Da Couch Tomato

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Confessions of a Shopaholic

Romantic comedies fail to leave me unentertained. Even if the movie sucked big-time, I still feel like I at least got my money's worth for two-something hours of entertainment. So I do have a particular bias for rom-coms.

Okay, let me just blurt it out. I love romantic comedies. And I think Isla Fisher is really cute.

Despite the title, the story does not center on Isla Fisher's shopping addiction, nor on her support group Shopaholics Anonymous. It's basically a love story, more than anything else, between Ms. Fisher's character and her boss, played by Hugh Dancy. The shopaholic angle is merely a device to give the characters something to propel themselves forward with.

Isla Fisher is extremely delightful in her performance, able to pull off her sweet yet slightly dishonest character. And the lovely Kristin Scott Thomas likewise gives a splendid performance, as the heavily-accented French owner of a magazine. Veterans John Goodman and Joan Cusack play Ms. Fisher's parents, and for those who remember these two actors in their prime, you'd be surprised at how much both of them aged. You could almost feel their wrinkles while looking up at them on the screen. Anyway, everybody grows old, and one day all of us will look like that, so just be thankful we are still blessed with the recklessness of youth. One actress to look out for would be newcomer Krysten Ritter, the young, sexy, and funny lady who plays Isla Fisher's best friend. A few more movies and she'd be as busy as Ms. Fisher herself.

Some outstanding scenes in the movie include the talking store mannequins. Of course they're computer-generated. But what's great is that they were done by ILM's wizard-in-residence, Mr. John Knoll himself, who is more famous for his special effects work in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. But those scenes took only a few minutes---not enough to convert this from a rom-com to a special effects flick. So for now, we enjoy window shopping, clothing sales, and staring at Isla Fisher's cute face.

Confessions of a Shopaholic. 2009. USA.

Rating: Six out of ten.


Oscar Hangover: Pineapple Express

The riotous Seth Rogen and James Franco team up in this comedy sketch directed by Judd "The Comedy Factory" Apatow. That's three minutes and eleven seconds of Oscar gold.

"Orlando Bloom's dad in Pirates of the Caribbean..."

Best. Line. Ever.


Oscar Hangover: Winners

And the winning pics from the 81st Academy Awards.


The three winners in the acting department, sans the Joker Heath Ledger (+).

Simon Beaufoy, winner for Best Adapted Screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire.

Dustin Lance Black, Best Original Screenplay winner for Milk.

Heath Ledger's family, who accepted on his behalf the Best Supporting Actor award for The Dark Knight. May his soul rest in peace.

The beautiful Penelope Cruz (her accent is soooo cute!), winner for Best Supporting Actress for Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Kate Winslet, Best Actress winner for The Reader.

The mighty Sean Penn, now with his second acting trophy for Milk.

And finally, the king of the night himself, Danny Boyle, with his well-deserved Best Director Oscar for the excellent Slumdog Millionaire.

*photos from www.newsoftheworld.co.uk and www.tvguide.com.


Oscar Hangover: Nominees

More Oscar pics. Can't get enough.


The fabulous Amy Adams (a lot of people hated the necklace, but I didn't mind. Of course, I'm not a girl, so what would I know), with...

...Marisa Tomei, in a dress that strangely resembles some stitched-together table napkins, with...

...Taraji P. Henson, all nominees for Best Supporting Actress.

The perpetually elegant Meryl Streep, in simple gray, now with a record fifteen career nominations, and...

...the lovely Anne Hathaway (who also incidentally joined Hugh Jackman in the opening number), both nominated for Best Actress.

Sensational couple Brangelina. Mrs. Pitt was also a nominee for Best Actress, while Mr. Pitt was nominated for Best Actor, together with...

...the new and resurrected Mickey Rourke.

Josh Brolin, with the facial hair (along with wife Diane Lane), nominated together with...

...the immaculately-fresh Robert Downey, Jr. for Best Supporting Actor.

*photos from www.tvguide.com, gofugyourself.celebuzz.com, and the Associated Press.


Oscar Hangover: Performers

More pics from the 81st Academy Awards.


Of course, the host Hugh Jackman, who actually wowed us with his singing and dancing prowess.

Mamma Mia!'s Amanda Seyfried, together with...

...High School Musical's Vanessa Hudgens and...

...dancing anomaly Beyoncé, who performed a spectacular number honoring the return of the film musical.

And the dashing John Legend, who sang the theme song from Pixar's WALL-E.

