Seeking Out Cinema's Hidden Gems

Reviews - All | Reviews - Silver Screen Surprises | Features | Contact

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Review: The Long Ride Home

Even in the Wild West, There are New Yorkers

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: May 27, 2003 – U.S.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Western
Running Time: 87 minutes
Director: Robert Marcarelli
Writers: Vaughn Taylor (screenplay), 
Mike Dougherty (story)
Cast: Randy Travis, Eric Roberts, 
Ernest Borgnine, Vaughn Taylor, 
Paul Tinder, Alec Medlock,
Steve Nave, Jeff McGrail, 
Garry Marshall, Stella Stevens,
Jerry Doyle 

Have you ever been drawn to a certain actor without really knowing why? Randy Travis falls into that category for me. Was I the only one who thought he should have been cast as Sean Tuohy in "The Blind Side" instead of Tim McGraw? Probably.

Like McGraw, Travis is mainly a country musician whose songs I've never listened to. Travis's career in the movies is more of a sideline, but he has amassed over 40 acting credits since 1992. He's also a much better singer than McGraw. Actually, I have no idea if that's true.

When I came across "The Long Ride Home," starring Travis, Eric Roberts (another inexplicable favorite of mine), and the legendary Ernest Borgnine, how could I resist?

In the wild west of the 1860s, Jack (Travis) is mistaken for another outlaw (Paul Tinder) and forced to kill in self-defense. For the next eight years, he goes on the run. As the movie begins, he's shot unconscious and left for dead. His body is discovered by a mother, Laura (Vaughn Taylor), and her young son, Daniel (Alec Medlock). They take him in and nurse him back to health.

Laura's love interest, Sheriff Hank Bowman (Eric Roberts), is out of town for a few days. How will he react to Jack's presence when he gets back? Meanwhile, a grieving father (Ernest Borgnine) and his two sons (Steve Nave and Jeff McGrail) want revenge on the gunfighter who killed the rest of their family – the same man Jack was accused of being years earlier.

In a Western, accents are pretty important. Travis, the mother, and the boy each manage to do a respectable job, but it's all over the map after that. Borgnine gives it his best shot – he at least tries – but it's definitely strained at best. An early appearance from Jerry Doyle (fantastic as Garabaldi on the epic sci-fi TV series "Babylon 5") is wince-inducing, but he's Brando compared to what comes after. Garry Marshall doesn't even bother to hide his New York accent – but he's Garry Marshall, so it's impossible to hate him. Eric Roberts, to his credit, does deliver a heartfelt performance – even if it is mostly in his own accent.

Authenticity clearly isn't this movie's number one priority.

The boy is very good, but he looks several years older than his character, who is supposed to be 8. A quick look at IMDB reveals that the actor was 13 when the movie was released, which would presumably put him at 11 or 12 during filming. That disparity is laughably explained away with a tacked-on line about him being big for his age. It's hard to complain too much about his casting though – he is by far the most natural of all the performers in this production.

The flashback sequences look like something out of a horror movie or soap opera – they seem ill-fitting and jarring for this type of film – yet they have a certain nightmarish quality about them that isn't entirely unsuccessful.

"The Long Ride Home" is obviously not a great movie – it's a mixed bag, for the most part – but the story and some of the better actors help carry it along. Even more remarkably, it manages to be entertaining despite a complete lack of overt violence, bloodshed, or profanity. That didn't dawn on me until after the fact, which means I was sufficiently engaged in the material while I was watching.

Take that, Tim McGraw!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Movie Bookshelf: Rue Morgue Magazine’s 200 Alternative Horror Films You Need to See

Climb Under the Covers with This Book of Under-the-Radar Fright Flicks

By Chris Sabga

Edited by Rodrigo Gudiño
and Dave Alexander
I was walking around Blockbuster (yes, those are still around – for now), trying to find two good $1.99 movies for their buy one, get one free sale – as anyone would do, I'm sure – when something interesting caught my eye. Near the checkout, there was a book with a handsome crimson cover and bold white text: "Rue Morgue Magazine's 200 Alternative Horror Films You Need to See." Since I am always on the lookout for new "silver screen surprises," the title of this tome naturally captured my interest.

I walked out of the store with "Adam," "The Last Lullaby" (which carries a blurb by Lee Goldberg, a terrific author and screenwriter), and this book – all for $12 and change.

I haven't watched the movies yet, but I raced through the book's 161 pages in a matter of days. It features a few fright flicks you've probably heard of, and – even better – many you likely haven't. There are hundreds of great reviews, as well as interviews, top ten lists, and full color photographs and artwork.

It will come as no surprise to horror diehards that the writers and editors of Rue Morgue Magazine have done their homework and clearly know their genre inside and out. If a movie has been inspired by an earlier work, they'll reference that. If certain elements aren't up to par (which isn't exactly unheard of in many of the low-budget productions mentioned), they'll point that out while explaining why the film is still worth watching.

The most fervent fans of any particular genre are obviously going to pick up on qualities that mainstream critics and general moviegoers tend to overlook or dismiss. The Rue Morgue crew is no different when it comes to horror. On that note, I especially like the book's impassioned defense of much-maligned movies – such as the threequels "Halloween III," "Alien 3" (as long as it's the Assembly Cut), and "The Exorcist III" (which – interestingly enough – wasn't originally supposed to be an "Exorcist" movie at all). It is always refreshing to see a major publication take a bold stance and ignore conventional wisdom, especially when it's done in such an intelligent, informative manner.

The top ten sections are great fun too. '80s horror-comedy classic "The Monster Squad" is listed as one of the best "Family Frightfests" and the underrated "Daybreakers" earns a spot in the "Alternative Vampire Films" category.

