Monday Morning Critic – 2.16

On tap this week:
— Oscar predictions
— Rollin’ in the hood for this week’s flick
— Dale buys a DVD
— Top Fives with Big Andy Mac
And slightly much more!

A while back I was trying to convince my buddy Dale to buy a DVD. Dale was doing his monthly shopping for movies; he lives in an area with one movie theatre. So he doesn’t get a wide variety of flicks to choose from. That’s where our friendship kicks in, as he usually asks for a recommendation from his buddy in Chicago. Grand Forks, ND, isn’t quite the bastion of civilization in comparison. His selection of movies in theatres isn’t nearly as vast as he would like, so one day we’re talking and he’s looking online, trying to blow off the last vestiges of a gift card. So I recommended Shoot ‘em Up. What follows is a cleaned up version of our conversation.

Me: Shoot ‘em Up is up your alley. Totally go for that one.

Dale: Who’s in it?

Me: It’s got Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti. Owen’s a nanny who uses two guns at once at all time and Giamatti is a guy who’s trying to hunt him down. Its nuts, pure insanity.

Dale: I don’t know, man. I love action films but I’m not sure if I can blind buy one.

Me: It’s got a killer soundtrack. Crue, Motorhead, lots of good metal and hard rock. No emo or any other sort of wussy music on this.

Dale: Still not sure.

Me: 70 minutes of film, 60 minutes of action sequences.

Dale: Hmmm, still not quite sold. We’re talking 20 bucks here.

Me: Dude, it’s like Hong Kong action except with gunfire en masse. Like way too much for any girl to watch it with you. Ever.

Dale: Close, but not quite.

Me: Monica Belucci Naked.

(Five minutes elapse)

Dale: Ordered.

Incidents like this remind me why I didn’t get into the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

With less than a week until the Oscars, it’s time to get into the hype and predict who will win. And as always we get rid of the boring categories and concentrate on the ones that matter.

Best Supporting Actress:

The Nominees: Amy Adams (Doubt), Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Viola Davis (Doubt), Taraji Henson (Button), Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)

Thoughts: This is a great category, as I could see anyone walking away with the hardware. I enjoyed Tomei’s performance the most out of those nominated. She is a prior winner, however, and that bodes against her (especially considering it was for My Cousin Vinny).

I can see Amy Adams winning it, as she’s probably the best young actress working out there and on a roll with great parts. Her cast-mate Viola Davis was hauntingly good in a brief role and I think that’s where Oscar hardware will wind up.

Who Should Win: Marissa Tomei
Who Will Win: Viola Davis

Best Supporting Actor:

The Nominees: Josh Brolin (Milk), Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road)

Thoughts: This is supposed to be Heath Ledger’s category to win, and I think he’d be a mortal lock if he was alive. But that’s the elephant in the room that is getting over-looked.

Dead men don’t win Oscars, as a rule at least.

Outside of Peter Finch in Network, no Oscar has been awarded posthumously for acting in the modern era. James Dean was shut out three times after his tragic death. No one else has won it from the grave and I think the tradition will continue this year. My gut says this is going to be the monster upset of the night. Betting the house on Ledger is the smart move, and one I would do if I was a betting man, but the Academy rarely nominates people posthumously. There’s a huge precedent against him.

However, this is seen as the category that the Academy will award The Dark Knight other than in the technical awards and I think the Ain’t It Cool News forum would explode in sheer anger if this last slight against that film happened. I think this will be the massive shocker of the night as someone walks away the Oscar that is still alive and my gut says Robert Downey Jr. would be the likely candidate. He is alive, after all, and this would be the capper to a year of redemption for his career.

Who Should Win: Heath Ledger
Who Will Win: Robert Downey Jr.

Best Actress:

The Nominees: Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Melissa Leo (Frozen River), Meryl Streep (Doubt), Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Thoughts:It’s a three horse race between a great young actress, a legend and an actress about due. When in doubt, go with the horse coming due. Streep has two wins and over a dozen nominations, Hathaway had the year’s best performance and Winslet is 0 for 6. Few have seen Melissa Leo in Frozen River, and Jolie is there as a filler, so you can discount them.

I think Winslet is a near lock, but it’ll be for the wrong film as she was better in Revolutionary Road. Hathaway was better, but Winslet has everything going in her favor and will probably get her first Oscar.

Who Should Win: Anne Hathaway
Who Will Win: Kate Windlset.

Best Actor:

The Nominees: Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Sean Penn (Milk), Brad Pitt (Button), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Thoughts: In any sane year, this would be between Frank Langella, Richard Jenkins and Mickey Rourke. No one was as good as they were this year, period, and should be the clear frontrunners. In a sane year Brad Pitt and Sean Penn would smile and nod as also-rans, nominated because it requires a pool of five. In a sane year, this would be a celebration of three great actors pulling out remarkable performances that make it extremely hard to choose just one as the best of the year.

But this isn’t a sane year.

Penn played an iconic gay figure in a community where Prop 8 rage is alive and well. And as much as no one wants to say it, we all know that the way California voted on that particular Proposition is going to be a huge influence on Academy voters who might be looking to make a political statement. When Tom Hanks and Samuel L Jackson of all people are raging against Mormons (because they react better to insults than other religious groups), and Jack Black lends his considerable lack of comedic talent to a stage show mocking Christians, you know where this is going to end. And it isn’t going to be pretty, either.

Who Should Win: Frank Langella
Who Will Win: Sean Penn

Best Animated Feature:

The Nominees: Bolt, Kung-Fu Panda, Wall-E

Thoughts: There’s only one film that deserves this award. You know who you are.

Who Should Win: Wall-E
Who Will Win: Wall-E

Best Director:

The Nominees: > David Fincher (Button), Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon), Gus Van Sant (Milk), Stephen Daldry (The Reader), Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Thoughts: One of these things doesn’t look like the other. One of these things looks totally different. I’ll be happy if it’s anyone but Daldry. Howard made the best film, but Danny Boyle has been cleaning house in the awards shows.

Who Should Win: Ron Howard
Who Will Win: Danny Boyle

Best Picture:

The Nominees: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire

Thoughts: This has to be perhaps the weakest overall group of films in Oscar history. Slumdog Millionaire looks like the winner and is a strong, but not prohibitive, favorite. The Academy will reward Milk with Best Actor, most likely, and Frost/Nixon has the odds against it.

Who Should Win: Frost/Nixon
Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s Film – Menace II Society


In the 1990s, the gangster culture exploded with the new wave of crime flicks. Every ethnicity deserves their own gangster films, and for the African-American community a whole wave of quality crime films came out. Menace II Society, Boyz n the Hood, New Jack City, Juice, Dead Presidents and Straight out of Brooklyn highlighted a time when guys like the Hughes brothers and John Singleton highlighted the hood in the same way Scorsese and Coppola highlighted La Cosa Nostra.

It was a different era of crime films; it dealt with the present that hadn’t been tapped into before. It was a genre of film that has been since dubbed the “hood” film, a subgenre of the crime genre, and watching Menace II Society is a wild trip through a time capsule.

The film follows Caine (Tyrin Turner) and O-Dog (Larenz Tate) through the summer after they graduated high school. It’s a coming of age film wrapped in a crime flick as Caine, whose parents are both dead as part of the drug game, gets into the drug game himself despite his grandparents’ best intentions. Dealing drugs and committing a cold-blooded murder (or two), he gets a wakeup shock and has to end up choosing between his woman (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and the life of a gangster.

It’s an interesting film because it’s probably the best of the “hood” films, sharing a unique perspective into cinema about the black experience that hadn’t been shared before. With all the trappings of the genre, it’s a different take on the subject given the ensemble cast provided.

Strong recommendation

Top Five Challenge

Another week, another member of the Inside Pulse family to ask a top five question to. This week it’s Big Andy Mac, Pulse Wrestling Ring of Honor guru, who moonlights as an education professional. We asked him the following:

Andy, what five movie teacher clichés do you dislike the most?

5) The inaccurate portrayal of the profession – Never do they show just how much work goes into teaching; especially for a first year teacher. Granted if they showed all of the planning, grading, and preparation that goes into teaching it would make for much longer movies and they would be much more boring. I am not a huge fan of the genre as it is.

4) Administrators who dissuade teachers from trying new things – Most administrators primary goals relate on some level to professional development. If anything, especially in a failing school, an principal will let anyone try anything that may raise the school’s test scores, graduation rate, etc…

3) The evil teacher that is “out to get” a student – Teachers really have a lot more on their plate than ruining the lives of students. Even the students that I have despised, I have never gone out of my way to make their lives hell. Sure, I may have given them a shorter leash when they misbehave, and I may read their answers a little more closely, but I would never intentionally screw a student out of a grade or an opportunity.

2) The plucky young teacher that goes into a difficult school and changes things overnight – This is the plot of almost every teacher movie, and for that reason I typically dislike these movies. It is super rare that a teacher can come right out of school and immediately know just how to make an impact at such a profound level. Some teachers, heck many teachers have that ability, but it usually is the product of years of honing their skills.

1 – The movie Freedom Writers – God I hate this movie. It features three of the above clichés and is just such a trite movie. Many people loved it. Hillary Swank was at the height of her toothy annoyingness. It just made me angry to see all of it because despite being “based” on a true story it was nothing like any school I have worked in. I have worked in urban schools, suburban schools, wealthy schools, poor schools, alternative schools, and more. For being based on a true story it just did not ring true. The movie was one walking cliché.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and Northwestern University Co-Eds with low standards at the Rhythm Room

Fired Up – Two guys go to cheerleading camp and aren’t gay. Somehow one has to save the day and the other tries to go after all the nubile young flesh or something like that.

Skip it – A teen comedy that’s PG-13. In a decade with Superbad and Sex Drive, that just doesn’t cut it anymore. This should be a filthy R-rated comedy with lots of nudity. Instead, you get PG-13. Yawn.

Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail – Tyler Perry makes another film about the whacky family and their matriarch Madea.

Skip it – What’s Madea going to do now? I don’t care.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds..