Los Angeles

October 13, 2017

Hummingbird Fly: How Jude Angelini is Writing His Own Rules

*Interview was conducted October 9th, 2017 with Matt Stewart from Simplistic Reviews and Jude Angelini via phone. All quotes have been taken from the interview*
The beat poets of the 1950s were a revolutionary idea. Intelligent writers struggling to find meaning in a world where they didn’t think they belonged. From Ginsberg to Kerouac, it sparked a literary revolution and inspired a generation of new writers to simply write about life. But where are the new crop of “beat” writers? They’ve become a relic of a bygone era. But the idea of writing about one’s life experiences lives in one “Rude” Jude Angelini with the release of his newest book, “Hummingbird,” the follow-up to his 2014 release, “Hyena.”

Many have made comparisons that Angelini is a modern day Charles Bukowski, whereas I see shades of Brett Easton Ellis with his vivid depictions of sex and drugs. However, “Rude” Jude shakes those comparison’s off and doesn’t want his voice to be put in a box.

“He (Bukowski) inspired me to write…’Notes From a Dirty Old Man’ that’s the one that get me to think about writing a bit, but I try to stay away from those two guys (Bukowski and Ellis). I’ve been listening to a lot of Elmore Leonard, and reading Larry McMurtry lately…I try to stay away from the Beat writers, because I don’t want to be compared to them, but I do consider myself a modern day Beat writer.”

From unabashed, self-deprecating, and in some cases, extremely sympathetic, Angelini writes from the heart, and it’s that attitude that has garnered him a devoted following in both the literary and radio world. But even with such a following, it’s hard to break the stereotype he finds himself in. Angelin explains.

“If you look at my trajectory…I don’t see myself as this, but, a lot of people do; I went from white trash wigger on ‘The Jenny Jones Show,’ to wigger shock jock. I didn’t want to be called that anymore…it overly simplified me. I wanted people to understand that my story wasn’t a unique story, if anything, it’s a common story, that’s under shared…”

Growing up in Pontiac, Michigan. Angelini has risen from the working poor in a factory town, becoming a recurring guest of “The Jenny Jones Show,” to hosting Shade 45’s “The All Out Show” on Sirius XM Radio. He now stands on the precipice of being a New York Times Best Selling author. However, even after the success of “Hyena” he’s still faced with an issue; being thought of as an overnight success in a literary world where many people don’t think he belongs.

“What’s popular in the arts? Is a heterosexual Caucasian popular in the arts right now? It’s so simplistic…’does he check off this box, this box, and this box.’ Diversity goes beyond who you fuck and what color you are. I got passed over by everyone. I’m not a celebrity, I’m not an author, they don’t know where to put me, they thought Hyena was a fluke. The company that I went to (Rare Bird Books) deals with fringe writers, like books by sex workers, and we’re doing quite well now.”

With the struggle to get “Hummingbird” published, Angelini recognizes that an honest day’s work isn’t going to be enough these days and your work ethic has to be extreme in order to get ahead, and at times, sacrificial.

“I like a lot of gangster rap from Detroit…they talk about ‘go get it, don’t wait,’ that’s my philosophy. It (the book) is about sacrifice. I sacrificed relationships, family, my daughter, loved ones, women, to not be broke, and be successful in my field. Nothing comes for free. That’s why one chapter is called ‘Abraham.’ You have to be willing to sacrifice to make it in this world.”

‘Abraham’ explores how Angelini wanted to “blow up” before settling in Los Angeles, where he now lives, his initial struggle, a move to New York, and a tumultuous relationship with Julie, who is a frequent topic in both “Hyena” and “Hummingbird.” It’s moments like these where you see a softer side to “Rude” Jude. Another example is the chapter entitled “Sadie Hawkins,” where he meets a young lady who has cystic fibrosis.

