Posted by: Jen Fedorowich | February 23, 2013

Oscar Predictions 2013

Oscar season already?
Seems like just yesterday I was arguing that Meryl Streep wasn’t going to win her third award.
Alas – I was wrong. 
That being said – I still have a pretty great track record choosing these things – so MY WORD IS LAW.
This year we will be treated to the “comedic stylings” of Seth MacFarlane. Bring on the Holocaust jokes!
Without further ado – here are my 2013 OSCAR PREDICTIONS!
(In rapid fashion, due do procrastination and homework!)
Enjoy my lovelies. 

-Jen

oscars-seth-macfarlane_510x411
“You gotta keep the funny intact.” – Seth MacFarlane
(I’ll be the judge of that!)

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Posted by: Alan | May 9, 2012

The Spotless Minds – New Website

Our new website is located here:

http://www.thespotlessminds.com

Thanks! 

Posted by: Alan | April 16, 2012

Review: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Director: Drew Goddard

Writer: Drew Goddard, Joss Whedon

Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford

Rating: halfstarhalfstarhalfstarhalfstarhalfstar

I have a confession to make: I am legitimately addicted to a very specific website on the internet. This website will consume hours of my life if I step into it even briefly, I have to stop myself from visiting it often, and I fear telling other people about it because I am afraid it will consume them as well. A joke about pornography. But seriously, the website I refer to is TvTropes, a wiki site devoted to the many conventions or ‘tropes’ that Film, Tv, Comics etc frequently use. They give some inventive names to the tropes, often based on a famous example of it, and each page links to multiple other tropes that essentially becomes a veritable maze of storytelling devices and conventions.

I say all this because this obsession of mine often colors my feelings of entertainment lately, if a trope is used it sometimes will hurt my opinion of it or make me love it even more, but more often than not, it’s once the tropes are subverted or averted or lampshaded (click at your own risk) that I can go from like to love. Most genre-bending films do this, and sometimes more successfully than others (Hot Fuzz is a prime example) and thankfully, The Cabin in the Woods not only does this incredibly well but makes it immensely entertaining the whole way through. WARNING: Minor Spoilers follow regarding the premise.

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Posted by: Greg | April 10, 2012

The Spotcast Ep. 3: The Hunger Games

The Spotcast Ep. 3 – The Hunger Games

For this episode of The Spotcast, Alan, James and Greg discuss The Hunger Games. Spoiler: One of the three didn’t like it!

Download

Posted by: Alan | April 4, 2012

Review: Friends With Kids (2012)

Friends With Kids (2012)

Director: Jennifer Westfeldt

Writer: Jennifer Westfeldt

Starring: Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox, Edward Burns

Rating: halfstarhalfstarhalfstar

Let’s talk about romantic comedies. It will likely not surprise anyone to know that generally I am not a fan of this ‘genre’ of film, and very rarely will I willingly go to see something marketed as a rom-com unless there’s also a healthy dose of zom. That isn’t to say that it’s impossible for me to enjoy a romantic comedy, although I struggle to name any off the top of my head that I recall enjoying. The predictability is a big issue, knowing that the two romantic leads will undoubtedly end up together (unless it’s a Nicholas Sparks film in which case someone will DIE spoiler alert). On top of that you have numerous tropes sprinkled throughout the film that just become lazy and boring. But they are successful. There is something about them that draws an audience, and the studios know that, and we all know that, and as much as I dislike them because they’re fake, that’s WHY people love them. Movie critics are vastly different from the general movie-going public, and I think it falls to the REASON people go to movies. Most people see films as escapism – they want to see happy people doing happy things because life is kinda shitty a lot of the time. For me, I want to see life and truth on the screen, something for me to relate to and nod and say ‘Yes, I am ALSO miserable!’ Hence why I love Charlie Kaufman.

But I digress. I’m here to review ‘Friends With Kids,’ the first romantic comedy I’ve gone to see in the theatres in ages. The cast had a lot to do with that, Adam Scott in particular and his work on Parks and Rec has become a favorite actor of mine. I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but I was hoping for a fresh take on the genre rather than a rehash of all the tropes I’m used to. What I ended up getting was something in between, a fairly traditional rom-com with a few fresh ideas mixed in and even some odd (but refreshing) subversions to the tropes.

