Monday, November 30, 2009

Behind the Scenes of 'Up in the Air'

Check out the following videos that go behind the scenes of Jason Reitman's Up in the Air. The first video is an interview with Best Supporting Actress contender Vera Farmiga and the other two videos present behind the scenes footage.

Videos: Courtesy of Making Of

Another trailer has debuted for the highly-anticipated Nine, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and a slew of big name actresses that are all fighting for nominations in the Best Supporting Actress category. Give it a watch below.

Note: This film was reviewed for the "1001 Movies You Must See" Club. Click here to read the reviews of other members.   

The Coen brothers first made a name for themselves way back in 1984 with the dark film noir Blood Simple. Their second film, Raising Arizona (directed by Joel, co-written by Joel and Ethan), is something that goes in a very different direction. While the elements of crime are still involved, this film is primarily a quirky, screwball comedy. This film is about as plot-thin as they come, but the fact that it contains any entertainment value whatsoever is a testament to the filmmakers and the performers. 

H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) is a convenient store thief who has been in and out of prison for years. He doesn't seem to mind it until he begins pining for Ed (Holly Hunter), a policewoman he has grown close to over the years. After several trips in and out of prison, H.I. decides to settle down, and he proposes to Ed. She happily accepts, and the law breaker and the law enforcer tie the knot. You might wonder why the Coens choose to breeze through so much story in so little time (in fact, H.I.'s entire prison life, and his courtship of Ed, lasts no more than ten minutes). Well, it's because there is a certain marital issue that is taking front stage in this film. 

After H.I. and Ed move into their own trailer, and have clearly settled in nicely, the wife voices her desire to have a child. The two are ecstatic about the idea of raising a kid together, and they try and try again, but it turns out that Ed is in fact barren. But she's a fighter, and she's going to try everything she can. 

When the couple sees on the news that a local furniture salesman named Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson) has had quintuplets with his wife, Ed doesn't hesitate to ask H.I. to steal one of them. She isn't a thief in her own mind, but an unlucky woman that deserves the opportunity to be a mother. Needless to say, adoption opportunities didn't work out so well, so this could be her only chance. She is able to convince herself that Mr. Arizona and his wife cannot possibly raise five kids on their own, and H.I. hops along the bandwagon and snatches one of the boys, Nathan Jr. 

When things are starting to look on the bright side, two escaped convicts (John Goodman and William Forsythe) show up to set up camp at the McDunnough household. Things only go downhill from there as these convicts, H.I.'s supervisor Glen (Sam McMurray), and a beast of a bounty hunter (played by Randall "Tex" Cobb) all throw their own little curveballs at the McDunnough family. 

The story is a very weak one, especially coming from the Coen brothers, but their skills as filmmakers is on full display. They drag out every shot as long as possible, and while that does often result in some slow patches and annoying, drawn-out sequences, it's tough not to appreciate how great this film is to look at. 

Cage and Hunter both do fantastic jobs, even though their characters are terribly under-written. When you take into account the tone and feel of this film, it's tough to take any of the characters seriously, but these two actors certainly do to their best to compensate. Raising Arizona is an uneven sophomore effort from the Coens to say the least, but there is enough here to please their faithful fans and possibly some other moviegoers along the way.

There are a handful of rare occasions in which a director and an actor get together to discuss a film, and everything matches. Their vision, their personality, their work ethic, their style, their courage and confidence. When this relationship clicks, the results most often transcend the words on the page. Think about Darren Aronofsky directing Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, Tim Burton collaborating with Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and, of course, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. With Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, we can add another duo to the list: Werner Herzog and Nicolas Cage.

What most of these films have in common is that story and plot seem to be secondary to everything else. Sure, Cage plays a cop named Terence McDonagh looking for the man who killed five illegal Senegalese immigrants, but this information isn't really all that important. It simply provides a brief outline for Herzog, allowing him to put his signature on the film's brooding atmosphere. A dark, depressed, broken-down, post-Katrina New Orleans in which bookies, drug dealers, and hookers seem to outnumber the community lemonade stands about 100 to one. There is nothing cheery about this environment, and the gloominess is only emphasized more by the consistently cloudy skies.