“What smart people see is that there is heart in each and every one of these stories. I might do grimy things, I might do things that society might deem unacceptable, but I have my own moral (compass) and value system, and it’s about being respectful and allowing people to make decisions on their own, but some people might read that and say it’s sexist…is it? To allow people to make their own decisions after being given all the information is sexist?”

It’s questions like that that give readers pause and challenge what they not only think about Angelini, but also think about themselves. We all share similar life experiences, but just don’t happen to write it down and have it published and read by the masses.

But at the heart of “Hummingbird” there is the underlying idea of acceptance. Whether it with your friends, sexual partners, or parents, the idea of acceptance is something that weighs heavily with Angelini. Even with book sales, that’s not the goal at the end of the day, it’s being accepted as an equal, on his own terms of course.

“You don’t write a book to make money. It’s about the prestige, it’s about the acceptance. You know what it would mean to me…a guy that took five years to get through high school that was in shitty English class, took a few junior college courses, to be a New York Times bestseller on some literary shit? People buying the book is a vote, I need votes…I want entrance into that part of society, the same part of society that rejects me, on my own terms.”
For more of “Rude” Jude check out his socials:

IG: @onemorejude
Twitter: @rude_jude
Snapchat: rude_jude

‘The All Out Show’ can be heard on Shade 45 on Sirius XM Radio from 4-7 pm EST Monday-Friday.

You can purchase “Hummingbird” via Amazon HERE
You can also pick up “Hyena” HERE

Matt Stewart was born and raised in South Florida and recently moved to Nashville, TN. Simplistic Reviews started with three buddies, Matt, DJ, and Justin, bitching about TV and Movies in July 2012 and guess what…they are still bitching and better than ever.
January 12, 2016

2016 Golden Globe Results: Who won…who should have won….

It’s officially the start of the Award Season as the 73rd Annual Golden Globes wrapped up this past Sunday Night with the ever-resourceful Ricky Gervais was back at the helm after a few years off.

Of course so many people have their opinions on who the winners should have been or that the winners were perfectly chosen…well, you know what they say about opinions….

With that said, here are the winners from the Golden Globes, and whether the Hollywood Foreign Press made the right choices. Keep in mind, this is only about the film categories for this year’s show.

Best Motion Picture, Drama
Winner: The Revenant
Who Should Have Won: The Revenant
Why: Well, the argument could be made that “Spotlight” should have been a victor in this category, but it can also be argued that the Golden Globes are weird awards with weird ways of doing things. From a film-making perspective, “The Revenant” is hard to beat. From a story perspective, its rather thin; a revenge tale hidden in a metaphor-riddled art film.

Best Motion Picture, Comedy and/or Musical
Winner: The Martian
Who Should Have Won: Anything else that is actually a comedy or musical…
Why: Well, is “The Martian” a comedy or musical? I’d be on the side that it isn’t, but I guess if the only factor of a comedy is that you might laugh a few times over the course of a 2+ hour film, sure, I guess “The Martian” is a comedy.

Best Actor, Drama
Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio
Who Should Have Won: Michael Fassbender
Why: This is likely going to be Leo’s year due to a pretty weak class of Best Actors. The other thing in Leo’s favor is the lack of game-changing or “lightning in a bottle” performances likes we’ve seen from the likes of Eddie Redmayne last year and Matthew McConaughey the year before that, so this is looking like it will finally be his year, if just for the physical demands the role take. Fassbender had to deal with the onslaught that is Aaron Sorkin dialogue, and while I enjoyed his role in “Steve Jobs” more so, this win for DiCaprio might as well punch his ticket for Oscar gold in February.

Best Actress, Drama
Winner: Brie Larson
Who Should Have Won: Brie Larson
Why: If it wasn’t only for the reason that I have a small crush on Larson, and if that was enough of a reason, she’s also paid her dues and has shown that she has range and is willing to play any role with that rare combination of innocence, youth, and vulnerability. Beginning with “Short Term 12” Larson is starting to pave her way to a long and great career and “Room” is the first in what will likely begin her Jennifer Lawrence-type accession.