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Posted by: Jen Fedorowich | February 26, 2012

Oscar Picks 2012

Time flies, no?
It’s February again, which means it’s time for Academy Award predictions!
Sadly, I recorded a long audio clip with my predictions but technology has failed me yet again.
In addition – upon looking at the clock – I am pressed for time in making this entry.
That being said – prepare for the QUICKEST Oscar Predictions of 2012.

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Posted by: jamesodinwade | February 1, 2012

Review: Hugo (2011)

A Trip To The Movies, a review of Hugo (2011)

“My friends, I address you all tonight as you truly are; wizards, mermaids, travelers, adventurers, magicians…come and dream with me.”

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writers: John Logan (screenplay) Brian Selznick (book)

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen

Rating: 

 (Minor spoilers ahead)

To me, Martin Scorsese has always had two distinct sides as a director. There’s the Catholic New Yorker who makes beautiful films about male testosterone in dangerous situations and then there’s the loving film buff, an entertainer from the golden age of Hollywood trying to make sweeping adventures for his audience.

Hugo belongs to the latter Scorsese. It’s a big, luscious movie that is beautiful to look at. But unlike his other genre flicks like Age of Innocence or Shutter Island, Hugo manages to feel like it’s as much from Scorsese’s own heart as Mean Streets or Taxi Driver (the comparisons stop there). This movie focuses on the great love of Scorsese’s life: film history.

The story is about Hugo Cabret, an orphan who, through tragic events, has found himself living inside the eleborate mechanical systems of clocks in a Paris train station. He spends his time winding the clocks and stealing parts from an old toy maker so he can repair an “automoton”, the last vestige of his life with his father. Hugo’s life becomes more complicated when Hugo and the toy maker’s niece, Isabelle, stumble onto secrets involving the automoton, Isabelle’s necklace and the suspicion that “Uncle George” may be more than he seems.

Despite the elaborate set, central mystery and goofy chase scenes that the movie boasts, it is essentially a very small and very moving story about Georges Méliès, an incredible filmmaker who was ruined by both the gears of history and the lack of effort to preserve his life’s work. Anyone who is fairly familiar with Scorsese will know why this subject is so dear to him. When he’s not directing, Scorsese has overseen the preservation, restoration and distribution of countless films that should not be forgotten. It is because of Scorsese that we can now see the work of Michael Powell, a brilliant filmmaker that history had all but forgotten. If you can, go and watch The Red Shoes.

Méliès’ films are truly magical, even now, and it is thrilling to see segments of them presented in Hugo. It’s this magic that Scorsese captures so heart-wrenchingly well and he uses it to illustrate the personal worth of preserving the work of the past. A sad fact of history is that many of Méliès’ films were burned, the celluloid melted down to make the soles of women’s shoes. The montage in which we see this happen is rendered so lovingly by Scorsese that I could feel people in the audience, many of whom probably never heard of Georges Méliès, instantly become film preservationists. 

But the film is not all about the past, either. As you probably know, this film was made in 3D, a visual tool I have been more than cynical about for quite some time. I saw the film in 2D but actually found myself regretting that I hadn’t gone to see it in 3D. Leave it to Scorsese to take me to school on the subject. The chase scenes through the crowds, the intricate clockwork, I wanted to see them pop like they were intended to. I’ve called 3D technology a gimmick, and indeed it’s use has mostly been a shallow cash grab that does not benefit the films it’s used for, but that’s wrong-headed. 3D technology is just another brush in the artists toolbox, and it’s success depends on how we use it. Film itself was a new tool once upon a time. As shown in the movie, the Lumiere brothers once showed an audience a film of a train pulling into a station and for a moment the audience dove out of the way! I don’t know if that really happened but it’s a good story. They showed that very same footage in Hugo and I wished I had seen it in 3D , and maybe experienced a similar feeling as that audience, just for a moment.

