Monday, February 23, 2009

Post Oscar Thoughts

The big awards night has come and gone and left us with more sure bet announcements than surprises. Looking back at my Oscar predictions I must say I'm pretty pleased with my predicting abilities. 12/14, not bad. I should have played the odds in Vegas!

Unfortunately I missed a step with the best foreign language film category by choosing Waltz with Bashir over Departures. On second thought, I shouldn't have predicated that category as Waltz was the only film I had seen. I felt that because of how good it was and the buzz it had been receiving that it had a great chance to win. I guess I was wrong.

The other miss came on the biggest shock of the night. No one will say that Sean Penn was undeserving of his award. In fact, my original "Who will win" was a toss-up between Mickey Rourke and Penn. Alas, I changed it to just Rourke. I truly believed it was his night and his chance to win. Hearing Penn's name called over Rourke's was shocking, but not all too shocking.

The Wrestler was snubbed once the nominations came out. It only received nominations for best actor and best supporting actress when it should have been receiving much more. Best director and best original screenplay would have been good for starters. Not to mention Bruce Springsteen's original song that could have been added to a category that only had three nominees to begin with. I guess the Academy simply doesn't care much for wrestlers. Is it that shocking that a film about gay rights and human movement took an acting award over one about a brooding wrestler? Not really. It just doesn't feel right. Unless another perfect role for Rourke pops up, this might have been his last chance to capture the award. Ah well, what can you do? Nice acknowledgment from Penn during his speech, he knows what's up.

Winslet, Ledger and Cruz picked up the other major acting awards. Slumdog Millionaire absolutely cleaned house as it should have. A.R. Rahman took home his Oscars for his music, Boyle got directing and so on. The film, which was my personal favorite of the year, as evidence in my review here. It's a stunning film and deserved every award it took home tonight.

There's not much left to say. I'll be disappointed by the Rourke snub for a little while but in the end it's just a statue. The Oscars have screwed up before and they'll certainly screw up again.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday the 13th Reboot Results in Uninspired Bore

Remake, reboot, reimagining, whatever you want to call it, they’ve all gotten tired. Nearly 30 years after the original Friday the 13th studio execs at New Line Cinema have decided to rework the campy slasher classic and its first three sequels the same way they put their greasy hands all over the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

The new film, which is the first on screen appearance of Jason Voorhees since 2003’s Freddy vs. Jason, reboots the series in a way so viewers are first met with scenes from 1980, the year the original film was made. Flash forward to present day where a group of young adults are camping in the woods. Flash forward again and you have the brother of one of the now missing girls searching for his sister, Whitney. Enter Voorhees, and you have your plot.

Friday the 13th has almost all the fixings of your typical slasher film. Blood, gore, laughs, sex, nudity, drag the kids into the woods and kill them plot device and so on and so forth. The problem with this film is that it doesn’t do anything new for the tried and true genre of slasher films.

These films have been around in different forms for years now. To separate your film from the other mass amount of formulaic and generic films that clog up the horror genre you have to be different. Take, for example, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. This 2006 slasher gave a different perspective of your not-so-average serial killer. The film was a mockumentary of sorts that had the viewer on the side of the killer rather than the side of the victims. It showed how Vernon, the killer, picked his victims and planned everything out. This is the kind of freshness that is not found in any of these remakes or reboots, including this one.

It’s no secret that I have absolute distaste for Hollywood’s constant usage of past ideas and brilliance to make a quick buck. That’s a whole different story for a whole different time. That said this money maker wasn’t all bland. If the film separated itself from the dreaded remake stigma there’d be more chance of having a fresh feel.

Director Marcus Nispel is one of these reasons. He’s already shown that he has potential for directing genre films as he helped the remake of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre succeed. The film is well composed and shot. Derek Mears stands out as Voorhees. He’s bulky yet athletic, creating a fearsome opponent for the victims. One look at Mears and he appears to be the modern day Michael Berryman.

