Sundry information, thoughts and links to sort us out

Monday, January 26, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Nominated for Best Director (Danny Boyle), Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and two nominations for Original Song, Slumdog Millionaire is the story of Jamal, his brother Salim, and their friend Latika and their attempts to rise from life in the slums of Mumbai. As children they are faced with much adversity from being orphaned, to begging in the streets, to lives as hustlers, and frequent involvement with shady characters and gangs. Although they are often separated, Jamal never gives up trying to find Latika, and Salim never stops being the "big brother protector." When Jamal ends up on India's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," he attracts a great deal of attention, becoming both a celebrity and a target overnight, but his goal remains the same -- find Latika.

This is a great film! It is so much fun, despite the traumatic situations in which the trio is often found. We both really enjoyed it and Bruce said it was one of his favorites of the batch we'd seen. If you know me, you'll be able to tell the one point in the movie where I had to look away. Moms, sorry, but that would be about the whole movie for you -- you could watch the closing credits, though, because Bollywood does great credits!

The Reader

Nominated for Best Actress (Kate Winslet), Best Director (Stephen Daldry), Best Picture, Cinematography, and Adapted Screenplay, The Reader is the story of a boy, Michael, and the older woman, Hanna, with whom he has an affair that shapes his life. Set in Germany, the film begins in 1958 when 15 year-old Michael, falling ill in the street on the way home from school, is aided by Hanna. When he recovers and goes back to thank her, a bond is formed and a relationship begins. Michael is heartbroken when Hanna unexpectedly leaves town without telling him at the end of the summer. Years later, when Michael's a law student at Heidelberg, they cross paths again and she changes his life once more. As a young man in the 80's, he then returns the favor by alerting Hanna's circumstances. Finally, in the 90's, Michael is able to openly admit the powerful effect his first love truly had on him.

I was SO happy when Kate Winslet got the Best Actress nod for this. She won the Supporting Actress Golden Globe for this role, but I thought her performance here was far surperior to Revolutionary Road, for which she won the Lead Actress Golden Globe. There is much more to the story than my thumbnail synopsis gave (I did that on purpose) and the performances across the board are fabulous. Although this movie is dark and intense, it is a definite must-see for everyone except our mothers!


Nominated for Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis), Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and Adapted Screenplay, Doubt is the story of a priest who is suspected of abusing a child in the parish school. Set in 1964, the film follows the developments from suspicion, to accusation, to resolution as the nuns attempt to handle a potential problem despite religious and societal obstacles.

As you can tell from the nominations, the acting is what sells this movie, and it's powerful stuff! Not surprising with such a good cast. The story is both simple and complicated, and you're never sure what really happened, only what was perceived to have happened. The characters' own confusion is mirrored by the cinematography as canted angles and graphic montage shots intersperse with regular perspective. That's a great trick of the trade and I loved seeing it used here to reflect the characters' doubts by forcing the viewer to alter their perspective to look at the shots.

We both liked this movie and didn't. It's depressing, Meryl Streep's character especially, though brilliantly played, is not at all likable, and there is no actual resolution. Which is clever in that it reinforces the message by leaving the viewer in doubt, but is also irksome for doing the same thing.

Except for our mothers, again, this is a film well worth seeing.

Revolutionary Road

Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon), Art Direction, and Costume Design, Revolutionary Road is the story of Frank and April Miller. Set in the 1950's, the film shows us how this couple moves their family to the Connecticut suburbs while Frank commutes to the city to do a job he dislikes. April, who wanted to be an actress, is unhappy as a housewife and mother. Frank, who was always a free spirit, had never really settled on what he wanted to be when he grew up and, thus, is also discontent. So they muddle through until April comes up with a wild idea to change the course of their destiny.

Despite the buzz and the Golden Globe wins, we found this movie to be pretty flat. The characters all seemed to be two-dimensional -- there were no real surprises in the choices they made or the actions they took. Each of them seemed to have only one tack and no real depth of character. Bruce described it as if they each represented a different point of view in an arguement and were constantly sounding off the other without having any sort of personal revelations or coming to any new conclusions.