*photos from www.tvguide.com, gofugyourself.celebuzz.com, www.welt.de, and the Associated Press.


Oscar Hangover: Presenters

I wish every month was Oscar season. Here are some celebrity pics.


Jennifer Aniston looked stunning when she presented with Jack Black. She carried herself well, knowing ex-hubby and hubby-stealer would be staring at her the whole time.

Anthony Hopkins, together with...

...Sir Ben Kingsley, and...

...the dashing Adrien Brody, who presented for Best Actor.

Jessica Biel, who presented some technical achievement award.

Daniel Craig, in his James Bond costume, along with...

...Sarah Jessica Parker, who presented the award for Best Art Direction, Costume Design, and Makeup. That girl behind Ms. Parker is the cute geeky girl who sat beside the guy that Jessica Biel gave that technical achievement-thingy to.

Slumdog Millionaire's Freida Pinto in a stunning blue dress, who presented with Liam Neeson for Best Foreign Language Film.

Kevin Kline (with Phoebe Cates), who along with...

...Joel Grey, presented Best Supporting Actor. I included Mr. Grey for those who, like me, don't know how he looks like.

The beautiful Marion Cotillard (I love the eyeliner!), presented Best Actress.

The always-beautiful Natalie Portman in this sweet raspberry gown, who presented Best Cinematography with the outrageous Ben Stiller.

Premiere Hollywood pothead Seth Rogen, who together with James Franco and Janusz Kaminski, presented the award for Best Live Action Short.

Tilda Swinton, in a simple but not-so-effective gown, presented the award for Best Supporting Actress, together with...

Whoopi Goldberg, in a dress straight out of the Serengeti. It would've been better if she came in her Sister Act costume.

*photos from www.tvguide.com, gofugyourself.celebuzz.com, and the Associated Press.


Slumdog Victory!

Forget my predictions, and let's just celebrate a great victory for Slumdog Millionaire.

For those who missed my blow-by-blow account on Plurk, here's a recap on the winners (in the order they were presented):

That's eight (8) awards for Slumdog, against three (3) for Button.

Here are the list of the people who presented the awards (again, in chronological order):

  • Eva Marie Saint, Anjelica Houston, Whoopi Goldberg, Tilda Swinton, and Goldie Hawn presented the Best Supporting Actress award;
  • The beautiful Tina Fey and Steve Martin presented Best Screenplay, both Original and Adapted;
  • The former Mrs. Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, and the funny Jack Black presented Best Animated Feature and Best Animated Short;
  • Daniel Craig and Sarah Jessica Parker presented Best Art Direction, Costume Design, and Makeup;
  • Ben Stiller and the gorgeous Natalie Portman presented Best Cinematography;
  • Funny men Seth Rogen and James Franco, together with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, presented Best Live Action Short;
  • Cuba Gooding, Jr., Alan Arkin, Christopher Walken, Joel Grey, and Kevin Kline presented Best Supporting Actor;
  • Bill Maher presented both Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short;
  • Will Smith presented the post-production awards for Best Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Editing;
  • Alicia Keys and Zac Efron presented Best Original Score and Best Original Song;
  • Liam Neeson and Freida Pinto presented Best Foreign Language Film;
  • Reese Witherspoon presented Best Director;
  • Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard, Shirley MacLaine, Nicole Kidman, and Halle Berry presented Best Actress;
  • Michael Douglas, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Hopkins, Robert De Niro, and Adrien Brody presented Best Actor;
  • Steven Spielberg presented Best Picture.

In ye olden days, the presenters varied per category. Now it's slightly different. Can you feel the recession?

Of course, no Oscar show is complete without the production numbers in between. Hugh Jackman's opening salvo was excellent. I never knew Wolverine could sing and dance. There's also his grand number with Beyoncé, the High School Musical couple Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, plus Amanda Seyfried and her partner from Mamma Mia!, all onstage at the same time. And finally, there's that Best Original Song number, featuring John Legend and now-Oscar winner A.R. Rahman.

If you haven't seen the ceremony, try to catch the replay. James Franco and Seth Rogen's comedy sketch, reminiscent of Pineapple Express, is absolutely hilarious.


