Monday, December 6, 2010

Can a Good Film Have Only Bad Performances?

At a panel interview with the Hollywood Reporter Mark Ruffalo and Jesse Eisenberg compared David Fincher’s shooting technique – one in which he shoots many takes – to that of legendary director Stanley Kubrick. After the comment, actor Robert Duvall commented that Kubrick’s films contain “the worst performances I’ve ever seen.” He did add that they may be good filmsbut he still thought the acting was terrible.

I currently do not subscribe to the Hollywood Reporters online service so I do not have access to the full quote. You can read more about it on The Onion AV Club here.

I have no interest in criticizing Duvall’s comments (interviews can cause people to simply say things) or point out the great performances Kubrick got out of the likes of Kirk Douglas, Peter Sellers, and Malcolm McDowell – to name a few. What does interest me is whether or not a “great” film can exist with poor performances from its principal actors.

One common thread in modern film criticism is to point out individual actors that give excellent performances in lesser films. Popular recent examples include Kate Winslet in The Reader, Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, or Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart (hmm…all Oscar-winning performances). However, it is very rare for critics to praise a film while dismissing the principal performances.

Kevin Smith’s Clerks finds itself in this small group. While Smith wasn’t working with then professional actors, Brian O’Halloran (Dante) and Jeff Anderson (Randal) give sometimes hard to watch performances relative to their performances in the sequel. Each performance is there to reiterate the script, which is interesting considering a popular rumor that Smith never allowed his actors to improvise – a myth he dispelled in the comic-con panel for Zach and Miri Make a Porno. That being said, Clerks is a hilarious film. From its release to this very day, its’ refreshing dialogue opens viewers to a unique brand of comedy and dialogue.

As charming as Smith’s first film is, there is something special about a movie that combines a compelling story, interesting idea and excellent performances. Nearly all universally praised films like Goodfellas or Casablanca are exalted for their themes, technique, and story, directing and yes…acting. These are also all rated higher on iMDB than Clerks. While this can’t be taken as gospel, (movie criticism is subjective…imagine that!) audiences clearly recognize certain films as being “complete,” in this regard.

It’s very rare for a film to earn praise without at least one solid to astounding performance. It’s definitely more common in first films like Clerks or Darren Aranofsky’s Pi. It’s certainly possible, however a poor performance can go a long way to pull viewers out of a film.

What do you think? Are there any films you love that don’t have any especially great lead performances? Is it possible for a film to be great but not have a single good performance? Post your thoughts in the comments below or share them on Twitter @audible_motion.

Also be sure to check out my Gaming blog “Eyes Open, Thumbs Down” at

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Down on the Boardwalk: Why the Show That Couldn't Fail Left Viewers Wanting More

No new show was built higher... and made to fall farther than HBO's Boardwalk Empire. Even as the highly anticipated premiere approached, a small stream of negative buzz and backlash began to surface. I first saw the ads for the new series as I sat down for The Pacific Steve Buscemi's line of pure exposition was fresh and exciting at the time and the proposition of seen Michael Pitt do some serious mainstream work was promising.

The hour and a half long pilot won praise from both the critics and audiences alike. The show averaged 4.8 million viewers - a record for HBO and enough to warrant renewal for a second season. And why not? HBO treated its viewers to the latest feature length production from none other than the man who brought us Goodfellas, Mean Streets and The Departed. The show couldn't possibly fail. But it did...sort of.

While the first episode made great use of the show's elaborate rendition of the Atlantic City Boardwalk with the bustling fanfare of Dixie bands, side-shows and carnival games, the second episode was much quieter focusing more on character interactions than place.

This was to be expected as it’s the pilot episodes job to introduce us to the show's Who, What, Where, and When - it's also worth noting that second episodes are shot well after pilots, and Boardwalk is no exception. Now that the show is nearing the end of its inaugural season (and significantly lower ratings), it's clear that the first episode was vastly different from what the show turned out to be.

In a B.S. Report interview with Lost producer Carlton Cuse, host Bill Simmons asserted Lost would be the last show of its kind and the days of the big budget network drama were over. Simmons also said the television drama will transform to a series of interpersonal interactions, often indoors and between no more than three characters. HBO's newest drama couldn't represent that transition more clearly.

With this transition, show's such as Boardwalk Empire will serve only to confuse viewers who don't give it a chance. This isn't the epic look at the emergence of organized crime that audiences thought it would be but a small examination of a place and time leading up to The Great Depression and what some will do to make sure they don't fall victim to a very prevalent lower-middle class.

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

It Makes Me Blu

*Sorry for the extended delay. Along with some issues with school I've taken on an internship at Summer of the Arts so I have to dedicate the majority of my time.*

I recently picked up the new Toy Story Blu-Ray's, excited to finally enjoy two films from the end of my childhood (before explosions and four letter words were necessary to entertain me in my teen years). While I definitely got a solid deal on the pair of films, I was also forced to pay for the DVD versions of the films, which will never see the light of day. I also noticed the DVD versions are also sold with the Blu-Ray version, making the size of the box, the only difference.

More studios are including DVD and Digital Copy versions of their films with a Blu-Ray release and while I understand the need to reach a wider audience with the high-def format but I have some problems paying for more than I want and different studios are taking different routes.


Overall the least offensive of the studios and part of that has to do with their market. As a company that specializes in family entertainment and few households have one blu-ray player and it probably doesn't sit in the kids playroom. Throw in the DVD player that sits in the family minivan and the standard-def inclusion makes sense...for those who want the option.

Pixar's Up is one of my favorites from last year and also one of the prettiest. I'd love to pick up a copy in glorious 1080p but unfortunately the only option for blu-ray owners is to drop around $30-35. The "four disc" set include a blu-ray copy of the movie, the blu-ray special features, a dvd version of the film and a digital copy. Before the DVD combo pack was a big hit, Pixar's previous entry Wall-E came with the blu-ray disc, a second disc for blu-ray special features. Customers also had the option to buy the film with a digital copy but i gladly ignored.

If Disney is intent on keeping its DVD combo packs for a long time, (and it appears they are), then they should consider abandoning digital copy. Or make a special dvd version that can be copied to a computer one time. I don't know if it would save the consumer money but it's worth a shot.


MGM is the newest studio to sprain their ankle by jumping on the multi-format bandwagon by releasing and re-releasing some of their blu-ray catalog with a DVD version.

The studios must really be worried that people didn't make the leap to Blu-Ray last holiday season the way they all bought HDTV's. I only ask that they don't increase the price to an already expensive new format.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Oscar Spectacular!

Alright everybody here it is...the same thing that every magazine, newspaper, and self-proclaimed critic with a blog is posting this week. I'm sorry for the dead time. I will go into who should win, who will win, The Dark Horse and who the academy missed. Keep in mind I haven't seen The Blind Side or Crazy Heart so i won't have much to say about those films.

Best Actress In A Supporting Role

Who Should Win: Monique for Precious-It seems like the supporting categories are always sure things and this year is no different. Monique manages to create arguably the worst mother on film, and then gets a bit of the audiences sympathy from the monologue near the end of the film.

Who Will Win: Monique for Precious-Like I alluded to before, this one is no contest. However, the other reason she will walk away with the trophy is because it will be the films only award that evening.
Dark Horse: Anna Kendrick for Up In The Air-Who knew the tightly wound girl from Rocket Science was this good? She was as close to a foil for George Clooney's character as possible and the heart of the film.

Who Was Snubbed: Melanie Laurent for Inglorious Basterds-Arguably a lead performance but the film is an ensemble piece so she belongs here. Her performance helps save what could've been the boring non bastard part of the film and makes it the best part of the movie.

Best Animated Film

Who Should Win: Up-The 3D glasses got misty in the first 10 minutes but I'm not giving the award for just that scene. The rest of the film was just as good.
Who Will Win: Up-It's Pixar and the movie is really that great.

Dark Horse: The Fantastic Mr. Fox-I haven't seen the film yet but it stands out enough to give it a shot.

Who Was Snubbed: Monster's vs. Aliens 3D- I really enjoyed this funny and charming film that had a surprising amount of substance.

Best Actor In A Supporting Role

Who Should Win: Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Bastards-If you haven't seen this brilliant performance yet, what are you doing reading this?

Who Will Win: Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds-This is a runaway. Nothing else comes close.

Dark Horse: Woody Harrelson for The Messenger-This year is for Woody Harrelson what last year was for Robert Downey Jr. (albeit to a lesser extent). I haven't seen this one yet but I haven enough faith in Harrelson that im gonna call this.

Who Was Snubbed: Peter Sarsgaard for An Education-Even though I knew where the film was going, I was still taken with his charm. I was also surprised at how well his accent came through.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Who Should Win: Nick Hornby for An Education- A great script from Hornby, who may in fact be one of the best writers of his generation.

Who Will Win: Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner for Up In The Air-I believe the Academy is in sync with me on this one. The film is going to get shut out of every category so they'll give it to this heartwarming picture.

Dark Horse: Nick Hornby for An Education-Another case where a great and highly acclaimed film will be shut-out come Sunday night.

Who Was Snubbed: Peter Morgan, David Peace for The Damned United-Great story, and structure. Helped make a sport i have little to no interest in, well interesting.

