Archive for February, 2011

Kleeb’s 10 Best Films of 2010

February 27, 2011

Tonight is Oscar Night, which means I’ve been holed up watching all of the nominees. I have to say, I’m not really impressed with a lot of the front runners. Since we’re betting on the winners tonight, I’ll make my own predictions of the winners. However, I’m also going to list my favorite 10 films of the year, regardless of the Academy.

First off, I want to talk about films that didn’t make my list. I enjoyed The Fighter but it didn’t make my list. I still think Christian Bale is a shoe-in for Best Supporting Actor and Melissa Leo has a good shot at Best Supporting Actress. I don’t think Russell will win Director, but he might have a shot at Original Screenplay.

127 Hours is the story of Aron Ralson (James Franco), who gets trapped while mountain climbing and is forced to cut off his own arm. While Franco was great, and I love Danny Boyle, I think the only person that has a shot here is AR Rahman, the guy who won all the Original Score awards for Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle brings him back for 127 Hours and I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll do it again. He may even edge out Randy Newman for Original Song for “If I Rise.”

I enjoyed The Kids Are Alright and Blue Valentine but I don’t think they really have a shot. Man, Blue Valentine is a depressing watch. Also, if you’re looking for a crazy mind-fuck of a film, go watch Enter The Void. I have a feeling I’ll like that one a lot more if I watch it a second time.

Okay, let’s get to the list:

10. The King’s Speech

Here’s everyone’s favorite period piece about King George VI’s speech impediment and his plebeian speech therapist. I’m not usually one for dramatic historical films, but I can’t deny that Colin Firth deserves the Best Actor award, hands-down. If, for some reason, Christian Bale doesn’t win, Geoffrey Rush might also scoop up Best Supporting Actor. I know this is one of the front-runners is every category, but it should only really get Original Screenplay and possibly Costume Design. I’ll be angry if this takes home Best Picture or Director.

9. Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass rules. It’s not an Oscar movie, but it’s more fun to watch than a lot of them. You’ve got a nerdy kid who wants to be a half-assed superhero, and also a weapons-crazed Nicholas Cage and his deadly daughter (Chloe Moretz). Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Mark Strong make for a deadly and hilarious Father-son team as the evil villains. For a comic-book movie, it’s pretty violent. This is also one of the few films where I don’t hate Nicholas Cage with a burning passion. He’s actually pretty awesome.

8. True Grit

Joel and Ethan Coen have me by the balls. I think they’re the best directors of our time, and will watch any film they make, whether it’s a mystery, comedy, or western. True Grit is a modern western done in the dry wit of the Coen style. Hailee Steinfeld should really take home Best Supporting Actress, but I think it’s a long shot. I’ve also got a place in my heart for Jeff Bridges as Best Actor, since his character is a cross between The Dude and Bad Blake. Matt Damon and Josh Brolin are great as well. This is just an all-around amazing cast and if I was a little more into westerns, I might have liked it a bit more.

7. Toy Story 3

We watched all three Toy Story movies in a row, making it more like an epic Star Wars trilogy than an animated Pixar film. I have to say, I enjoyed Part Three the most, as Andy goes off to college and the toys struggle to stay relevant as donations to a nursery. Pixar has a way of tugging at your heartstrings, and while Toy Story 3 wasn’t as tear-jerking as Up, it has its moments (trash compactor, anyone?). This is definitely going to snag Best Animated Feature and most likely Best Original Song for Randy Newman’s “We Belong Together.” Also, for anyone who saw this in theatres, the short Day & Night is probably going to take Best Animated Short

6. Winter’s Bone

Here’s the surprise film of the year. Based on the synopsis, we put Winter’s Bone off until last, watching all of the other Best Picture nominees first. It’s the story of a young Ozarks girl raising her dysfunctional family’s two children because her mom is unresponsive and her father is missing due to involvement with a brutal drug ring. In order to keep her house and her family together, she has to figure out what happened to her father by probing some of the most dangerous mountain people in her area. Jennifer Lawrence deserves Best Actress for this breakout performance, but I doubt she’ll win over the big names in this category. John Hawkes is also intense as her dangerous, yet protective uncle.

5. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

A video game movie? Complete with extra lives, bosses, and 8-bit music? Oh man, you can imagine how many times I re-watched Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim, vying for the heart of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to win her over, he has to battle all of her ex-boyfriends (and girlfriends), while simultaneously playing with his punk rock band, Sex Bob-omb. His battles become increasingly difficult, until he reaches the final boss, record producer Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman). Not really an Oscar contender, but it rules nonetheless.

4. Exit Through The Gift Shop

Mysterious street artist Banksy produces this hilarious documentary about graffiti, centered around French filmmaker Thierry Guetta. As Thierry follows around artists like Space Invader, Shepard Fairey, and Andre, it becomes pretty evident that he’s not really a filmmaker, and more like a guy with a camera. Whether or not this entire film is just an elaborate prank setup by Banksy, it still resulted in a moderately successful art career for Thierry, as well as an Oscar nod for Best Documentary Feature. I haven’t really seen any of the other docs, so it’s hard to make my own judgment call, but I love this film and would love to see how Banksy accepts an award while not revealing his identity.

