Golden Globe Awards

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(These are the nominated films – photos courtesy of IMDB)

Tonight is a perfect evening. I am drinking from the last bottle of white wine left from our wedding (relax…from the glass, not the bottle), a very tasty 2005 Bogle Chardonnay (comments from wine snobs not welcome), eating chocolate and dried fruits and watching the Golden Globe Awards. After a long productive day of filing bills away, a process that is especially time-consuming given the considerable build-up over the past few years, it is immensely satisfying to indulge myself for a few hours.

Even though I have Tivo, I am actually watching the show live because I can’t wait for the results–it’s bad enough that NBC time delays the program for 3 hours, so technically it is not even live for the West Coast audience (seriously, why do we always get shafted? First it was the Olympics, now this). The combination of blathering speeches (“I would like to thank all my dogs…” – seriously that’s what Mickey Rourke said) and frequent interruption of commercials yields the perfect opportunity for updating this blog.

Although I love watching movies, I have significant gaps in my viewing. The problem is, I cannot watch anything at home, which AK believes to be a form of commitment phobia. In fact, I don’t think I have ever watched any of the DVDs I own, not even one episode of Sex and the City, even though I never miss any of the reruns shown on TV. Instead, I waste hours watching either my regular shows on Tivo (Gossip Girl, Thirty Rock, The Daily Show, South Park) or any number of mindless programming on the Food Network (Top Chef, Iron Chef), Bravo (Project Runway, The Real Housewives of NYC), HGTV (House Hunters, Designed to Sell), or E! Network (Father Hood with Snoop Dogg, Chelsea Lately, and embarrassingly enough, The Girls Next Door). My mental hurdle is that once I pop in a DVD, I must sit in place and finish the whole movie/show. In theory at least, when I watch regular TV, including any saved shows on Tivo, I can get up and walk away at any time (which of course I never do).

As a result, I have resolved to watch more films in the theater, in no small part because I do not want to repeat the experience of sitting through all five Oscar-nominated movies in one sitting again (see my post from last year). This has paid off somewhat. I’ve seen a good number of the well-reviewed movies this year, including of course, Slumdog Millionaire (post here – so happy it swept the major awards! Extra kudos to the Hollywood Foreign Press for inviting Bollywood king Shahrukh Khan to present), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (beautiful, well acted movie, but I was completely emotionally unattached) and Gran Torino (riveting and moving – Clint Eastwood was robbed!). By the time the Academy Awards rolls around, I should be in a good position to make my own layman’s opinions about who the winners should be.

Anyway, I really enjoy watching the Golden Globe Awards because it is much less self-important than the somewhat uptight Academy Awards ceremony. There is also the additional benefit of seeing all the television stars along with the mega-watt movie stars. Finally, I think it’s also interesting to see the unofficial mingling among the guests, who hop from table to table. All in all, it was an enjoyable show this year, and I come away wanting to watch more films. There are still so many out there to see, and I would love to hear about any special recommendations!  Oh yeah, and here is the official list of nominations and winners.

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Slumdog Millionaire

It is not every day that you encounter a film that is absolutely spellbinding.  Just saw Slumdog Millionaire tonight and fell in love with it – gritty but poignant, dark yet ultimately uplifting.  It is a tale of an orphan boy, Jamal, who grew up in the slums of Mumbai but somehow ends up on the Indian version of the game show, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” and, as he is arrested on suspicion of cheating, the story unfolds at a frenetic pace with flashbacks of Jamal’s life.  Modern India is shown in all its glory – not only its stratified society, religious tension and urban poverty, but also its energy, resilience and ambition.  But most of all, this was a story of love and its formidable power for change and redemption (without being sappy or overly sentimental – that’s the brilliant part!).  

I have included the trailer here as a teaser:

DON’T LET THE TRAILER FOOL YOU.  This is no Bollywood song-and-dance piece.  It is very, very gritty (evil is only too real in the slums of Mumbai).  After all, Danny Boyle is the director that brought you Trainspotting, the gruesome story about heroine addiction.  There were a few moments when I had to turn away from the screen because the images were just too brutal.  But at the end of the night, I drove home, deeply satisfied, with a smile on my face.  I hope you will get the see the movie for yourself.

Oscar Fever

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Every year AMC theaters present a special back-to-back showing of all five Oscar-nominated movies. Today was the day of this cinematic marathon. Now, this is one of those things that sound better in your mind than in practice. When Small N and Hui first told me about it (apparently everyone in L.A. knows about this), I thought it was a great deal ($30 pass for 5 movies) and really looked forward to seeing all the movies. However, as the event drew closer, excitement gradually wore off and both AK and I started dreading the day. After spending 12+ hours in the same cinema in Cupertino, in front of the same annoying couple who could not stop commenting on the movies, we decided that this was the first and last year we will commit to this event.  

Luckily for us, we had already seen the first movie, Michael Clayton, so after securing our seats we were able to enjoy a leisurely lunch at nearby Fresh Choice. That still left us with 4 movies, separated by 10-minute intervals, with only a 45-minute intermission at 7:00 p.m. (we arrived at 11:00 a.m.). In preparation for dinner, we packed two sandwiches, two bottles of Snapple, one large bag of seedless grapes and one bag of Sun Chips – all into my purse. (Side note: The older I get, the more I start picking up behavioral patterns from my mother.) While the Oscar showing included free popcorns all day, we just could not imagine eating that as a meal. In fact, the mere thought of popcorn is turning my stomach right now.  

So, what’s the verdict on the movies? Here are some of my immediate reactions, in the order of the showing:  

Michael Clayton (A-): Despite the predictable premise (thanks to John Grisham, there has been an onslaught of legal thrillers in the last 10 years about taking down evil corporations), the movie is surprisingly non-formulaic in its character portrayal and development. George Clooney, whom I have always thought of as a competent though not stellar actor, exceeded my expectations and delivered a gritty performance. Although it is not necessarily a deep movie, it gave the audience a different twist on the genre. As a testament to its staying power, the film was just as enjoyable when we watched it the second time around (though only in segments). I definitely recommend it.

There Will Be Blood (B+): This movie is very gritty and at times violent, but as usual Daniel Day-Lewis pulled off an amazing performance that is both powerful and engaging, in the role of a unscrupulous self-made oil tycoon (I am, however, waiting for him to play more gentle roles in the future). Despite several tender moments (mostly between father and son), there just was not enough emotional traction for me to love this movie (and Daniel Day-Lewis’ character is too psychotic to be identified with). However, I would give it a very solid recommendation. AK really liked it, probably more than me.  

Atonement (B/B+): I usually love epic stories and historical backdrops, and this movie certainly had a lot of promise. However, it somehow didn’t quite deliver what it promised. The lovers played by Keira Knightley and James McAvoy had sizzling chemistry, and the sweeping views of the idyllic English countryside and portrait of lives marked by wealth and privilege contrasted sharply with the later haunting scenes of the war and tragedy. Ultimately, the movie under-delivers, and I was left extremely unsatisfied even though it was a beautiful film. Without giving the plot away, I felt mislead by the title. It’s well-directed movie, but I thought the ending was flawed and somewhat weak.  

Juno (A): I expected to dislike this movie, largely because there has been so much hype. Many people compared it to Little Miss Sunshine, which I thought was decent but nothing great (as my co-worker calls this type of movie, “Sundance-y”). The one clip that they showed in the trailers, about how in China babies just get shot out of t-shirt guns, also annoyed me because it was not funny and bordered on being offensive. Having now seen the movie, I really like it. The clip in the trailer was in line with the caustic humor of the title character, and underneath the sarcasm there was a lot of tenderness. Highly recommended, despite the hype.

No Country for Old Men (B-): I don’t understand this movie or why it has been critically acclaimed. The initial story line was tightly wound, and I expected all the characters to come together at the end, similar to a Crash-type ending. But along the way the story meandered, and we left wondering what the point of the movie was (I know that not all movies need to have a point, but for a plot-driven movie it was odd the way it wrapped up the loose ends, many of which are still unanswered). There were some good tense parts, especially with the hunting of Josh Brolin’s character who absconded with $2 million of drug money.

That’s all, folks! At least for tonight. Gotta get some sleep for the Oscar viewing party we are hosting tomorrow.