Mayn Man Oscar Predictions

Straight Up Predictions:
(Actually these are my choices, not actual Predictions)

Best Picture
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director
Danny Boyle

Best Actor
Mickey Rourke

Best Actress
Kate Winslet

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Heath Ledger
Dark Horse: Josh Brolin

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Penelope Cruz

Best Cinematography
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Original Screenplay
Dark Horse:In Bruges

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Animated Film

I feel that Benjamin Button will be practically shut out... It's a movie good enough to be nominated so many times but not good enough to win.


Sting Lacson Oscar Predictions

Get ready for Oscar mania.

First of all, let me state that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is just like any award-giving body. You should never, ever let their choices dictate your taste in cinema.

Second, they've had more misses than I can handle. By "misses", I mean that they've been giving awards to those who don't deserve it, and they've been passing over people who truly deserved them.

Here now are my predictions for the Academy Awards.

1. Robert Downey, Jr. will not win for Best Supporting Actor. His nomination was more like Johnny Depp's nomination for Best Actor as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The Academy recognized his acting ability, but he will not win for that role. Maybe next time.

2. The Dark Knight will take home some technical awards.

3. WALL-E will win for Best Animated Feature Film.

4. If Danny Boyle wins Best Director, Slumdog Millionaire will not win Best Picture.

5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button will bring home the most trophies.

6. The Best Picture category has been narrowed down to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire. Although I love Slumdog Millionaire more, Benjamin Button will win because it's All-American. Slumdog is a really great film, but it's about India. Danny Boyle (and the whole of England for that matter), has ties with India, politically, economically, culturally. The Americans, on the other hand, have none. To majority of the American movie-going public, Slumdog Millionaire will just seem like a very good foreign film.

In analyzing this, I relied on past decisions of the Academy, where huge All-American epics set in the American south were always favored to win, and almost always brought home the prize. Taking into account the Academy's new membership, it would be no surprise at all if Benjamin Button wins. But if Slumdog wins, then the same new members would be responsible for opening Hollywood to World Cinema.

These are just predictions, ladies and gentlemen. I am not a god, and this is still anybody's ball game. As Master Yoda said, "Always in motion the future is." If my predictions do not come true, then that can only mean that the Academy's new members will soon change the way Americans view Hollywood cinema. And that is actually a good thing, as American movies desperately need a dash of foreign flavor to spice it up just a little bit.

*This post does not share the same views and opinions as the other author of this blog.


Da Couch Tomato on Jam 88.3

Tomorrow, Saturday, the 9th of February 2009, Da Couch Tomato will be on the radio. That's right. Comin' at ya live.

I used to read some poetry on Jam 88.3, but that was on Bigkas Pilipinas, which is a spoken word poetry show. Tomorrow is a totally different show, Flick of the Week, from 1-3 in the afternoon. We will be discussing the upcoming Oscars. As if we're experts on this.

Anyway, stay tuned tomorrow, and find out why Slumdog is the underdog, why Mr. and Mrs. Pitt cannot both go home with an award, and why Danny Boyle might just win for Best Director.


El Crimen del Padre Amaro

That's Padre Amaro on the left. The girl on the right is the beautiful Mexican actress Ana Claudia Talancón, who plays Padre Amaro's girl Amelia.

Kissing a girl (or having a girlfriend for that matter) was not the crime of Padre Amaro. Neither was it getting Amelia pregnant. Nor was it the failed abortion that killed her.

The corruption of priests is nothing new in our culture. The Philippines' so-called national novel Noli Me Tangere already discussed that. But this is a twenty-first century film, and to see it happening right here in our own time may cause some stirs in religious circles. As in fact it did, when conservative Catholic groups in Mexico rallied for the film not to be shown in theaters. Of course they lost, and El Crimen del padre Amaro is now the highest-grossing film in Mexican box office history. Maybe they should've just kept their mouths shut.

The film shows how priests really look like under all those robes and vestments. They are flesh and blood like all of us. They are humans. And like humans, they too have needs. There's Padre Natalio, the bearded one, more at home among guerrillas and peasants than on the altar saying Mass. Then there's Padre Benito, whose many faults include the following: lies, deceit, associating with known criminals, and using drug money to construct the community hospital. Oh, and I almost forgot─he's had a women in his bed for several years now.

Of course, Padre Amaro is no different. With a face like Gael García Bernal's, what single, attractive lady wouldn't stare at him while he's up in the altar? The film shows us that temptation is around us. Always has been, and always will be. It's up to us if we want to transcend our own humanity.

The storytelling of the movie is a bit slow, but the writer's intention is clear, although Carlos Carrera's direction tends to slow down the film's momentum. But that's no problem really, as one could argue that the sluggish pace is keeping true to how time really flies in the Mexican countryside─slow and steady, with plenty of room to err. In the acting department, however, Gael doesn't really give us an outstanding performance. Although I have no doubt about Gael's acting abilities, his performance as Padre Amaro is good, but not great. Believable, but not excellent. You get my point.

So don't go blaming it all on Padre Amaro. The crime of Padre Amaro is the crime of all priests─being human, surrounded by temptation, and not having the balls to resist them.

Rating: Seven out of ten.


Celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Great Oscar Race of '94

"Mama, Everybody's after me!"

The 1994 Oscars was one of the most memorable in its history as it was riding high on an incredible year in film. It seems that everybody decided in 1993/94 that they were coming out with their best stuff and laying it all on the line and head-to-head with the other heavyweights. For me, it was the one year where I liked every film in the Best Picture Category and in fact, was probably the only year I watched all five nominated films and not feel like it was a chore. For a moviegoer, it would probably feel like every time he came out of the theater, he would be thinking, “That was the best movie I’ve seen this year!”

The five movies lucky enough to be included in the Best Picture Category are- Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, Robert Redford’s Quiz Show and Mike Newell’s Four Weddings and a Funeral. I’m saying that they are lucky even though they seem like a lock because of how good the other movies that have been left out which includes Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway, and Gillian Anderson’s Little Women and Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, which was based on a story by Tarantino. Those four films shut out from the race could all very well get in the first five and nobody would have been surprised.

It would be surprising for some now to find out that when Forrest Gump won, not a few people thought it was a win because Gump was a safe choice. They thought then, and still do now, that Tarantino’s blood and guts opus with the compartmentalized story lines was superior to the movie about the less than average minded overachiever.

This was Tarantino’s second effort won him the Golden Palm in the Cannes Film Festival and it was blessed with great performances from John Travolta (who got paid an estimated 200K for the film; to put this in perspective, Jim Carrey was paid 7 Million for The Mask in the same year) and Samuel L. Jackson as his bible-spouting, gun-waving partner. The exceptional cast included Bruce Willis, Rosanna Arquette, Ving Rhames, Tim Roth and the ultra-sexy Uma Thurman. Tarantino’s greatest asset at that time was that it was fresh. In fact he was fresh. The movie blended violence and story telling like never before in the Western world and for most Americans, it hit them either as refreshing and bold or too violent and sending a wrong message.

For a lot of people who thought that Pulp Fiction was definitely wronged in the Oscars, they believe that the latter view slightly prevailed. There is perhaps some truth behind this argument. The Oscars of course is not purely about cinematic mastery and a lot of it involves some campaigning and a little politicking. It could be that the Academy is afraid that they would be sending the wrong message if the violent Pulp Fiction won. This was, after all, a time when parents have begun blaming media and all its forms but especially television and the movies as the reason why their children have grown disrespectful, indignant to authority and yes, violent. Cruelly enough, the same was the subject of Stone and Tarantino’s shut-out, door-slammed Natural Born Killers which starred Woody Harrelson (who turned in an impressive performance) and Juliette Lewis. The film about media focusing on a couple on a killing spree had the tagline: “The Media Made Them Superstars”. The film came out under great scrutiny from the beginning. It was a movie about the ills of a finger-pointing society and it got buried under a ton of bad press as well as society groups who didn’t want a movie to act like a mirror and show them pointing right back. Natural Born Killers had no chance when it came out in early1994 but years after, everybody looked back at it and saw their reflection.

Stone’s Killers was stylishly shot, almost MTV-like and was perhaps the flashiest film coming from the director with Any Given Sunday being a distant second. On the flip side Tim Burton’s ode to the worst director in history was shot in a much more traditional manner and was in black and white. Ed Wood is about the unlikely friendship between a slightly forgotten screen legend Bela Lugosi played masterfully by Best Supporting Actor Martin Landau and D-List director Wood, charmingly portrayed by Johnny Depp (one of the bigger Oscar snubs that year in terms of nomnations).

I have often been critical of biopics as filmmakers seem to have been able to create a template for such films when in fact they should be unique stories but in Ed Wood, Burton was able to do an interesting story about a character that most people do not really know about. Burton’s filmmaking in this movie is twice an ode to Wood as one could argue that he directed it the way Ed Wood would have made a movie. The term "Worst Director Ever" is completely untrue and it is more like an honor for Wood than anything else. Wood, as effectively portrayed by Depp, is simply a creative mind who did not have the money and equipment to pull off most, if not all, of his ideas. Burton knows this and you can see where Wood was going with his plans despite his limited arsenal. Ed Wood is a great story and if it won Best Picture that year, I wouldn’t have complained.