The ultimate aim of a book like this is to give its readers new options to consider. "Rue Morgue Magazine's 200 Alternative Horror Films You Need to See" succeeds in doing just that. I know I certainly plan on watching several of the movies mentioned within.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Movies My Sister Made Me Watch: Pitch Perfect

Unexpectedly Quirky But Also Frustratingly Formulaic

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: October 5, 2012 – U.S.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy, Music, Romance
Running Time: 112 minutes
Director: Jason Moore
Writers: Kay Cannon (screenplay), Mickey Rapkin (book)
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt, Brittany Snow, 
Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, Alexis Knapp, Ester Dean, 
Hana Mae Lee, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, 
Christopher Mintz-Plasse

It was with great reluctance that I sat down to watch "Pitch Perfect" with my oldest sister and youngest niece. The things we do for the ones we love!

The film is about two competing a cappella singing groups from the same college. They are the all-male "Treblemakers" (great name) and the female "Barden Bellas." I am generally not a fan of movies with a heavy musical element. Unless it involves Dolly Parton or Queen Latifah (preferably in the same movie), or Eddie Murphy or Little Orphan Annie (hopefully not in the same movie), count me out.

The opening scene did not bode well for the film's overall chances. In the middle of a competition, the attractive leader of the Bellas spews out a long, violent rainstorm of projectile vomit. I groaned and hoped the next two hours wouldn't be equally as repellent.

It wasn't, but maybe it should have been. Ironically, the movie works best when it's at its oddest.

In an early scene, incoming college freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick) tries to sign up for the DJ club – but its members aren't disc jockeys. The joke is horrible and inappropriate – and it garnered one of the longest, loudest laughs of the entire movie.

It gets even weirder. After the previous year's regurgitating-related mishap, the Bellas have fallen from grace. As the only two members left, puke-prone Aubrey (Anna Camp) and her sidekick Chloe (Brittany Snow) are desperate to attract new blood. They approach Beca, who rudely refuses their invitation. Shortly thereafter, Chloe overhears Beca singing in the shower – and walks right in. Both women are naked, but the scene is far too bizarre to be sexually titillating. (The tame PG-13 rating probably helps – or hurts, depending on your perspective – because not much is actually shown.)

If that wasn't enough, we're also introduced to Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson, "Bridesmaids"), who calls herself that so people don't have to do it behind her back. She makes the most of every moment she has, blurting out bizarre, blunt observations whenever she can.

In the midst of all this madness, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin from "Superbad") shows up randomly for a couple of scenes.

Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins are also solid gold as bickering commentators who cover the competitions.

Of the Bellas, Aubrey (which used to be a man's name) is forever going over absurd rules while Chloe makes ridiculous melodramatic speeches. Camp and Snow are both pitch perfect (pardon the pun) in these over-the-top roles.

The main character of Beca is played superbly by Anna Kendrick. She stuck out like a sore thumb in "End of Watch" by portraying a lily-white nice girl. It wasn't believable. Here, she has an edge, and it works beautifully. It's a wonderful, radiant performance.

Her co-worker and possible crush, Jesse (Skylar Astin), is passionate about movie soundtracks. There's a great scene where he excitedly recounts his favorites – with "The Breakfast Club" topping his list – while Beca listens out of polite boredom. She eventually admits that she doesn't really like movies because she loses interest after a few minutes. (Believe it or not, there are people like that in real life – and they're still quite lovely despite this shortcoming.)

Not every character is a success though. There's a near-mute Asian with a purposely contorted face, Lilly (Hana Mae Lee), who isn't even remotely amusing. That isn't a criticism of the actress; even Meryl Streep wouldn't have been able to make this lame sight gag work. Still, as strange and off-putting as the visual effect is, you can't say it isn't memorable.

But just when you think "Pitch Perfect" is going to ratchet up the insanity even more, it disappointingly begins to play it safe.  

The overall plot structure has been lifted from countless other films. The competition aspect, in particular, is completely predictable. (To use one example, the 2012 Queen Latifah/Dolly Parton film "Joyful Noise" follows the exact same pattern.)  There's also a romance subplot, and that too progresses exactly the way you'd expect.

To be fair, it's probably inevitable for this type of movie to rehash certain well-worn formulas. Still, those familiar elements feel even more flat and stale than usual when contrasted against such wacky, inventive characters.

Throughout the film, Bellas leader Aubrey constantly locks horns with Beca over the direction of the group. Aubrey wants to remain conservative on stage, but Beca disagrees and thinks they need to take chances. The movie itself has the exact same issue. "Pitch Perfect" is good, (not-so-) clean fun, but it doesn't go far enough.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and the Announcement of Before Midnight

A Chance Meeting That Will Forever Change Their Lives

By Chris Sabga

A young man and woman meet on a train and decide to spend one enchanted evening in each other's company. Presented almost in real-time, Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" follows them as they walk, talk, and explore the stunning streets of Vienna together.  

Their names are Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy), and virtually all of the film's 105 minutes is devoted to their conversation. There are no grandiose quotes or clever quips, just two real people talking about real life – and it's absolutely enthralling.

When "Before Sunrise" was released in 1995, there was nothing else quite like it. It was and remains one of the truly great "silver screen surprises."

Hawke and Delpy briefly reprised the same characters in Linklater's 2001 animated film, "Waking Life," where they appeared in a dream. However, the likelihood of a true follow-up to "Before Sunrise" seemed to be just that – an impossible dream.

"Sunrise" was a niche favorite beloved by everyone who had seen it, but in commercially-driven Hollywood, sequels are usually reserved only for the biggest blockbusters.

Miraculously, it happened in 2004 with the release of "Before Sunset." Jesse and Celine reunite for the first time in nine years. What have they been up to since their original meeting? 

As they walk around France, they once again engage in a long, in-depth, fascinating conversation. Lingering questions are answered and new ones are asked as they reminisce about their short time together in Vienna almost a decade before and fill each other in on the current state of their lives.

"Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" are beautiful travelogues with lovely characters and engaging dialogue, but they're also wonderful meditations on life, love, and those unexpected forks in the road.

Several months ago, there were rumors that a third movie, "Before Midnight," was being filmed in Greece. Still, its sudden premiere this week at the Sundance Film Festival caught everyone by surprise.

Will "Midnight" be the final chapter in this amazing series?  Ethan Hawke considers it a possibility. In an interview, he stated, "we may have come to the end of the story." I hope not. I would love to see these characters meet again every decade or so for the rest of their lives.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: The Grey

As Drab as the Color

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: January 27, 2012 – U.S.
Rating: R
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Running Time: 117 minutes
Director: Joe Carnahan
Writers: Carnahan, Ian Mackenzie Jeffers
Cast: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, 
Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, 
James Badge Dale, Ben Bray

"The Grey" is a glorified horror movie with an arthouse message. It doesn't quite work. That message – which is both chilling and effective – has the misfortune of being stuck in a dull film with only a few scattered thrills.

The story is pretty threadbare too. Plane crash survivors trudge through the Alaskan snow and fight off monstrous wolves. That more or less describes the entire movie. It's very bloody and violent, yet rarely exciting or engaging.

Liam Neeson is his usual solid self, but none of the characters are developed much. All we ever really find out is that they have a wife or daughter or some other loved one waiting for them. If we were given other concrete reasons to care about these people, the stakes would have been higher and everything would have mattered more.

I suspect "The Grey" intentionally tries to be like the far superior "Alien," but it misses the mark. One of the characters even wears a "WY" hat, which some have speculated is directly related to the Weyland-Yutani Corporation from "Alien." I doubt that, but it is possibly a subtle wink and nod to the similar style of both films.

There are a few moments of brilliance in "The Grey," but the rest of the movie doesn't measure up. However, despite all of its faults, it initially seems to have the perfect ending. Too bad there's a small scene after the credits that waters it down.

Liam Neeson has morphed into a superb action star over the past few years, but watching "The Grey" is more monotonous than slogging through snow.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Review: A Bag of Hammers

One of the Most Pleasant "Silver Screen Surprises" in Recent Memory

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: 2011 
Rating: NR
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director: Brian Crano
Writers: Jake Sandvig, Brian Crano
Cast: Jason Ritter, Jake Sandvig, 
Chandler Canterbury, Rebecca Hall, 
Todd Louiso, Gabriel Macht, Carrie Preston, 
Amanda Seyfried (uncredited)

"A Bag of Hammers" begins with two friends, Ben and Alan (Jason Ritter and Jake Sandvig), arguing over the toughness of pro wrestler The Ultimate Warrior. Then they move on to Cloris Leachman.

They're con men who make their money through various grifts. Their favorite scheme seems to be posing as valet parking attendants at funerals, only to steal and sell the cars. Unbeknownst to them, one of those automobiles belongs to Ben's ex-girlfriend (played by an uncredited Amanda Seyfried).

These early moments of silliness demonstrate Jason Ritter's considerable charisma and comedic talent. He obviously learned a thing or two from his famous late dad, John Ritter.

Things become more serious when Lynette (Carrie Preston) and her young son Kelsey (Chandler Canterbury) enter the picture. They live next door to Ben and Alan. She pays them rent. Lynette is in over her head as both a mother and potential employee – qualified for neither. Preston plays the role with sad, angry desperation.

As the film shifts in tone, Ritter and Sandvig shift right with it. In a very emotional scene, Ben and Alan are sitting in a diner across from young Kelsey while Alan's sister Melanie (a waitress played by Rebecca Hall) looks on. Ben uses the death of his older brother to explain to the little boy that life sometimes hands us "a bag of hammers." One can't help but wonder if Jason Ritter was channeling his own feelings about the untimely passing of his real-life father.

Ritter delivers an outstanding dramatic performance in that moment, but he doesn't do it alone – Hall and child actor Canterbury match him emotionally while Sandvig sits back silently and lets his facial expressions do all the talking.

There are more serious moments ahead, but the film doesn't completely lose sight of its fun and whimsy. These series of tonal changes would be fatal in the wrong actors' hands, but Ritter, Sandvig, and Canterbury effortlessly switch from comedy to drama and back again without missing a beat. In that way, watching this movie is like seeing someone hit over the head by a bag of hammers – it's painful and tragic one minute and Looney Tunes funny the next.

"A Bag of Hammers" is as comical as Cloris Leachman and packs the power of The Ultimate Warrior.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Movie Theaters: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Examining Today's Theatrical Experience

By Chris Sabga

Even now, in the age of big screen HDTVs, amazing home sound systems, and convenient vending machine rentals, nothing can replace the magic of the movie theater experience. Unfortunately, inconsiderate audiences – and the theaters themselves – seem to be going out of their way to keep people at home. Will movie theaters as we know them even exist in twenty years? I hope so, but I sometimes wonder.

There are many problems but very few solutions:

1. Shut The **** Up: This is far from a new issue, but it seems worse than ever today. While it would be easy to blame teenagers and go on a crotchety rant about the lack of manners in today's society, that isn't really a fair or accurate assessment. The fact is: excessive, inappropriate diarrhea of the mouth at the wrong time and place plagues people of all ages – the young, the old, and adults in general who really should know better.

