FREE Movies in March

It is time for my monthly plug of Carolina Cinemas.

Every Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge, the Asheville Film Society shows a FREE movie. Membership is not required.

3/5 – Red Dust (1932, Victor Fleming) – Clark Gable and Jean Harlow

3/12 – Bombshell (1933, Victor Fleming) – Jean Harlow

3/19 – Silk Stockings (1957, Rouben Mamoulian) – Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse

3/26 – Lady for a Day (1933, Frank Capra)

Every Thursday night, Ken and Justin put on a horror movie in the Cinema Lounge for FREE. The movie begins at 8 but often there is a serial at 7:30.

3/7 – The Deadly Mantis (1957, Nathan Juran)

3/14 – Phantasm (1979, Don Coscarelli)

3/21 – Double feature – The Frozen Ghost w/ Lon Chaney / The Invisible Ghost w/ Bela Lugosi

3/28 – The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942, Joseph H. Lewis)

The Asheville Film Society is putting on their latest Big Screen Budget film.

On Wednesday 3/13, they will be showing Grand Hotel (1932, Edmund Goulding) in one of the large theaters downstairs. Admission is $5 for members and $7 for non-members. Grand Hotel stars Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, and Wallace Beery.


Last of the New Netflix Movies for February

Today’s update primarily involves Asian cinema. My pick would be the Spanish horror film [REC] 3 – even if you haven’t seen the first two REC movies as REC 3 is a prequel and involves none of the characters from the first two films. New for Netflix streaming:

Action: Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Total Retribution, Super Cyclone

Comedy: Aziz Ansari: Deliciously Delicious, Louis C.K.:Live at the Beacon Theater, Let Go, Nature Calls, The Runway, Bindlestiffs

Documentary: The Blood of Yingzhou District, The Slanted Screen, ‘Super, Girls’, Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow

Drama: Nobody Walks, Stella Days, Collaborator

Foreign: Strange Circus, Schoolboy Crush, Lala Pipo: A Lot of People, Rough Cut, Er Dong, The Secret Reunion, Running Turtle, My Friend & His Wife, My Girlfriend is an Agent, Five Senses of Eros, Crying Fist, Missing, The Hotel, O Lucky Man, ‘Fine, Totally Fine’, Goodman Town, Daisy, Cafe Seoul, Lovers of Six Years, ‘Jeni, Juno’, Pavilion Salamandre, Little Moth, A Tale of Legendary Libido, Lust in Hell 2, Antardwand, Silent Souls

Horror: [REC]3: Genesis, The Haunting of Whaley House

Musical: Fruit Fly

Television: Ugesh Sarcar’s Third Degree

Dead Man Down Yummy!

As if I didn’t love my Carolina Cinemas enough:

“In celebration of DEAD MAN DOWN {from the director of the original “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, Niels Arden Oplev} opening March 8th… Enjoy a WINE COCKTAIL at concessions: Peach Nehi Icee + Montevina White Zinfandel + Strawberries, in a collector’s glass rimmed with sugar! Try one today!”

What I Watch

My wife and I have spent the last month trying to catch as many of the Oscar nominees as possible. Normally though our viewing habits are much different. On nights when Jenny and I are watching Dorothy, we watch:

Doctor Who (2005-2011)

“After more than a decade off the air, the epic sci-fi series returns with an all-new look — and the ninth (and beyond) incarnation of everybody’s favorite time-traveling doctor, who promptly sets about fighting nefarious aliens and other foes.”

We have (happily) worked our way through Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant and are just getting started on the latest Doctor, Matt Smith. Both instant Netflix and Amazon Prime have six seasons for streaming. Amazon has the seventh but you have to buy the individual episodes (bleh!).

If our eldest daughter is with us:

Game of Thrones

“In the second season of the epic HBO original series Game of Thrones, kings from across the fictional continent of Westeros vie for the Iron Throne. As winter approaches, the cruel young Joffrey sits upon the Throne in King’s Landing, counseled by his conniving mother Cersei and his uncle Tyrion, who has been appointed the new Hand of the King. But the Lannister hold on power is under assault on many fronts, with two Baratheons donning crowns, and Robb Stark fighting as the King in the North. With tensions and treaties, animosity and alliances, Season Two is a thrilling journey through a riveting and unforgettable landscape. “

Sadly this will not be on any of the services so I have to buy Season 2. Still I enjoy the show so much that I don’t mind shelling out the bucks to own it.

When my fair wife is unavailable, my daughter and I tend to watch scarier fare such as:

The Walking Dead

“In the wake of a zombie apocalypse that desolates the world as we know it, a group of survivors led by police officer Rick Grimes holds on to the hope of humanity by banding together to wage a never-ending fight for their own survival.”

