they get the chance to see if it would be something they would like first.

It also gets a chance for smaller titles to be recognized.

But overreaching acts that allow for website shutdowns without due process, no thanks.

Here is the text of SOPA:

And here is one of many good arguments against it:

What do you think about it?

The Descendants ****

This is a much, much richer movie then the previews indicate.

It’s not a romp. It’s not light. It is very rich, and full of laughter and tears.

What it is a superbly well acted movie about death and dying. Which is a topic you don’t see a lot in Hollywood. It’s also about how hard fatherhood can be.

George Clooney shows that he is more then just a star, but legitimately a good actor. And Alexander Payne is a great writer and director.

It also reminded me how honorable and rewarding hospice work is and working with dying patients and their families. Hospice/hospital work with dying patients is extremely brave.

Well worth seeing, made me feel lucky to still have my dad alive, after being diagnosed more then 3 years ago with brain cancer.

Right now would be my #4 movie of the year between “The Muppets” and “Harry Potter 7:2.” Really excellent work, well worth seeing. Glad it got a full theater on a Wednesday night.

Movies: 2011

2011 may be the year I feel meh about going to the movies.

The popcorn keeps getting more expensive, the commercials keep getting louder, and the patrons more obnoxious.

As much as my wife Lanna loves going to the movies. I find it more obnoxious all the time. It is usually better though when I see a mid-week show after the first weekend.

That being said there were 4 movies I saw in the theatre this year that I loved and 2 I adored.

My favorite movie of the year and favorite in several years since “Children of Men” (my favorite movie of the 2000s) was the wonderful “Super 8.” ****1/2 — This is what I loved about moviemaking as a child. Super 8 also got some of the harshest reviews and buzz I read of the year, such as sure it was really good, but I expected amazing. Or too much like early Spielberg (like this is a bad thing.) I love the children that acted in the movie, loved the empty town, and loved the sense of play. Highly recommended.

The other movie I adored this year is “Midnight in Paris” from Woody Allen. To me the best Woody Allen movie since “The Purple Rose of Cairo” and up there with his very best like “Annie Hall”, “Zelig” and “Bananas.” (It’s my list.) I loved his look at nostalgia, and how sometimes what came before sounds better then what’s here now. Wonderful movie and surreal. ****

3rd favorite of the year and a heck of a lot of fun was “The Muppets”. I have loved the Muppets since I was a little kid, and this exceeded my expectations in every way. Just a hoot, if you haven’t seen it yet go smile. ****

4th favorite .. Harry Potter 7:2 — I don’t want to say the full name, but really well done. Enjoyable, fun. A good day at the movies *** 1/2.

And that’s really all I consider top 10 material I have seen so far. I have enjoyed a couple other movies this year as popcorn flicks. “Captain America” was solid ***; as was “X-Men: First Class” *** … “Crazy, Stupid Love” was fun *** … I also thought “Thor” wasn’t bad **1/2. .. “Moneyball” felt like I did about “The Social Network” pretty, well acted, but frankly kind of dull. **1/2

Again not a great year for me.

Now to the disappointments:

First was one of the movies I was very excited to see .. I loved Warner Herzog’s “Grizzly Man” but unfortunately was dizzy in a way I haven’t been since the “Blair Witch Project” for his “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” **. I really wanted to like this movie. I did see it in 2-D (only 3-D movie I saw was Captain America) because I usually get nausated in 3-D and it was the only format it was available in. I understand they weren’t able to get steadicam shots due to restrictions in filming the caves, but the handi-cam was unfortunately all over the place.

The images were beautiful, but mainly I just felt sea sick. And the supporting parts of the movie didn’t thrill me. Disappointing.

Now the 2 movies I actually hated:

1) Bridesmaids * — Allie/@broke207 agrees that this was really crap. In fact if you funniest scene involves crapping in a wedding dress and having Wilson Phillips show up you are not a genius comedy. This was boring, stupid, and I have no idea why it was so popular. Didn’t find it funny … Heard the “Hangover 2″ was as bad as I found Bridesmaids, so didn’t see it even though I loved the original.

2) Cowboys and Aliens 1/2* — This is one of the first movies I remember that I seriously considered going to the lobby and playing cell phone games over watching the film. It’s a really boring western, with a dumb science fiction movie on top of it. Waste of time. Boring, dumb. Heard the movie was based on the cover to a graphic novel, not the graphic novel itself and it shows. Would have been better as a YouTube short called “Cowboys, Aliens and Smurfs” at least that way could have had some blue goo and been done in 3 minutes. Sucked.

Curious what you enjoyed this year .. Curious about “The Artist”, “Hugo”, “The Descendents” and a few others.

Being There ****1/2

One of my favorite 50 movies of all time.

My idea was to be similar to one of Roger Ebert’s “The Great Movies” segments.

If you haven’t seen Being There see it .. it’s an outrageously brilliant movie with an outrageously awesome and understated performance by Peter Sellers. Roger Ebert’s review of Being There had tons of spoilers, mine ended up not having so many.


I noticed “Being There” on my shelf last week on VHS.

Although it was written in 1979, the movie feels amazingly modern. Especially, with the absolutely bizarre men and women running for the Republican nomination.

Peter Sellers as the simple, but well dressed and well spoken Chance the Gardener has a “refreshing honesty” for Washington. Sadly, I honestly think Chauncey Gardener could be the frontrunner in the gang of clowns currently running for the Republican nomination.

He could get the garden of the United States through the harsh winter and ready for the green of spring and summer.

“Being There” is an amazing movie. And I guess I am not the film essayist that Roger Ebert is, but who is.

— edmund