Shattered Politics #72: Welcome to Mooseport (dir by Donald Petrie)


Welcome_To_Mooseport

The 2004 film comedy Welcome to Mooseport would probably be totally forgotten if not for one thing.  This is the film that was supposedly so bad that co-star Gene Hackman looked at the final cut and then probably looked over at the Oscars he won for The French Connection and Unforgiven and then probably looked back at the final cut and then announced, “I quit!”  There’s a reason why Hackman now spends his time writing novels and, according to most accounts, Welcome to Mooseport is that reason.

In Welcome to Mooseport, Gene Hackman plays Monroe “Eagle” Cole, the former President of the United States.  From the minute we first hear the President’s name, we know exactly what type of film Welcome to Mooseport is going to be.  It’s not enough to give Hackman’s a character a totally over-the-top name like Monroe Cole.  He also has to have a cutesy nickname.  The entire time I watched the film, I found myself wondering if Monroe Cole was listed on the presidential ballots as being Monroe “Eagle” Cole.  Personally, I always find it funny when people feel the need to include their nickname in the credits.  Is it really important for every William out there to let everyone know that some people call him Billy?

Anyway, Eagle is apparently the most popular president ever.  However, he’s also recently divorced and his ex-wife (Christine Baranski, playing the same role that she played in Bulworth) wants all of his property.  Eagle is forced to retire to one of the few residences that he has left, his vacation home in Mooseport, Maine.  In order to keep his wife from claiming that home, Eagle decides to run for mayor of Mooseport…

Now, right here, we’ve got a huge issue.  Eagle’s only motivation for running for mayor is because he doesn’t want to have to give over his vacation home to his wife.  But that could be anyone’s motivation.  One does not have to be President to want to keep the house in a divorce.  It would have been more interesting if Eagle, now out of office and struggling to adjust to no longer being the most powerful man in the world, ran for mayor because he really wanted the job.

But anyway, Eagle is not the only person running for mayor.  Hardware store owner Hardy Harrison (Ray Romano) is also running.  At first, Hardy wants to withdraw but then he sees Eagle flirting with Hardy’s longtime girlfriend (Maura Tierney) and Hardy suddenly decides that he’s going to run and he’s going to win.

I actually like Ray Romano as an actor and he doesn’t give a bad performance here.  But, at the same time, it’s obvious that his scenes were written to capitalize on his TV persona.  It’s easy to imagine stumbling across a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond where Ray runs for mayor and has a panic attack when he loses.  The difference, of course, is that Ray Barone would not have been running against Gene Hackman (much less a former President).

Needless to say, Welcome to Mooseport has a sitcom feel to it.  After every line, you find yourself waiting for a laugh track.  Gene Hackman feels incredibly out-of-place in the film and there’s a discomfort to his performance.  Watching him in this film, you can see the wheels turning in his brain.  You can literally see Gene Hackman thinking, “I’m too old for this shit.”

And I guess he was because, in the 11 years since Welcome to Mooseport was first released, Gene Hackman has not appeared in another film.  Which is bad news for everyone waiting for Welcome to Mooseport Part II

Back to School #48: Scent of a Woman (dir by Martin Brest)


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Along with my current series of 80 Back to School reviews (48 down, 32 to go!), another one of my long time goals has been to watch and review every single film to ever be nominated for the best picture.  So, imagine how happy I was to discover that by watching the 1992 film Scent of a Woman, I could make progress towards completing two goals at once!  Not only was Scent of A Woman nominated for best picture of the year (losing to Unforgiven) but it also features a major subplot about life and discipline at an exclusive New England prep school!  Even better, it’s been showing up on Showtime fairly regularly for the past month or so.

“Wow,” I thought as my boyfriend and I sat down to watch this movie, “could life get any easier?  Or better?”

And then we watched the film.

You know how occasionally you watch a film just because you’ve heard that it was nominated (or perhaps even won) an Oscar or because it has an oddly high rating over at the imdb or maybe because someone said, “Roger Ebert loved this film so, if you don’t watch and love it, that means that, by that standard of the current online film community, you really don’t love movies?”  And then you watch the movie and you’re just like, “What the Hell?”

Well, that was kind of my reaction to Scent of a Woman.