Best Original Screenplay

Who Should Win: Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds-Honestly, it wouldn't stand a chance up against most of the scripts in the adapted category but compared to it's competition, it's the clear front runner - and if Avatar win's for being "Original," it will be a rough night.

Who Will Win: Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds-This award is often given to the third runner-up (Eternal Sunshine). While The Hurt Locker is an academy favorite (and one of mine) it's screenplay isn't as defined as Bastards.

Dark Horse: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen for A Serious Man-Sadly, I think the Coen's film will go home empty handed come Sunday night but then again the Academy loves the Coens and they may just get away with this one.

Who Was Snubbed: (500) Days of Summer - My pick for snub of the year but all that aside - The structure and dialogue blew me away.

Best Actress in a Lead Role

Who Should Win: Carey Mulligan for An Education-What a discovery! It's one thing to act as a child and adult but to be a child who thinks shes an adult? Brilliant.

Who Will Win: Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side-Bullock is one of those actors whose appeal isn't a mystery to me but the way women absolutely LOVE her is a little unclear to me. Again, clearly a favorite in an overall weak category. Should win no problem.

Dark Horse:Gabourey Sidibe for Precious-As a white, upper middle class male from the Chicago suburbs, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to connect with the lead character or the film for that matter. Sidibe drew me in and blew me away. Even with a weaker category this year, I'm bummed she isn't getting the hype she deserves.

Who was Snubbed:
Zooey Deschanell for (500) Days of Summer-This is the role Deschanell was born to play. Not only does she play a Manic-Pixie Dream Girl but she plays a parody of one as well.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Who Should Win: George Clooney for Up In The Air-There should be an asterik on this one as I've only seen two of the performances nominated (Clooney and Renner). However I did really enjoy Clooney here and whenever he retires, this will be one of the roles we remember him for.

Who Will Win: Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart-I haven't seen the film yet but Bridges seems to be the runaway favorite. It may be a bit of a life time achievement award but its well deserved.

Dark Horse: Jeremy Renner for The Hurt Locker-Anyone who can show both sides of an Iraqi soldiers persona and do it seamlessly deserves some recognition. I just can't see him withstanding Clooney or Bridges.

Who Was Snubbed: Joseph Gordon-Levitt for (500) Days of Summer- In The 40 Year-Old Virgin Paul Rudd speaks about love. "
Of course it's horrible. It's suffering and it's pain and it's... You know, you lose weight and then you put back on weight, and then you, you know, you call them a bunch of times and you try and email, and then they move or they change their email, but that's just love. " Joseph Gordon-Levitt captures all of this perfectly and it's a shame he won't be recognized.

Best Director

Who Should Win: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker-Bigelow really surprised me here as I never thought the woman behind Blue Steel and K19: The Widow Maker, would make a film like this. Credit is also due for putting together a movie about Iraq that doesn't suck.

Who Will Win:
Jame's Cameron for Avatar-I've ignored, and had a few jabs, at James Cameron's epic thus far. I should be clear that I actually enjoyed the movie despite all its flaws. Let's face it Jimmy Cameron knows how to put together an action sequence and the last hour is a perfect example. Also, the Academy isn't gonna leave the Navi without their own little tree of life.

Dark Horse: Quentin Tarantino for Inglorious Basterds-He won a writing oscar in 1995 but one of today's most iconic directors still hasn't won for his work behind the camera. It'd be nice if the academy made this write but unfortunately the competition is too heated.

Who Was Snubbed: Marc Webb for (500) Days of Summer-If it isn't clear, I loved this movie and first-time feature director Marc Webb did an exceptional job with the popular dance sequence, and the split screen scene. Again the competition is steep but a nod would have been nice.

Best Picture

Who Should Win: Inglourious Basterds (Lawrence Bender)-What better film to win best picture than one that has such a love for other movies. Yes, this is the film geek in me speaking but very few films get better with multiple viewings. Besides, Tarantino is due.

Who Will Win: The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicholas Chartier, Greg Shapiro)-A great movie regardless of any of the recent criticism of the films depiction of soldiers or Bigelow's out spoken political agenda behind the film. It had me on the edge of my seat the way very few other films did and everyone else is finally taking notice.

Dark Horse: Inglourious Basterds (Lawrence Bender)-The way the ballots are made this year actually hurts films that are heavy favorites (Avatar & The Hurt Locker), making room for movies like Basterds to pull the upset. Still, bomb squads in Iraq and giant blue smurfs may be just to big to stop.

Who Was Snubbed: (500) Days of Summer-Even with ten nominations, the academy still gets it wrong. The closest thing we will ever come to a modern day Annie Hall.