Best Actor, Comedy/Musical
Winner: Matt Damon
Who Should Have Won: Matt Damon
Why: I’ll just say Matt Damon because I like Matt Damon. Again, “The Martian” slipping into the comedy/musical category just seems like lip service and an excuse to honor both Damon and DiCaprio in the same show. Might I also add, that I feel this is a very weak year for the Best Actor category.

Best Actress, Comedy/Musical
Winner: Jennifer Lawrence
Who Should Have Won: Amy Schumer
Why: Probably the only film and actress nominated in this category correctly. After a string of misses, it looks like Judd Apatow might be back to making funny films, and his muse, Schumer, who I’ve been cold on for quite a while, actually put in a performance that made me like her. However, we all know the tactics of David O Russell, which pretty much handed Lawrence the Globe this year. Again, if “Joy” funny enough to land in this category…probably not.

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Sylvester Stallone
Who Should Have One: Idris Elba
Why: This really is splitting hairs here. I only pick Elba because I think he is great, but he also put in a scary performance, albeit a performance that I feel like I’ve seen before. But I’ve also had to sit through five additional “Rocky” movies before I finally felt that I got to a “Rocky” performance that made me feel something. Can the underdog do it again around Oscar time? For some reason I think he might.

Best Support Actress
Winner: Kate Winslet
Who Should Have Won: Kate Winslet
Why: Seeing what Winslet did with Sorkin’s dialogue, mixed with the use of her accent, was something I don’t think I’ve ever seen out of the one-time Oscar winner. I think this might be her year again.

Best Screenplay
Winner: Aaron Sorkin
Who Should Have Won: Aaron Sorkin
Why: I base who I think should win on whether I’m hanging on every word that is spoken on screen and nothing really put me on edge in 2015 like “Steve Jobs” did. When you have actors that can read what Sorkin writes, even Seth Rogen who gives a criminally underrated performance, you know you have a special film and a special script. Any other year I would have given this one to Quentin Tarantino, but Sorkin knocks this one out of the park.

Best Director
Winner: Alejandro G. Inarritu
Who Should Have Won: George Miller
Why: Yes, Inarritu has created two exceptionally gimmicky films in back-to-back year, but is his direction the best? I’d lean on the side of no. If you job as a director is to not kill your cast, but bring them right to the edge, sure, he succeeded, but what George Miller did with “Fury Road” was downright shocking. He created a feminist icon, created one of the most talked about and debated films of the year, and not to mention put things on the silver screen that are nearly impossible to direct, yet, he did it, at over the age of 80.

“Shocker” of a Winner: John Hamm for Mad Men
I’m not going to crap on Hamm, I think the guy is cool, affable, and had a great run. But after not winner a Globe for his entire run on “Mad Men” I guess it was time for him to win one, even though there were ballsier performance from the likes of Rami Malek and Wagner Moura.

Actual Shocker of a Winner: Lady Gaga for American Horror Story: Hotel
This one I didn’t see coming, and I’m not sure many others did either. Thinking about it, this is actually a ballsy move by the Globes to award this to a genre show like “AHS,” so I’m all for it. This one takes the sting away from the wins that felt like “give-aways.”

November 11, 2014

Nightcrawler

TURN

Nightcrawler – Turn

Coming off of the heels of my review of “Zodiac” I liken that review to more of a catchup and brush up on Jake Gyllenhaal and where he is as an actor. The more I see, or re-watch of his career I wonder why he isn’t as popular as most other actors of his ilk. I really don’t think there is an actor working right now that takes as many chances and transforms himself as often outside of maybe Christan Bale. He takes on difficult roles, owns them, and is still able to play someone that we the audience slightly relate to. This brings me to his latest role, another turn in his career that you could also call a career-defining role. That film is “Nightcrawler” a gritty neo-noir in the vein of “Drive” “Network” and a dash of “Collateral.”

