Last week we watched this and I quite enjoyed it!  It may not be the kind of movie one would expect me write about on this blog, but I just want to keep my mind as open as possible to films!  I must confess, that reading Roger Ebert's review of this made me interested in seeing this, which, if I remember correctly, I initially didn't want to after viewing the trailer oh the few odd years ago it came out.  Anyways, it concerns (Canadian-born) Rachel McAdams as Becky Fuller, an ambitious television producer who, after being squeezed out of her job for someone worse but more experienced, finds a position as executive producer on a last-placed morning show on the fictional network IBS.  Morning shows generally talk about the most inane topics and news items and this one is no exception.  This isn't lost on the staff--or the talent, for that matter--which is made up with of a team of promising, but non-self-starting individuals looking for guidance.  It doesn't help that the on-camera talent are a couple of weary prima donnas who have become complacent and far too comfortable in their positions.  Desperate to earn some quick respect, Fuller prompty fires the male co-host, a smarmy, rude, and fake-tanned Paul McVee (Ty Burrell).  She's left with the exasperated Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), a woman who has spent about ten years too long doing the morning circuit, and an empty co-host chair that will need filling.  Enter Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), a Pulitzer-winning journalist with time left on his contract that he is determined to run out without having to work.  Fuller sees her opportunity goes after Pomeroy, who by this stage is comfortable in his semi-retirement, anti-social behaviour, and alcoholism.  Pomeroy has a deep bitterness against both the world and the media, not least of which is the horrid morning show with it's vapid personalities and stories.  Leaning a little on him with a little contractual strong-arming--threatening, actually--Fuller convinces Pomeroy it is in his interest to come back to work, and we have ourselves a twosome for the morning airwaves.  Pomeroy, with his past acclaim, has the biggest ego in the room, but who is not to be outshone by Colleen Peck.  Their rivalry is often hysterical, a battle for camera time, which can ultimately summed up by their dispute over who gets to say "Goodbye" last at the end of the broadcast.  What follows is the sort of expected race-for-ratings-in-the-face-of-imminent-cancelation, and a love story here and there, but MORNING GLORY never feels toooo cliche'd to be entertaining. 

Keaton and Ford.

It is a smart and at times very funny film with some wonderful performances.  Rachel McAdams is great as the Becky Fuller, her career drive and ambition to succeed is believable and never annoying, and she balances it nicely with a sort of melancholic yearning for a functioning relationship and all the other things one might expect to have in their adult lives: children, satisfied parents, a balanced life.  The supporting cast is also a treat, made up of smaller roles which aren't lost to cliches either, played ably by Jeff Goldblum, Patrick Wilson, John Pankow.  But the real stand-out here is surely Harrison Ford.  In a way, it is a surprisingly role for Ford to take, but in a scene where he, as Pomeroy, angrily explains to Fuller why he will not do her morning show he says "I've won a Pulitzer, I've covered war zones, I've been shot at... I'm not going to be on your stupid show!" I was imagining Harrison Ford having the same conversation with the producer or his agent saying "I'm Indiana Jones, Han Solo, Blade Runner, the President,... I'm not going to be in your stupid morning show movie."  But that sort of anger we have come to see in the elder Ford is channeled into this character, and towards the end, Pomeroy sees what is really important, and we get some sweet moments. 
McAdams and Ford.

So!  While maybe not being an award-winning movie, I still found much to like in it, and it was a nice, light, and entertaining look at the at times chaotic behind the scenes environment of morning-television.  Worth seeing if any of what I've written has grabbed your attention.  It sure was a lot better than I thought it would be!



We just recently watched Howard Hawks' 1946 noir classic THE BIG SLEEP starring Bogart and Bacall ("The film they were born for!"), and it is so wonderful--and wonderfully convoluted.



Well it is hard to believe that it took soooo long, but my short film MARS BITCH is finally online on Vimeo!  This was so incredibly fun to make, and we met a lot of great people doing it, and learned a ton about filmmaking.  We are just starting pre-production on our next film, but in the mean time, I hope you enjoy MARS BITCH!

Mars Bitch from LAZRWOOD PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo.


Humphrey Bogart

One of the great icons of the screen, Humphrey Bogart, sadly died of cancer of the esophagus this day in 1957 at the much to young age of 57.  Some of the classic films he starred in include CASABLANCA and THE AFRICAN QUEEN, as well as THE MALTESE FALCON, KEY LARGO, and of course THE BIG SLEEP.  His screen presence is captivating.  Something about Bogie just draws one in with his self-deprecating, if not slightly melancholic, attitude.  I always loved what Roger Ebert wrote about Bogart, so I'll include this eloquant few paragraphs he wrote in an article about THE BIG SLEEP:

"Bogart himself made personal style into an art form. What else did he have? He wasn't particularly handsome, he wore a rug, he wasn't tall ("I try to be," he tells Vickers), and he always seemed to act within a certain range. Yet no other movie actor is more likely to be remembered a century from now. And the fascinating subtext in "The Big Sleep" is that in Bacall he found his match.

"You can see it in his eyes: Sure, he's in love, but there's something else, too. He was going through a messy breakup with his wife, Mayo, when they shot the picture. He was drinking so heavily he didn't turn up some days, and Hawks had to shoot around him. He saw this coltish 20-year-old not only as his love but perhaps as his salvation. That's the undercurrent. It may not have been fun to live through, but it creates a kind of joyous, desperate tension on the screen. And since the whole idea of film noir was to live through unspeakable experiences and keep your cool, this was the right screenplay for this time in his life."


Happy birthday Julia Louis-Dreyfus!

On this day in 1961 Julia Louis-Dreyfus was born. She, of course, played Elaine on Seinfeld, who is possibly my favorite female television character of all time!


LCD Soundsystem is a great band.  So I'm told!  No, I've listened to them a bit and they are really great, I just never got huge into them.  That being said, this documentary about the run up to their last show ever looks pretty compelling!  I like band documentaries, especially when they are behind the scenes-y and this looks like a really beautiful one of those.  I'm putting this on my list!



What more can I add to the roar of applause for this fantastic film that has come out of the woodwork?  I was interested when saw the trailer this past summer.  It seemed like a crazy idea--black and white, silent, with two unknown (in North America anyways) leads.  Maybe not so much of a crazy idea for the smaller art-house circuits, but it has hit the mainstream, and now it is so highly and widely praised, and even the O word--Oscar--is being tossed around.  And it's French!  I mean, personally I think the French have made some of the finest films ever made, think of the films of Melville, Truffaut, Renoir, Malle, and Godard.  Here is another film to add to the amazing canon of French cinema.
George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo)
Now, what makes Michel Hazanavicius' THE ARTIST so great?  Well, for starters it has a wonderful yet simple story: Hollywood 1927, silent movie star, George Valentin (Jean DuJardin) is at the height of his fame and prestige--right on the eve of the adoption of sound in cinema.  Valentin meets a promising young starlet, Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), on set one day.  George refuses to believe that sound is the new way, but the demand for silent actors sharply drops off, and his career nosedives.  In contrast, Peppy and her cute beauty spot and her "talkies" takes off.  With his fame and fortune gone and his life in the dumps, George spirals into depression.  But young Peppy never forgets the man who inspired her to pursue her acting career in the first place.

It is a straightforward plot, but it is so poignant in so many ways.  When we came out of the theatre, my girlfriend Maria said "That's exactly what Hollywood needed." And I couldn't agree more!  With all the talk about digital this and 3-D that, it is easy to lose sight of what is most important: the story.  George fought and lost a battle to the new sound generation.  Many are fearing today that "2-D" films are on their way out, along with celluloid film itself, replaced by high-tech digital and computer motion capture devices.  But despite what technology is de rigueur, the main thing required in film is good story and characters.  One can add as much CGI or 3-D effects, but if it does not have that central idea driving it, it is dead in the water.  Sure, there are many great new digitally filmed (including this one, if I'm not mistaken!) and even 3D films out there!  But for ever great one like THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, there are ten crappy CLASH OF THE TITANSs etc.  I may sound like an old fuddy duddy, but there is battle going on in the film world today.  The hype about the technology is so deafening, it's easy to forget why we are all there in the cinema in the first place.  We want to be entertained.  And THE ARTIST is one of those great, smart films (Oh and did I mention it is also hilarious?) that comes along and sweeps you away into the magic of it all, reminding you that in the end all you need is a simple black and white image.  This film knows what it is, and at times draws attention to its own silence.  Of course saying it is a silent film isn't exactly true, it isn't entirely silent, just like the original silent films that were always accompanied by music, or someone performing sound effects.  There is accompanying music, which is subtle, but so effective (at the climax Bernard Hermann's "Scene d'amour," from Hitchcock's VERTIGO!).  And it also makes smart use of a few sound effects a key moments.  And then it uses deafening silence at other key moments. 

