Friday, April 5, 2013

5 for the Fifth: or, my personal answers to Ruth's five questions of the month

I wanted to participate in Flixchatter’s ‘5 for the Fifth’ for some time now, but I keep getting preoccupied and next thing I know it’s the sixth.  Today just felt like the perfect time to participate, and so I hope Ruth approves of my taking the initiative to turn my answers into an actual post and not a mere comment on her page.  You can reference her post at the above link, and please leave her a comment with your answers.

In remembrance of one of the greats, she opened her post with a question regarding Roger Ebert.  His passing yesterday was a shock in a way, but sadly it was something we should have been expecting for a while now.  His condition had been steadily getting worse, and while it is tragic to lose such a profound voice in the world of cinema, I am comforted (and I’m sure many others are as well) to know that he will no longer suffer as he has been for so long.

Ruth’s question was as follows:

What’s your fondest memory of Mr. Ebert?

In all honesty, I have to say that my fondest memory would be the day I was first introduced to Ebert.  It isn’t that until that moment I hadn’t heard of Ebert or read a review of his, but I still remember the day that I took full notice of this man.  I was getting dressed.  It was December, 2004.  I was in a hotel room in Florida with my wife.  We were on our one year anniversary visiting Disney World (pre-children) and I was scrambling to get ready when I heard someone talking about ‘Phantom of the Opera’ in television.  The movie was about to be released and my wife and I were planning on seeing it at the theater by the hotel.  I stopped what I was doing to listen to his input on the film and I remember being baffled that he didn’t care for the source material.  In fact, I was borderline enraged.  LOL.  I tried finding the video of his review, but I couldn’t.  I did find his written review, which is practically what I remember him saying.

So, why, you may ask, is my fondest memory a disagreement?  Well, it isn’t a disagreement entirely.  I agree with a lot of what he said about the film.  It only works from a visual perspective and the depiction (and god awful performance) of the Phantom himself is completely off and practically tanks to entire movie.  I still disagree with his assessment of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sensational musical, but I think therein lies one of the greatest things I’ve learned from Ebert.  You don’t always have to agree to respect the opinions of a fellow cinephile.

The way that Ebert worked his way around a review was something special.  They were always so personal and he made them feel special.  I’ve tried to mirror this quality in my own reviews, giving a little piece of myself in order to help the reader appreciate WHY I feel a certain way about a certain film.  At the end of the day, films mean different things to different people, and personal connections to material plays a big part in our appreciation of that said film.

Words of wisdom that I’ve always lived by when viewing and reviewing a film could be found uttered from Ebert’s own lips; "I prefer to evaluate a film on the basis of what it intends to do, not on what I think it should have done."

There is no denying that he will be sorely missed.

Ruth’s second question centers around a subject I broached here a few days ago; that of Pixar’s latest entry in their catalog of cinematic ventures, ‘Finding Dory’.  We all know how I feel about this.  To reiterate without writing a paragraph; I think ‘Finding Nemo’ is Pixar’s greatest film and I don’t want this to let me down, but I fear it may.

That said, Ruth’s question is:

Now, which character (either in a live action/animated feature) would you like to see getting a spin-off treatment?

This was easy.  I mean, I’ve been pondering developing my own spin-off for this character since first seeing ‘Toy Story 3’ because, for me, it would be such an opportunity for Pixar to do something remarkable.  Yes, I’m talking about Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear.  There are few villains in the history of animated films that have such a richly outlined backstory that I think deserve to be even further developed.  Yes, I want a prequel.  I want a film that develops Lotso’s personality from lovable snuggle buddy to young Daisy to heartless thug, because we all know that slippery slope wasn’t as instantaneous as implicated in the film.  Pixar could really make something profound and iconic out of seeing this character all the way through.  Yes, I know that a children’s film ABOUT the birth of a villain (especially one without redemption) is a bit of a stretch and a gamble at that (not sure I’d let my kids watch it) but maybe Pixar could branch out and make an animated film for adults.

