Billy Soistmann

Archive for the ‘What I Watched This Week’ Category

What I Watched This Week (March 14-20)

In Features, What I Watched This Week on March 21, 2010 at 7:17 PM

This week, I filmed my school’s production of High School Musical (not my choice) and took the SAT, and both of those took up a lot of my movie-watching time. I was only able to catch one film, but it was a good one. I also got a writing gig over at Atomic Popcorn, which is awesome, so this week turned out well.

3/14 – Revolutionary Road (2008): This movie first entered my radar when it was nominated for several Oscars last year, but I never got around to see it. Last Sunday, I caught it on HBO and was impressed. It is very well-told story about struggling to break free of suburban hell. I’ve never liked this whole idea of the “nuclear family” and suburbia in general, so I can identify with the main characters. Through a bad series of events, both reveal their flaws and this eventually leads to their downfall. RR is a tragedy in the purest sense. The directing was, unsurprisingly, great, but the acting was superb. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio really own their characters. Overall, this was an excellent film.

3/15The Art of the Steal (2010): I traveled up to the Bryn Mawr Film Institute to see this documentary with a discussion afterwards with the director Don Argott and producers. It also happened that some of the main interviewees in the film were also at the screening. It was an extremely well-made, albeit one-sided account of the struggle to “save” the Barnes Collection, an immeasurably valuable collection of modern impressionist art that currently resides in Lower Merion, PA. I loved the movie and you can see my full review over at Atomic Popcorn.


What I Watched This Week (Mar. 7-Mar. 13)

In Features, What I Watched This Week on March 14, 2010 at 3:23 PM

This week, I filmed my school’s production of High School Musical (not my choice) and took the SAT, and both of those took up a lot of my movie-watching time. I was only able to catch one film, but it was a good one. I also got a writing gig over at Atomic Popcorn, which is awesome, so this week turned out well.

3/7 – The Last Station (2009): This was the Oscar-nominated film I caught before the ceremony. It stars Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, and Paul Giammati and focuses on the final year of Leo Tolstoy’s life. I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I expected too. It was an excellent story about life and love, that wasn’t sentimental at all. It was shot well, and featured excellent acting, especially from Mirren. Through the film, McAvoy’s character is caught in a debate between Tolstoy’s wife (Mirren) and an admirer (Giamatti) over who should receive the copyright for Tolstoy’s work. We go along with him as he learns a lesson about devotion and following your heart. Overall, it was a great movie.

What I Watched This Week (Feb. 28-Mar. 6)

In Features, What I Watched This Week on March 7, 2010 at 1:09 PM

This week, I caught up some more on some of the Oscar films that I had missed. Now, I’m ready for the ceremony tonight. I’ll have more thoughts on that shortly.

2/28 – The Messenger (2009): This movie had a great concept – The Casualty Notification Service of the US army has the painful task of informing families that their loved one has been killed in action. Will (Ben Foster) is assigned to the task force, lead by off-kilter Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), after being injured in Iraq. It was excellent film, and a great début for director Oren Moverman, but nothing extraordinary. Harrelson was fantastic. He came across as a stoic force, but revealed that there was more to his character beneath the surface. I did not enjoy the cinematography. The camera zoomed in way to much, and most of the time, for no apparent reason. In any case, the story was moving and the acting supported it excellently.

3/1 – Crazy Heart (2009): This film is about a character, not a story. There is a definite plot, but really Crazy Heart is a character study of Bad Blake, a washed-up country music star. Jeff Bridges carries this film through an impressive performance as the aging alcoholic loner. A Best Actor Oscar would not be undeserved. However, you can’t forget the supporting cast – Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, and Robert Duvall all give excellent performances. The film also captures a sense of wandering desperation through its cinematography. The points of focus always seem to linger toward the edges of the frame. The final great part about this film is the music. From beginning to end, the music brings the story to life as Jeff Bridges performing his songs himself. Overall, this was a great film about a lone man and his struggles, not only with career success, but also with love and alcoholism.

What I Watched This Week (Feb. 21-Feb. 27)

In Features, What I Watched This Week on February 28, 2010 at 2:20 PM

Wow, another slow movie-watching week. I really have been running short on time these past few weeks. This week, my Mock Trial competition got in the way, and I spent most of my time prepping for that. I had hoped to get a review of each Best Picture Nominee out each day leading up to the awards, but I’m going to have to post two-a-day starting March 1st. Anyway, I’ll be busy working on those ten reviews, so this coming week will probably be another movie-scarce week.

