Monday, February 28, 2011


I always feel so depressed the day after the Oscar show because it means I have to wait another whole year before the next one.

Since I love soaking up all of the glamour, I always enjoy the show regardless but I have to admit that this year's show seemed a bit lackluster. It's hard to put my finger on the specific problem but hosts, Anne Hathaway and James Franco were no better or worse than last year's Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, and their best bit was the funny opening taped segment that cleverly used the "Inception" plot to have the hosts running through Alec's dreams that included scenes from this year's Best Picture nominees.

While James seemed uncomfortable and distracted at times (probably thinking about an upcoming exam he has for his college class), Miss Hathaway seemed to thoroughly enjoy her moment in the spotlight, with the show giving her a great opportunity to show off her comic and singing skills. I think the two were fine but I still believe the show works best when there is a comedian running the show, which became more obvious when eight-time Oscar host, Billy Crystal made an appearance. He received a standing ovation before even uttering a word but when he did, he brought some well needed humor to the show. I hope someone comes to their senses and asks him back next year because he is capable of making great spontaneous jokes out of whatever occurs during the show like he did when Jack Palance did his one arm push-up when he won his award. I would have loved to have heard what he would have done with the Kirk Douglas moment this year.

I'm glad they brought back the live performances of the nominated Best Original Song but boy, were they bad this year. Not a memorable song in the bunch and I'm sure Randy Newman only won because his was the only recognizable name in the group, not because it was particularly good.

There were no real surprises on this show as well as in regards to who took home the gold. Most of the front runners won but Annette Bening was robbed again. Although I do love Natalie Portman but perhaps partially because I am not a fan of "Black Swan", I thought it should have gone to the more deserving Ms Bening. I missed the idea of five former winners presenting each of the acting awards and speaking of that, why didn't last year's supporting actors, Christoph Waltz and Mo'nique present the awards this year?

Oh, well. Until next year.

Here is the complete list of the winners:

Best Picture: "The King's Speech"
Best Actor: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"
Best Actress: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"
Best Director: Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech"
Best Original Screenplay: "The King's Speech," David Seidler
Best Adapted Screenplay: "The Social Network," Aaron Sorkin
Best Foreign-Language Film: "In a Better World"
Best Animated Feature: "Toy Story 3"
Best Cinematography: "Inception," Wally Pfister
Best Film Editing: "The Social Network," Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
Best Art Direction: "Alice in Wonderland," Robert Stromberg (Production Design), Karen O'Hara (Set Decoration)
Best Costume Design: "Alice in Wonderland," Colleen Atwood
Best Original Song: "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3," Randy Newman
Best Original Score: "The Social Network," Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Best Live Action Short: "God of Love," Luke Matheny
Best Documentary Feature: "Inside Job"
Best Documentary Short: "Strangers No More"
Best Animated Short Film: "The Lost Thing," Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
Best Sound Editing: "Inception," Richard King
Best Sound Mixing: "Inception," Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick
Best Visual Effects: "Inception," Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Directed by Craig Teper

Where & When: Laemmle Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA. February 22, 2011 1:00 PM

"If you don't look good, we don't look good."

This was the tag line at the end of the commercials for Vidal Sassoon's hair care products and the ads were responsible for helping him become not only a world famous hair designer but also a recognizable celebrity. This documentary, "Vidal Sasson: The Movie" (not a very inspired title) takes us through his life and career and how he almost single handily altered how people thought about hair while helping make hairdressing a true art form.

He started from humble beginnings as the son of  Jewish immigrants born in London. After his father left the family, his mother could not raise him alone so she placed Vidal in a Jewish orphanage at the age of seven. He attended a catholic school before being evacuated out of the city during World War II. After the war, he returned to London and due to his mother's premonition that the young Vidal would become a hairdresser, she managed to get her son an apprenticeship to learn the craft. He was taught to cut hair using only scissors and he never altered from that, believing that he had to touch the hair to create his magic. Sassoon was never interested in simply being just a regular hairdresser for hire. If he had had his way, he would have become an architect, so he eventually evolved his work by incorporating geometry to create his signature hair styles.

His first big break came in 1963, when actress, Nancy Kwan wanted to change her look for a role in an upcoming film. Sassoon cut her long hair down to a radical asymmetrical bob. He was wise enough to have her immediately photographed and that image appeared on the cover of Italian Vogue. The look became a world-wide sensation which became known as the "Nancy Kwan" as well as helping to make a name for the designer. Sassoon would team up with Mary Quant, one of the creators of the mini-skirt and together they helped usher in a fashion movement in the 1960's.

