Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Have you donated to Movember yet? Do you even know what it is? For the uninitiated Movember is a worldwide charity event wherein men raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer research by growing an awesome mustache (like the one on the sad figure above). Originating in Australia, people from all over the world are participating, including entire NHL teams and members of Canadian parliament. In 2009 the cause raised more than $42 million, this year we are hoping to top that.
Today is your FINAL CHANCE to participate. You can do so by throwing a dollar or two towards the cause and donating to my mustache (click here to donate). I have worked long and hard to grow the best mustache possible (I even trimmed it once when it got to be too Sam Elliott-y). I have endured strange looks from people and groans of disgust from my wife (who is also taking donations for the cause since she has to put up with the stache anyway). But don't donate because of that. Donate because 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and donating a few dollars can go a long way towards helping the Prostate Cancer Foundation get that number down.
I know a lot of charities are asking for your help this time of year and times are tough, but if you saved a ton of money on Black Friday deals and free shipping on Cyber Monday, why not toss a small fraction of that savings towards a good cause? Please click here to donate TODAY. Together my wife and I have already raised almost $200, but I'd like to do better. My mustache and I thank you. Read more!
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I am referring to the latest marketing campaign for the 2010 Toyota Highlander, which features a snot-nosed kid named Nathan James. This is how Toyota describes Nathan in a press release:
The commercials feature Nathan James, an eight-year-old boy on a mission to “un-dork” his parents. A purveyor of cool, Nathan uses the 2011 Highlander to demonstrate how not to be lame. He has tips and tricks for dealing with not-so-hip parents
There is nothing appealing about young Nathan. He's elitist, superficial, smug, and already has a sense of self-entitlement. He is embarrassed by anybody that isn't as cool as him. His (and Toyota's) "cute" catch phrase is, “Just because you’re a parent, doesn’t mean you have to be lame.” Take a look at one of the several Nathan James ads currently running:
That is supposed to convince you to buy a Highlander. I can't place all the blame on Nathan, however. After all, he's not real. Toyota, however, should be smarter. They still need to be regaining consumer trust after all their recalls, and how do they decide to do it? By insulting the very parents that will buy their cars.
This would be a good campaign if kids bought cars. Since they don't, the "parents just don't get it" tag that works for Apple Jacks cereal, doesn't quite work here. I haven't bought a car in a while, but I am pretty sure that on the Consumer Reports list of what a person looks for when deciding on a car purchase, whether or not their kid thinks it's cool enough doesn't even register. However, this is the selling point mentioned in Toyota's own press release announcing the campaign:
The fully integrated Highlander marketing campaign is aimed at parents with kids ages seven to twelve. During those early child-rearing years, these parents were preoccupied with the needs of their children. They were focused on functionality first, style second—after all, it’s difficult to fit a baby stroller in a sports car. Now their kids are a little older and a little more independent. They’re easily embarrassed, especially by their parents. The last thing they want is to be picked up from school in the old family hauler.
In the several Nathan ads running on TV and on Toyota's branded YouTube channel, safety is barely mentioned. Smart move, Toyota. If you want to get back in the public's good graces, smugly making fun of us is not the way to do it. Make us laugh, don't laugh at us and expect us to do the same. Any self-respecting parent should be insulted that Toyota thinks they are vapid enough consumers to be convinced by these ads.
I sympathise more with Billy and his dad in the above ad. I don't know their full story, but I am sure Billy's dad would love to drop 50K on a loaded Highlander, but he has a family to support, a daughter about to go to college, and a small business that isn't doing so well. Billy might be embarrassed slightly by dad's car, but he will learn in time that a parent makes financial sacrifices for their family. At least he has a dad who is there enough to pick him up after school. Maybe Billy wouldn't be so embarrassed if kids like Nathan weren't picking on him so much because of his dad's car.
OK, I'm ranting now. Am I alone here? I couldn't find many people online complaining. What do you think. Need more fuel? Check out this other Nathan James ad:
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
When we are making movie adaptations of The Smurfs and Marmaduke, we have run out of comic strips and 80s cartoons to adapt. Now, the big movies to be attached to are based on board games. Seriously. Movie adaptations of Monopoly, Battleship, Clue, Risk, Candy Land, Ouija board, and Monsterpocalypse are all in development with big names attached including Tim Burton, Ridley Scott, and Peter Berg.
