Sunday, January 30, 2011

Quack Awards Challenge

It is time for my official picks. All 24 categories have been selected... For additional information and official rules go to

Supporting Actor - Christian Bale, The Fighter
Supporting Actress - Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Adapted Screenplay, 127 Hours (actual winner The Social Network)
Original Screenplay, The Kids Are All Right (actual winner The Kings Speech)
Original Score - The Social Network
Original Song - Country Strong (actual winner Toy Story 3)
Animated Feature - Toy Story 3
Art Direction - Inception (actual winner Alice in Wonderland)
Cinematography - Inception
Costume Design - Alice in Wonderland
Makeup - The Wolfman
Sound Editing - Inception
Sound Mixing - Inception
Visual Effects - Inception
Feature Documentary - Exit Through the Gift Shop (actual winner Inside Job)
Short Documentary - Strangers No More
Film Editing - 127 Hours (actual winner The Social Network)
Foreign Language - In a Better World
Animated Short - The Gruffalo (actual winner The Lost Thing)
Live Action Short - The Confession (actual winner The God of Love)
Directing - Tom Hooper, The Kings Speech
Actress - Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Actor - Colin Firth, The Kings Speech
Best Motion Picture - The Kings Speech

Now you know where I stand, so it is time for you to get your picks together and send them to me at

That makes me 16 for 24 correctly picked. Quack back with how you did...

Elite Squad

This was my first Brazilian movie experience and wow was this one intense. Think of all of the war and action movies you have ever seen and put it all into one movie. Moira Wagner plays the Captain of the Elite BOPE Squad, a group that is hand selected from the local police that is corrupt and comes into clean up when the police cannot get the job done. Being on the BOPE is extremely stressful as every day puts you in life and death situations between the drug dealers and the corrupt police. Compound the stress with a family at home that you are trying to protect. The selection process is intense as well and that is the part that I enjoyed the most.

It felt at times like two separate movies and was a bit disjointed by developing the characters in the classroom that are caught in the middle. The movie does finish strong and gives the "what would you do?" scenario in the end.

This one gets 3 Quacks and I am eagerly anticipating the sequel that should be coming out in 2011.

The Girl Who ...

She showed us her "Dragon Tattoo" and "Played with Fire" and finally "Kicked the Hornets Nest". Noomi Rapace was powerful in her performances showing the edgy side of someone that has been abused by the system that we rely on and the public officials that we put into power.

With an american remake of this film coming in 2011 it is my goal to get people to see the original. It annoys me when a good movie is remade and then gets all the attention because of the remake and people ignore the original. This happened with "the Departed" compared to the Hong Kong original "Infernal Affairs" which was almost shot for shot the same movie.

Currently you can watch all three of these movies instantly with Netflix. They are in Swedish, but unlike some other foreign films the pace isn't too fast and easy to keep up with. Some reviews say one movie is better than another, but I think they are all equally AWESOME...and give them a collective 4 Quacks.


The beatnik generation is something that I cannot connect with, however this movie has little to do with the generation and more to do with the battle between censorship and art. Something that the judge, played by Bob Balaban, says is the latin phrase "evil to him who evil thinks" to describe how the poem "Howl" written by Allen Ginsberg (James Franco) can be misinterpreted as a promotion of homosexuality, which is interesting because Ginsberg wrote the poem without the intention of it being published because he didn't want his father to read it. This is important because in the '50s the stigma of homosexuality alienated people from their families.

Since I had never read the poem, I enjoyed a feature on the DVD that had James Franco reading the poem in its entirety. My conclusion is that "Howl" is not obscene. It is not necessary to read the poem in advance as the movie does a solid job of presenting the poem with context provided by "expert" witnesses. Much of the writing came from court documents and the prosecuting attorney, played by David Strathairn, possibly gave up in the end with his closing argument that in the court system you are allowed to bring in "expert" witnesses, however poetry isn't written for experts, but rather the common man. That is important because the interpretation from one person can be vastly different for another.

The movie is stiff as most court room dramas can be, but is accentuated by creative animation to portray elements of the play without being obscene. The animation was not expected, but helped balance the grittiness of the court room with the interview of Ginsberg and his public readings of the poem.

