Sunday, March 19, 2023

The End of Film Babble Blog?

No, it isn’t. 

It’s just going on a hiatus. A pause. An interval. Wait! I know! An intermission.  

I’ve got to take a break because I’ve got more than one book project in the works, and the whole film criticism thing has lost a lot of its appeal to me. I can’t remember the last full review I’ve read, and I used to devour them. But that was a different time when there was so much less content to keep up with, and one may seek out a writer, or writers that they like to let them in on the flavor, and feel of a film, even if they may not agree with them in the end.


In 2009, Will Ferrell performed a one-man show entitled You’re Welcome America. A Final Night With George W. Bush in which the comic actor, of course, appearing as the 43rd President asked audience members for a Christian name and occupation, and he will give them an instant nick-name “Texas-style.”

At a show covered by the New York Times, somebody yelled out “Reviewer!” Scott Brown reported, “Ferrell, in character, cracked a huge grin, and didn’t miss a beat: ‘I’m gonna call you ‘Obsolete Profession.’


Yeah, and that was 14 years ago. I loved writing many of the over 1,400 posts since I started this site in 2014. I’ve followed and covered some really cool (and not so cool, but some of those could be cool too), thriving actors, filmmakers, genres, concepts, clichés, film festivals, genres, and whatever it was that I wanted to share with my readers.


While never a major movie forum, Film Babble Blog has had its moments. It was mentioned and linked to in the New Yorker’s Vulture, the UK’s historic The Guardian rag, and many places online that are sadly no more (I still have links, and screen shots ‘n all so there’s that). 


Film Babble Blog was also frequently featured on the IMDb’s daily Hit List, which I know means nothing to most likely 99.9% of anyone reading this, but it was where they used to shine a light on the cream of the crop of current writing about entertainment. When a post from my site made the list, I got thousands of hits, which led to followers, and advertisers, so for a nice while, Film Babble Blog was thriving.


But time has moved on, and the thrill is gone. I still love movies, but the idea of seeing as many and writing about them like I used to wears my noggin out. I didn’t even post a review of EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE, which just won Best Picture at the Oscars. Speaking of the Oscars, I used to make predictions for all of the 23-24 categories, but this year I could only bring myself to predict the top 5 (I got 3 out of 5). 


With the ginormous amount of content out there, the Oscars is seeming less and less necessary every damn year, a sentiment that’s echoed every time somebody, and lately it feels like everybody, says that “nobody cares about the Oscars.” As Seth Rogen said, “And why should they?”


When I was younger, so much younger than today (in the ‘80s, and ‘90s) there were like only 200-300 or so movies coming out a year, and it was easy to catch up with the ones you had interest in. And you could really process them. Discuss them with friends, re-listen to their soundtracks, see them again when they hit home video six months after their release. 


That window has all but disappeared, and people don’t watch movies like they used to. They go to whatever streaming platform and pick something, and if it doesn’t grab them, they click to something else. There’s nothing wrong with that. I do it too. So why do you need to read a review online?


Now, my blog has offered a lot more than reviews with interviews, features, obits, funny behind-the-scenes stuff, and, my favorite, nutty lists like, my favorite, “10 Slapped Actresses.” But the art of writing or reading the finely tuned 600 (or so) word piece on a particularly juicy movie rendered with oomph is just not the invigorating thing it was. 


Since the pandemic, there have been very few critics’ screenings in my area and they’ve mostly been for Marvel movies. A decade ago, there used to be a manageable array of films of different genres that I felt I could be up on the latest mainstream multi-plex fare as well as the indie releases (it helped that I worked at an indie theater), and pick out the most notable ones to blog about. But now I’m less enthused when there seems to be a batch of new movies every day that nobody could ever keep up with, and many of them look mighty disposable.


Also, I used to get feedback from people with comments on posts, or emails, but that is rare nowadays. In person, people used to tell me they read such and such review, and may be had an argument, but the last time somebody said anything, I could tell they had had only seen the headline, because that’s the only thing that they said anything about.


But that’s alright. I do that too. I still keep up with movies. I saw most of the top 10 grossing films last year, and still enjoy reading some film writing here and there. I’ve read some great pieces on EEAAO, THE BANSHEES OF INERSHERIN, and THE WHALE that I thought enhanced my appreciation for those films so don’t think I’m writing film criticism off entirely.


I’m just wanting any of the small amount of people that might come here to know why there isn’t a new post (a review of the latest Marvel movie maybe?) – why Film Babble Blog is taking break but will be back. Hell, if I’m inspired by a film I see in the next few weeks I may be back here posting on it! You never know with this crazy world.