My wife does not like being scared yet horror is my favorite genre. Thank goodness both of my daughters share a love of the genre. The first two seasons are available to watch on instant Netflix. I actually shell out a couple bucks each week to get the current episode of season three. Now if only HBO would release the individual episodes of the upcoming Game of Thrones season three for sale…

It takes a little juggling to satisfy everyone at home. My daughter and I like horror and animated comedy (South Park, The Simpsons, Family Guy) but my wife does not like scary shows or raunchy comedy. My wife and daughter like sitcoms and upbeat fare but those are not to my taste. My wife and I like documentaries and British shows (Sherlock, Doctor Who, mysteries) but my daughter hates them.

Finally we all seem to like a good number of ‘R’ rated movies but our three-year-old granddaughter is with us all the time so those are out. I often watch a movie after I’ve put them all to bed.

Marc and Jenny at the Oscars

Okay we’re really at Carolina Cinemas up in the Cinema Lounge.

Today (2/24) Carolina Cinemas is putting on another wonderful Oscar party. This event is FREE. There will be an Oscar ballot contest to win FREE movie passes.

Carolina Cinemas has a hot menu (pizza, salad, paninis, snacks) as well as the normal movie snacks. Soda refills (any size) are FREE. Popcorn refills (any size) are FREE if you have an Asheville Film Society membership. They also have local beer on tap, bottled beer, and wine by the glass or bottle.

While the party upstairs doesn’t start until 3:15, we plan to be there early and maybe catch a non-Oscar movie before the festivities.

3:15 – Beasts of the Southern Wild (Nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Actress)

5:00 – Last year’s Best Picture winner, The Artist

7:00 – The Red Carpet followed by the 85th Annual Academy Awards. Oscar trivia during the commercials to win FREE movie posters.

Jenny and I will be here all day – especially since we missed Beasts of the Southern Wild while it was in theaters.

2013 Oscar Best Picture & Director

I know the Academy is constantly struggling to keep their awards relevant but there seems to be a bit of cognitive dissonance between their Best Picture and Best Director categories. There are nine nominees for Best Picture and five for Best Director. Did the other four movies make themselves? Were they assembled by committee?

I have always felt that they shouldn’t bother with a Best Director category – they should just give the Best Film Oscar to the director, not the production company that bankrolled him/her. If you bankroll a movie, your reward is that the movie is financially successful and/or connotes prestige. Anyway on to the nominees for Best Picture and Director (Best Director nominees are bolded):

Amour (Michael Haneke): It is always quite surprising when a foreign film gets nominated for Best Picture (and Best Director), especially when it only opened here on February 15th. That said it isn’t likely to win since it is foreign. Also also it is quite grueling. This is one of the most honest depictions of love that I have ever seen and yet I have to warn you that it is not enjoyable. I often felt like Michael Haneke was punishing me for coming to his movie.

Argo (Ben Affleck): Here’s where the cognitive dissonance really kicks in. Argo is nominated for Best Picture but Ben Affleck is not nominated for Best Director. Affleck has won Best Director for this film from BAFTA, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, Chicago Film Critics Association, Florida Film Critics, the Golden Globes and others and was nominated by the Directors Guild. Yet Affleck can’t even score an Oscar nom.

Argo is an excellent motion picture. Affleck does a wonderful job of raising tension and interweaving scenes for a historical event where we already know the outcome. Yes, the climax of the film goes on a bit too long and goes well past reality into creative license but on the whole, this is an excellent suspenseful movie.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin): This is the film I can’t comment on since I won’t be seeing it until Oscar Sunday. I would still think this a longshot and our pre-eminent local critic, Ken Hanke did not think much of it at all.

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino): I loved Django Unchained, my wife didn’t like it at all. We both felt it was very poorly edited and desperately needed about an hour trimmed off. Tarantino’s dialogue, sly humor and visual style are in abundance here but I think it is considered too controversial to win. Note I write ‘considered’ as neither my wife nor I considered it to be controversial in spite of the overwhelming use of the ‘N’ word.

Les Miserables (Tom Hooper): My wife and I agree that this was not only a terrible Oscar pick but neither of us liked the movie. Not once did we tear up in spite of the endlessly depressing subject matter. The added song was not any good and appeared to be added for the sake of being nominated. Russell Crowe’s performance was all over the map. I will admit that Anne Hathaway’s performance was excellent BUT her five-minute character arc where she goes from being unemployed to selling her body, literally and figuratively, was so rapid as to be laughable.

