Archive for the 'Entertainment' Category

La La Land and the Race for the Oscars

Oscar time has arrived and Damien Chazelle’s La La Land looks set to dominate the Academy Awards  in the same fashion the film has dominated many other Film Awards events in the lead up to the big show on Hollywood Blvd.

I feel the same way about La La Land  that I felt about The Artist a few years ago. When I saw The Artist I though it was a lock to win Best Picture because it was such a unique film in this era, as a silent, black and white film. La La Land is a visually stunning film and as a musical it too is unique among the 2016 films. The entire cast was outstanding and it portrays Los Angeles in a very flattering way, which the Academy always seems to like. I see La La Land winning  not only the Oscar for Best Picture, but many other Oscars as well.

The big question is if La La Land can break the record for most Academy Awards wins for a single film. Titanic, Ben Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King all won 11 Oscars.

La La Land garned 14 nominations, but includes two for Music Original Song, so LLL can win 13.  I think LLL is going to win 11 or 12 Oscars. I don’t think Ryan Gosling will win Best Actor for LLL, even thought his performance was excellent because the competition from Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) and Denzel Washington (Fences) is.

However, I think is very possible that LLL wins every other Oscar that it was nominated for. We’ll see soon enough .

POST Academy Awards comments.

I must say that I was quite surprised that La La Land did not win Best Picture. I have not seen Moonlight yet, but I was well aware that it was a highly acclaimed film. However, I really thought that LLL had all the momentum. I guess not quite enough. Still, LLL had a very respectable night pulling in 6 Oscars, including Best Director for Chazelle and Best Best Actress for the very deserving Emma Stone. I don’t think those will be the last Oscars that those two win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Films from 2014 and 2015 that I have recently watched for the first time.

In the past couple of months I have been catching up on watching a few movies that I wanted  watch, but that I just never got around to seeing in the theatre when they were initially released. I like watching movies on my iPad and I could not watch any for awhile because my old 1st Gen iPad only had 32GB of memory and I just plain ran out of space to store movies, even temporary rentals. That ain’t a problem while my iPad Pro and the 128GB it has. The Pro also has four speakers, opposed the one speaker the original iPad had.

Here are four films that I have rented watched recently, along with a few comments on each film and the score that gave each film on IMDb.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens VII

I saw the original Star Wars films in the theatre way back the day and I always enjoyed the films, but I never considered them great sci fi.

This is one film that I do regret not seeing on the big screen because the special effects were so outstanding. Unfortunately, I found the story somewhat disappointing because it was so unoriginal. I thought the new cast members were pretty good overall, but I’m not sure if anyone of them will breakout and become a big star.

However, there was enough done well in this film to be hopeful the parts VIII and IX will provide an exciting end to the Star Wars saga.

 

Score: 6/10

Spectre

The last of the Daniel Craig Bond films and it was a very solid entry in the series. I have enjoyed Craig as 007. The only actor that I would rank above Craig as Bond was Sean Connery, who really owned the role. But Craig really breathed to life in the role when he took it over in 2006 with the elegant and exciting Casino Royale. Looking back on the four Craig films I rate Casino Royale as the best of the group and Spectre as second best.

Score: 7/10

Sicario

I had high expectations for this contemporary crime drama because of the numerous positive reviews it received and I must say this film met my expectations.

The principal cast members Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro all turned in excellent performances.

Score: 8/10

The Grand Hotel Budapest 

Another quirky, inventive, very funny and  highly entertaining film from writer/ director Wes Anderson. I think Anderson is one the most talented filmmakers working and TGHB was a worthy addition to his overall body of work. The Life Aquatic is still my favorite Wes Anderson, but TGHB is right up there with other WA films that I think very highly of, including Moonrise Kingdom and The Royal Tenenbaums. Like those films the cast in TGHB was incredibly impressive.

Score 9/10

More to come…..

 

 

Comic Con in San Diego needs to be expanded

Comic Con 2013Passes for Comic Con 2014 went on sale yesterday morning and sold out in 80 minutes. Because I was a past attendee of Comic Con I received an e-mail from Comic Con International inviting me to join the pool of people signing up to buy a pass for Comic Con 2014. I knew the odds were against me, but I figured take shot at it. So, I got up early on Saturday morning and signed in the “waiting room”. Unfortunately, I got shut out of the “random” selection process this time around. Of course, I was disappointed, but not surprised.

One by one, passes for all 4 and half days were sold out in short order. The Comic Con website sent notifications to all of us in virtual “waiting room ” with the status of passes for each day of the event. First Friday and Saturday were sold out, then Thursday and Wednesday’s “Preview Night” and finally the last day of the event, Sunday, was a goner too.

