How many of you were surprised to hear of Trayvon Martin’s shooting death? How many of you were surprised to hear of the motives? And now how many of you are shocked over the verdict? I can’t blame you. I won’t talk of this being an issue of racism but I will talk about this being an issue of faulty self-defense laws. Even if racism was an issue of this, it wouldn’t be the only issue. These laws need to be looked at in good detail.
First of all let us have a look at the Stand Your Ground law in the state of Florida that started this hullabaloo. It’s a law passed into legislation in 2005 while Jeb Bush was governor of the state at the time. If you want to have a look at the exact text of the law ,click here. The law states deadly force is unnecessary unless it appears the person feels such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. The law appears to pretty much set the grounds for self-defense and its boundaries, right?
Obviously not. This was brought to my attention from a year-old video from Adam Buckley of A Dose Of Buckley. In that video he pointed out that in the year the Stand Your Ground law was enacted (2005), the number of murders in Florida increased by over 25%. He also pointed out that the per-year number of ‘justifiable homicides’ in the five years of the passing of the law was triple the number of justifiable homicides in the five years before the passing. That’s sad. Stats like those should make anyone want to reconsider either the law or the police and legal system involved in this. Also I liked how he referenced the mentality of the state of Florida. That could have something to do with it!
Now onto the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin side of that law. It was February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Trayvon Martin had celebrated his 17th birthday three weeks earlier. He lived in Miami Gardens with his mother and brother. He was an A and B student at Dr. Michael Krop High School. However it didn’t stop him from succumbing to the typical peer pressures of a teen like spray-painting graffiti and owning a marijuana pipe. He was also suspected of burglary once because of police searching him and finding jewelry and a screwdriver. However no evidence was found against him and he was dismissed.
Born to a German-American father and a Peruvian mother, 28 year-old George Zimmerman was an insurance underwriter on his way to completing a degree in criminal justice at the time. He had been married for years and had just moved to The Retreat at Twin Lakes just three years earlier. The previous year he was part of a citizens forum and even protested the fatal beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white police officer. Zimmerman had a history of violence such as assaulting a police officer while intoxicated in 2005. That same year he was also charged with assaulting his ex-fiancée.
Then there’s the neighborhood of Twin Lakes. The Retreat is a gated 260-home community in Sanford. The community was racially mixed with almost half the population white with 23% Hispanic and 20% black. Both George Zimmerman and the fiancée of Trayvon Martin’s father rented homes in The Retreat. The Retreat however had an unsafe feel for many of the residents. From the beginning of 2011 up to the date of Trayvon’s shooting, there were eight burglaries, nine thefts and one shooting. Police received over 400 calls to The Retreat during that period of time, mostly for suspected burglaries. Twin Lakes decided to start a neighborhood watch in September of 2011 and Zimmerman was selected to be the program’s coordinator. During the six-month period Zimmerman, who has been licensed to own a gun since 2009, made seven calls to the non-emergency line to the police. The most recent was more than three weeks before the shooting
Then the evening of February 26, 2012 was the moment when all hell started to break loose. Martin was returning to his father’s fiancée after leaving a convenience store. Zimmerman was driving by on a personal errand. Zimmerman then called police about what looked like to be a ‘suspicious person’ in the neighborhood. Zimmerman observed that Martin was walking around homes with his hand in his waistband. Two minutes later he told the police martin was running. Zimmerman followed him but was told by police not to do so. He stopped and the call ended. However Martin and Zimmerman encountered each other again, things turned violent and that’s when Zimmerman drew out his shotgun and fatally shot Martin. The bombshell: all Martin had on him was a can of Arizona ice tea and a pack of Skittles.
It took weeks of court meetings and legal discussions before Zimmerman was finally arrested for second-degree murder. Zimmerman pleaded ‘not guilty’ due to self-defense. The ‘Stand Your Ground’ law was not used by Zimmerman’s defense team during the trial but is part of the required Jury Instruction of all Florida murder trials. Zimmerman even requested a ‘Stand Your Ground’ hearing but his defense elected to bypass it. Nevertheless Zimmerman was found not guilty.
I’m not going to deny that racial stereotyping may have something to do with the whole mess-up of justice but if it does, it’s not the only thing that is a mess-up. Just as much of a mess-up is the Florida self-defense laws like the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. In fact current Florida Governor Rick Scott responded to the heat of the highly-publicized news story by commissioning a 19-member task force to review that law just three weeks after the shooting. There were seven public hearing held all around Florida and there was a total of 11,000 comments from the public with three comments opposed to the law for every comment in support. Nevertheless the task force recommended against repealing the statute defending the use of self-defense. Several bills attempting to revise or repeal the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law since the task force have died before a committee hearing.
To sum it up, the shooting of Trayvon Martin was the result of a very paranoid person. George Zimmerman acted before he thought. He caused many alarms in the past and the shooting of Trayvon Martin tragically was his actions coming back to bite him. However a declaration of innocence would not be considered valid, except in the state of Florida. I’m confident in most other states, George Zimmerman would be found guilty and would receive a stiff sentence. They would see his shooting as a result of his paranoia rather than justifiable self-defense. Many people would believe that a black teenage boy in a hoodie is no excuse to panic and suspect crime in one’s area. However the jury in Florida thought otherwise. This is a failure of the law.
The Stand-Your-Ground law was already showing signs of the problem but were overlooked. The verdict of ‘innocent’ on George Zimmerman shows that the law cannot be overlooked any more. Not while someone like Trayvon Martin would be a victim of this. Will they revise the law, or bring it up for debate at the very least? Only time and the efforts of the state of Florida will tell.