Bonus Snub: Stu's Song from The Hangover for Best Original Song-If the academy really wanted to get ratings for the telecast, they would've let Ed Helms tickle the ivories for this hilarious song.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Audible Motion Now on Twitter.

Hey everyone just wanted to let you know Audible Motion now has a Twitter page at . So now all two of the readers don't have to come to Blogger to see if there is a new entry. This isn't a personal feed but dedicated only to this blog. Just go to

Mass Effect 2: The Best Movie of 2010?

*Note: I normally don't discuss video games on this blog I am an avid gamer and as you will see there is a reason for this venture away from my normal medium.*

January is typically the dumping ground for movies that had promise on paper but failed to
warrant the money required to promote a prestige film. The same is usually true for the gaming industry, the prestige games (a.k.a the big sellers) all come out in time for the holiday season.

However the big story in gaming this last year was a number of delays on some major titles like Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake, and of course Mass Effect 2 all of which are currently slated to come out in January or early spring.

Chances are you've saw commercials for Mass Effect 2 during yesterday's playoff games and if you knew nothing about the game before hand, you may have thought it was the first of the studios line of Avatar rip-offs.

Yes there is little to no game play footage in the in ME2's ad campaign but this is due to the same reason the game is advertised during a mainstream sporting event on network TV. For you see, Bioware's sequel is a role-playing game, also known as an RPG, a genre that usually draws images of World of Warcraft players like these guys.

Unlike World of Warcraft, the Mass Effect games have a story, and that's an understatement. The characters are as well developed as any Oscar winning picture. There are moments in the first game where the player has to make decisions that decide which characters live and which die. More importantly the decisions are some of the most difficult in any game due to the commitment to story.

Finally, that brings me to the games cut scenes, which in most games are are more stiffly acted than any of the Star Wars prequels. Not only are these better acted but the gamer can seamlessly choose Commander Shepard's dialogue choices. Take a look:

So if you have a roommate or are planning on getting the game yourself. Make some popcorn, because you'll have one hell of a story to watch.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What Do Last Nights Golden Globes Mean For The Best Picture Oscar? Nothing!

Last night's Golden Globe's gave us few revelations; Ricky Gervais is HILARIOUS and should host every awards show possible, the trendy TV Comedy will always win (although I do like Glee), and Avatar is apparently the best movie of the year. The last of these however is kid stuff compared the Oscars, the Grand Daddy of them all.

The statement that the Golden Globe winners foretell the Oscars has lost nearly all of its relevancy when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that there will be ten best picture nominations this year. However, there are important things to keep in mind when looking at this years Best Picture race:

1. The Golden Globes differentiates between Comedy/Musicals and Dramas-In the past there is usually one spot reserved in the five Best Picture Oscar spots - think colllege basketball's conference tournaments that lead up to the national brackets (see Sideways or Little Miss Sunshine). So by that rule The Hangover would have a lock on the fifth Best Picture slot. However, any of the other Comedy/Musical Nominees are more the Academy's flavor. Given the now 10 nominees, there will now be a couple of spots for comedies. What it means: The Hangover, (500) Days of Summer, and It's Complicated/Julie & Julia will get a nomination-non of which will win.

2. History has shown the winners for Best Picture-Drama rarely match with the Oscars-The Hours, The Aviator, Brokeback Mountain, Babel, Atonement-all movies from the past decade that won Best Picture Drama and failed to win the best picture Oscar. We can put an asterik on The Hours as Chicago won best Comedy/Musical and the best picture Oscar that year. Avatar's win was certainly disheartening, not because its a bad movie but it was in much better company thankfully the odds are still stacked against it. What it means: Per usual, all of the nominations for Best Picture-Drama will carry over to the Oscar's Best Picture Race.

Other factors due to the 10 Nomination rule:

Animation now has a say...kinda-So if you're keeping score my predictions for the nominees leaves 2 slots available. One is pretty much reserved for anything Pixar cranks out that is better than Cars or even A Bugs Life. So Up is a lock. However this poses a predicament for animated films in general. Back in the day, an animated film that makes it into the coveted category is one in a million (in fact only Beauty And The Beast has done it). However, no animated film will ever win the award. So here's the gist: Any animated film that's nominated with nine others for best picture IS the best animated film in the Academy's eyes. Therefore the Animated category loses its prestige as it is actually awarding the second best animated film of the year.

The Mysterious 10th Spot-Here it is the 10th spot left unfilled. If the academy used this slot for the popular Documentary or Foreign film of the year however odds are it will go to a wild card movie like last year's The Dark Knight. Otherwise it could go to another indie film that failed to get some earlier awards love like A Serious Man or District 9.

My roommates can attest that I was upset over Avatar's big win last night however its important to keep cool and remember the Golden Globes mean less than ever in terms of the Oscar race.