The main problem was the people Mears was stalking. How many uninteresting, stupid and bland characters can you fit into one film? Ask screenwriters Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, because they know the answer. There’s your token black guy, your funny Asian, a few dumb blondes, and oh, yeah, your absolute key college frat boys.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely satisfying to watch these annoying characters get killed off one by one. I’m not asking for character development that’s off the charts either. I’m just looking for a few memorable, fresh and unique characters. This partners up with the film not being able to separate itself from the rest of the bunch to make for a charmless, formulaic, sometimes boring and all too serious horror film of the slasher variety.

I’m trying hard to be kind to this film. I noticed the effort. The writers paid some nice tributes to the original series of films that are to be appreciated. This film is certainly better than other films in the series and other recent remakes in general.

The question for me is, was it necessary? Probably not. Why can’t these obviously somewhat talented screenwriters and director team up to create something new, something fresh? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the energy? Create your own slasher icon. Wouldn’t that be more fun? I guess it wouldn’t be fun for the men in suits sitting high in their offices as they’d fear that the film wouldn’t bank for sure at the box office.

The new Friday the 13th is the uninspired film we’ve all seen before. These films have lost their charm and as long as the media conglomerates run things it will never change. Long gone are the days of Mario Bava’s twisting macabre tales set to slasher formula. Ah well, at least I got to see the wife of US Olympic hockey player Mike Modano get hit by a boat.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Buckethead - Slaughterhouse on the Prairie

Slaughterhouse on the Prairie
TDRS Music
January 30, 2009

“Crouching Stump Hidden Limb.” That’s just one example of the unique and macabre song titles guitar shredder Buckethead devises. On his 25th studio album, Slaughterhouse on the Prairie, Buckethead has references to basketball players and the chicken meat industry, among other things. Buckethead is quite simply a workaholic. He produces his solo albums like nobody else. Hardly ever is there a period of production quietness from this unique fellow. Constantly teaming up with new collaborators and releasing solo album up solo album, Buckethead is the type of artist a fan loves.

Slaughterhouse has that typical Buckethead sound. There’s more shred than experiment, as he’s shown on past albums. Attitude towards another Buckethead album of escalating guitar solos entirely depends on one’s favorite flavor of Buckethead. Albums of his range from straightforward shred heavy thrash inspired albums like this one to metal themed albums like Somewhere Over the Slaughterhouse (yes he loves slaughterhouses) to experimental concept albums such as Bucketheadland, which gives the listener a tour of his fantasy amusement park.

The album kicks off with not one but two tracks in honor of NBA star LeBron James. The first track, simply titled “LeBron” is an absolute stunner of an opener for an album. I’ve always been captivated by Buckethead’s ability to capture the sound that one would expect from his instrumental track’s titles. The song that follows the opener, “LeBron’s Hammer”, does just this. It’s as if Buckethead was watching a highlight reel of LeBron when creating this track.

Buckethead’s music is almost indescribable to someone who has never had the pleasure of actually listening to him before. A few words do come to mind when listening to this latest album. Pulsing, energetic, soaring and obliterating are the first few that roll off my tongue. My words don’t do justice for the masked man who wears a bucket on his head.

Slaughterhouse is yet another musical success for Buckethead. 25 albums is a lot. The magical thing is that each of these 25 albums, while sometimes displaying the same side of Buckethead, never sound redundant. To keep a sound so fresh over that many years and that many albums is an amazing feat. I look forward to Buckethead’s 26th album which should be out in, oh, a few months.

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey - Winterwood

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
January 29, 2009

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is tough to place. Most of their musical style falls freely into the jazz or jazz fusion arena. The problem is this instrumental band is so unique, so different and so original that they sound unlike any other group also associated with jazz or jazz fusion.

JFJO, which currently houses four members, Brian Haas on keyboards, Chris Combs on guitar, Matt Hayes on upright bass and Josh Raymer, has been on the scene since 1994. Their latest album, Winterwood, which is available as a free download on their personal website, is their second album in as many years and showcases the band being as quirky, abstract and enjoyable as ever.

The first two tracks on this album, “Dove’s Army of Love” and “Song of the Vipers” are two of the more upbeat and jovial songs I’ve heard from this group. The album then quickly moves from these two inspiring songs to the mellow “A-Bird” before being brought right up with the up-tempo “Oklahoma Stomp”, which sounds just as you might imagine.

