Custom Search

February 25, 2010

Why is Mean Girls such a good movie?

Inspired by today's Facebook event, "National 'Mean Girls' Status Day," I've been thinking about what makes "Mean Girls" such an accessible movie. By most standards, it shouldn't be. First off, it stars Lindsey Lohan, and she has since pigeon-holed herself as a controversial Hollywood party girl with a bad acting reputation, and a seemingly endless array of embarrassing photos and career moves. But it's the other members of the cast that really make this a great ensemble comedy, and an unlikely hit for viewers like myself, a 22-year-old male.

I'm pretty sure I first saw "Mean Girls" when I rented it with my parents. I wasn't expecting much, and really had heard anything too great about it. From the very beginning, the idea behind the main character, Cady, was more interesting than I would've thought. A girl who has been home schooled her entire life, living with her research scientist parents in Africa, is thrust into an American high school at the age of 16 - the age when high school drama is all you know.

The stereotypes laid out early in the film are exaggerated, yet very easy to relate to. My favorite are the "sexually active band geeks," described in the cafeteria scene. The Mathletes - a group of nerds who compete in math competitions - has been used before in other films, or at least variations of the idea. And of course, "The Plastics," a term I've never heard before the movie, are the beautiful ones - the popular kids. This is a concept in high school movies I never really felt was realistic. My high school had over 3,000 students, with over 700 in my graduating class alone. So there weren't three girls who everyone knew everything about, and who were the trend-setters or constant owners of the spotlight. So when this stereotype is used, I usually become slightly less interested (see the group of super cool rebellious kids in "A Walk to Remember"). Here, however, this group of popular girls is so exaggerated and emphasized that it's hilarious. These vapid, dense, one-dimensional characters get all the attention from their peers, which makes you hate them, while laughing at them, and you also get a real sense of life as a 16-year-old immersed in the high school drama.

Based on the book, "Queen Bees and Wannabes" by Rosalind Wiseman, the screenplay for this film was written by Saturday Nigh Live alum Tina Fey (now a multiple Golden Globe winner for "30 Rock," which she continues to write for as well as star in). Fey, who holds the role of Ms. Norburry, Cady's nerdy math teacher, is just one of the hilarious ensemble members of the cast. Tim Meadows, also an SNL alum, is the schools Principal, Mr. Duval, and some of his one-liners have helped make it a memorable movie. Not to mention the movie's co-star, Rachel McAdams ("The Notebook," "Sherlock Holmes") as queen-bee of the Plastics, Regina George. Her minions; Gretchen (Lacey Chabert) is a leach, and a gossip-professional, and Karen (Amanda Seyfriend, who has starred in the film adaptation of "Mamma Mia!," and is from my area back home) is a complete idiot. These two never allow a scene to go past without a laugh at their air-headed tendencies.

What's really interesting about "Mean Girls" is how much of it was originally intended for an older audience than it was received by. References to sex, though they never go too far, are very apparent with Regina's mom offering her and Shane a condom while they're making out, and herself saying about Aaron, "I was half a virgin when I met him." Other sexual references were cut from the final version of the movie, including Karen talking about how Gretchen has previously slept with Jason, and a rumor in the Burn Book that one of the girls had masturbated with a hot dog (in the movie, it said she made out with a hot dog...which doesn't make any sense). In the party scene at Cady's house, we never see what the kids are drinking, though Cady does throw up at one point, and Janis asks if they drank "awesome shooters." Still, it's never made clear that they were definitely getting drunk, but since the movie ended up targeting a younger audience (kids who were actually in high school) it probably had to make changes to avoid a higher rating.

So that's my reasoning behind why I received "Mean Girls" on dvd for Christmas from my girlfriend during my first year of college. In my mind, it's a comedy classic full of great one-liners and possibly the only really well-done comedic look at high school and all the drama it contains.

"Half the people in this room are mad at me, and the other half only like me because they think I pushed somebody in front a bus, so that's not good."


February 3, 2010

Why "Titanic" is better than "Avatar"

A real post? Don't worry, it still has to do with awards...