“Nightcrawler” takes the classic trope of following the American Dream to extreme, but somehow, necessary lengths. Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a small-time crook looking for a chance to prove himself. Fate knocks at his door one evening when he witnesses a woman being rescued from a burning car by two police officers. It’s not the women’s distress that catches his attention however, it’s the cameramen who capture the harrowing rescue which appears on the news the next day. Being the go-getter that he is, Bloom procures funds to buy a camera and decides his calling is to “nightcrawl.”

Finally capturing some useable footage, Bloom delivers the goods to late-night news director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo) and the two begin a working relationship much to the chagrin of Nina’s co-worker Frank Kruse who finds the “if it bleeds, it leads” method of news broadcasting lacking. Bloom continues to thrive in his new calling and teams up with Rick, a homeless Angelino looking for a shot, just like Bloom.

The stakes reach their apex after Bloom and Rick witness a deadly home invasion which leaves three people dead. Sensing a breakthrough, Bloom puts all the pieces together in order to not only get the best news story, but to create the news himself.

There is a lot that could be given away in my synopsis, so I’ll stop right here because all the fun of “Nightcrawler” is to actually go on this twisted journey that features some of the best acting to date from Gyllenhaal. His take on Lou Bloom, starting from a scab who is stealing manhole covers and reselling them to a scraper, to a video camera-wielding scab making real money and becoming his own boss. One scene which stands out is Lou and Nina’s discussion about compensation for footage which Lou is trying to sell. While Nina tries to stonewall him, Lou knows everything he needs to say in order to shut her down and not only gets what he wants, but turns the tables in favor of his eventual endgame.

There is a lot of talk about “Nightcrawler” also being the “Network” for this generation. Well, having seen “Network” I say that is a pretty easy comparison being that this film is namely about the sensationalism of violence in our society and the apathy that news directors have in order to keep showing up the worst of humanity. Russo’s turn as Nina Romina is very similar to Faye Dunaway’s turn as Diana Christensen. Both are cutthroat newswomen, but unlike Christensen, Romina, while she thinks she is in control, is overtaken by Bloom who knows much more than she thinks he does. This also brings up a good point; how we obtain information in this day and age. Unlike 1976, there really wasn’t a precedent for the Internet and the sharing of information at a massive scale. Lou is able to position himself where he knows more about Nina than Nina almost does which gives him all the advantage he needs in an situation, which leads to some of the film’s best, and intense, scenes.

The Gilroy trio of Dan, Tony, and John, who direct, produce, and edit, respectively, create a vision of Los Angeles that is lively, dreamlike, and something out of a horror film all at the same time. However, my one minor gripe is the score of James Newton Howard. The score simply doesn’t seem to fit the setting of this seedy underbelly of LA. It’s a little too…..chipper? And this isn’t even to say that the score is bad, it just doesn’t fit.

Overall, “Nightcrawler” is everything it sets out to be; a social commentary with top-notch acting, solid action sequences, that looks great to boot. As it stands now, Gyllenhaal’s performance is by far my favorite of the year, and it will be a shame if he’s not one of the five nominees for an Oscar this year.

Fun Fact: Gyllenhaal lost over 20 pounds in order to obtain the gaunt look of Lou Bloom.

September 22, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine – Speed

RELENTLESS

The year is 1994. Teenagers around the world mourned for the loss of Kurt Cobain. “Forest Gump”, “The Lion King” and “Pulp Fiction” all shared the silver screen together and Sony released the Playstation, revolutionizing the way future games would be published. Also a bus was fitted with a bomb and used to terrorize L.A. commuters in “Speed”.
In 1997 “The Simpsons” parodied the title “Speed” in the episode “The Springfield Files” in which Homer says; “I saw this in a movie about a bus that had to speed around the city, keeping its speed over fifty, and if its speed dropped, the bus would explode! I think it was called “The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down”. There is never a bad time to quote The Simpsons.
THE SKINNY
The film begins with Los Angeles police officer Jack Traven, Keanu Reeves,and his partner Harry Temple, Jeff Daniels, as they respond to a call that there has been an explosion inside an elevator shaft of a down town office building. The bomber is demanding a ransom of three million dollars be paid or he will trigger an explosion – cutting the elevators cables – in turn killing the people on the elevator.
 