A few of these songs, such as “Song of the Vipers” and “Earl Hines” resonate the feel of the old west. These songs without a doubt refer back to the band’s home of Oklahoma in sound. I can’t help but picture anything else in my mind when hearing the culmination of this band’s work. “Song of the Vipers” will make you want to get up and do a jig. It’s a feel damn good song.

The album ends on a high note. “Bumper Crop of Strange” is an amusing collection of sounds that picks the spirit of the album right back up from the mellow sounds that precede it. “Autumnal – Vernal Equinox”, the closing track for the album, is a thundering one taking a whole seven minutes of your time. Those are seven minutes you should be willing to spare considering the uprising feel of the track.

In comparison to the rest of JFJO’s albums, Winterwood holds up incredibly well. It is, in fact, one of my favorites of theirs. It’s a 72-minute, that’s right you guessed it, jazz odyssey.

Friday, February 13, 2009

2009 Academy Award Selections

The dust has cleared and the curtain has dropped: it’s finally time to acknowledge the best of the big screen. 2008 was another exceptional year for films and on February 22 we’ll find out who takes home the big prizes for their hard effort. After seeing every film on this list here I have constituted with my Magic 8-Ball I have chosen who I think should win and who will win each of the major awards along with a few quick picks for other notable awards. I’m leaving “Achievement in sound mixing” to the experts.

Best Picture

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Who should win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who will win: Slumdog Millionaire

If you read my gushing review a few weeks back of Slumdog Millionaire you’ll find this selection comes as no surprise. Slumdog seems to be leading the way with everyone. A potential upset can be had with Milk thanks for Sean Penn’s terrific performance. Frost/Nixon is a deserving dark horse candidate but it didn’t an impact like Milk did. Benjamin Button and The Reader, both good films, don’t deserve to be on the list when exceptional films like The Wrestler and Doubt are nowhere to be found. Slumdog takes this.

Actor in a Leading Role

Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Who should win: Mickey Rourke
Who will win: Mickey Rourke

I know who should win, I just don’t know if the Academy does. Mickey Rourke’s performance as Randy “The Ram” Robinson in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler was above and beyond most performances in 2008. Rourke took this brooding wrestler character and made it his own. On the other hand, Sean Penn practically channeled Harvey Milk and it might have hit soft political spots among voters who value sentimental films about human rights movements over wrestlers. Toss Brad Pitt’s name off this list, he doesn’t deserve to be there. Langella, once again, falls into the upset category with his intense portrayal of Richard Nixon. Jenkins film was too little seen and known to get the respect it deserves. In the end I think the Academy sympathizes with Rourke’s remarkable comeback. This is his shot.

Actress in a Leading Role

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Who should win: Melissa Leo
Who will win: Kate Winslet

This was a tough one. Consider me a fan of the underdogs, but I would love to see Leo win this award. Her performance in Frozen River is what the film hinges on. She, like Rourke, also put herself into the character. When a film is over and you realize no other actor or actress would fit that role you just know something special was accomplished. That’s the way I felt about both Rourke and Leo. Unfortunately she has no chance with Streep and Winslet on the ballot. While both terrific performances, neither struck me the way Leo’s did. Streep would be winning for being one of the best cold-hearted nuns in film history and Winslet would win for taking off her clothes lots and lots of times and making love to an 18-year-old kid lots and lots of times. I think Winslet wins it by a hair. And yes she will cry if she wins.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Who should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Who will win: Heath Ledger

This list is stacked. I have no doubts that Heath Ledger will pick up another well deserved posthumous award for his terrifying rendition of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Call it a matter of taste or credit it to my biased love for him, but I loved Hoffman’s performance as a priest in question in Doubt. He’s one of the greatest actors of our time and definitely deserves to pick up his second Oscar this year. Both Brolin and Shannon excelled in their roles but will probably fall short which shows credit to the strength of this list. Ledger wins, don’t rip my head off for wishing Hoffman to get it instead.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams, Doubt
Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Who should win: Viola Davis
Who will win: Penélope Cruz

Deciding on best supporting actress is tough. All five women were good and deserving of the nomination they received, but none of them absolute stuck out as the clear winner. Viola Davis had the most powerful 12 minutes on film this year in Doubt but will probably lose out for only being in the film for such a short time. In the end this award will probably come down to Tomei’s counterpart performance to Rourke’s wrestler and Cruz’s crazy ex-girlfriend portrayal in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I suspect Cruz ends up taking the award home and I’m not really sure why. If I had my way Davis would walk away with this prize but I’m not feeling too sure about it. Call it a hunch.

