Peter Sellers stars as Chauncy, who, up until his eviction from his wealthy employer’s home, has never been outside the house, never been in a car, never learned how to read or write, and never learned how to exist without television. When Shirley MacLaine and her billionaire husband take Chauncy in, he becomes a celebrity through some twists of fate. Even though this film is mostly a drama, Sellers’ performance as the naïve Chauncy is so convincing that at times, funny moments surface because of his simplicity. Sellers might have honed his comic skills in the Pink Panther films, but he succeeds here as a serious actor who takes bold chances.

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Once in a while a movie comes out that takes you totally by surprise. That’s what The Barbarian Invasions did for me. I’m not that big into foreign films. So, when I put the DVD in, it was mostly reluctantly. For 99 minutes, I was entranced with the story and the characters. I fell in love with the seemingly unlikable father who, even in the hospital, surrounds himself by his former mistresses. The friends that come to gather around him are a group of vibrant, quirky souls that have small enough roles not to interrupt the main story but who add color while they are on screen. The relationship between the father and his son is the heart of the film and what a believable, realistic relationship it is. There is no canned, Hollywood dialogue here…just two people who have been estranged for a while and are forced together by difficult circumstance. A good film for anyone who is a son, daughter, or even a parent because the film is filled with so much realism that situations like this could occur in anyone’s life.

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The Aviator is a good film. It is the kind of film that has epic qualities…large scope, vast landscapes, array of characters, historical, romance, action, drama…things that Lawrence of Arabia and more recently, Braveheart have. But, an epic by Martin Scorsese is guaranteed to have at least one other thing…quality. Basically a biopic of billionaire Howard Hughes in his early movie-making and piloting days, Scorsese choose Leonardo DiCaprio to play his Hughes…and even though my feelings are highly mixed on DiCaprio (basically, I don’t like him as an actor), I admire how Scorsese uses DiCaprio in this film and the chances the actor takes with the role. Though DiCaprio is good, what makes this film a grand epic is the way Scorsese shot it. When Hughes is working on his Hell’s Angels film, Scorsese is able to capture both of determination of Hughes and the danger of the stunts on the screen. Yet, when Hughes’s character retreats into himself and shows the first stages of the recluse he will become in later years, Scorsese also captures that using his camera…the inner pain and turmoil of Howard jumps out at the audience, even though often there is no dialogue to indicate that. In recent years, Scorsese has steered away from making personal films about New York and/or Italian-Americans, such as his earlier works like Raging Bull, Mean Streets, and Goodfellas. Even 2002’s The Gangs of New York, though about his hometown, felt less personal and more epic in scope. The Aviator might not be Scorsese at his best, but I would take his “epic” films any day of the week over some other films out there.

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A fledging office clerk finds out the hard way that getting to the top of the corporate ladder is not easy after he falls for a lady he is unknowingly sharing with his boss. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is. It’s not the plot that makes The Apartment a masterpiece…it’s Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray and director Billy Wilder all working together to make one of the best comedies ever. Or is it one of the best dramas ever? Some of the funniest movie moments ever are captured in this film…just as some of the darkest are as well. Before this, Wilder had proven he could excel at any genre of filmmaking…out-and-out comedies, dramas, thrillers, romances, and even other dark comedies (Stalag 17). With The Apartment, Wilder really sealed his mastery of cinema by combining most of those genres to make one fabulous film. Sadly, this is his last great public or critical success. Talk about going out with a bang!

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Writing this on June 3, 2005, the whole world now knows the identity of the mysterious “Deep Throat.” Having that newly revealed information does not diminish the impact of this film. Neither does knowing the outcome of the story. People flocked to see Titanic even though that outcome was also infamously known. The ending…or resolve…of All the President’s Men really is not the reason to watch it. Watch it for everything that leads up to the finale of Nixon as president—the detailed investigative reporting, the danger, the deadlines, the fear of incomplete information…or inaccurate information…the threat of losing jobs and even lives while covering this story. All of those pieces make this film about a very well-known time in American history a taut, fast-paced thriller. Yes…thriller. A movie about Nixon and Watergate and reporters and reporting is a thriller…all with an ending that is not a surprise to viewers? Hard to believe, I know, but nonetheless true. From start to finish, this film is packed with tense, exciting moments…all while making investigative journalism look like the coolest profession outside of taste tester for Ben and Jerry’s. The famous book that this film is based on, by then-Washington Post up-and-coming journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (who is now an editor at the Post), is dryer and more dense. The movie takes all of the many facts and details of the book and lays them out in a complex, tight structure that makes us sit on the edge of our seats.