The entire film is a love letter early film and it’s littered with clever references here and there. My favourite probably being the one shown on the poster itself, a callback to the masterful Harold Lloyd film Safety Last, which I encourage you to watch below. I haven’t really talked about the specifics of the film very much, I suppose because I was so caught up in it. Asa Butterfield and Chloë Moretz are both wonderful as the young stars stars of the film and handle the substance deftly, without too much melodrama. The flirtation between Sacha Baron Cohen’s self-conscious villain and Emily Mortimer’s cautious flower girl may have been the weak link in the film, but even that I enjoyed quite a bit. Though it’s Ben Kingsley who ultimately steals the show as Georges Méliès, with all his sadness, frustration and hidden wonder. I should also mention a brilliant turn by Michael Stuhlbarg as Rene Tabard, a film scholar and preservationist, perhaps standing in for Scorsese himself.

Ultimately Hugo is a beautiful experience, an ode to film magic, and to the magicians themselves. 

-James

(Ed. Note: Alan suggested I call the article “Hu-Go-Girl!”)

Steve McQueen set the film world on fire with HUNGER (2008) five years ago. His debut film pinpointed to a director that not only knew how to fill a frame but took the time to familiarize himself with the in and out’s of his topic at hand. I mean, his first film was a reconstruction of a 90 second videotape left from the Hunger strike and riot that occurred in 1981 in Ireland, holy moly! Its a film about politics in every way. Its about the politics regarding the IRA and British Government struggle. Its about body politics; how the human body has been used as a political statement. And lastly it is about the statement itself, the political statement, the power that comes through it.

Like Hunger, Shame (2011) has all the seriousness one can possibly expect from a McQueen film. Shame had notes of Hunger. There is still an analysis on the body and its treatment. Just as Hunger had its constant reminder shots of the topic at hand so does Shame. Both films frequently had tight frames fixated on body parts. Hunger fixated on broken flesh, protruding bones or hands, especially the hands…hands, hands, hands. Each shot was filled with how the human body became a political statement. His focus on hands in Hunger points to the power of the political statement. He shot them making political demands. We see them writing letters to pass along to those outside prison to using their hands to defy on walls using their shit, we even see the bloody hands of the guards. Shame also focused on the body but this time the camera was aimed at the face (other parts as well, of course, but I’ll leave that up to you to discover) for example the first scene is an observation on the power of the penetrative stare. Tough stuff.

Both films have very hard pills-to-swallow for topics: one is about the struggle of prisoners of war while the other deals with the crisis of deviant sexual behavior. Hard topics aren’t often found in theatres so it is so refreshing to see a direction that doesn’t pick subject matter that cater to the crowds. So it was a nice surprise to see a full house last night.

In regards to style the films followed a cinematography of detail. Frames were full of detail relating to the topics. Each had great montages: in Hunger the scene of “the fucking Bastard” comes to mind, where prisoners start destroying their cells after been given civilian cloths in a taunting manner; in Shame, its the removal of the porn. They also each had long takes of the central character, allowing the audience to really see them as they were. Style.

One has to ask, does two films alone make the stamp for Auteurship? I would probably make the safe bet and say, yes. He has delivered films that keep a style and a narrative that has been, lately, only been touched by McQueen. McQueen indicated in 2008 that he was a filmmaker to watch. His films aren’t something you take a first date to, no; but they are films that with every revisit their meaning sets another tone to your perspective on life. Make sure to check out Shame as it comes out today.

-Karla

Posted by: Alan | January 9, 2012

The Top 50 TV Shows of All-Time!

Here’s how it works!

Our staff and our readers were asked to send me a list of their 25 favorite TV Shows of All-Time. 59 ballots were received, and the shows were ranked on a point system allowing 25 points for a #1 choice, 24 for a #2, and all the way down to 1 point for #25. The points were added up, and what follows are the selections.

Tiebreakers work like such: If two shows have equal pointage (and neither got a number 1 vote), I went with whichever ranked highest on the individual lists. An show that was someone’s #4 beats another person’s #6, for example. If they were still tied, then whichever had more votes ranks higher. And then if they still were tied I just picked one so shut up.

We will be posting 10 shows a day for the entire week, culminating in the top 10 being revealed on Friday.

The countdown begins now!