If only I was a professional film critic, I’d be able to see all the movies and DVDs before year’s end to make my Top 10 list of the year. But I’m just an everyday schmuck like you who has to wait until the movies hit the theatre or come out on DVD to see them. Thus once again a delay this late in my Top 10 list. Maybe one year I’ll finally be an official film critic. You can always hope.
Anyways without further ado, many of you have already seen my lists of my Top 10’s from 2002 to 2010 and of 2011. Now I finally have my list out of the Top 10 of 2012 and five honorable mention picks:
Yep, the Oscars will be decided this Sunday again. Seth McFarlane will host for the first time. A bit surprising to have the cartoonist of The Family Guy and director of Ted running the show but we’ll see if it’s sink or swim. Fist time hosting usually is. Just ask David Letterman, James Franco and Anne Hathaway.
Once again, I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees. This makes it the twelfth year in a row in which I’ve done such. And I’m ready again to make my predictions for who Should Win and Will Win. Also all the Best Picture nominees as well as some of the other predictions will feature links to my full reviews of the movie. Anyways here I go:
For this, I will give a brief review of the nominees one by one. As I said earlier, if you click on the titles you’ll get my full reviews:
–Amour– I sensed Michael Haneke would one day be nominated for Best Director after seeing the White Ribbon. He does it with Amour and rightly so. It’s both haunting and intimate. Intense and delicate. Anyone who watches will not forget it or feel some connection to it. This is the first foreign-language film to be nominated for Best Picture since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. No foreign-language film has ever one Best Picture and I don’t think Amour will be the one to do it. This is the least hyped-up film in the Oscar race and to win awards, there has to be some marketing muscle to both the public and the Academy.
–Argo– This is a remarkable movie. This is one thriller of an event that happened 33 years ago and it succeeds in entertaining and thrilling the public. It’s also very smart too because it takes a good look at the political turmoil in Iran at that time. It also puts a face on the hostages who didn’t know what their fate would be. Its combination of comedy, thrills and honest human emotion is why I give Argo my Should Win pick. It does have very good chances of winning even without the Best Director nomination for Ben Affleck but I’ll let you know my Will Win pick later. I predict Argo to be the film most likely to upset my Will Win pick.
–Beasts Of The Southern Wild– This is this year’s little picture that could. It was a small low-budget movie shot more than three years ago that finally made its way into the cinemas first through the Sundance film festival and then the box office. It not only drew a decent-sized crowd but amazed everyone who saw it. Great first efforts from Benh Zeitlin in directing and writing and Quyvenzhane Wallis in acting. Despite its accomplishments, I don’t think it will win Best Picture since it’s up against a lot of other films that have a lot more: both in terms of production and in crowd grabbing. Yeah, that’s where the luck for the little film that could stops.
–Django Unchained– Is it just me or does Quentin Tarantino seem to be getting quite predictable these days? Not only that but I still stand by my original belief that he seems to be overobsessed with the theme of vengeance. It’s as if three stylized films about revenge isn’t enough. In all frankness, it lacks the dynamite of Pulp Fiction and it’s not as attention-grabbing and mesmerizing as Kill Bill nor does it pull unexpected surprises like Inglourious Basterds. It’s a great Tarantino film but not one of his more legendary. Plus Lincoln’s theme of doing justice to slavery made revenge on slavery look a bit like a joke. And Zero Dark Thirty made Kathryn Bigelow look like a more fearless director than Tarantino. Not this year, Quentin.
–Les Miserables– Without a doubt the musical of the year, if not the decade. The decade may be young but this would be too hard to top. Adapting a big-name Broadway musical to the big screen is a very difficult task and Tom Hooper did it. I personally felt that it should be amongst those most contending for Best Picture. Unfortunately that’s not the case. The bigger buzz is for Lincoln and Argo and possibly Life Of Pi. I don’t know about you but I sometimes feel musicals have been somewhat devalued by the Academy in this century. Sure Chicago won Best Picture but director Rob Marshall didn’t have a chance at winning Best Director. Also Dreamgirls wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, which I still feel it should have. And Moulin Rouge earned a Best Picture nod with director Baz Luhrmann snubbed out. And we see it here with Tom Hooper snubbed out. It’s one of the most deserving of the Best Picture win but I don’t think the Academy will do it.
–Life Of Pi– Leave it to Ang Lee to direct a masterpiece of a movie that touches us as much as it dazzles us. There were a lot of spellbound moments in this movie. Definitely the best special effects of the year. A lot of good acting including that from young actor Suraj Sharma. And definitely a lot of top direction from Ang Lee. Now some people are hinting that Ang Lee could win Best Director since Spielberg has already won two while Lee’s only one once. It could be possible. As for Best Picture, I don’t know if Life Of Pi has what it takes. Great movie but worthy of the Best Picture Oscar? I’m scratching my head right now.
–Lincoln– Okay I’ll probably be the first to admit that I’ve seen better from Spielberg. If you were to compile a list ranking all of Spielberg’s movies, I’m unsure if this would make the Top 5. You too probably know he’s directed more memorable movies. I will say of all of this year’s nominees, this is the one that had the best of the three key elements: acting, directing and writing. This had some of the best acting of the year, Spielberg delivered another excellent directing job and the writing was also excellent. The efforts in recreating the United States during 1865 were no easy feat either especially in terms of set design and costuming. Also like many of Spielberg’s movies in the past, this is a precise look at war during its time. It’s because of all this I pick it as my Will Win pick. Although I am anticipating a surprise from Argo.
