Posts Tagged ‘capitalism

06
Jan
10

Top Ten Movies of 2009

What a year it has been for movies. From a film for fanboys (“Watchmen”) to a teeny-bopper supernatural romance (“New Moon”), from a Jarhead visiting a world of blue people (“Avatar”) to ugly aliens visiting our own (“District 9”), from man’s continuing struggle to against the machine (“Terminator Salvation”) to the machines having taken over and a scientist’s soul divided into mini-creations trying to survive (“9”), from the return of 80’s cartoons as live action (“G.I. Joe”) to the return of 80’s horror (“The Stepfather”) and everything in between (there were TWO movies about mall security cops), it truly has been a year.

As far as film goes and in my own opinion it’s been a tough year. One can blame the economic recession/depression for monetary aspects, but it’s been an overall success for the Industry for the year. This year was more about the aftermath of the 2007-2008 writers strike than any other single factor.

It was difficult making this year’s list because the overall feeling from watching movies this year was “meh.” I enjoyed quite a few movies, but the indies seemed to have peaked the year that “No Country for Old Men” saw release and the blockbusters haven’t held the caliber of “Iron Man” (although “G.I. Joe” was more fun than “Transformers 2”) Another problem with constructing the list was that three of my favorite films I saw this year (“Frost/Nixon,” ‘The Wrestler,” “Gran Torino”) were limited release 2008 in cities such as NY and LA and therefore had to be struck from the list.

Here, in order of release/when I viewed them, are my Top Ten movies of 2009 and my thoughts:

“Star Trek” – “Alias” and “Lost” creator JJ Abrams was given the keys to Kirk and Company and made a fun and enjoyable movie that was truly a reason to go to the movie theatre. Chris Pine channeled a bit of Shatner while Zach Quinto did a spot-on Spock. Some have called it “Star Trek for Star Wars fans” and that may have a bit of truth to it, but it doesn’t take away from being a solid, enjoyable film.

“Up” – If this year had a theme it would be “films that other people thought shouldn’t work but did.” “Up” was being crucified before it got to the theatres. I saw an article where “Wall Street” experts were predicting it as a failure for Pixar. The result? A heartfelt, beautifully colored solid story about a former balloon salesman uprooting his house for the ultimate adventure of his life taking along a stowaway who needs a father figure. It may not have the technology of “Avatar” but the story was original and solid and Pixar up’d their technology work with the brilliance of their color palette.

“The Hangover” – A movie I probably would not have watched had it not been for the free screening. The initial WB test screening went so well they ordered a sequel, which I had never heard of happening before. My brother and I went to a PACKED screening at the Commerce Crossings theatre two weeks in advance. Walking out of the movie my brother gave it the best endorsement I’ve ever heard for a movie: “I would pay to see that again.” So would I.

“District 9” – Following “Moon,” (which gets Honorable Mention) director Neil Blomkamp took racial prejudice in South Africa and changed it to alienation of aliens. Shot on a limited budget and handheld/doc-style, it was an innovative sci-fi film and one that should raise the bar for doing science fiction films.

“Inglourious Basterds” – Tarantino threw everything but the blender into this one: a hodge-podge of war films, exploitation, film geekness, and World War II. This film ran the risk of being exclusively for those who love films and/or Tarantino and while that concept may seem to be running on fumes, and trust me it has its faults, overall it tied together at the end. It’s not “Kill Bill” or “Pulp Fiction,” but it’s a worthwhile addition to the Tarantino catalog.

“Capitalism: A Love Story” – One of the most personal of Michael Moore’s films and his best since, “Bowling for Columbine.” It got snubbed for next year’s Academy Awards and that just goes to show Californians DO love their money…

“Paranormal Activity” – Most likened to being this decade “Blair Witch,” this really IS the little movie that could. Done for $15,000 and shot in one location this preyed on those times when you sit in a house, alone, and hear the creaking of the floors, strange noises, etc. This is a film that works best on people who have imaginations, as opposed to those who enjoy the “idiotic group of college teenagers going out to an abandoned shack” formula. I caught a late showing on a Tuesday night and couldn’t get the final scene outta my head. On DVD next week!

“The Blind Side” – So I had to put another “heartwarming” movie on the list. It wasn’t groundbreaking and you could tell the smarminess from the get-go, but I enjoyed the film. Not everything I watch has to be earth-shattering or socially conscious; sometimes it’s nice to fit in an “uplifting” movie.

