Girls with Gumption: Top 5 Favorite Actresses

I believe that other then my mother, women in movies helped me narrow down what I should do to become a good man. It helped me realize what kind of woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. This may sound sad, but I do not mean women like Jessica Alba, Katherine Heigl, or Megan Fox. These are the women I try to avoid. I mean the women I admire and make me laugh. I found my leading lady and each of these women helped with that.

There will be some that people think are missing; I can hardly stand Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, or Laura Linney. They just bug me in almost everything they are in. I see where people call them great, but I disagree. These are the women who stand out to me the most.

5. Cate Blanchett – Regal, funny, beautiful, etc. Blanchett has so many great qualities it is no wonder she played Queen Elizabeth twice. Most people know her for either that or for her role as Lady Galadriel in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While these are great parts, I love her for her roles in The Missing, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Aviator. These movies stand out to me because she shows strength and courage in The Missing while being in a desperate world. Her comedic timing and chemistry with Bill Murray is flawless in The Life Aquatic and I hope Wes Anderson uses her again soon. The Aviator may seem an odd choice because she was only playing Katherine Hepburn (who will come soon), I think she played it perfectly and was by far my favorite part of the whole movie. I will stop there.

Other notable performances – I’m Not There,Babel, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

4. Ingrid Bergman – When the word legend is used to describe an actress this is one of the few times I agree. Ingrid Bergman is the leading lady of leading ladies! She is soft, determined, and doesn’t let men decide anything for her! Her role in Casablanca is probably the most important role of any character before the 1960s. She is the entire reason there is a story, not because she is a damsel in distress, but because she is deeply loved by a man who has hardened his heart. She is the only person who really knows him. Plus she is witty and terribly adorable in that film.

Other notable performances- The Bells of St. Mary’s, Notorious, Joan of Arc.

3. Natalie Portman – cute, upbeat, dangerous, and amazing. Portman really is able to be so many things and be them very very well. She has played a Queen, a Lady, a rebel, and psycho. She has depth of character that was first seen in Leon (The Professional) and most recently seen in Black Swan and Thor. Her choices of roles has been meticulous, it has paid off. She commands focus and awe in epic science fiction, romantic comedies, thrilling dramas, and comic book movies. Her career will be better than any woman before her.

Other notable performances- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, V for Vendetta, Hotel Chevalier, The Other Bolyn Girl.

2. Katherine Hepburn- Smart, really really smart. Hepburn has an intelligence and air that makes you tremble and feel warm all at the same time. No woman has ever been as good in a romantic comedy as Hepburn was in The Philadelphia Story, she is sad, strong, confused, brutal, and absolutely lovable, she owns the show even with James Stewart and Cary Grant right next to her. My other favorite role of hers is in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? She is modern, motherly, holds convictions, and holds her own against Spencer Tracy and Sidney Poitier. I love her so much!

Other notable performances – Morning Glory, Adam’s Rib, The African Queen.

1. Kate Winslet- Master of her craft. Winslet is my favorite actress because of her performances in film, her work out side of film, and how she handles her personal life. She is classy or crass whenever the situation calls for it. She has been so much more then Rose in Titanic that I almost forget about that movie. My three favorite roles of hers are Juliet in Heavenly Creatures, Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Iris in The Holiday. These three roles are significant to me beyond her roles recognized by the Academy because they are unexpected and perfect. In Heavenly Creatures she plays a young woman who has a dangerous imagination and was obviously the acting of a future star. As Clementine we see her break out of her common casting and blow us away as an adorable, mean, neurotic to Jim Carrey’s quiet, boring, weak Joel. She was the star of the movie hands down. The less obvious choice here is The Holiday; it was one of my favorite romantic comedies of the last decade. She is so perfect in this movie, she starts out as the stereotypical lonely woman, and doesn’t take the usual path to turn everything around. She isn’t desperate, she is wonderful. Watch this movie, and you will even like Cameron Diaz…maybe.

Other notable performances- Sense and Sensibility, Quills, The Reader, Revolutionary Road.

Preview: Top 5 Favorite Comic Book Heroes


Hammer Time: Thor Review

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Free Comic Book Day 2011

This last Saturday was Free Comic Book day, and this was the first year I participated in this great event. My special lady and I drove around to (almost) all the local comic shops to see what we could snag.

The first place we went to had a fairly good collection of comics, but there was also a big card game going on and it was wall-to-wall big, sweaty nerds. I wasn’t sure what it was they were playing, but I think it was Magic the Gathering. We got our free comics and didn’t stick around too long.

The next place we went to was more pleasant experience. A bigger open space and a wider variety of comics. Including more independent writers and artists and not just super hero comics. Plus we were given the tour by the daughter of the family-run shop. She was dressed as Super Girl and was quite familiar with her own mythology. Before we left, she insisted we see her song and dance routine. It was…we were good sports. It was a song about Super Girl and I have not for the life of me been able to find out who it’s by. There are at least three different teen stars with a songs about Super Girl.

The next place we went too was closed so we hit up the big chain store and it had been pretty much picked clean.

At any rate, we had fun and got a big stack of free comics. Plus, it’s a great way to promote literacy in young readers!

Dollar Tuesdays: The Reset Button

As per most customer-centric jobs, there stands a gallery of “usual” questions we get asked over and over again at the Dollar Theater. Half price Tuesdays, without fail, increase the frequency at which us lowly box office workers have to field these mind-numbing inquiries.

“Where are your movie times listed?” Honestly, have you ever been to a theatre that didn’t post its times somewhere on the front of the building?

“How much are your dollar hot dogs?” If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

“What’s Inception about?” Worst. Question. Ever.

“Is [insert movie title here] ok for my kids to watch?” The MPAA isn’t a government agency. It’s ok-ish to trust them. If anything, they scrutinize movies too much. Why? To avoid angry calls from the same people who gripe at me for advocating that their ten-year-old see Hall Pass. That’s the film’s target market, right? I practically came out of the womb quoting Glengarry Glen Ross, so North on my moral compass is probably due South to most.

And the number one, queen mother, F dash-dash-dash most-asked question on dollar Tuesdays:

“Can you rewind the movie for me?”

Workplace edict requires I respond with a polite, “No sir/ma’am, that’s not possible,” and then stand idly by as they swear at me in front of the very kids they didn’t want going to see Adjustment Bureau because it’s PG-13 for language.

But the Internet is a marketplace of ideas. And the writing space afforded me in the blogosphere is just long enough (800 words or less, right?) for me to fully disclose why we can’t rewind the movie.

For starters, there is no rewind button. We are not a digital theater. Your ticket is one dollar. In a good round, we get maybe 400 people, and that only happens two days a week. On James Cameron’s naughty/nice list prioritizing who will get digital projectors and when, we’re just behind the Dino Theatre at the Muskogee Natural History Museum. You know, the one using CG that was cutting edge in 1983 to show meteors pelting the earth and killing pixilated blobs that are supposed to be dinosaurs. Or maybe you don’t know because nobody ever watches it.

Oh, and Muskogee has a population of 12.

Our film doesn’t come on hard drives. It comes on reels, about five or six depending on the movie’s length. Come Wednesday, these reels are carted up to our projection booths where a dazzling array of hooks, clamps, gears, sensors, and lenses, all fueled by a Xenon bulb, await their dispersal. It’s a system akin to Ideal Game’s Mouse Trap, only breaking the bulb is nowhere near as fun as triggering the cage – Xenon can do some funky things to the human condition.

I like to think that the projector system and the Hollywood studio system are one and the same. The so-called “brains,” which spin the platters holding the film, are the movie studios. Their swinging arm holds the sensor that tells the platters to spin and allows the film to play. No brains, no movie. Yes, the irony of this comparison is plain to me, but for every GI Joe 2 announcement, there’s a Dark Knight Rises news blurb to counter. So just roll with it.

The platters themselves are essentially the studios’ lots. They are where the movies are made. If a movie turns out to be a lemon, chances are some slice of a studio lot saw the turd crowning. Same goes with the platters – if there’s a problem in the projection booth, nine times out of ten the mistake will be somewhere on the platter.

When the film has been loaded lovingly atop the platter, it’s time for the projectionist, the hero of our story, to thread it. Threading is execution. It’s where the connection between gathered information (the dormant film) and displayed information (film passing over the bulb’s light) is made. Much like a director taking words from a script page and inventing what will become a picture show. It’s also execution in the sense that the director, just like the projectionist, will be professionally dead should the film fail to play.

