Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday Oscar Watch

Welcome to a returning weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Watch with Abe. It’s a bit early to be able to accurately predict the eventual Oscar nominees, but around this time, plenty of likely contenders are being released. I’ll be looking every Wednesday at the awards chances for all of the films released the previous week. Additionally, to make up for lost time, I’ll also be taking a look at the films released earlier in the year, two months at a time. Chime in with your thoughts on the Oscar chances for these films in the comments section. Also, if I’ve missed any films from the previous months, please say so!

Films released October 26th, 2012



Cloud Atlas
This wild drama didn’t receive entirely favorable reviews, but it could still be a contender in the visual categories. A Best Picture or Best Director nomination is probably out of the question, but similar spectacle “The Tree of Life” did pull off just that feat last year.

Films released May and June 2012



The Avengers (May 4)
This mega-hit could pull off a Best Picture bid if voters are enthusiastic enough by year’s end. Best Sound, Best Sound, and Best Visual Effects are good bets, though it’s important to note that most of the films that feed into this one didn’t have much luck even in those races.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (May 4)
I don’t think this Fox Searchlight release made a big enough splash when it came out, but the pedigree involved is worth mentioning: director John Madden, nominated for “Shakespeare in Love,” and stars Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, and Maggie Smith, all of whom have great Oscar track records.

Moonrise Kingdom (May 25)
Wes Anderson has had success in the past with an Oscar nomination for penning “The Royal Tenenbaums” and a Best Animated Feature mention for “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” This well-reviewed film could be a contender for Best Original Screenplay and could also make a play for the Best Picture and Best Director races.

Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1)
It’s most remembered for the affair between director Rupert Sanders and star Kristen Stewart, but this decently-received summer blockbuster could place in the Best Art Direction or Best Makeup categories.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (June 8)
It would make sense that this hit would be a good bet for a Best Animated Feature nomination, but neither of the previous films in the series were nominated, so it’s a toss-up at best.

Prometheus (June 8)
This excellent sci-fi film could come up in a number of technical categories, with Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing its best shots. Best Sound, Best Makeup, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography are somewhat less likely, but voters might be enthusiastic about this film even if they didn’t love its story elements as much.

Brave (June 22)
Pixar’s latest is easily its worst-reviewed entry aside from “Cars 2,” the only film produced by the studio not to be nominated for an Oscar in any category. While the Best Animated Feature category has been unpredictable recently, I think this one can still make it, and a Best Original Score bid is probable too.

To Rome With Love (June 22)
Woody Allen may still be coasting on some residual love after winning the Best Original Screenplay prize last year for “Midnight in Paris,” but I think a Golden Globe nomination is the best he’ll do for this less highly-regarded comedy.

Take This Waltz (June 29)
This small summer release wasn’t very notable, but Michelle Williams has been doing well with Oscar lately, earning back-to-back Best Actress bids for “Blue Valentine” and “My Week with Marilyn.” Her film will have to get lots of love for her to be remembered come Oscar time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: Iron Man 3

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

Iron Man 3 – Opening May 3, 2013


Audiences are just going to have to get used to many, many Marvel movies in the coming years. With the success of “The Avengers” earlier this year, a sequel is already in the works, and the individual superheroes featured in that film are also slated to have their franchises continued. Out of the many films that feed into that megaspectacular, the first “Iron Man” was probably the best, and its sequel is pretty great too. Most of that is due to Robert Downey Jr.’s exceptionally energetic performance as Tony Stark, the egomaniac who very publicly doubles as superhero-in-a-suit Iron Man. Returning to the fold are Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Don Cheadle as James Rhodes, also known as War Machine, as well as Jon Favreau in the role of Happy Hogan, relinquishing directorial duties to Shane Black, whose only feature film experience is 2005’s “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” which just happens to have starred Downey. Mickey Rourke was an excellent villain for the second film, and now we have Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley, two fantastic new additions. Rebecca Hall and James Badge Dale are also on board for this thrill ride, which includes plenty of explosions and even features some superb shots of the suit seemingly operating by itself. This is one blockbuster that’s better the louder it is, and I, along with many fans, I’m sure, can’t wait for May.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Movie Moments: The Usual Suspects

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. There are great movies, and then there are great scenes. Ideally, the two come as a package deal, but sometimes there’s just a scene that’s memorable all by itself. Each week, I’ll be taking a look at a formative movie moment that may be notable for its style, content, technique, or something else altogether. Minor spoilers will be referenced in this edition of the series, so please stop reading if you’ve somehow avoided seeing the movie in question.


This 1995 Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay and for Best Supporting Actor Kevin Spacey is an absolutely fantastic thriller, and it contains many iconic scenes. The most well-known and referenced of them all comes early in the film when its five main characters are thrown together into the same lineup and cause a major headache for the police. The image of the characters standing together in the lineup adorns the film’s poster and DVD cover, and this scene serves as an extremely effective introduction to their very diverse personalities. The casting is stellar, and this extended scene subtly identifies each of the characters. Stephen Baldwin’s McManus is a hothead who specializes in reckless behavior, Benicio Del Toro’s Fenster is simply incomprehensible, Kevin Pollak’s Hockney is a smooth operator who likes to mess with his enemies, Gabriel Byrne’s Dean Keaton is a businessman prove to anger at being prosecuted, and Kevin Spacey’s Verbal Kint is something else altogether. The different ways in which they speak the signature line in the lineup are extraordinarily telling, and the subsequent interview excerpts, which last less than a minute, define this as a captivating character study as well as a ridiculously compelling thriller. A must-see for anyone who hasn’t yet had the opportunity.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Similar Subjects

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. After spending a number of weeks looking at actors who tend to play the same characters, it’s time to spotlight two films with eerily similar plots that came out at roughly the same time. There are surprisingly more examples than might be obvious, and this series will examine the similarities and differences between the two (or three), and how their simultaneous releases affected each other.


The Italian Job / 2 Fast 2 Furious


Release dates: May 30, 2003 / June 6, 2003

The similarities: In a follow-up to a previous popular film with the same (or close to) name, cars gets driven really fast by likeable criminals in the pursuit of major scores.

The differences: The former was a remake of the 1969 Michael Caine crime film with a criminal betraying his former partners and becoming the subject of their revenge plot. The latter film, a follow-up to 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious,” followed a police officer on the wrong side of the law struggling to expunge his record by again working undercover with the bad guys.

The releases: The former made $106 million domestically on a $60 million budget while the latter took in $127 million on a $76 million budget but nearly doubled that gross internationally. The former received mostly positive reviews while the latter wasn’t terribly well-received.

Which one is more likely to be remembered? It depends. The former wasn’t extremely memorable, and the latter is part of an increasingly successful franchise, of which it’s considered to be the worst entry. In terms of heist and car racing movies, neither ranks too high, and they’re both passable but ultimately forgettable films.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in theatres as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.


Now Playing

The Black Tulip (recommended): This 2010 Best Foreign Film entry from Afghanistan is a powerful drama directed and written by Afghan-American filmmaker Sonia Nassery Cole, who also stars as Farishta, the owner of a Kabul restaurant eager to celebrate the newfound uncertain freedom threatened by the Taliban. Now playing in New York and Los Angeles. Read my review from yesterday.


New to DVD

Cargo (anti-recommended): This story of a captive woman and the human trafficker driving her across the border from Mexico into the United States is a tight, focused film, but its contents, unfortunately, aren’t all that interesting.

Take This Waltz (mixed bag): This Tribeca Film Festival entry is intriguingly shot, and most notable for the dramatic performances featured by Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman. Michelle Williams is in the lead in a familiar role, and the film often appears to be more captivating than it actually is.


Now on Netflix Instant Streaming

Bruno (anti-recommended): This very well-known film is an awful follow-up to the brilliant “Borat,” highlighting extreme gross-out sequences and preposterous plot points for the sake of humor. It’s a complete failure, the ultimate example of what comes from too much of a good thing gone wrong.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Movie with Abe: The Black Tulip


The Black Tulip
Directed by Sonia Nassery Cole
Released October 26, 2012

Last year, “A Separation” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, a movie about civil liberties in a religious Islamic society produced by Iran. One year earlier, “The Black Tulip,” from Afghan-American filmmaker Sonia Nassery Cole, was submitted into that same race as the representative film from Afghanistan. While it received far less publicity, “The Black Tulip” is a similar film in many ways, examining the way that one country’s citizens have struggled to flourish in a culture remarkably different from that of the United States. Cole’s drama is a passionate tale of the fight for freedom and perseverance with compelling characters at its center.

“The Black Tulip” sets its story in 2010 in Kabul, with the Taliban out of power but still peripherally active enough to merit the continued presence of international peacekeeping forces. Cole plays Farishta, the determined owner of a restaurant called The Poets Corner, who yearns to recreate the free spirit expressed by her father, who ran a bookstore on the same property before he was murdered for not confirming by Soviet forces decades earlier. Farishta is a forward-thinking modernist, eager to create an open space where all can be welcomed. Her husband, Hadar (Haji Gul Aser), is concerned but supportive, and her sister Belkis (Somajia Razaya) must struggle with the fact that her father-in-law-to-be thinks that a wife’s place is at home, rather than at medical school, to which she has been accepted just before her wedding.

Instead of a subtle metaphor, “The Black Tulip” is a total externalization of the conflict between tradition for the sake of tradition and evolving beyond what might be seen as ancient tropes. The reality of Taliban extremists plotting to disrupt the success of Farishta’s business and assert the supremacy of their beliefs grounds the film in black and white perceptions of oppression and liberty. The story is told respectfully, however, also presenting positive depictions of righteous Muslims whose traditions to not automatically make them villains.

The primary cast members – Cole, Aser, Razaya, and Walid Amini, who plays Belkis’ lovestruck fiancé Akram – deliver strong performances that imbue their characters with depth and history, enhancing each scene with the conveyed memory of the historical events that led up to a particular moment. The film’s music is rich and peace-affirming, and it tackles a complicated situation with careful thought. Taken with films like Iran’s “A Separation” and Germany’s “When We Leave,” this is another powerful entry in a recent wave of films exploring the role of independent women in societies not prepared for such a case.

B+

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday Top Twelve


Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. After exhausting theoretical Oscar categories, I’ll be featuring a “top twelve” list for the rest of 2012 each Thursday, with a variety of themes. Please leave suggestions for future focuses in the comments!

With “Looper” recently released and “Cloud Atlas” coming out this weekend, it feels appropriate to take a crazy trip through time and rank the top twelve trippy sci-fi and time travel movies. Here’s my list – chime in with your favorites in the comments!

#12: Southland Tales Director Richard Kelly’s follow-up to number four on this list makes the grade because of just how spectacularly messy it is, featuring a handful of SNL alums, cars having sex, and impossible contradictions that just don’t make any sense at all. It’s a train wreck of magnificent proportions.

#11: The Jacket This dark thriller is most notable for the manner in which its main character travels to the future, trapped in a drawer in a psychiatric ward, hopeless to do anything but fight to figure out how to escape his bleak situation and change his fate.

#10: The Adjustment Bureau This captivating drama is a less intense version of #6, with an aspiring politician fighting to find a woman in a universe controlled by those obsessed with order. This love story is greatly enhanced by the workings of its fantastical world.

#9: The Butterfly Effect This film’s quality is often downplayed by the casting of Ashton Kutcher in the lead role. A closer look reveals that this immensely dark movie effectively and enthrallingly examines the dangers of messing with time and its links to memory.

#8: Brazil This 1985 cult classic from Terry Gilliam, who also directed #2 on this list, is the ultimate dystopian experience, presenting a wild universe where aesthetic conceptions have been warped and the government has taken on a disturbingly efficient system of justice.

#7: The Terminator The first and second films in this series are superb, but it’s the first one that really digs into the space-time continuum. The notion that John Connor sent his best friend back in time knowing that he would become his father is incredible to comprehend, and it’s almost as awesome as Ah-nuld himself.

#6: Dark City This 1998 head trip takes place in a world which aliens control and which changes constantly according to their whims. Rufus Sewell’s energetic free spirit is an appropriate wild centerpiece for this fascinating film.

#5: The Fountain Darren Aronofsky created a marvelous story that spanned three time periods with different characters played by Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in each one, visually astonishing and even more awe-inspiring to dissect and understand.

#4: Donnie Darko This 2001 Jake Gyllenhaal starrer takes a unique approach to time travel, with an evil bunny and one determined teenager drawn in by the inexplicable events around him and the acts he himself is committing.

#3: Back to the Future II The first film is considered to be the best, but it’s the second one that truly digs into the concept of time travel to more than one year, as Marty memorably receives a letter given to the post office seventy years older and encounters a frightening alternate present.

#2: 12 Monkeys This 1995 drama is most brilliant in the way that it reveals the complexities of its complicated time jumps, with excellent performances from a muted Bruce Willis and a maniacal (and Oscar-nominated) Brad Pitt in this superb, eerie exploration of time travel.

#1: Inception This recent film should be more familiar than most on this list, yet it earns its top spot due to the carefully-plotted details that make up its multiple dream levels. It may not be time travel, but this is one mesmerizing depiction of how imagined worlds can affect reality.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Oscar Watch

Welcome to the first 2012 edition of this returning feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Watch with Abe. It’s a bit early to be able to accurately predict the eventual Oscar nominees, but around this time, plenty of likely contenders are being released. I’ll be looking every Wednesday at the awards chances for all of the films released the previous week. Additionally, to make up for lost time, I’ll also be taking a look at the films released earlier in the year, two months at a time. Chime in with your thoughts on the Oscar chances for these films in the comments section. Also, if I’ve missed any films from the previous months, please say so!

Films released October 19th, 2012



The Sessions
This drama is garnering praise for John Hawkes, who was nominated for his supporting turn in “Winter’s Bone” in 2010. His performance is a good bet for a nomination, and less certain is costar Helen Hunt, who won an Oscar for “As Good As It Gets” in 1997 but hasn’t been seen on the awards circuit since. She has an outside shot, but Hawkes is a much better bet.

Films released March and April 2012



The Lorax (March 2) and The Pirates! A Band of Misfits (April 27)
These two films are contenders, at least for now, in the Best Animated Feature race, which has become increasingly hard to predict recently. I’d say the former has a decent shot, and I wouldn’t count on the latter.

Detachment (March 16)
Adrien Brody was terrific in this sobering drama, from director Tony Kaye, whose lead actor Edward Norton was nominated for “American History X” over a decade ago. This film didn’t get enough attention to muster awards placement, though it would be nice if it was remembered for its lead performance or its sharp directing and writing.

The Hunger Games (March 23)
This mega-hit is the kind of movie that could make it to the expanded Best Picture field, though “Star Trek” and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2” not making the cut suggests that there isn’t room for blockbusters like this. It will probably fare better in the technical categories – sound and visual effects nods are within the realm of possibility.

Bernie (April 27)
This film will likely be entirely forgotten by Oscar time (if not already), but Jack Black may garner some votes for his energetic performance as the murderous title character.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: Jack Reacher

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

Jack Reacher – Opening December 21, 2012


I had neglected to write about this movie when the teaser trailer was released a few months ago because it didn’t accurately represent what the newer theatrical trailer does. Described as a “homicide investigator,” Tom Cruise portrays the off-book, assassin-type law enforcer who gets to go outside the box as much as he wants because he’s good at what he does. While Cruise has his haters, I’ve enjoyed his characters in films like “Knight and Day” and especially in “Collateral,” which, while considerably darker than the protagonist in this film, seems to be the perfect experience for playing this character. I’m particularly excited about two actors in supporting roles, Rosamund Pike, who was wonderful in “An Education,” as a lawyer working with Jack, and David Oyelowo, who appeared in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “The Help,” among others, as a cop. Also in the supporting cast are such talented names as Robert Duvall, Michael Raymond-James, and Richard Jenkins. What’s great about this film as a thriller is that it’s written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who, despite some missteps lately, is still best remembered for penning the Oscar-winning screenplay of “The Usual Suspects.” Adapting a popular book series, this could well be the start of a franchise. The trailer makes it look heavily stylized, and I think it could be one of the more energetic and enthralling films of the year.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Movie Moments: A Beautiful Mind

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. There are great movies, and then there are great scenes. Ideally, the two come as a package deal, but sometimes there’s just a scene that’s memorable all by itself. Each week, I’ll be taking a look at a formative movie moment that may be notable for its style, content, technique, or something else altogether. Minor spoilers will be referenced in this edition of the series, so please stop reading if you’ve somehow avoided seeing the movie in question.


The very deserving 2001 Best Picture from director Ron Howard contains many magnificent scenes, but this is one of the crucial early moments that sets the rest of the film’s events in motion. Mainly, it’s the beginning of the exploration of John Nash’s psyche, as his mind breaks apart numeric sequences to find patterns that may or may not be there, tuning out the rest of the world and the exhausted military men behind him waiting for him to come up with something. Russell Crowe should absolutely have won the Oscar for his nuanced, insightful performance as Nash, the antisocial but brilliant mathematician whose mind tends to get the best of him, carrying him away on impossible adventures with codes and secrets aplenty. This scenes frames his journey not as a thriller but rather as an epic drama with Nash at its center, going from anonymous student to anonymous codebreaker, constantly fascinated by the excitement that comes with his daily work and the intelligence that makes it possible. The film’s later scenes, such as Alicia’s discovery of John’s work and the tremendously moving giving of the pens in the cafeteria, all trace back to John’s first foray into the spy world in this truly excellent film.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Similar Subjects

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. After spending a number of weeks looking at actors who tend to play the same characters, it’s time to spotlight two films with eerily similar plots that came out at roughly the same time. There are surprisingly more examples than might be obvious, and this series will examine the similarities and differences between the two (or three), and how their simultaneous releases affected each other.


Se7en / Copycat


Release dates: September 22, 1995 / October 27, 1995

The similarities: Two partners hunt down a mysterious serial killer with an extremely specific modus operandi and a keen interest in those pursuing him as more victims pile up in a dark thriller.

The differences: In the former, retiring detective Morgan Freeman and newbie Brad Pitt look for a killer who uses the Seven Deadly Sins as his basis for punishment. In the latter, psychologist Sigourney Weaver and detective Holly Hunter search for a killer who is emulating famous serial killers.

The releases: The former grossed $100 million dollars domestically, about triple its budget, and more than double that worldwide. The latter made $32 million, not significantly more than its budget. Reviews for the former were more positive for the latter, and “Se7en” racked up a handful of awards, such as Saturn Awards, MTV Movie Awards prize for Best Movie, and an Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing, while “Copycat” settled for two prizes from a French police film festival.

Which one is more likely to be remembered? The former, definitely. Of all the serial killer movies that have been made in the past two decades, most have been inspired by “Se7en” and its careful construction, whereas “Copycat” was quickly forgotten. Consider also the subsequent accomplishments of their directors. David Fincher followed up “Se7en” with “Fight Club,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and “The Social Network,” while Jon Amiel has since made “The Man Who Knew Too Little,” “The Core,” and “Creation.”

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in theatres as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.

Now Playing

I’m equally uninterested in Alex Cross and Paranormal Activity 4, albeit for very different reasons.


New to DVD

The Tortured (anti-recommended): This awful film follows a couple, played by Erika Christensen and Jesse Metcalfe, as they kidnap the murderer of their six-year-old son. There’s no reason to see this horrible, extraordinarily disturbing movie.

Turn Me On, Dammit (highly recommended): This racy 2011 Tribeca Film Festival entry that I raved about and recognized in my AFT Awards last year possessed enormous creative energy and wit. Norway is producing excellent films these days, and this is one of the greats.


Now on Netflix Instant Streaming

Chico and Rita (recommended): This surprise nominee for Best Animated Film, released recently on DVD does a marvelous job capturing the romance and passion of the relationship between its two protagonists. It’s a movie explicitly for adults, highlighted by musical performances.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Familiar Faces: Emily Mortimer

Welcome to a semi-regular weekly feature here at Movies With Abe! There are plenty of actors out there who people recognize by face but can’t identify because they just don’t tend to get the leading roles. There is a fantastic book (and website) dedicated to this phenomenon, appropriately titled “Hey! It’s That Guy” and touting the fantastic J.T. Walsh as the ultimate recognizable everyman.

This series will spotlight an actor or actress who has recently turned in a notable or scene-stealing performance and showcase some of their best cinematic appearances. More than other any feature, this series will merge the worlds of television and film as needed to highlight a performer’s best and most recognizable work.


Emily Mortimer


Where you’ve seen her most recently: Running the show and talking very quickly as executive producer MacKenzie McHale on HBO’s “The Newsroom” and as the sweet Lisette, object of the station inspector’s affection in Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo.”

Where you might have first seen her: In the USA, in the critically-acclaimed “Lovely and Amazing” opposite Catherine Keener. Not, as many think, as Ross’ second wife Elizabeth on “Friends” in 1999 – that’s Helen Baxendale, who bears only a slight resemblance to Mortimer.

Other notable appearances: As the wife being cheated on in “Match Point,” as Lars’ sweet-natured sister-in-law in “Lars and the Real Girl,” as the wife trapped on a dangerous train in “Transsiberian,” the investigator tailing the title character in “Harry Brown,” a haunting inmate patient in “Shutter Island,” and as one of Paul Rudd’s siblings in “Our Idiot Brother.” Also, on TV as Jack’s weird wife Phoebe.

What you might expect from her: Usually, a shy and somewhat sheepish young woman with a surprisingly strong resolve. In the new role that might make her a household name, she’s awkward and talkative with a brazen and immutable personality.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday Top Twelve


Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. After exhausting theoretical Oscar categories, I’ll be featuring a “top twelve” list for the rest of 2012 each Thursday, with a variety of themes. Please leave suggestions for future focuses in the comments!

“Django Unchained” is sure to be one of the weirdest films of the year, and in preparation for its release, here’s a look at some of the best performances elicited by the eccentric Quentin Tarantino from the handful of films he’s made over the past twenty years.

#12: Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction) The only actress who appears twice on this list earned her first and only Oscar nomination for portraying the wild wife of gangster Marcellus Wallace, a marvelous performance that is simultaneously unhinged and focused.

#11: Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs) Wounded almost from the start of the film, Roth’s Mr. Orange is one of the more sympathetic figures whose own injury prevents him from killing others but also demonstrates a compassion not shown by his fellow robbers.

#10: John Travolta (Pulp Fiction) Travolta had fun with long hair as Vincent Vega, a hitman far calmer than his other half but still boasting a whole lot of personality and style in the way he did his job.

#9: Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) It’s really just one scene that puts Fassbender on this list, but he’s so incredible as the British soldier posing as a German officer in a tense and fascinating bar scene that he deserves a place here.

#8: Uma Thurman (Kill Bill Volume 1) Thurman’s The Bride was comatose for an early portion of her film, but she came to life with a ferocity and intensity that’s hard to match. She was equally terrific in the film’s second, only somewhat softer sequel.

#7: Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) In a film filled with violent criminals, Madsen’s Mr. Blonde sticks out for the brutality and cruelty with which he inflicts torture upon a hopeless captive, portrayed with a maniacal apathy by Madsen.

#6: Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs) As the reluctantly-named Mr. Pink, Buscemi earns his stripes as the lone holdout in the film’s opening scene, unwilling to tip waitresses on principle and the holder of many memorable opinions throughout the film.

#5: Harvey Keitel (Reservoir Dogs) Mr. White was a self-professed criminal, but he was easily the film’s hero because of his strong dedication to the ailing Mr. Orange, confident in his reliability because he liked him. Keitel makes him the most human character in the whole film.

#4: Samuel L Jackson (Pulp Fiction) Jackson’s career really got started with this furious performance as the Bible-quoting, grandstanding Jules Winnfield, an immortal character with much to say about everything and a penchant for dramatic introductions.

#3: David Carradine (Kill Bill Volume 2) Bill was the title character and target of the Bride’s anger, and Carradine imbued him with a sense of twisted decency and surprising humanity, a marvelously three-dimensional intellectual villain.

#2: Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) From the photo that adorns the left frame of this site, Laurent speaks volumes with her eyes as Shoshanna, the lone survivor of a vicious execution and a frightened, brave, determined freedom fighter looking for revenge.

#1: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) It’s easy to understand why the Oscar-winning Waltz ranks at the top of this list for his fantastic quadra-lingual performance as a Nazi nicknamed the Jew Hunter with shocking depth and an interesting outlook on life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday Oscar Watch

Welcome to the first 2012 edition of this returning feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Watch with Abe. It’s a bit early to be able to accurately predict the eventual Oscar nominees, but around this time, plenty of likely contenders are being released. I’ll be looking every Wednesday at the awards chances for all of the films released the previous week. Additionally, to make up for lost time, I’ll also be taking a look at the films released earlier in the year, two months at a time. Chime in with your thoughts on the Oscar chances for these films in the comments section. Also, if I’ve missed any films from the previous months, please say so!

Films released October 5th – October 12th, 2012



Argo
This thriller based on real events made back nearly its whole budget in its opening weekend and has received strong reviews all around. Its October release is perfectly in line with the last two films directed by Ben Affleck, “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town,” both of which received exactly one Oscar nomination for supporting performances. At this rate, and with an expanded Best Picture field, this film many fare better, though I wouldn’t expect any acting accolades. A Best Picture bid is probably its best bet, and maybe a writing or editing nomination as well.

Butter
This comedy didn’t win over audiences, but Jennifer Garner could still be a contender for her first-ever Golden Globe film nomination.

Frankenweenie
This children’s horror comedy, which has proven very popular, is a shoo-in for the Best Animated Feature category, a race that has been temperamental in recent years but should have no trouble finding a place this year.

Wuthering Heights
This UK-produced epic from Andrea Arnold, director of “Fish Tank” and an Oscar winner for producing the short film “Wasp” is probably too small and independent to earn attention, but its visual elements just might.

Films released January and February 2012



Haywire (January 20)
This action film from Steven Soderbergh had plenty of buzz at this time last year, but I think a January release won’t enable it to remain present in voters’ minds.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: Hitchcock

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

Hitchcock – Opening November 23, 2012


For what should be obvious reasons, this is definitely one of the most anticipated films of the fall season. Its subject matter is superb, since Hitchcock was always the man behind the camera, one memorable cameo per film aside, and, like many other biographical movies, it focuses on a small excerpt from his life during which he was working on one of his most famous projects. It’s fun to see everyone decry “Psycho” as a horrid film that the public would never want to watch, and it looks like the film will delight, and hopefully not drown, in such tongue-in-cheek moments. It’s wonderful to see Anthony Hopkins take on a big project like this after largely relegating himself to forgettable supporting work this past decade – excepting, of course, the fabulous but barely seen “The City of Your Final Destination.” Helen Mirren continues to take on powerhouse roles, and, as with “The Last Station,” it appears that the wife will have just as much to say as the husband. Michael Stuhlbarg and Danny Huston are sure to be excellent background players, and I like the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh. There’s a possibility that this film, like “My Week with Marilyn,” could end up a fragmented, unfulfilling mess, but I doubt that will be the case. Hopkins is all but guaranteed an Oscar nomination, and I think this will be one of the big hits of the year.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Movie Moments: Almost Famous

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. There are great movies, and then there are great scenes. Ideally, the two come as a package deal, but sometimes there’s just a scene that’s memorable all by itself. Each week, I’ll be taking a look at a formative movie moment that may be notable for its style, content, technique, or something else altogether. Minor spoilers will be referenced in this edition of the series, so please stop reading if you’ve somehow avoided seeing the movie in question.


This 2000 Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay is full of magnificent moments, particularly the introduction of its characters, such as Zooey Deschanel’s Anita, Frances McDormand’s Elaine, and especially Kate Hudson’s immortal Penny Lane. This musical bus scene, however, is probably the most memorable, since it takes its primary characters away from an out-of-control situation on the road, where tensions have to come down considerably and everyone gets a chance to relax. In addition to its superb usage of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” as an anthem and rallying call for the group, it also shows a cast at ease and extremely comfortable with each other, each member slowly coming alive and accepting their circumstances. Penny’s declaration of “You are home” to a young and naïve William Miller, who is gradually discovering that he’ll eventually need to return to reality, grounds the scene in its utopian reality, where music is everything and there’s no need to pay heed to the gravities of real life. Seen but barely heard in the scene as well are Noah Taylor, Jason Lee, Anna Paquin, Billy Crudup, and others – all essential parts of this wonderful, heartwarming movie.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Similar Subjects

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. After spending a number of weeks looking at actors who tend to play the same characters, it’s time to spotlight two films with eerily similar plots that came out at roughly the same time. There are surprisingly more examples than might be obvious, and this series will examine the similarities and differences between the two (or three), and how their simultaneous releases affected each other.


I’m Still Here / Catfish


Release dates: September 10, 2010 / September 17, 2010

The similarities: Both were documentaries from first-time directors with highly publicized central subjects that didn’t turn out to be exactly what people expected, namely in that they weren’t necessarily legitimate documentaries at all. Casey Affleck made his feature film debut directing his friend Phoenix, as did Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who have since gone on to helm the third and fourth installments of the “Paranormal Activity” series.

The differences: The former was about Joaquin Phoenix and his very public erratic behavior during press interviews while the latter featured no-name young men pursuing a phantom Facebook contact.

The releases: The former was released in 120 theatres and made about $400,000 and the latter was released in 143 theatres and made over $3 million. Reviews for the former were less favorable than those for the latter, mainly because its novelty was intriguing to people, while the former put people off because of the way it framed its content.

Which one is more likely to be remembered? The former. Phoenix has now rebooted his career with “The Master,” and this is a chronicle of the time he took away from coherence. The latter didn’t make a big enough splash despite the fact that everyone was talking about it when it was originally released.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in theatres as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.


Now Playing

Simon and the Oaks (recommended): This story of two boys with intertwined families growing up during the Holocaust in Sweden is a complex character study, featuring children but highlighting the adults. Strong performances and a beautiful score make up for some slow and spotty plotting. Now playing at the Paris Theatre. Read my review from yesterday.

I haven't yet had a chance, but would be very interested in seeing Argo, which doesn't look altogether superb to me but has been receiving great reviews.


New to DVD

Prometheus (highly recommended): Ridley Scott’s “Alien” was a trailblazing sci-fi classic, and his latest film is an excellent update of the same story, featuring amazing visuals, terrific pacing, and one particularly spectacular performance from Michael Fassbender as the fascinating cyborg David.

Rock of Ages (mixed bag): This wild, star-filled musical is rather preposterous, but it’s not supposed to be rocket science. Fans of music from the 1980s will enjoy the tunes, and as long as expectations for dramatic content or acting aren’t high, this film should prove highly enjoyable to most audiences.

30 Beats (mixed bag): This sex-filled drama jumps from character to character in its two-person scenes, following a chain of people through a heat wave in New York City. It’s a cool concept that boasts plenty of intrigue but not nearly as much actual depth.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Movie with Abe: Simon and the Oaks


Simon and the Oaks
Directed by Lisa Ohlin
Released October 12, 2012

Most movies set during the Holocaust in Europe are touched by horror and sadness. That’s not quite the case in this story of two young boys in Sweden whose lives are intertwined after they become friends in school. Since the Nazis never took Sweden, it’s a different kind of Holocaust movie, one in which its effects can be felt but not directly recognized. Highlighted by the music which its title character loves so much, “Simon and the Oaks” is an affecting depiction of two children being raised by two distinctly different families in an uncertain environment removed from war and the Holocaust.

Though its story is about children – Simon and his Jewish friend Isak – “Simon and the Oaks” is more notable for its depiction of the three adults in their lives. Their maternal figure is Karin (Helen Sjöholm), who, after Isak’s mother tries to kill her entire family when she learns of the impending Nazi invasion, becomes devoted to her son Simon and to the friend she and her husband take in. Isak’s father Ruben (Jan Josef Liefers), a Jewish businessman, delights in the arts and in bringing those he visits gifts, and though he is the victim of considerable harassment, his life or even his livelihood is never explicitly in jeopardy. Karin’s husband, Erik (Stefan Gödicke), called up to defend Sweden’s borders by the army, is initially kindly but soon proves himself to be a stern masculine figure, more interested in training one of his sons in hard work than indulging his other son’s interest in music.

While “Simon and the Oaks” appropriately chronicles Simon’s path towards his love for music due to the revelation of his Jewish background and a connection with Ruben, it skips ahead considerably in its timeline, starting out with Simon and Isak as young boys and then fast-forwarding to a number of years later when both are fully grown. Some of the development is lost as a result, and the film doesn’t feel quite as cohesive as it should. The film is at its most powerful in its first act and its final act, while it lags somewhat in the middle. All of the actors, however, deliver exceptional performances, firmly establishing their characters and their familial and emotional relationships with one another. The film’s score, which sounds during the opening credits, is confident and gorgeous, and serves as a fitting anthem for Simon and his complicated childhood.

B

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday Top Twelve

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. After exhausting theoretical Oscar categories, I’ll be featuring a “top twelve” list for the rest of 2012 each Thursday, with a variety of themes. Please leave suggestions for future focuses in the comments!

I’ve cited him before as my favorite actor, and though he hasn’t made even two dozen films over the course of his fifteen year-plus career, a whole lot of them are exceptional. In celebration of the great Edward Norton, here’s a ranking of his twelve best performances.

#12: Rounders Norton played off Matt Damon well as they got deep into the world of poker. It’s hardly his most complicated role, but he is more than suitable for the part.

#11: The Painted Veil Norton delivered a subtler performance as a doctor traveling to faraway lands with his wife, which was perfectly appropriate for this picaresque, understated film.

#10: Red Dragon Norton got to match wits with Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter in this superb prequel, where he knew just how not to be the center of attention to showcase other characters.

#9: Death to Smoochy Norton was at his goofiest in this zany comedy opposite Robin Williams, and it’s perhaps the best example of him letting his guard down and just having a great time being energetic.

#8: Keeping the Faith Norton stepped behind the camera to direct this comedic story of a rabbi and a priest both attracted to their childhood female friend. Norton’s platonic chemistry with both Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman was fun, and, once again, he stepped back to allow others to take the spotlight.

#7: Fight Club Norton’s most famous film features a focused and insanely intriguing turn as a nameless man spiraling into depression and finding deeply unhealthy ways to deal with his situation.

#6: The Score Norton stole the show from Robert De Niro as an eccentric con man who used his cleverness and abilities to take advantage of those around him, seemingly sheepish but ultimately cunning.

#5: Down in the Valley Norton remained entirely solid in this film that lost its focus partway through as an unstable man wrapped up in the idea that he was, in fact, a real-life cowboy.

#4: Leaves of Gras Norton did double duty as twin brothers, showcasing the differences between the drug-dealing Southerner and the polished Northeastern professor, showing that he’s capable of having fun and acting magnificently at the same time.

#3: Primal Fear Norton earned his first Oscar nomination for his layered performance of an altar boy accused of murder, digging deep into his psyche and owning an otherwise less than memorable film.

#2: 25th Hour Norton was extremely serious and contemplative in this excellent human drama, facing the notion of going to prison with no way out and letting his emotions show in one particularly superb scene of self-reflection.

#1: American History X Norton was incomparably amazing as a neo-Nazi sent to prison and changed drastically by his experience, wearing his emotions on his face in an astonishing Oscar-nominated turn.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Real Best Pictures of 2003

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Retrospective. The Real Best Pictures is the seventh in a series of projects looking back at the past eight years of the Oscars, dating back to the first ceremony I watched and closely followed.

For this feature, imagine that an Oscar nomination for Best Picture was cumulative rather than based on votes in just that category. That means taking into account how well a film performed in other categories, and how many Oscars it eventually took home. Like the other series before it, this one is highly speculative, but the point is just to have fun, so chime in with your thoughts in the comments!


And the nominees were… Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, The Return of the King, Seabiscuit

The keepers, no questions: That would be The Return of the King, which won eleven Oscars. Mystic River stays too with its three acting nominations and two wins.

The question marks: It didn’t earn a screenplay nomination, but ten nominations and two wins suggests that Master and Commander would have been included. Though it won only a writing prize, Lost in Translation earned a lead acting and directing nod.

The losers: Director-less Seabiscuit, which didn’t take home any awards despite nominations, mostly technical.

The new inclusions: Original Best Picture frontrunner Cold Mountain didn’t miss out by much, earning two acting nominations and a handful of technical mentions. City of God made a surprise showing for directing, writing, editing, and cinematography, so it may have been close too.



The new nominees: Cold Mountain, Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mystic River, The Return of the King

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: Stoker

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

Stoker – Opening March 1, 2013



Here’s a film that I think looks extremely fascinating but I’m not sure I’d ever see. The reason for that is that it may have some freaky undead horror content, though it’s not quite clear from the trailer. It’s possible that this film fits into my ideal genre, which is a dark thriller about a murderer, or, it seems, two. I’m most impressed by the cast, which includes not one but two Australian actresses playing Americans. Nicole Kidman’s last good movie was 2010’s “Rabbit Hole,” for which she earned an Oscar nomination, and this looks much more like her career-boosting part in her banner year 2001, “The Others.” Mia Wasikowska, who catapulted to stardom after a season of “In Treatment” with the eclectic trio of “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Kids Are All Right,” and “Jane Eyre,” is dabbling in a new genre with this part, which appears to have inclinations of evil in a previously innocent young girl affected by the death of her father. Matthew Goode has earned my admiration for “Match Point,” “The Lookout,” and “A Single Man,” and I’m thrilled to see him in a fitting part here. Throw in Jacki Weaver from “Animal Kingdom” in a supporting part and you have a recipe for unnerving success. What’s most intriguing about this movie is the director-writer combo. Chan-wook Park, who directed the highly acclaimed “Oldboy,” teams up with, of all people, Wentworth Miller, best known for playing Michael Scofield on “Prison Break,” with his writing debut. It’s an odd pairing to be sure, but it will definitely produce interesting results. Whether or not I’ll be brave enough to find out for myself is another question altogether.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Movie Moments: Big Fish

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. There are great movies, and then there are great scenes. Ideally, the two come as a package deal, but sometimes there’s just a scene that’s memorable all by itself. Each week, I’ll be taking a look at a formative movie moment that may be notable for its style, content, technique, or something else altogether. MAJOR SPOILERS will be referenced in this edition of the series, so please stop reading if you’ve somehow avoided seeing the movie in question.



There are some movie endings that are just too memorable not to discuss so publicly. This one doesn’t represent as much of a spoiler since the enjoyment of this movie has little to do with the particulars of the plot. This final scene is highlighted most by Albert Finney’s exuberant declaration of “Let’s get of here” which leads to his fleeing the hospital with his son and heading to the water. Like a good musical, all of the characters return at the end of the film, perfectly in their primes, waving as if they’ve just given the performance of their lives and the star of the show is taking a bow. No one is crying because they’re all so happy to have been touched by Edward, which is just the spirit of this wonderful happy and lovely film. Seeing the real funeral take place after with the real people showing up, recognized slightly by Billy Crudup and Marion Cotillard, and sharing stories of Edward's life, is fabulous. Finney, who netted BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for his performance but couldn’t garner an Oscar, is absolutely spectacular, wearing so much emotion in his face and in his smile. Ewan McGregor is a superb lead for the film, and he and Finney complement each other excellently. The notion of Edward becoming the film’s title is marvelous, and it’s just the right ending for this endearing film that can best be described as larger than life.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Similar Subjects

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. After spending a number of weeks looking at actors who tend to play the same characters, it’s time to spotlight two films with eerily similar plots that came out at roughly the same time. There are surprisingly more examples than might be obvious, and this series will examine the similarities and differences between the two (or three), and how their simultaneous releases affected each other.


Red Eye / Flightplan


Release dates: August 19, 2005 / September 23, 2005

The similarities: Both were PG-13 thrillers about women experiencing very bad flights with not a friend in the world to defend them from the dangerous people threatening their lives.

The differences: Rachel McAdams was cornered and manipulated by Cillian Murphy’s cold-hearted kidnapper mid-flight in the former film, and Jodie Foster saw her daughter disappear on a plane and found herself the only one who even knew she was on the plane in the first place in the latter. The former was considerably more chilling and engaging, while the latter was based on a considerably more far-fetched premise that was far less appealing once its secrets were revealed.

The releases: Both films were released in about the same number of theatres. The former flew under the radar with a $58 million take, which was more than twice its budget. The latter made $90 million domestically, which wasn’t quite twice its budget. Reviews were more favorable for the former.

Which one is more likely to be remembered? Neither, actually. Foster’s film is a forgettable entry altogether, and most would consider “Red Eye” to be a B-movie, though it does feature excellent performances from both McAdams and Murphy.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in theatres as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.

Now Playing

I’m mildly interested in both Frakenweenie and Taken 2, two very different films, and less so in Pitch Perfect.


New to DVD

Grassroots (recommended): Jason Biggs and Joel David Moore star in director Stephen Gyllenhaal’s entertaining adaptation of a true story about a eccentric Seattle politician. It’s a light-hearted and affecting political story that elicits great serious performances from its comic actors.

People Like Us (recommended): This drama elicits fantastic turns from Chris Pine, who played Kirk in “Star Trek,” and Elizabeth Banks, most familiar from “30 Rock” and “Scrubs,” as siblings unaware of each other’s existence who build a rapport after the death of their father. It’s a simply story enhanced by strong storytelling.


Now on Netflix Instant Streaming

Code 46 (recommended): This dreamlike 2004 drama was one of the first films I saw at a press screening. It’s an intriguing if not entirely fulfilling dystopian portrait with strong performances from Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton.

Coriolanus (mixed bag): Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut is full of Shakespearean dialogue but modern-day imagery and clothing. For Shakespeare devotees, it should be an interesting exercise, but for those less inclined, it’s incomplete and relatively unsatisfying, even if Fiennes is trying his hardest.

Darfur Now (mixed bag): This documentary from 2007 features Don Cheadle campaigning for an end to genocide in Darfur with a handful of personal accounts. It’s less effective as a historical nonfiction film than it is as a call to action.

A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy (recommended): This wild comedy stars Jason Sudeikis, Tyler Labine, and a whole slew of other people. Like this year’s “Our Idiot Brother,” it’s not as hilarious as it could have been, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a lot of fun and highly enjoyable.

Goodbye First Love (recommended): This French romance, released last week on DVD, from director Mia Hansen-Love (“The Father of My Children”) features a strong central performance from Lola Créton, and a realistic and thought-provoking commentary on love and relationships. It may not be the best relationship film ever made, but it’s certainly a worthwhile one.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (highly recommended): This 1962 classic is one of the defining Western films from John Ford, featuring wonderfully entertaining performances from John Wayne and James Stewart as unexpected allies in the fight against local bad guys. A must-see for any serious film fan – it was shown in multiple film history courses I took in college.

Mulholland Drive (recommended with reservations): This 2001 mind-bending drama from David Lynch is an amazingly intriguing but equally confusing exploration of a wildly creative man’s mind, with an absolutely exceptional lead performance from Naomi Watts and a marvelously haunting score from Angelo Badalamenti.

Rain Man (highly recommended): This 1988 Best Picture winner from director Barry Levinson is a delightfully charming story of the unlikely bonding between two extremely different brothers, one of whom is played to perfection by Dustin Hoffman in an Oscar-winning role.

A Very Long Engagement (highly recommended): It’s hard not to adore this gorgeous tale of love and war, the second collaboration between director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and actress Audrey Tautou after “Amelie,” also featuring a magnificent score from Angelo Badalementi and some terrific cinematography and colors.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Familiar Faces: Michael Weston

Welcome to a semi-regular weekly feature here at Movies With Abe! There are plenty of actors out there who people recognize by face but can’t identify because they just don’t tend to get the leading roles. There is a fantastic book (and website) dedicated to this phenomenon, appropriately titled “Hey! It’s That Guy” and touting the fantastic J.T. Walsh as the ultimate recognizable everyman.

This series will spotlight an actor or actress who has recently turned in a notable or scene-stealing performance and showcase some of their best cinematic appearances. More than other any feature, this series will merge the worlds of television and film as needed to highlight a performer’s best and most recognizable work.


Michael Weston


Where you’ve seen him most recently: In an unusual starring role in the fantastic “The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best,” already playing in select cities and rolling out in Eugene, Oregon and Palm Desert, CA today, and stalking Lauren Ambrose as a schizophrenic in the lamentable mini-series “Coma.”

Where you might have first seen him: As Zach Braff’s police pal Kenny in “Garden State” and as a terrifying carjacking nightmare for Michael C. Hall’s David on “Six Feet Under.”

Other notable appearances: As Private Dancer in a few season six episodes of “Scrubs,” joining up with Braff yet again in “The Last Kiss,” playing squash with Peter on “White Collar” earlier this season, and meeting up with the fictional Michael Westen on “Burn Notice,” among a number of other appearances.

What you might expect from him: An awkward, naïve, nice enough guy with piercing eyes and a nervous attitude, also occasionally possessing the same nervous qualities with a penchant for criminal tendencies.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thursday Top Twelve

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. After exhausting theoretical Oscar categories, I’ll be featuring a “top twelve” list for the rest of 2012 each Thursday, with a variety of themes. Please leave suggestions for future focuses in the comments!

Top Twelve Oscar Hopeful Movies That Have Already Been Released

#12. Arbitrage: Richard Gere has earned substantial buzz for his performance, but I wouldn’t invest entirely in that hope since Gere has come close to Oscar before for a Best Picture-winning film, “Chicago,” and he couldn’t manage it even after a Golden Globe win. I wouldn’t count on this being his first time.

#11. Compliance: This tiny little thriller, which played in just twenty-one theatres, has been praised for the supporting performance of character actress Ann Dowd. If it can somehow muster up enough attention, she’s a dark horse with a shot.

#10. To Rome With Love: Woody Allen has an impressive Oscar track record, and though only two of his screenplay nominations have come in the past decade, he won last year for Best Picture nominee “Midnight in Paris,” so goodwill for that film could enable him to earn another nomination this year.

#9. Ruby Sparks: Directing duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris had a winner in their last feature “Little Miss Sunshine,” and their latest film might be pushed enough by Fox Searchlight to earn it a well-deserved screenplay nomination.

#8. Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson has had two Oscar successes – “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “The Royal Tenenbaums” – and positive notices for his latest movie may help it break into the Best Original Screenplay category.

#7. Prometheus: Ridley Scott’s classic “Alien” won a visual effects trophy back in 1979, and while many took issue with the plot twists and themes of his new film, it’s probable that it will vie for a trophy or two in the visual effects or sound categories.

#6. The Avengers: Marvel films haven’t had too much success in the past with Oscar love, even in the technical races, but combining all of the superheroes into one big extravaganza may change that. The “Iron Man” movies do have some sound-related history, which is a plus.

#5. Beasts of the Southern Wild: This small Fox Searchlight release has earned terrific acclaim from all that have seen it, and it will only have to overcome the fact that it’s not well-known to break into the top races.

#4. Trouble with the Curve: Clint Eastwood may have alienated Oscar voters with his RNC speech, but he has a formidable nomination history and still poses a threat, even if his last few films didn't make a dent. Amy Adams has an outside as well.

#3. Brave: The latest Pixar entry didn’t fare as well as past films from the popular studio, but it’s still an extremely strong contender for the Best Animated Feature race, since everything produced by Pixar except for “Cars 2” has had a place in the category since its inception.

#2. The Dark Knight Returns: This film’s Best Picture chances are unlikely given the circumstances of its release, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a shot. The last Batman film managed seven technical nominations, so I’d count on this on to earn a similar take, unless backlash for the film shuts it out.

#1. The Master: Director Paul Thomas Anderson hit it big with his last feature, “There Will Be Blood,” and received screenplay nominations plus some acting bids for previous films “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights.” Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are very likely, a Best Picture nomination is possible, and technical nominations may happen too.

Anything I missed?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday Oscar Retrospective: The Real Best Pictures of 2004

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Wednesday Oscar Retrospective. The Real Best Pictures is the seventh in a series of projects looking back at the past eight years of the Oscars, dating back to the first ceremony I watched and closely followed.

For this feature, imagine that an Oscar nomination for Best Picture was cumulative rather than based on votes in just that category. That means taking into account how well a film performed in other categories, and how many Oscars it eventually took home. Like the other series before it, this one is highly speculative, but the point is just to have fun, so chime in with your thoughts in the comments!


And the nominees were… The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby, Ray, Sideways

The keepers, no questions: The two biggest Oscar films of the year were winner Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator.

The question marks: Though it won a screenplay award, Sideways achieved only the basic major nominations. Ray was much more about star Jamie Foxx than anything, and Finding Neverland missed out a directing nomination.

The losers: No clear losers this year!

The new inclusions: Best Actress nominee Vera Drake also managed bids for directing and writing, The closest contender was definitely Hotel Rwanda, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind also had some support.


The new nominees: Based on sheer numbers of nominations, it’s the same list this time too.

Come back next week for a look at the Real Best Pictures of 2003!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: Promised Land

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

Promised Land – Opening December 28, 2012


There’s nothing like the name Gus Van Sant behind what appears to be a missable human drama to make it worth a second look. The cast helps considerably, as well, and this story of a gas company fighting with local farmers looks rather engaging. Van Sant’s more normative films, like “Milk” and “Good Will Hunting,” have been excellent, and I’m eager to see what he does with this story and these actors. Damon was involved in a project with a slightly similar theme but far different tone, “The Informant,” and here he gets to play a more serious invading force. Joined by Frances McDormand, who hasn’t done all that much lately, they’re sure to be an impressive tour de force. Fortunately, they’ve found their competition in a home field team headed by John Krasinski and Rosemarie DeWitt. I’m very happy to see Krasinski taking on more sophisticated roles like this as he prepares to move on from “The Office,” and DeWitt was simply terrific in “Your Sister’s Sister,” so I’m excited to see more of her. Also in the cast are dependable actors like Hal Holbrook (now 87), Lucas Black, and Titus Welliver. Another fun fact is that the screenplay comes from Dave Eggers, who wrote “Away We Go” and the screenplay for “Where the Wild Things Are,” and from both Krasinski and Damon. This film’s release date assures that it will be one of the most talked-about films of awards season, provided it doesn’t go the way of last year’s Matt Damon starrer from a noted Oscar nominee, “We Bought a Zoo.”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Movie Moments: Memento

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. There are great movies, and then there are great scenes. Ideally, the two come as a package deal, but sometimes there’s just a scene that’s memorable all by itself. Each week, I’ll be taking a look at a formative movie moment that may be notable for its style, content, technique, or something else altogether. Minor spoilers will be referenced in this edition of the series, so please stop reading if you’ve somehow avoided seeing the movie in question.



Rarely does the first scene of a film prove such a tone-setting example of the film’s innovative and bleak nature. Watching the opening titles of “Memento” (also profiled in a Monday feature from two years ago) without knowing what’s going on leads to a gradual realization that the events being slowly depicted on screen are happening in reverse. The score is extremely helpful in establishing the mood, and zooming in on one photo as it goes from fully developed to grainier is entirely captivating. Watching the gun fly back up into the hands of Guy Pearce, wearing a stoic and dazed look on his face, seems so mechanical that it’s hard to figure out just what to make of it. Right before it cuts to the black-and-white narration by Pearce’s Lenny is the most intense part, when we hear a frantic shout from Joe Pantoliano’s Teddy the second before the shot kills him. Seeing the picture slowing fade away and Teddy’s fate revealed before he speaks is even more haunting, and it creates the perfect feel for this incredibly complex, interesting, and enthralling thriller, just a taste of the complex assembly of scenes and ideas that is to come.