“Me and Orson Welles” – Charming, amusing movie rooted in its when and where. I am not a big fan of Orson Welles as a person or his personality, but Christian McKay did such a spot-on job with playing Orson Welles it’s uncanny. It was great speaking with Ed Hart about this one; it truly deserves to be recognized. I wish it luck.

“Avatar” – I initially thought against putting this in the Top Ten but Cameron’s attention to detail and use of 3-D technology make this one to be seen. It’s not a great story; in fact, you’ve already seen it as “Dune,” “Dances with Wolves,” etc. The attention to detail and world of Pandora that Cameron created are what sets this above the others.

There are others that deserve mention (“Moon,” “Zombieland”) but these were the ten best for the year (that I watched). Feel free to give your comments. Happy holidays and see you at the movies!

Chas Andrews

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26
Oct
09

Movie Review: Capitalism: A Love Story

capitalism_a_love_story

 

Would Jesus be a capitalist?

 

Directed by Michael Moore.

 

After a “stock footage” disclaimer that the following film may be too shocking for viewers, we’re treated to closed circuit camera video of people robbing banks. Following that a British short film about life in Rome. Moore juxtaposes images from our current society into the short film with the narrator’s dialogue backing up the images of both old (Rome) and new (America). Yes, we are the “second” Roman Empire and yes, it’s all over…

 

The question above, “Would Jesus be a capitalist?” is one of many that Moore poses to us as he turns a gigantic mirror not just on Wall Street, but on Main Street (but he is more bias against Wall Street). Moore waxes nostalgic about growing up in the Fifties; his dad worked every day while his mom could stay at home, they bought a new car every three years, and the family went on trips to NYC every other summer. Now his hometown of Flint is on the list of the worst places to live in the U.S., millions of jobs have been lost, etc. What happened?

 

Toning down the humor and the “kid picking on the bully” that Moore can be known to exhibit, he instead chooses to investigate just exactly what placed us on this point of the economic map. One of those offering answers is William Black, the guy who exposed Charles Keating in the Eighties. Black talks about the de-regulation of the early 2000s which has led to the mortgage crises and current foreclosures affecting the nation.

 

Showing the effects on the underdog, Moore visits a family in Illinois whose home is being repossessed by the bank. The house has been in the family for over 40 years. The husband, a big, MidWesterner, was put on disability years ago after a workplace accident. His wife does part-time work. Having to pay for doctor bills he took out a home equity loan (“your home is a bank!”) and as the variable rates grew higher, he could no longer afford to pay them. He is forced to vacate and clean out all his belongings. For doing both, the lender gives his family a check for $1,000. The wife cries as a grand is pittance for having to fork over the home she’s been in for decades.

 

And the lenders aren’t the only ones “making out like bandits.” A group called Condo Vultures in South Florida capitalizes on the fact that people “overleveraged” themselves and are buying up property left and right for the eventual resale. Conversely, there is a family living in storage truck in South Florida who was evicted from their home. The neighbors gathered around, broke into their old home, and let them move back in. 9 police cars showed to try and evict the family again.

 

Moore delivers a soft blow on what should otherwise be a Mike Tyson TKO. I’m not mad at how he presented the information, because a lot of this needed to be said, but Moore could’ve gone deeper and harder-hitting; that’s something I find lacking in his last few documentaries. On this “go” Moore makes it more personal and more mature. Instead of running around with a camera crew and forcing people into answering questions he lets people tell their stories which are more effective. There are a few signature “Michael Moore moments,” like when he uses yellow Police Crime Scene tape and wraps it around Wall Street, or takes an armored truck to Goldman Sachs and AIG to get our money back, but they’re embedded later on in the movie.

 

Another ingredient of a Michael Moore film is presenting you with the information you didn’t have or realize. This comes in two points: a) The Corporation you work for may/probably has a Dead Peasants policy on you and b) the guy flying you to your destination is making less than the manager at the McDonald’s. An example of the first point comes in the form of a woman whose bank notifies her that the company her late husband worked for had an insurance policy on him for $1.5 million, none of which she will ever receive. Apparently corporations have monthly “mortality rate” projections and they’re not happy if it’s about 50%

 

The second is that yes, the people flying us from Boston to L.A., L.A. to New York, etc. make LESS than I do (which IS saying a lot). Several of these pilots have second jobs such as teaching, babysitting, working at a coffeeshop, etc. just to get by. Moore shows Captain Sully, the airline pilot who saved the lives of 150 passengers, testifying before Congress that the airlines have cut pay by 40%. Nobody listened or even if they did, they weren’t wanting to.

 

While this film may not have been as hard-hitting as I would like it to be, it’s still an important movie to watch. This isn’t about socialism, democracy, plutonomy, etc. It’s about straight-up greed. Moore does exhibit two instances where democracy works for companies, which is promising. My only other real complaint about the film is that it shuttles back and forth, not giving you the identity of certain individuals or why they should be important to the narrative until much later.

 

Should you see this movie? Yes. It’s important. Maybe you’ll find empathy or sympathy. Maybe you’ll wake up and see what’s really going on. Maybe you’ll start a discussion on complacency, collusion, and how much either side has to do with it. Just a thought.

 

One final note: there’s footage of FDR reading his proposed Second Bill of Rights. This bill guaranteed health care, education, a job, and a home to U.S. citizenry. After Word War II Japan, Germany, and Italy drew up new constitutions that included some of these provisions. Incidentally, these ideals have never been presented for inclusion in our own Constitution.

 

My grade: (adjusted for inflation) A

 

For information on whether the company you work for has a Dead Peasants policy on you, check out www.deadpeasants.biz

 

P.S. If you’re interested more in “how we got here,” check out the documentary “The Corporation.”

30
Sep
09

October Movie Releases

“Capitalism: A Love Story” – Greed. Avarice. Michael Moore. Documentary. Opens October 2, 2009

“The Invention of Lying” – Ricky Gervais movie about a world in which everyone tells the truth and his character ‘invents’ lying. Barring any fibbing, the movie opens on October 2, 2009

“A Serious Man” – Coen Bros. movie about a man trying to find clarity in the Sixties. Opens October 2, 2009.

“Whip It” – Ellen Page returns to the screen as a teen who finds her calling by joining a female roller derby team. This is also the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore. Opens October 2, 2009

“Zombieland” – As if we can’t get enough zombie movies, this one has Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg as two guys who must escort a band of survivors to safety. Also stars Abigail Breslin and Bill Murray. Opens October 2, 2009

“Couples Retreat” – Couples are on a tropical resort island to work out their marriages. Stars Kristen Bell, Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Jon Favreau, and Jean Reno. Opens October 9, 2009

“Law Abiding Citizen” – Gerard Butler plays a man whose family is murdered. Jamie Foxx is a hotshot lawyer presiding over his case. Butler goes to jail and after 10 years begins plaguing the city by executing carefully-plotted assassination plans from his jail cell. Opens October 16, 2009

“The Stepfather” – A guy returns home from military school to find his mother with a new man. Is he everything he’s cracked up to be? Remake of the 80’s flick with Terry O’Quinn. Opens October 16, 2009

“Where the Wild Things Are” – Spike Jonze adaptation of the classic kids book. I’m there! Opens October 16, 2009

“Amelia” – A look at Amelia Earhart, the aviator who disappeared flying over the Pacific in 1937. Stars Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Virginia Madsen and Ewan McGregor. The film lands on October 23, 2009

“Saw VI” – Are you tired of playing games? Evidently they’re not. The mayhem ensues on October 23, 2009

“The Vampire’s Assistant: Cirque Du Freak” – A boy named Darren Shan meets a mysterious man who turns out to be a vampire, then takes him on the long road to becoming one. Stars Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly, Willem Dafoe, and Patrick Fugit. Opens October 23, 2009

“Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’” – The documentary on MJ’s last days. There ya go. Opens October 28, 2009

“The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day” – Sequel to the 90’s cult classic about two brothers defending their neighborhood from Russians wanting to take over. This time around they’re in seclusion in Ireland when word of the death of a priest brings them out of hiding to solve the case. Stars Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, and Billy Connolly. Opens October 30, 2009

“Youth in Revolt” – Michael Cera is a teenager who falls for the girl of his dreams and develops a split personality who creates havoc. Wasn’t this “Fight Club?” Also stars Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, M. Emmet Walsh, Justin Long, and Fred Willard. Opens October 30, 2009