Monthly Archives: April 2016

MTV Movie Awards Holds Its 25th

mtv_movie_awards

The MTV Movie Awards, the awards that’s been come to be known as the anti-Oscars, will hold their 25th edition this year.

Back in 1992, producer Joel Gallen founded a movie awards show for MTV completely unlike the Oscars. It may not have reached to same status as the Oscars but it has grown over the years as an event of significant popularity.

MTVs

The first MTV Movie awards were held in 1992. The film reel was the award and Terminator 2: Judgement Day was the big winner. It was obvious these awards were going to send a message to the Oscars.

Now back in 1992, MTV had already been known for their Video Music Awards. The event which was started in 1984 was seen as a music awards that appeared more relevant with what was happening in music as compared to the Grammys. It also offered notorious on stage events, either planned or spontaneous, that would get people talking. While such events would threaten the popularity of some musicians or even make the Grammys nervous, it made MTV.

The first MTV Movie Awards were held in 1992. Its nominations featured movies that the Oscars would either turn their noses up to or just relegate to nominations in the technical categories like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Backdraft, Boyz N The Hood and Wayne’s World. In fact the Silence Of The Lambs which was the apple of the Academy’s eye that year did not even receive a single nomination. The event also featured unorthodox categories like Best Kiss, Best Villain, Best Action Sequence, Best Breakthrough Performance, Most Desirable Male and Female and its Lifetime Achievement Award which went to Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th infamy. Instead of Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress, they had categories like Best Male Performance, Best Female Performance and Best Movie. Even animated performances could be nominated in the various categories. On top of that, they had people call in to vote for who they felt should win the awards in the weeks leading up to the event.

Basically the point of the awards was to have a movie awards show that was current and more in line with the people’s movie tastes. Especially young people since they made up most of the movie-going crowd. The awards didn’t simply want to give accolades to movies that made big money but gave people their enjoyment and their money’s worth. In fact Terminator 2: Judgement Day, which won four Oscars in the technical categories, was the big winner at the first MTV Movie Awards. Basically the focus is on movies instead of films and stars instead of actors. MTV turned out to be only domain likely to start such a movie awards show at the time. In fact the award which is a golden bucket of popcorn is meant to symbolize its rewarding of crowdwinning.

There’s also the entertainment factor of the awards too. There were frequent movie spoofs, often starring the awards’ host, that still happen quite often. The event was also used to promote upcoming summer releases with presenters often people starring in movies to be released later that summer. Also the musical performers would often have nothing to do with the movies and more to do with summer album releases. Performers of movie songs were more commonly featured in the 90’s editions of the awards show as movie music was bigger then than it is now.

There would be category changes and category drops of awards categories. However the standard would be the same where performances and movies that gave people their enjoyment would get top wins. Only three times has the Oscar winner for Best Picture won Best Movie. In addition, nine movies that didn’t receive a single Academy Award nomination won Best Movie including Scream, There’s Something About Mary, four of the five Twilight movies and the most recent Movie Of The Year winner, The Fault In Our Stars. That’s another thing too, how the MTV’s aren’t afraid to even give teen movies accolades. No wonder the show has been come to be known as the anti-Oscars.

There have even been times when the MTV Movie Awards would appear to ‘make right’ what the Academy did wrong as most saw. In 1995 when Hoop Dreams was snubbed of a Best Documentary Oscar nomination, director Steve James would receive the Best New Filmmaker Award: an honorary award from 1992 to 2002 which honored filmmakers whose debut film would introduce a new element to film making. In 1998 when most people thought Leonardo diCaprio was snubbed of a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Titanic, he won Best Male Performance at the MTVs.

Now onto this year’s Awards. This is the 25th annual MTV Movie Awards. As noted, it’s come a long way. It’s still a big public event where a lot of big stars show up. Stars from upcoming summer releases are planned to be among the presenters. However the list is still incomplete even among musical performers. Categories from the first Awards are still here like Movie Of The Year (retitled from Best Movie) , Best Male and Female Performance, Best Breakthrough Performance, Best Comedic Performance,  Best Villain and of course their trademark category: Best Kiss. New categories this year are Best Documentary, Best Action Performance, Best Ensemble Cast and Best True Story. Returning categories not at the first Awards are Best Fight and Best Hero. In addition, the category of Best Virtual Performance returns this year.