If there was one film that did not really deserve a spot in the top five it would be Four Weddings and a Funeral. Newell’s quirky love story starring Hugh Grant was probably the best comedy of that year not named Forrest Gump but it should not have slipped through with the likes of Ed Wood, Bulllets over Broadway and Natural Born Killers waiting in the wings. However, riding high on a BAFTA Best Picture and the immensely charming Hugh Grant, Four Weddings got through with two noms but thankfully, no wins.

While Four Weddings and a Funeral should not have been nominated for an Oscar Best Picture, Quiz Show on the other hand is firmly and rightfully where it was, a contender and nothing more. Robert Redford’s take on a real life game show controversy was based on the book Twenty One and written for the screen by Paul Attanasio. Attanasio would then make a career at adapting great books into movies with the likes of Disclosure, Donnie Brasco and The Sum of All Fears. The movie was an interesting take on game shows and I would be surprised if such things did not happen much more often. Herbie Stempel was the long-time winner of the game show 21 when he was challenged by Charles Van Doren, a gentleman of relative fame as the son of a Nobel Prize winner. As it turns out, the game show producers gave the answers to the winner a few days before the taping for them to study. Everything falls apart in the scheme when the producers chose Van Doren to be the next winner replacing Stempel who felt like a used prostitute being shown the door. In a movie that really requires strong performances from the actors to make the story more interesting and exciting, Redford was able to get such from his leads, John Turturro as the uncharismatic Herbie Stempel and Ralph Fiennes as Charles Van Doren. Turturro’s capability of being in Adam Sandler movies without losing his credibility as a dramatic actor can be traced to his astounding performance in this movie. You feel sad for him at times but at the same time you somehow feel that it is just about right that he’s replaced by Van Doren who was played impressively by Fiennes who was just hitting his stride as a big time actor in Hollywood after his supporting role in Schindler’s List. I would imagine that in those days, it would be like replacing a ratings downer with the new stud. Even if you knew what happened, you would ultimately be asked, “Well, who would you rather see? Charles Van Doren, the handsome son with the great lineage or Herbie Stempel, the outcast nerd who you would try to avoid when you’re inviting people to a party?” Redford’s movie was wonderful and yes, it had great performances, but it was simply that kind of year.

If Pulp Fiction fans thought that their movie was snubbed out of an Oscar, then so should the fans of The Shawshank Redemption. Unfortunately, at that time, Shawshank was a box office flop and there were not many fans who knew about it. In Charles Barkley’s book Who's Afraid of a Big Black Man, Morgan Freeman said that The Shawshank Redemption was probably the best movie he did with the worst title ever. He said that some people couldn’t even pronounce it and that basically kills the word of mouth momentum that drives up the box-office. The film was based on Stephen King’s novel Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and perhaps they cut off the wrong end of the title on that one. Still it was an unbelievable film helmed by first time director Frank Darabont. Darabont’s film about a wrongfully convicted man (Tim Robbins) and his friendship with a longtime prisoner (Morgan Freeman) and his influence over the entire prison was a true work of art and is an incredible achievement for a first-time director. It’s like building an F1 right after you graduate from mechanical engineering. In the Special Features section of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Darabont said that he watched Goodfellas everyday that they shot Shawshank. For him it was the continuity and the fluidity of the shots that impressed him the most about the movie and the same could be said with his own film. It is unforgivable that the film which had seven nominations was not given a single win by the Academy. Freeman was nominated but Robbins was snubbed as well as Bob Gunton who portrayed the power-driven Warden Norton.

Robbins was great in the role of Andy Dufresne, a banker who got convicted of killing his cheating wife. With his goofy grin and innocent demeanor, Robbins’ portrayal was effective and showed to the viewer that even if he did kill his wife, such act should at least be forgivable. The best thing about the movie is the chemistry between Andy and Red, portrayed brilliantly by Morgan Freeman. Freeman, in an Oscar-nominated performance, played off of Robbins’ Andy and it was like watching one of the best screen duos ever. I often wish there were more scenes that showcased their friendship as it was that good a combo. Shawshank would go on to have a cult following and would be influential to a lot of movies and TV shows and Darabont would be hailed as a genius after only one feature. If you check out imdb.com right now, it registers at No. 1 in their ratings. Just like Scorsese’s Goodfellas, his work is looked upon by many aspiring filmmakers for inspiration.