As for the book projects I previously mentioned, I’ve been working for some time on finalizing what my follow-up to my 2019 debut, Wilcopedia, will be, and am very excited that I will be announcing it very soon. There are other new things that appear to be pulling me off of the film scribing path for the time being, so it seems to time to take a break.


So thanks for following, and reading - even if it was just the headline. Await the triumphant comeback – after all 2024 is the 20th Anniversary of the site, and there will be fanfare for sure. So with the promise of bigger fish to fry, it's time for Film Babble Blog to say goodbye...for now.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Hey Kids! Not So Fun Time 2022 Oscar® Predictions!

Jimmy Kimmel hosts the Oscars for the third time. Woo Hoo.

ehold, my most half -assed Oscar Predictions post in the history of Film Babble Blog (and that’s going on nearly 20 years). I’ve been busy with a new book, and other life shit, and have felt disconnected from the world of movies lately despite having seen a large bunch of the nominated films. Not caring about the Academy Awards, now in their 95th year, has been a thing for quite a few years, so my indifference this year seems to fall in line with the overall public sentiment: who cares?

But in the tradition of consistency, I’m still gonna post my picks. What does it matter what I, or anyone, gets right or wrong?

1. BEST PICTURE: Yes, everyone everywhere is saying that EVERYONE EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE will win the big one so I am too. Does indeed seem to be a lock.

2. BEST DIRECTOR: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert for EEAAO.

3. BEST ACTOR: Austin Butler – yeah, Elvis has just got to get it. Brendan Fraser I can see too, but yeah, Elvis.

4. BEST ACTRESS: It’s either Michelle Yeoh for EEAAO or Cate Blanchett for TÁR. I, like just about everybody else, is going with Yeoh.

5. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Ke Huy Quan – yes, let’s just say it’s gonna be a EEAAO sweep.


Normally, I would predict all 23 categories, but I really don’t have it in me this time around so I’ll just go with those. 

Now, I usually say “Please check back here Monday to see how many I got wrong” but I don’t even care about that right now. I gots other fish to fry and them there Academy Awards really aren’t in my focus this season. I don’t think many other people care about them either – unless somebody gets punched in the face that is. I’m sure, if nothing else, there will be some joke, or reference or something notable about that now historical instance at this year’s event, and we’ll talk about that for a day and that’ll be that.

More later...

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

A Quick Update, And Oscars 2023 Whatnot


Hey folks, I haven't been Film Babbling lately because I've been working on a new book, and dealing with other life shit. But rest assured that I'll be covering the 95th Academy Awards with both prediction, and a recap.

Until then, I'll leave you with this:

More later...

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Great Moments In Fourth Wall Breakage: SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT

Welcome to a new Film Babble Blog series, Great Moments in Fourth Wall Breakage, which will pinpoint those meta moments in movies when a character makes an aside to the audience. I originally presented a Top 10 list of such moments back in 2007 (10 Movie Moments That Broke the Fourth Wall, 8/22/07), and am planning on re-visiting some of those, but I’m kicking off the series with an excellent example of fourth wall breakage that I hadn’t blogged about before.

Former stuntman Hal Needham’s SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT was the second biggest grossing movie of 1997, after STAR WARS. The action comedy, which starred Burt Reynolds as a bootlegger with the nickname of “The Bandit” on an illegal beer run from Texarkana to Atlanta, features a scene around the fifteen mark in which our leading man in his Pontiac Firebird Trans Amis is being chased by a city cop at night.


The Bandit eludes the police by pulling his Firebird into a used car lot, then gradually pulling away, as he’s looking to be sure that the cop has left. When Reynolds and the camera line up, he looks right into the frame, and flashes his classic grin.


In an interview from a DVD featurette, Reynolds explained, “I pulled in behind the john, and the cop went by. And I pulled ahead a little bit more. Then I looked right in the lens (smiles) and then drove off. And everybody laughed, the crew laughed, everybody laughed, and I backed up because I figured we were going to do another one. Hal said, ‘that’s it.’


In the same featurette, Needham said this about the scene: “I don’t think Burt wanted to do it, but he did, and I thought it worked like a charm. You know what he’s doing? He’s saying ‘look at all the fun we’re having. You know?’”


Back to Burt: “And I went, ‘boy, you got some cajones, man! I mean, that’s breaking the fourth wall, you know, you gotta know, Hal.


Hal went, ‘the what?’ He didn’t know from fourth wall!”

Watch the scene below aptly entitled “The Fourth Wall”:

Stay tuned to this space for more Great Moments in Fourth Wall Breakage.