2/18 – An Education (1971): This was the final Best Picture nominee that I hadn’t seen. Overall, this was an excellent film. The characters are real, and the journey that the main character goes through is enlightening, albeit a tad disappointing in the end. This movie was shot beautifully and features terrific acting from the entire cast. Look for my full review next week during my Best Picture Countdown.

What I Watched This Week (Feb. 14-Feb. 20)

In Features, What I Watched This Week on February 21, 2010 at 2:21 PM

This was a slow week for my movie viewing. I’m not sure what happened, but all-of-a-sudden the week flew by. In any case, I was treated to two very special theater-going experiences this week: Seeing Shutter Island at midnight and catching all 10 of the Oscar-nominated short films on the big screen.

2/18Macbeth (1971): I watched this in my high school English class over the past two weeks. What a horrible way to view a film. I cannot really make an accurate judgement after watching this film in several parts. (And the VHS was pan-and-scan, which bugs me to no end!) Overall, I didn’t like this movie. I guess it’s the language, but the acting seemed so unnatural and the overall feeling of the movie was silly. However, the ending of the movie was excellent. Starting with the shot of Macbeth looking into the distance at the approaching army, I don’t know how, but the movie was actually very good. That is the only reason I’m giving this 3 stars.

2/19 – Shutter Island: I saw this at midnight and I’m certainly glad I did. What an amazing film. (And it my first Scorsese picture on the big screen.) I loved this movie, see my full review.

2/20The 10 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Once again, Theatre N, my local independent theater came through and showed all 10 of the Oscar shorts in one day. What a delightful experience. Read about my thoughts on each one specifically here.

What I Watched This Week (Feb. 7-Feb. 13)

In Features, What I Watched This Week on February 14, 2010 at 2:48 PM

This week, I focused on Oscar-nominated films that I didn’t have a chance to see earlier. I also had a lot of time to work on more writing for the near future while I was snowed in.

2/7The Cove: What an amazing documentary. This film combines traditional fact-based doc reporting and a thrilling narrative to great effect. See my full review.

2/8The Blind Side: I was surprised to see that this film was nominated for Best Picture, as were many film buffs, but I decided to see it before I passed judgement. In short, it was a good film, but definitely not one of the best of the year. Look for a full review next week when I will be reviewing all the Best Picture nominees.

2/10Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire: This movie has gained heavy buzz since it won both the Grand Jury Prize for drama and the Audience Award  at Sundance last year. I finally was able to see it, and it met my high expectations. The film has such an emotional affect – it is nothing short of amazing. Again, look for my full review leading up to the Oscars.

2/11A Serious Man: The Coen Brothers do it again. This film is another genre-bender that combines comedy and drama. In addition, the questions that this film asks about the meaning of life and suffering are very intriguing. I loved this film; look for a full review the week before the Oscars.

2/13Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief: I had no idea I was going to see this film, so I enjoyed going into it with virtually no knowledge beforehand. This movie had potential to be an awesome romp through Greek mythology, but was betrayed by a terrible script. Despite its shortcomings, I did enjoy the film. See my full review.

What I Watched This Week (Jan. 31-Feb. 6)

In Features, What I Watched This Week on February 7, 2010 at 12:11 AM

I got to see a lot of movies this week. After kicking off my 1,000 films challenge with The Rules of the Game and getting distracted by all the Oscar nominations on Tuesday, I watched Julia on Netflix Instant Watching. Yesterday, we were hit with an enormous snowstorm, so I went out and got a few Redbox movies to watch while I was stuck in the house.

1/31 – The Rules of the Game: When I kicked off this blog at the beginning of the month, I declared my goal of seeing every film on They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?‘s list of the 1,000 Greatest Films of All Time. My first movie of the list was #3, The Rules of the Game, directed by Jean Renoir. It was an excellent film. I enjoyed the story and was surprised at how timeless the comedy was. After more than 70 years, the same things are still funny. Most Renoir’s criticisms of the social elite can still be applied today. It was also a great story of star-crossed lovers. I was surprised to find that the best performance in the film (Octave) was given by the director himself! Although I recognize the film’s significance in cinema and thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m not sure if it should be given such a high ranking. Only time will tell, though. I still have 906 movies to go!

2/3Julia: Kidnapping children is always a bad idea. In Julia, the main character (you guessed it – Julia), decides to help her friend steal her child back from her father-in-law. The plan doesn’t go well and Julia bonds with the child, despite her malicious intentions. This movie is held up entirely on Tilda Swinton’s magnificent performance. I don’t care about the technicalities, she was robbed of the Best Actress Oscar.

2/5Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: So, Pixar isn’t the only studio that can make good computer-animated films. “Cloudy,” produced by Sony Pictures Animation, is a thoroughly enjoyable family film. The story is formulaic, yet inventive and the visuals are great. I love how the movie knows that it is a cartoon, so the characters aren’t even trying to be real. James Caan’s character doesn’t even have eyes (kind of)! The lovable main character, Flint Lockwood, is an amateur mad scientist, who never gets anything right. Although most of the film is aimed at a young audience, I still enjoyed it. The tone is very tongue-in-cheek and you can tell a lot of fun was put into this movie.

2/5 – The Brothers Bloom: I absolutely loved this movie. See my full review.

2/6The Soloist: I almost don’t like this movie at all. Let me explain: As a general rule, I don’t like movies based on true stories, especially ones in which the main character is a journalist writing a story, which will then be turned into the film you are watching. I never like that writer character, except when he is Robert Downey Jr. Up until around the hour-and-a-half mark, I was on the fence about this movie. I liked the characters, but the story was not intriguing at all. And then the ending won me over. Overall, the plot was very uneven. The flashbacks did not feel complete, and the middle of the film felt rushed. However, Jamie Foxx and Downey Jr.’s performances save the movie from complete disaster. Foxx is incredible as the fast-talking, schizophrenic master cellist and Robert Downey Jr.’s character really grows as a person and those are the keys to the film.

What I Watched This Week (Jan. 24-Jan. 30)

In Features, What I Watched This Week on January 31, 2010 at 1:27 PM

Wow, what a crazy week. This week was Spirit Week at my school and stayed busy preparing for my class’ skit on Thursday. Our teachers attacked us for stealing ideas and we had to fight back. It was ugly, but our skit was amazing. Anyway, I haven’t had time to watch much this week. I can’t believe I only watched two films!

1/28 The DepartedMartin Scorsese is the man. Watching this movie, you can see how much fun it must have been making it. I’m not sure if it deserved Best Picture, but Scorsese definitely earned Best Director. Every shot in this film is awesome. Sometimes, it seems a little over-the-top, but something visually interesting is going on the entire time. The acting in this film is also superb, with Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg, and Vera Farmiga all giving great performances. This film solidifies DiCaprio as one of the greatest actors of his generation. The plot, although not entirely new (especially considering the film is a remake), keeps moving through quick, funny dialogue.

1/30Julie and Julia: I’m on the fence about this movie, so let’s first talk about the good: Meryl Streep is excellent as Julia Child. She embodies her all the way down to her mannerisms and body language. The dual plot structure was interesting and worked well. Now for the bad: This movie doesn’t feel complete. By the end, Julie (Amy Adams) hasn’t learned anything. I mean, she got through the book, but that’s about it. She didn’t learn a lesson or become a better person, in fact, she probably just became more self-centered. So, this movie is enjoyable, but very unsatisfying. Thinking back on it, I just don’t see the point. The story was interesting, but, to reiterate, it was just incomplete.

What I Watched This Week (Jan. 17-Jan. 23)

In Features, What I Watched This Week on January 24, 2010 at 3:39 PM

Welcome to my new feature, What I Watched This Week. The idea is simple: Every Sunday, I list all of the movies (not TV shows) I’ve seen that week, whether it be in the theater or at home. With each movie will be either a short reaction, thought, etc. or a link to my full review. So, what did I watch this week?

1/19 Juno: I finally got around to seeing this on Blu-Ray and, wow, what a great movie! I was blown away with how touching this film is. Although I was put off by the over-the-top dialogue at the beginning of the film, I loved it by the end. I’m not sure how that works, but after ten minutes I was laughing out loud. And Ellen Page’s nomination for Best Actress was definitely not unwarranted. This film was moving and hilarious at the same time, with fantastic performances all around. (Literally everyone in the cast is great!)

1/22Bass Ackwards:This film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival yesterday, but, unfortunately I was stuck watching it on YouTube. It went better than I expected though, and I enjoyed the movie. See my full review.

1/22Duplicity: I was not very interested in this movie. I mean, the smart spy/thriller angle appeals to me, but the trailer pushed the romance angle between Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. However, I really liked it. To start with, the opening credits were hilarious and beautiful at the same time. In fact, the entire movie was shot and edited masterfully. Another strong point was the banter between Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, who had excellent on-screen chemistry. The plot wasn’t too original and the mystery didn’t pay off as well as it could have, but overall, Duplicity was a very enjoyable, well-crafted spy thriller with a good love story.

1/23Up In the Air: I saw this film last night after all the Oscar buzz it has been getting and it doesn’t disappoint. Easily one of the best films of the year. Watch for my full review later tonight in the near future.