–Silver Linings Playbook– Okay it’s not an epic recreation like Lincoln or an edge-of-your-seats drama like Argo. It is an excellent movie in terms of how they take a situation most people don’t want to deal with–mental illness– and turn it into a likeable romance. The best qualities had to be the acting. It needed excellent three-dimensional performances from all the main actors to make this work and it did. Very good direction from David O. Russell. It could be a Best Picture contender in any other year. Even I thought it was Best Picture worthy. Just this year there are at least three more movies with more Oscar boost.
–Zero Dark Thirty– Argo isn’t the only movie trying to win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination. So is Zero Dark Thirty. Kathryn Bigelow definitely delivered one of the best directing efforts of the year if not the best. Even I consider her the most fearless director in Hollywood. Even more fearless than Tarantino. However I feel this movie had its best chances of winning Best Picture if Bigelow had a Best Director nomination at the least. I feel because of that snub, its Best Picture chances have sunk. It could still win due to the acting of Jessica Chastain or the scriptwriting of Mark Boal. However I feel it would be a long shot.
-Should Win and Will Win: Steven Spielberg– Lincoln– This year has seen a lot of excellent directing efforts from many directors. So many the Academy appeared to have overlooked the efforts of Quentin Tarantino in Django Unchained, Kathryn Bigelow in Zero Dark Thirty and Ben Affleck in Argo. Affleck’s is the hardest because his directing in Argo has won him a Golden Globe, Director’s Guild and BAFTA awards. With Affleck, Bigelow and Tarantino snubbed out, there’s no real competition for Spielberg. It’s not to say that Lincoln was not that great of an effort. It still is an excellent effort but I’ve seen better from Spielberg. However the efforts of the other four nominees don’t compare. Ang Lee could win if the Academy doesn’t want to give Spielberg his third Oscar. Nevertheless it doesn’t look too likely.
-Should Win and Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis– Lincoln– Ten years ago, Day-Lewis was nominated for Best Actor for playing Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting in Gangs Of New York. Co-star Cameron Diaz said of Daniel: “Daniel Day-Lewis doesn’t just simply play the character. He becomes the character.” I guess that’s what makes Daniel Day-Lewis stand out from other actors. You just have to see his performances for yourself: Christy Brown in My Left Foot; Gerry Conlon in In The Name Of The Father; Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting; Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood. And now Abraham Lincoln. You just have to see it for yourself. The closest thing to a rival to Day-Lewis is Bradley Cooper who could get it if the Academy doesn’t want to make Day-Lewis a three-time Best Actor winner but I doubt it.
-Should Win: Jessica Chastain – Zero Dark Thirty– What can I say? You cannot take your eyes off of Maya. She keeps you intrigued in what will happen ext and how she’ll respond. She has a toughness about her despite her tender side being tested at times. Jessica really delivered a one-of-a-kind role that’s hard to match. -Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook– You can say whatever you want about Jennifer, that she’ll get it because she’s the ‘next big thing.’ Even though I want Jessica Chastain to win, Jennifer Lawrence is very deserving in her own right. I was very impressed in seeing her play a widower much older than her 22 year-old self. It was not just in her emotional acting but her physical acting too. If she wins, I will be content.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
-Should Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master – Okay so I admit I’m one of those countless people that like Philip Seymour Hoffman. One thing I have to say is like Daniel Day-Lewis, he knows how to become the role. As the svengali-like religious leader, he not only possessed the controllingness of the leader but the charisma of one too. I’m sure he knew that such people of great power not only had to possess a controllingness of them but a winsome charisma too. And Hoffman did it. I sensed it right there in my theatre seat. -Will Win: Tommy Lee Jones – Lincoln– Daniel Day-Lewis may have owned Lincoln but Tommy Lee Jones had to be his biggest challenger in who could command one’s attention and who is best at portraying a historical character. His performance of Thaddeus Stevens could just rival Day-Lewis. There were some parts of Jones’ performance where it suggested right there to me that this could just win the Oscar. And that was even before the first awards of this season were given out.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
-Should Win and Will Win: Anne Hathaway– Les Miserables– Some of you may think Anne may get the Oscar because of her fame but that’s just jumping the gun. I saw Les Miz. Right there during that scene where she sang I Dreamed A Dream, I just sat there amazed. I sensed right there that she would win the Oscar. Those of you who saw that scene will know what I’m talking about. The closest rivalry I see for her is Sally Field as Mary Lincoln but it’s Anne Hathaway all the way.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
-Should Win and Will Win: Mark Boal– Zero Dark Thirty– So Bigelow didn’t get nominated for Best Director. The next big force of the movie has to be her right-hand man Mark Boal. His scriptwriting has a lot to do with Bigelow’s standout directing efforts. It took a smart fearless script about piecing the puzzle together and the woman behind it. That’s why I give Mark my pick for the Best Original Screenplay for this year.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
-Should Win & Will Win: Chris Terrio– Argo– This was a year where the Adapted Screenplays had an edge over the original ones. Argo’s script had to be the best. It was a script that had to be as smart and well thought-out as it was suspenseful if it wanted to deliver such a story. It was a smart maze of a story without getting too overly confusing. It had its touching moments without getting overly sentimental. That’s why I predict the Argo script to do it. Also a win for the script could boost Argo’s Best Picture chances with Ben Affleck missing his Best Director nomination. We’ll just see.
Just One More:
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:
-Should Win and Will Win:Wreck-It Ralph – It’s interesting to see how there are three different contenders for the Oscar since it’s had a habit of being one Disney/Pixar film and every other film. This year’ Disney/Pixar pick Brave has a pair of rivals–Frankenweenie and Wreck-It Ralph— and they were also done by Disney associated companies so this should be a win-win for Disney this year. I give it to Ralph because it was the most create and the most entertaining. Also the images in itself were top notch quality too.