More later…

Friday, January 13, 2023

A MAN CALLED OTTO: A Grumpy Old Hanks In The Maybe-See Feel-Okay Film Of The Season

Now playing at a bunch of multi-plexes in my neck of the woods:

A MAN CALLED OTTO (Dir. Marc Forster, 2022)

h, Tom Hanks. America’s Dad. The modern day Jimmy Stewart. You know the deal - he’s the double Oscar-winning everyman of cinema that’s been on the pop culture radar for four decades, who I’ve never met anyone who disliked. His stock hasn’t even fallen in the last year with his badly reviewed, very odd, and frankly off role as Colonel Tom Parker in Baz Luhrman’s ELVIS, or his instantly forgettable performance as Gepetto in Robert Zemeckis’ PINOCCHIO the last year (I even considered a post entitled “Has Covid Thrown Tom Hanks off his game), because the goodwill embedded in his rich legacy can’t easily be erased with a few missteps.

So here is Hanks in a classic, meaning frankly standard, grumpy old man role (somebody even calls him a grumpy old bastard in the first five minutes) as widowed Pittsburgh resident, Otto Anderson, in this remake of Hannes Holm’s 2015 Swedish comedy drama, A MAN CALLED OVE. Just like Rolf Lassgård in the original, we meet Otto in a box store having issues with staff, but he’s buying rope, not the flowers that Ove grumbled about the discount price of when buying for his wife’s grave.

The rope Otto is purchasing is to hang himself, which brings us this story’s central premise – a man’s suicide attempts keep getting aborted by life re-affirming interruptions. These distractions from Otto’s rush to join his spouse in the afterlife come in the form of a new family that has moved in to his small, contained suburban housing community. The out-going, bubbly, and pregnant Marisol (Mariana Treviño), and her friendly doofus husband Tommy (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and their two kids ( Christiana Montoy, and Alessandra Perez) have moved into a unit across from Otto’s home, and they immediately are in need of his help with home repairs.

The community surrounding Otto, and his new neighbors includes the kindly Anita (Juanita Jennings), and her dementia-suffering husband Reuben (Peter Lawson Jones), who a younger Otto (played in flashbacks by Hanks’ 27-year old son, Truman) had a long-running Ford vs. Chevy rivalry over automobile purchases (it was Saab vs. Volvo in the Swedish version); the overly chipper Jimmy (Cameron Britton), and transgender delivery boy Malcolm (Mack Bayda), who was a former student of Otto’s wife, Sonya (Rachel Keller). That last cast member may sound like a woke addition, and it pretty much is as David Magee’s adapted screenplay changes the character from just being gay in OVE).

As for those aforementioned flashbacks, they are emotionally summoned when Otto is closest to death, whether it be by rope, his Chevy’s exhaust, getting hit by a train, or with a rifle, and they dive deep into sometimes icky, but still earnestly poignant enough, sentiment especially when Otto and Sonya’s first meeting is enhanced to be even more of a meet cute than in the original with Truman Hank’s Otto getting on a commuter train heading the opposite direction that he was going to return a book that the young lady dropped on the platform (He just happens to wakes up on in the train compartment with her there in OVE).

Then there are the strands of Mike Birbiglia (SLEEPWALK WITH ME) as an adversarial dickhead real estate agent (from a evil company actually called Dye & Merica), and another concession to today’s internet fame culture with a social media journalist played by Kelly Lamor Wilson, who aims to make Otto an online hero. Yeah, this stuff is pretty forced, dopey, and sitcom-ish, but somehow felt like it had just as much right to be there as the more fleshed-out character elements.

While Marc Forster’s (FINDING NEVERLAND, QUANTUM OF SOLACE) direction is stylishly unspectacular, there is a decent amount of real charm, and warm sensibility (especially in Hanks’ moments with the scene-stealing Treviño) in this light opus about the ornery Otto, but it’s still fairly insubstantial Hanks fare in the league of the other A-lister’s little-remembered throwaways like THE TERMINAL, HOLOGRAM, any of those DA VINCI CODE non epics (which even Hanks now calls “hooey”), or especially LARRY CROWNE. Still, A MAN CALLED OTTO is a fine, fluffy watch – a maybe-see, feel-okay view if I must say - that didn’t make me cringe too hard, and that fans of Hanks will most likely enjoy.

Holm’s OVE original, which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, is a better movie, but only by a small measure as it’s a pretty cornball affair itself. They are interesting to compare as many scenes are close to shot-by-shot recreations with only a handful of story deviations. It’s telling that OTTO most resonates when it stays faithful to its source material. Consider it the equivalent of an English language cover song by a big name star that’ll just be background music in most people’s lives.

More later...