Archive for April, 2006

Nominee Project
Apr 11, 2006

Some time ago, I decided to embark on a new project. I have decided to attempt to view every movie nominated for either an Oscar, a Golden Globe, or an Independent Spirit Award during the course of my life. This includes any movie nominated from 1971 until now (no matter when it was filmed).

After watching this year’s Independent Spirit Awards, I noticed how many interesting movies had come out that I had never heard of. So, a few weeks ago, I embarked on a hobbyist project to determine just how many we were talking about. In the process, I decided to eliminate certain categories from my project. To wit:

  • Any movie nominated only for “Best Original Song.” A movie that only got a nod because Elton John sold a few million soundtracks doesn’t merit consideration, if only because that doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the movie.
  • Any short movie nominated (“Documentary Short”, “Animated Short”, “Live Action Short”), because of the impossibility to find them reliably on DVD.
  • Any movie unavailable via Netflix, or unlikely to be available in the future (generally, movies that have been out more than a few years who are not in Netflix’s database — either as “Add to Queue” or “Save”).

In order to build a master list of all of the movies (and eliminate duplicates), I built four tables in a MySQL database (not here), manually grabbed and culled the lists from IMDB, wrote a PHP page that generated an HTML list of the movies, ran ‘sort’ on it, and built a list of all the movies (minus Short Subjects and Best Original Song). From this master list, I found all the movies I’ve already seen, and began clicking on the others (which popped me over to IMDB). Any movies I found that didn’t indicate US DVD availability in that Amazon corner, I searched for them on Netflix. Those that I found were added to my Queue. Those that I didn’t got crossed off the list. In the process, I added them in blocks of 100 (with a status indicating unavailable, added to queue, already seen, or left to see) into a master MySQL table.

This evening, I finished the list. It is rather large:

  • Total: 2,265 movies
  • Already Viewed: 489 (21.59%)
  • Unavailable on DVD: 417 (18.41%)
  • Left to See: 1359 (60.00%)
    • Added to Queue: 245 (10.82%)

When the awards ceremonies roll around again, I’ll add the nominees to my database and watch those, too. Given that I have over 1350 available (or to-be-available) movies in my database, I am hoping to catch up with whatever the current year is in about five years. At an average movie length of 2 hours, this is 113ΒΌ days of movie viewing.

This project in no way restricts me from viewing movies I’ve already seen, movies that weren’t nominated, or TV series on DVD or in tivo. I’m pretty excited, though. I know I’m going to hate some of these films, but a number of them will probably end up in my DVD collection.

Wish me luck!


V for Vendetta
Apr 9, 2006

My friend and I headed down to Camera 12 tonight for V for Vendetta, starring Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, and an all-star cast of British character actors. This movie is based on a graphic novel.

Portman plays Evey Hammond, a television station employee in a post-apocalyptic London, controlled by a fundamentalist totalitarian government. After being rescued by V, the enigmatic rogue hero, Evey is sought by the police as a suspected collaborator in subversive plots against the government.

The story is superbly acted and filmed. The tension is palpable, the government scary, and the plot twists somewhat unexpected. The story examines how easy it is to take freedom for granted, and how easily duped the government-informed masses were. As far as comic book movies go, this one ranks in quality right next to Sin City.

My grade: A-.

Million Dollar Baby
Apr 4, 2006

Tonight: Million Dollar Baby, directed by Clint Eastwood. In 2005, this picture one four Academy Awards and two Golden Globes.

Hilary Swank earns her second Best Actress Oscar playing Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald, a waitress with aspirations as a boxer. She meets up with Frank Dunn, an aging gym owner and trainer (played magnificently by Clint Eastwood), who refuses to take her on as a fighter. She insists on working out trainerless at the gym every day until Dunn's assistant manager, Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman), gives her a few pointers. She starts to improve her skills to the point that Frank agrees to take her under her wing and train her to be an extraordinary boxer.

All of the characters are beautifully flawed and magnificently acted in this unforgettable feature. Each person in the story has almost insurmountable challenges — whether it's the estrangement from family, the history of having taken the big shot, or the gigantic hurdle of the protagonist's gender. The look and sound of the picture is beautiful throughout. The script is unbelievable and this movie deserved every award for which it was nominated. The tension of striving and loss are palpable and the film comes to its conclusion bringing its audience through the full range of human emotion. Clint Eastwood has, once again, proven the mastery of his craft with this virtuosic masterpiece.

My grade: A+.

Garden State
Apr 3, 2006

Tonight: Garden State, an Independent Spirit Award winner (Best First Feature), starring Zach Braff (who also wrote and directed it), Natalie Portman, and Sir Ian Holm.

Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a struggling actor and waiter in a Vietnamese restaurant, who has to return to his hometown in New Jersey to attend the funeral of his mother. While in New Jersey, he meets Sam, an extremely eccentric cutie. The strong ensemble cast includes Ian Holm, who plays Largeman's father, a psychiatrist who has kept him medicated since an accident left Andrew's late mother paralyzed. The provinciality of the locals is revealed and we get a glimpse into the character flaws, motivations, and strangeness of everyone.

The script is well-written, funny, and excellently shot. Strange plot twists lead us to a few unexpected places. This was a solid effort by a budding filmmaker. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

My grade: B.