After McDonagh injures his back during an impulsive act of heroism -- much to the dismay of his partner Stevie Pruit (Val Kilmer) -- he not only becomes addicted to the prescription pain medication, but he also begins a far worse habit of smoking and snorting anything that comes into his sight. His one salvation seems to be Frankie Donnenfeld (Eva Mendes). She's a hooker, and even though most of their bonding moments occur over the smoke of a pipe, it's obvious that the two share a deep connection.

Cage portrays McDonagh as a ticking time bomb. He's a restless man on the verge of insanity; a perfect role for the actor. McDonagh is a man who doesn't sleep, not because he has insomnia or some other sleeping disorder, but because he just has too much on his plate. When he's not working on the case, he's out doing drugs. When he's not doing drugs, he's out looking for drugs, usually by theft or assault. When he's not with Frankie, he's out making bets with money he doesn't have.

This guy's life is a pure disaster, and it's a pleasure to see Cage embody the role. Herzog's controversial and fearless direction is a perfect match for Cage, and it results in the actor's best performance in years. To put it simply, these are the types of roles that Nicolas Cage was born to play. He carries this film on his hunched shoulders from start to finish, and in a perfect world, he would have an Oscar nomination to add to his resume.

However, despite all of this praise for the actor and the director, it is worth noting how off-putting this film can be at times. Cage and Herzog are a relentless team and there are many scenes that caused people to walk out of the theater. "This wasn't the right call for us," I heard one audience member say. If you're going to see this film -- which you should -- let me just tell you to go in with a relaxed attitude. This isn't a film that needs to be analyzed scene by scene, shot by shot, but just experienced as a whole. If you walk out of the theater analyzing the quirky plot twists and outlandish drug use, I think you are looking at this film the wrong way. Now I'm not saying that this is a stupid film. I'm just saying that if you sit back and let Cage do his thing, you will have one hell of a time.

Note: This film was reviewed for the "1001 Movies You Must See" Club. Click here to read the reviews of other members.  

There have been many great films that have successfully portrayed the corruption of the corporate world. Oliver Stone's Wall Street is a prime example; a dark, merciless film. Billy Wilder chose to go in a different route with The Apartment and create a seemingly light-hearted, energetic film that effortlessly embodies the tone of its protagonist. It is, however, something much more on the inside, and I suspect that was one of Wilder's main motivations.

Jack Lemmon stars as a ball of energy named C.C. Baxter, a determined insurance worker willing to do almost anything to move up the corporate ladder. He isn't a bad man, but he doesn't quite have the courage to say no when several of the company managers ask to use his apartment to satisfy their extramarital desires. While these men are drinking his liquor, eating his food, and using his bed, Baxter is usually working late, doing any possible thing to impress his superiors. Of course, these men never finish on time and Baxter is forced to wait outside in the cold many a night.

The extreme irony that Wilder creates with this situation is that while Baxter's neighbors, such as Dr. Dreyfuss (Jack Kruschen), think that this man is a womanizing party animal, he is in reality one of the loneliest men in the office. The only person he has any real, honest conversation with is Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), the elevator lady. They see each other no more than two minutes a day, but we sense that those are the minutes Baxter looks forward to the most. 

One day, Baxter is called into Mr. Sheldrake's (Fred MacMurray) office to discuss his promotion. Sheldrake has been hearing his executives glorify this Baxter fellow for months, and he wants to get to the bottom of it. He knows there is something going on, and once he gets Baxter to admit to it, all Baxter needs to do to secure that promotion is give Sheldrake a piece of the pie.

The performances in this film are pitch-perfect. Lemmon, MacLaine, and MacMurray -- all who received Oscar nominations -- embody their roles perfectly. Watching Lemmon's Baxter live this double life is not only a pleasure, but it feels realistic. While Baxter is doing something illegal, Wilder presents the character as a sound gentleman. Is it to show that even the best of us can be corrupted by money? That's probably some of it, but I think Wilder is also trying to draw the differences between appearances and reality. 

All three main characters are living double lives. The aforementioned Baxter is an energetic, determined man, but his neighbors see him as a low-life playboy. Kubelik is a charmer at the office, brightening the days of any man that steps into her elevator. Her pleasant demeanor is contagious among the workers, but her personal life is not exactly a dignified one. Mr. Sheldrake is a happily-married father, a hard-working executive, but has a troubling past that never seems to go away. All three of these characters are so well-defined that you can't help but care what happens to them. Some win our sympathy and some don't, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't want things to work out for C.C. Baxter.

