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Battle Royale, the film blog where Lodians can be honest, engaging

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Jason Wallis

Dan Evans

Rich Hanner

Posted: Friday, September 17, 2010 1:38 pm

No review this week, which is just as well since I’d sooner sell all my non-vital organs than sit through even 10 minutes of “Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D.”

Instead, I wanted to take another opportunity to talk about Battle Royale, our new movie blog that is set for launch next weekend. I’ve touched on this before, but since we’re actually ready to go now (after several set-backs, all of them my fault), I thought it prudent to fill in a few more details about what to expect — and give a brief introduction to our lineup of writers, which includes myself; my very film-savvy fiancee, Heather Heslop; our chief photographer, Dan Evans; and our esteemed editor, Rich Hanner.

Next week we’re back to reviews with a look at “The Town,” Ben Affleck’s directorial follow-up to his masterful “Gone Baby Gone.” I’m trying — but failing — to keep my expectations at a reasonable level.

Let’s get ready to rumble!

When I say, with the utmost seriousness, that Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone” is the single most assured and impressive debut by a director since Orson Welles gave us “Citizen Kane” nearly 70 years ago, do you feel compelled to set me straight? When I say that Adam Sandler should stop making comedies, but deserved an Oscar as best actor for “Punch-Drunk Love,” do you have to fight the urge to send me a profanity-laden e-mail explaining that I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about?

I suspect the answer to such questions is an emphatic “yes.” The fact is, no matter your age or race or gender or background, everyone has some pretty strong opinions about movies. And more so than any other topic, movies provide us with the best avenue to hone our argumentative skills, to engage one another on an intellectual level, and just have a fun time going ’round and ’round. It’s not like religion or politics or other sensitive subjects — I could call you an easy mark for liking, say, “The Reader,” and in return you could call me a culturally inept buffoon, and ultimately there would be no hard feelings. After all, they’re just movies.

It is in this spirit that we offer Battle Royale, your one-stop battleground for all things film-related. Now, it won’t all be arguments and debates. Things will start off kinda slow as we get situated, but eventually you’ll find your usual assortment of reviews (both short and lengthy), “best” and “worst” lists, industry commentary, DVD recommendations, general thoughts on the passing scene, etc. But all this will be predicated on the idea of interaction — not only amongst the News-Sentinel contributors, but also amongst you, the readers. Discussions don’t even have to be rooted in disagreement; wouldn’t it be cool to just sit around swapping reasons why this movie is great, or why that actor should be dragged into the street and shot?

Of course, we have to keep things relatively civil. There will be no serious name-calling, no malicious intent, no disruptions of any kind. We recognize that a blog devoted to film debate is bound to create a few waves, but “fun” is the name of the game here, folks, so let’s keep it that way.

So, without further ado, I present to you some brief profiles on our contributing writers. I’ll start things off:

Jason

Three favorite movies (in order of preference): “Chinatown,” “Jaws,” “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

Film that best represents the artistic possibilities of cinema: “Apocalypse Now.” Pure insanity captured on film. A movie — perhaps the only movie — that truly transcends the medium.

Favorite filmmaker: Quentin Tarantino.

Worst movie of all time: “All the Real Girls.”

Five general “likes” in film: Well-choreographed and edited action sequences; awareness of genre history; carefully crafted mystery; great things done with small budgets; memorable movie poster art.

Five general “dislikes”: Budgets over $100 million; by-the-numbers Oscar bait; Stephen Daldry; boring action movies; Julia Roberts.

Credits love of movies to: My parents, especially my mother. She used to watch classics with me all the time, when most mothers would have been content to plop their kid down in front of “Fraggle Rock” and do their own thing. I will be forever grateful. Also, I was a nerdy kid with few friends, so by the time I was 10 I was waist-deep in Bergman and Kubrick. So that helped.

Most encouraging trend in contemporary filmmaking: The continued artistic and financial successes (not to mention influence) of both Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino, proving that mainstream audiences do, in fact, have an appetite for structurally complex, visually engaging, purely visceral filmmaking. Sends a nice message to Hollywood whenever one of their films does well.

Most discouraging trend: I think it’s still gotta be the “opening weekend” obsession that has taken over the industry these past 10 years, completely changing not only how films are marketed and distributed, but indeed how they’re made, from the ground up.

Dan

Three favorite movies (in order of preference): “Lost in Translation,” “(500) Days of Summer,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”/“The Royal Tenenbaums.”

Film that best represents the artistic possibilities of cinema: Not “Avatar.” It’s not a single film that best represents the industry’s artistic possibilities, but an entire classification of films. Low- to moderate-budget indie films constantly step beyond the status quo, telling stories in new ways, from “(500) Days of Summer’s” reality-versus-expectations split-screen to every second of “Antichrist.”

Favorite filmmaker: Wes Anderson.

Worst movie of all time: “Gag.” I honestly can’t describe how bad this hernia-inducing “Saw” ripoff is to the extent that it deserves. The acting is atrocious, the story is beyond forgettable, and the production quality is along the same lines as a movie made by junior high kids using a 1990 VHS camcorder. Just awful.

“Likes”: Soundtracks that support the film rather that just create background noise; open endings (in most cases); adult humor in “kids” movies (Pixar has perfected this); “rampaging” (a technique used during sequences in Zach Snyder films — “Watchmen,” “300” — in which motion is slowed at the start of the action and then sped up beyond normal speed at the peak of the action); non-linear storytelling.

“Dislikes”: Hey, leading lady/guy in the horror movie, if the Jason/Freddy/Micheal Myers/etc. character is temporarily incapacitated and you have the gun/axe/chainsaw/etc., don’t just walk away. Cut his dang head off! Finish the job! That flesh wound you gave him on the shoulder isn’t going to stop him; “the twist is multiple personalities”; modern spoof movies; “Americanizing” foreign films; rampant remakes and reboots. 

Credits love of movies to: The internet. There are many, many films I would have never watched without the Internet. The Internet has given us all access to films we would have never known about without it — from Apple Trailers featuring trailers from the most limited-release indie films to Netflix with its seemingly endless collection of movies. And with message boards and social networking, little-known films can be made popular. Just one person mentioning a film can snowball a film from obscurity to cult-classic status.

Encouraging trend: None. Hollywood spends far too much time focused on trends, and that is how we ended up with an industry of endless reboots, remakes, and 3D insults to filmmaking. The originality of indie films should be praised.

Discouraging trend: 3D. Even in these early years, storytelling has already begun to take a backseat to 3D effects. “Avatar” is the perfect example. A completely unoriginal story was praised because people were blinded by the special effects.

Rich

Three favorite movies: Hard to boil it down, but three I admire are “The Battle of Algiers,” “Lord of the Flies” (original by Peter Brook) and “No Country for Old Men.” A more traditional threesome: “The Godfather, Part II,” “The Last Samarai” and “Citizen Kane.”

Film that best represents the artistic possibilities of cinema: “West Side Story.”

Favorite filmmaker: Francis Ford Coppola.

Worst movie of all time: “The Lincoln Conspiracy.”

“Likes”: A strong story; a director who knows how and when to take chances; smart dialogue that’s aimed at adults, not teenie-boppers; evocative characters; effective soundtrack.

“Dislikes”: Gratuitous violence; reliance on special effects instead of storytelling; frenetic editing that’s geared toward video-game obsessives; grossly predictable storylines; over-indulgent directors.

Credits love of movies to: Their singular ability to capture humanity in all of its glory and imperfection.

Encouraging trend: The ascent of worthwhile documentaries.

Discouraging trend: The ascent of mindless sequels.

Heather

Three favorite movies (in order of preference): “Gone With the Wind,” “Open Hearts,” “Marie Antoinette.”

Film that best represents the artistic possibilities of cinema: “Moulin Rouge.” It’s like a ’50s musical on steroids, but more romantic, stylish and provocative. It also tends to get better on repeat viewings to musical nuts like me.

Favorite filmmaker: Tim Burton.

Worst movie of all time: “Ginger Snaps.” I’d heard so many people talk about how awesome a film this was, so I gave it a try a few years ago and I couldn’t even finish it. It’s one of those films that is latched onto by a generation of pseudo-rebellious youths who find themselves rejected by society and most peers, and instead of being true individuals they all have the same message: “We are angry teenagers, so watch out.” You know what I say to them? Grow up and go watch “An American Werewolf in London.”

“Likes”: Biopics; elaborate costumes; great score; Mads Mikkelsen; over-the-top action sequences.

“Dislikes”: Surrealism for the sake of surrealism; American remakes of foreign films; the Tom Cruise brand; false sentimentality; sub-par talent being shoved down our throats (e.g. Sam Worthington, Kristen Stewart, etc.).

Credits love of movies to: My mother’s own love of film is what planted the beginning of mine. Our tastes are incredibly different now, and that tends to lead to some fun debate, which is really one of the most enjoyable things about films anyway.

Encouraging trend: For years I have been tormented by the scary zombie film, but with the release of “Shaun of the Dead” I was finally able to take part in a genre that I have always been too scared of to enjoy properly. Now “Zombieland” has added to that new and interesting genre: the funny zombie movie.

Discouraging trend: I detest the constant barrage of remakes and needless sequels flooding the film market.

Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at jasonwallis@comcast.net.

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