And finally, my personal favorite, the projector head as the three-act structure of a screenplay. Act I: the film sensor. As screenplay Jesus Syd Field preaches, story hooks need to be placed early in movies to draw audiences in. This hook is usually what the trailers will focus on. Source Code: this is not his body. Unknown: they stole his life. And so on. If the hook isn’t tight, just like the film around the sensor, the cogs won’t turn and nobody will see the movie.

Act II: the sound drum. At this point inside the projector head, the film is having to overcome all sorts of twists and turns, bumps and bruises, clips and friction to continue on its journey. The middle fifty pages of a screenplay (aka, the desert) apply the same injuries to the protagonists within. It’s like totally the journey, man.

Act III is the film’s resolution. Except instead of crossing some sort of finish line, it crosses the bulb and exits the projector head. I guess that exit could somehow be the denouement, but I’m tired of running this parallel and you get the gist by now.

All that to say this: would you ask Frodo to start back over at the Shire after he reaches the Inn of the Prancing Pony because little Tommy’s karate ran long? Would you ask Indy to go back on the circus train after breaking into the Nazi castle to rescue Attila the Professor because all but one member of the opposing team quit in a Halo slayer game, and it took 20 minutes to finish?

No, I can’t rewind your gorram movie! It’s not a DVD. It’s not TiVo. It’s miles of film moving at 24 frames per second, always teetering on the brink, and it’s my neck if it doesn’t work. It’s disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.

So please, just go sit down. Movies nowadays recap what’s happened every ten minutes anyway. And maybe, if you’re feeling festive after the credits roll, thank your projectionist for guiding the movie through to you unharmed. It’ll make his or her day.

Casting Update: Half-Life: The Movie

Back in January, threeandahalfthumbs was first to report that comedian Louis C.K. had signed on to play crowbar-wielding theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman in Warner Brothers upcoming adaptation of the popular video game series Half-Life.

Four scripts and two directors later, Producer Michael Bay is only too happy to shine the spotlight back upon what he is calling a “cast for the ages.”

“We’ve just signed Rosie O’Donnell,” Bay said, outside the New York premier of Transformers 4: No Fear In Fourth Gear. “She’s Lamarr, Gordon’s sarcastic pet headcrab. She’s kind of a Robin to Gordon’s Batman. Their relationship really gives the film its narrative thrust.”

When asked if O’Donnell would be suiting up as the mutated pest or simply voicing it, Bay responded, “You’ll have to wait and see.”

We don’t have a permit. Run!: Top 5 Directors who have never won an Academy Award.

I hope this sparks some conversation.

I am a firm believer that film is a director’s medium. There are tons of great directors that have literally made movies what they are today. People like Frank Capra, Michael Curtiz, George Cukor, and Alfred Hitchcock invented genres. Men such as Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, and Steven Spielberg stretched imagination and curiosity. These are men who deserve to be honored.

This is a list of people who have been making film for a while and are perhaps past their prime. Not saying they will never receive an Academy Award for directing, but the chances are getting fewer. I will not reference people like Wes Anderson, Jason Reitman, Christopher Nolan, or Darren Aronofsky. I think they still have years of filmmaking ahead of them.

5. David Fincher – He barely makes the top 5 because he has been making movies for nearly twenty years and he has only been nominated twice. I think that since se7en his films have been flawless. Of everyone on this list, he has the likeliest chance of winning an Academy Award in the future.

In my opinion Fincher’s greatest quality is his ability to create atmosphere. He has an A-list crew that can translate his vision onto the silver screen. Just look at the sets, tone, and pacing of se7en and Fight Club and you will understand what I am talking about. When I watch Zodiac I become so immersed in the story I forget that it is nearly three hours long! He creates tense situation, witty timing, and dark emotions, and then he makes a sprawling epic like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The amazing thing is that he does so with apparent ease. 

Watch any commentary on any of his films, even Alien 3, and you will learn what the modern director really is.

4. Ridley Scott – Another guy who has been nominated a few times but never grabbed the gold. I think Scott may still have a chance to receive an Oscar, even if it is just a “we-owe-ya-one”. How did he not win for Thelma & Louise! Not even nominated for Alien! No one had made the future of humanity look so grungy and real. I will not even start on Blade Runner, Matchstick Men, and Kingdom of Heaven (this happens to be my favorite Ridley Scott film).

I do agree that Scott is not always been consistent; he did direct G.I. Jane, Hannibal, and Robin Hood. These were not bad movies, but definitely not great. I will point out that his films have won Academy Awards, but he has never won.