Suspecting that the bomber isn’t playing fair, Jack thinks up a plan to remove the hostages from the equation involving a rooftop crane that he uses to help support the weight of the elevator. Howard Payne, the bomber played by Dennis Hopper, is the type of guy who is very meticulous and always seems to be one step ahead of the game. Payne happens to be keeping a close watch over the elevator to make sure he has the upper hand. Hidden on another elevator and listening in via a microphone, Payne catches wind that police are up to something so he decides to blow elevator anyhow and get the hell outta there.
Jack now suspects that the bomber is near by. He and Harry search the fraught elevators and eventually find Payne. Again Payne has a backup plan. Rather than be arrested and spend his last few years in a jail cell, he blows himself up with a suicide vest. This is one of my favorite scenes of the film.

Days later Jack has a run in with Payne who, surprise, is still alive and pissed. The three million dollars was going to be Payne’s retirement nest egg and now he wants revenge against Jack. He calls Jack on the phone and informs him that somewhere in L.A. there is a bus fitted with a bomb. If it’s passengers are going to survive Jack will have to located it and get aboard. But there are rules ya see… First, no one is allowed off the bus. Second, once the bus reaches fifty miles per hour it must continue at that speed or it will explode.
For the next hour of the film Jack, now on the bus, tries his best to navigate the busy L.A. streets while keeping the bus above fifty miles per hour and trying to think of a plan to get the passengers to safety. Jan de Bont does a hell of a job directing because, as simple as this concept is, it never gets boring. In fact it’s relentless. There is enough going on to keep the viewer interested and enough suspense to keep them on the edge of there seat. In this time Jack tries to unload the passengers, disarm the bomb, fist fight frantic passengers and even ramp the bus, I’m not even joking, over a fifty foot gap in an overpass that is under construction. Of course this is the doing of young Annie Porter, Sandra Bullock, who has been volunteered to drive while Jack does a little bit of this and that.
 
Jack struggles to understand how Payne knows what is going on in the bus at all times. The police close off air space around the bus from news choppers, but that doesn’t help. Finally Jack gets the upper hand when he realizes that the safety cam located at the front of the bus is transmitting a to an undisclosed location where Payne has been watching this whole time. Jack has his tech savvy police pals record and transmit footage in a loop so Payne is unaware that the passengers are being evacuated.
Meanwhile, Harry is doing his best to track down Payne, who it turns out is a former police officer who worked in the bomb squad. Payne was forced into retirement after blowing off his thumb. Payne risked his life for years doing a dangerous job and in return all he got was a lousy gold watch as a retirement gift. This is the heart of Paynes motivation.
 
