My recommendations for film watching this week in L.A. 1/29-2/5/16


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,

 

And check out my script consultation services http://ow.ly/HPxKE

My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 1/29-2/5/16

ff 2ON NETFLIX: Evgeny Afineevsky’s film Winter of Fire: the Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom is a breathtaking documentary about the growing unrest from 2013 to 2014 between those wanting the Ukraine to align with the EU, and the government, headed by President Yanukovich, that wanted to align with Russia. It’s a documentary that never stops and is heartbreaking and inspiring. Nominated for the 2016 Oscars.

ff 3ON HULU: The 1939 version of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion (the basis for the musical My Fair Lady) is perhaps the best adaption of a Shaw play and is just delightful on its own terms. A professor of dialects tries to help a lower class flower girl speak like a noblewoman. As acted by Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller, as Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle; directed by Howard and Anthony Asquith; and written by Asquith and Shaw himself, this is a beautiful and very funny movie.

ff 1SPECIAL SHOWINGS: Laemmle’s Ahrya Fine Arts Theater will be showing two of the Taviani brothers most respected films: Padre Padrone and The Night of the Shooting Stars

ff 4SPECIAL SHOWINGS: The Oscar nominated short subjects (live actions, documentaries and animation) will be shown in various locations and theaters up until the Academy Awards are held

ff 5FIRST RUN and OPENING: The Finest Hours, In the Land of Women Continue reading

My recommendations for film watching this week in L.A. 1/22-1/29/16


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,
 
And check out my script consultation services http://ow.ly/HPxKE
My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 1/22-29/2016
ff lost soulsON NETFLIX: Lost Souls: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau is a fascinating, but rather depressing, story about how a promising up and coming director, Richard Stanley (who had a cult following for his low budget horror films) found himself in over his head with his adaptation of H.G. Wells The Island of Dr. Moreau and was so embittered by the experience he almost completely withdrew from filmmaking. Filled with talking heads and behind the scenes footage, we see step by step how things quickly went wrong.
ff man bites dogON HULU: With three directors and four writers, Man Bites Dog is one of the funniest and darkest satires on found footage films (as well as one of the earliest). A film crew follows a serial killer as he adds to his victims. It’s a ridiculous premise, but it still works in all its vicious absurdity. Starring Benoit Poelvoorde as the racist murderer who loves to wax philosophic.
ff aferimFIRST RUN and OPENING: Aferim!, The Lady in the Van, Son of Saul, The Revenant, The Hateful Eight, Star Wars: the Force Awakens Continue reading

THE 2015 Howies


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE

lobster poster
2015 was an oddly structured year when it came to the quality of movie releases. At the same time, I’m beginning to suspect that this might just become the status quo for a while.
The first few months, until the beginning of the release of the inevitable tentpole films (around the time of Mad Max making its appearance), the theaters tended to be filled with either the previous year’s Oscar movies (which I had seen) or movies that were being dumped because their producers had lost faith in them.
carol posterIt’s not that there wasn’t some gold here and there. Movies like Predestination and What We Do In the Shadows made their presence known. But overall, it was like pulling teeth to find a decent film to go to.
Then the blockbusters hit and with a vengeance. As usual, most weren’t very good, mediocre if we were lucky. At the same time, the quality was, on average, a bit better than usual with Mad Max, Spy and The Martian leading the pack.
spy posterThen fall hit, also with a vengeance, and all the distributors inundated the movie houses with their prestige pictures, and suddenly it was safe to go back to the theater again. Not that all of these lived up to their hype (cough, Steve Jobs, cough), but overall, the year ended with a nice selection of films to choose from for a best of list.
Let me know what you think.
So here are the 2015 Howies: Continue reading

My recommendations for film watching this week in L.A. 1/15-1/22/16


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,
 
And check out my script consultation services http://ow.ly/HPxKE
My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 1/15-22/2016
out in the darkON NETFLIX: In Out in the Dark, an espionage thriller written by Yael Shafrir and Michael Mayer, who also directed, a gay Palestinian man is having an affair with an Israeli lawyer. When the Israeli secret police discover this, they take the Palestinian man in and threaten to reveal his sexual identify to his family if he doesn’t help them trap his brother who is working for the PLO. An exciting and taut drama.
balladON HULU: Ballad of a Soldier, made in 1959 after the thaw of Stalin, is the heartfelt story about a private who, after an act of bravery on the battlefield, gets leave to go home and see his mother, but hardly has time to get there and back. Written by Grigoriy Chukhray (who also directed) and Valentin Ezhov, it’s a get out your handkerchiefs story, but it earns its sentimentally validly as it traces the soldiers attempts to reach home and the people he runs into on the way.
lady in the vanFIRST RUN and OPENING: The Lady in the Van, Son of Saul, Band of Robbers, The Revenant, The Hateful Eight, Star Wars: the Force Awakens Continue reading