This year’s Awards are again focusing on big crowd winners. One trivia note: the highest-grossing film of the previous year would always get at least one MTV Movie Awards nomination. This year is far from an exception as Star Wars: The Force Awakens received eleven nominations including Best Movie. Deadpool is the next-most nominated with eight and Avengers: Age Of Ultron is next with six. Four of the six movies nominated for Best Movie are sci-fi or action movies and none of the Best Picture nominees for this year’s Oscars, not even Mad Max: Fury Road, were nominated for Best Movie. Mad Max still got four nominations as did The Revenant. Five of the eight Best Picture nominees have received at least one nomination but Spotlight didn’t get a single one. Can you believe it? While the hard-to-watch Room got a nomination with Brie Larson for Best Breakthrough Performance. In addition, this year’s nominees are way more mixed in terms of race and gender than this year’s Oscars by far.

Also you may remember I talked about a Best New Filmmaker category? That was there during the first Awards but was dropped after 2002. Now the honorary award at the MTV’s is the Generation Award: like a ‘lifetime achievement’ award but going to a star whom the generations born and bred on MTV made. The first one back in 2005 went to Tom Cruise. This year, it goes to Will Smith. Even though he’s not my favorite actor, I wonder what took MTV so long to award it to him.

Now onto my predictions for this year’s MTV Movie Awards winners. Note I’m better at prediction the Oscars than predicting MTV winners. With this being a ‘people’s choice’ awards, they can go any which way. So here goes:

Movie of the Year
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Creed
Deadpool
Jurassic World
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Straight Outta Compton

Will Win (WW): Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Most Likely Upsetter (MLU): Straight Outta Compton

Yes, Star Wars mania returned. However underdogs have come and taken the Best Movie award before. People’s tastes may surprise you. I predict Straight Outta Compton to be the movie most likely to pull an upset.

True Story
Concussion
Joy
Steve Jobs
Straight Outta Compton
The Big Short
The Revenant

WW: Straight Outta Compton

MLU: The Revenant

I strongly believe with this being MTV, Straight Outta Compton will rule this category. However The Revenant could upset.

Documentary
Amy
Cartel Land
He Named Me Malala
The Hunting Ground
The Wolfpack
What Happened, Miss Simone?

WW: Amy

MLU: He Named Me Malala

It’s a surprise to see a documentary category for the MTVs. I thought the awards were about movies instead of films. With this being MTV, I think Amy is the hands-down winner here.

Best Female Performance
-Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina
-Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect 2
-Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
-Morena Baccarin, Deadpool

WW: Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

Looking at the nominees, I feel the biggest star-buzz would go to Daisy Ridley. However Charlize could win because of how she stole the show from Max.

Best Male Performance
-Chris Pratt, Jurassic World
-Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
-Matt Damon, The Martian
-Michael B. Jordan, Creed
-Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool
-Will Smith, Concussion

WW: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

MLU: Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

Leo has already won this award before in 1998 for Titanic (of course) and 2005 for The Aviator. He may seem like a guarantee here since everyone wanted him to win the Oscar. However don’t count out Michael B. Jordan or Ryan Reynolds as they charmed crowds too.

Breakthrough Performance
-Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
-Brie Larson, Room
-Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Dakota Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey
-John Boyega, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-O’Shea Jackson Jr., Straight Outta Compton

WW: Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Amy Schumer, Trainwreck

Interesting how both Amy Schumer and Brie Larson were co-stars in Trainwreck and they’re now competing against each other in this category. However I feel this is Daisy Ridley’s for the taking.

Best Comedic Performance
-Amy Schumer, Trainwreck
-Kevin Hart, Ride Along 2
-Melissa McCarthy, Spy
-Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect 2
-Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool
-Will Ferrell, Get Hard

WW: Kevin Hart, Ride Along 2

MLU: Amy Schumer, Trainwreck

It seems like Kevin Hart is the comedy phenom right now. However Amy Schumer is the one having him look over his shoulder.