With The Apartment, Billy Wilder has created a template for successfully intermixing several different genres. There is comedy, drama, suspense, and romance, and they are all used in the right spots at the right times. The three terrific performances don't hurt either. At the very least, on the outside, this film is an entertaining two hours. But like I said before, if you look deep enough, you will find something special here.   

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oscar Prediction Charts (Updated 11/26/09)

Best Picture:

1. "Up in the Air" (TrailerRotten Tomatoes)
2. "Precious" (My Review, Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
3. "The Hurt Locker" (My Review, Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
4. "Invictus" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
5. "Nine" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
6. "Up" (My ReviewTrailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
7. "An Education" (My Review, Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
8. "Inglourious Basterds" (My Review, Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
9. "A Serious Man" (My ReviewTrailerRotten Tomatoes)
10. "Avatar" (TrailerRotten Tomatoes)
11. "Bright Star" (My Review, Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
12. "The Lovely Bones" (TrailerRotten Tomatoes)
13. "Avatar" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
14. "A Single Man" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
15. "Crazy Heart" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
16. "The Road" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
17. "The Last Station" (TrailerRotten Tomatoes)
18. "500 Days of Summer" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
18. "Star Trek" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
19. "District 9" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
20. "Broken Embraces" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
21. "Where the Wild Things Are" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
22. "Julie & Julia" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)

Earlier this year, Kathryn Bigelow delivered a revelatory piece of filmmaking titled The Hurt Locker, which is arguably the best Iraqi war film to date. It's a focused, action-packed thrill ride that never loses any steam from start to finish. On the contrary, Oren Moverman's The Messenger isn't concerned with the hardships of war on the battlefield, but rather with the difficulties that occur back home. It's a strikingly uneven film that is often overly-ambitious in terms of how much conflict is created, but given the great performances of everyone involved, and the many moments of relentless emotion, this is another Iraqi war film worth seeing.

In a riveting performance, Ben Foster stars as Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery, a soldier who has returned from Iraq after suffering a life-threatening injury in battle. He is clearly out of place back home as he struggles to reconnect with his lover Kelly (Jena Malone). Things get even worse as he is asked to work alongside Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) in the Army's Casualty Notification Unit.

Thus sets the stage for some of the year's most emotionally effective scenes. Several times throughout the film, Montgomery and Stone show up at the doorsteps of a deceased soldier's family, never knowing what type of reaction they will receive. Although Movermon uses a lot of these scenes in the movie, each one offers a different perspective on possible familial situations, and represents the vast range of emotions these that these families could experience.

One reaction Stone and Montgomery never thought they would receive after delivering the news is a polite voice and a couple of handshakes, but that is exactly what Olivia Pitterson (the excellent Samantha Morton) gives them. Stone is happy enough to walk away confused, but Montgomery isn't willing to walk out of this woman's life without knowing more. It's a tough thing -- to put it lightly -- to ask a soldier to inform someone of a loved one's death and then walk away without any feeling of hesitation or sympathy, and it is safe to say that Will isn't ready to make that type of commitment to the Casualty Notifications Unit. He tries, much to the dismay of Stone, to treat these people like human beings and not arbitrary names on a sheet of paper.

Moverman and co-writer Alessandro Camon have a very effective set-up story, but as the film goes on it seems that they keep wanting to accomplish more and more. As a result, this movie does jump around a lot and have somewhat of an unfocused feel to it, but as ineffective as Moverman is in keeping things simple, he is even more effective in getting great performances from his actors.

The director chooses to shoot a lot of the film's most emotional scenes -- whether they are between Foster and Morton or Foster and Harrelson -- with very little cuts, resulting in an almost overwhelmingly intimate feel. It's fascinating how much we get inside these characters with actually knowing very little about them. Foster's remarkably complex portrayal tells us so much about this character with very little dialogue. Although he does open up in a brilliant scene with Woody Harrelson, he is relatively closed-mouthed throughout, which makes the sympathy he earns all the more rewarding.

