The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)

Here’s a movie you won’t easily find in theaters. You probably won’t see it released on DVD either, unless you specifically search for it online. Yet it’s a great, simple film that will inspire you to aim higher, and live a little larger. This flick has been going from festival to festival, and unless a big studio exec picks it up and spins it, people won’t know what they’re missing. This summer’s lacking in good entertainment, find this film and see it with your family.

The movie is about a man and his motorcycle. Sounds plain, but this simplicity keeps everything accessible and likable. There’s no plot twists and no special effects – we follow a man on his journey. Anthony Hopkins engages us from the first few minutes as an aging man who’s been tweaking his 1920s Indian motorcycle, and dreams to race it at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. He’s a New Zealander (kiwi), and does not have a lot to his name. It doesn’t stop him from mortgaging his land and his belongings to finance the trip across the ocean, to be plunged into a completely different culture in LA, to travel by car to Utah, and compete with “the big boys” on their turf.
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Million Dollar Baby (2004)

At first I thought this would not win the Best Picture Oscar. I thought The Aviator was a lock because it was an epic and set in the past. Million Dollar Baby wasn’t an epic and is set in the present, plus was also the victim of controversy (Of which I’ll speak my ind about in a spoiler. And yes, you will be warned). But despite all the pre-Oscar accolades The Aviator won, Million Dollar Baby came from behind and took the Best Picture Oscar.

Boxing hasn’t been as popular lately. Probably because it’s not celebrated on MTV as much as basketball is. Which is a shame because boxing is one of my favorite sports. Plus a story about a woman’s pursuit in sports doesn’t always make for a crowd-grabber. But Million Dollar Baby is very much worth seeing.

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Ray (2005)

I still have a Rolling Stone issue I bought a year ago which lists what they consider the 50 Rock N’ Roll artists whom they call ‘the immortals’. They rank them all from 1st to 50th, and Ray Charles is #10.

I’m sure most of you have seen the movie or rented the DVD by now. I’m glad that the movie was able to show Ray’s influence in music and as well show the hardships as of a musician trying to make it. It was an accomplishment that he made it through being blind. Also it was interesting to see the more personal life of Ray too. It showed that Ray not only had a lot of problems with work and at home, but also the haunting memory of the death of his younger brother.
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Finding Neverland (2004)

This small budget film appeared out of nowhere last fall (along with other small films like Million Dollar Baby, Sideways and Hotel Rwanda), captured the hearts of many, and went on to receive countless nominations and awards for writing, costumes, and performances. Well deserved, I must say, especially since the film doesn’t try to force strong emotions from you, it just happens to be powerful and simple at the same time.

Johnny Depp (once again acting with his face and not his voice) plays James Matthew Barrie, a playwright in early 1900s, looking for the one big hit, for the one story that will work great on stage, and will bring in audiences night after night. The movie opens with an opening night of yet another of Barrie’s plays. His manager Charles, played by Dustin Hoffman is irreverently optimistic as he ushers people into the theater, his wife Mary (played by Radha Mitchell) is sitting all by herself, and the author is restless behind the curtain, pacing with his cane, peeking at the audience, worrying about the reception. The play opens and most likely will close shortly. A miss. The manager brings up the cold truth about the business of putting together a stage show; the wife complains that she misses her husband, and Barrie goes back to drawing board. He needs a captivating story, a fable. Ne needs a magical fairytale.
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Polar Express (2004)

At first glance, The Polar Express doesn’t have a lot of unique qualities that will hook you: it’s best seen on IMAX screens (which is not available everywhere); many characters are played by Tom Hanks, and is directed by Robert Zemeckis  (didn’t we get enough of them in Castaway?) Plus, it was animated using motion capture – an expensive, sophisticated process that makes you wonder why all the bother. Well, if you check all your negative expectations at the door, and just come to see a holiday cartoon about Santa and what really happens on Christmas Eve – you’ll be pleasantly surprised. A lot of effort was poured into this movie – it’s obviously a pet project for Zemeckis and Hanks – and this effort is right there on the screen – in the detail, in the performances, in the emotion.

Maybe if I saw this movie any other day, I would have been less impressed. But the plan was to see a holiday film on Christmas Eve. So I found a movie theatre with IMAX screen, picked up the 3D glasses on the way in, and settled comfortably in the oversized chair… 90 minutes later I picked up my jaw from the floor, and finally ended a very long gasp. Wow, what an experience! It actually made me giddy, just like Final Fantasy did a couple of years ago. Giddy in awe.

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Fahrenheit 9/11 shocker

I’m sure a lot of you saw Fahrenheit 9/11 this summer. And I’m sure you all have your thoughts about it. As for me, I saw it. I entered the theater with suspicion towards Michael Moore, wondering if this would be another ego trip or send a distorted message. I have to say I was disappointed in it. I felt it didn’t get it’s facts straight or made it look like a one-sided view. Like I heard some people even accusing the movie of having lies, like a newspaper claiming it had a phony front page story and one of the bin Ladens saying the movie has the wrong info about the bin Laden family’s ties to Osama (for the record, they disowned him). Plus even on the subject of war, the movie showed Iraq as a happy place before the war yet we knew of the atrocities Saddam was committing there. Plus the movie showed no clips of the Iraqi’s celebrating Saddam’s overthrow. I agree with one critic when he said “It’s not just one-sided, it doesn’t even acknowledge that there is another side.”

Anyways enough of my thoughts. The shocker came recently when Michael Moore announced that the movie will not make a running for the Oscar in the Best Documentary category. Why? Here’s the story according to : Michael Moore has decided not to submit Fahrenheit 9/11 for Oscar consideration (but hopes it will be nominated in other categories).

As reported on his website,

Monday, September 6th, 2004
Why I Will Not Seek a Best Documentary Oscar (I’m giving it up in the hopes more voters can see “Fahrenheit 9/11”)

Dear Friends,

I had dinner recently with a well-known pollster who had often worked for Republicans. He told me that when he went to see “Fahrenheit 9/11” he got so distraught he twice had to go out in the lobby and pace during the movie.

“The Bush White House left open a huge void when it came to explaining the war to the American people,” he told me. “And your film has filled that void — and now there is no way to defeat it. It is the atomic bomb of this campaign.”

He told me how he had conducted an informal poll with “Fahrenheit 9/11” audiences in three different cities and the results were all the same. “Essentially, 80% of the people going IN to see your movie are already likely Kerry voters and the movie has galvanized them in a way you rarely see Democrats galvanized.

“But, here’s the bad news for Bush: Though 80% going IN to your movie are Kerry voters, 100% of those COMING OUT of your movie are Kerry voters. You can’t come out of this movie and say, ‘I am absolutely and enthusiastically voting for George W. Bush.'”

His findings are similar to those in other polls conducted around the country. In Pennsylvania, a Keystone poll showed that 4% of Kerry’s support has come from people who decided to vote for him AFTER seeing “Fahrenheit 9/11” — and in an election that will be very close, 4% is a landslide. A Harris poll found that 44% of Republicans who see the film give it a “positive” rating. Another poll, to be released this week, shows a 21-point shift in Bush’s approval rating, after just one viewing of the movie, among audiences of undecideds who were shown “Fahrenheit 9/11” in Ohio.

My pollster friend told me that he believes if Kerry wins, “Fahrenheit 9/11” will be one of the top three reasons for his election. Kerry’s only problem, he said, is how many people will actually be able to see it before election day. The less that see it, the better for Bush.

But 20 million people have already seen it — and the Gallup poll said that 56% of the American public has seen or plans to see “Fahrenheit 9/11” either in the theater or on home video. The DVD and home video of our film, thanks to our distributors listening to our pleas to release it before November, will be in the stores on October 5. This is very good news.

But can it also be shown on TV? I brought this possibility up in this week’s Rolling Stone interview. Our contract with our DVD distributor says no, it cannot. I have asked them to show it just once, perhaps the night before the election. So far, no deal. But I haven’t given up trying.

