Here Are The Oscar Winners


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Best Picture — Argo

Best Director — Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Best Actor — Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Best Actress — Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actor — Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress — Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables

Best Adapted Screenplay — Argo

Best Original Screenplay — Django Unchained

Best Animated Feature Film — Brave

Best Documentary Feature — Searching For Sugar Man.

Best Foreign Language Film — Amour

Best Cinematography — Life of Pi

Best Costuming — Anna Karenina

Best Editing — Argo

Best Makeup and Hair-Styling — Les Miserables

Best Original Score — Life of Pi

Best Original Song — “Skyfall” in Skyfall

Best Production Design — Lincoln

Best Sound Editing — Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall

Best Sound Mixing — Les Miserables

Best Visual Effects — Life of Pi

Best Live-Action Short Film — Curfew

Best Animated Short Film — Paperman

Best Documentary Short Film — Innocente


By the numbers:

Life of Pi — 4

Argo — 3

Les Miserables — 3

Django Unchained — 2

Lincoln — 2

Skyfall — 2

Amour — 1

Anna Karenina — 1

Brave — 1

Curfew — 1

Innocente — 1

Paperman — 1

Searching for Sugar Man — 1

Silver Linings Playbook — 1

Zero Dark Thirty — 1

Film Review: Mr. Freedom (dir by William Klein)


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Mr. Freedom, William Klein’s 1968 political satire, is a strange one.

The film opens with a riot in the inner city.  A scowling Southern sheriff (played by John Abbey) goes into his apartment and, when he comes back out, he’s transformed into Mr. Freedom, a patriotic super hero whose is costumed in a red, white, and blue football uniform.  Mr. Freedom proceeds to invade a black household where, while firing two guns, he sings his theme song.

“F-R-Double E-Double D-OM!  FREEDDOM!”

That’s right, he misspelled freedom.

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It turns out that Mr. Freedom works for Freedom, Inc.  His boss is Dr. Freedom (played by Donald Pleasance) who communicates with Mr. Freedom via a flickering TV screen.  Dr. Freedom is concerned that France is on the verge of turning communist and he sends Mr. Freedom to Paris in order to “win the hearts and minds” of the French.

William Klein, himself, was an American expatriate who lived in France and is best known for being both a fashion photographer and a documentarian.  His view of America is epitomized by the sight of Mr. Freedom (wearing a gigantic cowboy hat) wandering around Paris and assaulting random tourists.  With the help of a prostitute played by Delphine Seyrig, Mr. Freedom attempts to rally the French to the side of freedom and to defeat the schemes of Red China Man.  When the French don’t prove enthusiastic enough, Mr. Freedom responds by making plans to blow the country up.

Mr. FreedomUnlike a lot of left-wing films, which celebrate the American establishment by pretending to attack it, Mr. Freedom is sincere in its politics.  It’s obvious that William Klein set out to make the most anti-American film that he could and he succeeded.  Mr. Freedom is an irredeemable character.  When the film begins, Mr. Freedom is quickly established as being an idiot and, at the end of the film, he has somehow become an even bigger idiot.  Perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of people over at the imdb have compared Mr. Freedom’s quest to conquer France to America’s current policy towards the Middle East.

If you’ve read some of my previous reviews, you would be justified in expecting that this is where I would condemn Mr. Freedom for being heavy-handed and tediously left-wing.  After all, I’m the girl who condemned Avatar for being predictable environmental propaganda.  And yes, I did find Mr. Freedom to be heavy-handed but I actually enjoyed it.

Even if you didn’t know that William Klein was an award-winning photographer both before and after he started making films, you would be able to guess it after taking one look at Mr. Freedom.  The film’s narrative is undeniably uneven but visually, it’s a feast for the eyes.  From the costumes worn by Mr. Freedom and his disciples to the design of Mr. Freedom’s secret headquarters, the screen is full of bold, primary colors and Klein shows a taste and appreciation for the bizarre that makes it easier to deal with the film’s moments of peachiness.  Perhaps my favorite scene in the film involves Mr. Freedom confronting Red China Man.  Red China Man, it turns out, is a gigantic dragon-shaped balloon.

See Mr. Freedom.

There’s nothing else like it.

Red China Man

Quick Review: Silver Linings Playbook (dir. by David O. Russell)


slpIn Silver Linings Playbook, Pat Solitano (formerly Pat Peoples in the novel written by Matthew Quick, played by Bradley Cooper) is recently released from a mental hospital to the care of his parents. Obsessed over reclaiming the love of his ex-wife, Nikki, he sets out on exercising and reading books to become better when he sees her again. Working under the notion that positivity, mixed with great effort can lead to a Silver Lining, he uses this new outlook to focus on his goal. Of couse, this doesn’t happen without some hiccups. There’s one key scene in the film where he asks his parents where his wedding tape is, and starts tearing through boxes around the house searching for it. With Led Zeppelin’s “What Is And What Should Never Be” blasting in the background as everything escalated, I had an Anton Ego Ratatouille moment.