Harrelson's Stone is also a fierce man, but much more of a free spirit than Montgomery. The actor makes his character seem as if he could be a man in control of his emotions, when in reality is really just as depressed as any other man in his position would be. Like Foster, he keeps his emotions in check as long as possible until he just can't help himself anymore.

In all truth, The Messenger is a very uncomfortable film. From the harrowing front-door scenes to the grave moral dilemma that Will and Olivia face, there aren't many moments in this film that make you feel relaxed. There haven't been many scenes this year that seem intense when compared to the unbelievable suspense of seeing Foster and Harrelson waiting on those family's doorsteps. As a whole, Moverman's effort isn't the most polished, but the fearless performances and the brilliance of some of the aforementioned sequences make this film one that deserves to be seen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Couple of Clips From 'Up in the Air'

Get a little taste of Jason Reitman's upcoming Oscar contender. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quick Thoughts on 'The Messenger'

The Messenger is one of the best-acted films of the year. Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, Samantha Morton, and even Steve Buscemi in a small role as a father are all in top form. Foster's performance is remarkably complex and he does a fantastic job. The film overall, while certainly worth-seeing, is nevertheless uneven and unfocused. There is a lot going on in this film that it's tough to tell what the main purpose was. I still recommend it for the acting, and this film does have some scenes of remarkable power.

My full review will be up later this week. Check out the trailer and an interview with Woody Harrelson below. 

With Oscar season in full-swing and pundits' predictions being changed each and every day, we are once again faced with the seemingly yearly question: Will the Pixar film be nominated for Best Picture? Last year it was WALL-E, in 2007 it was Ratatouille, and this year it is Up. All three films have certainly received good enough reviews to be among the final nominees, but up until this point, only Beauty and the Beast (1991) has received a Best Picture nomination as an animated film. 

The Academy did something very peculiar this year by expanding the number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. Ever since that happened, Up has seemed like a lock for a Best Picture nomination, but the film's buzz has continuously died down since its release back in late May. I can't help but thinking that it will get passed over for a nomination, and how scary would that be? In other words, if the Academy doubles the number of Best Picture nominees and still doesn't find room for Up -- easily one of the year's best reviewed films -- among them, then when will we ever see another animated film in the Best Picture category?

If Up does indeed get looked over in the Best Picture category, it could still win the Animated Feature Oscar, right? Sure, but does that even count for anything? It seems to me that the Academy created this category so they would have the luxury of passing up these films when coming up with their Best Picture nominees. There is no doubt that more than a handful of animated films in the past decade have been successful enough -- critically and commercially -- to warrant Best Picture nominations, yet most of them have had to settle for the Animated Feature Oscar.

When it comes right down to it, it is almost a pity award. I find it very unlikely that Andrew Stanton (WALL-E, Finding Nemo) and Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) have accepted their Oscars without the slightest bit of disappointment. In the end, I see that Oscar as almost worthless. It's basically the Academy saying, "We're not going to nominate you for Best Picture, but we are going to create a category with three nominees so we can recognize your film". Who even cares at that point? I would be surprised to find a strong WALL-E supporter from last year that didn't feel any anger when Andrew Stanton accepted his Oscar. 

What I'm getting at here is simply this: Should this category be eliminated? I think it should. The Academy needs to stop being let off the hook and start making some bold decisions. Maybe I'm misreading things, but if I was a director accepting an Animated Feature Oscar for my film, I would be feeling much more contempt than affection towards the Academy. 

With the release of The Twilight Saga: New Moon this weekend, it is unlikely that Robert Pattinson fans will be thinking about his upcoming film Remember Me, but maybe they should. After watching the trailer, I feel that this film has some real potential. Pattinson looks very good along with the rest of his excellent cast, which includes Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, and Emilie de Ravin. 

The film is set to be released on February 12, 2010.  

Remember Me in HD

Trailer Park | MySpace Video

Pete Docter's Up is a film that seems to transcend all of its previous animated predecessors in certain sequences, but also give into formula at other times. It's a somewhat unfocused effort as Doctor and his co-writer Bob Peterson clearly do more than just recognize the film's adult themes, but they also seem to sacrifice some of the story in order to make the majority of the movie watchable for the young ones. What ultimately makes this film one of Pixar's best is how powerful the emotions truly are. Despite all of the adventure and the often-times predictable humor, this is a film that is more moving than any other animated piece I have seen before.

