The Secret In Their Eyes (El Secreto De Sus Ojos)

YEAR: 2009

WRITER & DIRECTOR: Juan Jose Campanella

BUDGET: $2,000,000 (estimated)

GROSS (USA): $6,207,191

if The Secret In Their Eyes sounds familiar it may be because you watched the academy awards earlier this year and saw this film win the oscar for best foreign language film. it beat out my pick, The White Ribbon and at the time i was a little surprised because i thought The White Ribbon was a good film and it seemed to have all the "hype" behind it (what with also getting a cinematography nod and having a director with a name behind it - michael haneke).

well don't call me surprised anymore. having just seen The Secret In Their Eyes i can tell you that the academy voters definitely made the right choice.

the film takes place in buenos aires in 1999 as retired argentinian federal justice agent benjamín espósito is writing a novel, using an old closed case as the source material. the case happened 25 years ago and it is one that he has never been able to forget. the film cuts back and forth between present day (1999) and the mid-70s as events unfolded.

while the case is at the heart of the film, this isn't a whodunit. in fact the mystery of the crime isn't that complicated nor is it the focus of the movie. really the crimes effect on the characters is what matters here. from esposito to his friend sandoval, their boss irene (who he has been in love with for 25 years) and the victims husband.

it was interesting, because it doesn't take them that long to figure out who actually committed the horrific crime. and as i watched, part of me wondered what the rest of the film was going to be about once they caught the guy. how would they drag out the rest of the film and what would be the point. well, the point was these characters and their relationships to each other and their search for some kind of truth and justice. there is no dragging here. and the film is also just so wonderfully put together.

from a pure technical view point the direction and editing are brilliant. the way campanella made many of the transitions between the scenes from the 70s and 1999 was sublime. in one scene irene and esposito are talking on the phone late at night in 1999 and he asks her is she wants to talk some more. she replies that no, she will just make some tea and try to fall asleep. cut to her hand stirring a tea cup in 1975.

that is just one obvious example and it might sound a little corny, but trust me when i tell you it is seamless and beautiful and it would sometimes bring a wry smile to my face in appreciation of some edit or transition that worked perfectly while also kind of being a little wink at the audience asking, "did you catch that?" the great direction and editing brought to mind another film that also does the back-and-forth many years apart thing so well. the french canadian film Le Confessional from director robert lepage.

juan jose campanella co-wrote, directed and edited The Secret In Their Eyes and he obviously had a strong vision (no pun intended) for this film, which he beautifully managed to capture in what has been presented to us, the audience, in the final product up on screen.


Ex Drummer

YEAR: 2007

WRITER: Koen Mortier (screenplay), Herman Brusselmans (novel)

DIRECTOR: Koen Mortier




dries is a famous writer. one day three losers ring his buzzer and ask him to be the drummer in their band. sounds like that could be the start of a funny, family-friendly rock and roll movie right? well, IT ISN'T! it is the start of the flemish film, Ex Drummer.

dries decides to accept their offer because he sees a great story/book in it. he sees the ability to manipulate and have fun with them as a way of generating his next work. now, while that starts to give you a sense of the dark tone of the film, a simple synopsis will not suffice or really give you any indication what you are in for when you decide to sit down and press play.

it doesn't take long to realize this isn't gonna be a "normal" film. after an opening monologue from dries we listen to him telling us about each of the three men that came to his home as we watch them in reverse moving away from his buzzer backwards along the path they took to get to his place as the credits for the film appear on various landmarks, people and items along the way.

the film straddles the line between reality and experimental cinema and it does it very well. you would think that a movie in which one of the characters lives upside down in his apartment (walks on the ceiling, while people in his place walk on the floor), and characters that die give a bloody post-death monologue/statement to the camera would have a hard time keeping itself at all grounded to any kind of reality. but, alas not. i will also tell you that you probably aren't going to like any of the characters and i don't think director koen mortier cares.

i didn't notice it the first time i watched the film, but in rewatching the opening, i noticed that the credit after the title is "an eyemotional film experience." and this pretty much sums it up. Ex Drummer is an experience.

while i do think calling it an experience is very appropriate, mortier does a great job of not letting the "experimental/experience" nature of the film and the film making to completely overpower the story. this isn't always easy to do. either the movie becomes completely form over substance or the film makers don't have the confidence in their "form" or "substance" to follow through completely and it feels half-baked on both counts. and say what you will about Ex Drummer, but there is no way one of those things you say will be "half-baked."

some things you could say though, would be: bloody, dark, violent, intelligent, gruesome, loud, sexual, disturbing and unrepentant. and just in case you skimmed the list and weren't paying attention, let me again mention bloody and violent. and this isn't hollywood violence where 30 guys get gunned down and another 20 get beat up and we sit there smiling digging into our bag of popcorn.

this is bloody, intimate and disturbing violence that confronts you in style and form. now, not all the violence in the film is that way and, if i think back over the whole movie, there really isn't a lot of it. but, the films climax - obviously the last thing i saw and so it is most on my mind - is really what i am referring to.

koen mortier is a director that had a vision for this film. a vision that is, to use an over used film critic term, uncompromising. it might be too much for some, but everyone who watches it is definitely in for an "experience." and in my opinion - a very good one.


2010 Oscar Predictions

WILL WIN are in bold 

SHOULD WIN (where i have an opinion) is underlined 

 Did Win are BIG 




MY SCORE: 17/24

well, the oscars have come and gone and i had an average go with my predictions this year. it wasn't my most impressive performance, but it wasn't awful either. where i messed up this year was with the shorts (animation, live action, documentary). normally i get at least one of those right and this time nothing. and then, missing both screenplay winners is just awful. but, i went  17/19 for the rest of the awards and a perfect on the top 6 categories which isn't bad.... so, how did you all do?

Best motion picture of the year
  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up In the Air
Performance by an actress in a leading role
  • Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
  • Helen Mirren (The Last Station)
  • Carey Mulligan (An Education)
  • Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)
  • Meryl Streep (Julie and Julia)
Performance by an actor in a leading role
  • Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
  • George Clooney (Up In the Air)
  • Colin Firth (A Single Man)
  • Morgan Freeman (Invictus)
  • Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
  • Matt Damon (Invictus)
  • Woody Harrellson (The Messenger)
  • Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
  • Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
  • Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
  • Penelope Cruz (Nine)
  • Vera Farmiga (Up In the Air)
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
  • Anna Kendrick (Up In the Air)
  • Mo'Nique (Precious)
Best animated feature film of the year
  • Coraline
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • The Princess and the Frog
  • The Secret of Kells
  • Up
Best Documentary Short Subject
  • China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
  • The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
  • The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”
  • Music by Prudence
  • Rabbit à la Berlin
Best Short Film (Animated)
  • French Roast
  • Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
  • The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)
  • Logorama
  • A Matter of Loaf and Death
Best Short Film (Live Action)
  • The Door
  • Instead of Abracadabra
  • Kavi
  • Miracle Fish
  • The New Tenants
Achievement in art direction
  • Avatar
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
  • Nine
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Young Victoria
Achievement in cinematography
  • Avatar, Mauro Fiore
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Bruno Delbonnel
  • The Hurt Locker, Barry Ackroyd
  • Inglourious Basterds, Robert Richardson
  • The White Ribbon, Christian Berger
Achievement in costume design
  • Bright Star, Janet Patterson
  • Coco before Chanel, Catherine Leterrier
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Monique Prudhomme
  • Nine, Colleen Atwood
  • The Young Victoria, Sandy Powell
Achievement in directing
  • James Cameron (Avatar)
  • Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
  • Lee Daniels (Precious)
  • Jason Reitman (Up In the Air)
Best documentary feature
  • Burma VJ
  • The Cove
  • Food, Inc.
  • The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
  • Which Way Home
  • Il Divo, Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
  • Star Trek, Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
  • The Young Victoria, Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore
Achievement in film editing
  • Avatar, Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
  • District 9, Julian Clarke
  • The Hurt Locker, Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
  • Inglourious Basterds, Sally Menke
  • Precious, Joe Klotz
Best foreign language film of the year
  • Ajami
  • El Secreto De Sus Ojos
  • The Milk of Sorrow
  • A Prophet
  • The White Ribbon
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
  • Avatar, James Horner
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox, Alexandre Desplat
  • The Hurt Locker, Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
  • Sherlock Holmes, Hans Zimmer
  • Up, Michael Giacchino
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
  • "Almost There" from The Princess and the Frog Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
  • "Down in New Orleans" from The Princess and the Frog Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
  • "Loin de Paname" from Paris 36 Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
  • "Take It All" from Nine Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
  • "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" from Crazy Heart Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Achievement in sound editing
  • Avatar, Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
  • The Hurt Locker, Paul N.J. Ottosson
  • Inglourious Basterds, Wylie Stateman
  • Star Trek, Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
  • Up, Michael Silvers and Tom Myers
Achievement in sound mixing
  • Avatar, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
  • The Hurt Locker, Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
  • Inglourious Basterds, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
  • Star Trek, Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson
Achievement in visual effects
  • Avatar, Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
  • District 9, Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
  • Star Trek, Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton
Adapted screenplay
  • Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (District 9)
  • Nick Hornby (An Education)
  • Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche (In the Loop)
  • Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious)
  • Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (Up In the Air)
Original screenplay
  • Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)
  • Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
  • Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman (The Messenger)
  • Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man)
  • Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy (Up)

Where The Wild Things Are/Away We Go

Year: 2009, Writer: Dave Eggers & Spike Jonez (screenplay) Maurice Sendak(book), Director: Spike Jonez, Budget: $80 million (estimated), Gross: $62,650,379 (as of November 1st, 2009)

Year: 2009, Writer: Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida, Director: Sam Mendes, Budget: $17 million (estimated), Gross: $9,430,988

so, i just finally got around to seeing Where The Wild Things Are and it was great. And, as i sat there watching the credits pop up at the end of the film i saw the name dave eggers appear as co-writer. eggers wrote one of my favorite books, You Shall Know Our Velocity, and i had totally forgot that he had written the script for this film with spike jonez.

it did remind me however, that he had written another screenplay and while i couldn't think of it at that moment sitting in the theatre, when i got home i imdb'd it and remembered that it was the sam mendes film that had been released earlier in the year, Away We Go. so, i sat down a couple days later and checked that one out as well. and i gotta say... bravo! to both films.

while i, like most people of my generation, had a fondness for the Where The Wild Things Are book, i went into the film not having read or looked at the book in many many years. so for me it was pretty much a clean slate. And, to see what spike jonez does with that slate, i don't know how anyone can't like this film.

it is funny and sad and dramatic and it will make you cry and laugh and imagine. and it will make you feel and smile and wonder. it never talks down to us or to the kids that might be watching it. in fact, you may have noticed that the advertising for the film was mostly playing to a young adult crowed as opposed to children.

the wild things are incredible. the costumes and the voice acting and the way they all move creates such a believability to all of them. they are true characters and you will love some of them and not like others.

the set design and art direction and the world that jonez has created here is spectacular. you feel like if you walked into the woods and walked far enough you too might come across the wild things and their world. and, on that note, i thought it was great that the wild things world is never discussed as fake or imaginary.

max gets there by boat and leaves by boat, but besides that the film makers and writers didn't feel the need to explain it all to us (i will admit i don't remember how it goes in the book). it is about us believing in it all the way max does and that just makes his experience and his return home that much more meaningful.

i hadn't planned this segway, but now that i think of it, Away We Go has a meaningful return home as well. the film is a great little romantic dramady that takes our main couple (burt and verona) on a road trip of sorts, as they try to decide where to make their life with their baby that is due in three months.

sam mendes, known from much darker and dramatic fare (American Beauty, Road To Perdition, Revolutionary Road...) does a really great job with this film and the script from eggers and vendela vida (eggers' wife) is great.

what i found interesting about the writing was that, based on the novel of his that i read, eggers' writing is very modern and witty and quick and hip, but that isn't the case for both Away We Go and Where The Wild Things Are. for both films he, and his co-writer, were really able to write for the characters and the story, rather then fitting them into a writing style or attitude. not to say both films aren't smart and witty and such, but they are so in the ways that fit each experience and film.

and finally i have to mention the casting of maya rudolph and john krazinski as the leads in Away We Go. i don't know if they were the first choices or not, but i will say that they should have been. they are both great at the comedic stuff - as one would expect - but the drama and the rest didn't phase them either. they also had chemistry - which, given the fact that they are in 99% of the film together really would be a deal breaker no matter how good the script and the directing was.

i'm sure at this point you have all heard of Where The Wild Things Are and either seen it or want to see it or have decided that you don't want to see it. Whereas, Away We Go hung around in the theatres for a couple months, but didn't do much. however, besides both having dave eggers attached to their screenplays, they are both really good films that you really should see.


C'est Pas Moi, Je Le Jure! (It's Not Me, I Swear!)

Year: 2008

Writer: Philippe Falardeau (writer) & Bruno Hébert (book)

Director: Philippe Falardeau


Gross: ?

i only heard about C'est Pas Moi, Je Le Jur! a little over a week ago. i was out at dinner with friends and one of them mentioned how she had seen this french-canadian comedy a few nights previous. she mentioned how she had watched the whole thing waiting for the "comedy" but it never came. but she also couldn't stop watching, because she was really enjoying it.

well, lo and behold i was home a few nights later around 6:50pm, flipping through my movie channels and what do you think i saw starting at 7 o'clock? you guessed it, C'est Pas Moi, Je Le Jur! i went and quickly made something to eat and at 6:59pm i was sitting in front of the tv ready to check it out. and am i glad i did. this film is great.

the film takes place in 1968. leon is a 10-year-old boy with some issues. he is like dennis the menace times 100. not only does he have a fertile imagination and is kinda suicidal. he seems to have no moral compass when it comes to his actions. especially when his unhappy mother decides to move to greece and he acts out even more.

while it isn't a laugh out loud family comedy, the film does have a dark sense of humor that permeates the film - as does a real deep and poignant sense of drama. the two are melded together beautifully into a film that, along with the music and the cinematography, creates a real mood and engagement in the characters and the story.

the film has many of the markers that one might expect: the rebellious kid, the fighting/unhappy parents, the girl next door, etc... but they in no way make the film predictable. leon's character goes farther than it is sometimes comfortable for the audience to go or what they might expect. thus keeping us "on our toes" and creating something familiar and original all in the same wonderful film.

french canada has a pretty strong film culture/industry and is well supported by its people. however, many of the films - with some exceptions of course - don't get past the border to reach a wider audience (even within the rest of the country). C'est Pas Moi, Je Le Jure! made quite a big splash at the toronto film festival and even picked up an award at the berlin film fest and is well deserving of said recognition outside of quebec.


Life Is Hot In Cracktown

Year: 2009

Writer/Director: Buddy Giovinazzo

Budget: ?

Gross: ?

those of you who listen to the podcast (and if you don't, you should) will remember in the last episode during the "upcoming dvd" segment when, among others, Life Is Hot In Cracktown was mentioned. I, like possibly many of you, had never heard of this film before, but i was intrigued at the time and decided to check it out.

Life Is Hot In Cracktown is an interesting film for me to discuss because i am of two minds about it... on one hand it was just another film about drugs and violence and people living in tough niebohrhoods - some trying to get ahead, some trying to get out and some just in it. however, on the other hand it didn't rely on all the typical markers for these kinds of films either.

the film takes us into an inner-city neighborhood as we follow about four different groups of characters and their stories. you got the gangster kid working his way up the ladder. you got the family with two drug-addicted parents and a young son who has to be the one to take care of his little sister. you got the guy working two jobs trying to study and save up cash to take his wife and kid out of this place. finally you got the guy and his pre-op transsexual wife... caught you off guard with that last one didn't i? well that is kind of how i felt about the film in general...

some of it was standard fair for the genre: sad and rough and "real", but then you got the transsexual which isn't something that you see much - or at all - in these films. also, while the film is called Life Is Hot In Cracktown, crack/drugs isn't an in your face character in the film (as is often the case with these films), but rather a more just constant more general character that effects most everything and every storyline in various subtle and non-subtle ways.

also, these films tend to have some sort of redemption aspect to them. the triumph of the human spirit or the will of people to overcome, yada yada yada... not so with Life Is Hot In Cracktown. not only do things not all work out in the end for any of the characters, but most of the story lines end before they are finished - if you know what i mean... certain story lines climax, while others take another direction, but we aren't privy to the "end" of any of them. which makes the film feel very much like a true slice of life experience. a moment in time for these characters with much more to come after we have stopped watching.

and some of the directions certain story lines are going seem even more interesting then those same ones had been up to that point. like the film was the character development and set up for what was going to happen after - expect we don't see the after. don't get me wrong though... i did like what i saw. but i also wanted to see what happened next with a couple of the character story lines. do i smell sequel? probably not, but maybe i should read the book that the film is based on and find out more that way?



listen to the podcast


Year: 2008

Writer: Nicholas Meyer (screenplay), Philip Roth (novel)

Director: Isabel Coixet

Budget: $13 million (estimated)

Gross: $739 357 (as of August 24th, 2008)

Elegy: a mournful, melancholy, or plaintive poem, esp. a funeral song or a lament for the dead.

the first film i saw from director isabel coixet was by accident.  if you remember when i talked about The Secret Life Of Words, i mentioned that i only saw it because my pvr recorded the wrong movie.  however, after watching it, i was very glad it did.  as for Elegy, this one i made a point to go see in the theater because of how much i liked The Secret Life Of Words, and similarly, after having watched it, i was very happy i did.

on the surface the film might sound like another old-professor-young-student movie, and i guess technically it is: ben kingsley plays the professor and penelope cruz plays the student.  however, the story isn't being used as a hook to get into some kind of stupid thriller or melodrama.  as with The Secret Life Of Words, Elegy is about the characters and the themes of love and age and death.

the film is a drama, and also similarly to the other film, it plays beautifully with silence.  yes, there is a score and plenty of music, but there are these moments of silence that coixet provides us with that stand out beautifully. she is also working with the same director of photography and while both films are well shot productions they do vary in their visual tone and movement dictated by the story and characters.

kingsley is having a very good year so far.  it was only a few weeks ago i talked about The Wackness and in that film, kingsley also plays an aging man with a high sex drive for younger women coming to terms with how he has lived his life and the fact that he is getting older. it might sound like type casting, but these are two very different characters and kingsley is again fantastic.

the film is based on a novel by philip roth, The Dying Animal. having not read the book i cannot talk to how the film compairs, but from someone who is not familiar with the novel, this is an easy recomendation, and a film worth catching for the few weeks it will probably be sticking around in the theatres. 


best and worst of 2006

everyone does one, so here are my top 10 best and worst films of 2006 - remember that the list is obviously only based on the films i have seen up to this point - (some of the films that i have not yet seen as i put this list together include: Pan's Labyrinth, Volver, Apocalypto, The Last King Of Scotland, Flags Of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima, Half Nelson, The Science Of Sleep, The Queen) - feel free to comment and post your lists

Don't Forget (best)                                            Forget  (worst)

1) Brick                                                              1) Black Dahlia
2) The Departed                                                2) All The Kings Men
3) Little Miss Sunshine                                       3) Ultraviolet
4) The Prestige                                                  4) Alpha Dog
5) Little Children                                                5) Art School Confidential
6) Borat                                                             6) Oh In Ohio
7) The Lives Of Others                                       7) V For Vendetta
8) Dave Chappell's Block Party                           8) Bobby
9) United 93                                                       9) Mission Impossible 3
10) Perfume: the story of a murderer               10) Miami Vice

11)Lady In The Water

don't forget (honorable mention): Hard Candy, Tristam Shandy, Thank You For Smoking, Nacho Libre, Children Of Men, The Road To Guantanamo, An  Inconvenient Truth, 13 Tzameti