Here are some of my predictions for the other categories. In these, I will only predict who I think Will Win:
BEST ART DIRECTION:
Sarah Greenwood – Anna Karenina BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Claudio Miranda – The Life Of Pi BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Jacqueline Durran – Anna Karenina BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Searching For Sugar Man BEST FILM EDITING:
William Goldenberg – Argo BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM: Amour – Austria BEST MAKEUP: The Hobbit BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:
Mychael Danna – Life Of Pi BEST ORIGINAL SONG:
“Skyfall” – Skyfall BEST SOUND MIXING: Les Miserables BEST SOUND EDITING: Life Of Pi BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Life Of Pi BEST ANIMATED SHORT and BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: Click Here BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Open Heart
Interesting looking over all the categories. Amour is the first foreign language film to be nominated for Best Picture in 12 years. There were only four acting nominees being nominated for the first time: the lowest since probably the early 30’s. Usually the supporting acting categories are the most newbie-friendly. Not a single newbie in the supporting acting categories this year and seven of them have already won an Oscar. The Best Actress category had new age records set this very year for both the oldest nominee ever (Riva) and the youngest nominee ever (Wallis). Silver Linings Playbook is only the fourteenth movie in history to earn Oscar nominations in all four acting categories. Interesting how the year after Martin Scorsese makes a family film, Ang Lee makes a family-friendly fantasia that also gets nominated for Best Picture. The Best Original Score nomination of Lincoln extends the record of nominations for movie composer John Williams to fifty-eight. The Best Original Song category had five nominees for the first time in three years.
As for snub-outs, hard to believe The Hunger Games and The Dark Knight Rises weren’t nominated for anything, not even for visual effects. The Dark Knight Rises is now the highest-grossing picture to never receive an Oscar nomination. And with the final Twilight movie being nominated for nothing, the Twilight series becomes the highest-grossing movie series or franchise to never receive a single Oscar nomination. And to think last year you were surprised when Harry Potter became the highest-grossing series or franchise to never win an Oscar out of its twelve nominations. Actually should we be surprised about Twilight’s consistent snub-out? All it was about was hot guys anyways.
And there you have it. My predictions for Sunday’s Oscars. Winners to be decided there and then. Let’s hope the wins go to the right movies. Also let’s see if Seth can make the show entertaining without crossing the line.
Interesting how these past few years, they’ve released the short films nominated for an Academy Award as reels at the box office. They’ve since drawn good-sized crowds as they’ve been doing it again ever since. This marks the fifth year in a row I’ve seen them and this year’s crop of nominees are both entertaining to watch and interesting to see the visions of either the director or the animators. Here’s my rundown of this year’s nominated short films:
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM:
–Adam And Dog – dir. Minkyu Lee- Unique story how a dog became man’s best friend as Adam meets the dog before Eve. It seems charmingly cartoonish at first and gives the viewer a feel. Soon it becomes more cartoonish both in drawing and in the characters of the two. Also the plot before the ending becomes a bit awkward. Nevertheless it did end well. Overall I felt something was missing in it and I don’t think it will win.
–Fresh Guacamole – dir. PES-What can an animated film accomplish in two minutes? This film does a lot as it goes from cutting items for guacamole into turning it into gambling goodies and toy bits. It’s both entertaining and charming. It doesn’t even have to tell a story to entertain. Its ability to charm and entertain in its two minutes is why this is my Should Win pick. Great job!
–Head Over Heels – dir. Timothy Reckart- Walter and Madge are an unhappily-married couple. They live in the same house but she lives right side up while he lives upside down as the house floats in the sky. It’s a shame since they used to dance ballet together. One day Walter tries to solve things by repairing Madge’s ballet shoes. However something goes wrong between him and Madge and the separateness grows. Its use of its form of 3D ‘puppetry’ adds to the unique charm of the story but its ability to convey human emotions much like flesh and blood people is its biggest quality that makes it shine and why this is my Will Win pick.
–Maggie Simpson: The Longest Daycare – dir. David Silverman- Maggie Simpson is the star of this funny short where no dialogue is needed. If you’ve seen Ice Age 3 in the theatres, then you’ve seen this short already. Maggie is left at the Ayn Rand School For Tots. And when there’s a daycare run in the spirit of Ayn Rand, you know trouble will abound. This Simpson’s short without dialogue succeeds in entertaining while remaining true to the flavor of the Simpsons show. And you finally find out why Maggie always had animosity to the baby with the unibrow. I always had a feeling he was diabolical!
–Paperman – dir. John Kahrs- If you’ve seen Wreck-It Ralph in the theatres, then you’ve seen this short already. Done in black and white with the only color being the woman’s red lipstick. It’s a charming boy meets girl story where they meet on a subway platform and boy attempts to meet girl again by making paper planes out of his inbox papers. Eventually the paper planes become his destiny as they send the message the two were meant to be. Another charming short from the Disney studios.
One thing to say about all five of the films is that you’ll notice all are done without dialogue. I find it unique that all five nominees possess that quality. Shows how volumes can be spoken without uttering a word. Pixar’s been showing that for years in the shorts they’d shown before their features. Another thing is that it’s something that none of the nominated shorts were done in 3D computer graphics. That’s a bit of a surprise for me considering it’s now all the rage for feature-length animation.
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
–Asad – dirs. Bryan Buckley & Mino Jarjoura- Normally you would not expect a story of Somalian children being caught in the war to be a comedy but this is and it succeeds well. It does show a lot of the nastiness of war with the temptation of young children to become pirates but it has an ironically humorous ending that makes it a delight. Normally a story about a child being caught in an African civil war doesn’t sound like comic material at all but this film does an excellent job in making a comedy out of it without crossing the line. Also this film could be seen as a ray of hope for Somalia as most of the actors are in fact Somali refugees living in South Africa.
–Buzkashi Boys – dirs. Sam French & Ariel Nasr- This is a story of two poor boys in Kabul, Afghanistan. One, Rafi, is the son of a blacksmith whose father expects him to carry on the family tradition. The other, Ahmad, is a young fatherless street urchin who begs on the streets. One day Rafi’s father allows him to see a game of Buzkashi with Ahmad. Ahmad tells Rafi his dreams of being a Buzkashi star and isn’t afraid to shout out his dream from a demolished castle while Rafi is skeptical for his future. One incident changes everything that changes how Rafi thinks and dreams. This story is the one of the five that most stayed with me. It was very well-played out and gets you thinking. That’s why I declare this to be my Should Win pick.
–Curfew – dir. Shawn Christensen- This is a dark story that features some humor. The girl is a scene stealer even thought the man is the main protagonist. Often you’d wonder why a sister would let her suicidal brother babysit her daughter but it turns out to be the best thing for both of them in the end. It’s dark humor is what gives it its edge. Definitely the most original of the five.
–Death Of A Shadow – dirs. Tom van Avermaet & Ellen De Waele- This is a haunting story of Nathan, a death photographer who photographs deaths and transfers the shadows onto his master’s wall for his artistic entertainment. We later learn that Nathan died in World War I and the master will give him his life back upon 10,000 photographs. He wants to return to life to return to the love he believes he could’ve had if he wasn’t killed by soldiers. It’s the 10,000th photograph and the aftermath that changes everything including his perspective. Very dark and haunting. Very well-directed and well produced. That’s why I give it my Will Win pick.
–Henry – dir. Yan England- This is a story of an elderly man with Alzeimer’s trying to remember and reclaim the past for his memory. It starts in a bizarre situation. He’s strapped to his hospital bed and can’t remember his wife Maria or daughter Nathalie. His recollection progresses through the help of his daughter, his twentysomething self and the classical music he played with his loved ones. It’s through both of them and the music that he’s able to go back in time to remember the two for their sake and for his. It’s haunting as it is touching. It is a sad story but it does lead to an ending that’s somewhat positive. Very good and very intimate as it’s honest in human feelings.
This is the difficulty of predicting a short film. The winner could be a story that makes you think like recent past winners Toyland or The Shore. Or it could be something humorous like past winners The New Tenants or God Of Love. There’s no telling what will impress the Academy.
And there you have it. My thoughts and predictions for the short films. Predicting short films in never easy. Any five can be the winner. There’s no clear favorite. Nevertheless it’s always great to see that he audience again has a chance to see them on the big screen. Also those interested in seeing some new directing talent or animating talent, here’s your chance.
As some of you have noticed over the year with my blog, I’ve been paying big attention to what has been happening at the box office in 2012. I’m sure those who’d want to see an increase in the annual box office total this year also would have paid such big attention. Anyways 2012 has ended and the movie year has ended on a positive note.
The reason for 2012’s big attention has to do with years past as I have pointed out in previous box office posts. 2009 not only set a box office record of almost $10.6 billion but became the first ever $10 billion year. The following years were not so impressive. 2010 just missed breaking the record by a measly $30 million but the bigger news was of the ticket sales being the lowest since 1996. 2011 was even more humbling by being over $400 million shy of 2009’s record and even less ticket sales than 2010.
For 2012, I was looking forward to see if it was going to break the record with both eagerness and nervousness. Eagerness because I wanted to see the new record set. Isn’t that the goal of every year to be the box office record-setter? Nervousness because if there was another dip in the box office or in ticket sales, who knows what that could mean for the future of movies? Especially in this multimedia universe?
January and February shows signs that the box office was improving. March and April showed the success to continue assuredly, if not spectacularly. May and June added to the promise of 2012 being the record breaking year. July to September showed the chance of finally breaking the record continuing well. With three months to go, 2012 was $240 million more than last year at that same time and $363 million more than the first nine months of 2009’s record-setting year.
October continued the steady success with continuation of Hotel Transylvania and the big opening of Taken 2. Success of the opening of Paranormal Activity 4 and the slow but steady building buzz of Argo also added to October’s success. October actually finished with $559.2 million: $13 million less than October 2011 and almost $60 million less than 2009. Not that much of a downer. November began with the big openings of Wreck-It Ralph and Flight. Further excitement came via the latest James Bond flick Skyfall opening at $88.3 million: the biggest opening weekend ever for a James Bond movie. However it was the opening of the final Twilight movie Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 and the steady climb of Lincoln that led November to a total gross of $1.423 billion to make it the highest-grossing November ever.
December however lacked the buzz. Excitement continued with the success of Breaking Dawn Pt. 2 but excitement was weak in the first weekend of December as the weekend of Breaking Dawn was only $17 million with Skyfall, Rise Of The Guardians, Lincoln and the Life Of Pi close behind. Further lack of excitement for an opener continued the following week as Skyfall found itself back at the top with a paltry $10.7 million. Excitement came back in the third weekend of December 2012 with the long awaited The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opening with $84 million. The Hobbit remained at the top of the box office until the end of 2012 despite challenges from opening from Jack Reacher, This Is 40, Django Unchained and Les Miserables. In the end, December 2012 ended rather weakly with a total gross of $988.5 million: the first December since 1999 to gross less than $1 billion.
