81st Academy Awards

The Academy Awards were held yesterday and so we finally have the definitive answer to which film is the best of the best of 2008. Although I don't agree with some winners, for the most part there were not many surprises. The ceremony itself had lots of potential to become the most enjoyable Academy Awards in a very, very long time. Hugh Jackman's energetic and hilarious opening number really started the show off with a bang and gave me hope that things this year would be easier to watch. But of course, you can't have an Oscar ceremony without several boring, unnecessary montages. This year they decided to create a different montage for every genre of film. The only one worth watching was Judd Apatow's comedy montage starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as their characters from Pineapple Express. Turns out the skit was actually a lot funnier than Pineapple Express.

The second absolute disaster and by far the worst change made to the functionality of the ceremony was the presentation of the acting awards. Rather than have two people come out and introduce the nominees with clips of their performances, we were instead forced to endure an introduction to the FIVE presenters, and then listen to ALL FIVE PRESENTERS give long and uninteresting monologues about the nominees, and then NOT SHOW US A CLIP. Who was the bright light that thought of that idea?! Not everybody gets to go out and see most of these films, so they enjoy seeing the 10 seconds clips. But no, the Academy basically just said that if you didn't see the film, then screw you. Wouldn't you have been a lot happier if you got to see Heath Ledger's performance shown one more time? Atrocious.

And lastly: Sean Penn?!?!?! I cannot fathom how Sean Penn could have possibly been better than Mickey Rourke. Granted I haven't seen Milk, but I did see The Wrestler. Mickey Rourke actually brought tears to my eyes. I had to force them back to keep them from rolling down my cheeks. The last time I cried at a film, I was 7 and watching Air Bud. Plus, Penn has already won an award. If the race in an acting category is that close, the scale should tip in favor of the person who hasn't won an award yet. That could just be how I feel about it, but I think it makes sense. Anyway, here is a list of basically all the winners at the 81st Academy Awards.

Best Animated Feature - Wall-E

Best Achievement in Visual Effects- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (should have gone to The Dark Knight)

Best Achievement in Sound Editing- The Dark Knight

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing- Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Song- Slumdog Millionaire for "Jai Ho" by A.R. Rahman

Best Original Score- Slumdog Millionaire - A.R. Rahman

Best Achievement in Makeup- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Achievement in Costume Design- The Duchess

Best Achievement in Art Direction- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Achievement in Editing- Slumdog Millionaire

Best Achievement in Cinematography- Slumdog Millionaire (should've gone to The Dark Knight)

Best Adapted Screenplay- Slumdog Millionaire - Simon Beaufoy

Best Original Screenplay- Milk - Dustin Lance Black

Best Achievement in Directing- Slumdog Millionaire - Danny Boyle

Best Supporting Actress- Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Supporting Actor- Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight

Best Actress- Kate Winslet for The Reader

Best Actor- Sean Penn for Milk (should've gone to Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler)

Best Picture- Slumdog Millionaire

In Bruges (2008)

Bruges - (pronounced Broozh) city in Belgium

Have you ever been to Bruges? Well I haven't. When looking up a place to vacation, my family isn't looking at the brochure that says "Visit beautiful Belgium!" The city of Bruges is a medieval town with beautiful buildings and canals, but if you aren't held over by sightseeing, you probably won't want to go there. They don't even have a bowling alley. Being so obscure and unknown to most, it turns out to be the perfect place to, I don't know, hide out a couple of hit men who messed up their last job? That's exactly what Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) decided to do. After an unnecessary victim was claimed on their latest hit, Ray and Ken (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) are ordered by Harry to hole up in the little known city of Bruges in Belgium. While Ken has no trouble enjoying the gorgeous scenery, Ray hates everything about the city as he frequently expresses in rather vulgar terms. It could be that Ray is just upset because it was he who made the mistake on the job, and the guilt is destroying him on the inside. Not even a date with beautiful Belgian girl Chloe (Clemence Poesy) or a comically racist dwarf (Jordan Prentice) could cheer him up. After a few days in Bruges, Ken receives a phone call from Harry, and we discover that the reason the two men were stationed in the secret city is not as simple as it seemed.