With the passengers safe the film becomes a man hunt for Payne which leads into the busy L.A. subways with Annie as a hostage and Jack in hot pursuit. This leads to a fistfight on top of a runaway subway car. As Jack and Payne tussle around, Jack eliminates Payne by decapitating him against a light mounted to the ceiling of the subway. The car crashes and Jack and Annie emerge unscathed and fall in love. The End.
THE VERDICT
“Speed” was a HUGE success in 1994. This movie was the only thing people talked about that entire summer. The idea of putting a bomb on a bus, triggered by it’s speed, was just so simple and yet tremendously effective. It essentially turned two thirds of the film into a high speed chase.
Beyond that, “Speed” is a chess match between Payne and Jack. Which spaces can they occupy without losing anything and how they can get the other guy to fall on the spaces that will do the them in. It’s about leverage.
Speaking of leverage, this reminds me of my favorite scenes in “Speed” and one of my all time favorite scenes in all of action movies. The one in which Jack shoots Harry. Early on, after the people are rescued from the elevator, Jack and Harry track down Payne somewhere else inside the building. Payne gets the drop on Harry and tried to use him as a temporary hostage in an escape attempt. So what does Jack do? Lay down his weapon and allow Payne to escape? Raise his weapon and blow Payne away? Nah! Instead he shoots Jack in the leg. The idea being that if a cop is willing to shoot the hostage, the hostage taker no longer has any leverage. Brilliant! This may have been the first time a movie taught me how to think outside the box and I will never forget it.
Over all this movie holds up, but there are a few areas were the film is lacking.
First the bus ramp scene. I don’t give a shit in what kind of “in a perfect world” scenario we’re talkin’ here, that WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!
Second, when Jack and Annie finally escape the bus, it continues to drive unattended as it loses speed and eventually explodes. The thing is, it explodes just as it collides with an airliner on the runway of L.A.X. So Jack saved the lives of eight or ten people on the bus, but what about the passengers on the airplane?! I assume it was empty, but WHAT THE FUCK?!
Hmmm, the movie begins with a bus that drives into an airplane, and ends in the subway. This movie could have been called “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”.
 
“Speed” is one of those movies that, over time, you’ll only remember the tropes that were so often parodied when it was released, but when you sit down and re-watch it, it will remind you just how good it is. Check it out!
Of course this was followed by “Speed 2”. A movie about a boat… and no one seemed to give a shit. Maybe sometime we’ll visit action movie sequels that fell flat. If so, We’ll start there.
I’m Cory Carr and this concludes our ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi!
For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!
March 2, 2014

Simplistic Reviews Picks (on) The Oscars!

It’s that time of year again.   The time of year where overprivileged stars get together, shake hands, say how much they appreciate each other, attend the Vanity Fair after-party, get smashed, and yeah…win awards.

Our job here at Simplistic Reviews, besides being jealous of these actors, is to decide who will win, and who will lose.  It’s Oscar time ladies and germs!

The 86th Annual Academy Awards are this Sunday, March 2nd, and to commemorate this special occasion DJ, Justin, Neal, who has been dubbed “The Voice of the People”, and Matt are picking the winners.

To make things easier, we are color coding their picks.  In the event of the same picks multiple colors will be added per winner.  Throughout the night, this post will be updated with the winners along with a running total of who has the most correct picks.  The boys will also be live tweeting the awards in an effort to mock every horrible outfit and every clunky acceptance speech.  Follow @srblogspot@chezitman and @tryingtobedjv for all types of hilarity.

Justin is RED
Neal is BLUE
DJ is GREEN
Matt is ORANGE 


Best Picture

  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • 12 Years a SlaveWINNER
  • The Wolf of Wall Street 

Best Actor in a Leading Role
  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)WINNER

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)WINNER
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) WINNER

Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Ironically, the two black guys pick the white chick, and the white guys pick the black chick)
  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)WINNER
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)

 Best Animated Feature

  • The Croods (Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco, Kristine Belson)
  • Despicable Me 2 (Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin, Chris Meledandri)
  • Ernest & Celestine (Benjamin Renner, Didier Brunner)
  • Frozen (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho)WINNER
  • The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki)

Best Cinematography
  • The Grandmaster (Philippe Le Sourd)
  • Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki)WINNER
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (Bruno Delbonnel)
  • Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael)
  • Prisoners (Roger A. Deakins)

Best Costume Design
  • American Hustle (Michael Wilkinson)
  • The Grandmaster (William Chang Suk Ping)
  • The Great Gatsby (Catherine Martin)WINNER
  • The Invisible Woman (Michael O’Connor)
  • 12 Years a Slave (Patricia Norris)

Best Directing
  • American Hustle (David O. Russell)
  • Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)WINNER
  • Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
  • 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