So what's next? After we milk the board games for all they're worth, where do we turn? 1 suggestion: movies based on cereal mascots. There are tons of them, have a connection with people from several generations, and have built in product placement.
But who should play these iconic characters (and no, Johnny Depp can't do them all. He's running out of funny voices to use)? Let's see if we can cast these roles. Read the list of cereal mascots below, and let me know who should be cast in these roles in the comments section. We will follow up on this project later.
- Cap'n Crunch
- Count Chocula (also, Boo Berry)
- Trix rabbit
- Snap, Crackle, Pop
- Sonny the Cuckoo bird
- Tony the tiger
- Honey Nut Cheerios Bee
- Wendell (Cinnamon Toast Crunch)
- Toucan Sam
I suggest either Seth Green or Giovanni Ribisi for that last one since they both already have experience in the role:
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Check out the latest Pot Kettle Mix. 1 full hour of rock. I tried to keep it fairly clean, but there might be a few "objectionable work words." Click here to Download the rock. Also, apologies to @CraigC for completely ripping off his idea. You should also download his monthly mix if you want some quality hip hop. You can check that out here.
Pot Kettle Mix 08.10 Tracklist
- Compliments - Band of Horses
- Ativan Eyes - Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
- Guilty Cocker Spaniels - Modest Mouse
- Birthday Boy - Drive-By Truckers
- Last Dance - The Raveonettes
- Love and Hate - Blitzen Trapper
- Morning Light - Ida Maria
- Dance Yrself Clean - LCD Soundsystem
- Orphans - The Gaslight Anthem
- Mondegreen - Yeasayer
- Unknown Brother - The Black Keys
- Ask Her For Adderall (Live) - The Hold Steady
- Battles On - The Ghost is Dancing
Click here to download it all. Be sure to let me know what you think after you give it a listen, or create and share your own mix.Read more!
Monday, July 19, 2010
Anyway, one of the few things I didn't like about 'Inception' is the film's poster. It seems a little TOO similar to one of the teaser posters from 'The Dark Knight.' As one of Warner Brothers' most successful films of the past few years, the studio is of course making sure we know that there are many similarities between the two movies: same studio, same writer-director, similar release date, and even some of the same actors.
If they didn't beat the connection over your head enough already, WB taps into your subconscious with the poster. Looking at the 'Inception' poster should seem familiar even if you don't immediately recognize it:
Am I crazy? Is this intentional? Are we supposed to look at this poster and think "The poster looks like the 'Batman' poster, the movie must be just as good!" It's odd.
Have you seen 'Inception' yet? What did you think? Read more!
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Now get this: they're good. I can admit it. They know how to write a good pop rock song and have stuck to their guns recording catchy 1970s-style blues pop rock tunes. While I don't actually own any Hanson music, I recognize they got a good thing going on and hope they keep it up.
Need more proof that it's OK to admit Hanson is alright, check out the music video for their latest single which not only features a pretty spot on reenactment of the "Shake a Tail Feather" scene in "The Blues Brothers," but also Weird Al Yankovic on tambourine. For reference, I also posted the original "The Blues Brothers" scene below.
Are there any other "guilty pleasures" that you can admit are OK to like? Leave a comment to let us all know.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Hi buddy, it's me JD. How've you been? We haven't talked in a little while. How's the family? Good I hope. Give them my best.
Things have been pretty crazy here. We had to make some major decisions over the past couple of weeks. We decided to move. That was a big deal. Buying a house can be a big ordeal as we learned first hand. You're lucky you got to build your own dream house. No need to move from that ever, huh? It has everything you want and if you want something else, you can just add it. I'm envious. Don't worry though, we didn't leave Cleveland. Why would we do that?! We moved in to the house a few weeks ago and are getting settled. Once we get the hoop up you can come on over.
See any good movies lately? Have you seen Toy Story 3 yet? Don't see it in public, it might make you cry (seriously, even YOU. you don't want anyone to WITNESS that). Watch it in your home theater. I think you'll like it. What's your favorite character? Mine's Woody. I like what a strong leader he is; willing to stand strong, make the tough decisions, and help inspire all the other toys even when they keep failing. Plus, he has a real strong bond to where he came from and who cares about him. I bet Woody and your Nike puppet would get along great! Anyway, you should check out the movie.
Did you feel that earthquake last week?! That was crazy. I'm glad it wasn't as bad as those quakes in Los Angeles. That can be dangerous. Oh, you'll like this joke I heard: Did you hear about the earthquake in Cleveland? -- What earthquake? I heard it was just Shaq tripping on his sidewalk. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!! I immediately thought of you when I heard that.
Aaaaanyway, any big plans for the 4th weekend? We should get together. If you're busy, that's cool. We should schedule something for August. Will you be around then?
Keep on truckin',
PS. GO TRIBE!! LOL! Read more!
Monday, June 28, 2010
I cannot honestly say I have ever watched I Lifetime TV movie (no, honestly, never). I do, however, enjoy reading the descriptions of the crazy movies that air on the Lifetime Movie Network as I browse through my cable channel guide. Judging by their title and descriptions ONLY, here are a few of the "best" movies on the Lifetime Movie Network for the week of June 28 - July 4
The Bad Son - Thursday, July 1, 6pm
"An elusive serial killer is terrorizing Seattle, murdering innocent women with the help of - get ready for this one! - his mom! With time slipping by, it's up to a resourceful cop to unlock the mystery of this bizarre duo before it's lights out for their next victim. Based on actual events, this twisted tale will keep you glued to your seat!"
As Good as Dead - Friday, July 3, 10am
"Susan is new in town and grateful to make a friend, Nicole. So when Nicole has a medical emergency, Susan not only rushes her to the hospital, but also switches identities with her so Nicole can use her health insurance to cover the necessary operation. When Nicole dies on the operating table, however, Susan is forced to unravel the mystery of her friend's suspicious death — as well as try to reclaim her own true identity!"
The Perfect Child - Friday, July 3, 12pm
"Sarah Daniels (Rebecca Budig) has thrown her life into her career in public relations and has survived some bad relationships. But when she meets Paul Jacobs (Lochlyn Munroe) through business, it looks like she's met her soul match. Paul has an adorable though shy twelve-year-old daughter, Lily, with whom Sarah seems to connect. But the promising situation turns menacingly bad: crises in Paul's business, Lily's illness, and humiliating circumstances for Sarah. Some evidence seems to lead back to Paul's jealous ex-girlfriend, but when a dark chapter of Sarah's life comes to light, Sarah herself considers her own sanity and possible responsibility. But the real truth won't come to the surface until Lily and Sarah are left alone and almost die in a horrible "accident.""
The Girl Next Door - Friday, July 2, 6pm
"This is Tracey Gold at her finest, as Annie, an impressionable woman who will do anything for her man's love and attention: make dinner, do laundry, commit murder- you know, the usual stuff! See how this bad guy manipulates her into doing his dirty work as this twisted tale of love gone horribly wrong unfolds."
My Stepson, My Lover - Saturday, July 3, 8pm
"With a title like this, do you need any more reason to tune in? If so, here's the lowdown: When a young nurse's marriage starts to fail, she falls into in the arms of her hubby's son. But it's not a secret for long. When dad finds out his kid's sleeping with his wife, a raging jealousy develops between father and child. And one of them won't survive it!"
Wow! So many to choose from? Which are you going to watch. If for some insane reason, you actually do waste your time watching any of these Lifetime movies, write a review in the comments.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
- Phil Collins receives an award from the Songwriter's Hall of Fame
- London man, @alxalxalx, spends today listening to all of Phil Collins' solo albums & tweets about it.
- Phil Collins says he doubts he'll ever release another album of original material.
- Collins Uses Gaffer Tape to Hold Drum Sticks to Hand While Recovering From Nerve Damage.
- Classic WWF Video: Phil Collins vs Ultimate Warrior
- A NY Times Review of Collins' latest concert at the Roseland Ballroom
That's all for this week, but stay tuned! As always, if you have a Phil Collins news tip, leave it in the comments belowRead more!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Why would Redbox think I'm super excited for this (and I'm not judging you if you actually are). All I could think of while reading this was some lonely spinster receiving this in their inbox and getting excited about a movie night in eating Hot Pockets and Haggen-Dazs and then falling into a food coma half way through "Leap Year." All because of this coupon. Is that what you're trying to sell me, Redbox? Sad, pathetic loneliness, and saving a dollar with a free movie? It leaves nothing but bad associations.
