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EXCLUSIVE: Jonathan Levine’s top ten films of 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Jonathan Levine’s top ten films of 2010 504 239 Joel

The wonderfully talented Jonathan Levine, director of THE WACKNESS, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE and the upcoming LIVE WITH IT, was generous enough to give Very Aware his exclusive top ten list for 2010. We’re honored to be able to share this with you fine readers so please enjoy. Our thanks to Jonathan for his list and fun commentary!

Hey guys:

So Scott asked me to send him my list of the top 10 films I saw in 2010 and here they are. Keep in mind when reading this list that I am something of a contrarian and also that I don’t feel the need to heap praise upon the movies that are going to already win Oscars unless they spoke to me personally in some way (THE SOCIAL NETWORK is technically masterful and rightfully praised, THE KING’S SPEECH I haven’t seen but looks british and good, etc.) Anyway, here’s the stuff I liked most, personally:

1. THE FIGHTER
I really like David O. Russell and I was excited to see him tackle this material with such aggressiveness. The first 30 minutes alone are some of the most kinetic filmmaking i’ve seen in ages. The art direction and casting contribute to an incredibly realistic and grounded feel, and the cinematography finds beauty in the everyday. Not to mention Christian Bale gives the best performance of the year.

2. TOY STORY 3
No film of 2010 made me laugh or cry harder. A wonderfully thoughtful script. Never lazy. If live-action movies were more like Pixar movies, all movies would be better off.

3. GREENBERG
I love Noah Baumbach (even MARGOT AT THE WEDDING) and I feel this is his best film. Also, I saw Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach eating dinner in New York recently and I went up to them and told them how much I love their movies and they were really nice. GREENBERG is like a great Cassavetes movie but less boring. The world of this movie is one that we don’t normally see in film, but it rang so true to me. Harris Savides’ beautiful cinematography contributes to the LA/70’s/Altman/Ashby vibe. Greta Gerwig is so wonderfully cast. I read that it was originally Mark Ruffalo and Amy Adams in this. I think everybody wins because Amy Adams got to do THE FIGHTER and Mark Ruffalo got to do…

4. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT
Another beautifully written Los Angeles story. Incredibly acted with a great combination of showiness and subtlety in both the storytelling and the performances.

5. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP
I believe it.

6. BLACK SWAN
Aronofsky has done so much for film as a sensual medium. He doesn’t seem afraid to go over the top, not in the self-consciously tacky De Palma way but in the way that he just cares less about shit like story and really wants to show people tripping on ecstasy in a strobe light. I like it when movies use everything they’ve got, and this movie certainly did. So did…

7) TRON: LEGACY
OK. I’m probably alone on this one, but I just really liked this movie and not just cause it was the first time I’ve ever seen 3D that didn’t make my brain hurt. It looked amazing. Daft Punk provided the best score by a band since Queen did FLASH GORDON. Not a brilliant work of art but better than everyone says it is. I think this commercial director guy Joseph Kosinski is good. I mean, someone gives you 100 million to remake TRON and it doesn’t totally suck? This guy should keep making movies.

8 ) CYRUS
I love the Duplass Bros’ movies. The way they capture the rhythms of everyday life, the weird insecurities of people, the strange ways those insecurities manifest themselves – they are so insightful about the way people are. Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei and John C. Reilly are all incredible in this, the third LA movie on the list. That makes me less sad that I live in LA.

9) HOWL
Possessed of the same creative spirit that defined early 90’s independent cinema, this film is so inspired, so unique, and so smart.

10) THE RUNAWAYS
Another weird one, but I really loved the style and the performances. Kinda falls apart at the end, but I admire the creative bravura of it. I tried to get through this whole list without saying bravura and I failed.

OK. That’s it. Everyone should see my movie, the as-yet-untitled film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen and many other amazing actors. It will definitely be one of the top 100 films of 2011 and could place even higher depending on how the color correction and sound mix go. Just kidding, I’m really happy with it and can’t wait for everyone to see it! Happy New Year!

First photo from RED STATE surfaces…sort of

First photo from RED STATE surfaces…sort of 470 313 Joel

Although the photo shows off exactly nothing besides the back of Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) the preacher in RED STATE. Kevin Smith tweeted this photo out a few minutes ago saying only Amen and linking to this photo:

So this is the first photo from RED STATE that we have seen, but I don’t even think you can consider it as anything more than just trying to get everyone excited. The movie is shooting right now and Smith is hoping to have it ready for Sundance 2011. We shall see. Here is the synopsis:

A group of kids encounters a crazed preacher (based on Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church) who gives a whole new meaning to the term “extreme fundamentalism.”

So there you have it folks…I can’t fucking wait to see what he has in store for us!

CATFISH: Real or Fake? It’s a fake…sort of.

CATFISH: Real or Fake? It’s a fake…sort of. 470 284 Joel

Last night I got a chance to watch CATFISH which is being marketed as a cautionary documentary that explores the world of online relationships, or at least a couple of online relationships that one guy has.