Best Action Performance
-Chris Pratt, Jurassic World
-Dwayne Johnson, San Andreas
-Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
-John Boyega, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool
-Vin Diesel, Furious 7

WW: John Boyega, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Vin Diesel, Furious 7

Best Hero
-Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road
-Chris Evans, Avengers: Age of Ultron
-Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Dwayne Johnson, San Andreas
-Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
-Paul Rudd, Ant-Man

WW: Daisy Ridley, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

This seems to be the year of the heroine instead of the year of the hero. Rey and Furiosa. Rey seems like the best bet but Furiosa could overtake her for the win.

Best Villain
-Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Ed Skrein, Deadpool
-Hugh Keays-Byrne, Mad Max: Fury Road
-James Spader, Avengers: Age of Ultron
-Samuel L. Jackson, Kingsman: The Secret Service
-Tom Hardy, The Revenant

WW: Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Hugh Keays-Byrne, Mad Max: Fury Road

This seems like another category where it’s a foregone conclusion Star Wars will win. Mind you there have been surprises in the past. Hugh Keays-Byrne could upset.

Best Virtual Performance
-Amy Poehler, Inside Out
-Andy Serkis, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Jack Black, Kung Fu Panda 3
-James Spader, Avengers: Age of Ultron
-Lupita Nyong’o, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Seth MacFarlane, Ted 2

WW: Amy Poehler, Inside Out

MLU: Lupita Nyong’o, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This category only existed once before: back in 2003. Andy Serkis, I mean Gollum, won. I think Amy Poehler will take it here as she was the most charming.

Ensemble Cast
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Furious 7
Pitch Perfect 2
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2
Trainwreck

WW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Furious 7

Now this is one category I’d like to see at the Oscars. Hey, the SAGs have it. I’m surprised Straight Outta Compton didn’t get nominated.

Best Kiss
-Amy Schumer & Bill Hader, Trainwreck
-Dakota Johnson & Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey
-Leslie Mann & Chris Hemsworth, Vacation
-Margot Robbie & Will Smith, Focus
-Morena Baccarin & Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool
-Rebel Wilson & Adam DeVine, Pitch Perfect 2

WW: Dakota Johnson & Jamie Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey

MLU: Morena Baccarin & Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool

This is the category that separates the MTV Movie awards from all other movie awards. Hey, the biggest stars want to win this. The winning kisses have ranged from innocent kisses (My Girl) to romantic kisses (The Notebook) to same-sex kisses (Cruel Intentions) to unique kisses (SpiderMan) to threeways (Starsky and Hutch) to even humorous kisses (American Pie 2). I think the Fifty Shades of Grey kiss will take it.

Best Fight
-Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) vs. Ajax (Ed Skrein), Deadpool
-Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) vs. The Bear, The Revenant
-Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) vs. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), Mad Max: Fury Road
-Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) vs. Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Avengers: Age of Ultron
-Rey (Daisy Ridley) vs. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Star Wars: The Force Awakens
-Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) vs. Lia (Nargis Fakhri), Spy

WW: Rey (Daisy Ridley) vs. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MLU: Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) vs. The Bear, The Revenant

This is always a hard one because any fight could end up a winner. However I give it to Star Wars. You can’t beat Star Wars in this category.

Hey, I told you the categories were unorthodox. Anyways those are my predictions for the 25th annual MTV Movie Awards. Tune in Sunday, April 10th to watch who wins what, who’s performing and what notorious acts happen.

 

 

Movie Review: Taxi Driver (1976)

Robert-De-Niro-Taxi-Driver

Seeing Taxi Driver in the theatre reminds you how Robert De Niro captivated you as Travis Bickle and why you can still see its greatness after all these years.

You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here.

Every now and then, I like to check a classic movie that’s lucky enough to get shown on the big screen again. This summer I was lucky enough to catch Taxi Driver shown on the big screen. It’s one of my favorite Martin Scorsese films and it was a delight to see it on the big screen. It reminded me how much I missed the first time. Especially of its purpose at the time it was out.

The film is about Travis Bickle: a Vietnam marine honorably discharged who came to New York City from New Jersey to make a living for himself. He takes a job as a taxi driver and his job involves dealing with a lot of dirty work in the city as he’s often taken to the rubbish areas of the City.

