127 HOURS: The Film Babble Blog Review

127 HOURS (Dir. Danny Boyle, 2010)

To put it bluntly Danny Boyle makes incredible life affirming movies that are not for the squeamish.

Early reports of people passing out at screenings of this true story adaptation may be exaggerated, but having witnessed many walk outs when working at a theater during the run of Boyle’s last movie SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, I can safely say that many folks are going to have a wee bit of trouble stomaching this.

However those who can get past the one particular extreme scene – it can’t really be a Spoiler to say what happens since it’s been so well documented – the “amputation scene” are in for a gripping and invigorating ride for “127 Hours” is one of the best movies of the year.

Boyle begins with pulsating rhythmic shots of crowds of commuters and hoards of people at sporting events; the masses that make up our world, then focuses on the solitary life of a man who wants to get away from all that.

James Franco plays the part of that man, Aron Ralston, with great gusto. You can feel his thirst for adventure and nature as he attacks the trails of Blue John Canyon in Utah.

Before his accident, Franco befriends and flirts with 2 women (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) while hiking and helps them find their way around the area.

The women are unfortunately are long gone and can’t hear him yell for help when he falls into a deep crevasse along with a boulder that crashes on top of his arm trapping him there.

Franco does everything he can to dislodge the boulder but to no avail. He has a backpack with a bottle of water, a video camera, a watch, a little bit of food, and a pocket knife with a dull blade.

The major hook the film has is that he told no one where he was going.

For being mostly set in one small space there’s a lot to be said for how there’s never a dull second here. Boyle fluidly captures the manic mindset of Franco’s predicament and never loses it.

It’s a career best performance by Franco – a tour de force that even eclipses his wonderful work in “Howl”. I’ll be shocked if he’s not nominated for an Oscar.

At one point Franco does a humorous mock morning TV show interview with himself on his video camera. It’s completely believable and gels with how the film makes a statement about our perceived conceptions of the world around us.

In a number of Franco’s many flashbacks while trapped we see an ex-girlfriend (Clémence Poésy). He breaks up with her at a basketball game surrounded by hundreds of people. He flashes back to this moment of feeling intense loneliness in a crowd again and again.

Like just about every other element in this film that has a powerful effect. We’re never truly alone like we think we are most of the time. It’s in those very rare horrifyingly tragic circumstances that we most appreciate other people.

Ralston’s story may be difficult to watch for some, but it’s a must see movie in absolutely every respect. In so many ways it’s as memorable and moving as motion pictures can get.

More later…

Oscar Postpartum 2009

I did considerably better this time with my Oscar picks than the several years. I got 18 out of 24. Instead of listing all the categories like last year (and of course because they are listed on my last post as well as everywhere else online), I decided to just look at the ones I got wrong:

BEST ACTOR: My pick: Mickey Rourke for THE WRESTLER. Who won: Sean Penn for MILK. I can’t say I was completely taken aback – I knew it was a tight race and I knew Penn had a slight edge. Still, I loved the underdog comeback story of both the movie and Rourke’s real life back story so I can’t say I’m not disappointed either. Penn did however acknowledge Rourke nicely in his acceptance speech: “Mickey Rourke rises again…and he is my brother.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT: My pick: THE CONSCIENCE OF NHEM EN. What won: SMILE PINKE. I really was just shooting in the dark here – I haven’t seen any of the nominees so I was going by internet research. I feel like even if I had seen them I’d still be taking a wild guess.

SOUND MIXING: My pick: THE DARK KNIGHT. What won: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. I should have known not to vote for the same movie in both sound editing and mixing. Sigh.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: My pick: VALS IM BASHIR (English title: WALTZ FOR BASHIR. What won: OKURIBITO (English title: DEPARTURES). This was because I heard more buzz for BASHIR and neglected to really look into the others. Ill rectify that by checking them all out in the very near future.