Best Film Editing
  • American Hustle (Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers, Alan Baumgarten)
  • Captain Phillips (Christopher Rouse)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (John Mac McMurphy, Martin Pensa)
  • Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger)WINNER
  • 12 Years a Slave (Joe Walker)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Dallas Buyers Club (Adruitha Lee, Robin Mathews) WINNER
  • Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (Stephen Prouty)
  • The Lone Ranger (Joel Harlow, Gloria Pasqua-Casny)

Best Original Score
  • The Book Thief (John Williams)
  • Gravity (Steven Price)WINNER
  • Her (William Butler, Owen Pallett)
  • Philomena (Alexandre Desplat)
  • Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)

Best Original Song
  • Happy (Despicable Me 2)
  • Let It Go (Frozen)WINNER
  • The Moon Song (Her)
  • Ordinary Love (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom)

Best Visual Effects
  • Gravity (Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, Dave Shirk, Neil Corbould)WINNER
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, Eric Reynolds)
  • Iron Man 3 (Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash, Dan Sudick)
  • Star Trek Into Darkness (Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann, Burt Dalton)
  • The Lone Ranger (Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams, John Frazier)

Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
  • Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)
  • Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope)
  • 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)WINNER
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)

Best Original Screenplay
  • American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell)
  • Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack)
  • Her (Spike Jonze)WINNER
  • Nebraska (Bob Nelson)
January 25, 2013

Simplistic TV Holiday Hangover: House of Lies

House of Lies – Deceiving

Slowly but surely, Showtime is catching up to it’s big brother, HBO, with some of the best programming since “The Red Shoe Diaries.”  I kid, I kid!  Jokes aside, between “Dexter,” “Homeland,” and “Shameless” the network that tells you to “Hold on Tight” is showing a pulse when it comes to funny, subversive comedy, and intriguing, dramatic work.  But what happens when you take a good idea, in theory, add a great cast around it, and try and make it your replacement for “Weeds?” Well, you get “House of Lies,” a breezy dramedy series made of pure fluff…..or is it, deceiving you?

This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy fluff and hijinks;  I thoroughly enjoy the fluff of “Parks and Recreation,” and the madcap insanity of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”  What you get with “Lies” is a group of Managing Consultants from Galweather & Stearn, based in Los Angeles,  led by the sociopath/corporate headhunter, Marty Kaan, played brilliantly by Don Cheadle. (who earned a well-deserved Golden Globe this year)  Kaan (get it) is the Polaroid of the modern American working professional; failed marriage, single father, a compulsive sexual appetite, especially for his equally damaged ex-wife, and some serious mommy issues.  However, when its time for Marty and his team to put their game-faces on, they never fail.  Well, they fail until their figure out a way to win, which is the ongoing theme of “Lies.”

To put it in perspective,think “Entourage” having relations with “Californication” and “Weeds” deciding to pull their pants down and join the party as well.  What I enjoy about “Lies” is the banter between Marty’s team, or his “Pod,” which includes Kristen Bell in probably her best work since “Veronica Mars” and Ben Schwartz, who you might know as Jean-Ralphio from the aforementioned “Parks.” The young cast is perfectly anchored by Cheadle who is excellent in everything, but you really get to see him show a darker, and very much damaged, side to his acting.  If there’s any reason to watch the show it’s to show his deceiving nature destroy his enemies but nevertheless have him get caught in the crossfire as well.  While the show started out breezy enough, as the first season progressed it started plunging into darkness, and while there are still a few zingers that will tickle your ribs, you also have a pit in your stomach and think to yourself?  Am I supposed to be rooting for these characters, or wagging our fingers at them and saying, “See, that’s what you get.”