2. Turn Off Your Damn Cell Phone: There is nothing more distracting during a movie than the bright light of a cell phone screen or the loud "whispers" of people carrying on a conversation of their own over the phone while the characters on-screen are speaking. It's like a bad DVD commentary track, except in this case, they're not even discussing the film itself. Again, the conventional wisdom would be to blame this one on teenagers and their newfangled gadgets, but "iDiocy" doesn't have an age limit. At one screening I attended, a 40-something father chattered away on his phone while his young child played on a large tablet for the full duration of the film. After it was over, I overheard the man bragging that he snuck in without buying a ticket. What the hell were either of them doing there in the first place? Can anything actually done though? Jamming the signal of a cell phone, if even possible, would likely be a legal nightmare for movie theaters and cause a major backlash from its dwindling base of consumers. Maybe I'll just invest in a boomerang and use it knock the cell phones out of everyone's hands. Wouldn't that be nice?

3. Poor Projection and Unnecessary Malfunctions: I won't pretend to have intimate knowledge of the technical odds and ends necessary for beaming a movie onto the silver screen. But it doesn't matter because it still needs to be done – and done properly. Why pay for "the movie theater experience" and accept anything less? From movies that are shown off-center or cut-off in some way to bad or damaged screens and improperly-drawn curtains that partially block the view, there are a multitude of issues to contend with. I don't care if it's as easy as 1+1 or as difficult as E = mc2, movie theaters are obligated to get it right! Yes, sometimes mistakes are unavoidable and genuinely no one's fault, but these sorts of errors are far too commonplace to be excused away as ordinary technical glitches.

4. Pricing: Ticket prices are ridiculous and the concession stand is even worse. Supposedly, food and drinks are how these theaters really make their money – and with a captive audience already there to see the movie, I can hardly blame the owners for charging what they can get away with on popcorn, candy, and soda. Still, they have to realize that more and more people are sneaking in their own food – if they even go at all. I don't know what the solution is, but something has to change or we may not even have theaters in the future to complain about.

5. Workers With Flashlights: What is the purpose of this? Two or three times during any given movie, a theater employee will come in with a flashlight or some sort of annoying device and walk up and down the aisles. Why? Do they really expect to catch people who have brought their own food in or haven't purchased a ticket? (If that's even the reason.) I'm sure there's some explanation for this irritating occurrence, but whatever it is, it doesn't benefit the consumer in any way.

Bottom Line: Going to the movies is an investment. It requires time and money, and in many cases, planning. Can you blame anyone for choosing to watch a DVD or Blu-Ray instead, or worse, looking for ways to pirate the latest blockbuster? It's simpler than you think.

To be fair though, as easy as it is to feel nostalgic about the movie theaters of our childhood, things are actually better than ever now in many ways.

1. Stadium Seating: How did we ever live without this? I can vividly remember being a child and having the view in front of me blocked by someone much taller. It was no fun, and it happened all the time. That problem has virtually been eliminated in many of today's theaters.

2. Luxury Seating and Accommodations: Only certain theaters offer these amenities, and one can certainly argue that it's a giant waste of money. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for sitting on a comfortable "couch" and eating real food and drinking wine – all while Arnold Schwarzenegger blasts baddies and warns everyone that he'll be back.

3. Bigger Screens, Better Picture and Sound, and IMAX: Seeing a movie on the silver screen has always seemed amazing, no matter the era. While the gap may not be quite as large today with the advent of home theater, improvements have still been made. Not everyone has access to IMAX, but even the neighborhood theater will usually have bigger digital screens with better picture quality and surround sound.

4. Budget Theaters: Don't expect any of the perks listed above, but it's a lot easier to forgive imperfection when tickets only cost between $3 and $5 (and in the case of my local budget theater, as low as a buck on Tuesdays). Even better, these theaters will often take a chance on obscure arthouse or independent films deemed too "risky" by the big chains. A few of my favorite movies each year end up being screened only at "the $4 place."

Bottom Line: There's still a lot to like about today's movie theater experience. No matter what, it will always be magical to me – my special place, as the main character in "Hugo" said.

"Any man, woman, child could buy their ticket, walk right in. Here they'd be, here we'd be. 'Yes sir, yes ma'am. Enjoy the show.' And in they'd come entering a palace, like in a dream, like in heaven. Maybe you had worries and problems out there, but once you came through those doors, they didn't matter anymore. And you know why? Chaplin, that's why. And Keaton and Lloyd. Garbo, Gable, and Lombard, and Jimmy Stewart and Jimmy Cagney. Fred and Ginger. They were gods. And they lived up there. That was Olympus. Would you remember if I told you how lucky we felt just to be here? To have the privilege of watching them. I mean, this television thing. Why would you want to stay at home and watch a little box? Because it's convenient? Because you don't have to get dressed up, because you could just sit there? I mean, how can you call that entertainment, alone in your living room? Where's the other people? Where's the audience? Where's the magic? I'll tell you, in a place like this, the magic is all around you. The trick is to see it." – Martin Landau in "The Majestic" about the magic of the movies

Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: Hugo

A Trip to the Movies

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: November 23, 2011 – U.S.
Rating: PG
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Running Time: 126 minutes
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers:  John Logan (screenplay), Brian Selznick (book)
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, 
Chloë Grace Moretz, Ray Winstone, Emily Mortimer, 
Christopher Lee, Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, 
Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths, Jude Law

Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" may not feature gangsters and guns like many of his other films, but it still bears every bit his distinct imprint. In fact, it may be his most personal work yet.

The movie begins with a little boy, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), running through a train station in 1930s Paris. Shortly thereafter, he is caught stealing mechanical parts from the station's toy shop. It isn't the first time. The shop's crotchety owner, an old toymaker named Georges (Ben Kingsley), has lost all patience with the lad's thieving ways.

Hugo tries to plead his case, insisting that he needs the parts to fix something he and his late father (Jude Law) were working on. He shows Georges a sketchbook illustrating various projects. One of them is of an automaton (a mechanical figure). Georges has a shocked, irrational, uncharacteristic reaction to the sketch and frantically snatches the book from the boy's hands. Hugo has to get it back! Otherwise, he won't be able to repair the automaton, which he's convinced somehow contains a message from his deceased dad.

