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Found 6 results

  1. As I've been doing lately with these 2015 Academy Award nominees, I'm writing these posts as I watch the films on Amazon (using X-Ray to obtain some interesting trivia and factoids). So, as I write this about "The Big Short," I haven't even seen the opening credits. Note that Amazon gives you 30 days to begin watching your rental (which you can also cancel), but once you begin watching it, you only have 48 hours to finish - I guess this is reasonable to prevent multiple people from watching one film on one person's account, but sometimes I like to take a little longer - ah, well, compromises need to be made somewhere. Again, I recommend X-Ray for people interested in studying the film, but not for people who are easily distracted, as it could easily be a nuisance - you have your choice of pretending it's not there at all. *** SPOILERS ALERT *** You can probably assume that the rest of this post will contain various degrees of spoilers. I'll start by saying I *love* the film's opening quote by Mark Twain: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." While not entirely true, there is a ring of familiarity to it, I'm sure, affecting us all. Director Adam McKay was Head Writer for Saturday Night Live for two seasons, and has directed comedies in the past (e.g.. "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," which I'm ashamed to say I found to be quite amusing), but this is his first dramatic directorial debut. This is also the first movie of any kind that McKay has directed without Will Ferrell in the cast, which is surprising, but I really don't know much about McKay. Ferrell also co-wrote all but one of McKay's comedies, so there's definitely a close partnership here. When Dr. Burry went into Goldman Sachs and said he wanted to short the housing market, the song playing in the background was "Money Maker" by Ludacris. You will find multiple, almost random, cameos by some seriously famous people, including one very famous chef. The quote, "Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry," is great (and written just for this movie). Boy, if this film doesn't make you want to vote for Bernie Sanders, nothing will. Here are some stats flashed at the end: * 5 trillion dollars disappeared * 8 million jobs were lost * 6 million people lost their homes * And that's just in the United States * 1 person went to jail from Credit Suisse And look where we are today in 2016. I have very strong feelings about whether or not the economy should have "recovered" so quickly after "the worst financial disaster since The Great Depression," but that's for another time, another thread - I pretty much said all I have to say right here.
  2. I had two criteria for a film to watch: 1) Something Oscar-worthy (don't worry, hardcore film fans - I do not take the Academy seriously; I'm just using it as a rough guide - this is probably as annoying to you as it is for me to see people blogging about eating their way through such-and-such's list of "the 50 best restaurants" - trust me, I know how you feel, and 2) Something with which I was completely unfamiliar: "Dallas Buyers Club" fits the bill on both counts, and as of this moment, I know absolutely *nothing* about it. And here I go ... *** SPOILER ALERT *** Wow, it's amazing that I'm just over 1/3 of the way through the film, and Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is essentially gone from this Earth - I cannot imagine what awaits during the second-half of this film. I can already tell that Matthew McConaughey either won or was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award, but I'm not looking - he is amazingly convincing in his role: He must have lost over fifty pounds to play this part unless they're being extremely clever with makeup and body doubles. I'm now halfway through, and I really like this film - people who didn't have to suffer through their friends and family dying of AIDS aren't going to feel the resonance as much as people who did, but boy, I can imagine *exactly* what you felt watching this. If anyone would have asked me, "What is AZT?" before this movie started, it would have sounded familiar, but I wouldn't have been able to link it - that's like someone unfamiliar with cancer not being able to link platinum-based chemo, and this is - to put it mildly - a good refresher course of what I heard and read about in my mid-20s. Refresher course or not, there is a *zero*-percent chance that Ron could strong-arm T.J. (Kevin Rankin) for as hard or as long as he did in the grocery store. That was so distressingly unrealistic. Possible correction: I watched it a second time, and I think Ron might be grabbing T.J.'s doo-dads, which would explain things. And I *love* the friendship with Rayon (Jared Leto), and this reminds me of what turned out to be one of the most powerful subplots on "All in the Family" - the Bunker's long-lasting friendship with Beverly LaSalle. Okay, the sex scene was runner-up to "When Harry Met Sally." The moment that Denise (Denine Tyler, who's in the process of becoming famous as hell) tells Ron that the woman out in line 'doesn't have HIV; she has full-blown AIDS,' and then not ten seconds later you hear the most honorable and hilarious moaning coming from the bathroom - this is the take-home comic scene from the movie: He has sex with her because he finds out that she *does* have full-blown AIDS. Lemme tell you - humor aside, it is *so* difficult for me to watch this movie now, knowing what I know, and living what I've lived. When I was watching it "live" in the mid-1980s, I was watching it from a white, upper-middle-class, suburban, perspective: in other words, The Washington Post, the three networks, channel 5 and channel 20 - and that's the entirety of what I knew. (People who were immersed in the situation: Think about what I just said - it was like hearing about Watergate 10-15 years before ... it was this boring news story about something that was happening somewhere else, although even with that viewpoint, it was very easy (and very hard) to see the misery of the patients.) Remember Sergeant Leonard Matlovich's Time Magazine cover? "I am a homosexual." - do you remember that? That's the *only* article I remember. I wonder if Matlovich is looked upon as an unqualified hero, as a mixed-figure like Shannon Faulkner, or as something other than those two?