He makes an attempt to win the love of a woman named Betsy who volunteers for presidential candidate Charles Palantine. His attempts are not that successful as he buys her a Kris Kristofferson album she already owns and takes her to a movie theatre showing a Swedish sex education film. She leaves the theatre immediately. Travis tries visiting the Palantine campaign office to win her back but is unsuccessful. Though he senses a hint she may still have feelings for him.

Two moments during his cabbie job change Bickle. One day he’s lucky enough to drive Charles Palantine when he comes to NYC. He tells Palantine he’s a supporter and wants him to clean up this town. Another case is when a child prostitute named Easy enters his car to evade her pimp Sport only to be taken away by him. Despite it being brief, he can’t forget her.

Throughout the time in NYC, Travis is lonely and disheartened to see how trashy of a city NYC has become. He’s completely disgusted and he feels he might snap any minute but his fellow cabbies believe he’ll be alright. However he goes out and purchases illegal guns from a dealer named Easy Andy, sets up some personal gun mechanisms and even rehearses what he’s about to say when confronted. On that day, he goes to a store where a robbery happens and he shoots the robber dead.

He has a chance meeting with Easy. He pays money for her but he’s not interested in sex with her despite Easy coming onto him. Instead he has a frank talk with her in a café during breakfast. He learns Easy is not simply some sleazy young teen girl but a young naïve teen runaway named Iris Steensma. He wants to take her out of the prostitution business but she is disinterest, or maybe afraid of Sport.

The following day, Travis has a letter for Iris with money in the envelope. He believes it will be a death wish. However Sport gets a hold of the letter and gives the money to Iris’ next customer. Travis attends a public rally led by Palantine telling the people of New York what he has planned. Travis appears with a Mohawk haircut and appears to attempt to assassinate Palantine but is able to run away.

Then he goes to the hotel where he knows is Sport’s brothel. He approaches Sport, asks one question, and shoots him. Sport survives but Travis is after the bouncer and Mafioso in Sport’s ring in order to free Iris. Travis shoots all three dead but is unable to shoot himself in the end like he intended to. Travis recovers from his coma of three months returning to his job. Iris is back home with her parents whom they consider Travis a hero. The film ends with Travis giving Betsy a ride, leaving us to question what will happen next.

The film rested mostly on the character of Travis Bickle. We have a Vietnam vet trying to reassimilate himself back into daily life. He possesses a set of values and beliefs but his uncoothed attitude causes a lot of social interference with those around him. On top of it, he’s disgusted with what he sees in New York City. He comes across a man who’s about to snap any minute and he knows it. However you wonder when he will snap. We think it will be an assassination the Palantine speech where he could have died a bad guy. Instead he takes a shot at redemption: one that he felt would cost him his life but didn’t. It almost made you feel like he was about to become a martyr figure but is given a second chance in life. It does seem like when Betsy quotes the lyrics from the Kris Kristofferson song The Pilgrim, she’s setting up for what Travis is about to become.

It’s the prostitute Easy/Iris whom changes him and is able to bring about a positive human side of him few notice, including himself. He knew his duty was to free Easy from Sport or whoever else got in his way and it might mean his life but he was willing to do it. He just needed the right motive to do it. He just asked Sport for Iris and he didn’t know who he was talking about. That was all the motive Bickle needed. You often wonder why he did it. For himself? For Iris?  To redeem himself in the eyes of Betsy?

Somehow I think Scorsese is trying to make a certain statement with this film. Throughout the movie we see images of Charles Palantine running for president and promising to clean up New York. However it was Bickle who did a small deed of ending crime involving a teenager in a single act. I believe Scorsese had something to say about politicians which he wanted to say through Bickle but it didn’t entirely make sense. We see Bickle dating Betsy who volunteers for Palantine’s campaign, Bickle having Palantine posters in his bedroom, Bickle driving Palantine and even speaking his support to him but we also see Bickle fake what appears to others as an assassination attempt. It’s obvious the message of politicians being cowards who are all talk was the message of that but it surprised me how Bickle would pull that on a candidate he appears to support. He’s even seen after his recovery with Palantine posters. Hard to understand.