Quick Picks:
Best animated feature film of the year: Wall-E
Best documentary feature: Man on Wire
Best foreign language film of the year: Waltz with Bashir
Achievement in cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
Achievement in directing: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score): A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song): A.R. Rahman, “Jai Ho”
Adapted screenplay: Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire
Original screenplay: Dustin Lance Black for Milk

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Frozen River" Led By Leo

Some films need that extra jolt. That extra something that keeps everything together. For the 2008 independent film Frozen River, Melissa Leo was just that.

Frozen River details the struggles that two single moms face in northern New York State on a Mohawk reservation when the lure of fast money from smuggling illegal immigrants across borders is presented in front of them.

At the core of Frozen River, the directorial debut of Courtney Hunt, is a simple noir-inspired story about a single mom striving to provide for her two sons leading her to venture into the world of smuggling. Noir-inspired for its everyday person gets wrapped up in crime that’s far over their head for the lure of money and simple for its straightforward narrative and minimalistic feel.

In no way of denying Hunt for her tremendous debut in film, this film wouldn’t be what it was without Leo. Leo makes Ray Eddy her own the same way Mickey Rourke made Randy “The Ram” Robinson his own in 2008’s The Wrestler. Both actors took control of their respective characters and let the grief pour out of the screen. What comes of Leo’s performance is the driving force of a thought-provoking character study centered on ethical decisions.

Leo gives a certain life to the character of Ray Eddy. So stricken with grief it’s absolutely painful watching her strive so hard to provide a simple double-wide house for her two boys; something most of us might cringe at if told to live in. With only one other performance sticking out (Misty Upham’s performance as the second single mom, Lila), Leo’s is absolutely essential to keep the emotion in the film alive. A lackluster performance in her role might have spelt disaster for a film of such nature. Again, with no discredit to Hunt, Frozen River hinges on Leo’s performance.

Frozen River is a beautifully heartbreaking film and there’s no other way for me to describe it. While the film runs at less than two hours it is a rather slow moving film. It’s a stark character study of two single moms absolutely struggling to keep their lives afloat. Each has their problems and each is dealt with. While Milk might be a frontrunner for best screenplay written directly for the screen at this year’s Oscars, Hunt certainly deserves all the consideration in the world for her gripping tale of despair, struggle and ethical decisions.

This film is a keeper if only for the performances of both Leo and Upham. Hunt’s minimalistic cinematography is calming and keeps a close eye on the things that matter. The story is simple but absolutely engaging and involving. Frozen River is one of the independent hits of 2008.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Repo! The Unique Opera

Blade Runner meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That’s the self-proclaimed description Repo! The Genetic Opera yields from co-creators Terrance Zdunich and Darren Smith when asked about their 21st century rock opera turned feature film. They aren’t lying.

In the year 2056 a worldwide epidemic of organ failures leads to a biotech company, ran by Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), known as Geneco to begin an organ-financing program. As long as the customer can pay his or her debts, their organs are safe. Otherwise, the Repo Man (Anthony Head) takes back what belongs to Geneco. Repo! focuses specifically on the daughter of the Repo Man, Shilo (Alexa Vega), and her search for the truth about her past.

Repo! The Genetic Opera, which was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, best known for his work on Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV, is unlike any other film I’ve seen. Consisting of actors with varying amounts of talent, a unique stylistic approach and catchy tunes set to a resonating industrial rock soundtrack that lingers in your head for days, Repo! is an instant cult classic.

The film’s cast is a motley collection of names that range from classically trained singer Sarah Brightman to tabloid favorite Paris Hilton to industrial rocker Nivek Ogre of the influential band Skinny Puppy. These names in addition to the likes of Bill Moseley, Alexa Vega, Anthony Head and Paul Sorvino is just one of the reasons as to why Repo! lights up the big screen.