3. The Social Network

David Fincher’s depiction of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to power is dark, intelligent, and ruthless. Jessie Eisenberg is fantastic as a young, opportunity-driven Zuckerberg, first cultivating his idea at Harvard, then moving out to California with the help of Napster founder Sean Parker (a hilarious Justin Timberlake). This is probably going to win Best Picture, and I bet Fincher takes home Best Director as well. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is also a sure win for Best Adapted Screenplay. If it’s between Social Network and King’s Speech, I’m hoping Social Network cleans house. It’s a modern story of betrayal, ruthlessness, and power. It would be sweet to see Trent Reznor also take home Best Original Score but that might be a long shot.

2. Black Swan

If the Coen Brothers are the best directors of our time, Darren Aronofsky isn’t far behind. The fast-paced psychological thrillers Pi and Requiem For A Dream started him off on the path to make the sprawling The Fountain and 2008’s The Wrestler, where Mickey Rourke’s performance as an aging wrestler earned him an Oscar nod and put Aronofsky in league with names like Scorsese, Lynch, and Tarantino. Black Swan has a similar plotline to The Wrestler, in which an emaciated Natalie Portman plays a ballet dancer who will do anything to achieve the lead role in the Swan Lake musical, regardless of the tole it exerts on her body and her mind. Portman is a favorite for Best Actress and I’m sure Aronofsky’s creepy and disturbing imagery and fast-paced editing will earn him Best Film Editing and Best Cinematography. I look forward to anything Aronofsky has planned for the future, especially now that he is a household name.

1. Inception

I know, I know, you’re all thinking really??. It’s true, I’m a sucker for Christopher Nolan’s inner maze of the human mind. I saw Inception while I was in the midst of reading Godel, Escher, and Bach, a dense book about the “strange loops” involved in contemporary music, MC Escher’s artwork, and mathematics. While watching the “nested dream worlds” of Inception, I couldn’t help thinking I was in familiar territory. The plot was complex, but laid out in such a way that you couldn’t possibly get lost in the theory. Immediately, we are thrust into DiCaprio’s dream world as he applies for a job with Saito (Ken Watanabe). Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Dileep Rao fill out his crack team of mind-spies. Inception is a roller coaster ride through layers of action, as the team drives deeper and deeper into the mind of Cillian Murphy. While no one here is up for an Oscar, and it sure as hell doesn’t have a shot at Best Picture, I’m sure Inception will bring home Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It may even take Best Visual Effects or Best CInematography. Of course, most action films sweep the categories of special effects and sound. It’s rare that an action film has the complexity and intelligence of Inception, though.


Death By Arcade

February 1, 2011

Sometime after the New Year, I began to research the parts and software I would need to build my own MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator). Since DBA had an old computer that wasn’t being used, I priced the rest of the components out at under $200. After a few weeks of testing the hardware and software, it was time to put everything together.

My roommate Alex had some leftover board that had a white gloss finish, so we decided to make the cabinet out of that.

I got the coin door from Ebay. It was about $50 and taken from another old arcade game. After cutting a few unnecessary parts off with an exacto knife, and rewiring the switches, it kinda works. The Player 2 slot still kinda sticks, but I guess this is what happens when you buy used stuff from Ebay. If I had to do it again, I’d buy a new door.

The buttons were all purchased from Tornado Terry’s (through their Ebay store). This was amazing because they allowed me to pick colors and mix and match. I bought 4 red, 4 blue, 4 green, a 1 player, and 2 player button.

We drilled the holes using a 1 1/8″ spade bit for the buttons. The Mag-Stik Plus Joysticks were purchased through Ultimarc and chosen specifically for the switchable 4 or 8 direction mode. Ultimarc is probably the best online store for MAME supplies. They have diagrams and exploded views of all of their parts. Also, super fast shipping. Sweet place.

We ended up using a 3/4″ hole for the Joysticks, which allowed for just enough movement to hit all the directions.

That little guy in the midde? That’s called an I-Pac. Also purchased from Ultimarc. Basically this chip allows you to substitute joysticks and buttons for keyboard commands when playing an emulator. Just connect it via USB and wire up your controls and you’re done. The ports are all even labeled: up, down, left, right, button 1, button 2, etc.

Now I just had to solder all of my connections…

Almost done

The computer we used was an old E Mac, which had the monitor, hard drive, speakers, and usb ports all in one big, heavy compartment. During the days prior to the build, I installed MacMAME and started getting some ROMs to run on this computer. Because most ROMs are probably not designed for Mac, a few of my games were a bit glitchy. However, we got 3 games ready for opening night: Altered Beast, Street Fighter 2, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time.

Time for troubleshooting.

Okay, I guess some other people can play.

True, with the E Mac, it looks pretty cheesy. We’re also a bit worried about clumsy drunks in the show space. Tomorrow, I’m going to put a piece of plexiglass over the computer and paint the border around the screen black to cover up the computer. I also need to download a Front End selection screen for the games. Right now, it’s only running Street Fighter. It’s probably also a good idea to put something under the coin door, so the quarters don’t just fall on the floor.

In any case, the Death By Audio arcade is up and running. Come and check it out.