My mom had this thing where she’d shift from High to Low. Some days would be quiet, but if the wrong word or event happened, she’d explode either into a fit of activity or anger. We would be sometimes careful to not trigger this – “set her off”, she would say. My clearest memory is of having Alice in Chains’ “Don’t Follow” turned up really loud on the family stereo (and on repeat by her request) as she proceeded to break various objects in her bedroom. She isn’t the only one in the family who has that happen with her. My cousin has this thing where at night she has to check all of the burners on the stove at least 2 times before she’s satisfied they’re fine and off. She says she knows everything’s correct the first time, but says she needs to be sure.

We all have our quirks. When people burp around me, I feel compelled to say “Bless You”. It’s only right.

So, sitting in the theatre and watching Silver Linings Playbook, it all felt very familiar to me. The great thing -and possibly the problem near the very end – about it is that the film isn’t completely A Beautiful Mind in it’s sense of seriousness. I’ll admit I found myself smiling and laughing through a lot of it, just as much as I winced during Pat’s trouble spots. As he returns home, he finds his father (Robert DeNiro in a fine performance) already skeptical about him, but content that he has his son back to watch the Philadelphia Eagles games and to be his lucky charm. After being invited to dinner by one of his friends, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who seems to be just as different as he is and he discovers that she’s been in contact with Nikki. She’ll help send word to her about how he’s doing (because a restraining order keeps him from doing so), if he will help her perform in a dance contest. This ends up starting a good friendship between the two and we start to find that Pat is doing better as things progress.

Director David O’Russell keeps the story centered on the two leads. Both Cooper and Lawrence are energetic and have this really great chemistry between them that makes it feel like they had a lot of fun working on this movie. What’s better is that there isn’t a single person in the supporting cast that doesn’t feel like (to me, anyway) that they were miscast or out of step. They could make a tv series with this cast, and it would be watchable. O’Russell also changes the nature of the story in his adaptation, making the dance sequence itself a major focus on the growth between Tiffany and Pat (and by extension, the family and friends). He also eliminates a side story where Pat’s mom leaves his father because of the Dad’s obsessive nature with the Eagles, choosing to replace it with some more heartfelt and/or moments between DeNiro and Cooper (who coindentially worked together in Limitless). I felt it tightened up the story overall.

Another element I enjoyed was the film’s use of music. Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” serves as a song that’s important to the story (in the same way that Kenny G’s “Songbird” was to the novel) and as I mentioned before, the Zeppelin song also worked. Alabama Shakes, which are a group new to me, also had a good song with “Always Alright”. The music of the film felt similar to Juno for me in a lot of ways.

The only problem I had with Silver Linings PlayBook, the only thing that didn’t work for me was the way the film ended. Dealing with something as serious as any kind of mental disorder, especially one where there are meds involved, it’s a serious thing. I’m not saying that one in Pat’s situation can’t be with anyone, far from it, but the film paints a picture at the end that everything will be just fine and simple. I don’t know I agree with that. Fine, perhaps, but certainly not simple. Granted, the story sets up such a social tapestry for Pat that if anything were to go wrong, he’d have people who would rally behind him. The ending just makes it seems that he no longer has any quirks and possibly robs an otherwise perfect from a bit of reality.

Overall, the Silver Linings Playbook is a feel good film that’s definitely worth seeing, with an ensemble cast that helps to elevate the great performances by both Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. The lack of a heavy-handed nature towards the issues with the main character help the comedic elements of it, but also stutter steps it at the very end for me.

What Lisa Marie and the Snarkalecs Watched Last Night #71: End of the World (dir by Steven R. Monroe)


Last night, the Snarkalecs and I watched the SyFy original movie, End of the World.  For the next two hours, we literally dominated twitter as we shared our mutual, nearly obsessive love for this film.  Soon, #EndOfTheWorld was a trending topic and, I’m happy to say, that ended up freaking out a lot of paranoid people who weren’t watching SyFy.

All in all, it was a pretty good night.

End of the WorldWhy Were We Watching It?

Because that’s what the Snarkalecs do.  We watch movies on SyFy and we usually get all snarky about them.  However, it was difficult to be snarky about End of the World because the people who made End of The World were obviously very snarky themselves.

What Was It About?

The world’s being bombarded by chunks of electromagnetic space debris.  Or something like that.  Really, the important thing to know is that the world’s about to end and it’s up to two video store clerks (played by two titans of nerdy adorability, Greg Grunberg and Neil Grayston) to save it.  Their solution involves breaking a sci-fi writer named Doc Brown (Brad Dourif) out of a mental asylum and Greg Grunberg working on a nuclear missile with a power drill.

However, to be honest, the plot is just a distraction.  The storyline is mostly used as an excuse to make clever references to nearly ever science fiction movie ever made.  Some of the references are obvious and some of them are a bit more subtle but, ultimately, they are what this movie is truly about.

What Worked?

It all worked.