EXUENT PURSUED BY A BEAR: The Revenant and Anomalisa


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Warning: SPOILERS
revenant 3The Revenant is, perhaps, one of the most visceral movies you will see in some time. Everybody involved, from the technicians to the designers to the screenwriters (Mark L. Smith and Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu from a novel by Michael Punka), to the director (Inarritu) seemed to have gone out of their way to give the movie a feeling of verisimilitude that can be matched by few films.
The dirty bodies and clothes and rotting teeth (you can almost smell the bad breath); the zip of an arrow through a man’s throat; the blood flowing from wounds made by knifes, bullets and hatchets; and the never ending harsh environment of snow and icy rivers (I almost caught the flu) are all paraded proudly for public consumption.
This is probably best demonstrated with what may now be the infamous bear attack scene in which our hero (Hugh Glass, played very bravely and stoically by Leonardo DiCaprio) is mauled, bitten and strewn all over the place by a mama grizzly fearing for her cubs. It’s an amazing bit of filmmaking and in many ways deserves all the praise it has earned.
And it goes on for a very long time. Continue reading

My Oscar Predictions


Tomorrow is the big day for movie nerds as the nominations for the next Academy Awards are revealed. As usual, I will try to predict the nominees in the top eight categories. I don’t expect to do that well this year. Usually I end up with an average of one wrong in each category, but this year has become more difficult as no one seems sure as to what will make the finals. But I will do my best.

 

However, I do think the winners are still more or less set. Best Picture and Director should still be Spotlight; Best Actor will be Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant; Best Actress will be Brie Larson for The Room; Best Supporting Actor will be Sylvester Stallone for Creed; Best Supporting Actress will be Rooney Mara for Carol; Best original screenplay is between Ex Machina and Spotlight; and Best Adapted Screenplay will be The Martian or Steve Jobs.

 

What do you think?

 

And The Nominees Are:

 

Best Picture:

The Big Short

Bridge of Spies

Brooklyn

Carol

Mad Max

The Martian

The Revenant

Spotlight

Straight Outta Compton

 

Best Director:

Todd Haynes, Carol

George Miller, Mad Max

Ridley Scott, The Martian

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

(If not Haynes, then Adam McKay for The Big Short)

 

 

Best Actor:

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo

Matt Damon, The Martian

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

 

 

Best Actress:

Cate Blanchett, Carol

Brie Larson, Room

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Lily Tomlin, Grandma

(Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl could replace Rampling or Tomlin)

 

 

Best Supporting Actor:

Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation

Tom Hardy, The Revenant

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies

Sylvester Stallone, Creed

(Christian Bale for the Big Short could get in, but I don’t know who he’d replace)

 

Best Supporting Actress:

Jane Fonda, Youth

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara, Carol

Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

(Helen Mirren could get in, but I don’t know who’d she replace; maybe Alicia Vikander if she gets a Best Actress nom and not a Supporting one)

 

Best Original Screenplay:

Bridge of Spies

Ex Machina

The Hateful Eight

Inside Out

Spotlight

 

Best Adapted Screenplay:

The Big Short

Carol

The Martian

Room

Steve Jobs

HEAD CASES: Joy and Concussion


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Warning: SPOILERS
joy 1 The movie Joy, the new sorta, kinda, maybe bio-pic of Joy Magano, inventor of the Miracle Mop, starts out with text on the screen: “Inspired by the true stories of daring women. One in particular”.
I don’t know. Somehow on seeing those words up there in front of me, there was something so…condescending and patronizing about it all. It’s as if the filmmakers David O. Russell (who wrote the screenplay and directed) and Annie Mumolo (who worked on Bridesmaids and gets co-story credit here) were doing women a favor by making the movie at all and that somehow women should be thankful that someone actually created a film that instructs them how they should be leading their lives, since, being women, apparently, they don’t really know how to be daring and independent themselves.  
I’m sure I’m overreacting and I’m sure few others felt the same way, but there was just something about it that left a bad taste in my mouth.
Once this intro was over, we then spend the first third of the movie with Joy being victimized by her family (both extended and not) as it falls to her to take care of everyone else’s problems while she puts hers on hold. Continue reading