I'm taking a pass on this coupon. Give me a less depressing deal, Redbox, and we will talk. While you're at it, you could start renting out video games any day now. Now that all the local video rental stores are closed down, there is a huge, vacant gap in the video game rental department. Read more!
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Product placement is everywhere on television these days. Adventures in Product Placement does not set out to point every instance out, just the examples that are so ridiculous and out of place.
Reality television is no stranger to product placement. usually the product integration is done well through segment sponsorship, products offered as a reward in a competition, or as in the case in cooking shows like "Top Chef," integrating the product directly into a competition
'Last Comic Standing' Shoves 'Despicable Me' in our Face
Last night "Last Comic Standing" did none of these things. If you are unfamiliar, this is the reality competition show that uses the "American Idol" template to find the next star stand-up comic. Last night about half way through the New York City auditions episode this happened:
Did you catch that? Was it too subtle for you? As if showing pop-in ads for this movie on the screen twice during the program wasn't enough, the NBC/Universal family decided to completely waste a minute of the program's air time. Next time may I suggest simply putting a movie poster in the background?Read more!
Sunday, May 16, 2010
ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! HIGH RISK! BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SHARE ON FACEBOOK! (Click the icon above to share this message on Facebook).
The irony made me laugh. The message itself was pretty basic: You may feel safe sharing personal information online, it's stupid to think that, don't be stupid.
It seems like common sense, but as social media becomes more and more prominent, it's good to recognize that just like all things on the Internet, social networking is not 100% safe. Bottom line: don't make any personal information public you wouldn't be OK sharing with the next stranger who drives down your street (especially if that driver happens to be the Google Street View truck). Read more!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Look at those crazy Millennials in that picture. When they're not styling their hair or being ironic they are always on their phones sharing their entire life with the world digitally. This is how marketers generically perceive this generation*.
*The exact time frame of the Millennial generation (also known as Generation Y and Echo Boomers) varies depending on who you ask. It is sometime between 1978 & 2000. Some divide that time frame into two different generations: Gen Y = born late 1970s to 1990 , Millennials = born 1990 - 2000. Dividing it makes more sense to me as the behaviors and attitudes of a 32 year old today (born 1978) are a lot different from those of a 10 year old today (born 2000).
Millennials are defined by 2 things:
- They are constantly online, either on the computer or their cell phone
- They share everything about themselves.
That's it. There's nothing else to them. You can sell and justify any business decision based on these two generalized attributes. At least that is the impression that I got this morning when I read a USA Today article about new menu items being rolled out by national restaurant chains including California Pizza Kitchen and Cheesecake Factory. The chains are adding small, cheaper, tapas-style items to their menu that are meant to be shared among friends. Their logic behind this new addition: Millennials like texting and sharing and stuff, they will like sharing food too (and then possibly Tweeting about how awesome it is?).
From the USA Today article:
Casual-dining chains are trying just about anything. They're particularly eager
to attract socially minded Millennials who are just as comfortable sharing a
plate of food as they are sharing social media.
"This is how the next generation is eating," says Bob Hartnett, CEO at Houlihan's, which just rolled out 23 small-plate items.
WHAT?! When did we start eating differently? I'm not saying these new menu items are a bad idea, they're not. I do, in fact, enjoy ordering a bunch of small plates and sharing among friends, but why is this being considered a Millennial only activity? When I'm out at a tapas-style restaurant I don't see only a 20 somethings sharing food, I see people of all ages and backgrounds be it friends, families, or coworkers. It appears to me that this is how EVERYONE is eating.
It is just as illogical to say that Millennials are eating differently, than it is to say Millennials are all over social media, when data has shown that Baby Boomers are the growing demographic in Facebook and Millennials have no use for Twitter. Face it, everyone is online all the time sharing info, and everyone likes to share food when they go out to eat. If you don't realize that when developing a marketing strategy, you're leaving out a large part of your target audience. We have progressed beyond, "kids these days and their crazy technologies." Either we are now all Millennials in some shape or form, or maybe, just maybe, there is more to the Millennial generation than the generic definition placed on them.
Where do you stand? What defines a Millennial to you? What additional attributes would you add?