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When you watch a film that, within the first ten minutes, makes you laugh so hard you can’t catch your breath, it’s a sign that it’s going to be a pleasant cinematic experience. This film, though, knows it’s funny…knows it’s WAY over-the-top…and knows that the audience is either going to love it or be offended by its touchy subject. This “touchy” subject matter deals with three homosexual men…one transsexual and two transvestites. They, for lack of a better term, are drag queens. They get a job to perform several hundred miles from home and accept it…finding a broken-down bus to get them there. As I said, this movie KNOWS it’s dealing with campy material and truly makes the most of it. These drag queens are flamboyant…outspoken…raunchy…not politically-correct by any means (can a drag queen be politically correct?). And the plot and the dialogue cater to this flamboyance. I would almost call this film a musical because of all of the production numbers…some “gay” films try to steer away from the stereotypical ideal that all gay men love dancing and performing, but this film not only doesn’t steer clear from musical numbers, it gives new meaning to the term “outlandish.” Yes, the subject matter is touchy so I guess I should “advise” some to stay away, but I think that it is a film that, no matter what your personal, political, or religious views are, you will still be able to find the humor in it. At least I hope so. My suggestion is that if you don’t like to laugh, just stay clear of this one.

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It looks like there will be more Best Picture nominees come Oscar time. That will change all the Oscar contests! See the Press Release from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences below.

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82nd Academy Awards® to Feature 10 Best Picture Nominees

Beverly Hills, CA (June 24, 2009) — The 82nd Academy Awards, which will be presented on March 7, 2010, will have 10 feature films vying in the Best Picture category, Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis announced today (June 24) at a press conference in Beverly Hills.

“After more than six decades, the Academy is returning to some of its earlier roots, when a wider field competed for the top award of the year,” said Ganis. “The final outcome, of course, will be the same – one Best Picture winner – but the race to the finish line will feature 10, not just five, great movies from 2009.”

For more than a decade during the Academy’s earlier years, the Best Picture category welcomed more than five films; for nine years there were 10 nominees. The 16th Academy Awards (1943) was the last year to include a field of that size; “Casablanca” was named Best Picture. (In 1931/32, there were eight nominees and in 1934 and 1935 there were 12 nominees.)

Currently, the Academy is presenting a bicoastal screening series showcasing the 10 Best Picture nominees of 1939, arguably one of Hollywood’s greatest film years. Best Picture nominees of that year include such diverse classics as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Stagecoach,” “The Wizard of Oz” and Best Picture winner “Gone with the Wind.”

“Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize,” commented Ganis. “I can’t wait to see what that list of ten looks like when the nominees are announced in February.”

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2. The Oscar® ceremony honoring films for 2009 will again take place at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.

http://www.oscars.org/press/pressreleases/2009/20090624.html

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Fun and pure entertainment, this film won not only audiences around the world with its grifts and cons, but it won the Academy over as well, taking home the Best Picture Oscar. Newman and Robert Redford are back together (after Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, along with director George Roy Hill (also a Butch Cassidy alum), for some high stakes shenanigans. The duo play two small-time conmen looking for that one magic job that will move them into the “con” hall of fame and set them up for life. A clever script and great performances by all…including Robert Shaw as one of the con-ees…makes this movie one of the best in its class.

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I honestly didn’t know what to expect here, other than Kate Winslet falls for a young boy. And that is just the tip of this one. For me, this film stayed with me for days…it lingered and I kept thinking about certain issues from the film that the main character, Michael Berg, has to contemplate. It is a movie that gets not only the brain going but it makes the audience wonder, what would I do? I kept wondering even days after seeing the film, did the character make the right decision. What would have happened if he had done this…or that? It is not a perfect film and I found parts of it a little too slow, but for the most part, The Reader is a fascinating exploration into the psyche.

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A powerful film that, being a child of the mid-70s, taught me what I missed about the gay rights movement. Set in San Francisco, Milk depicts the rise of Harvey Milk, a gay local store owner in a predominately gay area of San Francisco. When laws begin to get in the way of their freedom, Harvey and his large circle of friends protest and Harvey goes as far as wanting to run for public office. It takes some times, but he does succeed. Milk features a slew of excellent performances, mostly notably by Sean Penn, who shines here like he never did before, in my opinion. No matter what your politics, see this one for the cast and the wonderful work everyone does here.

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