This movie is a solid 3 Quacks and doesn't deserve much in terms of nominations. However, is a great rental that can be enjoyed during a weeknight this winter.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

First Annual Quack Awards Challenge

In the spirit of the Oscars you are invited to enter the First Annual Quack Awards Challenge. It isn't the biggest challenge, but it will be fun and a small prize (approximate value $10) will go to the winner.

Gonna keep it simple, so here are the rules. I will post my official picks on 1/31/11. You have to correctly outguess me in the 24 Oscar categories. Only one entry per person. (since i have never done anything like this before I also reserve the right to add more rules).

Find the nominations at and send your picks to before 8pm February 27th EST and be sure to Quack back by posting on the blog.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oscar Snubs

The best part of any list is the ability to comment on it and provide an opinion as to how you would have compiled the list differently. I would like to say thank you Academy for giving me this opportunity. And without further (blah blah blah)... Quack Back with your snubs...

Best Film

  • Harry Potter - seriously if you are going to expand the field from 5 to 10 with the reason being that you want to include other genres of movies well then what is the reasoning for excluding Harry Potter.
  • Conviction - this movie was solid from every level and should have received multiple nominations (see below)
  • The Town - if a movie like the Departed can get nominated then why not a movie that does it better without ripping off shot for shot from the foreign original. Was better than at least three of the nominees.
  • Blue Valentine - I will gush about this movie more below...
  • Others to consider Another Year, The Ghost Writer, Hereafter, Made in Dagenham, Rabbit Hole, and The Way Back.
Best Director

  • Lisa Cholodenko, The Kids Are All Right, completed the difficult task for a young artist by combining the writing and directing jobs to put her vision on the the screen. She wouldn't have likely won, but she deserved the recognition. Was better than at least one of the nominees.
  • Christopher Nolan, Inception, for all the reasons given above with a blockbuster size budget.
  • Derek Cianfrance, Blue Valentine, an amazing emotionally charged movie where the only person that could direct the film is again the person who wrote it. it took him seven years to finish writing this script and his vision required a dual story line that was cleverly woven together. Was better than at least one of the nominees.
  • Others to consider Ben Affleck, The Town; Danny Boyle, 127 Hours; Clint Eastwood, Hereafter; Debra Granik, Winter's Bone; John Cameron Mitchell, Rabbit Hole; Peter Weir, The Way Back; Roman Polanski, The Ghost Writer.
Best Actor

  • Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine, always puts out a quality performance and this is just another example of his strong acting skills. Perhaps the only criticism would be that he doesn't have the range to change his appearance for the dual story lines. This has to be one of the bigger SNUBS. Was easily better than at least two of the nominees.
  • Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter, perhaps he didn't really play a character that he hasn't played before, but he did show just as much acting chops through his dialogue with the other members of the cast that did receive nominations. He wasn't the weakest link in this movie.
  • Jake Gyllenhaal, Love and Other Drugs, probably wouldn't have won but he deserved the nomination for the compassion that he showed in his character.
  • Paul Giamatti, Barney's Version, based on hype as I haven't seen the movie yet (check back in the coming week after I get a chance to screen this one). He looks great in the previews.
  • Others to consider include Ben Affleck, The Town; Matt Damon, Hereafter; Johnny Depp, Alice in Wonderland; Leonardo DiCaprio, Inception; Aaron Eckhart, Rabbit Hole; Robert Duvall, Get Low; Michael Douglas, Solitary Man;
Best Actress

  • Julianne Moore, The Kids Are All Right, she was every bit as strong in her character as Annette Benning if not better. I think the Academy sided with the character issues and not the performance.
  • Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs, neither her or Julianne Moore would have won this category, but again deserving of a nomination for her performance.
  • Others to consider include Cecil de France, Hereafter; Halle Berry, Frankie and Alice; Carey Mulligan, Never Let Me Go; Hillary Swank, Conviction; Naomi Watts, Fair Game.
Best Supporting Actor
  • Sam Rockwell, Conviction, wow this has to be one of the biggest SNUBS. He did everything in this role showing range of emotion and acting ability. Certainly gave a strong performance than at least two of the nominees.
Best Supporting Actress
  • Mila Kunis, Black Swan, gave a dynamite performance in one of her first roles that you had to take her seriously in. She is a lot more than just Meg from Family Guy or the dizzy hot girl from That 70s Show. Look for her to get some strong roles in the coming years and get a nomination.
  • Others to consider include Marion Cotillard, Inception; Dianne Wiest, Rabbit Hole.
Best Original Screenplay
For starters, how is The Kings Speech and The Fighter considered an original screenplay when both are based on, or leveraged, books/stories/HBO specials. This decision by the Academy weakened a strong category and the SNUBS are big ones.