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Well the snow is melting, the Indians are almost through with spring training, and the Cavs are getting ready for the playoffs. Spring is here, and with it comes a whole slew of bands and musical artists coming to the Cleveland area. My spring/summer concert lineup is filling up fast. There's a lot of good acts touring this year. Here's what I plan on, am considering seeing, or would like to see if I didn't already have plans:
April 4 - Julian Casablancas - House of Blues Cleveland
April 8 - Fanfarlo - Grog Shop
April 11 - Wilco - Carnegie Music Hall, Pittburgh
April 13 - The Hold Steady - Beachland Ballroom
April 13 - Wale/K'naan - House of Blues Cleveland
April 30 - Yeasayer - Grog Shop
May 5 - Frightened Rabbit - Grog Shop
May 11 - Pearl Jam/Band of Horses - The Q
June 9 - Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - House of Blues Cleveland
June 10 - She & Him - House of Blues Cleveland
July 20 - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers/Drive-By Truckers - Blossom Music Center
July 26 - Kings of Leon - Blossom Music Center
That's my schedule. What's yours? Are you going to any of these shows too? Am I leaving out a group that I simply MUST SEE live?
I leave you with my Summer Concert playlist featuring all of the artists listed above. You'll find it on the right sidebar under my Twitter feed. Give it a listen, and feel free to create and share your own similar playlist in the comments. I love discovering new music, and we all need something to listen to to make it through the work day. Read more!
Monday, March 22, 2010
'Nurse Jackie' is Showtime's latest attempt to launch a successor to the aging "comedy" 'Weeds.' It stars 'The Sopranos' Edie Falco as Jackie, a nurse in a NYC emergency room. Like all of the main characters in Showtime's half-hour shows, Jackie is a dysfunctional anti-hero. She's just your regular run of the mill no nonsense nurse, wife, and mother with a pill addiction and fidelity problems. There's also a ZANY cast of supporting characters that fill up the hospital with their own quirks and problems.
Yeah, it's about as lame as it sounds. Jackie is an annoying character that gives the viewer very little reason to root for her, and despite all the zaniness, the show is rather dull. I watched the entire first season assuming at some point things would get exciting and interesting. They never did. I was going to ignore the show's second season, which kicked off last night, but I had to see how their unique interactive Twitter marketing experiment would play out.
As the New York Times reported, in the episode the comic relief character Doctor Cooper (Peter Facinelli) would tweet about something in the episode, and his message would post to his Twitter account in real time, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. Kind of a cool idea, right? So how did it go down? Learn after the jump.
Extending the world of a fictional television series beyond the weekly episode and onto the Internet is not necessarily a new device. CBS' "How I Met Your Mother" has successfully used this marketing device by mentioning a website or video on the show, and then actually creating the "fictional" site mentioned, but it takes planning from both the creative forces behind the show and the CBS marketing department to do it effectively.
For example, did you catch the Super Bowl commercial with Neil Patrick Harris's character Barney Stinson holding up a sign in the stands with a phone number to call him? If you did in fact call that number, you would have heard a message from Barney asking you out on a date. On the program the next night, the characters on the show watched the Super Bowl wondering where their friend Barney was, until they saw him on TV, the same way you the viewer saw him. Barney's story in this episode was about how he was going crazy because all of these girls called his phone and now he has too many woman to choose from. If you were a woman who called that number the night before, Barney was talking about YOU!
Why go through all the effort to do this? To create a stronger connection between the viewer (consumer) and the program (brand). It builds brand loyalty. By interacting with these sites or videos, the viewer is essentially entering the fictional world of the program. They are seeing and experiencing the same things the characters are. Watching the show has transitioned from a passive activity to an active one. The fan or viewer feels they have a personal investment in the brand and will hopefully return to it week after week.
With fictional characters using Twitter in real time, the lines blur even further. The viewer is not only entering the world of the show, in their own way they are now experiencing the same things that are happening to these characters as it is happening to them.
This is a great way to market a show, and maybe even work in some paid product placement, but it also opens the door for a lot of creative opportunities.The success of 'Lost' has proven that when viewers are passionate about something they are willing to get online and dive deep into the world, all the while spreading positive word of mouth about the brand.
The networks should start experimenting more. How about a serialized show, a season long 'Twin Peaks'-style mystery, with every character and suspect tweeting their point of view and opinion in real time and throughout the week? The viewer would have to put together clues and cross reference stories to solve the big whodunit. I'd give it a shot, would you.