The only problem with my desire to get this movie in front of as many Americans as possible is that, should it air on TV, I will NOT be eligible to submit “Fahrenheit 9/11” for Academy Award consideration for Best Documentary. Academy rules forbid the airing of a documentary on television within nine months of its theatrical release (fiction films do not have the same restriction).

Although I have no assurance from our home video distributor that they would allow a one-time television broadcast — and the chances are they probably won’t — I have decided it is more important to take that risk and hope against hope that I can persuade someone to put it on TV, even if it’s the night before the election.

Therefore, I have decided not to submit “Fahrenheit 9/11” for consideration for the Best Documentary Oscar. If there is even the remotest of chances that I can get this film seen by a few million more Americans before election day, then that is more important to me than winning another documentary Oscar. I have already won a Best Documentary statue. Having a second one would be nice, but not as nice as getting this country back in the hands of the majority.

The deadline to submit the film for the documentary Oscar was last Wednesday. I told my crew who worked on the film, let’s let someone else have that Oscar. We have already helped to ignite the biggest year ever for nonfiction films. Last week, 1 out of every 5 films playing in movie theaters across America was a documentary! That is simply unheard of. There have been so many great nonfiction films this year, why not step aside and share what we have with someone else? Remove the 800-pound gorilla from that Oscar category and let the five films who get nominated have all the attention they deserve (instead of the focus being on a film that has already had more than its share of attention).

I’ve read a lot about “Fahrenheit” being a “sure bet” for the documentary Oscar this year. I don’t believe anything is truly a “sure bet.” And, in the end, I think sometimes it’s good for your soul to give up something everyone says is so easily yours (ask Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps why he gave up his spot in the last race to someone else equally deserving, and you’ll know what I am talking about).

I have informed our distributors of my decision. They support me (in fact, they then offered to submit our film for all the other categories it is eligible for, including Best Picture — so, hey, who knows, maybe I’ll get to complete that Oscar speech from 2003! Sorry, just kidding).

Don’t get your hopes up for seeing “Fahrenheit 9/11” on TV before the election. In fact, I would count on NOT seeing it there (you know me, I’m always going after something I probably shouldn’t). Get to the theaters soon, if you haven’t already, or get it from the video store in October and hold house parties. Share it with everyone you know, especially your nonvoting friends. I have included 100 minutes of extras on the DVD — powerful footage obtained after we made the movie, and some things that are going to drive Karl Rove into a permanent tailspin — more on this later!

Thanks for all of your support. And go see “Super Size Me,” “Control Room,” “The Corporation,” “Orwell Rolls Over in His Grave,” “Bush’s Brain,” Robert Greenwald’s films and the upcoming “Yes Men.” You won’t be sorry!


Michael Moore

Anyways I guess that means Super Size Me will win in that category.

As for me, I’m neither for nor against the war. I believe that if the goal was to give freedom to Iraq, they’re failing at it. They succeeded in overthrowing Saddam, they succeeded in bringing him to prison, but they’re failing at bringing democracy to Iraq. And they should get their act in gear.

Mystic River (2003) runs deep

This is one movie in which you will be impressed and effected by. You will not leave the cinema unmoved.

If you were to judge the Best Picture nominees by combination of acting, script and direction, I’d pick this as the winner. Basically this movie kept my interest from start to finish. It was very well done. It’s impossible to not get any emotional involvement in the story. It’s one that cuts deep into you. This has to be the best non-epic of the year.

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Marlon Brando (1924-2004)

Marlon Brando, who was considered by many the greatest character actor of all time has passed away Thursday. He has won two Oscars, created many unforgettable characters on the big screen, and in his awkward way, never sold out, never gave in to celebrity, fame and fortune. He just acted, and that he did in style.

The media didn’t favor Brando much, he was a private man. He was also an imperfect man in many ways – women, money problems, old scores. In fact just recently there’s been a surge of “reports” on his financial problems. Oh, the infamous celebrity problem announcements. Everyone flocks to the screens to tune in. But just wait until the same media starts the outpouring of sorrow next week … the jackals.

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