The case against Forrest Gump for Best Picture would have been more legitimate had it not been for the fact that Robert Zemeckis’ film was also a masterpiece. Indeed, Zemeckis’ opus was brilliant in all aspects of filmmaking. It had a wonderful script written by Eric Roth (The Insider, Horse Whisperer, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) which he adapted from the popular book by Winston Groom. It had Zemeckis’ deft directing touch which I believe he perfected in the Back to the Future trilogy. It had highlight after highlight of scenes and the performances of the actors were nothing less than extraordinary. Tom Hanks was just a year off of his Oscar win in Philadelphia and was on fire as a performer. Hanks has always been extremely likeable and the role was perfect for his character. People need a leading man that they can relate to and in Hanks, people seem to relate to him no matter what he does. He’s the everyman of this generation. He’s not overly handsome that people sometimes find annoying as if it is a fault. He doesn’t have great physique nor is he the most talented of actors. Yet in every movie you can watch him and think that you can be in that role and in that situation and do exactly what he does. If there was a connectivity meter for actors, out of a hundred, Hanks would register a solid 95. (Other actors? Cruise would be a 60 and Ford would be an 85).

The great acting affected negatively the other supporting actors however when it came to awards. While everybody did a splendid job, all it meant was the votes would be split when it comes to nominations and most especially, wins. Sally Field and Robin Wright-Penn did not have leading role status and both did not get nominated for Best Supporting which went to Diane Weist. Gary Sinise was able to edge out Mykelti Williamson for the supporting actor nomination but lost out to Landau.

Zemeckis had great material to begin with and had great actors to bring it to life. The whole movie connected with the movie going public and became, at that time, the highest-grossing comedy of all time.

So in 1994 we had these great films coming out which were all likeable for a lot of reasons. People would always remember it as Gump vs. Fiction but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Some, like The Shawshank Redemption, were unfortunate to be nominated in a category where others are extremely strong, such as the Adapted Screenplay category or the Best Actor category as it lost out to Forrest Gump. Others may have affected a lot of people the wrong way such as Pulp Fiction and Natural Born Killers. (One more thing about why Fiction lost: ask anyone on the street what the plot was all about and I guarantee you 8 out of 10 would not remember. That’s not good.) Some movies just weren’t seen by enough people to have any momentum going (Quiz Show, Shawshank Redemption). Ultimately, the movies of 1994 brought so much to the table that anyone who was hungry for a great movie experience will definitely have something to satisfy them.

Looking back, if it were up to me to choose the winners, I would not have changed anything but I’ll probably lose my mind while thinking about the Best Supporting Actor category which should be a three-way tie between Jackson, Sinise and Landau. I would also think of a way to recognize Shawshank Redemption.

1994 should be remembered for all of these movies and all the actors who were elevated up a notch or two due to their performances. The year brought to a new level Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Sinise, Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Grant, Morgan Freeman and Woody Harrelson, all of which are familiar superstar names today but weren’t at that time. For that, we have 1994 to thank for. It was an incredible year in film, not just two films, and that’s what it should be remembered for.

Forrest Gump 10/10
The Shawshank Redemption 10/10
Ed Wood 10/10
Natural Born Killers 8/10
Four Weddings and A Funeral 9/10
Quiz Show 9/10
Pulp Fiction 9/10


T4xi (Taxi 4)

Let's make it clear first: this is the original Taxi series, the French one. Not the lousy American remake starring Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah.

This is the fourth film in the franchise, and almost everyone in the original cast is back, including director Gérard Krawczyk. We still have the same taxi driver Daniel, played by Samy Naceri, who this time drives a Peugeot 407, unlike the previous three films where he drove a 406. We also have Frédéric Diefenthal who reprises his role as the klutzy cop Émilien, and who is still married to his hot cop-wife Petra. And of course we have the extremely funny Bernard Farcy, still as the police Commissaire Gibert.

Although the story is still written by the legendary Luc Besson, whose fascination for fast cars gave birth to the Transporter franchise, the humor has somewhat diminished, and the adrenaline-pumping car chase sequences of the previous three films were not carried over. The funniest character in the whole movie is still definitely Bernard Farcy, whose mere facial expressions guarantee laugh-out-loud moments.