As for the 81st Academy Awards broadcast itself I enjoyed host Hugh Jackman though I thought his song and dance numbers went on too long as did the show itself but that, of course, is a given. The “In Memorium” segment was poorly done (give everybody the big screen treatment next time!) and the one presenter presents multiple awards deal seemed to even throw Will Smith when he had to step up to the task: “Yes, they still have me up here… I think Hugh is napping.” My favorite bit of the show was presenter Ben Stiller in fake beard and sunglasses in an obvious parody of Joaquin Phoenix’s now infamous Letterman appearance of a few weeks back.

To his awkard antics (or non-antics) and his declaration: “I just want to retire from being the funny guy”, co-presenter Natalie Portman remarked: “You look like you work at a Hasidic meth lab.”

Ah, another Oscars over. Now back to the daily grind.

More later…

Hey Kids – Funtime Oscar Picks 2009!

With 2 days to go I thought it was time to finalize my Oscar picks for this year. Like I’ve said before I’m going in with a certain percentage of guts, wild guessing, and a bit of internet research. The last few years I’ve gotten the same score – 13 out of 24 so don’t think I’m talking like I’m any expert. Far from it but here goes anyway:


It looks like this or THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON will win. Im going with this because the buzz seems stronger and more genuine.

2. BEST DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle

3. BEST ACTOR: Mickey Rourke – I believe this will happen but its a personal choice as well. His acceptance speech is sure to be a tearjerker. Ill probably be all cried out from his interview with Barbara Walters earlier in the evening by then though.

4. BEST ACTRESS: Kate Winslet

5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Heath Ledger – It will indeed be extremely shocking if this doesnt happen. Seems like even if not for his incredibly untimely demise, Ledger would still pick the winning card.

6. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Penelope Cruz – feels like there may be a major surprise in this category but Im going with Cruz, again for personal reasons.

And the rest:



17. ANIMATED SHORT: PRESTO – This is the only one Ive seen (its the only many have seen since it was at the beginning of WALL-E) but it seems to have the edge.



Okay! Check back on Monday to see how many I got wrong.

More later…

Working The FRIDAY THE 13TH Matinee On Valentine’s Day

Despite its reputation as an art theater, the Varsity Theater in Chapel Hill, N.C. where I work part-time, has often shown big commercial movies. BATMAN BEGINS, WAR OF THE WORLDS, and even Will Farrell fare like TALLADEGA NIGHTS and SEMI-PRO have shown up on our screens among the indie and foreign films that usually dominate the roster. However it was still surprising that the owner decided to run the new FRIDAY THE 13TH remake alongside SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, which has been pulling audiences in since late last year.

I worked a short shift this afternoon and it went something like this:

2:18 P.M. Both films are well underway. There are only 8 people in the theater to see FRIDAY THE 13TH as opposed to the 62 that are here to see SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Ouch! Of course our theater is not exactly representative of how well the film may actually be doing. It is playing at 2 multiplexes in the area and many who would go to a horror film wouldn’t usually go until after dark. After cleaning up a little I tell my co-workers I’m going to check out some of FRIDAY THE 13TH but I’ll probably be back really soon. I enter the theater…

2:36 P.M. I’m back in the lobby. When I walked in I saw one of the classic horror movie clichés – a group of teenagers sitting around a campfire telling scary stories. Well, only one story actually about a camp counselor named Jason whose mother infamously murdered many folks in these very woods back in the day. Within 5 minutes, a girl is topless and a geeky guy (Im not going to credit any of these actors – I seriously doubt any of them will come up again) is brutally killed while looking for weed in the woods. Mamas boy Jason is fiercely protective of the Crystal Lake marijuana crop, you understand? His first appearance to my eyes wasn’t scary or even startling and I left when he had the before mentioned topless girl tied up in a sleeping bag dangling from a rope above the now raging camp fire. I shrugged as I walked out wondering why more couples didn’t come to celebrate Valentine’s Day with Jason Voorhees.

2:51 P.M. For some reason I decide I can stomach some more so I go back in…

3:06 P.M. I caught a bit that takes place in daylight. More partying teenagers are living it up at Crystal Lake campgrounds. After making machete meat of some really rednecky guy (how rednecky? We see literally licking a page from Hustler magazine) in an old dusty antique filled attic, Jason finds a beat up hockey mask. He dons it, checks himself out in the mirror (presumably thinking “hmm, I like it!”) and I was in awe of this historic detail of his origin story – uh, that is if you replace ‘in awe’ with ‘in complete indifference’. From there we go to a topless water-skiing sequence that ends in tragedy. Don’t they all?

3:16 P.M. Okay, only because I’m bored I go in for what I hope is my final round with the FRIDAY THE 13TH, uh, well it’s not really a remake so is it a re-boot? A re-imagining? Whatever it is I go on in again…

3:48 P.M. Whew! I actually watched the entire last act! The kids were in some house with the power cut off and Jason was offing them one by one (he seems to particularly enjoy impaling young scantily clad bodies on whatever’s handy – axes, deer antlers, long spikes and hooks, etc.). I loved when they called the police, only one car showed with only one cop and it seemed like less than a minute before he was impaled on something (most be some unwritten rule of horror movies – only send one cop). It was all exactly what I expected. Not one surprise or moment of original invention especially not the so non thriller ending. But then it makes no claims to be anything but an onslaught of breasts and blood so what I’m I complaining about? Okay I’m complaining about how what I saw was bone dry boring and bad by even schlocky slasher movie standards.

4:54 P.M. My shift is over. As I leave the theater I ask how many tickets sold for the 4:20 FRIDAY THE 13TH. One ticket sold. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE sold roughly the same as its earlier show (about 60 something). Obviously there’s little love for the new Jason incarnation but at least I figured out that it’s not a remake, reboot, or re-imagining. It’s a rehash rip-off.

The rest of my Valentine’s day has got to be better than this.

More later…

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE: The Film Babble Blog Review

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (Dir. Danny Boyle, 2008)

The buzz has been a-blazing on this film way before it made the news when Roger Ebert got smacked down (literally) by a fellow critic at a screening in Toronto last September. Right now it is topping many Critics’ Award lists for 2008, getting multiple Golden Globe nominations, and gaining massive word of mouth as it gets a wider release. What’s more impressive is that this film deserves every accolade and award and then some. It is a “feel good” movie in the least cynical use of that well worn publicity phrase with its inventive story-telling and rich palette of visual splendor, simply amazing considering its squalor-filled settings. So how can depictions such as poverty, child abuse, and even the sight of somebody drenched in feces be in a film that adds up to an overwhelmingly happy and heart-warming experience? I dunno, but this film pulled it off magnificently – echoing the power and grandeur of CITY OF GOD crossed with the clever charm of Boyle’s own MILLIONS, and its done with wit and grit to spare.

Our hero is 18 year old Jamal (Dev Patel along with Tanay Cheda and Ayush Mahesh Khedekar as Jamal at younger intervals) who is being interrogated by police, USUAL SUSPECTS-style, about his suspiciously improbable winnings from appearing on the Hindi version of the modern classic quiz game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. His answers involve engaging and sometimes disturbing flashback sequences that are handled deftly and definitely more fluidly than in many other recent broken narratives. From an early age, Jamal made a couple of connections that would deeply affect his current predicament – his love for Latika (Freida Pinto with Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, and Rubiana Ali as younger incarnations) and his stormy clashes with fellow slum kid Salim (Madhur Mittal, Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, and Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail – whew!) All of these talents, tested (especially Anil Kapoor as the unctuous game show host) and untested are up to the task at hand here.

A end credits dance sequence (that can’t possibly be a Spoiler!, can it?) is the only thing Bollywood about this Indian movie made by Brits but that works as well and as entertainingly as everything else here. Despite a fair amount of subtitled dialogue (which is pretty stylized as it goes for subtitles) 80-90% of it is spoken in English and it’s instantly accessible so it’s sure to pick up even more acclaim and box office in the weeks to come. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is one of the best movies of the year for sure and will endure to be much more than a winner this awards season – I feel that for years to come it’s going to be a favorite of the same folks who can love AMELIE and an edgier work like GOODFELLAS equally. It has plenty of pure stultifying competition (got MILK?) out there in what’s shaping up to be a precedent setting prestige motion picture season, but from what I’ve seen so far this has the “fun factor” on its side in spades.

More later…