There are a lot of cool marketing possibilities here. That being said, I don't think I'll keep up with 'Nurse Jackie.' It's still too boring. I will continue to follow @DoctorCoop though. If something interesting happens, I'm sure he'll tell me.
What do you think of scripted television shows incorporating real-time Twitter messages from characters? Would you participate or do you find it intrusive? How would you like this used in your favorite show (assuming Jack Bauer can find the time to tweet)?
With all those viewing choices to pick from I wouldn't blame anyone for not catching last night's episode of 'The Simpsons.' Honestly, you didn't miss much. Like most modern episodes of the series, this episode was an entertaining way to spend 30 min, with a few laughs, but suffering from weak plots that suffer even more thanks to odd story structure. That being said, last night's episode did feature a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama (which was cool until you find out she was actually voiced by actress Angela Bassett), and a sort of fun montage of famous Hollywood kissing scenes getting the Simpsons treatment as Bart receives CPR from his crush (don't ask).
You can check out the montage below. How many of these scenes do you recognize? Can you tell which ones were slightly altered?
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
No web video is complete without the dance remix ...
As the New York Times reports, current station owner Bud Kelley listed WMKG-LP, Channel 38 on eBay and is pricing it to sell (although it now looks like it has been removed). Although still not ready for the digital transition, you can own the broadcasting license, facility, equipment, and the ability to program whatever you want (as long as you keep the Thursday night Bingo show).
Some quality programming could turn this station around into the highest rated station in the region. It can happen. Need proof? Look no further than American treasure "Weird Al" Yankovic and his 1989 cult classic "UHF":
There's plenty of show ideas right there! All you need now is an eccentric, frantic janitor and you're all set. Look out Western Michigan, you're in for a wild ride! Read more!
Monday, March 15, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
First, in case you missed my earlier posts, check out my reviews of A Serious Man, An Education, Avatar, and The Blind Side.
And now the rest …
An impressive original sci-fi film. "District 9" can pass itself off as a summer blockbuster and a small, emotional movie examining how we treat cultures different than our own; not the typical alien invasion film. Although it abandons some of its ethical statements and documentary style as the movie progresses into a gigantic battle, it’s a fun ride from start to finish. The less I tell you about this movie the better. It never goes where you expect it to, and that’s a good thing. It won’t win Best Picture, but it will be one of the few nominees that we are all still talking about 5 years from now.
The Hurt Locker
This small movie about a three-man US bomb squad in Iraq is considered a front-runner for the big award. Will it beat “Avatar?” Maybe, if the voters felt like awarding a smaller film. Don’t be fooled though, despite a small budget “The Hurt Locker” isn’t a wuss, it’s an intense, suspenseful action film. Although set in Iraq, it does not get political. The plot is simple: survive 38 days. It’s easier than it sounds once you see the insane positions these soldiers have to put themselves in on a routine basis. As the movie points out, it takes a certain kind of person to do this, and “The Hurt Locker” does a great job exploring who that person is and what makes them tick. If anyone is going to beat James Cameron for Best Director, it will be (Cameron’s ex-wife) Kathryn Bigelow for the way she captures both the intensity of bomb diffusion and the quiet times in-between missions.
This movie was not what I expected. Being a Quentin Tarantino movie I was expecting lots and lots and lots of blood; “Kill Bill” set in World War II. While the movie is bookended by two fairly violent scenes, the majority of the film is blood free. The cat-and-mouse game being played between the Good Guys and the Nazis as they sit across from each other at various tables in houses, restaurants, and bars is at times almost unbearably suspenseful. I enjoyed Tarantino’s revisionist history of WWII not for the gore, but for the way it was constructed: as a series of inter-connected short films that slowly become one. This method kept me engaged in the story even during the typical Tarantino dialogue scenes that run a few minutes too long. Trying to figure out where the story was going was half the fun. This is my pick for an upset for Best Picture and Tarantino’s best chance at winning the big award to-date.
Everyone knows this movie as the one where an unspeakable amount of bad things happen to a poor teenage girl. I won’t list all of those things here; it’s worse than you even think it is. Yes, “Precious” is a good movie with strong acting and a powerful true tale of strength and perseverance, but it’s also tough to watch. This is the type of movie you will get in the mail from Netflix because you know it’s a movie you’re "supposed to watch," but you’re never in the mood to watch something this dark and it sits on the counter for 2 months until you return it unviewed. If that happens, I don’t blame you. A strong film, but I would never call this entertaining.
My wife can’t even tell you the plot of this movie without starting to tear up. I’m serious. The movie with talking dogs, blimp battles, and giant birds with a love for chocolate makes her cry. That’s because the guys at Pixar know how to make a good movie. All the crazy talking dogs in the world are meaningless unless there are some strong characters with strong motivations that drive everything. It doesn’t take much to lay that ground work. All you need in “Up” is the first 10 minutes. From there the movie can go in any crazy direction it wants to just as long as it remembers to come back to the simple relationships between old man Karl and his chubby friend. This will win Best Animated Movie and possibly Best Score. “Up” becomes a little too much of a kiddie cartoon in a few scenes towards the end, and that might hurt its chances as Best Picture.
Up in the Air
Although it won’t win Best Picture, “Up in the Air” is the movie that best portrays what life in 2009 is like. George Clooney carries the picture well as a traveling businessman whose job it is to fire people. “Up in the Air” address a lot of the insecurities and concerns we all have right now with our jobs, the economy, the way technology has made making personal connections both easier and at times harder and less authentic, and what really matters in life (and one of the best soundtracks of the year). The ending is a little sloppy and some would argue ruins the whole film, but it stays true to the characters, and attempts to address how we live right now in a funny and entertaining way.
That’s all 10. Sorry I was so brief with these final reviews. Time got the best of me.
Where are you going to (or where did you) watch the Oscars (or do you even care)?
Me, I’ll be at the Road to the Red Carpet party, a charity event for the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, a great nonprofit that works hard to bring film and production work to Northeast Ohio (i.e. “Spiderman 3”).
As always, if you agree or disagree with me, let me know in the comments.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Chances are that if you wanted to see either of these movies, you probably already have. Nevertheless, after the jump, I take a closer look at these 2 films. Agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments.
Unless you've been living inside a rock that's under another rock that's lying on the bottom of the ocean, you've heard of "Avatar." It's now the largest grossing movie of all time with a worldwide intake of $2.5 billion (although with 80% of the US domestic gross coming from the 3D version of the movie, the extra $3 surcharge for 3D movies is inflating that number quite a bit).
So is it worth all that money? Sure, why not. In "Avatar", writer/director James Cameron was able to construct a perfect storm of everything that makes his past blockbusters, including "Terminator 2" and "Titanic," a success: sci-fi action, romance, and groundbreaking technology. "Avatar" has something for everyone of all ages.
Visually, the story of paralyzed soldier Jake Sully using Avatar technology to pose as a member of the blue alien-like Na'vi tribe that resides on a distant moon (it's not as complicated as it sounds), is unlike anything we've seen on film for a long time. The vivid colors, landscapes, and unique creatures of the Na'vi world fully transport the viewer, and the tense action scenes keep everyone on the edge of their seats.
The film's main weaknesses are the dialogue and some of the acting. Like "Star Wars" before it, "Avatar" is going to be mocked for years to come for its cheesy, sometimes poorly written dialogue. Some critics complain that the movie is just a generic sci-fi blend of many existing blockbusters, including "Dances With Wolves" and "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest." I say, what's so wrong about that? Yeah, there are elements of many other hit movies in this, why do you think it's making so much money? In a year when big budget crowd pleasers included the awful"Transformers 2" and "GI Joe," the willingness of Cameron to take risks creating an entirely original world should be commended.
That being said, I'm not sure it should win Best Picture. It's not perfect, and a little too long. Instead, I think "Avatar" should be awarded a Special Achievement Award for the way it advances movie making, similar to the award presented to "Toy Story" in 1996.
Bottom line: One of the best movie going experiences of the year, but the dialogue, acting, and occasional story flaws are too much to award it as Best Picture.
The Blind Side
"The Blind Side" is the only movie out of the 10 Best Picture nominees that I can safely say should not be nominated. Give it a Family Circle magazine award for Best Family Film (take that "Squeakquel"!), but don't elevate its status to the Best Picture category. To put it in football terms: "Blind Side" is playing JV while all the other nominees made Varsity.