Look, the film’s not all bad.  It has a few good performances.  It looks great.  It’s certainly better than Gigli, the film that director Martin Brest is perhaps best remembered for.  It features a great scene where Al Pacino (playing a blind man) dances the tango with a woman that he’s just met.  (Then again, I have a notorious weakness for dance scenes…)  It’s not so much that the film is bad as much as it’s just that the movie itself is not particularly good.

Charlie Simms (Chris O’Donnell) is a scholarship student at an exclusive prep school in Massachusetts.  Much like Brendan Fraser in School Ties, 1992’s other prep school melodrama, Charlie is a poor kid attending the school on a scholarship.  While his rich friends prepare to go home for the Thanksgiving weekend, Charlie knows that there’s no way that he can afford to fly back to Oregon.  In order to raise the money so that he can at least go back home for Christmas (how poor is this kid’s family!?), Charlie gets a temporary job for the weekend.  His job?  To look after Lt. Col. Frank Slade (Al Pacino), who is blind and yells a lot.

Anyway, as you can probably guess, Frank convinces Charlie to drive him to New York and they have all of the adventures that usually happen whenever a naive teenager spends the weekend with a suicidal blind man.  Frank bellows a lot and tells about how, through his sense of smell, he can always tell when there’s a beautiful woman nearby.  Frank also yells a lot.  Did I already mention that?  Because, seriously, he yells a lot.

Charlie has other problems than just Frank.  It seems that a rather mild prank was pulled on the headmaster (James Rebhorn) of Charlie’s school.  As a result, a bucket of paint was poured down on both the headmaster and his new car!  Now, the headmaster is looking for those responsible.  He just needs two witnesses.  He’s already gotten one student to confess.  And now, he’s blackmailing Charlie with a letter of recommendation to Harvard.  All Charlie has to do is name names and his future is set…

Will Charlie name names and sacrifice his honor just to get into a college that could assure him a great life?  Or will Frank convince Charlie that honor is the only thing that matters?  And finally, will the film end with a big hearing in front of the entire school in which the headmaster attempts to badger Charlie, just to be interrupted by a sudden appearance from bellowing Frank Slade?

Will it!?

You can probably already guess and, since we have a no spoiler policy here at the Lens, I’ll just assume that you guessed right.  (Or you could just look at the picture at the top of this review…)

The prep school subplot pretty much just adds to the film’s already excessive running time.  But it is interesting to watch because the other student — the one who names names — is played by a very young Philip Seymour Hoffman.  (Or as he’s credited here, Philip S. Hoffman.)  This was one of Hoffman’s first screen roles and he gives a memorable performance as an unlikable character.  If you were to have seen Scent of a Woman in 1992, you would not have guessed that Philip Seymour Hoffman would eventually be an Oscar winner but you would know that he was a very talented character actor.

Otherwise, Scent of a Woman is a fairly forgettable movie.  If I hadn’t known ahead of time that it was nominated for best picture, I never would have been able to guess.  I’m not enough of an expert to be able to name every good 1992 film that was not nominated to make room for Scent of a Woman but I imagine that when that year’s Oscar nominations were announced, there were quite a few people left scratching their heads.

Can you figure out which one grew up to be Philip Seymour Hoffman?

Can you figure out which one grew up to be Philip Seymour Hoffman?

6 Obscure Films Of 2013: The Call, Copperhead, It’s A Disaster, See Girl Run, UnHung Hero, Would You Rather


Well, it’s that time of year when I look at the list of the films that I’ve seen over the past 12 months and I realize that there’s quite a few that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing yet.  Here are my thoughts on six of them.

The Call (dir by Brad Anderson)

Abigail Breslin is kidnapped by a serial killer.  While trapped in the trunk of the killer’s car, Breslin manages to call 911.  Breslin’s call is answered by Halle Berry, a veteran operator who is recovering from a trauma that — by an amazing and totally implausible coincidence — was caused by the same guy who has just kidnapped Breslin.

Before it became a feature film, The Call was originally developed as a weekly TV series and, as I watched, it was easy to imagine weekly episodes that would all feature a different guest star calling 911 and needing help.  For the first hour or so, The Call is well-made and acted but undistinguished.  However, during the final 30 minutes, the entire film suddenly goes crazy with Breslin running around in her bra, Berry turning into a blood thirsty vigilante, and the killer suddenly getting very verbose.  However, those 30 minutes of pure insanity were just what The Call needed to be memorable.  There are some films that definitely benefit from going over-the-top and The Call is one of them.