  • Blue Valentine, with a clever dual story being told provided for a counter balance to an emotionally challenging movie that without the strong script would have been too much for some to handle. But then again maybe that is why it is on the list of SNUBS so much. Easily better than at least one other nominee.
  • Conviction, perhaps I am guilty of liking this movie too much. The story itself may not have been strong enough to win, but worthy of a nomination for sure.
  • Others to consider include Black Swan, Get Low, and Hereafter.
Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Love and Other Drugs, probably wouldn't have won this category and it is waning in my views of it anyways, but I still liked it.
  • Others to consider include Rabbit Hole, The Town, Shutter Island, and Barney's Version.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ebert Presents at the Movies

I am sure I am not alone as someone in their 30s that watched Siskel & Ebert at the Movies growing up. Life (and death) have caught up to these two icons of movie critics. They were the catalyst for others in subsequent years and Ebert has tagged two young Christy (Associated Press) and Ignatiy ( These two do a decent job of bantering off each other and I am not sure which one I like more yet. The big news was the return of Roger Ebert who spoke from behind a desk in a sparingly lit office and spoke through a computer using the voice of Werner Herzog.

This week they reviewed No Strings Attached, The Company Men, the Green Hornet and The Way Back. Next week from the balcony they will review the Mechanic and the Rite.

The new show is clearly a work in progress, but I like it. The timing couldn't be better as the Award season is underway and the Oscars are around the corner. In fact, they are doing a contest where you can put your picks for the Oscars up against Ebert's to win your share of $100,000 (or maybe all of it). For additional information go to and I know I will be competing and I want everyone else to do it too. In fact, I will put my own contest together (on a much smaller scale) so stay tuned.

Follow them at

Rabbit Hole

What if there was another Earth where everything that has gone terribly wrong in your life has gone amazingly perfect. Not sure I would want to be that person, because the things that have gone wrong in my life have helped shape and define who I am today. Those sad memories are precious to me and I hold onto them and take them with me everyday. That is what makes us human and what makes all of us special.

Rabbit Hole isn't sci-fi, but rather an emotionally charged film about Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) who are a married couple that are dealing with the various stages of recently losing their 4 year old son. Everyone deals with grief in their own way, and this couldn't be more true than with Becca and Howie. They find comfort in friends and in a twist the teenager that was driving the car when their son died. Here is where the concept of a rabbit hole where another version of reality could exist and that is where the comfort for Becca is found.

Nicole Kidman brings the emotion to the movie, while Aaron Eckhart brings the energy in how they portray the grieving characters. One of the big surprises for me was the performance from Dianne Wiest as the mom to Becca and in her limited screen time she dominates with both emotion and power. The script takes a step back from the conventional story telling and doesn't feel like a play, or an episodic TV show (which is where John Cameron Mitchell as the director got his start). Honestly this was a script better served for the screen as compared to the stage.

The performance from Nicole Kidman earns my nomination for Best Actress, Dianne Wiest for Best Supporting Actress, and give the movie a nomination for Adapted Screenplay. I will give this one 5 Quacks.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Sofia Coppola continues to shine in her own special way. This movie shows her growth from one of her previous directorial/writing attempts in Lost in Translation. In this movie we go for long periods of silence where the acting is accomplished through the eyes of Stephen Dorff. You may feel his name is familiar but not sure what you remember him from...the answer is the bad guy in BLADE. He has some acting skills, but hasn't had the big break yet and not sure if this is it.