The first sequence of the film is one of those scenes that stands above everything else in the film. In fact, if I was recommending this film to someone, I would simply say that you should see mainly for the first ten minutes. Rarely do films start off gunning for the audience's emotional core, but the way this movie goes about doing that works perfectly. 

Ellie and Carl are childhood friends that share a similar passion for exploring. They spend their time not only idolizing their heroes such as Charles Muntz (Christopher Plummer), but also sketching out future plans of their own.

These two stay together as they get older and eventually get married. Docter and co-writer Bob Peterson choose to present Carl (Edward Asner) and Ellie's adult relationship without dialogue, and we're all the better for it. The couple tries their best to save up for their dream trip to Paradise Falls, but they run into many other problems that take first priority.

Before Carl knows it, he is a 78-year-old widower who spends his days locked up alone in his house. He inevitably reflects on his life and on all of the life goals he never fulfilled. Using his skills as a balloon man, he decides to take the journey to Paradise Falls in an attempt to find something that is worth living for. While there is a lot of excitement in his decision, we sense he is leaving almost more out of necessity for a reason to stay alive. 

Unbeknownst to Carl, an 8-year-old Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai) has stowed away in his floating house. The last thing Carl wanted during this adventure was some chatty 8-year-old kid staying in his house, but he really can't do anything about it when they are floating around thousands of miles above our heads. When the two land near Paradise Falls, it is up to these two to complete the last leg of the journey. 

Carl and Russell go through a handful of adventures together, most of them heart-warming, but a couple that I could have done without. Nevertheless, the bonding that occurs between these two characters isn't forced; it develops over a steady amount of time and it feels as genuine as every other emotion in this film.

I did have some difficulties with the latter portion of the film that was filled with airplane-jumping and people-chasing rather than focusing on the emotional development of Carl and Russell's relationship. I will not say what conflict causes the over-extended action sequence towards the end, but it suffices to say that I didn't really buy it.

In the end, Up is a film that can be appreciated for the skill in which it develops its main characters so well in only an hour and a half. What results are emotions that I never thought I would feel in an animated film. I wasn't particularly impressed with 2008's WALL-E, and I felt that this was going to be another Pixar film that didn't work for me, but I came away more than impressed.

Time will tell if Up is able to squeeze out a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, but with the expansion to ten nominees, it is certainly a strong contender. It's beautiful, funny, moving, and memorable, and it is a film that is very tough to dislike. Even though some of the adventure sequences and humor are predictable and corny, the film as a whole is well-worth watching, and one that I wouldn't mind seeing among the Best Picture nominees. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Batch of Movies To Keep Your Eye On

With the Oscar season in full swing, there are those films that have been placed among the contenders, or have given away their spots, but there are also still many films that have yet to be seen by large amounts of people. Movies such as The Lovely Bones, Nine, Invictus, and Avatar are films that could potentially throw off everyone's Oscar charts if they don't end up doing as well as predicted.

There are also a couple of quiet films that could make an impact. The three performances from The Messenger -- Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, and Samantha Morton -- are all ones that are legitimate Oscar dark horses. In addition, Jeff Bridges has come out of nowhere to look like the man to beat for Best Actor right now after the strong buzz he has received for his performance in Crazy Heart.

Even though some of the season's most anticipated films, such as Precious, A Serious Man, and An Education have all been fully discussed, there are still many films to look forward to. 

Check out some of my selections below.



Crazy Heart


The Lovely Bones

The Messenger


Sherlock Holmes

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Have You Seen 'My Big Fat Obnixous Boss'?

This past weekend, re-runs of the hilarious reality show My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss played on the Fox Reality Channel. I bring this up because this was a very controversial show back when it first aired in 2004 on Fox, and as a result, it was cut short, and not seen by many people.

To give you a brief summary of the show -- and make the controversy quite clear -- this show is basically a fake parody of The Apprentice. A group of actors, the lead one being William August, portray executives at a fake company called "IOCOR". According the the boss N. Paul Todd (August), IOCOR is a multi-billion-dollar venture capital firm that any up and coming star in the business world would want a job at.