Throughout the entire film it all felt fake to me, but after the movie was over and talking with my other film critic friends they were all baffled how I could think it was fake. That got me to thinking…”maybe it is real?!” but then logic sat in and I realized that all of this is based on the internet, so I will just do the research myself.


AD:

Now, let me stress to you that I don’t think the entire film is fake, there are elements in the film that are legit but for the most part the majority of the film doesn’t add up and most of the film was re-enacted/re-created.

I am putting a strict warning here, if you read anything below this it will spoil the movie for you. There is no way around that, so my advice…go see the movie then come back here to read this.

Everything is on camera. As a documentary film maker myself, the perils of getting everything on camera will drive you insane. In CATFISH, absolutely anything that holds any weight in the movie is on camera somehow. So for running a production company and making another film as the same time as CATFISH they still had time to film Nev almost completely non stop and at all the perfect moments. So this is either extremely lucky, or really staged.

The timing of when they actually started filming is a little weird to me as well. At what point would any filmmaker say “oh you know what, my brother got some paintings of his portraits from an 8 year old, that are mediocre at best, perhaps we should start documenting this”? There doesn’t seem to be any real reason why they would just start filming him non stop. They claim it’s because he is very cinematic and they always film him, but at the beginning of the film he states that he doesn’t want to be filmed, he doesn’t want to be the center of this documentary.

Their Blog: When I was reading up on their production company’s blog, I went through every entry back to the beginning of the site. In the film they start learning of the lies from Megan and Angela while they are in Vail Colorado shooting video for the Vail International Dance Festival. While on the plane they meet a young girl:

and give us this description of her:

That sounds remarkably similar to the Megan, the girl that Nev falls in love with in CATFISH. She is a model who has recently purchased a horse farm from a small town. Coincidence?

They also document every trip they take on this blog, as well as production on their films. However there is absolutely no mention of ever going to Michigan in the August or September blog posts. In fact there is never a mention about even shooting scenes for the film that eventually becomes CATFISH. There is a gigantic gap in posts from the middle of August to the middle of September.

Photo of Megan and Vince: After seeing the movie we know that Angela, the mother of Abby, was the culprit behind all of it. She used photos from someone she found online and posted them to a fake facebook account for Megan. The photos we see of Megan and her Dad Vince didn’t actually go online until March 28th 2008. In the film we see the photos at the beginning of the film, which is supposed to be late 2007.

Also, who in their right mind would actually believe the guy next to her was her Dad?! That is insanity that these guys could honestly be so easily duped.

Link to the mp3 of the song downhill: In the movie, after they are in Vail which we know we at the beginning of August, Nev is having a chat with Megan. In the chat she sends him a link to an mp3 of a song she supposedly recorded. I found the chat transcript on the CATFISH website:

So I decided to check out Charte.net and as of February 2008 it has been nothing but a landing page. See below:

http://www.charte.net/

So it is obvious that this chat transcript is completely fake. In the film this would have taken place in August/September of 2008.

The Plot: The story seems to follow the big plot twist of MY KID COULD PAINT THAT, where the dad faces accusations that he is painting the portraits for his daughter. In CATFISH, Angela, the mother, is actually painting the photos for Abby.

Angela: After Nev confronts Angela with the truth, she does nothing more than put her head down. She never freaks out. She never asks them to stop filming. Instead she accepts that she is caught in a HUGE lie, on camera that could completely ruin her marriage and everything she has, and continues to let them film without any questions asked? This is insanity to me! Her husband had absolutely no idea what was going on behind the scenes, its almost as if she wants her marriage to end and her husband to find out she is insane…or its fake.

Abby; The original subject of the “Documentary”: At the beginning of the film Nev tells us that Abby is the focus of the documentary, most likely because she is 8, and her mom is telling them that she is a local celebrity and all of her paintings are being sold around town. So they decide, at some point, that they should focus in on Abby and her paintings of Nev’s photographs.

So, a professional production team at no point goes to google in order to do some research on the new subject of their documentary? They seem pretty tech savvy with their iPhones and mini HD cameras. Why wouldn’t they try and get just a little bit of information just for the overall success of what they set out to shoot?

The only thing we re-created were the close-ups on the computer screen: This is the part of their explanation for the film that is super vague. What exactly are they considering “close-ups”? Is it only the parts where you only see the pages up close? Is it the scenes where you see mostly the computer and a little bit of Nev? And what exactly do they mean by re-created? At the end of the film they tell us that Angela deleted all of the profiles. Did they go back in and recreate all of the profiles? Did they use the same photos from before? At this point had they asked permission from the real “Megan” to use all of her photos in the film?