The movie follows the life of movie star Johnny Marco, played by Stephen Dorff, and shows that even with the celebrity of Hollywood where everyone knows your name that you can still be lonely. He uses women to get the affection that he is lacking in his life, but doesn't let the frustrations in his life get in the way of his love for his daughter Cleo, played by Elle Fanning. We get to see the relationship between father and daughter in the movie that you cannot help but smile at. He truly loves his daughter and even though her mother has skipped town he will do whatever it takes to make Cleo happy. Ultimately Johnny Marco must make a decision about what is important in his life, his career or his daughter.

There are a couple surprising performances in the movie from Chris Pontius (Jackass) and Ellie Kemper (the Office). Neither of them contribute much to the movie, but it was fun seeing them.

I wanted to like this movie more, but could only give this one 3 Quacks.

Another Year

Another Year got on my radar because of its run at several of the festivals in 2010. It took quite some time for it to finally make it to the theaters and there are some reasons for that. I don't see it having a long run in the theaters, but I do think it is something worth checking out (eventually).

The script is a very technical one that just screams that is should have been performed on stage and not on film. It is well written, but the direction allows for a lot of quiet periods that slows the pace of the movie down. The story follows an older couple in their 60s (Tom and Gerri) for a year with their friends coming into and out of their daily lives. We start in the spring where their garden and a life is beginning. The garden is used as a means of communicating the time passing during the movie as we continue through Summer, Fall and Winter. The seasons also give us life in the beginning and death in the end.

Through all of the seasons we focus on a well adjusted Tom and Gerri that are the rock for their friends. We have Mary, a lonely woman in her 50s that is a terrible drunk and pushes herself on others in a rather uncomfortable way. Then there is Ken, a lonely man in his 50s that enjoys eating and drinking; and has a thing for Mary that you just have to think would be a perfect match, but well do we really want to see two cars racing towards each other knowing that the end result isn't going to be pretty (well you just have to watch the movie to find out). Finally we have Tom and Gerri's son who is just stuck in the middle of all of this.

The movie asks the question if you could change one thing in your life that would make you happy what would it be. It is one of the hardest questions to answer and I challenge everyone to take a minute to do just that. But the real challenge is following through with it, and not like a new years resolution that you forget about a couple weeks into the year.

In the end we have a humorous but mostly achingly sad movie. This is a good movie about the ordinary lives of ordinary people. Not sure if it will get any attention from the awards, but I will give this a respectable 3 Quacks.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Time Traveler's Wife / Tooth Fairy / Hot Tub Time Machine

For some reason I found myself waking up early every day this weekend, so before I had any reason to leave the house to go to the gym or meet up with friends, I found myself tuning to HBO because ESPN is still depressing to me after what happened in the bowl game. So this is what was on...

The Time Traveler's Wife

This is a movie that wants to be something special, but seriously with Eric Bana in the lead role did you expect anything else? Rachel McAdams does everything she can do to save this movie and make it worth watching, but the writing is so loose that you can drive a truck through the holes in the script that were not there in the book. Simply giving a guy a mullet, or adding gray hair, or making a woman's hair a different length doesn't pass for aging in my book. It has been done well in movies and poorly in others and this is a fine example of how not to do it.

I feel that giving this movie 3 Quacks is being generous, but maybe it is just because Rachel McAdams is so darn cute.

Tooth Fairy

Seriously this movie is a just crap. Maybe the kids will like it, but adults should stay away from this movie. The hockey scenes aren't even any good. I just don't have the effort to say anything else bad about Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson

1 Quack and I am done with this one...

Hot Tub Time Machine

Everyone told me that this movie was good. I finally gave it a shot and sure it has some funny one liners, but it wasn't as good as comedies in previous years. That being said, it was probably the best comedy of 2010 (not the best year for the category I guess). It will make you laugh, it will make you quote it with friends, but it won't make you miss the 80's.

I will give this one 3 Quacks because if it was on TV again I would probably stop to watch it again.

Blue Valentine

A child molester and a little boy walk into the forest. It is very dark and as they get further from the road the boy turns to the child molester and says he is scared. The child molester replies "you think you are scare, I am the one that has to leave the forest alone".