So, twelve of the most promising business people in the country apply for a spot on this show thinking it could win them an executive position at a multi-billion-dollar company. In reality, the company they are fighting for is completely fake.

In preparation for Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, I have taken the opportunity to brush up on the director's previous two films. I recently reviewed the spot-on satire Thank You for Smoking and I have seen Juno enough times to know just how good it is. One performance from Thank You for Smoking which stuck out for me -- besides Aaron Eckhart in the lead role -- was J.K. Simmons as Eckhart's boss. It got me to realizing just how many films this guy has been in and just how good he is all the time.

This is an actor who hasn't had any notable lead roles, but when it comes to a solid supporting performance, there are few people better. In one of his first performances, way back in 1994, he played a corrupt military official in the very funny film The Ref. This is a black comedy that I typically watch every holiday season, and Simmons' performance -- along with the rest of those in the film -- never seem to get old.

The supporting role that really seemed to catapult this actor's career is Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man franchise. I haven't met one person that doesn't get a smile on their face when Tobey Maguire goes into Jameson's office. He has been a highlight of the franchise since the first film in 2002 and hasn't lost any steam.

Monday, November 16, 2009

'Crazy Heart' Trailer

We finally have a trailer for the much-hyped Jeff Bridges vehicle, Crazy Heart. The film stars Bridges as Bad Blake, a old, broken-down country singer living in isolation, but when he is discovered by a journalist named Jean, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, he gets a chance at salvation.

The trailer doesn't really show much, but the song in the background is beautiful and I got the sense that the premise and the cast is so good that this film will be easy to like. Bridges looks like a strong contender for Best Actor right now, and with the recent announcement that Gyllenhaal will be push for Best Actress, this could be a film that scores multiple nominations.

Thank You for Smoking is a razor-sharp piece of satire from writer/director Jason Reitman that starts off funny, biting, and clever, and never loses a beat. Aaron Eckhart stars in this adaption of a Christopher Buckley novel as Nick Naylor, the Vice President and chief spokesperson for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, and he is basically the blueprint of what they are looking for. Here is a man not concerned with morals, values, or ethics, but rather the plain beauty of argument. 

Nick has a complex relationship with the public to say the least. The film's opening scene starts off as Nick is being booed at relentlessly by the television crowd as he sits next to a teenage boy dying of cancer, and it ends with Mr. Naylor drawing cheers and laughs as he makes a fool out of a representative of Senator Ortolan Finistirre of
Vermont (William H. Macy). 

Nick's private life is also of much interest. Once a week, he meets with the "Merchants of Death" -- Polly Bailey (Maria Bello) and Bobby Jay Bliss (David Koechner) -- to discuss each other's death totals. Neither Polly's alcohol nor Jay's firearms industry can match the death total of Nick's tobacco. And he seems to take great pride in that. 

He is also divorced from his wife, but that doesn't stop him from influencing his son, Joey (Cameron Bright). In fact, when Nick is encouraged by his bosses BR (J.K. Simmons) and “The Captain” (Robert Duvall) to take a trip to
California, Joey uses his newly-learned persuasive skills to convince his mother to let him go with. 

Once in
California, Nick's main purpose is to meet with Hollywood superagent Jeff Megall (Rob Lowe) to discuss bringing cigarettes back into the movies. Nick's thought process is that once cigarettes are back in the hands of Catherine Zeta Jones and Brad Pitt, they will be irresistible once again.  

On top of all this, Nick is engaging in an affair with a reporter named Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes), while people like Senator Finistirre are losing sleep over how to bring this guy down. It’s hard to believe how far Nick can push his luck and not have a single thing happen to him.

Aaron Eckhart really is a pleasure in this film. Reitman's script is so sharp, so smart --satirically brilliant even -- and the way Eckhart delivers the material is priceless. Every scene is smarter and cleverer than the one before it, and as a result, the film never drags. 

The interesting thing about this film and Reitman's script is that it could have been about anything. I got the feeling that the smoking issue was secondary, while argument and persuasion were the primary topics at hand. It's very easy to be entranced and motivated by what Naylor says, and I think that's the point. No matter what the circumstances -- whether you're defending tobacco or alcohol or firearms -- anyone can be a persuasive speaker. 