Desperate to retrieve the last link to his father, the orphaned boy follows Georges home. There he meets the old man's goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). Seeking the type of adventure she has only read about in stories, she agrees to help Hugo get the sketches back from "Papa Georges."

A friendship blossoms between the two children. She introduces him to books. He talks about his love of the movies. It was a passion he and his father shared. The movies were their "special place," he explains.

Hugo lights up when he describes the first film his father ever saw – a dream come true depicting a rocket flying into the eye of the moon. Cinema buffs and historians will immediately recognize the reference. For everyone else, it is all revealed in due time.

That's just the beginning. All of these disparate elements of course do come together in a wonderful, beautiful way.

There's an entire subplot not revealed in the previews that I don't dare spoil (though it seems that everywhere else – including IMDB – is intent on revealing it). The trailers don't show much of anything. They make "Hugo" look like a light, insubstantial kids' movie. It's anything but. Of course, this misdirection is likely intentional. It's best to go into the film with as little prior knowledge as possible.

The performances are outstanding, especially Ben Kingsley's. With recent appearances in projects of a dubious nature (such as "Bloodrayne"), his presence in a movie is unfortunately no longer any guarantee of its quality. Thankfully, he's back in top form here. The entire cast is amazing – the child actors especially so because they have to carry the entire production on their little shoulders – but Helen McCrory (Narcissa Malfoy from the "Harry Potter" movies) as Mama Jeanne and Sacha Baron Cohen ("Borat," "Bruno") as the orphan-imprisoning Station Inspector deserve mention as well. Christopher Lee also shines in a small role as a kindly librarian. Emily Mortimer, Richard Griffiths, and Frances de la Tour round out the cast. But the best supporting role belongs to Michael Stuhlbarg. He plays a historian who both teaches and learns from the kids. 

The use of 3D is a controversial gimmick that's applied ineffectively in most cases, but in the hands of a master like Scorsese, it's a work of art.

Amazing effects don't make a movie though. The real heart of this film comes from its moving dialogue and tender human moments. My 3D glasses fogged up a time or two (or ten).

Magical. Wondrous. Enchanted. The reason we go to the movies.

All of those describe "Hugo." It was more than just a film for me. It was an experience. One that touched me deeply.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Remembering Conrad Bain

TV's "Mr. Drummond" Dies at Age 89 (1923-2013)

By Chris Sabga

Obituaries won't be a regular feature of Silver Screen Surprises, but I couldn't resist writing about my all-time favorite TV dad. If you had a housekeeper and her dying wish was for you to take care of her kids, would you? Me neither. But Mr. Drummond did!

Indeed, Conrad Bain is best known for playing Philip Drummond from 1978 to 1986 on "Diff'rent Strokes." Most actors feel resentful when one film or TV show of theirs overshadows everything else they've ever done, but Bain seemed to have a good attitude about it. He even reprised the role of Mr. Drummond in a 1996 episode of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

The concept of "Diff'rent Strokes" – a rich white millionaire takes in two orphaned black kids – was groundbreaking. To be sure, it was probably an implausible scenario for the 1970s – but the best films and TV shows have always presented the world we should live in, not the one we actually do. In any other actor's hands, this concept might have been doomed to failure. Bain, however, infused Mr. Drummond with just the right mixture of class, warmth, and love.

Conrad Bain was also masterful at expressing righteous indignation, of which there was plenty to go around in retaliation to the startled reactions Mr. Drummond's unorthodox family received back in the late-'70s and early-'80s.

The best example of this occurs very early on, in only the third episode of the show, "Mother's Last Visit." There, Mr. Drummond's mother (played with unrestrained bigotry by Irene Tedrow) cannot help but recoil at the sight of her son's two new children – his two new black children. By the end of the episode, Drummond puts the old racist biddy in her place and defends his newfound family's honor.

Unfortunately, no article about "Diff'rent Strokes" can avoid mentioning the real-life problems its younger cast members suffered during and after the show's run. Okay, consider it mentioned.

While most of Bain's work was in live theater and television (most notably, he played Dr. Arthur Harmon for six seasons on "Maude"), he also co-starred alongside Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, and Dennis Quaid in the 1990 film "Postcards from the Edge."

Bain's daughter Jennifer told TMZ that her father was "a lot like Mr. Drummond, but much more interesting." His TV son, Todd Bridges (who played Willis), considered him a "father figure" and said in an interview that they were "looking forward to celebrating his 90th birthday next month."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Seek The Signs

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: March 16, 2012 (limited) – U.S.
Rating: R
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Running Time: 83 minutes
Directors: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Writers: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Cast: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon,
Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong
"Jeff, Who Lives at Home" has one of the best openings I've seen in a while: the title character (played by Jason Segel) is sitting down talking about M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs" and how it may apply to his own life. His location isn't immediately obvious, and for some reason, he has a recorder in his hands. I fell in love with the movie right away.

Jeff is a stoner who (obviously) lives at home, in his mother's basement. Early on, he has to run an errand for his mom, Sharon (Susan Sarandon, somehow looking younger and better than ever). From there, Jeff encounters his brother, Pat (played by Ed Helms as sort of a darker, more uptight version of his character from "The Hangover"). Perhaps it's destiny? A sign? Or maybe Pat's wife, Linda (Judy Greer), is having an affair and he needs to enlist the unlikely aid of Jeff to figure out exactly what's going on. Meanwhile, Jeff is obsessed with a person – or people – named Kevin after receiving a call from one. A wrong number or a sign?  

With that kind of setup, don't expect a realistic narrative. It's a charming fable of sorts, with signs and destiny weaving their way through the lives of the characters.

Segel and Helms are superb as bickering brothers, and Susan Sarandon plays their mother with the perfect mix of impatience and resignation. As the film progresses, you can see that she carries around traits from both of her sons.