Life of Pi (Ang Lee): I was unfortunate and missed Life of Pi. My loving wife and daughter went to see it and here is my wife’s take:

“Life of Pi is one of the most beautiful films I saw last year.  The colors are rich, sumptuous.  The story follows a boy who is stranded at sea in a life boat with a tiger after the ship his family is on sinks during a voyage from India to America.  The film feels longer than it is, but is so pretty to look at that I didn’t mind.  Great acting (in particular the actor who plays the older version of Pi is awesome), awesome editing, it’s a strong film – but it’s not the best film of the year (we already established that the best film fo the year is Cloud Atlas).  Things to remember:  there mostly isn’t a real tiger, or other real animals, in this film – mostly they’re all created from thin air (or massively powerful computers).  To me that’s the most awesome thing about Life of Pi –  realizing how far movie special effects have come since The Incredible Mr. Limpett (or Them!).”

Lincoln (Steven Spielberg): An excellent examination of politics that really only suffers from being an examination of politics (i.e. lots of speeches and backroom deals but very little action). Acting is wonderful and yes, I think Daniel Day Lewis is a lock for Best Actor.

Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell) :This was a delightful view of life with psychological dysfunction covered in a romantic comedy wrapper. Jennifer Lawrence is not one of those zany girls with a lust for life, she is a young woman with real mental issues. Bradley Cooper is not the misunderstood hero, he too has real mental issues that clearly stem from his family. They even (marginally) address the age difference between the two of them.

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow): I thoroughly enjoyed this balanced portrayal of our hunt for Bin Laden. The movie operates as a procedural – only two of the characters are developed in any significant way. I was very impressed with the opening 911 audio reports over a dark screen. Zero Dark Thirty of course suffers both from trying to tell an authentic story and from compressing a decade of events into a few hours.

2013 Oscar Best Actress and Supporting Actress

Okay, as with the Best Actor category, the Best Supporting Actress appears to be chosen already. The Best Actress category also set records this year for oldest nominee (Emmanuelle Riva) and youngest nominee (Quvenzhane Wallis).
Best Actress:

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

I really like Jennifer Lawrence. She came out of nowhere with Winter’s Bone, did a nice job as Mystique in X-Men First Class (helping to offset January Jones), and saved The Hunger Games from mediocrity. I also like that, for Hollywood, she is a plus-sized lady. Her performance in Silver Linings Playbook is delightful and I would normally hope she gets the Oscar.

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

I like Jessica Chastain and she is quite good in Zero Dark Thirty but all she has to sell is tough. She is tough in the movie but we don’t usually give out Oscars for that. There was not a lot of emotional depth written into the role but she handled it well.

Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

No contest – Emmanuelle Riva’s performance blew me away. Amour is a two-hour slog and it often feels like Michael Haneke is trying to punish you for watching his film but it is a very honest and resonant look at what real love looks like. Emmanuelle Riva is absolutely uncanny as a wife who suffers a stroke – every nuance of her performance was amazing.

Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Well I won’t see this until Oscar Sunday but nominating a pre-teen for acting usually just means that you like them in that role – not that they can necessarily act. Still it isn’t fair for me to pass judgement until I see it.

Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Naomi Watts is quite good in The Impossible but the real stars of that film are the tsunami (unbelievable that it wasn’t nominated for special effects – the tsunami is terrifying) and the first two-thirds of the script.

Best Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams, The Master

Curse you Master! I miss one darn film and it gets nominated for everything.

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Anne Hathaway’s fifteen minute performance (aka the only reason to sit through a three hour Les Miserables) is truly excellent. She can belt out a tune and turn on the waterworks – all while getting a haircut.

Sally Field, Lincoln

I really enjoyed Sally Field’s performance as the First Lady though I have to admit that some scenes were much better than others.

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Poor Helen Hunt! Normally, as an older actor, baring your body is considered daring and a gateway to an Oscar. Unfortunately the only thing that trumps that is drastically changing your body. Nudity < Haircut.

Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Jacki certainly deserves an ‘A’ for effort. Any actress that can hold her own while performing with three lunatics (Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and Jennifer Lawrence) is doing great.

Miscellaneous News – Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Redbox

* I have yet to watch Netflix’ new series, House of Cards. Netflix is now slated to produce a new animated series based on the new Dreamworks movie, Turbo. Turbo is about a racing snail.

* I’m not sure what happened to the CBS/Hulu deal but little has shown up besides long off the air series like Star Trek

* * Comcast, which owns 51% of NBC/Universal, is purchasing the other 49% from GE for 16.7 billion dollars. This gives them a 32% stake in Hulu.