Vidal Sassoon would become so famous that after director, Roman Polanski requested that he cut the hair of actress, Mia Farrow for the film, "Rosemary's Baby" in 1968, a squad of photographers were on the set to document the event which I highly doubt would occur today. He was even mentioned in the film. Sassoon soon branched out by opening training schools, beauty salons across the globe and a popular line of shampoos and conditioners, all under his own name as well as becoming a best selling author and headlining his own television show.

This documentary was conceived by Michael Gordon, founder of Bumble and Bumble Hair Salons and a friend of Mr. Sassoon's, as a way to remind people of his importance in the world of hair styling, but it doesn't really dig too deep on the film's subject. While it touches on a few tough times and personal tragedies in Mr. Sassoon's life, the film basically shines him only in a very flattering light without a single person to utter anything short of glowing praise. While this is not necessarily detrimental but it would certainly make for a stronger film if there was just a bit more objectivity.

He freely admits that he can be a bit of a prickly personality which is also confirmed by a few of the people who worked for him but it's also clear that he might not have achieved all of his success if he wasn't driven by a determination to stay true to his intuition and not allow anyone to get in his way. Mr. Sassoon is a very charming man, having lived a truly amazing life and now at eighty-three, he is still quite active, thanks, in part, to his attention to health and fitness throughout his youth. "Vidal Sassoon: The Movie" is a captivating and inspiring document of the life of a true visionary who always had his eye on the future while never forgetting what came before him.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Written by Allen Loeb & Timothy Dowling

Directed by Dennis Dugan

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. February 15, 2011  2:30PM

Since 1995, when he had his first starring role in the minor hit comedy, "Billy Madison", Adam Sandler has been a true movie star. Over the years, most of his films have made big money and people still have not seemed to have grown tired of seeing Mr. Sandler play slight variations of his stock man-child character.

I have gone to several of his films from time to time and they can be quite funny or they can be unbearably bad, largely depending on the plot, the other actors starring with him and if there is a strong director involved. One of my all-time favorite films of his (and in general) is the 2002 "Punch-Drunk Love" which was not one of his traditional comedies. It was a dramatic, romantic-comedy by the great,Paul Thomas Anderson, director of "Boogie Nights" (1997), "Magnolia"(1999) and "There Will Be Blood" (2007), who got Mr. Sandler to deliver an actual acting performance and it was impressive.

Mr. Sandler's latest is "Just Go With It" which falls in to the "unbearably bad" category. It is a very loose remake of the 1969 film, "Cactus Flower" which starred Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn, who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role. The screenplay was written by I. A. L. Diamond who wrote such comedy classics as "Some Like It Hot" and "The Apartment", which he won an Oscar for. This dumbed-down version is so far removed from the source material that they shouldn't even bother mentioning it. "Just Go With It" will definitely not win any Oscars but I do see some Razzies in it's future.

Los Angeles plastic surgeon, Danny Maccabee (Sandler) wears a wedding ring although he's not actually married. He uses it to attract single women. The reason for this happened years ago, when Danny discovers that his bride-to-be was only going to marry him because the man she actually loved was not the "marrying kind". 

Devastated, Danny goes to a bar to drown his sorrows when a hot chick sees his ring and asks him what was wrong. He neglects to tell her he's not married but says that he's in an unhappy marriage. That was enough for this young lady to bed him down to cheer him up and a sleazy plan is born.

At a party, Danny meets an impossibly beautiful young woman named Palmer (Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, Brooklyn Decker), who is a school teacher. The two hit it off immediately and spend the night together on the beach. The next morning, Palmer discovers Danny with a wedding ring. A child of divorce, Palmer is disgusted and never wants to see him again.

Desperate to win her back, Danny tells Palmer that he is in the process of divorcing his miserable wife. Palmer buys his story but tells him that she wants to meet her first before they can continue dating.

Danny's office manager, Katherine (Jennifer Aniston), a divorced mother with two children, who is well aware of Danny's childish dating strategy. Danny begs Katherine to pose as his wife since Palmer could be the woman he could settle down with. Katherine foolishly agrees and the doctor takes her shopping in Beverly Hills so she will look more of the part of a plastic surgeon's wife.