Judy Greer and screen veteran Rae Dawn Chong round out the cast. It is always a pleasure to see Dawn Chong, here as Sharon's co-worker, Carol. This character certainly has nothing in common with the one she played in perhaps her most famous role: the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie "Commando." I will say no more.

With Segel and Helms as the stars, most people would probably go in expecting a rip-roaring comedy – but this is really a drama with some light, humorous moments.

Even though the story is filled with many unlikely coincidences (signs), everyone portrays a real human being. Because of that, I found myself really caring about each of their lives.

"Jeff, Who Lives at Home" is a simple but touching story with beautiful performances. Jason Segel, in particular, plays what might be the best role of his career.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How To Get The Most Out of Netflix

A Handy Guide To Finding The Films You Want To Watch

By Chris Sabga

Netflix has changed the way we watch movies. More importantly, it has changed what we choose to watch. Five or ten years ago, it would have been almost inconceivable for someone who isn't a film buff  to recommend under-the-radar independent or limited releases like "Red Lights" or "A Bag of Hammers." Last week, I got an enthusiastic text message about both. Now they're in my instant queue, waiting to be watched (and possibly reviewed here).

But finding something new to stream on Netflix isn't always as straightforward as it should be. The following websites will guarantee that your queue is never empty:

Instant Watcher

The Swiss army knife of Netflix sites. You can sort the movies in a variety of ways: newest, most popular, New York Times Critics' Picks, Rotten Tomatoes Fresh, High Definition, and a variety of other categories. There's even a section for Netflix Canada. I always choose the "visual" option, which sorts the movies by the newest added and includes pictures of the box art for easier browsing.

Feedfliks Streaming Central

A more straightforward presentation. I like it because it has larger box art images and provides the synopsis of a film in less steps. Like Instant Watcher, it also lists what's coming soon and expiring (and there's a category for Canada as well). I always start with the "Just Arrived" section.

Which one should you choose? Both! Sometimes one site will have something the other missed.

But here are a few other options as well:

Streaming Soon

The first site I discovered of this type, and possibly the oldest. It has gone through numerous changes over the years. It shut down briefly, but ended up reopening with a more limited scope, highlighting only major studio releases.

Instant Watch DB

In the process of writing this article, I found a resource I hadn't come across before: the Instant Watch Database. I particularly like the "Lists" feature, which compiles various "best of" lists and shows which of those movies are available for streaming.

Can I Stream It?

Another new website I discovered while writing this. I really like it, because it includes robust search features for not only Netflix, but also Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, and a variety of other streaming services. This site is worth keeping an eye on!

Netflix itself

For a while, Netflix lagged badly behind these third-party solutions. That's beginning to change. The official Netflix site and apps are now much more reliable about showing what has been added for streaming.

Netflix's own RSS feed is especially handy. You can use it on the web, with an RSS reader, or with sites such as Yahoo and Google.

Now that you've found a movie to watch, how are you watching it? If you're using a tiny laptop monitor or uncomfortable desktop computer setup to watch Netflix, you should probably consider exploring more comfortable options. If you have a video game system (such as the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, etc.), you can download a Netflix app from the device and watch it on your TV. If not, Roku boxes are inexpensive. They start at $50 and are easy to hook up. You can also watch from some phones and tablets, but that's even worse than using your computer. Whatever you decide, there are a wide variety of options at your disposal.

Boring But Probably Necessary Disclaimer: The third-party websites listed above are not associated with Every effort has been made to ensure that they are safe to browse, but external links cannot be guaranteed by this site. The user assumes all responsibility.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Review: Before They Faced "The Impossible" Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts Starred in "Stay"

A Crazed Conundrum

By Chris Sabga

"Stay" is a visually-arresting psychological mystery-thriller with gorgeous set-pieces and striking camerawork.  It's also confusing as hell. But as one character says, "There's too much beauty to quit."

Here's what can be definitively discerned from the labyrinthine plot:

The film stars Ewan McGregor as Dr. Sam Foster, a psychiatrist who becomes the "substitute shrink" for a disturbed patient named Henry Letham (played by a young Ryan Gosling with dirty longer hair that makes him look like a dead ringer for the actress Chloë Sevigny).

Henry's previous psychiatrist, Dr. Levy (an almost unrecognizable Janeane Garofalo), has taken time off because she's "exhausted." The stress of Henry's case obviously has something to do with it – or does it?

Henry begins hearing voices and plans to commit suicide in three days. Now it's up to Sam to find him and stop him.

As it turns out, Sam's girlfriend Lila (Naomi Watts) is familiar with suicidal feelings herself; she once tried to kill herself in the bathtub with two razorblades.

Bob Hoskins appears in a small role as Sam's friend Leon. He may or may not be blind. He may or may not be alive. He may or may not have a connection to another character. The only thing for sure is that he plays a pretty effective game of chess. In a way, so does this movie – because it always seems to be several steps ahead of the audience, and that continues even as the credits begin to roll.

But what does all of this indicate about Dr. Sam's mental state? His patient Henry may not be the only one with problems.

A film like this with so many strange twists, turns, and developments requires a strong payoff – and yet the ending barely seems to clear anything up. A cursory glance at the IMDB message board reveals multiple threads with numerous interpretations.  

Such an obtuse approach usually irritates me to the core. Somehow, though, I find myself wanting to talk about "Stay," recommend it to others, and even watch it again to piece together the perplexing puzzle that unfolds during the 99 minutes we spend with these fractured people. Surely there are clues to be found in the movie's dazzling dreamlike visuals and camera transitions that seamlessly blend one scene and location into the next.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Review: The Impossible

One Family's "Impossible" Struggle For Survival

By Chris Sabga

I winced constantly while watching "The Impossible."
The film spends only a few minutes letting the family on screen – and the viewers – enjoy an idyllic vacation in Southeast Asia before plunging them into one of the worst natural disasters in recent history. The Belon family is happily frolicking by the pool in an opulent hotel when – suddenly – they're engulfed by a cataclysmic tsunami. After that, the movie doesn't let up for a single second. It's a harrowing journey of death, survival, and how life can change in an instant.