All in all, T4xi is a watchable film. Not as good as its predecessors, but a welcome break from the normal Hollywood comedies.

Rating: Six out of ten.



“My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you!” So goes Harvey Milk’s catchphrase in his public speeches.

In the 2003 Academy Awards, we saw one of the clearest evidence that Oscars are given, at times at least, a few years late. Sean Penn won for Mystic River, a performance that was great but not exceptional. This is why everybody saw that he won for the film for which he was nominated for two years before, I Am Sam, where he played a retardate who just wants to keep her daughter. That role was as Academy-ready as possible and he performed brilliantly and surpassed everyone’s expectations. As we all know however, he lost to Denzel Washington, who ironically enough should have won for 1999’s Hurricane.

This year he’s nominated again for the role of Harvey Milk in director Gus Van Sant’s film bio on the first ever openly homosexual person voted into major office. The film starts off right in the middle of Milk’s life, the eve of his 40th birthday and it is probably so since, as he himself claims, “Forty years old and I haven’t done a single thing.” On the same night he hooks up with a much younger gay man in Scott Smith, played by James Franco, and the two are off for an adventure that lands them in a section in San Francisco called Castro or The Castro where their openly gay lifestyle caused immediate problems for the conservative majority in the city. Their photography shop becomes the watering hole of gays in the community and after one of their friends fell victim to a hate crime and subsequently uninvestigated by the local police, it dawns on Milk that he should run for public office to represent his people.

The film was beautifully shot and the old pictures mixed with new footage puts a great nostalgic touch to things. The acting, besides that of Penn is equally impressive and there are at least three other actors who were exceptional.

Franco evokes the quiet desperation of a lover who gets pushed to the side as his partner becomes more and more powerful. Franco has got to be one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood today. In two years, he was in a superhero movie, a stoner flick and now in a drama/biopic.

If there was a Best Actor of the Year Award (and there really should be) honoring an actor’s performance for the entire year, then Josh Brolin should be a lock to get that award after his work in W and as Dan White in this movie (and if you add No Country for Old Men…my God.) White should be the bad guy but Brolin was able to show why his acts were somewhat understandable and basically tells us that in the real world, some guys are not bad but they are just in a bad situation. (By the way, look out for the scene where White gets drunk and confronts Milk. Truly one of the best scenes in the movie.)

Lastly there’s Emile Hirsch who has so far had a short roller coaster ride of a career with highs such as Into the Wild and Lords of Dogtown and the summer flop eye candy that nobody wanted to eat, Speed Racer. Hirsch is closely following in the footsteps of Ewan McGregor and Dogtown co-star Heath Ledger who are ultimately believable in every role they play. Hirsch plays Cleve Jones, Milk’s top adviser and I never found out it was him until I saw the credits.

The film is not without its faults however, and I think Van Sant should take the blame for it. Van Sant started with Milk recording a speech about his life as he expected to be assassinated at anytime. For a while however the scene where he spoke to the recorder was a bit distracting as it cuts between scenes in the first few minutes then disappears altogether for the next half hour only to come back repeatedly in the next fifteen. The speech talks about things that can already be seen in the movie anyway so it is utterly useless. Van Sant ultimately put that part because he thought, “Wow, here’s a guy talking about his death and he does die!” He thought it would tie things up neatly but instead it becomes an excess bow.

In a biopic, the story always tries to show that the guy is human and makes mistakes just like the rest of us. In a way, Van Sant went overboard a little as White seems more like a sincere if desperate soul that is at the end of his rope and Milk turns out to be much more of a traditional power wielding politician. This turns into a problem because the sympathy of the viewer shifts from the title character to the other person.

Thank God he has Penn who has been on a roll in the last few years. I would not go so far as to say that it was Penn’s best performance ever (for now that’s reserved for I Am Sam) but it is damn near the top and better than most. Penn is a clever actor and knows when to shift the character’s perspective. Milk turning into a traditional politician may not be a mistake after all because maybe that’s exactly how Milk turned out in real life. I trust Penn to know when the portrayal is not being truthful to the character and if he says that’s what happened then I’ll buy it.

Should Penn win the Academy Award this year then? Maybe. He’s in my top two right now along with Rourke. The Oscars has just as much to do with marketing and campaigning as much as acting. His portrayal speaks for itself. He’s Harvey Milk and he’s here to recruit you… for an Oscar.

8 out of 10 Stars


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