The performances are good as each actor takes full control of their character. The cast features such varying degrees of talents and areas of specialties that it’s an absolute treat to see it all come together the way it does with both their singing and acting.

The effort of hardworking co-creators and composers Smith and Zdunich absolutely shows off. With any musical or opera on film comes the judgment of the songs. This film passes with flying colors as far as I’m concerned. The tunes are as catchy, clever and fun as they need to be. This isn’t meant to be the best of the best. It’s definitely not the average operagoer’s cup of tea. It’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show of our generation.

For a budget of only $8.5 million, small by today’s standards, Repo! has great production value. The sets are simply lavish and are the true visions of Smith and Zdunich. The film is a visual feast partly comparable in style to Blade Runner. Costumes such as the leather-clad Repo Man complete with mask and the different clip on faces of deceased women that Pavi Largo wears are immediately synonymous icons of the film.

Admittedly, Repo! isn’t a film for everyone. It’s violent, grisly, offbeat, strange and just plain different. Apparently distributor Lions Gate thought the same. Instead of giving this film the wide theatrical run that it deserved, the creators of the film were left with a short road tour exposing the film to a select number of markets.

While business will always be business and Lions Gate will keep pushing sequel after sequel of the tired Saw series into theaters, it would have been nice to see this film on a wide market. This is a film with blood, sweat and tears poured into it. Then again, Lions Gate has been a joke of a company for years now and will continue to be one as long as films like Saw keep them afloat financially. It’s unfortunate that the executives at Lions Gate were unable to see the brilliance and absolute creativity that is erupting from Repo! that the fans have fallen in love with.

I suppose Repo! was meant to stay in the cult arena. Mainstream critics with large soapboxes such as Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz on the television show At the Movies presented absolute disgust with the film, making the term gore synonymous with bad film. Now, everyone deserves an opinion, but this doesn’t entitle anyone to baseless ones. In fact, Mankiewicz called it the worst film of 2008 without ever presenting the audience reasons as to why other than thinking the film took itself far too seriously. Pity the ignorant.

Normally I would never let such critical drivel seep into my reviews but when Lyons says that, and I quote, “I don’t know if words can describe just how awful, disgusting and insulting this movie was to watch, to make.”, I can’t help but use my significantly smaller soapbox to set things straight. To make? Really? How awful this was to make? Not to digress from the true point of this review but I can’t even understand how one can deduce that from seeing a film. Either way, Lyons never gave one hint of cohesive argumentation in his video review of the film, throwing the small amount of credibility his E! Entertainment celebrity coddling ass had out the window.

Getting back on track, you’ve never seen a film like Repo! The Genetic Opera. This is a special film that I urge you to give a look at. Watch the trailer. If you like even part of what you see, give this film a shot. If you love the film go buy the DVD. With Lions Gate looking merely at dollar signs and the opinions of goof mainstream critics, the fan support of this film must be substantial in order to produce more films in this vein.

Repo! is the sort of film that gives me hope. It signifies that there are still brilliant minds out there creating niche genre films from the heart for the fans. Maybe this will be the start of something new.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wrap Up of Films Watched in January of 2009

This is new for 2009. I'm keeping track of all the films I watch. This includes new viewings and reviewings of films. Here's the list with ratings and an IMDB link along with a summary for January 2009:

* denotes first time viewing.

1. 1/1 – White Heat* – 9.5/10
2. 1/5 – The Element of Crime* – 9/10
3. 1/6 – The Connection* – 7/10
4. 1/6 – Rashomon* – 10/10
5. 1/7 – Epidemic* – 8/10
6. 1/8 – Repo! The Genetic Opera* – 9/10
7. 1/8 – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button* – 9/10
8. 1/9 – Being John Malkovich* – 9.5/10
9. 1/10 – Green For Danger* – 9/10
10. 1/10 – Gran Torino – 9.25/10
11. 1/12 – Revolutionary Road* – 9/10
12. 1/12 – Vicky Cristina Barcelona* – 8.5/10
13. 1/13 – The Wrestler – 9.5/10
14. 1/13 – RocknRolla* – 7.5/10
15. 1/13 – Wall-E* - 8/10
16. 1/14 – Repo! The Genetic Opera – 9/10
17. 1/16 – The Enforcer* – 7/10
18. 1/16 – No Country For Old Men – 10/10
19. 1/18 – Waltz With Bashir* – 9.25/10
20. 1/19 – Persepolis* – 9/10
21. 1/20 – The Ninth Gate – 8/10
22. 1/20 – Downfall* – 9.5/10
23. 1/21 – The Night of the Hunter – 9.5/10
24. 1/21 – Doubt* – 9.25/10
25. 1/23 – Underworld: Rise of the Lycans* - 6.5/10
26. 1/24 – Slumdog Millionaire – 10/10
27. 1/25 – The Reader* - 9/10
28. 1/26 – The Mirror* - 8/10
29. 1/28 – Hana-bi* - 9/10
30. 1/29 – Slumdog Millionaire – 10/10
31. 1/29 – Sin City – 9.5/10
32. 1/30 – Taken – 9/10