It's almost impossible to imagine the sheer scope of devastation caused by a disaster of this magnitude, but "The Impossible" brutally drops us underwater and then through the wreckage and right into the heart of one family's struggle to survive. Every pained footstep and infected drop of blood is meticulously laid out bare.

"The Impossible" will likely be described as a drama, but the truth is, it's a horror movie. There are no monsters or cheap around-the-corner scares, but very little could be more horrifying than this.

Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor play Maria and Henry, the parents of three little boys. Watts, in particular, delivers an incredible performance as a mother who will do anything for her child. It's all the more impressive when you consider how little dialogue she has. Her Academy Award nomination for Best Actress is certainly well-deserved. But the real surprise is young Tom Holland, who portrays Lucas, the oldest of the brothers. He is stunning in his first live-action role – every bit the equal of his more experienced co-stars and more than worthy of an Oscar nomination himself. (He was unfortunately overlooked by the Academy, likely because the acting categories are already so packed.)

The film almost never takes a wrong turn, except for one questionable decision made by Ewan McGregor's character about halfway through. However, because this is based on the true story of an actual family, Enrique Belon (renamed Henry for the film) presumably did the same in real life. The tagline "based on a true story" usually doesn't mean much, but the real Maria Belon was reportedly very involved during the filming of the movie.

"The Impossible" is by no means easy to watch. It's intense and uncomfortable, but it's also masterfully crafted and beautifully acted.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oscars 2012

The Stars, The Snubs, and The Golden Statuette

By Chris Sabga

The nominations for the 85th Annual Academy Awards have been announced, and as always, it's both exciting and infuriating.

I've broken down the higher-profile awards into three categories:

Will win: This is simply my prediction of what the Academy will choose. I'll likely change my mind a hundred times between now and Oscar night, but these are my unscientific thoughts as of January 10th, 2013.

Should win: What I'm personally rooting for.

Should have been nominated: The snubs, and there were some big ones!  

And the Oscar goes to...

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Amour: To Be Determined

Argo: Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Dan Janvey, Josh Penn, Michael Gottwald

Django Unchained: Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone

Les Misérables: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

Life of Pi: Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark

Lincoln: Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

Silver Linings Playbook: Donna Gigliotti, Bruce Cohen, Jonathan Gordon

Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison

Will win: Lincoln (But does Les Mis have a shot of being the rare movie to win Best Picture without also being nominated for Best Director? The last was Driving Miss Daisy in 1989.)

Should win: Silver Linings Playbook

Should have been nominated: Bernie, The Sessions, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Moonrise Kingdom

I am not a fan of the recent change to allow more than five films to be nominated for Best Picture. The new field, which usually consists of nine or ten movies, is too crowded and bloated – and there are still snubs, so what's the point?

Bernie is the biggest victim of this year's Oscar race. It was criminally overlooked in every category. If it was snubbed because it's technically a 2011 release (even though very few people got a chance to see it then because it wasn't widely distributed until 2012), that's another silly Oscar loophole that really needs to be revised.

Moonrise Kingdom also should have scored a nomination. It was visually brilliant and surprisingly touching.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook

Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Hugh Jackman for Les Misérables

Joaquin Phoenix for The Master

Denzel Washington for Flight

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln, but my heart wants Bradley Cooper to get the Oscar for his incredible performance in Silver Linings Playbook.

Should have been nominated: Jack Black for Bernie, John Hawkes for The Sessions, Frank Langella for Robot & Frank

No one thought Jack Black or Frank Langella would get nominated, even though they both should have (especially Black, who completely reinvented himself for the role), but the omission of John Hawkes is a stunner since he was widely expected to land a spot on this list.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

Emmanuelle Riva for Amour

Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild

Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Will win: Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty

Should win: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook or Naomi Watts for The Impossible

Should have been nominated: Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Wait, she is nominated. Damn the Academy – how dare they take away another chance for me to express outrage at some perceived injustice!

No major slights here that I can see. If you can think of anyone, leave a comment below.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Alan Arkin for Argo

Robert De Niro for Silver Linings Playbook

Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Will win: Too close to call

Should win: This is a tough one. I adore Robert De Niro's performance in Silver Linings Playbook, and my heart is with him. But I would not be disappointed if Tommy Lee Jones wins, because he almost steals the movie from Daniel Day-Lewis.

Should have been nominated: Tom Holland for The Impossible (even though it's really a lead role, but we all know how the Academy works when it comes to these things).

The Academy doesn't shy away from nominating children, as Quvenzhané Wallis proves this year, which makes it all the sadder that Tom Holland was overlooked. But to be fair, this is possibly the most packed and competitive of all the categories.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams for The Master

Sally Field for Lincoln

Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

Helen Hunt for The Sessions

Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook

Will win: Anne Hathaway for Les Misérables

Should win: Jacki Weaver for Silver Linings Playbook

Should have been nominated: Susan Sarandon for Robot & Frank

Actresses simply aren't given enough good material in Hollywood, and this weak field proves it.

Best Achievement in Directing

Michael Haneke for Amour

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild

Will win: Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Should win: David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook

Should have been nominated: Ben Affleck for Argo, Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, Wes Anderson for Moonrise Kingdom

Ben Affleck being left off the list is the major shock of this year's Awards season. Not only did he deserve to be nominated, it can be argued that he would have had a good case for winning too.

Bigelow's snub is also an eyebrow-raiser, but as a previous winner, her absence from this category is unlikely to garner the same outrage.