That joke didn't make you laugh and if it did, well you should probably get yourself registered as a sex offender. This is just an example of the train wreck that is "Blue Valentine". If you are the type that is driving down the freeway and has to turn and look at the car accident then this movie is for you. By no means go to this movie with someone you love, unless you have strong faith in the vows you made on your wedding day. "For better or worse". This movie is a prime example of how bad things can be. If you have ever been in love and missed the opportunity to be with that person for the rest of your lives, then this movie is for you.

The main characters are Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams who are shown in the story during two time lines in their lives together. One when they first met and fell in love and now today where life has become more difficult and is testing their strength as a couple. The movie is equally emotional as it is physical and powerful. This combination couldn't have been accomplished without the performances from our leads. Only strong actors could deliver in the way they did during the graphic sexual scenarios, brutal fighting, smoking/alcohol abuse, and a near-abortion. Most movies will only approach one of these topics, but "Blue Valentine" delivers on all of them. Doing this without being delicate shows that the directing and writing of Derek Cianfrance has something special.

This movie should receive some award attention for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Overall this is a solid movie and is deserving of 4 Quacks.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Country Strong

For those that were reading my Facebook or G-chat messages today I had to choose between an advance screening of "Country Strong" and "Season of the Witch". The question asked by Tessa was which one would I rather watch and the answer was neither. However, I decided that "Country Strong" had greater promise. My initial thought was that this would be a female version of last years "Crazy Heart" and to be honest it isn't that far off. Both center around a country music singer battling alcohol, both have a great soundtrack (look for a nomination for original song - but I don't care much for that category).

In "Country Strong", the lead is Gwyneth Paltrow, who is recovering from addiction, and is a rather sympathetic character that you just want to reach out and give a hug to and make the pain go away. The counter balance to Paltrow is the young and beautiful Leighton Meester who is a young rising star in the country music scene. Both have an attraction to Garret Hedlund who possibly has the best performance in the movie. Tim McGraw has another strong performance showing that his acting skills are improving. The lesson in the movie is that if you find love, do whatever you can to hold onto it; and love is the only important thing.

This movie follows a rather simple format with an average five act template. The back story is told through interviews and tv that the characters watch. I am not a big fan of this approach to telling a story, because it is a short cut that could have been solved with a tighter script. In the end the movie isn't terribly special and only receives 3 Quacks.

(screening 1/6/11, release date 1/7/11, location AMC Tyson's Corner 16)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

True Grit

In 1969 Life Magazine said "TRUE GRIT is good enough for me; it is good enough for you, and if it isn't good enough for some movie company, then the free enterprise system is really going to hell."

The Coen Brothers claimed that this was a "retelling" of the original version that was more true to the book. I think what the Coen Brothers meant so say is that the vehicle for the story is less Rooster Cogburn and more Mattie Ross. The acting from the young Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross was excellent in the movie, however there was some unintentional humor inserted in by the acting styles of Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. Perhaps it was a little more Labowski and a little less Rooster for me. However, I think I am being a bit short-sighted because of how much I enjoyed John Wayne's performance before. Matt Damon as LaBoeuf (LaBEEF) didn't quite work for me though as he was more comic relief than anything else. I wish the Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper could have had a bigger part in the movie, but in their short scenes they owned it like they usually do.

But back to Jeff Bridges as he is the "star" of the movie after all. I think to have a solid opinion on his performance requires a definition of what GRIT is. To me it is toughness, instinctfullness, stubbornness, confidence, firmness, resourcefullness, etc. (those are all the adjectives I can think of right now). I think as a character, Jeff Bridges does deliver on having TRUE GRIT. I have a feeling that the Life Magazine quote was something that Jeff Bridges considered every day before doing his lines.

I am debating how this movie will be reecived come the awards season. I could see it getting nominated for best film, best director, best actor and best supporting actress. At first blush I only wanted to give the movie 3 Quacks, but I think I will give it a solid 4 Quacks. It is a movie that will hold up and you will see as a classic in 15-25 years.

Things I learned from watching True Grit...
(1) sucking snake venom out doesn't work
(2) laying rope around your bed at night will protect you from snakes
(3) snakes don't like little girls because they are too boney
(4) shooting biscuits prooves that you have grit
(5) declaring you have an attorney will get you out of any sticky situation

Quack back with what you learned...

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