Now that the year has ended, how does it all stack up for 2012? It actually stacks up quite well. 2012 had strong showings with excellent opening weekend including four opening weekends to rank in the all-time Top 10 and The Avengers setting the record with the first ever $200 million opening weekend. 2012 also produced two movies in the Top 10 list of all-time highest grossing movies with The Avengers at #3 with $623 million and The Dark Knight Rises at #7 with $448 million. The whole year brought a total record gross of $10.835 billion. Ticket sales were also the biggest in three year with a total of 1.364 billion sold.
Now that the record has been accomplished for 2012, this means a new challenge for 2013 to attempt to set a new record or sell more tickets. Will they do it? It all depends what the year has in store.
Once again it was my goal at the VIFF to see at least one program of shorts. I had the good opportunity to see one during my ushering duties. You remember how the four programs of Canadian shorts were given names of the earth’s natural resources: Earth, Air, Fire and Water? This year the theme is about breaks. The program I saw was titled Break Even and featured nine shorts done by Canadian filmmakers. So here’s the rundown:
-Barefoot-In a Cree community, Alyssa is the third girl in her class expecting to be a mother. She has a supportive boyfriend and a supportive family but she has secrets. The story was meant to be a drama but I think this was a statement to do about teen pregnancy in First Nations reserves. An upsetting story but important as it will hit you with some hard truths.
-Peach Juice-An amusing animated movie using dolls and wrapping paper for the animating. Not the most professional but it succeeded in entertaining. This was another teenage story that has a charming outlook on a certain curiosity.
-OMG-A teenage daughter moves in with her grandmother after a spat over her phone use. Grandma handles her granddaughter’s annoying habit well both in her cellphone use and her relationship with her mother. Very clever ability to have a great entertaining story within the same location. Funny and charming.
-Liar-Tara believes her boyfriend Brian lied about being gay when he broke up with her. She and her two girlfriends attempt revenge on Brian but when it goes too far, what will Tara decide? Very good story but it leaves one wondering if it was meant to be a story or a message about violence on gay teens, especially since the bullies were all female?
-First Snow-Siblings and their mother reunite but not in the happiest settings. It’s in a hospital and it’s to decide who will donate their kidney to save their father’s life and it has to be immediate. Who will go forward, especially with all this squabbling? Very comedic with a surprise ending that ends the story well.
-Canoejacked-Two escaped prisoners try to escape across a river with a metal canoe. Only problem is the canoeist is inside with him, and he’s a ‘canudist’. How will they all escape with them in full view of the officer. They find a way. Quite funny, despite the bizarre situation.
-Hollow Bones-Boy bird loses girl bird in this live-action–yes, it’s live-action–short. However he does see hope along the way. Didn’t see the point of showing a break-up scene with the actors having birdheads. Wasn’t that amused.
-With Jeff-Nydia is in love with Jeff but wants to be a strong teenage girl. She receives a lot of advise from friends but loses herself whenever Jeff takes her on his motorcycle. The story appeared to be a good thoughtful story but the ending didn’t make a lot of sense.
-The Worst Day Ever-Bernard is one hard-luck kid. He has one bad incident after one bad incident happen this day. You think things couldn’t get any worse for that tyke until…It was a bit shocking to see all this happen to Bernard but it was funny and easy to find comical.
As for the whole segment, I have to say I first had the sense I was watching a program of shorts about teens after the first four shorts. It wasn’t until First Snow was showed that I got more of a sense of variety. Sure five of the nine shorts had teen subject matter but the mix of more adult shorts evened it out. Many of the shorts either charmed me or made me think. I’d say five of the nine were both entertaining and professional.
Some of the shorts were filmed by BC companies, some by Ontario companies and others by Quebec. I don’t know any of the filmmakers who filmed these shorts but I hope this leads on to bigger projects for them in the future.
The shorts program of Break Even was great to watch. Director wannabes often use short films to try to launch their careers for bigger things in the future. I’d have to say most of them show potential for both the director and even some of the actors involved.
September 27th to October 12th will be when this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival will occur. Lots to look forward to. Hundreds of films and shorts from 75 countries over these 16 days. Last year’s was a record-setter. This year the Film Festival wants to take things further.
You may remember last year I wrote about that year being the 30th for the VIFF, explaining the history and what to the festival showcases. Also you may remember the Festival records that year achieved. What’s also remarkable about last year is the Oscar success of some of the featured films from last year. The Best Picture winning The Artist was featured last year as was the Best Foreign Language Film winner A Separation.
This year’s VIFF also has goals of achieving a lot. There is estimated to be 380 films from 75 countries this year. Canadian and Asian film as well as documentaries are once again expected to be the highlighted genres of film at the Festival. What’s new this time is having the closing gala at the Centre for Performing Arts. Two live performances at the Centre are also expected to take place this year. Also added is a new real-time electronic ticketing system much like the one used at sporting events. The additions came upon the return of a $250,000 gaming grant the Festival once had until it lost its eligibility in 2009 as the government left adult arts groups behind in giving grants out. The grant returned as a result of the provincial government reassessing gaming grants.
Now that the grant is returned, the festival can continue to grow in both attendance and the number of films exhibited as well as the venues showcasing the films. The Granville 7 and its seven cinemas is once again the theatre with the most action. Pacific Cinematheque and the VanCity Theatre are the two other main theatres showing films throughout the sixteen days of the Festival. Temporary theatres showing films include the Park Theatre which will show a pair of films on two separate days and the Vogue Theatre which is scheduled to be a venue on nine of the sixteen days including the opening gala tomorrow night which will feature the screening of Canadian director Deepa Mehta’s Midnight Children.