The real Megan: The girl that we know as Megan in the movie, is actually not named Megan at all. Her name is Aimee Gonzales (which we find out about in the movie). She is a model and photographer. Reading through her wall posts, it seems as though she frequently photographs dancers, just as Nev does, and is currently in New York as I type this. It seems that its a bit too much of a coincidence that they are both photographers, both shoot dancers and she is also doing it in the same city that Nev typically does his in. How is it that they haven’t run across each others path? Unlikely.

All of the above information doesn’t prove that the film is entirely fake. What it does prove is that much of the film has been recreated, and its possible that they did it in such a way to create a story where there might not have been one to begin with.

You be the judge.

THE LAST EXORCISM haunts Chatroulette

THE LAST EXORCISM haunts Chatroulette 470 231 Joel

I’m a big fan of viral marketing and this is some brilliant viral marketing. THE LAST EXORCISM, which opens August 27, is taking to Chatroulette to seriously freak out some unsuspecting users. Take a look at the hilarious video below (WARNING: loud noise and creepy images)

I’ve never used Chatroulette and now I’m positive I never will. Can we all agree that this was a stroke of genius? Poor guys were just looking for some hot ladies to chat with and instead got a possessed girl. Ain’t that some luck?

Produced by Eli Roth and directed by Daniel Stamm, THE LAST EXORCISM is a horror film that centers around Cotton Marcus, a jaded priest who encounters some real evil on a family farm in Louisiana. The movie is shot in the style of “found footage”, just like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. From what I’ve heard, it’s as freaky as you’d expect. 

Is Tarantino directing THE SHADOW?

Is Tarantino directing THE SHADOW? 310 163 Joel

The less said about 1994′s THE SHADOW starring Alec Baldwin, the better. If you can get past that god awful film, you might remember that The Shadow is actually a really fun, dark character and one that hasn’t been properly portrayed in years. I’d say it’s a property that definitely needs some TLC from the right director.

For a while now, we’ve known a new adaptation of THE SHADOW was in the works. First, Sam Raimi was in talks to direct. Then David Slade was reportedly in charge. Now, Pajiba is reporting that Quentin Tarantino is in talks to write and direct a new film based on the old radio show. It would definitely be a darker, more violent reincarnation of The Shadow, that’s for sure.

Pajiba’s source is apparently pretty reliable but this is still surprising news. Nothing in Tarantino’s past has suggested he’d be a candidate to write and direct THE SHADOW but the man is student of film and fiction and THE SHADOW oddly seems right up his alley. I’d much rather prefer he work on this than the KILL BILL or INGLORIOUS BASTERDS sequels and prequels he’s planning.

Still, as Pajiba says, take this with a grain of salt. For now.

Shawn Levy to make good on VERY BAD DAY

Shawn Levy to make good on VERY BAD DAY 183 275 Joel

Variety reports that Shawn Levy is stepping up to direct a feature film adaptation of Judith Viorst’s beloved children’s book ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY.  The site claims the movie will be a “high concept” family film. High concept? I hope this will be like INCEPTION for kids!

The book is about poor Alexander, whose day goes from bad to worse. He gets gum in his hair, his teacher gives him a hard time, he has a cavity. Things suck for poor Alexander. In the film, the entire family is going to have a crappy day. It’s no fun for the entire family!

Shawn Levy is a director who churns our pretty bad movies that make pretty decent money. He’s behind CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN, THE PINK PANTHER, JUST MARRIED, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM and BIG FAT LIAR. His last film, DATE NIGHT, was actually pretty funny but that was mostly because of its stars, Tina Fey and Steve Carell. But, hey, people keep coming to see Levy’s work so you’ve got to hand it to him.

It’s commonplace to grumble whenever a cherished children’s book is turned into a movie so begin your protesting now. I’ll go watch CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS and hope for the best.

Latest JAMES BOND film officially canceled

Latest JAMES BOND film officially canceled 339 500 Joel

James Bond has finally met his match: a bankrupt studio.

It’s been confirmed that JAMES BOND 23 is now officially canceled. The movie’s future had been in doubt for awhile, as have all properties associated with MGM, but now it’s most definitely not happening anytime soon. Bummer, huh?

It’s a damn shame because JAMES BOND 23 was going to be directed by none other than Oscar winner Sam Mendes, with a script from Peter Morgan. Daniel Craig was of course set to star as 007.

MGM is drowning in debt and is desperately looking for a buyer to help them out and finance new films. Until that time, it’s having to shelve or cancel scheduled productions. The one bright spot is THE HOBBIT, which seems to be slowly moving forward. Insiders are hoping for a January start date for filming of THE HOBBIT. However, everything else must wait, including Bond.

We have no clue when JAMES BOND 23 will actually get underway. It could be a very long time. I just hope that Daniel Craig is willing to suit up again whenever the time comes. But, honestly, I can’t blame him if he doesn’t. The guy can’t wait around forever.

The bigger question is what is going to happen to MGM? How long can this last? Will THE HOBBIT save them? Will anything?