Copperhead (dir by Ronald Maxwell)

Copperhead is a historical drama that takes place during the Civil War.  In upstate New York, farmer Abner Breech (Billy Campbell) is ardently opposed to both the Civil War and the union cause.  In most movies, this would make Abner the villain but, in Copperhead, he’s portrayed as being a man of principle who, by refusing to compromise on his views, is ostracized and ultimately persecuted by the rest of his village.  Abner’s views also bring him into conflict with his own son, who is pro-Union.

Copperhead is a slow-moving film that features some rather good performances along with some fairly bad ones.  However, I’m a history nerd so I enjoyed it.  It certainly tells a different story from what we’ve come to expect from American films about the Civil War.

It’s A Disaster (dir by Todd Berger)

Of the six films reviewed in this post, It’s A Disaster is the one to see.  In this darker than dark comedy, Julia Stiles brings her new boyfriend (David Cross) to Sunday brunch with 6 of her closest friends.  During the brunch, terrorists explode a dirty bomb in the city.  With everyone trapped inside the house and waiting for the world to either end or somehow revert back to normal, long-simmering resentments come to the forefront.

To say anything else about It’s a Disaster would be unfair so I’ll just say that it’s a very funny film, featuring excellent work from both Stiles and Cross.  If Jean-Paul Sartre was alive and writing today, he would probably end up writing something very similar to It’s a Disaster.

See Girl Run (dir by Nate Meyer)

Bleh!  That’s probably the best description I can give you of this film.  It’s just a whole lot of bleh.

Emmie (Robin Tunney) is unhappy with her boring marriage so she runs back to her Maine hometown, stops wearing makeup and washing her hair, and pines for her high school boyfriend, Jason (Adam Scott), who works at a sea food restaurant.  Jason also happens to be friends with Emmie’s depressed brother, Brandon (Jeremy Strong).  It’s the same basic plot as Young Adult, just with no humor and a lot more talking.  In Young Adult, it was hard not to admire Charlize Theron’s wonderfully misguided character.  In See Girl Run, you just want to tell Robin Tunny to take a shower, put on some clothes that don’t look like they were stolen from a hospital storage closet, and stop whining all the time.

It’s difficult to put into words just how much I hated this movie.  This is one of those films that critics tend to describe as being “a film for adults.”  I have to agree — this is a movie for really boring, depressing adults who like to talk and talk about how their lives haven’t worked out.  If See Girl Run is what being an adult is like, I’ll just continue to be an immature brat, thank you very much.

UnHung Hero (dir by Brian Spitz)

So, this is not only the worst documentary of 2013 but it’s also quite probably one of the worst documentaries ever made.  The film opens with footage of Patrick Moote (who claims to be a comedian) asking his girlfriend to marry him.  As Moote goes on (and on) to tell us, she turns down his proposal and then dumps him because, according to her, his penis is too small.  Moote spends the rest of the film talking to various people and asking them whether size really matters.

Well, he could have just asked me and saved a lot of time.  I’m sorry if this endangers any fragile male egos but yes, size does matter.  If Moote’s penis really is as tiny as he claims it is, I probably would have turned down his proposal as well.  Then again, Moote could be hung like Jamie Foxx and I’d probably still refuse to marry him because, quite frankly, he’s the whiniest and most annoying person that I’ve ever seen.  He’s like an even less charming version of Morgan Spurlock.  What Patrick Moote never seems to understand is that size matters but personality matters even more.

Would You Rather (dir by David Guy Levy)

Would you rather have a root canal or sit through this piece of crap?  Having seen Would You Rather, I can tell you that it’s not an easy question to answer.

Jeffrey Combs plays a sadistic millionaire who invited a bunch of strangers (including Brittany Snow, John Heard, June Squibb, and Sasha Grey) to his mansion and forces them to play an elaborate and deadly game of Would You Rather.  Unfortunately, none of the characters are interesting, the film’s sadism is more boring than shocking, and talented actor Combs is totally wasted as the one-note villain.

Here Are The 2013 SAG Nominations!