Over drinks, Katherine, who has taken the name "Devlin", after her rival in college, plays the part of the obnoxious wife to perfection but while preparing to leave, she gets a call from her children. Palmer assumes that they are their kids and since Danny feels no need to begin telling her the truth now, he doesn't correct her. Of course, Palmer insists on meeting them, so Danny has to bribe Katherine's kids to act like he is their father. During the meeting, Michael, Katherine' son uses this opportunity to blackmail Danny into taking the whole family to Hawaii so he can swim with the dolphins.

With Danny's cousin, Eddie (Nick Swardson) tagging along as he poses as "Dolph Lundgren", "Devlin's" rich German lover, everyone heads to the Big Island where plenty more madness and lies occur and to top things off, while the gang is at a luau, the real Devlin (Nicole Kidman) just happens to be there with her rich husband (singer, Dave Matthews). Now, Katherine uses Danny to pretend to be her husband to show off in front of Devlin. After competing with Devlin in a hula contest (please, don't ask),  Katherine begins looking at Danny in a different light while Danny begins considering whether he is actually with the right woman.

"Just Go With It" has a much too busy plot with all of the lying that goes on in this flimsy screwball comedy becomes confusing, exhausting and not at all funny. All of this would probably be fine it this was simply a thirty minute sitcom but this film clocks in a almost two hours and it quickly becomes unbearably tedious.

This is the sixth Sandler comedy that Mr.Dugan has directed, the last being last summer's inexplicable hit, "Grown-Ups" and he is a perfect example of how it pays to have friends in high places. His style of "directing" is to never crack open the script, simply let his actors run wild, improvising their scenes while occasionally reminding Mr.Sandler that he is still a "comic genius".

Mr. Sandler and Ms Aniston only do the minimum amount expected to earn the big bucks they are paid. As for all of the other actors, they seem to each be doing their own thing, not particularly concerned with what any one else is doing or saying or even what the movie is really about. "Just Go With it" is a romantic-comedy that made no effort to produce a single moment of real romance or comedy.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Written by Elizabeth Meriwether

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. February 4, 2011 2:30PM

The first romantic-comedy of the year has been released and "No Strings Attached" is it's name. The film attempts to shake up the familiar formula but it still ends up far less than a satisfying experience.

Natalie Portman, who makes her first venture in rom-com territory, plays Emma, a nice, good looking, busy young medical student who works eighty hours a week and doesn't have time to date. It doesn't help that Emma also has strong aversion to relationships, which is not fully explained, but she still has needs.

Ashton Kutcher is Adam, who is a nice, good looking, young straight male who happens to work as a production assistant on a "Glee" type television show and he is the son of a former sitcom star (Kevin Kline) which all adds up to the fact that he really shouldn't have any difficulty finding a girlfriend but he hasn't had much luck to date.

Adam and Emma had initially met each other sixteen years ago as teenagers at summer camp and would continue to bump into each other over the years. After Adam's father informs him that he is now dating his recent ex-girlfriend, he gets very drunk and calls every girl in his phone to find someone to sleep with him to help him forget his troubles.

Adam wakes up the next day, nude on a couch, unsure of where he is and what he did. It turns out that Emma had invited him over after he called her. They didn't sleep together that evening but in the sober, morning light, the two wind up having some quick but passionate sex.

Emma thoroughly enjoyed their tryst, which leads her to make Adam a proposition; to meet up to only have sex with no strings attached so there are no messy complications like jealousy, fighting or cuddling. Adam happily agrees since he has no interest in getting into another relationship. They both decide to end this affair if anyone develops any  feelings.

They both initially relish the arrangement, having plenty of fun, non-committed sexual romps but obviously, at some point somebody is going to want more out of this and it's not who you might think. Despite their agreement, they decide to try and go on a real date. Their romantic evening starts off well but since they both share a deep fear of love and commitment, it soon ends disastrously and puts a finish to their relationship. Will these two come to their senses or will they each have to find a new buddy to share just their bodies with?

I was surprised to see Mr. Reitman's name as the director of this mess because although he has never made a truly great film, he has made several entertaining comedies over her career such as "Meatballs", "Ghostbusters", and "Dave" but "No Strings" is not one of them, lacking in wit or fun. There were some moments scattered throughout that showed some promise as they were refreshingly offbeat for the standard rom-com but most of this film was bogged down with implausible actions and dialogue that made the film very frustrating and threw it completely out of whack. Considering Ms Portman was one of the producers and the script was written by a female, I am still amazed how strongly this film still comes across as a male fantasy and there's not much of a very visible or realistic female prospective to be found. I'm very sure this would had been a much different (and better) film if there had been a female director in charge.