Another gimmick of the show, but it still works pretty well, is Marty breaking the 4th wall.  One of my favorite comic book characters is Deadpool.  One of his actual powers IS breaking the 4th wall.  But in reference to Marty, its usually a way to move the story along and remove any doubt from the viewers’ mind what exactly is going through HIS mind.  It’s effective one two fronts; 1) Marty knows he is the smartest guy in the room and feels he controls his team, but you’ll notice that he is only totally in control when he is in his comfort zone; his work. 2)  Sometimes the situations of the show do get a little convoluted so it does help to have someone quarterback you through the situation, and who better than a slimy Management Consultant.  What could be said negatively about these scenes is that the show is not allowing the audience to put the pieces together themselves and treating them with kid gloves, which might come of as insulting to some viewers.

Overall, “House of Lies” is a fun show in the vein of “Entourage” minus the big time celebrities, the best you’re going to get is Cat Deeley, for all you SYTYCD fans out there. (if you have to ask what it means, well, you’re probably better off)  With a definite lack of comedy on HBO, this might be Showtime’s foothold to take some audience away from them, unless you like “Girls,” and if that’s the case you should really ask yourself, “Why?”

Fun Fact:  According to Vault.com in 2013, McKinsey & Company was ranked as the number Management Consulting firm in the world.  Oddly enough, the number one Consulting firm in “Lies” is called “Kinsley.” Close enough.

January 12, 2013

Holiday Hangover: Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad – Bite

Its been a while since there’s been a straight-up cops fighting the mob type of film.  The last one I can really think of  was “American Gangster.”  The problem with this genre is that it’s been done to death, and how can you really re-invent the wheel.  Sure, you can make it more modern and take it out of the 1920s or 40s, but that’s half the charm of these films.  I like to see big Cadillacs, bright lights on buildings, and usually, extraordinarily bad acting.  Well guess what, “Gangster Squad” is more than happy to bite off of all these cliches, and more.

If you take “L.A Confidential,” “The Untouchables,” and “Dick Tracy” you pretty much have “Squad” in a nutshell.  The story follows a group of LAPD officers who are tasked by Nick Nolte’s police chief to take down East Coast-turned-West Coast mobster Mickey Cohen, played by Sean Penn.  The story is basically “Hey, Cohen is a bad guy doing bad stuff.  Let’s shut his operations down!”  Stock story, stock characters, and very little room for characters to develop.

I personally like the way the film was shot.  I thought it was stylish, even though it did use an obscene amount of slow-motion camera work, and the fact that nearly all the shootouts and action set-pieces were shot practically, I appreciate that even more.  Ruben Fleischer has a knack for the quirky, and has a real grip on filming practical effects, but I don’t think he has a knack for filming drama.

While the action kept me in the film, the acting and writing left a lot to be desired.  Not even a cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Penn can save a paper thin plot that is so predictable, it was almost laughable.  In a film that had room for a few twists here and there (one again, think “L.A Confidential”) they decided to go the big budget action romp route.  While I was in the theater I started to think about the video game “L.A Noire.”  They both have similarities in the time frame (Post World War II) and really harped on the fact that Los Angeles was at “war” and soldiers are needed to win wars.  I wanted to know the war storied behind John O’ Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Gosling) but I got nothing of the sort.

While this movie might have been something to look forward to, it received a lot more publicity after the shooting in Aurora, CO in July 2012.  “Squad” had to go back and completely re-shoot an entire scene that featured a movie theater shooting as well.  While there are plenty of bullets flying throughout the course of the film, I’m puzzled why a re-shoot was necessary.  Whether it’s a movie theater or not, shooting and killing people is still shooting and killing people, no matter the venue.

Overall, “Gangster Squad” is a movie that will come and go through the theater, and probably make it’s money back, but it’s not changing the genre in any way.  The cast is good, the direction is good, but the story and characters are down right criminal.

Fun Fact:  This isn’t Josh Brolin, Michael Pena, or Nick Nolte’s first go around as cops.  All three have played Johnny Law in “American Gangster,” “End of Watch,” and “48 Hours,” respectively.

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