Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Academy Awards are this Sunday! Which means that sad, lonely movie fans (myself) indulge in endless discussion and bickering about which movie will win what award and why, and in the end the actual outcome affects a small handful of people we will never meet and we spend the next two and a half weeks discussing and bickering yet again about why what award was won and wasn't.

Regardless of whoever walks home with the most golden statuettes, however, the Oscars are but one facet of a very simple thing - I really fucking love movies. Here are my five favorite films of last year, in alphabetical order:

No Country For Old Men

No Country For Old Men
is pure genius filmmaking, plain and simple. The Coen Brothers are so gifted and have so finely hewn their craft that they've made a film that is, well, perfect. Their script is tight, smart, and perceptive. Their visual acumen and knack for direction is first rate. And the crew they surround themselves with only aid in their perfection, from the fabulous cinematography of Roger Deakins to the outstanding acting by Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones. It's a simple story that in lesser hands would have fallen prey to formulaic crime-genre staples, Tarantin-ian excess, or worse. Instead, the filmmakers have the utmost confidence in their script, in the original Cormack McCarthy novel, and most importantly, in their audience, ending with a remarkably unpredictable, but hardly ambiguous and wholly appropriate, ending that years of Hollywood entertainment has deadened us to.


It's considered a weakness, especially in men, to cry at movies. That's only because most movies evoke sympathy with the crudest and most manipulative of methods - how easy it is to depress an audience to tears, and how remarkable it is to fill them with so much joy and hope and love that they literally burst. Once has that effect, or at least it did on me. Again, the story is deceptively simple, as two aspiring musicians in Dublin "Meet Cute," get to know each other, and, we are lead to assume, fall in love. The film uses its low budget and unknown actors to achieve a kind of rawness and realism that instantly draws you to these two nameless characters, and the music, oh the music. A movie that will make your heart and soul sing.


Ratatouille is a funny talking animal cartoon, with a thick gloss of Disney-approved polish and fun. What elevates Rataouille from the sequestered drawing board of its contemporaries in the CGI realm and into the grand pantheon of great filmmaking is Brad Bird's naturally-developed gifts as both an animation and writing savant. It has an endless supply of personality and charm and wit, a surprisingly astute observation of art vs. artist, and a timeless message against settling for mediocrity - all the more damning considering how practically every other animation studio is so eager to.

There Will Be Blood
There's a sick, powerful perversity brewing from the very beginning of There Will Be Blood that continues and only escalates until the film's chilling conclusion, the most engrossing cinematic portrayal of madness since Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. But while young Alex's sociopathic behavior is analyzed and deconstructed, Paul Thomas Anderson seems to revel in Daniel Plainview's special breed of contempt and rage. The film creates something totally unique out of wholly familiar elements, a bizarre meld of historical epic, period drama, and even bouts of Keaton-esque slapstick, the result being a film of outrageous scope and audacity that, astoundingly, never exceeds its grasp. Thirty years from now, There Will Be Blood will stand as a benchmark in cinema.

David Fincher became a household name in the drab studio apartments of trendy hipsters and wannabe anarchists after Fight Club, but Zodiac is by far his best film. It sadly gave audiences some pause with its paucity of violence and completely realistic renditions of journalistic procedurals, but the payoff is that Zodiac is more haunting and unsettling than any serial killer picture or gore-fest I've ever seen.

Speaking of Oscars, go to and play the "Predict the Oscars" contest and join the group "Borders 0392" with the password "brianiscool" and you can (probably not) win some crappy prize! But you'll also be able to galavant about in movie geekery amongst internet friends, which is just as good. Unless, for whatever reason, you don't. In which I will personally be very disappointed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

Here are some doodles!!!!!! It is one of the many things I do in my spare time that are not illegal, despite what the neighborhood watch association may lead you to believe.

A self-portrait! The gnarled fingers and dazed, laconic expression are spot-on. If poorly rendered.

I sometimes wonder if I should even be allowed to draw.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a great fucking movie.

If it were a Studio Ghibli production, it would tour film festivals the world over, win near-universal acclaim, be dubbed in English with a somewhat confused but amiable all-star cast, be released by Disney in a few hundred theaters, get nominated for an Academy Award, and become a perennially solid-seller on DVD for years afterwards.

Sadly, although director Mamoru Hosoda spent quite a few years at Studio Ghibli (being the initial director for Howl's Moving Castle before leaving for unpublicized "creative differences"), The Girl Who Leapt Through Time isn't a Ghibli production.

Which is a shame, since the film draws comparisons with some of Studio Ghibli's best. It's warm, exquisitely designed, utterly charming, and wholly entertaining. Its characters and setting are distinctly Japanese, but the simply-told story, with its smattering of magic realism and otherworldly conceits, are told in the universal language of great filmmaking. It represents what is best about not just anime, but animation in general. The expressiveness and humanism of each of the characters escape the usual cartoon trappings, despite the implausible (and sometimes confusing) twists and turns of the story, and cut straight through to the bone, just like Miyazaki's towering flights of fancy or anything by, say, Brad Bird. It's the one shining example of the kind of brilliance anime can achieve once in a while, unrestrained by tight budgets, obnoxious merchandising tie-ins, or callow, puerile violence and sex.

This is a film that speaks to audiences of all ages, of surprising emotional depth and courage. It deserves and begs to be seen alongside the best animated films of the decade, which may sound like I'm "overhyping" this thing a bit, but "hype" in the context of anime is so pitiful that its honestly laughable. "Hype" is the multimedia blitz before the release of big-ticket blockbusters like Spider Man 3, or universal critical acclaim of No Country For Old Men. "Hype" isn't some asshole or two on the internet telling you that a destined-to-rot-in-obscurity animated film from Japan is really, really great.

But, once again, this is not a Ghibli production. And what's worse, the US distribution rights have been snatched up by Bandai Entertainment. Yeuchh.

Bandai's only experience in theatrical animation has been releasing the confusing Mobile Suit Gundam features into a single-digit number of theaters for a week, and aiding the once struggling Viz in their release of Jin-Roh to a then-unreceptive-to-anime moviegoing public. Which means, basically, we're going to see a lot of ads for The Girl Who Leapt Through Time in low-read industry publications like Newtype, a bare-bones DVD release in most stores, and a SUPER-DELUXE-SPECIAL-LIMITED-EDITION for only $49.99 MSRP that includes the movie, a bonus disc with maybe one or two bonus features, and some totally useless tchochke inside a box the size of the Ark of the Covenant!

Fuck that. I know that nobody of any real importance reads blogs that aren't either written by famous people or ones plastered with ads, but on the off chance somebody, somewhere, of some importance regarding the US release of this film stumbles across this: Don't screw up. Don't cheap out. This is an important film, not because it contains some kind of socio-political message, but because this is an emotionally honest, captivating, artistically enchanting film that offers the kind of warmth and intelligence that most big-budget animated features from the world over curiously lack. Get this film into festivals. Get this into as many theaters as possible. Get a professional, well-known English dub commissioned. Don't be afraid, come Oscar-season, to publicize the hell out of this movie to get an Academy Award nomination. Partner with a bigger company to distribute it theatrically. Don't be worried about the usual consensus that the hoi polloi seems to discern towards anime; allow them to be surprised by this little film's heart and character.

Please, please: don't fuck up.