The 48th edition of the venerable New York Film Festival kicks off today with the world premiere of David Ficher and Aaron Sorkin’s highly-anticipated collaboration, The Social Network, which tells the (almost) true story behind the founding of Mark Zuckerberg’s omnipresent social networking site Facebook.  It’s a major get for the NYFF, which in past years has opened with more art-house friendly fare (like last year’s opening night screening of the Alain Resnais film Wild Reeds.  I’ve seen The Social Network and have written a review for Film Journal, which will most likely go live next week.  The short version of my positive notice is that its an enormously entertaining production, a movie where all the elements–script, direction and cast–come together to create a memorable whole.  I’m not ready to hang the “masterpiece” label on the film, but it’s unquestionably one of 2010’s strongest studio-made movies.

I’ve had the opportunity to catch a number of other films that will be playing the NYFF as well and will be seeing more in the weeks ahead.  Expect to see regular capsules posted here as I get them written.  So far, it’s been a strong line-up; while I’ve liked some movies far more than others, I have yet to see a genuine dud.  Hats off to the festival’s selection committee and I hope New York residents are encouraged to pick up whatever tickets remain for some of these films.  (The Social Network is already sold out, but I heartily recommend LennonNYC and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, both of which will screen this weekend.)  First NYFF capsule coming up right after this post.

The New York Film Critics Online, the critics organization of which I am a part, met today to hand out our 2009 awards.  The results are below…believe me, I’m still surprised (in a good way) by our Best Picture choice.  Look for my review of this film early this week.

Avatar (20th Century Fox)

Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)

Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)

Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)


Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)


Mo’Nique (Precious)

Inglourious Basterds – Robert Richardson

Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino

The White Ribbon (Sony Classics)

The Cove (Roadside Attractions)

Up (Disney/Pixar)

Crazy Heart – Steve Bruton & T. Bone Burnett, music supervisor, Jeffrey Pollack

Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)


Marc Webb [(500) Days of Summer]

In the Loop (IFC Films)

BEST 11 PICTURES (Alphabetical)
Adventureland (Miramax Films)
Avatar (20th Century Fox)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (Fox Searchlight)
The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment)
Inglourious Basterds (The Weinstein Company)
The Messenger (Oscilloscope)
Precious (Lionsgate)
A Serious Man (Focus Features)
Two Lovers (Magnolia
Up (Disney/Pixar)
Up in the Air (Paramount)


In Theaters: April 3, 2009
Talking With…Michael Ealy

Get Your DVDs!


The Golden Globes aired last night and I posted a quick reaction to it on GIANT this morning.  Check it out here.

Short version: Glad for Kate Winslet, even though I’m not a fan of either of film she won for and actually think the Supporting Actress win for The Reader is a farce.  She’s the freakin’ lead in the movie!  If that’s a supporting performance than Mickey Rourke should be running in the supporting category for The Wrestler as well.  Also can’t generate much enthusiasm over Slumdog Millionaire‘s success.  I know critics and audiences love it, but I still don’t quite understand why and none of the hyperbolic reviews have mounted a convincing defense for me.  At this point, a Best Picture win seems like a foregone conclusion, but part of me still thinks the movie is still too small to take home the big prize.  In fact, with the recent box-office success of Gran Torino (another film I simply don’t understand the appeal of), part of me wonders if we shouldn’t be looking for ol’ Clint to beat out the young lovers from Mumbai.

Also emerging out of last night’s festivities is word that Matthew Weiner and AMC are still locked in a battle over Weiner’s contract to continue with Mad Men.  Personally, I don’t understand why AMC would even consider trying to continue the series without him.  Of course, if some of the rumored reports of Weiner’s demands are true ($10 million a season?) I hope he’s willing to put the show first and take a modest salary hit.  A third season of Mad Men sans Weiner would be akin to cancellation and I’m not ready to let go of this series just yet.  Anyone remember the Palladino-free final season of Gilmore Girls?  Please, please, please don’t let the same thing happen here.


Looking for a DVD to rent this weekend?  Well…sorry to say there’s not much out there.  Take a peek at my weekly DVD column for a full roundup.  I also fill you in on nine movies and shows to look forward to this coming year.

DVD Round-Up: January 6, 2009
Top 9 of ’09


Greetings one and all. It’s a pleasure to be back at last.