It's not particularly surprising that Wes Anderson wasn't nominated, be should have been because he brings a style to Moonrise Kingdom that's uniquely his.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Amour: Michael Haneke

Django Unchained: Quentin Tarantino

Flight: John Gatins

Moonrise Kingdom: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

Zero Dark Thirty: Mark Boal

Will win: Zero Dark Thirty

Should win: Moonrise Kingdom

Should have been nominated: The Cabin in the Woods

Yes, I think a "lowly" horror movie belongs on this list. That's because The Cabin in the Woods isn't your typical horror flick. It's brilliantly written. Of course, as usual, the Academy has turned a blind eye to genre material like this. That's a shame, but what else is new?

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Argo: Chris Terrio

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin

Life of Pi: David Magee

Lincoln: Tony Kushner

Silver Linings Playbook: David O. Russell

Will win: Lincoln

Should win: Silver Linings Playbook

Should have been nominated: Stephen Chbosky for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Richard Linklater for Bernie, Ben Lewin for The Sessions

No one was expecting to see Bernie on this list, which is unfair, because it's wonderfully written and a spot-on adaption of Skip Hollandsworth's entertaining article, Midnight in the Garden of East Texas.

The Sessions, which was also based on an article – Mark O'Brien's On Seeing a Sex Surrogate – seemed to be a more likely possibility. Alas, it was overlooked.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower should have been included because it's a unique case of a book's author writing and adapting his own script for the screen.

Other thoughts:  I would love for Wreck-It Ralph to win in the Best Animated Feature category because it's a brilliant love letter to video games. The short film that preceded it, Paperman, is even more incredible and I hope it wins in its own category.

In the Foreign Film category, Best Picture nominee Amour seems like a lock, but I have to wonder if A Royal Affair will score the upset. The Other Son should have been irresistible to the Academy with its tantalizing premise: two babies – one Palestinian and the other Israeli – are switched at birth. Unfortunately, Oscar voters didn't see it that way (who knows if they saw it at all). I was hoping – but not expecting – Sleepless Night to be nominated (assuming it's eligible for 2012).

Here are the rest of the categories and nominees:

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Brave: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman

Frankenweenie: Tim Burton

ParaNorman: Sam Fell, Chris Butler

The Pirates! Band of Misfits: Peter Lord

Wreck-It Ralph: Rich Moore

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Amour (Austria)

War Witch (Canada)

No (Chile)

A Royal Affair (Denmark)

Kon-Tiki (Norway)

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Anna Karenina: Seamus McGarvey

Django Unchained: Robert Richardson

Life of Pi: Claudio Miranda

Lincoln: Janusz Kaminski

Skyfall: Roger Deakins

Best Achievement in Editing

Argo: William Goldenberg

Life of Pi: Tim Squyres

Lincoln: Michael Kahn

Silver Linings Playbook: Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers

Zero Dark Thirty: William Goldenberg, Dylan Tichenor

Best Achievement in Production Design

Anna Karenina: Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Dan Hennah, Ra Vincent, Simon Bright

Les Misérables: Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson

Life of Pi: David Gropman, Anna Pinnock

Lincoln: Rick Carter, Jim Erickson

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Anna Karenina: Jacqueline Durran

Les Misérables: Paco Delgado

Lincoln: Joanna Johnston

Mirror Mirror: Eiko Ishioka

Snow White and the Huntsman: Colleen Atwood

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

Hitchcock: Howard Berger, Peter Montagna, Martin Samuel

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Peter King, Rick Findlater, Tami Lane

Les Misérables: Lisa Westcott, Julie Dartnell

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Anna Karenina: Dario Marianelli

Argo: Alexandre Desplat

Life of Pi: Mychael Danna

Lincoln: John Williams

Skyfall: Thomas Newman

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Chasing Ice: J. Ralph ("Before My Time")

Les Misérables: Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer ("Suddenly")

Life of Pi: Mychael Danna, Bombay Jayshree ("Pi's Lullaby")

Skyfall: Adele, Paul Epworth ("Skyfall")

Ted: Walter Murphy, Seth MacFarlane ("Everybody Needs a Best Friend")

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Argo: John T. Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, José Antonio García

Les Misérables: Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Simon Hayes

Life of Pi: Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill, Drew Kunin

Lincoln: Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom, Ron Judkins

Skyfall: Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Stuart Wilson

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Argo: Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn

Django Unchained: Wylie Stateman

Life of Pi: Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton

Skyfall: Per Hallberg, Karen M. Baker

Zero Dark Thirty: Paul N.J. Ottosson

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

The Avengers: Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams, Daniel Sudick

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher White

Life of Pi: Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boer, Donald Elliott

Prometheus: Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley, Martin Hill

Snow White and the Huntsman: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Phil Brennan, Neil Corbould, Michael Dawson

Best Documentary, Features

5 Broken Cameras: Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi

The Gatekeepers: To Be Determined

How to Survive a Plague: To Be Determined

The Invisible War: To Be Determined

Searching for Sugar Man: To Be Determined

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

Inocente: Sean Fine, Andrea Nix

Kings Point: Sari Gilman, Jedd Wider

Mondays at Racine: Cynthia Wade, Robin Honan

Open Heart : Kief Davidson, Cori Shepherd Stern

Redemption : Jon Alpert, Matthew O'Neill

Best Short Film, Animated

Adam and Dog: Minkyu Lee

Fresh Guacamole: PES

Head Over Heels: Timothy Reckart, Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly

Paperman: John Kahrs

The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare: David Silverman

Best Short Film, Live Action

Asad: Bryan Buckley, Mino Jarjoura

Buzkashi Boys: Sam French, Ariel Nasr

Curfew: Shawn Christensen

Death of a Shadow: Tom Van Avermaet, Ellen De Waele

Henry: Yan England