This morning the SAG Award nominees were announced and, perhaps not surprisingly, the story is less who was nominated and more who was snubbed.  For instance, Oscar front-runner Robert Redford’s performance in All Is Lost was ignored while Forest Whitaker’s rather one-note turn in The Butler was nominated.  Tom Hanks was not nominated for Saving Mr. Banks but the late and missed James Gandolfini picked up a nomination for Enough Said. Myself, I’m more surprised that Octavia Spenser was not nominated for her performance in Fruitvale Station.

As has been pointed out over at Goldderby, the SAG Awards are no longer the fool-proof Oscar prediction tool that they used to be.  Getting a SAG nomination no longer guarantees you an Oscar nomination and, by that same standard, getting snubbed is no longer an automatic cause for concern.

That said, the SAG winners do typically end up receiving an Oscar nomination in January.

The film nominees can be found below:

BEST FILM ENSEMBLE
“12 Years a Slave”
“American Hustle”
“August: Osage County”
“The Butler”
“Dallas Buyers Club”

BEST FILM ACTOR
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Forest Whitaker, “The Butler”

BEST FILM ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”
Judi Dench, “Philomena”
Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County”
Emma Thompson, “Saving Mr. Banks”

BEST FILM SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”
Daniel Bruhl, “Rush”
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
James Gandolfini, “Enough Said”
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

BEST FILM SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”
June Squibb, “Nebraska”
Oprah Winfrey, “The Butler”

BEST FILM STUNT ENSEMBLE*
“All is Lost”
“Fast & Furious 6”
“Lone Survivor”
“Rush”
“The Wolverine”

The full list of nominees can be found here.

—-

* Isn’t it about time that stunt performers get an Oscar category all their own?

12 Years A Slave Wins In Boston


The Boston Society Of Film Critics voted earlier today and 12 Years A Slave — which, so far, has been underperforming with the critics’ groups — swept the awards.  The Wolf of Wall Street came in second for most of the major awards.

BEST PICTURE
“12 Years a Slave”
Runner-up: “The Wolf of Wall Street”

BEST DIRECTOR
Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”)
Runner-up: Martin Scorsese (“The Wolf of Wall Street”)

BEST ACTOR
Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”)
Runner-up: Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street”)

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”)
Runner-up: Judi Dench (“Philomena”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
James Gandolfini (“Enough Said”)
Runner-ups:
Barkhad Abdi (“Capt. Phillips”) and Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club”) tie for second.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
June Squibb (“Nebraska”)
Runner-up:
Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”)

BEST SCREENPLAY
Nicole Holofcener (“Enough Said”)
Runner-up:
“The Wolf of Wall Street”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“Wadjda”
Runner-up: “Blue Is the Warmest Color”

BEST DOCUMENTARY
“The Act of Killing,” Josh Oppenheimer
Runner-ups:
“Blackfish,” “Leviathan,” “At Berkeley,” “Crash Reel,” “20 Feet from Stardom ”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“The Wind Rises,” Hayao Miyazaki
Runner-up:
“Frozen”

BEST NEW FILMMAKER
Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”)
Runner-up: Josh Oppenheimer (“Act of Killing”)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Emmanuel Lubezki (“Gravity”)
Runner-up:
Phillippe Le Sourd (“The Grandmaster”)

BEST EDITING
Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill (“Rush”)
Runner-up: Thelma Schoonmaker (“The Wolf of Wall Street”)

BEST USE OF MUSIC IN A FILM
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
Runner-up: “Nebraska”

The Los Angeles Film Critics Honor James Franco!


Earlier today, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association announced the picks for the best of 2013.  There are a few things worth noting:

1) Her is coming on surprisingly strong.

2) James Franco won best supporting actor for Spring Breakers!  Well, technically, Franco tied with Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club.  But still, it’s good to see Franco’s audacious performance getting some recognition.

3) My favorite film of 2013 — Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color — came in second for best editing.

