The Paradise Hot List

31 01 2007

This isn’t really movie related but I got tired of seeing all those men magazine hotlist that always feature the same woman and spend most of their time focusing on only two attributes. So, I decide to compose my own list, which a couple of choices you may not have expected.

10. Angelina Jolie

Okay, Jolie is many things from bizarre (open-mouth kissing her brother) to a downright home wrecker (Brad Pitt), but she is also a trendsetter. Before Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts and other celebrities were working with the U.N., Angelina was. Before adopting a baby from poverty was in, Jolie was already a professional at the game. Though, her film resume is rather unimpressive with crappers such as Beyond Borders, Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider II: The Cradle of Life and Life or Something Like It, she has maintained complete control of her image and strives to give something back to society. Her beauty is bested by her humanity and that makes this woman to die for.

9. Scarlett Johansson

One of Hollywood’s most promising young actors with star-making performances in Lost in Translation, Girl With a Pearl Earring and Ghost World. Johansson is stunningly sexy with a plethora of features that are unlike any of her contemporaries. Though, 2006 was not kind to Johansson with Razzie worthy performances in Scoop and The Black Dahlia, hopefully 2007 will bring us the Johansson we all fell in love with.

8. Rachel Weisz

Smart and sexy: a killer combination and that is what Weisz has at her disposal. There not really much else to say but this is an actress that is going to be around for a long time.

7. Jennifer Connelly

Baring The Hulk, Connelly has always appeared in films with substance and that aren’t the usual blockbusters. A fantastic actress who clearly is steering her career into a more fruitful direction, Connelly is just utterly radiant. She is an Academy Award winning actress with standout performances in films such as Requiem for a Dream, Little Children, Blood Diamond, House of Sand and Fog and many more. Bravo to a woman is who is constantly pursuing the next thought-provoking film to add to her repertoire.

6. Kate Winslet

There is nothing sexier than a woman who is completely comfortable in her own skin, and Winslet is this woman. Winslet does not have the usual knockout features but her confidence and sheer talent more than makes up for the rest. While magazines such as Maxim and Stuff look over gems such as Winslet for trashier one-dimensional choices such as the Hilton sisters, others such as myself can not help but to bask in Ms. Winslet’s sexual radiance.

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5. Natalie Portman

In V for Vendetta, Portman proved she could be sizzling even with the Sinead O’ Conner look. An important part of a woman’s sex appeal is her intelligence (i.e. the reason Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan were left off.) and with a degree from the nation’s top school, Harvard, Portman has that aspect intact. Portman has a unique ability to infuse her on-screen characters with undeniable charisma that draws viewers to care for them. She is this generations Julia Roberts but with (dare I say it) a bit more raw talent.

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4. Fiona Apple

Apple is lanky, sickly and at times rude, but she has an element that makes her extremely attractive: independence. She does not play the game the same way Christina Aguilera or Norah Jones do; she lets her talent speak for itself. Apple is outspoken, unapologetic and an incredibly gift lyricist. Her sex appeal is founded on a pretty girl acting out against a world obsessed with outward appearance. If you need any proof of her sex appeal pick up and really listen to her on Tidal, When The Pawn…, and Extraordinary Machine and by the end of the journey you will find yourself in love with this nymph of honesty.

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3. Jennifer Aniston

On the surface, Aniston is just your typical pretty face in Hollywood, but beneath it is a woman who very delicately dealt with her divorce, is a partner in Plan B productions (which has produced Troy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and recently The Departed) and a star who honestly does not want to deal with the press. In movies such as Bruce Almighty, Along Came Polly and The Break-Up Aniston’s talent as a thespian is underused. The former Friends starlet shines in small independent features as in opposite Catherine Keener (a close call) in Friends With Money and playing bored wife in The Good Girl. In a few years, Aniston will come into her own as a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood.

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2. Courtney Love

Already, most people are grossed out by the probability of Courtney Love at number two. I will explain. Love, besides the drug problems and let’s face it no one is perfect, is a shining example of female empowerment. Unlike Evanescence and Yeah Yeah Yeahs who sings rock songs so beautifully, Love sings rock the way it should sound: loud, fast and dirty. When her single, “Celebrity Skin” topped Modern Rock radio for three weeks in 1998 it remained the last time a female has reached the summit until Evanescence in 2003. With a strong personality, holds-no-bar attitude Love made herself a household name but many don’t see what she has done for rock music. I firmly believe Love is an excellent role model for woman because she never relents. And when How Dirty Girls Get Clean is released, she will prove a woman can still rock with the best of them even at the age of 43.

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1. Naomi Watts

Watts has all the makings of the typical disposable movie star: gorgeous eyes, fantastic body, an accent and a general warmth. What elevates her above her contemporaries is the ability to transform herself into whichever character she is playing. In her relative short career, she has delivered more noteworthy performances than some actress do in a lifetime of work. Mesmerizing audiences in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, Watts quickly made a name for herself as one of Hollywood’s most gifted thespians. Rather than opting for big, shallow blockbuster, Watts has made character-driven pieces of film her forte. Intelligent, sexy, sophisticated and not willing to play the usual movie industry game is what makes unique and my number one.

The one common trait these gifted women shares is that they are all strong, independent and powerful women and there’s nothing on this planet that is sexier than that.

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Summing it all up

23 01 2007

These are some funny movie poster that summarize the career of some very iconic stars. They are very funny and for some of the actors, very true.

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And the nominees are …

23 01 2007

At 5:30 am, the Academy announced its nominees. The best surprise was that Dreamgirls was snubbed for Best Picture and received the lionshare of its nomination in the Best Original Song category. The film was not deserving of all its accolades and praise. Borat managed a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, rather than The Painted Veil. And Leonardo DiCapirio got a nod for Best Actor but instead of for The Departed, it was for the Blood Diamond. The nominations offered a few surprises but the majority were as expected. Let the games begin.

Best Picture

Babel
The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Best Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Peter O’Toole, Venus
Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

Best Actress

Penélope Cruz, Volver
Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren, The Queen
Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet, Little Children

Best Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

Best Supporting Actress

Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

Best Director

Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Babel
Paul Greengrass, United 93
Martin Scorsese, The Departed

Best Adapted Screenplay

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

Best Original Screenplay

Babel
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan’s Labyrinth
The Queen

Best Animated Film

Cars
Happy Feet
Monster House

Best Art Direction

Dreamgirls
The Good Shepherd
Pan’s Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
The Prestige

Best Cinematography

The Black Dahlia
Children of Men
The Illusionist
Pan’s Labyrinth
The Prestige

Best Costume Design

Curse of the Golden Flower
The Devil Wears Prada
Dreamgirls
Marie Antoinette
The Queen

Best Documentary Feature

Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq In Fragments
Jesus Camp
My Country, My Country

Best Documentary Short

The Blood of Yingzhou District
Recycled Life
Rehearsing a Dream
Two Hands

Best Film Editing

Babel
Blood Diamond
Children of Men
The Departed
United 93

Best Foreign Language Film

After the Wedding, Denmark
Days of Glory (Indigènes), Algeria
The Lives of Others, Germany
Pan’s Labyrinth, Mexico
Water, Canada

Best Makeup

Apocalypto
Click
Pan’s Labyrinth

Best Original Score

Babel
The Good German
Notes on a Scandal
Pan’s Labyrinth
The Queen

Best Original Song

”I Need to Wake Up,” from An Inconvenient Truth
”Listen,” from Dreamgirls
”Love You I Do,” from Dreamgirls
”Our Town,” from Cars
”Patience,” from Dreamgirls

Best Short, Animated

The Danish Poet
Lifted
The Little Matchgirl
Maestro
No Time for Nuts

Best Short, Live Action

Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea)
Eramos Pocos (One Too Many)
Helmer & Son
The Saviour
West Bank Story

Best Sound Editing

Apocalypto
Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Letters From Iwo Jima
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Best Sound Mixing

Apocalypto
Blood Diamond
Dreamgirls
Flags of Our Fathers
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Best Visual Effects

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Poseidon
Superman Returns





Veiled passion

23 01 2007

So often we see stories that focus on love at first sight, unrequited love or forbidden love. Very few books — and especially films — deal with the kind of love that was very common in previous eras: The love that evolved, that grew and blossomed, sometimes long after a couple were officially wed.
In the days of arranged marriages, oftentimes a couple barely knew one another before they walked down the aisle. That unfamiliarity was certainly the case in ”The Painted Veil,” the new and truly remarkable film based on the Somerset Maugham novel. In this instance the ”evolved” love comes at great expense, enormous pain and with an unusual twist.
Naomi Watts again tackles a period role, proving that she is indeed one of the few actresses of her generation who can easily assume the mantle of those graceful screen queens of the 1930s. There is something almost mystical about Watts’ performance in this film — capturing the true essence of a 1920s woman who, though somewhat rebellious, still hints at the manners of the Edwardian era her character has recently exited.
Watts plays Kitty, a London socialite who impulsively marries the attractive, but reserved Walter Fane (Edward Norton), a fellow who instantly decides the beautiful Kitty is the love of his life, even if she barely knows his name. For Kitty, their sudden marriage is all about escaping the stifling environment of her mother’s household — a move more about dysfunctional family politics than anything remotely resembling passion or love for her intended.
Walter is a doctor and a respected scientist, working as a bacteriologist in Shanghai — half a world away.
It is only after the newlyweds arrive in China that things begin to go awry. Kitty quickly realizes she has traveled to the far side of the globe with a man she does not love, thrust into a colonial social order she finds tedious and totally boring. Suddenly, the impressionable and very beautiful Kitty is swept off her feet by the suave British vice consul, played with appropriate smooth smarminess by Liev Schreiber.
Their affair is discovered by Walter, who proves to be far more impassioned in his understated emotions than Kitty would have ever realized. He presents her with a simple proposition: An immediate divorce or the ”opportunity” to join him on a journey to the interior of China, where he plans to do battle with a virulent outbreak of cholera in a remote province. Given that a divorce on the grounds of adultery in the 1920s would have turned Kitty into a social pariah, she has no choice but to follow Walter to his hell hole.
Thus begins the most fascinating and most beautifully structured part of director John Curran’s spectacular film. Though terrific from start to finish, it is in this second two-thirds of ”The Painted Veil” where Norton and Watts truly shine — delivering Oscar-worthy performances as two angry people trapped by their circumstances. Kitty tries so hard to seek Walter’sforgiveness — something his anger, wounded pride and unrelenting silent fury won’t allow him to address for quite a long time.

The Painted Veil

Curran has crafted a film that accomplishes so much. It not only draws us into this personal drama between his two principal actors, but also sets it all against a vibrant background of an ancient civilization struggling to become modern. Along with the cholera epidemic, we are witness to the winds of political change in China in the years before World War II and the rise of communist rule. The film is strongly bolstered by a terrific supporting cast — especially Toby Jones as a wayward, but engaging British colonial official, and veteran British actress Diana Rigg as the mother superior of the local orphanage/work house. Virtually unrecognizable in her habit and without makeup, Rigg gives one of the best supporting performances seen on film this year.
In the final analysis, Kitty and Walter do find a way to bridge a seemingly unbreachable chasm — but in a way and with ultimate consequences that cannot be revealed here.
This is easily one of the finest films of the year.





A retrospective (2000-2005)

23 01 2007

I’m a huge movie geek. I love good films. I love to discuss film. And since 2000 I have kept my top 10 films for each year. I also acknowledge what in my mind was some of each year’s highlights from the best performances to the worst flicks. Since I haven’t really seen many new films lately (I missed Alpha Dogs, The Hitcher, Stomp the Yard and whatever else has come out since the end of 2006. Here is a retrospective of the best of the previous five years.

2000
1. Almost Famous
2. Requiem for a Dream
3. You Can Count on Me
4. Chicken Run
5. Traffic
6. Shadow of a Vampire
7. Chuck & Buck
8. Cast Away
9. Erin Brockovich
10. Best in Show

2001
1. Mulholland Dr.
2. In the Bedroom
3. Donnie Darko
4. Shrek
5. Memento
6. Amelie
7. Snatch
8. Gosford Park
9. Ghost World
10. Amorres Perros

2002
1. The Kids Stay in the Picture
2. Bloody Sunday
3.
Adaptation
4. The Pianist
5. Chicago
6. The Good Girl
7. Lovely & Amazing
8. Bowling for Columbine
9. Talk to Her
10. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

2003
1. 21 Grams
2. Raising Victor Vargas
3. City of God
4. Shattered Glass
5. Thirteen
6. American Splendor
7. In America
8. Dirty Pretty Things
9. Finding Nemo
10. The Fog of War

2004
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. Before Sunset
3. Control Room
4. Garden State
5. The Sea Inside
6. Goodbye, Lenin
7. Mean Creek
8. Kinsey
9. We Don’t Live Here Anymore
10. The Woodsman

2005
1. The Squid and the Whale
2. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
3. Downfall
4. Match Point
5. King Kong
6. The Beat That My Heart Skipped
7. Good Night, and Good Luck
8. The Constant Gardener
9. Capote
10. My Summer of Love





‘Men’ delivers magnificent chaos

8 01 2007

Children of Men

 Few modern directors approach film with a sense of vision as full as Alfonso Cuarsn (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”). He seems to create the entirety of a film, beginning to end, in one organic sweep. In “Children of Men,” Cuarsn, who is also one of five screenwriters credited with this adaptation of a P.D. James novel, sweeps through an apocalyptic future with a story that’s undeniably dark and drastic while still surprisingly full of energy.

The film manages to be captivating at the same time it’s relentlessly dismal, thanks in great part to Cuarsn’s construction of a world-gone-wrong that mimics a great deal of what’s going on in our current world.

The year is 2027, and, for reasons unknown, mankind has not been able to reproduce for nearly two decades. England is over-run with refugees and immigrants who are being caged in camps and deported. Essentially, the world has gone to hell and mankind is just waiting to die.

Like most people, onetime social activist Theodore Faron (Clive Owen) sees little hope as political sects battle one another; innocent men are treated like cattle; and despair reigns. But then his former love Julian (Julianne Moore) has him kidnapped one day so she can spring a surprise: She has somehow become the caretaker of a pregnant woman, Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey).

How did Kee become pregnant? Well, assumedly the old-fashioned way, but why her in the face of universal infertility?

Julian’s group wants to smuggle the mother-to-be out of the country onto a ship where scientists are working to keep mankind alive, hoping she will provide some answers. And they turn to Faron to get documents that will allow Kee to cross the country legally.

All does not go well, predictably, and Faron ends up charged with keeping mankind’s only hope breathing while moving through Battlefield England. Which is none too easy since everybody is pretty much out to get everybody in one final frenzied feast of human madness.

That madness touches all too close to home as Cuarsn stages terrorist bombings, random attacks and military sieges. Perhaps the most frightening thing about the world he builds is its familiarity; as Faron and Kee inch toward the coastline, they become ensconced in constant battles, and news footage of Iraq inevitably comes to mind.

Owen brings the right mix of despair and foolish hope to his character. Faron is a man who has seen it all and given up, until he sees a lot more and finds the strength to persevere.

“Children” also gets some much-needed juice out of Michael Caine, playing Faron’s oldest friend, a political cartoonist turned pot-smoking hermit, seeking a solitude and safety that no longer exists.

But then no one exists outside of everyone else in this film; mankind is tied together in tragedy, meanness and a primal struggle to survive. Cuarsn strings it all together even as it is all falling apart.

In the end, though, things get a bit fuzzy. Despite its undeniable power and clear execution, “Children of Men” leaves you hanging in a few too many places. But then so does life.

Darkly poetic throughout, the film starts with an explosion and ends drifting in fog with no clear resolution in sight. How brave and oddly satisfying.





2006: the Year in Film

1 01 2007

The Top 10 Films of the Year

10. The Descent (Neil Marshall) – Horror films normally don’t garner critically attention much less praise, but The Descent was the exception. Marshall follows cult hit Dog Soldiers with an equally impressive voyage into the depths of North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains. The film is elevated beyond the genre’s usual pitfalls by an engrossing storyline, masterful direction and superb performances from its all female cast.

The Descent

9. The Prestige (Christopher Nolan) / The Illusionist (Neil Burger) – A magical double header. The Prestige had magic play second off a bitter rivalry between two former friends (Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman). Nolan beautifully recreates a landscape when magicians command more than a few seconds of our time. With a twisting plotline and the undisputable chemistry between Nolan and Bale, The Prestige mesmerizes audiences. Edward Norton was absolutely spectacular as the lovelorn magician in The Illusionist. What can be said about a movie in which even Jessica Beil delivers a stellar performance but bravo.

The IllusionistThe Prestige

8. United 93 (Peter Greengrass) – The best tribute to a day in American history that will never be forgotten. While its counterpart, Oliver Stone’s dreadful World Trade Center, may have attracted more attention, United 93 is clearly the better of the two. With unknowns and a eye for detail, United 93 is how we should remember the events of that day. Not the deaths but the courage that has come to symbolize the event.

United 93

7. Inland Empire (David Lynch) – Unable to find a studio to release his latest project, Lynch released the film himself. Lynch films are never big blockbusters because their designed for the artful crowd and the thinking moviegoer. Inland Empire is no exception while the film itself is not as immediately engrossing as his previous efforts (Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet) it still forces the viewer to pay attention to small details in order to unravel the film’s puzzle. Kudos for Lynch on such an achievement. Laura Dern is at her career best and it’s a shame that she will likely fail to be acknowledged.

Inland Empire

6. Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris) – An incredibly funny yet moving dark comedy with a stellar ensemble cast. Original screenplays don’t get much better than this. This film has something for everyone from laughs to a few good tear jerking moments. Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear and Steve Carrell shine in this independent gem but its Alan Arkin, playing a foul-mouthed grandfather, who steals the show and our hearts.

Little Miss Sunshine

5. Shut Up & Sing (Barbara Kopple) – Even more revelant now. This documentary chronicled the Dixie Chicks fall from grace in the world of country music. Rather than just dwell on a single event the documentary humanize these celebrity and gives viewers a peak into the aftermath. Its funny, witty and packs an emotional punch. While most people told them to shut up and sing, most of the usual whitebread interviews with locals from the Carolinas and Texas were completely mindnumbing because one) they made no sense and two) it really gets you to wonder about the education is those parts of the country. All in all, Shut Up & Sing was one of the most cohesive documentaries released all year.

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4. Notes on a Scandal (Richard Eyre) – If there was one movie that was carried by performances it would be Notes on a Scandal. Patrick Marber (Closer) did create a script that is true to its source material, but the subject matter is one we have seen played out in the news constantly. It’s Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett who are utterly riveting in this film. Both seasoned actresses at performing above award caliber. The movie is vastly entertaining with a basis of a teacher having an affair with one of her students. Watch for this movie on award night.

Notes on a Scandal

3. The Painted Veil (John Curran) – Third time is a charm apparently as Curran revisit well traveled material and infuses with a breath of fresh air. Naomi Watts sizzles as Kitty Fane, an adulterous woman. Watts manages to make a flawed character such as Kitty likeable and with such ease. Norton delivers another well-crafted performance as the husband out to make his wife suffer for his indiscrisions. Both Norton (The Illusionist) and Watts (Inland Empire) share a distinct honor for having two films in the top 10. Curran, who made the cut in 2004 with We Don’t Live Here Anymore, has an amazing talented in capturing the flaws apparent in all people and making seem insignificant to the whole picture.

The Painted Veil

2. The Departed (Martin Scorsese) – The best Scorsese film in more than a decade. Finally, this legendary director has gotten back in stride after releasing two very dull pieces of cinema (Gangs of New York and The Aviator). The Departed is infact a remake of a Chinese film but Scorsese does very well at Americanize it. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon play very well off one another. But, the cake has to go Jack Nicholson who is just a treat to watch on the screen. Welcome back, Marty.

The Departed

1. Little Children (Todd Field) – Engrossing. Its 130 minute runtime just isn’t enough. Little Children is such a unique look at suburbia and the politics of our own lives. Field does an incredible job at realizing the material with assistance from Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Patrick Wilson. Winslet is in top form as she carries the movie along never once breaking character. Little Children is a monumental achievement for everyone involved and easily the best film this year.

Little Childrn

Best Actress

Kate Winslet, Little Children

  • Naomi Watts, The Painted Veil
  • Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
  • Laura Dern, Inland Empire
  • Helen Mirren, The Queen

Best Actor

Edward Norton, The Painted Veil

  • Forrest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
  • Patrick Wilson, Little Children & Hard Candy
  • Leonardo DiCapirio, The Departed
  • Peter O’Toole, Venus

Best Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal

  • Jennifer Connelly, Little Children
  • Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine
  • Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
  • Jennifer Aniston, Friends With Money

Best Supporting Actor

Jack Nicholson, The Departed

  • Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
  • Michael Sheen, The Queen
  • Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
  • Steve Carrell, Little Miss Sunshine

Best Director

Martin Scorsese, The Departed

  • John Curran, The Painted Veil
  • Todd Field, Little Children
  • Clint Eastwood, Letters From Iwo Jima
  • Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine

Close Calls:

V for Vendetta, Thank You for Smoking, Half Nelson, The Queen, Borat, Babel, Casino Royale, Letters From Iwo Jima, Dreamgirls, Blood Diamond, The Last King of Scotland and A Scanner Darkly.

Could be Contenders:

Volver, Children of Men, The Good German, The Good Shepherd and The History Boys.