I really feel like this is an important film.   I think it is a milestone in cinema, one of those moments where audiences the world over will surprise themselves.  They might acquiesce and find themselves possibly enjoying a French, black-and-white, and silent film.  I've heard that in parenting one finds themselves at times with "teachable moments."  I think this is a cinematic teachable moment.  It is a film that challenges one to reconsider their preconceived notions.  I'm sure that if this becomes nominated for an Oscar (Best Picture?), and heaven forbids, wins (!), it will have many people scratching their heads.  But those will be the people who have either not seen it, or are so stubborn as to refuse to open their minds, to reconsider what they know, or at the very least, refuse to let in the magic of cinema.  But those who get it, who "get" THE ARTIST, who are willing to let something foreign (literally and figuratively) into their eyes and ears will be rewarded.  This is a movie about learning how to say "yes" to new things, and like George Valentin, when you do, and take a chance, you will be rewarded.


Here is the fresh trailer for Wes Anderson's new film MOONRISE KINGDOM!  Yay!  Brilliant!  Looks great.  Hope it is everything we all hope it is!  Cast looks great, so does the premise.  I like it!


Happy Birthday Lee Van Cleef

Today is what would have been Lee Van Cleef's 86th birthday.  He was born this day in 1925.  I know him most from Sergio Leone's spaghetti western masterpiece THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966), but he also appeared in many other westerns, for Leone and for others, including Fred Zinnemann's great HIGH NOON (1952), Leone's FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965), John Ford's THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962) and had countless small roles in western TV shows including "The Lone Ranger," "Laramie," "Gunsmoke," and "Branded."  But I will always remember him most as Angel Eyes, in TGTBATU. 



I really hope this is good!  It looks very interesting and slightly terrifying!  Ridley Scott in classic form, it would seem. 


Looking forward into 2012

So 2011 was a tremendous year for film, I think we can all agree.  Despite it not being a banner year for box office receipts, it was for emerging talent and innovative concepts.  The studios may not have been happy, as there was no Batman sequel or INCEPTION-like tentpole from Christopher Nolan, nor was there a runaway summer superhero or action film, in fact many of the much-hyped titles all but flopped.  Instead, we see character driven movies, smaller independent stories, and sophomore efforts from promising filmmakers emerge once it was clear capital-H Hollywood had little to offer.  We saw rise of Jessica Chastain, Ryan Gosling, and Michael Fassbender, we saw Werner Herzog take documentary filmmaking to new heights and dimensions, and many auteur filmmakers added titles to their respective oeuvres: Woody Allen, Terence Malick, Alexander Payne, Lars von Trier, and Errol Morris.  Hollywood struck back in December, compensating with their lackluster summer, with huge titles like Spielberg's THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, Brad Bird's MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL, and David Fincher's THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, which are all fairly safe projects for the studios given the bankable stars, directors, and subject matter.

So what does 2012 hold?  Who will rise and triumph, and who will crash and burn?  Hollywood has a promising slate: possibly the biggest film of the year will be Christopher Nolan's much hyped final chapter in his Batman saga, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.  Although the AMAZING SPIDERMAN, yes a re-launch of that series, might have something to say about that.  There will be an AVENGERS movie, which will also no doubt be a huge box office draw.  But what else is there?  What am I looking forward to in 2012?  (Aside from TDKR) I will tell you:

Director Rian Johnson with what may appear to be a time-traveling machine.
LOOPER, directed by Rian Johnson.