Or they could go the ‘Ted’ route and make this an R-rated live action film for adults.  This way they could make Lotso as ruthless as they want.

Ruth’s next question is one I find fascinating because it really doesn’t have a clear answer.  Yes, everyone is going to answer differently, and that is the joy of movie watching and movie discussion. 

What exactly is a perfect movie?

French.  That was easy.  Back when I reviewed this past year’s ‘Declaration of War’ I noted a few of the reasons I consider French cinema the best of the best.  Here is a snippet of my review:

Embodying the best traits of French film (and every reason I consider it superior to all other film), `Declaration of War' is an astounding feat in modern filmmaking.  `Declaration of War' is one of those films that offers a complete package, and few films really do that with such pitch-perfect ferocity. Not only is this a deeply moving experience, one layered with genuine emotion whether it be pain or joy, but this film is lathered with style that helps elevate every scene. From the sequences layered in musicality that add a choreographed jovial quality to the humorous theatricality of the family depictions and the playful repartee between Romeo and Juliette, `Declaration of War' oozes with style that feels genuine and necessary to progression of film. But that style never overwhelms or takes the place of the film's obvious substance. This is, above all else, the story of a family's struggle to understand and then ultimately cope with tragic circumstances.

For me, there is something special about French film, especially those that draw from the New Wave feel that was created (or at least championed) by the great Jean-Luc Godard (my personal favorite director).  The way that serious material can be approached with such life and such style without ever draining from the core themes presented takes serious guts (it’s a risky payoff) and talent (obviously).  Take a look at Francois Truffaut’s masterpiece ‘Jules et Jim’ (my favorite film of all time).  There are few films that have been able to make me smile, laugh, cry, tense up and all around give of myself the way that this film has done because it is that rare mix of serious drama and humorous style that creates such an organic experience.  I’ve often referred to French cinema as ‘jovial’, because there is this air of comfortableness that permeates the scenes and leaves this smile on my face, regardless of the dramatics.  I feel at home in their arms, and thus respond favorable to their message.

From ‘Jules et Jim’ to ‘Band of Outsiders’ to ‘Diva’ to ‘The Girl on the Bridge’ to ‘A Christmas Tale’ to ‘Declaration of War’, French films have continued to be the reason I love the movies!

Ruth’s next question concerns yet another vampire movie.  I’m so tired of this trend to be honest.  Vampires were never really my thing to begin with, but Hollywood has beat this subject to death, especially with regard to these bizarre romance movies concerning the undead.  I mean, I was at Barnes and Noble the other day and say three book CASES devoted to ‘Teen Paranormal Romance’.  Seriously, what the hell!?!?  Still, Ruth’s question is very specific and it involves the trailer for ‘BYZANTIUM’.

What do you think of this project?  Will you be seeing this one?

This may shock you, after the above paragraph, but I WILL BE SEEING THIS, and I’ll tell you why.  Neil Jordon!  I’ve mentioned here a few days ago that I hope to be wrapping up my 1992 Fisti Awards this month, and I gave a rundown of the 1992 Best Picture nominees in February and so we all know how perfect I think ‘The Crying Game’ is.  In fact, Neil Jordon is a director I respect and admire in a pretty big way.  Sure, he isn’t littered with hit after hit, but his big moments are moments I remember VERY fondly.  He reminds me in a way of Ridley Scott, a director who has a great range and capability in various genres, and while he hasn’t delivered masterpiece after masterpiece, his finest moments are nearly unmatched.  ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘The Crying Game’ and ‘Ondine’ are brilliant pieces of filmmaking that speak to a true visionary behind the lens.

This trailer looks ravishing.  The span of centuries, the production design, the costumes and overall pace, not to mention the amazing Saoirse Ronan (LOVE THIS GIRL) has me completely stoked for this film’s release. 