January was a month spent largely viewing films up for Oscar consideration as I'd like to see as many as I can before the actual awards ceremony takes place in February. Other than that I went through my Netflix rentals (which I plan to put on hold midway through February so I can sift through the films I own and haven't watched yet). Had a few multiple viewings including The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire and Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Best Film (New Viewing): Being John Malkovich
I may have rated Rashomon higher but that isn't exactly how I'm judging these categories Being John Malkovich was a film that took me too long to see. Going into it I had absolutely no idea as to what to expect from the plot, acting or mood. It all was grand, just grand. I can imagine watching this film over and over again. Runners-up: Rashomon, White Heat, Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Best Film (Repeated Viewing): No Country For Old Men
A tough choice. Slumdog Millionaire gave this one a good run for its money but NCfOM stood strong. I've seen this film a good four times now and STILL noticed a few new things I just never caught before. I'm a sucker for the Coen Brothers and my love for this film proves it. It'll be an all time classic before all is said and done. Runners-up: Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, The Night of the Hunter, Sin City.

Worst Film: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
Warning: this doesn't mean the third installment of Underworld was bad. I actually quite liked it. Check out my review of the film a few posts back. Something HAS to be the worst and this mindless vampires vs. werewolves was, unfortunately, it. I love lots of films and have a very high tolerance. Nearly everything pleases me in one way or another. Not that I don't have limits (Saw V, I'm looking at you), but I typically look for good things in ALL films. Runner-up: The Connection.

Most Surprising Film: Waltz With Bashir
I know what you're saying. An Oscar nominated film is your most surprising viewing? Yes. I expected it to be good in some way, shape or form. I just didn't know in what way. Oh boy did it please me in the right ways. The art animation style was so beyond what I expected and really allowed this documentary to succeed. We saw things we couldn't see in a natural documentary and it was all done extremely stylishly. It was packed with meaning and left an impression. I came away wowed. Runners-up: Persepolis, The Element of Crime.

Most Disappointing Film: The Mirror
The only Tarkovsky film I had seen prior to The Mirror was Stalker. I absolutely fell in love with it. From there, I didn't know where to go. For one reason or another The Mirror landed high on my Netflix queue and from there I went. Perhaps the fact that this enigmatic film is one of his most personal films is the reason I didn't love it like I wanted to. Visually this film was outstanding. Conceptually it was rather brilliant. It just didn't stick with my like Stalker did which led to a little disappointment. Runners-up: Epidemic, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Most Overrated Film: Wall-E
Ah, before you kill me, please hear me out. I appreciated this film. I just didn't care for it the way the rest of America did. It was "cute", sure, but it just wasn't that impressive. The art was extremely well done. I guess I'm just not one for two robots saying their names to each other. I also got sick of their social commentary on the status of American's health and the environment of the planet. Jeff Garlin outside of Curb Your Enthusiasm sucks, by the way. Runner-up: None.

Most Underrated Film: Green For Danger
Really one of the better thrillers of the 40's. Very Hitchcockian in nature and superbly filmed by Sidney Gilliat. I'm easy to please when it comes to the genre and wish these films got more respect than they do. They paved the way for cinema as we know it. Runners-up: Repo! The Genetic Opera (This, of course, is underrated in terms of mainstream critics).

There you have it. I watch too many films. Check back at the end of February for month number two!