Hollywood got dolled up in its finest for the annual Academy Awards party last night, but the American public yawned and changed the channel.  According to early reports, the three-hour seventeen-minute telecast ranks as one of the lowest rated shows in Oscar history.  Ironically, hardcore film buffs would probably agree that Sunday’s show featured the best line-up of winners in ages.  Sure I was personally hoping that There Will Be Blood would be named Best Picture, but No Country for Old Men is a less embarrassing choice than, say, Crash or Gladiator.  In fact, I wasn’t enraged with any of the winning films.  Diablo Cody winning for Juno?  Not my first choice, but that screenplay definitely shows promise.  Elizabeth: The Golden Age nabbing the Oscar for costumes?  The fashions were the only memorable things about that movie.  The Bourne Ultimatum sweeping its three technical nods?  Very cool–the editing and sound work on that movie was top-notch.  And boy, did I cheer when The Golden Compass beat out Transformers for Best Visual Effects.  Yes, Optimus Prime looked cool, but I’m thrilled that the Academy continues to deny Michael Bay an Oscar.

So it was a good night for the winners, but a mediocre show overall.  Lowlights included Jon Stewart’s messy opening monologue, the time-consuming montages, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill’s flat “I’m Halle Berry” routine, the last musical number from Enchanted and playing Marketa Irglova, one-half of the Oscar-winning Once duo, off-stage before she had a chance to say anything.  Highlights included every post-monologue Stewart appearance (he got looser as the show went on), Javier Bardem’s heartfelt acceptance speech, the fake “Salute to Binocular Vision” montage and Stewart inviting Irglova back onstage after a commercial break.  There were no grand “I’m the King of the World!” boasts a la James Cameron, but also no truly memorable bits like Adrien Brody planting one on Halle Berry or Jack Palance doing one-handed push-ups.  In other words, it was a very low-key, business-as-usual show, which is probably why it attracted such a small viewing audience.  For me, the saddest part of the night was how badly I did in my predictions.  I went 11 for 24, a truly horrid score for which I have little excuse.  Hopefully you didn’t listen to me when filling out your own ballot.  If you did, sorry I cost you the $100 jackpot in your office pool.  But just so we’re clear, I’m not sorry enough to pay you out of my own pocket.

For the record, hear are all of last night’s 24 winners.  The bolded titles are the ones I predicted correctly.


I meant to post this yesterday, but I was busy with my DVD column in the morning and then news of Heath Ledger’s death hit, which made the subject of the Oscars seem frivolous.  I don’t have enough to say about Ledger to make it worth a separate post, but I think the saddest thing about the whole story–apart from the fact that he’s leaving behind a young daughter–is that he was a talented guy who was really just starting to prove how much talent he possessed.


2007 was my second year as a voting member of the NYFCO, so going in I had a much better idea of what to expect than I did my first time out. The chief thing I learned was that nine times out of ten, my own personal favorite choice in each category probably wouldn’t win and may not even place. Accepting that cold, hard fact made it a little easier to be strategic in terms of voting. It’s all a numbers game in the end and if you manage to plan your own votes so you get the right numbers, a favorite can still win or, more often, you’re able to ensure that the next best film/actor/director wins. Without spoiling everything, here’s a general recap of how the awards went, category by category.

Commentary to come later, but here’s the final results from the 2007 NYFCO Awards meeting.  This is the critics’ group I belong to, along with 27 other web-based/print reviewers from the New York area.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (tie)
There Will Be Blood (tie)


Paul Thomas Anderson – There Will Be Blood

Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood

Julie Christie – Away From Her

Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men

Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There

There Will Be Blood – Robert Elswit

The Darjeeling Limited – Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola

The Lives of Others (tie)
Persepolis (tie)



There Will Be Blood – Jonny Greenwood

Ellen Page – Juno

Sarah Polley – Away From Her

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

BEST PICTURES (alphabetical)
Atonement (Focus Features)
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (THINKFilm)
The Darjeeling Limited (Fox Searchlight)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Miramax)
I’m Not There (The Weinstein Company)
Juno (Fox Searchlight)
Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)
No Country for Old Men (Miramax)
Persepolis (Sony Pictures Classics)
Sweeney Todd (DreamWorks)
There Will Be Blood (Paramount Vantage)

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