I don’t know exactly how many people came away empty handed, but I’m sure there were a lot. The demand for passes far, far exceeds the supply. It has been that way for years. A year or two ago Comic Con considered moving to other locations, ones that could accommodate even larger numbers than those which Comic Con currently attracts (about 130,000 attendees the last few years), such Los Angeles or Las Vegas, but Comic Con agreed to stay in San Diego for at least 5 more years when the city agreed to expand the downtown Convention Center. Work on the expansion of the Convention Center will start at the end of 2014 and should be finished in a few years.

The physical expansion of the Convention Center should help quite bit, but I think the length of the event itself should be expanded to 6 or 7 days. Some people who want to attend would probably still be turned away, but if the event ran 7 days a lot more people would have an opportunity to attend. What would the down side be? I don’t think the hotels, restaurants and bars in downtown San Diego would complain about the extra business. I think some of the residents of in the Gaslamp and East Village sections of downtown might not be thrilled with Comic Con being expanded for a few days, but the number of people negatively impacted would be relatively small. The vast majority of San Diegans wouldn’t notice a difference between a 4 1/2 day Comic Con and a 6 or 7 day Comic Con.

There are many other festivals of various kinds throughout the country that run a week or longer. Take SXSW for example, if South By Southwest in Austin, TX can run for 8 or 9 days why can’t Comic-Con?

Podcast Listening… Part II

This is my second post about Podcasts. As I mentioned in my first post about Podcasts, I’ve become a big fan of Podcasts within the last few years and from time to time I will highlight certain Podcasts that I think are interesting, informative or just plain entertaining. When I think it is appropriate I will attach a Film style rating (PG, R, etc.) to the descriptions of the podcasts in order to indicate adult content when appropriate..

The Mark Levin Show Audio Rewind

Mark Levin is a conservative radio talk show host, with a nationally syndicated show. He broadcasts his show from his home in northern Virgina. Mr. Levin is a lawyer by training and served in the Reagan administration in a number of positions, including as the Chief of Staff for Attorney General Edwin Meese.

It doesn’t take long to figure out if you like Levin or not. Not too many people have neutral feelings about Levin. Levin’s opinions are very unambiguous and his criticisms of Democrats, as well as establishment Republicans (RINO’s), can be quite pointed. Some consider his style abrasive and he does engage in a fair amount of yelling, screaming and name calling, but he makes no apologies about that, that’s just his style.

Levin has an exceptional understanding of law and the constitution and I think his insights on legal topics and the activities of Congress, the Executive branch and the Judicial branch of the government are what often make the show worth listening to.

An added bonus in my view is that Levin is a big MMA fan and sometimes discusses the sport on his show, which is rare among the major political talk show hosts. He has interviewed UFC President Dana White and UFC star Chael Sonnen on the show, who happens to be a conservative Republican.

Real Time with Bill Maher Rated R for profanity

And on the other end of political spectrum….we have Bill Maher. I agree Maher a whole lot less than I agree with Levin on most political issues, but I still enjoy the podcast of Maher’s HBO show quite a bit. I would say I only agree with Maher about 10 percent of the time, but I often find the lively debates that he presides over on Real Time interesting, even if the the conservatives that are invited to the show are often outnumbered. However, I appreciate the fact that Maher is willing to allow discussions that cover just about every political topic, no matter how controversial. Although there is a comedic element to Maher’s show I often find the debates on his show more authentic then the debates that take place on the traditional Sunday morning network political shows, such as Meet the Press or Face the Nation.

This is not a video podcast, just the audio from the television show, but that works fine in this case. In some ways I think I enjoy just listening to this particular show more than I do watching it because I can pay attention to the dialogue better.

Disclaimer: My recommendation of a podcast does not necessarily mean that I agree with the views and opinions of the podcast’s host(s) or guests.

Was Breaking Bad the best TV series ever?

I just finished watching the final 8 episodes of Vince Gilligan’s great Breaking Bad. I downloaded the series from iTunes and I put it aside until I could watch all 8 episodes within a couple of days. 

In the immediate aftermath of the finale a lot of critics and fans alike are asking where BB stands in relation to other great television shows. Some have declared BB the best show ever made. At this point I don’t think I could rank BB #1, but it would certainly be in my top 10, if not my top 5. I hesitate to rank BB #1 or one of the top 3 shows ever because I am trying not to be too influenced by what I will call near term bias. I think many people, myself included at times, tend to overrate impressive performances they have recently seen, and that applies to any number things; Films, TV Shows, sporting events, political speeches, etc. Let’s look back in a few years and see how well BB holds up. I think BB will hold up well because was so well written and it finished so strongly.

One of the things about this show that I truly admire is that it ended at it’s creative peak. The show won a well deserved Emmy this year for Best Drama. Walter White and company went out on top. I think it was the right decision to bring the series to an end after five seasons, even though I’m sure the brilliant writers of this could have kept things interesting for a few more seasons if they had really wanted to. But could they have surpassed what they achieved in season 5? I can’t rule that out, but I think it would have been very difficult. I think the show probably would have peaked in season 5 and started a slow decline. I can’t think of many shows that actually got better after season 5. However, many shows, including many of those ranked among the top 10 or 20 hang on past their prime and ultimately leave us in a state of obvious decline. I’m glad BB did not go out that way.