50. Extras (2005-2007) – 91 points
(8 of 59 lists. Highest ranking #7 – Mally)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extras

Watching Andy Milman’s ego slowly destroy him is a hard thing to watch, and while it’s painfully funny, it’s still very painful. It’s when Gervais and Merchant offer the smallest bit of redemption for these characters that we cling to it like an oxygen mask of humanity. The series finale of Extras is one of the finest pieces of television I have ever witnessed, and I dare anyone to not be utterly destroyed by Andy’s monologue towards the end of the show. One thing I love about Extras is the stuff with Darren Lamb, letting Gervais and Merchant just play off each other, giving us something of a break from Andy’s tragic comedy. Submitted for your approval:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfNISfcJuYo

-James

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Posted by: Alan | December 20, 2011

A Discussion and Review of Louie’s Second Season

Louis C.K. – Comedian, writer, director, actor – has suddenly become one of the greatest artists working today. It’s not like this came out of nowhere – his stand-up material has been consistently brilliant, and he had a short lived sitcom on HBO (Lucky Louie) along with various other projects here and there. But recently, due to his continued success in stand-up (his special ‘Hilarious‘ was the first stand-up special accepted into Sundance) and his new, critically acclaimed TV show Louie he has suddenly found himself as one of the most successful and well-respected comedians of all time.

The second season of his show recently wrapped, and in wanting to talk about the show, I decided to forgo the usual article format we do here and instead have a sort of ‘discussion’ with another fan of the show and good friend of mine. We talked about what each episode meant, to us and in general, and gave each one a rating out of ten because I like to rate things with numbers. Here we go!

Episode 1: “Pregnant”

Alan: The second season opens with what is essentially the core of Louie. Putting his daughter to bed, Louie has to listen to her basically say she likes mom’s place better than dad’s. He listens to her talk about how much better mom is and with the innocence of a child doesn’t realize how it affects him. As she leaves, he gives her the finger.

Ife: She flat-out says that she loves her Mom more. Louie just carries on and the best part is that he doesn’t change his tone of voice or even his facial expression when he flips her off. It’s like he’s heard that more than once before. Even calling her baby. It seems to summarize their relationship. After all, in his stand-up he’s called her everything from a “bullshitter” to a “mistake” despite loving her. “I know how to look after you! You’re not dead yet!”

Alan: It’s the heart of their relationship. His stand-up has always been about how he loves his children despite knowing that his life would be better without them. It’s an honesty that I think few parents acknowledge or even understand. And it sets up the rest of the episode as well, especially the ‘mango pop’ exchange. The feeling of helplessness he feels throughout the episode, whether with trying to pass some true knowledge on to his kid, or to help his pregnant sister in pain, or to thank the neighbors, it all comes out.

Ife: You hit the nail on the head there. He seems to find solace in complaining about things because he’s essentially helpless. Look at the themes throughout the season they all have to do with control or fate in a way.. It’s always “what’s going to happen to Louie now?”, never “What will Louie do this week”. He’s a passive participant who seems to just find himself in situations he has very little power in.

Alan: Exactly. Even when he attempts to do something he is at the mercy of the situation around him. When his sister starts having pains in the middle of the night, and knowing what he knows (that she’s had a miscarriage before) he doesn’t know what to do until the neighbours knock on the door. And even then, they have to talk him down and convince him that the right thing to do, is to trust the strangers he just met and help his sister get to the hospital. Which leads to possibly the greatest fart joke I’ve seen in a long time. Was it a little crass? Sure.

Ife: It was just crass enough. I think CK loves to be isolated. He has a way of dealing with problems on his own. This is why anytime he actually has a meaningful conversation, even when it’s with someone who is mostly irrelevant, he learns all these new things about life. He loves to be isolated but when a situation happens when he must seek help he’s so useless. I liked this episode a lot because it show that with all the self-loathing he has, he has a sense of foolish pride. Indignation. He gets humbled here.

Alan: Definitely. And he acknowledges that in what was one of my favorite scenes of the entire season. The moment he says ‘I didn’t even know you were there.’ Is so true to life. We don’t know a thing about the people around us, until we need to. For all the self-loathing Louie’s onstage persona gives himself, calling him a shitty actor, he nails this scene.

Ife: This was a great way to start the season, particularly for anyone not familiar with his style or humor. I’d give the episode a well deserved 6 bouts of searing gas-pain out of 10

Alan: I’d give it a solid 7/10, mostly for the neighbors and the stuff with his kids.

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