* Amazon snagged exclusive rights to Downton Abbey. Season three will stream for Prime subscribers this June but if you want it now, you can purchase a season pass for relatively little (plus you will then own the episodes for cheaper than the Blu-Ray. Seasons four and five will also be Amazon exclusives.

* Amazon has also signed an exclusive for the new Stephen King series, Under the Dome. I’m unsure as to when this starts but Amazon will have access during the season.

* Redbox Instant, which I still haven’t tried, is going to be available on the Xbox 360. I guess I’ll have to give it a spin then but their movie numbers pale compared to Amazon Prime (which pales next to Netflix).

* Best Buy has apparently tired of being Amazon’s showroom and, as of March 3rd, will be price-matching all local competitors and nineteen online competitors including Amazon and NewEgg.

More February Movies from Netflix

I’m not totally ignoring Netflix while concentrating on the Oscars. Try any of these fine (and not-so-fine) films that have just shown up on Netflix streaming (and yes both Broke and We’re Not Broke are now available):

I highly recommend the charming Safety Not Guaranteed.

Action: The American Astronaut, Stingray Sam, Conned, Kill ’em All, The Mooring

Comedy: Behold the Lamb, Fanny, Annie & Danny, Safety Not Guaranteed

Documentary: Undefeated, Budrus, The Fab Five, We’re Not Broke, Broke, Benji, Like Water, The Imposter (2012), Bestiaire, Side by Side, Eating with Cannibals

Drama: The Cup, Bones (no relation to the TV show), The Last Soul on a Summer Night, Hick, United 93, For Ellen, Broken Roads

Family: Girl vs. Monster

Fantasy & Science Fiction: Exodus, The Fourth Kind, Alien Dawn, Doomsday Book

Foreign: Hermano, Beyond the Steppes, Teddy Bear, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, North Sea Texas

Horror: Bloodsucker Leads the Dance, Purification, Creep Van, Grave Encounters 2, Hollow (2013)

Music: Coldplay Live 2012

Television: Comedy Bang! Bang!, Bunk, Pirate Family, Chumballs, Contraptus, Quiz Time, Trouble with Sophie, Make Me Superhuman, Viking Apocalypse, Science of Armored Cars, Alaska State Troopers, Thomas & Friends: Sticky Situations and more episodes of ESPN’s 30 for 30, Futurama (season 7!) and SEC Storied

Thriller: Night Tide, To.Get.Her, Hard-Boiled Sweets

Oscar Nominated Animated Films – 2013

My wife and I’s quest to catch all the Oscar-nominated films this year is going well. We will have watched all but a handful come Oscar day. I have now caught all of the movies in the Animated Film category.

Wreck-It Ralph: Wreck-It Ralph is an animated film about being inside a videogame with lots of inside jokes. This would seem tailor-made for me. I very much enjoyed it, even though I felt there weren’t enough videogame jokes in there. I don’t think it was Oscar-worthy though.

P.S. You can tell you are a videogame fanatic if, instead of seeing Donkey Kong in the Wreck-It Ralph game, you see Crazy Climber.

Frankenweenie: Frankenweenie was obviously a labor of love for Tim Burton and, being a tribute to old horror movies, is another movie tailor-made for me. Again I enjoyed it but it isn’t Oscar-worthy. There are nice jokes here but it didn’t gel very well. It probably should have stayed a short.

Wife’s take: I think it says it all that I completely forgot to include this movie in the Oscar watch for the weekend when we saw it.  It was cute but forgettable – definitely not Tim Burton at his best.  I liked the color palette but didn’t generally find any of the characters to be memorable.  The parents were, perhaps, less clueless than in the usual kiddie fare.  Otherwise unremarkable.

Brave: Obviously the 800-lb gorilla in the room is any film from Pixar. I really enjoyed Brave but, perhaps more importantly, I admire Brave for its message. Finally, we have a Disney princess who is in no way defined by her prince. I know Mulan carried a similar message but, if you’ll forgive the archery analogy, this one drives the point home.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits: I saw this one last and honestly wasn’t expecting much from it. It turned out to be very entertaining with each frame crowded with jokes – some for children but plenty for adults.

Wife’s take: Charming!  Why does this one have to be up against Brave (the clear winner, in my opinion, in this category).  Any other year, I’d pull for The Pirates!  It stars simply everyone with a British accent, and is filled with touches that amuse (and keep you looking for more – how many ham references can one film hold?).  Loved it!

ParaNorman: This supernatural themed film had less homages than Frankenweenie but was far better constructed. It was very enjoyable but I didn’t really find it Oscar-worthy.

Wife’s take: This is a cute stop-motion animated film.  I don’t need to see it again, but it was fluffy fun, and a good one to watch with Dorothy in the room.