Saturday, February 21, 2009

Don't miss our live blogging at!

Join MichaelVox and me over at our Cinebanter Web site as we live blog the Oscars® (and the red-carpet, pre-show happenings, etc.) - it's our third year doing it and we hope to hear from all of you via our "comments" section throughout the broadcast.

The fun will start in early afternoon (Pacific Time). See you there!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Live Action Short Film Nominees (Oscars® 2009)

Tonight I saw all five of the nominated films in the Live Action Short category. I'll present my reviews in the order they were shown.


The lengthiest of the nominees, Switzerland and Germany's narrative about a mall security guard who is in love with a bookshop clerk, feels like it could go a number of ways.

First, you see him apprehending shoplifters and wonder if the whole short will be a series of these situations, then once you see him zeroing in on Sarah (the bookshop clerk) with the security camera, you think he may be stalking her.

In a sense, he is.

So much that he makes sure to ride the same subway home and inadvertently witnesses a tragedy connected to her because of it.

Will he reveal what he saw? Will it make any difference to her if he does?

A lot happens in the 30 minutes to allow you to ponder these possibilities...which is what makes it good.

The ending, however, could've been better.


Ireland's dramedy based on a Roddy Doyle short story packs a lot of punch.

It tells us of Joseph's arrival in an Irish elementary school and the adjustments that come with such a shift.

Joseph, we learn through flashbacks, is from war-torn Africa and is still dealing with the horrors he experienced in his homeland.

Christian is the resident troublemaker who does everything in his power to make the new kid feel out of place.

True to form, there's a tattletale and a short-tempered teacher who round out the cast (and the story).

Will the new boy survive in his new surroundings?

Amazingly, 11 minutes is all you need to find out.


This heart-wrenching, yet profound holocaust story from Germany is reminiscent of LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, as it is centered around adults making the horrors of war metaphorical (concentration camps are referred to as "Toyland") to protect their children.

The friendship of two boys is in jeopardy as one is Jewish and the other is not.

What transpires is a beautiful exploration of "what if" and perhaps the best ending I've seen to a movie in recent years.


In this Denmark film, an old man is having "butt surgery" and takes comfort in a whimsical painting of a pig that faces his hospital bed.

He appears to have no loved ones attending to him, and is told he may in fact have cancer (though what he is having the surgery for is less serious). The pig makes him smile and chuckle to himself—so much that he tells the nurse he likes it.

Unfortunately, when he wakes from surgery it is gone at the request of his Muslim roommate.

After that, as an audience member you're asked to determine the definition of tolerance—and then react to a twist at the end that could change your mind.


In this French film, a young woman (Manon) is happily riding her bike around the winding streets of her town when she is struck by a car.

After that, she narrates instructions, regrets and meaningful memories about her life as she "floats" near her body and witnesses the unfolding events (folks gathering in the street, medics arriving).

It's a brief exploration of what could happen to any of us at any time, and more so a painful reminder that we should be living every day to the fullest—reminding those we love how much we appreciate them.


So which film would I pick to win the Oscar®? Really, I think they're all worthy, but if I had to narrow it to one it would have to be TOYLAND.

Please remember to tune into the Cinebanter Live Blog for the Spirit Awards this Saturday and of course, the Oscars® on Sunday.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Wendy and Lucy

Tonight I saw Wendy and Lucy, starring Michelle Williams and Lucy.

Have you ever been in a situation where one bad thing happened and then another followed, and another, until you felt as if the whole universe was against you?

This is how you'll feel watching events unfold in the life of Wendy (Williams), a young girl from Indiana who is headed to Alaska to work in a Ketchikan cannery.

We first see her playing with her dog Lucy (Lucy) in the woods and learn she is in Oregon. After she wakes up to a security guard telling her she's not allowed to sleep on Walgreen's property, she realizes her car won't start. And thus begins her own personal spiral to hell.

With one bad choice, her world soon spins out of control and we're held emotionally hostage wanting so badly for it to all turn out okay for her. Why do we care? This is what makes the movie good: we have very few clues as to what put Wendy in this situation, yet her almost numb responses to each event make us unimaginably sympathetic. She seems like a decent person who is just down on her luck—and haven't we all been down on our luck at one point in our lives or another?

The film moves at a slow, quiet pace, but is never boring. The few supporting characters that emerge (the security guard, the mechanic, etc.) feel as though they're real people who we may actually encounter when we have car trouble ourselves; the dog is undeniably sweet.

And Michelle Williams amazing performance makes this very human story work.

See this movie—you'll painfully cringe at her misfortune while joyfully tearing up at the sight of the kindness she experiences.