Here are the winners:

BEST PICTURE (tie)
“Gravity,” “Her”

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”
Runner-up: Spike Jonze, “Her”

BEST ACTOR
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Runner-up: Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”

BEST ACTRESS (tie)
Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”); Adele Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR (tie)
James Franco, “Spring Breakers”; Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lupita Nyongo, “12 Years a Slave”
Runner-up: June Squibb, “Nebraska”

BEST SCREENPLAY
“Before Midnight,” Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater
Runner-up: “Her,” Spike Jonze

BEST EDITING
“Gravity,” Alfonso Cuaron & Mark Sanger
Runner-up: “Upstream Color,” Shane Carruth & David Lowery

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
“Gravity,” Emmanuel Lubezki
Runner-up: “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Bruno Delbonnel

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
“Her,” K.K. Barrett
Runner-up: “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Jess Gonchor

BEST MUSIC/SCORE
“Inside Llewyn Davis,” T Bone Burnett
Runner-up: “Her,” Arcade Fire & Owen Pallett

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
“Blue is the Warmest Color”
Runner-up: “The Great Beauty”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“Ernest and Celestine”
Runner-up: “The Wind Rises”

BEST DOCUMENTARY/NONFICTION FILM
“Stories We Tell”
Runner-up: “The Act of Killing”

It’s The 2014 Independent Spirit Nominations!


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The nominees for the 2014 Independent Spirit Awards were announced earlier today.  While the Spirit noms aren’t exactly the most accurate of Oscar precursors (and the rules of Indie Spirit Awards are pretty much specifically designed to honor the type of low-budget films that are often ignored by the Academy), more than a few of the Spirit nominees are usually remembered when the Oscar nominations are announced.

The winners will be announced, by Patton Oswalt, on March 1st.

Myself, I’m just happy to see Frances Ha and Upstream Color’s Shane Carruth nominated.

Best Feature:
“12 Years a Slave”
“All Is Lost”
“Frances Ha”
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
“Nebraska”

Best Director:
Shane Carruth, “Upstream Color”
J.C. Chandor, “All is Lost”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
Jeff Nichols, “Mud”
Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”

Best Screenplay:
Woody Allen, “Blue Jasmine”
Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater, “Before Midnight”
Nicole Holofcener, “Enough Said”
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, “The Spectacular Now”
John Ridley, “12 Years a Slave”

Best Female Lead:
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight”
Gaby Hoffman, “Crystal Fairy”
Brie Larson, “Short Term 12″
Shailene Woodley, “The Spectacular Now”

Best Male Lead:
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”
Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Michael B. Jordan, “Fruitvale Station”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Robert Redford, “All Is Lost”

Best Supporting Female:
Melonie Diaz, “Fruitvale Station”
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”
Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
Yolonda Ross, “Go for Sisters”
June Squibb, “Nebraska”

Best Supporting Male:
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
Will Forte, “Nebraska”
James Gandolfini, “Enough Said”
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Keith Stanfield, “Short Term 12”

Best First Feature:
“Blue Caprice”
“Concussion”
“Fruitvale Station”
“Una Noche”
“Wadjda”

Best First Screenplay:
“In a World,” Lake Bell
“Don Jon,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt
“Nebraska,” Bob Nelson
“Afternoon Delight,” Jill Soloway
“The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” Michael Starrbury

John Cassavetes Award:
“Computer Chess”
“Crystal Fairy”
“Museum Hours”
“Pit Stop”
“This Is Martin Bonner”

Best Cinematography:
Sean Bobbit, “12 Years a Slave”
Benoit Debie, “Spring Breakers”
Bruno Delbonnel, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Frank G. DeMarco, “All Is Lost”
Matthias Grunsky, “Computer Chess”

Best Editing:
Shane Carruth & David Lowery, “Upstream Color”
Jem Cohen & Marc Vives, “Museum Hours”
Jennifer Lame, “Frances Ha”
Cindy Lee, “Una Noche”
Nat Sanders, “Short Term 12”

Best Documentary:
“20 Feet From Stardom”
“After Tiller”
“Gideon’s Army”
“The Act of Killing”
“The Square”

Best International Film:
“A Touch of Sin”
“Blue Is the Warmest Color”
“Gloria”
“The Great Beauty”
“The Hunt”

Robert Altman Award (given to a film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast)
“Mud”

Piaget Producers Award:
Toby Halbrooks & James M. Johnston
Jacob Jaffke
Andrea Roa
Frederick Thornton

Someone to Watch Award:
“My Sister’s Quinceanera,” Aaron Douglas Johnston
“Newlyweeds,” Shake King
“The Foxy Merkins,” Madeline Olnek

Truer Than Fiction Award:
“A River Changes Course,” Kalvanee Mam
“Let the Fire Burn,” Jason Osder
“Manakamana,” Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez