Obviously Losing

Location: Los Angeles, California

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve Update

Sorry for the lack of updates lately, but I have been busy with the holidays and whatnot. Also, I've been seeing a ton of movies lately in preparation for my Top 10 list, which should be ready to go on Jan. 6 (and will also be published in the Daily Trojan).

Can't believe 2006 is over and done with. It's been a swell year, no complaints here. Hope everyone has a blast at tonight's parties and subsequent recoveries.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Top 10 Albums of 2006

Guillemots, Through the Windowpane
Lindsey Buckingham, Under the Skin
Sparks, Hello Young Lovers
Midlake, The Trials of Van Occupanther
Mates of State, Bring It Back
Beirut, Gulag Orkestar
Asobi Seksu, Citrus
Destroyer, Destroyer's Rubies
The Decemberists, The Crane Wife
The Strokes, First Impressions of Earth

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What a President...

U.S. casualties in Iraq - 2,950
U.S. troops wounded in action - 22,229+
Iraqi civilian deaths caused by U.S. military intervention - 50,998+

"President Bush said today that he plans to expand the size of the U.S. military to meet the challenges of a long-term global war against terrorists." ~ The Washington Post

Planets and Stars To Scale

Friday, December 15, 2006

Letters from Iwo Jima

I am happy to report that "Letters from Iwo Jima" is a vast improvement over "Flags of Our Fathers."

Unlike "Flags," Clint Eastwood gets you to identify with these Japanese soldiers. Their conversations feel more natural, and Eastwood is able to generally resist the urge to ham it up (there’s no drunken Adam Beach in sight).

The first hour is rather daring in its restraint from action; instead, we spend time with a pack of characters before the Americans invade the island. It’s conveyed fairly early to General Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) that his battle on Iwo Jima is not winnable – Japan is not sending reinforcements as the nation’s remaining forces are focusing their efforts on defending the mainland.

Watanabe’s performance as Kuribayashi is as clear as daylight. Here's an unwavering and charismatic leader who’s determined to defend this lifeless island to the death, if only because it's his duty to his country.

But the movie’s heart belongs to Kazunari Ninomiya, a young soldier who longs to return to his pregnant wife. Ninomiya, who’s 23 but appears to be in the process of growing his first pubescent mustache, charms his way through the war’s atrocities. By the picture’s conclusion, we’re more emotionally connected to him than anyone else.

Yet, the film is not without its flaws. As technically impressive as the battle sequences are, they feel as if they were imported from another movie... namely, "Flags of Our Fathers." I swear some of the footage is either the exact same or just unused takes that never made it into the first movie.

This becomes a problem for anyone who has already seen "Flags of Our Fathers," for these combat scenes quickly gain a heavy aroma of deja vu. It doesn't help that "Iwo Jima" is shot in the same bleach-bypassed color scheme, which was neat at first but grating after 5 hours – my eyes were starving for something green or blue.

And the film is too long by a good 20 minutes. Eastwood inserts 3 or 4 too many flashback sequences that add nothing to the dramatic or character arcs of the film.

Yet, as I realize I've been dwelling on a lot of negatives, I still want to stress that "Iwo Jima" is an excellent war film. It may lack the philosophical poetry of "The Thin Red Line" or the craftsmanship of "Saving Private Ryan," but it's a brave film because it tackles the WWII genre with a fresh pair of eyes.

Rating: ***1/2 (out of ****)
Opens Dec. 20 in LA & NY

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Golden Globes Reaction

While the absence of "United 93" is troubling, "Babel" leading the pack with 7 total nominations is very encouraging. "Babel," which will certainly find a place on my Top 10 list by the year's end, got nominated for:

Best Picture - Drama
Best Director
Best Supporting Actor, Brad Pitt
Best Supporting Actress, Adriana Barraza
Best Supporting Actress, Rinko Kikuchi
Best Screenplay
Best Original Score

This gives the film a big boost, although it'll still be a battle for that 5th Best Picture spot (Babel vs. Little Miss Sunshine vs. United 93).

Also, gotta be happy with "Borat" being nominated for Best Picture (Comedy/Musical) and Best Actor (Comedy/Musical). Sacha Baron Cohen literally has no competition in the Best Actor category, so I look forward to seeing him win (will he accept the award as himself or as Borat? I hope he chooses the former).

Here is Cohen's response to receiving 2 nominations:

“I am extremely honored. I’m very proud as well for my fellow writers as well as our director Larry Charles, and our producer Jay Roach, and am very thankful for the HFPA’s belief and acknowledgment of our film. I have been trying to let Borat know this great news but for the last 4 hours both of Kazakhstan’s telephones have been engaged. Eventually, Premier Nazarbayev answered and said he would pass on the message as soon as Borat returned from Iran, where he is guest of honor at the Holocaust Denial Conference.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Huzzah! Christmas Break has begun!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Children of Men

I saw Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men" last night, and it's most certainly a visionary piece of work, but I may need to wait until a second viewing before I formulate an official opinion of the film.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Scary Mary Poppins

Howl's Moving Castle - Cave of Mind

Since I seem to be in a Miyazaki mood today, here's an absolutely beautiful orchestral performance of Joe Hisaishi's score.

Hayao Miyazaki Tribute

I wouldn't normally post a fan video, but I stumbled across this one and it's quite good. And besides, Miyazaki is the most imaginative filmmaker working today. Watching this montage is a blissful reminder of all his cinematic gems.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

George Lucas Presents: Singin' in the Rain

George Lucas has digitally re-mastered and restored the American classic, "Singin' in the Rain."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

"I heard you in music class..."

The Fountain

Darren Aronofsky's "The Fountain" is a hugely ambitious misfire. Since it was my most anticipated film of the year, of course I am rather disappointed. And yet, I sort of knew something was up when I learned its runtime was a scant 96 minutes. You simply cannot fit three parallel stories that span 1,000 years into that amount of time.

What I was not expecting was that Aronofsky would butcher the narrative into a nonsensical and ultimately inconsequential splatter. Instead of establishing a natural ebb and flow between these three storylines, Aronofsky juxtaposes them without reason or rhyme. Not only are we, the audience, left completely in the dark, but this temperamental editing scheme practical obliterates any connection we have to the characters.

And it reduces the futuristic segment to silly moments of Hugh Jackman either yoga meditating or eating a tree (which, mind you, is also his wife - don't ask). I swear that 50% of the dialogue in this section of the film consisted of two lines: "Finish it" and "Don't worry, we're almost there." In between those lines, you'd have something like this: Hugh Jackman turns to tree and says, "Through that last dark cloud is a dying star, and soon enough, Xibalba will die. And when it explodes, you will be reborn. You will bloom, and I will live." And then Jackman eats some tree bark. Delicious.

As I discovered when talking about "The Fountain" with a friend, it is quite possibly one of the easiest films to make fun of (just wait until Jackman, in full legs folded Yoga stance, decides to penetrate his intergalactic bubble; or when Jackman, upon reaching the Tree of Life, decides to drink its sexually-connotative sap).

But part of what makes it so easy to criticize is that Aronofsky truly shoots for the stars with this one, and that's to be admired in an age when so many artists strive for mediocrity. And even though its story falls a few eons short of its obvious idol, "2001: A Space Odyssey," the movie is still a visually breathtaking work and an intriguing failure.

I have no doubt Aronofsky can rebound from this, but he might be in need of a visit from a creative monolith sometime soon.

Rating: **1/2 (out of ****)