Johnson directed one of the great neo-noir films, 2005's BRICK, a gripping mystery set in a high school setting, with all the noir archtypes present: detective, kingpin, femme fatale, etc., and it worked incredibly.  He followed BRICK up with 2008's THE BROTHERS BLOOM which I enjoyed, but did not love.  LOOPER re-teams Johnson with BRICK star Joseph Gordon Levitt who has since exploded on the scene.  This time they are leaning towards sci-fi more with a story about a hitman who is sent into the future to do a hit and encounters his future self (Bruce Willis) who is waiting to be knocked off.  Or something.  That is basically what I have gleaned from the paltry amount of info on this movie.  Johnson has been running a LOOPER tumblr blog, posting post-, pre-, and production stills, as well as concept art there so it is an interesting browse!  Looking forward to this showing its face in October.

Wes Anderson, in typical garb.
MOONRISE KINGDOM, directed by Wes Anderson.

What can I say?  The Texas-born auteur returns in 2012 with another undoubtedly-charming film called MOONRISE KINGDOM, the plot of which IMDB says is so: "A pair of lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them."  It is fairly safe to say it will be funny and quirky, and will have a wonderful soundtrack full of rare Bob Dylan or Beatles or Lou Reed b-sides.  That's just speculation, but one thing that is known for sure is his ensemble cast is as big and varied as ever, including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray (yeah!), Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, and Jason Schwartzman.  Plus I wouldn't be surprised if a Wilson brother or two made an appearance.  Personally, I feel Anderson peaked early in his career with BOTTLE ROCKET, RUSHMORE, and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS.  I will admit I did not love either THE LIFE AQUATIC nor THE DARJEELING LIMITED, but FANTASTIC MR. FOX was amazing and restored my faith, so let's hope he is on the rise to a second peak in his career, this time staying there for good.

Ridley Scott and xenomorph
 PROMETHEUS, directed by Ridley Scott.

I love Ridley Scott's films when I get the sense he is completely submersing himself in a project.  Now that may seem ridiculous, because he is a professional director, but some of his films are different, think BLADE RUNNER, ALIEN, GLADIATOR.  There is something in these films that sets them apart, and for that reason they have become landmark films in their respective genres: sci-fi, sci-fi/horror, and historical action, respectively.  I deeply hope, that PROMETHEUS can be added to this trope.  PROMETHEUS is the prequel/sequel/different-story-same-universe to Scott's 1979 classic ALIEN, (along with the three other titles in this series), which has prompted much speculation and rumoring about the content.  There is talk it will reveal clues to the origins of the Aliens of title, of man himself, and even the universe.  Most interestingly perhaps, it will reveal some back-story about the enigmatic and unexplained "Space Jockey" seen in Scott's 1979 filmThe trailer swept through just before Christmas and provided some suspenseful imagery; I think it is safe to say the Alien series is being taken back into the sci-fi/horror genre.  The cast also looks excellent with Noomi Rapace (the original Lisbeth Salander), Michael Fassbender, Patrick Wilson, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, and Guy Pearce.  Let's hope this turns out to be as good as we all want it to be!

Cuarón on the CHILDREN OF MEN set.

GRAVITY, directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

Cuarón is responsible for one of my favorite films, the epic CHILDREN OF MEN, as well as the very excellent Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, so naturally I perked up when I heard he was doing another sci-fi film, this time with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.  Rumors have also been swirling around this one, of a wildly technologically ambitious film told through motion capture, 3D, and most recently, of it being told in one long take, something Cuarón dazzled me with in CHILDREN OF MEN.  No doubt if it is "one long take", there will be cuts hidden digitally here and there, but it will be quite impressive.  I wonder if that means the story will be in real-time also?  Another news item that has recently come up is that Cuarón has said "no" to his actors wearing make-up in the film.  Interesting!  I'm sure this film will get a lot of press for its innovations when the publicity campaign ramps up in the months before its alledged November 21 release date.