Am I too cynical to enjoy an uplifting "true story" that tugs on the heart strings? No, not when it's a good movie. Look at fellow nominee "Up." That movie is a cartoon with talking dogs, and it still has more three dimensional characters than "Blind Side."
I think Michael Oher's story of facing adversity and rising up from the ghetto to the NFL, thanks to the help of a loving family that believed in him when no one else would, is an inspirational story worth telling. "The Blind Side" takes a crack at it, but they water it down with stereotyped characters, generic dialogue, and very little actual conflict. It's a Hallmark made for TV movie that is trying to pass itself off as something more. Plus, as anyone who has read Oher's autobiography can attest, the movie takes SEVERAL liberties in an effort to play up the cheese.
There are also basic structure problems. At 128 min. it's a long movie for a family to sit through, especially when the entire third act veers off into courtroom drama territory right when I was ready for it to be over.
Bottom line: A harmless family film with a good story, but not anywhere near the quality of a Best Picture.
What did you think of "Avatar" and "The Blind Side?" Tomorrow I'll tackle "District 9" and "The Hurt Locker."
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Well some big studio films DID in fact get nominated for Best Picture. Time will tell whether that results in a ratings increase.
I'm a movie buff, but could care less about the actual Oscars. I'm fine stopping at the nominees. Give me a list of some of the best movies and performances of the year and I'll choose what I like from them; no need to declare an ultimate winner.
Regardless, I have seen 9 out of 10 of this years Best Picture batch. So I thought I would spend this week briefly reviewing the contenders. After the jump I take a look at "A Serious Man" and "An Education"
A Serious Man
Two years ago the Coen Brothers won the Best Director/Picture combo for "No Country for Old Men." They followed that up with "Burn After Reading" and now what they claim is their most personal film, "A Serious Man."
Set in the suburban Midwest in the 1960s, the movie centers on Larry Gopnik, a middle aged professor with a lot of problems piling up at once: He might not get tenure, a student is blackmailing him, his wife wants a divorce & wants to date Larry's friend, his kids are brats, and his brother is a nutjob with no job prospects sleeping on Larry's couch. All of these problems cause Larry to wonder why God is "punishing" him for simply trying to get by and be a serious man. He visits 3 rabbis to receive guidance and clarity.
Now I like the Coen Brothers generally, and this movie is well done, and does a good job at capturing Larry's frustrations with his life, but the movie just isn't that interesting. Maybe I'd get more out of it if I grew up Jewish, in the Midwest, in the 1960s, but I didn't do any of those things. The acting and the Coens' portrayal of the 60s keeps my interest for a while, but the story is too mundane to keep my interest for the whole movie. I lost interest about 2/3 of the way through. I get that it's sort of the Coens' point that all of these typical problems that Larry faces are a part of life, and how we look at these problems determines whether they destroy us or not, but the conflict is so mundane that it isn't compelling for everyone.
Bottom line: Cool style and acting w/ a story that is not for everyone. Not likely to win.
This is the one Best Picture nominee that I haven't seen, so I can't really provide any insight into the movie. This just isn't my type of movie. I know it's based on a book, but it looks so generic. I can pretty much tell what it's about just by looking at the poster. Young girl in the 1960s, probably in Europe, falls in love with a much older man. He might be tutoring her or she might be tutoring him, I'm not sure. Either way, through their relationship she receives "an education" on life and love, and her eyes are opened as she matures from a girl to a woman.
I haven't seen the trailer yet or read much about the movie, but I'm pretty confidant I'm in the ballpark. I have yet to have someone prove me wrong. Have you seen it? If so I'd love your insight. I'd be willing to post a guest review if you write a good one up.
I'm sure it's a good movie if you like these types of films. I am a fan of the novels by Nick Hornby, who adopted the script (& received an Oscar nomination for it) but did not write the book it is based on. Hornby's books have been turned into pretty good movies ("High Fidelity" & "About A Boy") so I bet he's good at writing a film script too.
Bottom Line: No idea, but it would be quite an upset if it wins Best Picture.
Trailer (After watching it for the first time, my guess review does not change):
Have you seen "A Serious Man" or "An Education?" Do you agree or disagree with my reviews? If so, let me know. Tomorrow: "Avatar" & "The Blind Side."