Ms Portman is a terrific actress that we are used to seeing mostly in dramas and while she certainly didn't embarrass herself in this film but clearly comedy is not her strong suit although she does manage to do the best with what she has to work with. Mr. Kutcher is the perfect example of an actor who has managed to achieve a successful film career without much to offer. He's not a particularly great actor or comedian and he has seemed to have played the same exact character in every movie he has been in and yet he continues to get film offers. I guess he must also be the perfect example of how simply being attractive can get you very far in our society.

The film does have a strong supporting cast which include Mindy Kaling from TV's "The Office", Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Greta Gerwig, who made an impression in last year's "Greenberg"and Lake Bell, who is clearly the best thing in this film, as the overly chatty producer on Adam's television show but they all are pretty much wasted in underdeveloped roles.

Disastrous, lame and forgettable are words that I would attach to "No Strings Attached", which is just another film that will unfortunately help fill up the romantic-comedy cinematic junkyard.

Friday, February 4, 2011


I just read a fascinating but troubling article by Karina Longworth in the latest edition of "LA Weekly" about the current state of specialty films playing in Los Angeles and the lack of attendance to these types of films.

There are many reasons for this, which the column brings up but it was also disturbing to discover that the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills could possibly shut down (which then there would be no movie theater at all in that city) and Laemmle's other theater in West Hollywood, the Sunset 5 is also threatened with possible closure. It is already very difficult to find many art house and foreign-language films playing in the city and with these theaters gone it would be disastrous for film lovers and Los Angeles, which is supposed to be the film capital of the world.

To read the complete article, go to: Of The Art House

127 HOURS (2010)

Written by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy

Directed by Danny Boyle

Where & When: Laemmle Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA.  January 25, 2011  7:00PM

I had put off seeing "127 Hours", the film based on the true-life story of Aron Ralston, a young mountain climber whose arm becomes trapped by a boulder and the extreme and disturbing measures he goes through to free himself. The way he has to escape from this predicament is the exact reason why I had avoided seeing this film.

First, I didn't think this story would make a particularly entertaining movie as well as it seems like it could possibly be slightly exploitive and second, I am very squeamish and had no desire whatsoever to want to sit through watching someone remove anything from their body.

After the film was nominated for six Academy Awards including for Best Picture, I decided I should just man-up and see "127 Hours". I am happy to report that I managed to get through it but just barely.

James Franco plays Aron, who takes a hiking trip to the National Park in Utah. He enjoys being alone outdoors and riding his bike through the wilderness but, for whatever reason, doesn't let anyone know that he has gone on this trip.

While out in the mountains, Aron runs in to two attractive, young women (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara) who were out hiking but have lost their way. They hang out together for a time and go swimming after Aron shows them a hidden pool in a cave. Before they depart, the ladies invite Aron to attend a party later that evening ,which he accepts.

Later, Aron was climbing a mountain when a boulder comes loose, which causes him to fall down an isolated canyon with the rock pinning his arm against the wall. Unable to free himself, he tries to remain calm and takes inventory of what he has on him, which include some climbing rope, a bottle of water, a flashlight, a video camera, a folding knife but, unfortunately, no cell phone. He uses these items plus his wits and skill as a climber to try get himself out of this disaster.

With nothing more than just his thoughts to keep him company, Aron looks back on his life which include his relationships and how he should have made more time in his life for his family and his girlfriend. He video tapes a diary of his ordeal but that soon leads to making, what could be, final messages to his family. Aron is determined to get out of this alive but as each day passes by, he realises that he is running out of time and options, so he must make some drastic decisions.

Mr. Boyle, who last directed the Oscar-winning Best Picture, "Slumdog Millionaire", has used plenty of dazzling cinematic techniques to visually stimulate this seemingly static tale but the tricks never become overbearing nor distracting and keeps the focus on the story of Mr. Ralston's will and termination to survive.

"127 Hours" would only work if the right actor is in place, capable of carrying the entire film and convincingly take you on this man's harrowing journey and Mr. Franco, who has earned a well-deserved Academy Award nomination, is in full command here. He gives an moving and emotionally complex performance and manages to find humor at times where you would least expect it. I have to admit that I used to dread seeing Mr. Franco's name in any film credit because as an actor, I had found him too mannered and just plain irritating but after this and his other recent appearances in "Pineapple Express", "Milk" and even "Howl", he has completely turned me around and I now look forward to his next screen appearance.

While I greatly admired "127 Hours" with its inventive film making, the brilliant performance of  Mr. Franco, and the inspiring and uplifting story, you still could not pay me to sit through this movie again.