Even after reading the plot synopsis, I'm going to venture to say you still don't quite know what to expect from In Bruges. I wasn't too keen on seeing it after hearing what it was about, but good word of mouth brought it to my DVD player. I've never been happier to give a movie a chance. I could talk about In Bruges for an hour and never would a negative word cross my lips. Beautifully written, the film is endlessly witty, darkly hilarious, and sincerely devilish. Writer-Director Martin McDonagh won an Academy Award in 2005 for his short film Six Shooter and he could be on the fast track to earning his second win for In Bruges' original screenplay. McDonagh's script has the ticklish punch you'd come to expect from a Coen brothers black comedy. Every line in In Bruges is relevant and comes back to say "hello" later on in the film. Don't let your ears drop for a second because you're likely to miss something that could make you laugh afterward. If his writing wasn't enough, McDonagh's direction is spectacular. The city of Bruges is laid out before you with stunning beauty and succeeds as not just a setting, but as a character in the film as well. The city serves as a prison to central character Ray, or even an eternal hell. No matter what he tries to do, his sins continually bring him back to Bruges.

But a script is just a bunch of pieces of paper if it doesn't have the actors to give it life. Colin Farrell gives the best performance of his career as morally affected hit man Ray. Before In Bruges, I had never seen Farrell in anything I had enjoyed (besides one episode of "Scrubs"). But in this role, he shows terrific ability that I've never seen from him before. Farrell does not simply have to play some tough guy executioner, but portray one that has a revelation about the true meaning behind his crimes. At times Farrell is drop dead funny, and then at the drop of a hat becomes the face of anguish and the epitome of guilt. Farrell received a Golden Globe for his performance and it was an accomplishment well-earned. Co-star Brendan Gleeson deserves equal praise for his turn as Ray's pal Ken. Ken has to make sure he keeps Ray's head above water and prevent him from doing something he may regret. Gleeson does an exceptional job of showing us how difficult it is for his character to make the decisions he is forced to make. Dealing with both the depressed Farrell and angry Fiennes, Gleeson's character is the middle piece that provides a balance between all the players. Rounding out the terrific ensemble is two-time Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes as the temperamental boss of the duo that have caused him much grief. If Farrell and Gleeson weren't enough, Fiennes arrives halfway through the movie to add an entirely new aspect to the film. The moment his character arrives in person, the pace of the film kicks into another gear. So if you were getting bored of the sentimental displays of affection between Ray and Ken (even though they are not boring, very short, and are not maudlin in the slightest), you immediately became engaged again. Fiennes gives a fine performance that helps drive In Bruges to it's wonderful conclusion.

Behind the dark comedy of In Bruges there are some powerful underlying questions. What is Heaven? What is Hell? What exactly decides whether or not we make it into these places? While in a museum Ray and Ken come across a painting of The Last Judgement by Hieronymous Bosch. Throughout the film Ray openly despises everything he sees in Bruges, but when he sees this painting, even he is taken aback by it. Ray and Ken then begin to discuss the matter of the after-life, and how they feel they will be judged. Ken says he does not believe in places to go after death, but Ray has a line about ending up in purgatory, that "in betweeny one", that really stood out and had major relevance to his character. "You weren't really s*** but you weren't that great either". It's vulgar, it's short, but the truth behind it is unyielding. Disregarding Ray for a second, think of yourself. Would you consider yourself to be a great person? Do you feel you have done enough deeds in your life to warrant the status of a "great" person? Or, have you been, well, in a nicer way of saying it than Ray, crap? Would you say your existence has had no benefit on the human race whatsoever and if anything you've only made things worse? I'd certainly hope not. Yet I would say most of the human race falls in the middle of those two standards, including myself. So what are we to expect? Stuck in purgatory forever, dealing with absolute nothingness? And where exactly are all these places? Is Hell an actual set location or is just one place we really dislike, like Bruges for Ray? Or maybe I'm making a big deal out of a simple line. Your decision.

I was afraid of saying it before, but after viewing this film again I feel it is something I must say. In Bruges is one of my favorite films of all time and if it didn't fly so far under the radar back in February of 2008, it would be considered great by all. There are plenty of digs at Americans, but they aren't too bad and they are actually pretty true. There's even a moment when Harry insults our culture by saying even in killing people we are less civilized than the rest of the world. In Bruges is not long at all and you may even want it to go on longer once it is over. With so much to love, I can hardly think of anybody disliking this film. And if you are like me, you may put Bruges on your vacation list one day. After seeing how pretty it looks on film, I want to know what it's like in person. Maybe I'll find Ray there. My rating (10/10)

My Top 25 Favorite Films Of All Time: 5-1

Here you go, my top 5 favorite movies of all time. I mentioned that numbers 25-6 are likely to change over the years, but I highly doubt these are going to drop out of the top 5 any time soon.