There is some pretty nice cinematography to the film, and the costume design nod is probably well-deserved -- I remember remarking on several of the outfits after the movie, in fact. I had a major quibble with one editorial choice, however. There is a lengthy sequence where April is in focus while she is being yelled at by the supporting actor nominee, who is not in focus in the shot. This goes on for an incredibly long time. You're supposed to be paying attention to April's reaction, but she has no change in her facial expression throughout as she is trying to be stoic about everything. You're supposed to be uncomfortable because she's being put on the spot, but I spent the whole time going "are you going to rack the focus YET?" When they finally did shift the focus to Michael Shannon's character, whatever line of dialog was supposed to be important lost all its punch in the "finally! oh thank goodness!!" reaction to the shot change. Then, as if that weren't enough, as Michael Shannon finished his diatribe, rather than racking focus back to April to show her reaction, they suddenly cut to a head-on shot of her from another angle instead. Didn't like it at all, not the way I would have shot it, felt that it really took me out of the moment.

Also, not a film for our mothers! It's dark, intense, and uncomfortable. It's supposed to be that way, we just didn't think it did it as well as it could have.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Winter Weather

We got snow yesterday. It began overnight from Monday to Tuesday. When I got up Tuesday morning, it looked like we had 2 or 3 inches on the ground and the snow was still coming down -- not heavily, but fairly steadily. The weatherman on TV said that we'd already hit our high temperature and the mercury was falling. Still, it didn't look too bad.

I had just finished my workout and headed into the bedroom to start getting ready for work when the phone rang. It was my boss calling to tell me that they'd decided to suspend production, so I decided to work at home getting a handle on some paperwork...and watching the inauguration, of course.

Anyway, I went outside around 9am and was actually surprised at the snow. It covered all the porches and stairs outside our apartment, the bushes and trees all had fluffy white coats as did the cars still in the lot. When I put my yardstick into the yard, it measured about 6 inches depth.

Today the walkways were cleared as were most of the cars, but when I dug ours out I was amused to find a "ski slope" of snow billowing about a foot out from the car on the driver's side. I brushed it off before I caused an avalanche just opening the door. It took me 20 minutes to clean the car, actually. But, other than some icy patches in the parking lot itself, once I got going the roads were clear. The sun was out all day and, although it was chilly, the snow mostly melted away.

So all's well weather-wise at Chez Loebrich South. To quote The Year Without a Santa Claus: It's gonna snow, ho ho, right here in South Town. Just for one day, hey hey, it's gonna be cold.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Here Come the Oscars!

The 81st annual Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 22nd. The nominations will be announced this coming Thursday, January 22nd. However, that popular Oscar barometer -- the Golden Globes -- has already had its say, so it's time for us to get busy on seeing, debating, and predicting the anticipated antics of our favorite golden boy!

For the record, 2008 was a slow year for us as far as getting out to the cinema. As we prepare our guesses for the big night, here's what we had already seen by December 31st:
- Blade Runner: The Final Cut, 25th anniversary re-release (no Oscar connection)
- The Forbidden Kingdom
- Iron Man
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls
- Batman: The Dark Knight
- Mongol
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- Wall-E
- The Mummy III: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
- Burn After Reading
- A Fistful of Brains (zombie movie made by one of our friends and starring another friend)
- Bond: Quantum of Solace
- The Day the Earth Stood Still
- The Spirit

So, mostly right up the alley of our usual fare. We'll see how that does for us when the noms come out. In the meantime, we're cramming...thank goodness for holiday weekends!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!

In Neopia (the land where your virtual pets live, if you play on, December is the Month of Celebrating. It certainly was that here at Chez Loebrich South (and not just for our NeoPets)!

Coming off a fabulous Thanksgiving at the Rickards', December began with Katy singing in two glorious Christmas concerts. There were also several yummy holiday meals with friends. Then we flew to Wisconsin to participate in Mom's and Larry's wedding. While there, we also had the chance to visit with many relatives we hadn't seen in far too long. We flew back to North Carolina (to be welcomed with 65 degree weather, which was a treat after a high of 20 in WI!) and settled in to wrap up the year. On Christmas Day we went to dinner and a movie with our friends Phyllis and Chris. The next day, the Loebrichs arrived, bearing gifts from Ohio. The week they were here we hit the after-Christmas sales, drove out to Replacements Ltd to look at china, and met up with our cousin Amy for a great visit over gelato. We rang in the new year quietly (and early) just the four of us; Mom and Dad headed back home today.

Now, despite colds caught from the crazy weather we've experienced (it's now only 40-ish in NC), we're looking forward to a bright new year. No matter where you are, or what temperature it is there!, we are wishing you love & laughter, health & happiness, propserity & peace in 2009.

Rabbits, rabbits!