I think Scott is still full of massive potential, and I believe he will show that in the years to come. He can make Science Fiction realistic, and then go to quirk and mystery. He can do a period piece that resonates with a generation and he has at least three of the greatest women characters in the history of film (Ellen Ripley, Thelma Dickinson, and Louise Sawyer).

3. Rob Reiner – This may throw some for a loop. Most would probably not mention him on a list such as this. I will list some of his greatest pieces; This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men, and The Bucket List. See what I mean? I understand that comedy is a hard sell for the Academy, but Woody Allen won.

I could write a significantly large article about how Reiner shaped my romantic life, how he helped me connect with my parents, how he will be a directorial legend in my house. I will not do this. I will say that Reiner understand boys, very well. Stand by Me and A Few Good Men are excellent examples of how men and boys act in intense situations. He shows how men are goofy and can be jerks in This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally, and The Bucket List.

I do not believe Reiner is a master storyteller or anything of that nature. He is a wizard of making characters relatable and likeable. He didn’t write The Princess Bride, William Goldman did, but Reiner made you fall in love with that movie. Even when you are terrified of Kathy Bates, you are so interested in her.

I know Billy Crystal says Reiner is an actor’s director, and I agree. If he does make another movie similar to Stand by Me, he will most likely be nominated and could even win. He is in the twilight of his career, so we will just have to see.

2. George Lucas – For people who are not “film buffs” this may seem out of place. People do not realize he did more than just Star Wars (which he will never surpass). My favorite film that George Lucas directed is American Graffiti.

Lucas is stuck in his Star Wars/Indiana Jones money-making rut. Hopefully he will go back to making timeless movies like THX-1138 and Willow (I know he didn’t direct, but he mentored Ron Howard on this one). He is a great storyteller, who unfortunately does not have anyone around him who suggests he use some self-control.

Do not get me wrong. I love Lucas and I think he is vital to film history, and my own upbringing. I have hope that he will direct another movie that has no connection to things he has previously done, he had such incredible ideas and potential.

Some examples of George Lucas as a great filmmaker are Kagemusha, Body Heat, and Labyrinth. He only produced these films, but he was directly involved in them. Two of his “protégés” are Ron Howard and Lawrence Kasdan; both have surpassed Lucas as far as directing goes.

1. Alfred Hitchcock – This may be stereotypical, but there is a reason for that. He never won! He will never win. He has the most illustrious career of any of these men, he was true innovator.

The obvious films that should be recognized are Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest (which is my favorite), and Psycho. These, literally defined the way films would be made forever into the future. He was a master of showing you the bare minimum in order to make your imagination run wild. Hitchcock never received what he deserved. He created tone and atmosphere and he worked with two of my all time favorite actors; Cary Grant and James Stewart. Even with the lack of special effects, his films felt real and thrilling. He does simple things like put you in one room for an entire movie, and you believe it. He manufactures suspense in a corn field by having a plane dive bomb and gases you, and you believe it. This is what legendary filmmakers do, and he did it best.

Other films that should be more widely recognized are Rope, Dial M for Murder, To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and many more. Anytime you get a chance to watch a Hitchcock film, do it.

You are with Beleaguered Castle: Source Code Review

A simple concept. Incredible acting. Minor special effects. Appropriate pacing. These are all things Duncan Jones does very, very well.

As was seen is his directorial debut, Moon, Jones has talent. This is no surprise; he is the son of David Bowie. He uses pace, atmosphere, and characters to bring stories to life that are poignant and interesting. He has a knack for getting the most out of his actors. As he did with Sam Rockwell, he also does with Jake Gyllenhaal. The roles are not largely heroic, or cowardly, they are normal men who are in complex situations where they end up being extraordinary.

Source Code is the story of Captain Colter Stevens and his mission to discover a bomb on a train in Chicago that has already gone off. He is part of a mysterious branch of the government that uses a program called Source Code which can use the synapses of a brain that has recently died to go back to the last eight minutes of that person’s life. While going back over and over again to the last minutes of Sean Fentress’, Captain Stevens meets and falls in love with Christina Warren (Michelle Monaghan). All the things that happen to the main character change his perspective as he tries to accomplish a nearly impossible mission.

This film is the perfect length. It doesn’t dilly dally with tons of special effects or a hyper-complex story that no one can follow. It tells the story of a man who is not familiar with his surroundings and he is still expected to save the world. He does not accept what is right in front of him, he becomes heroic.