5) Saw (2004)- Even though it spawned less than average sequels, the first Saw was one of the most original horror films I had seen in years. It accomplished something that I never thought was possible: create a killer that the viewer actually, well, agrees with. John Kramer was a nice average Joe who just wanted to help people and all he got in return was an inoperable frontal lobe tumor. As Jigsaw, he spread a message that is one you can actually be sympathetic with. "Those who do not appreciate life, do not deserve life". Although it is a bit extreme, it makes a whole lot of sense doesn't it? Not like Freddy Kreuger or Jason Voorhees, who are formally dead people coming back for revenge. That doesn't make any sense. What I really liked about Saw was that although there were numerous deaths, the movie focused more on the mystery than it did the killing. The sequels lost sight of this and became all about the gruesome aspects of the plot.

4) Young Frankenstein (1974)- This is how spoof comedy is done! I see movies nowadays like Disaster Movie and Epic Movie and it makes me ashamed to be an American. Only because it sickens me to think movies like that could be made and actually make money! It doesn't paint a nice picture of the American people. Those movies call themselves spoofs but I just call them disgraceful. Mel Brooks was and will always will be the king of the spoof comedy, and Young Frankenstein is his crown jewel. Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman are priceless and although I've seen the movie about 20 times, they still crack me up.

3) The Shining (1980)- Hands down the best horror movie of all time, period, end of story, no ifs ands or buts about it. Stanley Kubrick's mastering of the tracking shot gave the film the eerie sense of creeping evil around every corner, and it scares the living daylights out of me. Jack Nicholson's diabolically insane Jack Torrance is the epitome of horror. Even though Shelley Duvall over-acted her role a disgusting amount, Nicholson countered it by being perfect. Kubrick captured the essence of what truly horrifies people and executed it flawlessly. Watching people get killed is not what is scary, but rather the sense that someone is about to be killed. There is only one on screen murder in The Shining, and it is quick and done rather tastefully.

2) Memento (2000)- Story-telling at it's finest. Christopher and Jonathan Nolan's tale of a man with short term memory loss searching for his wife's killer is intriguing and perfectly executed. The unique style in which the story is told has never been paralleled, making it a true masterpiece. After 10+ viewings, Memento remains potent and effective

1) A Clockwork Orange (1971)- I don't know if you figured it out yet, but I am what you would call a "Stanley Kubrick fan". There is no argument in my mind that A Clockwork Orange is among the greatest films of all time. The first time I watched it, I was shocked. I was shocked that the content of the film was able to be released in 1971. This was pretty intense by today's standards. After some research I discovered that A Clockwork Orange was originally rated X, incited riots, and caused Kubrick and his family to receive numerous death threats. I guess it wasn't as accepted as I thought. Small fact: 1972 was the first year Jack Nicholson presented the Best Picture Oscar. Although he was a rather small name at the time, no highly regarded actor would present the award on the off chance A Clockwork Orange won. They did not want to be associated with the film. So, Nicholson was asked and he accepted. If you ask me, there were two atrocities that took place at the 1972 Academy Awards. 1- Malcolm McDowell was not even NOMINATED for the Best Actor Oscar. That has to be the most egregious snub in Oscar history. 2- The French Connection beat A Clockwork Orange for Best Picture. I've seen The French Connection. It was unbearable. And it wasn't because I didn't want to like it because I didn't want it to be better than Clockwork. I truly found it impossible to watch. After reading the novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, I only grew to love the movie even more. In the translation to film, Kubrick only lost the meaning of the film in that he left out Chapter 21. Other than that, it was a perfect translation and an absolute masterpiece. I've introduced multiple people to A Clockwork Orange and they are all glad I did.

That concludes my list. I hope you find something that we have in common. Following is a list of runners up that just missed out on being in the Top 25.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)- Johnny's charisma and the adult fairy tale plot are extremely entertaining to watch, but Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley make parts of the movie (and both sequels) unwatchable.

In Bruges (2008)- Excellent film with excellent performances by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson and an excellent script with an excellent resolution. Just, excellent. The only thing keeping this out of my 25 is that I've only seen it once, so I don't know if it has lasting power.

V For Vendetta (2005)- The character V is down right cool and his cause is one to believe in. My only qualm with the film is its length and its lasting power. After a few viewings I wasn't as in love with it. I still think its enjoyable and I watch it when it's on, but I wouldn't call it a favorite.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)- My relationship with this film is really strange. The first time I saw it in theaters I was like, "wow, that was amazing". I loved everything about it. I loved Burton's style, Depp's performance, the music, and hell I even liked Helena Bonham Carter (I do not care for Helena Bonham Carter). The second time I watched the film, I discovered I did not like it nearly as much as the first. I was close to even saying I didn't like it. Then I watched it a third time, and it was amazing again. I watched it again recently, and it was just OK. So I guess depending on my mood, this movie could make the list, but it is far too volatile to be placed on the list permanently.

My Top 25 Favorite Movies Of All Time: 15-6

Hey everyone. This is the second half of my list of favorite movies of all time. I'd like to reiterate from the first post that this list is highly tentative and will most likely change over time. But at this moment, the list is correct.

15) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)- Perhaps the best adventure film of all time, this Indy flick is my favorite of the franchise. Perhaps it's Sean Connery's delightful accent.

14) American Psycho (2000)- Christian Bale is terrifying and hilarious in this satirical look at the world of yuppie businessmen.

13) American History X (1998)- The captivating performance by Edward Norton and the sensitive subject matter made American History X one of the most enjoyable movie watching experiences of my life. It also presents an answer to the question of how far people are willing to take racism before they realize it isn't helpling anyone. The first half of the film almost justifies the reasons for racism and actually convinces you that it is OK. But in the latter half of the film, after Norton gets out of prison, reason enters his mind and thus fills the movie sending a powerful message to the audience. If the ending doesn't leave you feeling like you just got punched in the gut, you are made of stone.

12) Hairspray (2007)- Yea that's right, you got a problem with that? I've seen this movie 10+ times and I still like it just as much as I did the first time. Shutup. I am not!

11) Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)- I dare you to watch Anchorman and not sprinkle some lines from it into your daily life. I remember when this first came out everybody and their mothers was speaking in a deep voice and saying things like "Milk was a bad choice!" It didn't even have to make sense in context, but we'd say it. It also marked the beginning of Judd Apatow's reign as the King of New Comedy.

10) Full Metal Jacket (1987)- This time Kubrick takes on the Vietnam War and, as usual, he delivers with something special. Taking you from the moment someone arrives at boot camp all the way into battle, the atrocities of war are evident throughout. Vincent D'Onofrio's final stand of insanity is heart stopping, and poor Matthew Modine never did anything worth watching again.

9) Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)- "Ni!"

8) The Shawshank Redemption (1994)- Talk about a fantastic ending. There is never a better feeling than when good overcomes evil and everything is put right in the world. Probably because this never happens in real life, so when we see it in a movie, we eat it up. If it wasn't for Forrest Gump, this movie would have won the Oscars it deserved. Don't get me wrong, I liked Forrest Gump, but only like the first 2 times I saw it. I've seen Shawshank about 8 times and I still love it.

7) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)- I don't care if author Ken Kesey refused to watch this movie because it changed so much in the translation to film, I could watch this movie for him and let him know that it's fantastic. As a matter of fact, I found it to be an improvement on his book. Take that, Mr. Kesey. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest became the first film since It Happened One Night in 1934 to win the big five Academy Awards (Best Screenplay, Actress, Actor, Director, and Picture). And come one, you gotta love Jack.

6) The Dark Knight (2008)- Yea I know it's still early and that in a few years I will probably drop The Dark Knight on the list, but for now I'm still crushing like a school girl on it. Like Iron Man before it, The Dark Knight proved a superhero movie doesn't always have to be thought of as a mindless action flick. I find it to be one of the best crime epic's I've seen, and I am looking forward to hearing Heath Ledger's name announced as winner of the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award on February 22nd.

Come back tomorrow for the SUPER RIDICULOUS CRAZY CONLUSION OF MY LIST!! Nah it won't be that crazy, but come back anyway.

My Top 25 Favorite Movies Of All Time: 25-16

Hello loyal readers. I felt like posting today but I didn't feel like doing a full on review. Instead, I thought I'd have some fun and create a list of my top 25 favorite films of all time. Now this list is highly tentative and will most likely change soon. But right at this moment, as I type this, what I have now is what I truly feel. You will see a wide array of movie genres here and some of the films may surprise you. My top 5 favorite films were judged based on entertainment value, lasting power, and technical achievement. Movies 25-6 are based more on entertainment value and lasting power. I didn't judge them all based on technical stuff like directing and writing and things of that nature. I decided that to stretch this experience out and to keep you from having to read one super long post, I will just list numbers 25-16 today.

25) Paths Of Glory (1957)- Stanley Kubrick's second major film about the cruelty of man is not just thought provoking but a thrill to watch.

24) The Birdcage (1996)- Two words: Agador Spartacus. Hank Azaria's legendary supporting role is just the icing on the cake of this hilarious movie that has had me laughing since I was a little boy.

23) Secret Window (2004)- It's not the most original psychological thriller, but even after numerous viewings I find myself more than satisfied by the resolution. Revenge is a sweet, sweet thing.

22) Iron Man (2008)- One of the biggest blockbusters of 2008, Iron Man was one of the greatest superhero films ever made. It proved that a big budget action flick could be both intelligent and unabashedly fun. It also helped revive Robert Downey Jr's career...big time.

21) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)- Michel Gondry's exploration into the agonizing world of love is engaging throughout and filled with top notch performances. Jim Carrey at his absolute finest.

20) Ghostbusters (1984)- Ah Ghostbusters, my first love. Well, the first movie I ever loved. My big brother groomed me to like this movie when I was extremely young and it just stuck. I used to have the outfit and a proton pack and everything. I miss childhood. Nevertheless, the movie is still hilarious. Don't worry about the sequel. Even Bill Murray said he didn't like the sequel.

19) The Big Lebowski (1998)- "That rug really tied the room together". Enough said.

18) Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)- Another Kubrick gem, this satire garnered 4 Oscar nominations including Best Writing, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture. You are guaranteed to laugh at at least one of Peter Sellers' 3 great performances. Dr. Strangelove is also the movie that brought the famous line "Gentleman you can't fight in here, this is the war room!"

17) Fight Club (1999)- I can't believe I went 10 years without seeing this movie. After the first time I watched Fight Club, I was mildly impressed, but I didn't get the hype. I watched it again the following day and I realized that "wait a minute, this movie is friggin GREAT!".

16) Clue (1985)- This could probably classify as a "guilty pleasure" of mine, although I don't feel guilty about it. I've seen this movie about 9 times and I still love every minute of it. If you love the game like I do, this movie is going to be in your list as well.

Check back tomorrow (probably) for numbers 15-6!

He's Just Not That Into You (2009)

February is probably my least favorite month of the year. It is the time when movie studios are caught in the middle of their release schedules. Their Oscar nominees have all hit theaters back in December, and they have to wait a few more months until they could release their blockbusters. So February is the time where movie studios dump off their below average work and hope that their garbage smells better than everyone else's. This means we get movies like The Pink Panther 2, another Friday the 13th, and a whole mess of lousy romantic comedies. Every now and then you do see a genuinely good film in February, such as last year's surprisingly good romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe. I should have known it would be too much to ask for consecutive February's with smart, original films with actual entertainment value to boot. He's Just Not That Into You, based on the popular self-help book by Greg Behrendt, is original but noticably ostentatious and desperately lacking the ability to keep my attention for more than four minutes at a time.

The diabolically intricate plot mostly revolves around Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), a certified loser in love who can't seem to read the signals that men give her. She looks to her co-worker friends for help but all they can offer are the same meaningless pieces of advice that have become commonplace in our society. But irony lies in the fact that Gigi doesn't know that these friends are the worst possible candidates for help, because they are all having relationship issues themselves. Beth (Jennifer Aniston) has been dating Neil (Ben Affleck) for seven years and still doesn't have a ring on her finger. Janine (Jennifer Connelly) thinks she is in a pleasant marriage but is unaware that her husband Ben (Bradley Cooper) is cheating on her with Anna (Scarlett Johansson), a yoga instructor that he met at a convenience store. But oh no, the plot doesn't stop there. Anna is also teasing Conor (Kevin Connolly), who is trying desperately to convince her that he is the man for her. Meanwhile, Conor is trying to build a a reputation as a good real estate agent by working with Mary (Drew Barrymore) (who I imagine is an advertising agent, although the movie never specifies), who looks for love on internet dating sites and ultimately comes up with nothing. So in this mess (and that really is the only word to describe it), Gigi does manage to find one person that she can talk to and gain helpful advice from. Conor's friend Alex (Justin Long), a certified player that doesn't make it a habit to become attached to any one girl. He's Just Not That Into You tries desperately to be intelligent, but instead is nothing more than a jumbled Rubick's Cube with missing colors.

With such a diverse ensemble and a story that covers all ends of the relationship spectrum, the real charm in He's Just Not That Into You probably should have been bred from the fact that it is highly relatable. The events that take place in the film are, for once, actual every day occurrences! How many romantic comedies have you seen with a ridiculous storyline that makes you bury your head in your hand because it is trying way too hard. It's never just two people who may or may not like each other and so the game of cat and mouse begins. It's always stupid things like Made Of Honor or 27 Dresses or some Hugh Grant movie. But the Gigi character in He's Just Not That Into You is one that I've seen so many times. Not in movies, but in reality! Dating is a tough game to play, and some people just don't get the hang of it. Ginnifer Goodwin as Gigi is but one of the few performances I found to be genuine and enjoyable. Her adorable naivety speaks so much to the main core of the film, which is that nobody really knows what the hell is going to happen. She also exudes an unmistakable energy with co-star Justin Long, the bartender that doubles as her relationship counselor. Long is charming and shows a great deal of maturity in his role. Since he's most known for his roles in Accepted and Dodgeball, it is still in the mind of a movie-goer that he is a young, lovable goofball. Long overcomes this stereotype with ease. And women take notice, everything that Long says in this movie is the absolute truth. Trust me.

Despite some very good performances, He's Just Not That Into You falls into every trap set by a romantic comedy, even with it's unique idea. I have not read the book, but if it progresses the same way the movie does, I'm glad I didn't read it. Screenwriters Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn show no aptitude in their field and fail to capitalize on the rare opportunity of having an original plot. No wonder this is their first movie they've written since Never Been Kissed back in 1999. With so many different things happening in a script, you would imagine something could happen that would really surprise a viewer. This is never the case, as I was able to decide what was going to happen five minutes before the characters in the movie did. Director Ken Kwapis does not help the matter. He was unable to keep the convoluted plot together and made He's Just Not That Into You verily unwatchable. He should have called Christopher Nolan for help, he's a master at keeping a movie in order. Kwapis has directed multiple episodes of many television shows like "The Office", and has been in charge of disastrous movies like License To Wed and Dunston Checks In (although I must say the latter is a tiny bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. I know it's awful, but cmon, its an orangutan). Given that record, he should stay with his television career and leave directing movies to someone else.

My feelings on He's Just Not That Into You are clearly split down the middle. On one hand, it has some very entertaining performances that aren't what you would typically see in a romantic comedy. The casting director did a magnificent job finding the people that would bring these roles to life. It makes sense that Kevin Connolly, the boyish looking man from "Entourage" would be the guy taken for a ride by an unfaithful girlfriend, reasonably played by Scarlett Johansson. The ending, however cliche and obvious, succeeds in being heart-felt and tender, even making me crack a smile. Briefly. Don't let my girlfriend tell you anything otherwise. But then on the other hand, the pace is unbearable and the writing is clumsy and hackneyed. Not to mention it is half an hour too long. If you are a woman, you will find lots to love about He's Just Not That Into You. If you are a man, you'll just have to take comfort in knowing that you are doing something nice for your girlfriend. If you are a man, and you are seeing this movie just for yourself, I am going to have to deduct 3 man cards from you. My rating (5/10)

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

It is always in style to root for the underdog. Just yesterday, I watched Super Bowl XLIII and cheered for the Arizona Cardinals the whole way through. When the underdog loses, like the Cardinals did, it is never as disappointing as if the favorite loses. Most people just acknowledge that hey, that's why they were underdogs. But when the unlikely party pulls through and shocks everyone, like the Giants in last years Super Bowl, there is an undescribable feeling that takes over, leaving a permament smile on your face and a temporary flutter on your heartbeat. This years Best Picture favorite Slumdog Millionaire is perhaps the greatest individual underdog story ever told, and (sorry Dark Knight) the best movie of 2008 (that I've seen). The story follows Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), an uneducated young man who grew up in the slums of Mumbai. Jamal is a contestant on the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and is one question away from winning the top prize of 20,000,000 Rupees. The show's host Prem Kumar (Anil Kapoor) is not convinced that this boy from the slums could really know all the answers and secretly has him arrested under suspicion of cheating. During his brutal interrogation, Jamal tells the Police Sergeant (Irrfan Khan) the story of his life, and how his tumultuous relationship with his brother Salim (Madhur Mittal) and his unwavering love for the beautiful Latika (Freida Pinto) taught him all that he knows. Although devoid of caped crusaders and villains in war paint, Slumdog Millionaire is a different kind of hero story that gets my vote for Best Picture.

Believe it or not, Slumdog Millionaire was at one point meant to be a straight to DVD release. If that had happened, the Academy would have had to create a new "Best Straight to DVD Movie Ever Made" category so this movie could win. Initially when I left the movie theater after watching this film, I didn't think it was as great as I do now. But last night, as I lay restless from the heart pumping Super Bowl, I had time to think about the movie more in depth. By the time morning rolled around, I came to the conclusion that Slumdog Millionaire was in fact a fantastic achievement in modern cinema. Danny Boyle, director of such films as Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Sunshine, was the man behind the camera for this film, and I'm afraid my limited vocabulary won't be enough to praise his work. What must be acknowledged first is how he captured the heart breaking every day lives of regular people who unfortunately live in delapidated slums. Living in a world where the police will neglect to intervene an attack even after they see a man on fire is just one of the injustices that must be dealt with in these areas. Not to mention the living conditions which can only be described as pits of squalor. An aerial shot of miles of tin roofs is a disheartening reminder that there are not just a few people subjected to these conditions. Boyle brings these truths to the screen in such a way that no human can turn a blind eye to these facts anymore. I would love to take some of the heartless people from my school to see this movie and try to show them what spoiled and ignorant brats they are. Slumdog Millionaire never loses credibility thanks to Boyle's magnificent directing. He effectively mixes past and present tense without turning the movie into a disjointed mess. Credit should also not be taken from writer Simon Beaufoy, whose screenplay is perfect and never hits a sour note. The collaboration between Beaufoy and Boyle makes every moment of Slumdog Millionaire one to be remembered.

But an underdog story isn't truly great until you have a good underdog to root for. It is here where Dev Patel, Ayush Khedekar, and Tanay Chheda rise to the occasion. Each actor portrays the slumdog Jamal Malik at different ages and each find a way to grab at your heart. While Patel is the oldest and is receiving most of the noteriety surrounding Slumdog Millionaire, it is Khedekar, who played the youngest Jamal, that I was most intrigued by. I am not often impressed with child actors, but Khedekar is a bright exception. He accomplishes a feat that not many professional adult actors have the ability to pull of convincingly: emotions. Khedekar displays a wide range of emotions from excitement to sadness, and love to anger. He and co-star Rubiana Ali (youngest Latika) bring more romantic chemistry to the screen than quite a few professional stars (Katherine Heigl and James Marsden in 27 Dresses, Dane Cook and Jessica Alba in Good Luck Chuck, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley in all three Pirates of the Caribbean films). Patel is merely the icing on the cake, drawing the viewer in with an innocent face and a sterling performance.

As I mentioned earlier, the appeal of Slumdog Millionaire lies in it's brilliant underdog tale. It is unknown whether or not this film will be considered truly great in the future, but for now, one thing is for certain. Slumdog Millionaire is an outstanding achievement in entertainment and regardless of whether you prefer summer blockbusters over Oscar contenders, you will like this movie. If you are worried that 20% of the film is spoken in Hindi and you won't enjoy reading the subtitles, Danny Boyle has you covered. Rather than just put the words up on the screen, he masterfully finds a visually beautiful way to keep you in the loop. At a reasonably quick two hours, you won't ever feel let down by Slumdog Millionaire, I guarantee it. My rating (10/10)

P.S. - Stay during the credits for an amazing choreographed dance sequence involving every member of the cast.

Movies given a 10/10

  • Milk
  • In Bruges
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Shining
  • A Clockwork Orange