  3. I watched "The Man Who Knew Infinity" yesterday, and liked it very much (without loving it). I knew of Srinivasa Ramanujan, because he kept popping up on these listicles of 'Uneducated Minds That Changed the World' - I knew him as 'some uneducated genius from India with an IQ through the ceiling, and a gift for math that was nearly savant-like,' but that's all I knew of him. For the education alone, I have to give this film personal points. Two films that came to mind - very quickly - when I first started watching this were (surprisingly *not* "Good Will Hunting," even though Ramanujan is mentioned in that film, and not "A Beautiful Mind") ... anyway, they were "The English Patient" and "Shine." Why these two films, instead of the others, popped into my head, I have no idea, but they did. "The English Patient," as David Foster Wallace once emphasized, is "a slick, commercial product," and that's how I felt about "The Man Who Knew Infinity." "Shine" was released in the same year as "The English Patient" (1996), and both of these films were - remarkably and tragically - nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (incredibly, "The English Patient" actually won). I thought this film was *much* better than "Shine," maybe because I'm a better pianist than I am a mathematician, and I thought "Shine" was just impossibly stupid; this at least taught me something (I had no idea, for example, of Ramanujan's role in Combinatorics, a field I was very interested in during graduate school). While the overall execution of "The Man Who Knew Infinity" resulted in a film clearly for the masses, I enjoyed it, and I learned from it (and at the end of the day, aren't those the two chief ends of literature: to instruct and delight?) Linking this post back to the discussion we were having above about a universal base, I can't help remembering the line in the movie that went something like, 'every single positive integer is Ramanujan's personal friend.' It's interesting that "positive integers" are only "positive integers" because we use a human-based, Base-10 numbering system; in the universe-based, Base-X system I was proposing, these wouldn't even be integers. I suppose you picked up on that when you mentioned the film? Ramanujan (and really, *every* mathematician) unearthing these "universal truths" is really doing nothing more than "unearthing universal truths based on an entirely man-made product," as Base 10 is a completely arbitrary construct. Anyway, "recommendation" (if it was a recommendation) much appreciated, and I'm glad I saw the film, even if it did cost me a whopping $5.99 on Amazon Prime. (For those who haven't seen it, Dev Patel was also the star of "Slumdog Millionaire," which I suppose makes him the most famous Indian movie star in America right now.)
  4. I'm in the process of watching "Spotlight" - the Academy Award winner for Best Picture of 2015 - on Amazon.com, and am typing this as I go. A couple interesting things right off the bat: * "Spotlight" is the first picture since 1952 ("The Greatest Show On Earth") to win Best Picture, and only one other award (in this case, Best Original Screenplay). * There's a fascinating (some might say "annoying") feature on Amazon called "X-Ray," which is sort of a real-time CliffsNotes, listing who is in what scene, and occasional blurbs of trivia, as the film advances (the viewer can disable X-Ray, but I'm taking something of a studious approach to this film (surprise, surprise!), so I'm using it, despite it being a clear-and-present distraction). And yes, it *is* available on Amazon right now, but it will set you back $5.99 to watch. Okay, let me get this over with: Good picture, for sure, but not Best Picture material. I haven't seen the others in 2015, so I have nothing to compare it to, but this just isn't a Best Picture film. I can easily see how it didn't win anything else, other than Best Original Screenplay. However, I'm glad I saw it, as I was simply unaware of the magnitude of the Boston Priests cover-up. Never mind the other cities; I'm talking only about Boston, and (assuming the numbers they throw out at film's-end are true) the problem was of such enormous magnitude that I'm a better person for having seen the film - there's no way I could ever forget, now that I've seen it fully acted out. In fact, I'd say that it's miraculous that the Catholic Church survived to the extent that it did, although there's nobody to "destroy" it except its own parishioners, and they don't want that to happen, so I guess it's not all that miraculous. And quite frankly, I'm not sure the Catholic Church *is* going to survive this. The guy protesting every day on Massachusetts Avenue - I really feel sorry for him. And assuming the figures - and list of cities - at the end of the film are correct (and I'm sure they are), well, let's just say that if this was a publicly traded company, it would be shut down and disbanded. I'd love to know what others thought of the film - I can't think of a single performance that I would consider to be "outstanding" (although many were very good), and I don't understand how enough Academy members voted for this for it to win. Anybody?
  5. I have been blissfully ignorant about "A Beautiful Mind" since its release (it was released at a time when I was too occupied to care about films), and other than that "it was about some smart guy and it starred Russell Crowe," I knew nothing about it - I didn't know it was directed by Ron Howard, and I didn't know it won four Academy Awards in 2001, including Best Picture. Seventy-five minutes into this movie, I was dismissing it as "Hollywood at its worst," and then I got sucker punched - I had *no idea* that what I had spent the past hour slowly stewing over had been sending me down the wrong path. And then, I had sixty more minutes to go of "Hollywood at its most typical." I've tended to watch (and write about) movies here that are, in a sense, pure Hollywood, but they also don't take themselves too seriously, and they're essentially cheap escapism; "A Beautiful Mind" acted like it wanted to be Big and Important, and that it tried to Teach me Something, and that annoys me to no end when it doesn't work. In over two hours, I learned two things from this film: John Nash was at Princeton and won a Nobel Prize for Economics, and Insulin Shock Therapy was a modality for treating schizophrenia in the 40s and 50s. That's it. While I won't come out and say this was a "bad" movie (it wasn't), I am astonished that it won "Best Picture," but then again, why would I be? I agree with the "Best Picture" choices about 20% of the time, and all the Academy Awards are, are a celebration of "Hollywood at its most typical," which is to say, "movies for the masses." I put "A Beautiful Mind" about where I put "The English Patient" and "Shine." Do I really need to expand on this statement?
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