Seriously, End of the World is the best film that I’ve ever seen on SyFy.  It was a film that was obviously made by genre fans for genre fans and, as a result, it felt like a belated Valentine’s Day present from the SyFy network to its viewers.

As I previously mentioned, the entire film is basically a collection of references and homages to other science fiction films.  While this is a technique that I’ve found cloying when used by other films, End of the World struck exactly the right tone.  The references were appreciative without over going overboard and, even more importantly, they were cleverly deployed throughout the film.   They moved the film forward and seemed to grow organically out of the action onscreen.  As a result, even with all the references, the film itself never felt heavy-handed.

Greg Grunberg is one of those great actors who can perfectly sell both comedy and drama.  His talents were on perfect display last night.  Perhaps the best Grunberg line of the night was, “It’s a monologue!  MONO!”

Brad Dourif didn’t have a lot of screentime but seriously, he  was just adorable.

Really, the whole film was just adorable.

What Did Not Work?

It all worked.

“Oh my God!  Just Like me!” Moments

Much like the character of Selena (Caroline Cave), I think Greg Grunberg’s pretty awesome.

Lessons Learned

The geeks shall inherit the Earth (but only after the Redheads are finished with it).

Film Review: Django Kill (dir. by Giulio Questi)


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Released in 1967 and directed by Giulio Questi, Django Kill is one of the essential spaghetti westerns.

The film opens with a man literally clawing his way out of a shallow grave.  Played by Tomas Milian and known as the Stranger, the man is a Mexican outlaw who has been buried out in the middle of the desert.  Two sympathetic Indians discover the Stranger and, while they nurse him back to health, he has several flashbacks that explain how he came to be buried alive.

The Stranger was a member of a gang of thieves who stole a cargo of gold.  However, the Americans in the gang betrayed the Mexicans, gunning them down and fleeing with the gold.  The Indians agree to help the Stranger find the rest of his gang on the condition that the Stranger tell them what it was like to be dead.

The Stranger’s former gang, meanwhile, has arrived at a desolate town known as Unhappy Place.  From the minute that the gang first rides into town, we know that there’s something sinister about Unhappy Place.  A naked child stands in the middle of the street while another is used as a footrest by one of the adults.  A distraught woman watches them from behind a barred window.  A lame hedgehog drags itself across the dusty street.  As soon as the gang stops at the local saloon, the locals see the gold that they’re carrying and, in a shockingly brutal scene, the townspeople lynch the outlaws.

While this is going on, the Stranger rides into town.  Spotting the last living outlaw, the Stranger proceeds to gun him down.  In one of the film’s more infamous scenes, when the townspeople learn that the Stranger is using gold bullets, they proceed to literally rip the outlaw to pieces in an effort to retrieve the golden bullets.

With the outlaws dead, the townspeople claim the gold for themselves.  The Stranger, who was apparently more interested in revenge than getting the gold, stays in town and watches as things get increasingly weird.

How weird?

Well, how about the fact that the Stranger ends up having a romance with a crazy woman who spends her days trapped behind a locked door?

Or how about the fact that the Stranger finds himself in the middle of a power struggle between the townspeople and the flamboyantly homosexual Zorro (played, in grandly villainous fashion, by Roberto Camardiel) who rides into town with a gang of cowboys who are all dressed in black outfits with white embroidery?  In another one of the film’s infamous scenes, Zorro and his cowboys kidnap and gang rape the son of the town’s saloonkeeper.

(A young Ray Lovelock, who would go on to be one of the best actors to regularly work in Italian exploitation plays the son.)

Or how about the scene where Zorro plays with a bunch of Civil War figures while arguing with his pet parrot?  When Zorro offers the parrot a drink, the parrot replies, “I want more!”

Or, how about the fact that the Stranger, at one point, has to deal with several vampire bats while literally hanging from a cross?

Graphically violent and full of bizarre and disturbing imagery, Django Kill is one of the strangest westerns ever made and that strangeness keeps the film interesting even when the story doesn’t make much sense.  While Django Kill may not be the masterpiece that several claim it to (the film runs on a bit long and the dubbing of the English language version was absolutely terrible), it’s still one of the most compulsively watchable films that I’ve ever seen.  Just when you think the film can’t get any stranger, it does.

Django Kill was filmed under the title of If You Live, Shoot!  However, in a move typical of Italian cinema, the film was retitled to take advantage of the popularity of Sergio Corbucci’s Django.  The implication, of course, is that Tomas Milian is playing the same character here that Franco Nero played in Corbucci’s film.  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  Even in the crudely dubbed English version of the film, Milian is never referred to by name.  Instead, he’s simply known as the Stranger and, appropriately enough, the film feels more like a surreal take on Sergio Leone’s Dollar trilogy as opposed to being a part of the Django series.

That said, regardless of whether it’s a legitimate Django film or not, Django Kill …. If You Live, Shoot! is more than worth watching.  In fact, it’s essential for anyone who loves Italian exploitation films.

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