As for me, I’m scheduled to do six shifts of five hours each. I actually volunteered this morning. It was good. Good to see a lot of volunteers I know back. Also exciting to see what featured films will be playing. I plan on taking in as many films as I can. Like last year, I’ll be aiming for a mix of Canadian, international, shorts and documentaries. I hope to post as many reviews here about the films I have seen. Anyways here’s to another year of film festing. If you want to check out this year’s fest, just go to the official website.
The news shocked all of Canada. On September 4, 2012, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois won the Quebec provincial election. She was to give her victory speech at the Metropolis in downtown Montreal when a masked gunman opened fire, killing a stage technician and injuring another. Marois was unharmed. It has not been determined whether this was meant to be an assassination attempt on Marois or not. Even if it was, politically-motivated assassination attempts in Canada are extremely rare. Nevertheless the shooting did remind us that such a catastrophe is very possible here in Canada.
Throughout the beginning of time, being a political leader has always been a position to put one’s life in jeopardy. The King of a country would be seen as the prime target for warring armies in the quest to conquer. A leader could even be assassinated by a person within their circle as Julius Caesar was. Even in modern day dictatorships or dictatorships of the recent past, a head of state would be prey for assassination attempts like Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Salvador Allende or Anwar Sadat. The assassin would either be an person of opposition or a militarized coup.
Even in democracies assassination attempts are still common as was the failed attempt on UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 and the successful attempts on India’s Indira and Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 and 1991 respectively. Even countries with a reputation of being peaceful like Sweden are not immune to assassination attempts as was the case when Prime Minister Olaf Palme was shot and killed in 1986. The most famous assassination attempts in a democracy have come from the United States. Four presidents including legendary presidents like Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy have been assassinated while in office. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot while in office but survived. The most recent assassination attempt on an American politician was on January 8, 2011 on Arizona US Representative Gabrielle Giffords. She survived but six others, including US District Court Judge John Roll, were killed.
Here in Canada, we’re lucky not to have a prime minister assassinated while in office. Even infamous prime ministers like Brian Mulroney lived to see his last day in office and even Stephen Harper is still alive and active during a time of Harperphobia that’s heavily promoted through the gab of liberal Canadians. The closest call was on Jean Chretien back in November 5, 1995 when a man armed with a knife broke into his home residence to stab him. Neither Jean nor his wife were hurt.
There have only been two successful assassinations in Canadian politics. The first is Thomas D’Arcy McGee. He was both an Irish nationalist and a father of Canadian Federation. He would attack the Orange Order in his writings in the 1850’s and defended the Irish Catholic right to representation in the assembly. He was elected to the Legislative assembly of the Province Of Canada in 1858 and played a significant role in the creation of the Dominion Of Canada. Less than a year after the independence of Canada, McGee was shot to death by Patrick Whelan, an Irish Catholic and a sympathizer of the Fenians: a group of Irish Americans who wanted to take over Canada to prevent British occupancy. Whelan was hanged. McGee remains the only Canadian politician at the federal level to be assassinated.
The second successful assassination was at a provincial level and an act of terrorism. Pierre Laporte was Vice-Premier and Minister of Labour of Quebec in 1970 as Robert Bourassa was the Premier. On October 10, 1970, Laporte was kidnapped outside his home by a cell of the FLQ: A Quebec independence terrorist group. The FLQ was already regarded as a dangerous group for it had already committed seven murders, multiple mail bombings in the 60’s and bombed the Montreal Stock Exchange one year earlier. A British diplomat had been kidnapped days earlier and was still hostage. Laporte’s abduction was part of a ‘political protest’ to have ‘political prisoners’ freed. The Government of Canada under Pierre Trudeau responded with the enactment of Canada’s War Measures Act and Trudeau’s promise to punish whoever harms the two men. On October 17th, seven days after the abduction, Laporte’s body was found. The incident is remembered in Canadian history as the October Crisis. The British Diplomat was released in December and the FLQ eventually declined due to heavy police crackdown and declining public support after the assassination. Nowadays the biggest lobby for Quebec independence is through peaceful political lobbying like the Parti Quebecois.
Despite current politics in Canada being mostly peaceful, there is a chance for violence either by a cowardly person or a person with opposing viewpoints. We shouldn’t forget that Canadians have often reacted angrily to political situations in the past. We’ve had rebellions in both Lower Canada and Upper Canada before the Dominion was created. We’ve had rebellions in Manitoba in the 19th Century like the Riel Rebellion. We’ve had labor riots in various cities with the Winnipeg Riot of 1919 being the most famous.
Political violence became less admired and more looked down upon since World War II but it’s not to say it’s completely gone away. Back in the 60’s there were attacks on air force bases to protest the war. In the 80’s and 90’s, there were protests and blockades from First nations groups. Even in my city of Vancouver, there have been political riots like the G7 riot back in 1997 and various anti-Olympic protests before Vancouver 2010. There was also the G8 riot in Toronto from anarchist groups. So there’s no doubt that there’s political anger here in Canada that can turn violent.
I won’t say that the Montreal shooting was politically motivated as that has yet to be proved but I will state the facts I’ve read and know as of now. On the night of September 4th, 2012, the Parti Quebecois won the provincial election with a minority government. Party leader Pauline Marois delivered her victory speech when partway through, a masked gunman opened fire with what many thought was an AK-47. One stage technician was killed and another was injured. Marois was taken away by her bodyguards and was unharmed in the shooting. The gunman then attempted to set fire to the building with a Molotov cocktail. The shooter was quickly tackled and arrested by the police.
The victim was 48 year-old stagehand Denis Blanchette. Witnesses including Marois herself believe his actions taken that night could have prevented more fatalities. His funeral was held in a Roman Catholic church and was attended by hundreds including Marois and other political dignitaries. Police were present throughout the church. Dave Courage, the 27 year-old man who was also shot, was originally in critical condition and continues to recover in hospital. The suspect is 62 year-old Richard Henry Bain of La Conception, QC, a small town 90 miles northwest of Montreal. He faces 16 charges including first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder as well as possession of explosive material and prohibited weapons. While being placed in a police cruiser, he yelled in French “Anglos are waking up.” then in English: “It’s f***ing payback time.” Crown Prosecutor said Bain has 27 guns, all but one had been registered.
Bain is expected to reappear in court on October 11th. Despite the statement, it’s unknown whether Bain’s actions were politically motivated or the actions of a crazed man. Court trials and public reaction will define the events yet to come and could even affect the political climate in Quebec. One thing about the shooting is that it reminded Canada that political assassinations in Canada are quite possible. An extremely rare chance of happening but still likely.
Another two months have passed and the box office has enjoyed a continued increase this year, if not completely consistent. If there’s one message to be made so far, it’s that Hollywood’s doing all the right stuff these past four months of 2012.
As many of my followers already know, I’ve been paying close attention to the total box office results this year. I started doing it every year only in recent years. This year I’m paying special attention this year because you can bet Hollywood is hoping for its biggest year ever. Also you can bet Hollywood is looking to rebound after the disappointments of the last two years as noted in my article about 2011’s Box Office.
2012 shows signs that the box office is looking up for sure. I made previous notes in my focus on January and February of the reasons for Hollywood to be optimistic. Its total gross was over $320 million more than last year’s and the biggest January/February total gross ever. March and April gave box office stats impressive enough to keep Hollywood smiling too.
The first weekend of March 2012 showed continuing promise for the box office as Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax opened with $82.8 million. It was even strong enough to keep the heavily-promoted John Carter from debuting at #1. The following week saw 21 Jump Street debut with a strong opening. However nothing could compare in March for the opening of the heavily-anticipatedThe Hunger Games. Its opening weekend of $152.5 million raked as the third-highest opening weekend of all time at the time and its buzz was even able to outdo the openings of Wrath Of The Titans and Mirror Mirror the following weekend. The end result for March 2012 was $1.071 billion: the highest-grossing March ever; only the second March ever to gross more than a billion dollars and $412 million more than the gross of March 2011.
April didn’t have as strong buzz as last year this time around. The month began with the continuing endurance of The Hunger Games keeping it at #1 during the first two weekends of April. Its box office domination even warded off debuts like American Reunion, Titanic 3D, The Three Stooges and The Cabin In The Woods. It wouldn’t be replaced as the #1 movie in North America until Think Like A Man opened. Think still continued as the #1 movie the following weekend, even outdoing the debuts of The Pirates! Band Of Misfits and The Five-Year Engagement. Nevertheless Think Like A Man’s opening weekend was only a humble $33.6 million.
The lack of sizzle of April’s openers led to a roughly estimated total gross of $725 million: $200 million less than last year’s record-setting April. Nevertheless April was only a minor box office setback as the box office of those four months amassed a total roughly over $500 million more than last year. So 2012 remains on pace for being the highest-grossing year ever.
As we head into May, we already know the box office is getting more boost as the very first weekend saw the release of The Avengers which not only broke the box office record for opening weekend but set a box office milestone too. Its record-setting opening weekend of $207 million made it the first-ever $200 million weekend! May promises more box office excitement with The Dictator, Battleship and Men In Black III. The rest of the summer is also full of buzz with Battlefield America, Madagascar 3,Disney/Pixar’s Brave, and the latest movies in the Spiderman, Jason Bourne, Expendibles and Batman franchises.
2012 is continuing on another impressive year and the buzz in the following months should continue long enough to make this a record-setting year.
You might remember I talked about a box office slump that happened over 2011. If there’s one thing looking up, it’s that January and February of 2012 have shown improvements from the previous year.
January started off well as 40 movies were to be released that month as compared to 33 the January before. January 2012 grossed $430.1 million, more than $100 more than January 2011. The highlights of that month were Contraband, Underworld Awakening, The Devil Inside and a 3D re-release of Beauty and The Beast. February 2012 was also significantly higher than that of 2011. This February grossed a total of $708.3 million, more than $120 million more than the previous year. That month’s biggest hits were The Vow, Safe House, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, The Woman In Black and a 3D re-release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
Overall it appears that 2012 is on pace to becoming the highest-grossing movie year. We should keep in mind there are ten more movie months this year. We should also take into fact that this is not the highest combined gross of January and February: 2009 has the highest and 2009 would go on to be the highest grossing movie year ever. March has already started strong with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax grossing more than $70 million last weekend and has the heavily-hyped John Carter opening this weekend. 21 Jump Street is next week’s release with the biggest clout while the following weekend will have the heavily-promoted The Hunger Games opening. Having a fifth weekend in March helps as two movies with big buzz —Wrath of The Titans and Mirror, Mirror— open that weekend.
April also promises to have movies with a lot of buzz. Titanic will be released in 3D. Also vying for the opening weekend is American Reunion and The Cold Light Of Day. The following week will have The Cabin In The Woods and The Three Stooges. Romantic movies, both drama and comedy, dominate the following weekend with The Lucky One and Think Like A Man. The final weekend of April will see the release of The Five-Year Engagement, The Raven and the animated The Pirates! Band Of Misfits.
It still remains in question whether 2012 will break 2009’s box office record. Whatever the situation, 2012 shows that compared to 2011, the box office is picking up steam again.