Scenes from Comic-Con 2013

Welcome to Comic-ConWell, San Diego’s annual celebration of the entertainment arts is in full swing and I have spent the last few days taking quite a few pictures of Comic-Con displays and the people (I use that term loosely in some cases) who attended the massive event. I’m sorting through my pic’s right now and I’m going post the ones I find to be the most interesting, bizarre, entertaining or funny (some could be all the above).

I live on Cortez Hill, in downtown San Diego, about a mile from the San Diego Convention Center and the Gaslamp Quarter is even closer to my neighborhood, so it has been fairly easy for me to trot on down to where all the Comic-Con action is. I really lucked out this year because I did not have a pass, but I was able to attend the preview night of the convention because I bumped into a few people in the Gaslamp who were handing out free passes on Wednesday, the 17th, when everything kicked off.

Comic-Con was already a pretty big deal by the time I moved to San Diego from New York City back in 2003. That year the attendance was 70,000. I had heard of Comic-Con prior to moving to SD, but I didn’t fully appreciate what an important event it had become for serious fans of comics, sci fi/fantasy movies and TV shows, video/computer gamers, etc. until I saw how downtown San Diego was invaded every summer by the Comic-Con folks. As you might expect, it attracts mostly younger people, but it does draw a fairly diverse group of people. It is multi-generational and draws people from all over the States as well as many foreign countries. The last few years the attendance of the 5 day event has surpassed 130,000. The first Comic-Con was held at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego back in 1970 and the attendance was 145. Back then it simply an event that gave comic fans an opportunity to buy, sell and trade comic books. Over the years it evolved into something that covers all forms of media related to the entertainment arts.

Has Comic-Con become too big? I don’t think so, but I’m not so sure I would want to see become any larger than it is right now, but I think it probably continue to grow. The city of San Diego agreed to expand the size of the Convention Center in order to ensure that Comic-Con stays in San Diego for at least the next few years.

Here am I leaning on a replica of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) frozen in carbonite. All of you Star Wars fans remember how that happened to Solo. Those of you who don’t can watch The Empire Strikes Back or just search for the scene on You Tube.

GMFCC2013

Here are some more pictures from inside the Convention Hall

#SDCC

#SDCC

Hulk at CC2013

Yes, they still buy, sell and trade comics at Comic-Con.

Yes, they still buy, sell and trade comics at Comic-Con.

Pacific Rim  Comic-Con

Pacific Rim Comic-Con

A lot more to come, but I think I’m going to put up a separate post for the pictures I took outside the Convention Center.

My Picks for the 2013 Academy Awards

OK, on to Oscars. I try to make my Oscar picks based on who or what I think will win a particular category, not who or what I think should win, although sometimes I do make a picks that are not considered consensus favorites. I go for underdogs sometimes, but underdogs that actually have a reasonable chance of pulling off an upset in my view.

My picks are determined by my own impressions of the films and individual performances, the results of other major Award events, and which way I think the Academy Members will lean on particular categories. I think the voters for the Academy tend to be a bit more conservative than the voters for some of the other major Awards so I give that some weight.

I’ve seen many of the films nominated for major awards this year, but not all them, most notably Zero Dark Thirty, which I definitely plan to see, but have not seen yet. I have seen Argo, Lincoln, Django Unchained and Silver Linings Playbook.

Best Picture
Argo I think several other 2012 films were better than Argo, including The Dark Knight Rises, which wasn’t even nominated. But the support for other films seems to be fragmented so Argo has become the safe pick. I only gave Argo a 7/10 on IMDb. I thought it was a very solid film, but not great.

Best Director
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln. This is a sure bet. Can’t go any other way imo.

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty. I know I am going against the grain here. Jennifer Lawrence seems to have the momentum behind her, as well as the Weinstein PR machine. However, I Chastain has a real chance to upset. I like Lawrence a lot as an Actress, but I just didn’t think her performance in SPL was Oscar worthy. I thought JL’s Oscar nominated performance in Winter’s Bone was much more riveting. I think Chastain, while still young, is more than decade older than JL and has put in a lot more work as an actress and paid her dues in a way JL has not yet and I think the Academy may recognize that.

Best Supporting Actor
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln. My favorite for this award is Christoph Waltz for his performance in Django, but Waltz won this award just a few years ago so I think the Academy is going to favor Jones, who also turned in a strong performance. Jones is also a past winner of this award, but his previous win goes way back to The Fugitive, in 1993.

Best Supporting Actress
Anne Hathaway Almost as much of a sure bet as DDL for Best Actor.

Original Screenplay
Django Unchained

Adapted Screenplay
Lincoln


George M. Fattell.

The gmf journal is a general subject blog that reflects my thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics that are of interest to me. Current home base is Easton, Pennsylvania, USA. Retweets do not equal an endorsement.

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