So I've been trying to figure out why "Avatar" has been doing so well at the box office. I mean, it is a great film. But why? Why is it about to break the all-time box office record, previously set by "Titanic" in 1997?

Hype: "Titanic" is a movie like no other. Everyone and their mother (literally) has seen it. When it hit theaters, those young and old went to see it. A film that spans all age demographics is impressive, and I can't say I know of any other film that has done this. "Avatar" sure has a lot of hype, but I can assure you my grandmother isn't going to see it. Now to achieve this box office record, "Titanic" was in theaters for months longer than most films. In fact, I've read that it was re-released into some theaters after awards season, and it came out on video while it was still out in theaters. That's the kind of demand it had.

Award Recognition: "Titanic" was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, and it won 11 of them. Both of these are records that have yet to be broken by any film. "Avatar" can never beat this, as it was only nominated for 9. "Titanic" won every technical award (minus Best Makeup), Best Picture, and Best Director, and it was nominated for two acting awards, including Best Actress (Kate Winslet) and Best Supporting Actress (Gloria Stuart...the old lady). "Avatar" has been nominated for its technical categories, which it clearly has earned, and Best Director and Best Picture. No acting awards.

So why are James Cameron's movies so technically advanced?:
Because he goes over budget. "Titanic" was the most expensive movie ever made in the 20th century. Its budget was $200 million. Whatever went over the studio's original budget (a lot), Cameron paid out of his own pocket. He wanted to make "Avatar" in 1999, but the special effects he wanted would have cost an astounding $400 million. So he waited. Now, its estimated budget was $280 million. But where did all that money go? "Titanic" was filmed on a ship. Much of this ship was a giant set built for the film. It cost more than the actual Titanic did. They built a set and recreated a historic tragedy. "Avatar" is 60% CGI. Cameron spent so much time directing the background and the imaginary planet that he didn't focus enough time on the characters or the story. Some of the characters are very one-dimensional and many argue that the overall plot itself rips off of environmentally-conscious kid's films like "Pocahontas" and "Fern Gully." Sure, he wrote both films, and he had a lot of historical basis for "Titanic," but the heart of the story, which was Jack and Rose's love affair, was fictitious. A great piece of believable, entertaining fiction. "Avatar" is a sci-fi action film with political/environmental undertones. Smart? Maybe a little. But still, it's not "Titanic," and I don't think it deserves the Best Picture nom its received, not to mention the Golden Globe for Best Picture: Drama that it won.

So there you have it. James Cameron's two most successful films, matched side by side, and everyone knows the clear winner. So let's let inflation and 3D prices take the top of the list, it doesn't mean it's any better of a movie. I mean seriously, try to explain to me how "Avatar" is better than "The Dark Knight." That's can't.

"I'll never let go..."

My Predictions weren't too far off...

Academy Awards nominees were announced yesterday, and here's how close my predictions came:

note: what's listed is just what I didn't include in each category

Best Picture:
-District 9
-The Blind Side
-A Serious Man

Honestly, I never thought "The Blind Side" would end up on this list. I was also wrong in assuming the Cohen brothers wouldn't be seen too much but no, here they are in the Best Picture list; a category they often visit, but not as often win. These additions, as well as other nominees don't really matter. It's all between "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker."

Best Director:
-Lee Daniels, "Precious"

The one director I thought would be missing, and there he is. He was definitely missing for the Golden Globes, but oh well. He's here now and that's what counts.

Best Actor and Best Actress were spot on. Go me.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
-Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"

I should probably see this movie. But then again, he's not gonna win.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
-Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Crazy Heart"

Need to see this one too.

Best Original Screenplay:
-The Messenger
-A Serious Man

The Cohen brothers again. Haven't seen "The Messenger." And "Up" is a bit of a surprise.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
-In the Loop (I've never even heard of this)
-An Education

"An Education" is a nice addition to this. To tell the truth, it's hard to decide what a good adapted screenplay is if you haven't read the original material.

Biggest let downs: No recognition whatsoever for "(500) Days of Summer." Plus I've already mentioned my distaste for the over-crowded Best Picture category. Okay, even Oscar talk. Winner predictions when it gets closer (they air March 7).