Lastly, Ruth brings up the current obsession with Benedict Cumberbatch.  I personally was very impressed with him in ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, but the fact that I have never seen an episode of ‘Sherlock’ leaves me at a disadvantage with his newfound fame.  I just don’t know enough of him to care yet.  Apparently he’s joined onto Guillermo Del Toro’s new ‘Crimson Peak’, which is a haunted house film starring Emma Stone.  To be honest, I couldn’t care less.  Haunted house films are even more unnecessary than vampire movies, so I’m probably going to pass.  Ruth’s question was two-fold though, and here is the second part: 

Which TV-actor would you like to see get his/her big break on the big screen?

I’ll be honest; I don’t watch a lot of television.  I do watch reality TV, but I don’t really want to see any of them on the big screen.  I mean, I’ve seen enough of the ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ contestants try their hand at acting to want to see it happen ever again.  Still, for a few seasons I was hooked on ‘Glee’ and I even wrote a piece on Max Adler over a year ago.  I still strongly feel that this kid is TALENTED, and despite the fact that I haven’t watched ‘Glee’ since season three started, I long to see more of Adler.  So, that is my pick.  You can look back at that post for more reasons as to why.

So there you have it Ruth.  My answers to your ‘5 for the Fifth’.  I hope you approve!  Here’s to hoping I remember to do this again next month.


  1. Awesome Andrew!! I'd be perfectly happy if you just give me a mere comment on my post but I'm thrilled that you actually made a post with your answers, so THANKS for this!

    Ahah, it's funny that you mention Ebert's review of POTO, which I happen to appreciate despite its flaws. I didn't catch his review the first time around but I'm glad you linked it here. "In this version, any red-blooded woman would choose the Phantom over Raoul, even knowing what she knows now." Ahahaha, that's funny! It's so true as that movie is when I fell madly in love w/ Gerard Butler, so I vehemently disagree w/ your assessment that it's a 'god awful performance.' I LOVE POTO's music, it remains one of my favorite musicals and I've seen it on stage 3 times. I even saw the follow-up Love Never Dies, though it didn't quite live up to POTO. In any case, I'm no longer a big fan of Butler due to his recent role choices but I will always be a fan of his sexy performance as Phantom, as he conveys the pathos of the character, despite how chiseled his 'good' side of his face is :D

    Hmmm, I like Toy Story but out of all their characters I'd like to see getting spun off, I don't think Lotso would be one of them.

    I like your conviction about French films being your idea of perfection. I actually haven't seen too many of them but out of those I've seen I really do enjoy them. Still need to see ‘The Girl on the Bridge’ as someone just mentioned it not too long ago.

    I did like Interview with the Vampire but generally I'm not familiar w/ Neil Jordan. So you like Ondine huh, I should give that a rent as it's on Netflix streaming. I like what you said about Ridley Scott, he's one of my fave directors.

    Now, I'm the one who's baffled as I never watch Glee. Benedict is indeed very good in TTSS, but yeah, Sherlock was his breakout role.

    THANKS again for this Andrew, I really enjoy reading your answers. I'd love it if you do it again next month, ahah. I'll pop over and let you know about it, it's always up on the Fifth ;)

    – ruth

    1. Thanks Ruth! It was great fun, and I can't wait to do it again. I'll actually be out of town on the 5th of May, but June 5th I'll surely be checking in and doing this :-D

  2. I think I actually discovered Ebert when I was on vacation in Myrtle Beach in the summer of 2003. I caught an episode of Ebert & Roeper in which they reviewed Pirates of the Caribbean, and I was hooked. He just seemed so likable and knowledgable, and I've enjoyed reading his reviews ever since.

    A Lotso spin-off? I'm intrigued…

    I love how you describe French cinema as "jovial". I think that nails the spirit of it.

    1. Seriously, I'm contemplating penning the Lotso screenplay and sending it to Pixar.