Without a doubt, this is one of Scorsese’s best films. It still tells a story that captures people’s intrigue and lets people interpret their own version of the story. It still causes a lot of debate on what certain scenes mean and what the film is all about. One film expert claims the film is about the decline of New York coinciding with the decline of the male hero at the time. Good points. One person even stated how Bickle goes from human trash to almost like a saint-like figure.

No doubt the film was controversial in its time. It would still make people uncomfortable today. The violence however got a lot of people talking. However it’s nothing compared to the violence of movies throughout the 80’s and 90’s. Those movies went all out. Nevertheless the violence here does resonate with you. Even the theme of an act of vigilantism being made heroic in people’s eyes makes one question Scorsese’s feelings of vigilantes. Also that scene where Easy comes onto Bickle after he pays her the money would definitely anger people today. People have less of a tolerance to scenes like that today than they did back in the 70’s.

The film has you asking a lot of questions as you leave the theatre. You wonder was such a shootout necessary to free Iris from Sport? Or was it a case where Bickle was a person bound to explode any minute and it turns out this was the right minute? Also was the incident with Palatine a case where it almost happened instead of ‘faking it’ like I thought it was? Still gets you questioning once you leave the theatre.

One thing a lot of young people would not understand is how Travis Bickle would be disgusted by what he sees out in New York City. Most of us under the age of 50 have grown up accepting the trashy side of our cities as a fact of life and we’ve even seen it turned into a culture via hip-hop music and shown on videos on MTV. However this was the mid-70’s and this trashiness wasn’t as accepted. In fact, it was disheartening. I’m sure Travis represented the disgust seen by many people of how a great city can turn into a trashbin and how buildings that used to be lovely and elegant could turn into dirty places of sleaze. I’m sure that was a common feeling of many from the city. The thing is Bickle is a character who had just moved to the city. Often when I hear Bickle’s disgust of what happened to the city, I think I’m actually hearing Scorsese’s disgust. Scorsese was born and raised in the NYC area and I’m sure what Travis Bickle was seeing was stuff that was breaking Martin’s heart about the city he had always known and loved, until then.

The film is Martin’s. He does a good job of creating a melodrama that’s bound to reach a big climax any moment and you know it will come with a bang. He does an excellent job in capturing the dirt of New York and try to make a redeeming figure of a misfit like Travis Bickle. Days ago, I heard some young people talk about film. They talked how there are no longer any good directors that do film making for the love of it. All for top of the box office. And they talked about directors like Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese who did it for the love it. I do agree with them. However I also believe that the 70’s was the heyday for visionary directors. Hollywood always was a case of top-of-the-box-office. Back in the 70’s, the counterculture crowd welcomed films that defied the rules of the Hays code and took new directions. That’s why Kubrick and Scorsese are considered legends. It’s not to say their spirit has been abandoned. I remember with the increase of film festivals in the 90’s, that spurned about directors of Quentin Tarantino and Lars von Trier who wanted to do their part in film making. Nowadays it doesn’t seem as present as most of the movie going public are more demanding in what they want. They don’t want to feel guilty about ignoring a unique talent or even liking a flavor-of-the month. We’ll see in time if more visionary directors come about.

The film’s excellence is also the result of scriptwriter Paul Schrader. He himself delivers a story that keeps us intrigued as well as allowing us to make our own assumptions of what the story is even after we leave the theatre. Also adding to the excellence of the film is Robert de Niro. He’s the one who has the best sense of who Travis Bickle is both inside and out and keeps us guessing. Also adding to the excellence is Jodie Foster. She plays a prostitute whom you know doesn’t belong on the streets and neither does Travis. Her role was an excellent performance for someone so young. Cybill Shepherd was also good as Betsy but her role was rather lightweight. Nevertheless she did give more to it. Finally a very fitting score from Bernard Herrmann. He already had an excellent resume in film compositions including Citizen Kane, The Day The Earth Stood Still and North By NorthwestTaxi Driver would be his last one before he died months later in 1975. The score is not the John Williams type of score you’d expect in a drama but it does capture the unhappy feeling of the film.

I’m sure Taxi Driver stands the test of time as one of the best thrillers ever. However I feel younger people may not get it. I do believe it’s a movie that still has a loyal following all these years and still maintains its original charm.