February 1, 2010

Preparing for the Oscars (Nominee Predictions)

Alright, I know my posts have mostly been about awards, but that's because I created this blog at the beginning of award season. Plus, I haven't had a lot of time to write reviews of the movies I've seen lately. I'll get on this soon.

However, tomorrow the Academy Award nominees will be announced. So I feel the need to give my predictions for who and what will be nominated. Now it's fairly easy when looking at typical Academy precedent, and also the nominees and winners of every other award show that's happened this year. So here goes:

Best Picture:
(extra hard this year since there will be 10 nominees...dumbest thing ever)
-The Hurt Locker
-Inglourious Basterds
-Up in the Air
-The Lovely Bones
-An Education

I'm really pulling for "An Education" to make the list. I feel very strongly that "Up" has no place on this list, considering it's a shoe-in for Best Animated Feature. It's not fair to take up the spot another feature film could have, but it'll probably happen. Bringing back this 10 movies idea is just a way to include movies that weren't nominated for any other category, making them awkward to have in the Best Picture category, when we all know they won't win.

Best Director:
-James Cameron, "Avatar"
-Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
-Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"
-Clint Eastwood, "Invictus"
-Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"

Usually it just mirrors the Best Picture list, but since there are 10 in that category and only 5 in this one, it's a bit tougher. This is the exact list of nominees for this year's Golden Globes, and I just realized that in that running, Clint Eastwood was nominated thought "Invictus" wasn't. Rather, "Precious" was a Best Picture nominee and not Lee Daniels for directing it, though he deserves as much.

Best Actor in a Leading Role:
-Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
-Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"
-George Clooney, "Up in the Air"
-Colin Firth, "A Single Man"
-Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"

Same as the Globes list for the Drama category, though I replaced Tobey Macguire with Jeremy Renner based on his nominations for other awards, and though I haven't yet seen "Brothers," I think Renner's performance deserves a nod. And notice, for once Daniel Day-Lewis might not be on this list.

Best Actress in a Leading Role:
-Meryl Streep, "Julie and Julia"
-Carey Mulligan, "An Education"
-Gabbie Sidibe, "Precious"
-Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"
-Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"

I honestly don't understand how Sandra Bullock won a Globe for "The Blind Side." Not that it was a bad movie or a bad performance, I just don't think it was award-worthy, and I really don't think it's Oscar material. I'm pulling for the unlikely Sidibe in "Precious," and the deserving Mulligan in "An Education." Streep has some pull beacuse, well, she's Meryl Streep.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
-Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"
-Stanely Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"
-Matt Damon, "Invictus"
-Alfred Molina, "An Education"
-Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"

Just give it to Waltz. I must say these guys all deserve it (though I can't speak for Harrelson. Haven't seen that one yet). Molina was not nominated for a Golden Globe, but he was for other awards. He's the only one I'm not certain will be on this list.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
-Mo'Nique, "Precious"
-Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"
-Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air"
-Penelope Cruz, "Nine"
-Julianne Moore, "A Single Man"

I dunno. This is also copied right from the Globe list. I've only seen "Precious" out of this list, but Mo'Nique won the Globe and she deserves the Oscar.

Best Original Screenplay:
-Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"
-Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, "(500) Days of Summer"
-Mark Boal, "The Hurt Locker"
-Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, "Away We Go"
-Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, "The Hangover"

"The Hangover" because I guess it deserves something, "(500) Days..." because it was fantastic, and the "Away We Go" because it was also fantastic. Long shots I guess, but I stand by them.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
-Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, "District 9"
-Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious"
-Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, "Up in the Air"
-Nora Ephron, "Julie and Julia"
-Scott Cooper, "Crazy Heart"

Self explanatory I guess.

So my list doesn't include Daniel Day-Lewis or the Cohen brothers, and I like it that way. Diverse, I guess. Though it has Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep - two names that never seem to leave the nominee list. I'm upset that "Where the Wild Things Are" hardly got noticed at all for the fantastic and imaginative adaptation that it was. Oh well. Nominees will be announced tomorrow so we'll see how I did.

Nominees for The Razzies are out. Some terrible films made that list, and they've also listed nominees for Worst Movie of the Decade. Superb.

That's all for now. More on the Oscars soon.