The way Reitman and Echkart play mercilessly with language and rhetorical techniques makes Thank You for Smoking one of the most enjoyable and original films of 2006. Add this film to 2007's Juno and 2009's much-hyped Up in the Air, and it's quite clear that Jason Reitman is one of the best and most consistent directors working today. 

 Last night I went to go see Precious for the second straight weekend. I know some of you might think I'm crazy given the depressing nature of the film, but I just had to see it again. When I got home, I noticed that Steve Mason had his Friday box-office estimates up.

2012 made a whopping $25 million, but the film I really want to discuss is Precious. Last weekend it made an astounding $1.8 million in only 18 theaters. That comes out to about $104 thousand per theater. This weekend, it added 156 more theaters and made an estimated $1.75 million yesterday. There's no way the film will be able to repeat the record-breaking $100 thousand per theater, the estimated $30 thousand this weekend is more than respectable. 

I encourage everyone to try your best to see this film as soon as possible. Not only will the film be worth it, but the more money this film makes, the more likely it is to clean up at the Oscars -- and it really deserves to. 

You can read my review of the film here and I have posted Mason's numbers below.

1. NEW - 2012 (Sony) - $25M Fri, $60M 3-day - $60M cume
2. A Christmas Carol (Disney) - $5.5M Fri - $20.4M 3-day - $61.3M cume
3. The Men Who Stare At Goats (Overture) - $2M Fri - $6.2M 3-day - $23.3M cume
4. The Fourth Kind (Universal) - $1.9M Fri - $5.6M 3-day - $21.4M cume
5. Precious: Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire (Lionsgate) - $1.75M Fri - $5.3M 3-day - $8.1M cume


Paranormal Activity (Paramount) - $1.5M Fri - $4.3M 3-day - $104.1M cume
NEW - Pirate Radio (Focus) - $1M Fri - $2.9M 3-day - $2.9M cume

Peter Knegt over at indieWire has named his 50 worst Oscar snubs of the decade right here, and I think it is an article worth mentioning. If I were to name some of the worst snubs that come to my mind, The Dark Knight is front and center. Not only was it one of the best-reviewed films of 2008, but it lost out on a Best Picture nomination to a film that got mixed reviews. A film that gets mixed reviews should not be considered for a Best Picture nomination. Period.

Next up would be Bruce Springsteen's beautiful song "The Wrestler", also from 2008, which was snubbed in the Original Song category. What is so mind-boggling about this snub -- aside from the fact that it was the best original song of the year -- is that it won a Golden Globe. How can something that wins a Golden Globe not even be nominated for an Oscar in the same exact category?

The third and last one I am going to mention is David Fincher's Zodiac, which Knegt also has near the top of his list. It is Fincher's second best effort date -- just behind Se7en -- and it is one of the best serial killer movies in recent memory. Knegt specified snubs for Fincher for Best Director and Robert Downey Jr. for Best Supporting Actor. I would even extend that and say the film should have gotten a Best Picture nomination.

Those are some of my thoughts. What have been the biggest snubs of the decade in your opinion? Share your opinions below and once again, you can read Peter Knegt's full list right here.

© Paramount Pictures

Best Picture:

1. "Up in the Air" (TrailerRotten Tomatoes)
2. "Precious" (My Review, Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
3. "The Hurt Locker" (My Review, Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
4. "Invictus" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
5. "Nine" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
6. "Up" (My ReviewTrailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
7. "An Education" (My Review, Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
8. "Inglourious Basterds" (My Review, Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
9. "A Serious Man" (My ReviewTrailerRotten Tomatoes)
10. "Avatar" (TrailerRotten Tomatoes)
11. "Bright Star" (My Review, Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
12. "The Lovely Bones" (TrailerRotten Tomatoes)
13. "Avatar" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
14. "A Single Man" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
15. "Crazy Heart" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
16. "The Road" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
17. "The Last Station" (TrailerRotten Tomatoes)
18. "500 Days of Summer" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
18. "Star Trek" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
19. "District 9" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
20. "Broken Embraces" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
21. "Where the Wild Things Are" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)
22. "Julie & Julia" (Trailer, Rotten Tomatoes)

Best Actor:

1. Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
2. George Clooney, "Up in the Air"
3. Colin Firth, "A Single Man"
4. Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"
5. Daniel Day-Lewis, "Nine"
6. Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"
7. Viggo Mortensen, "The Road"
8. Michael Stuhlbarg, "A Serious Man"
9. Ben Foster, "The Messenger"
10. Ben Whishaw, "Bright Star"
11. Matt Damon, "The Informant!"
12. Robert De Niro, "Everybody's Fine"
13. Edward Norton, "Leaves of Grass"
14. Sam Rockwell, "Moon"
15. Clive Owen, "The Boys Are Back"
16. Hal Holbrook, "That Evening Sun"
17. Tobey Maguire, "Brothers"
18. Robert Downey Jr., "Sherlock Holmes"
19. Nicolas Cage, "Bad Lieutenant" 

Best Actress:

1. Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious"
2. Carey Mulligan, "An Education"
3. Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia"
4. Abbie Cornish, "Bright Star"
5. Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"
6. Saorise Ronan, "The Lovely Bones"
7. Penélope Cruz, "Broken Embraces"
8. Marion Cotillard, "Nine"
9. Audrey Tautou, "Coco Before Chanel"
10. Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Crazy Heart"
11. Emily Blunt, "The Young Victoria"
12. Hilary Swank, "Amelia"
13. Michelle Pfieffer, "Cheri"
15. Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"
16. Michelle Monaghan, "Trucker"

Best Supporting Actor:

1. Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"
2. Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"
3. Alfred Molina, "An Education"
4. Matt Damon, "Invictus"
5. Peter Sarsgaard, "An Education"
6. Anthony Mackie, "The Hurt Locker'
7. Paul Schneider, "Bright Star"
8. Alec Baldwin, "It's Complicated"
8. Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"
9. Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
10. Jake Gyllenhaal, "Brothers"
10. Robert Duvall, "The Road"
11. Christian McKay, "Me and Orson Welles"
12. Jude Law, "Sherlock Holmes"
13. Kodi Smit-McPhee, "The Road"

Best Supporting Actress:

1. Mo'Nique, "Precious"
2. Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"
3. Judi Dench, "Nine"
4. Julianne Moore, "A Single Man"
5. Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air"
6. Penelope Cruz, "Nine"
7. Rachel Weisz, "The Lovely Bones"
8. Paula Patton, "Precious"
9. Natalie Portman, "Brothers"
9. Mariah Carey, "Precious"
10. Sigourney Weaver, "Avatar"
11. Susan Sarandon, "The Lovely Bones"
12. Nicole Kidman, "Nine"
13. Natalie Portman, "Brothers"
14. Samantha Morton, "The Messenger"

Best Director:

1. Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"
2. James Cameron, "Avatar"
3. Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
4. Lee Daniels, "Precious"
5. Clint Eastwood, "Invictus"
6. Rob Marshall, "Nine"
7. Lone Scherfig, "An Education"
8. Peter Jackson, "The Lovely Bones"
9. Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, "A Serious Man"
10. Jane Campion, "Bright Star"
11. Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"
12. Spike Jonze, "Where the Wild Things Are"

Best Original Screenplay:

1. Mark Boal, "The Hurt Locker"
2. Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, "A Serious Man"
3. Bob Peterson, "Up"
4. Jane Campion, "Bright Star"
5. Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"
6. Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, "500 Days of Summer"
7. James Cameron, "Avatar"
8. Nancy Meyers, "It's Complicated"
10. Pedro Almodóvar, "Broken Embraces"
11. Michael Haneke & Jean-Claude Carriere, "The White Ribbon"
12. Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman, "The Messenger"

Best Adapted Screenplay:

1. Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, "Up in the Air"
2. Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious"
3. Nick Hornby, "An Education"
4. Anthony Minghella & Michael Tolkin, "Nine"
5. Anthony Peckham, "Invictus"
6. Scott Z. Burns, "The Informant!"
7. Nora Ephron, "Julie & Julia"
8. Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson & Fran Walsh, "The Lovely Bones"
9. Joe Penhall, "The Road"
10. Scott Cooper, "Crazy Heart"
11. Neill Blomkamp & Teri Tatchell, "District 9"
11. Michael Hoffman, "The Last Station"

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