Posts Tagged ‘The Descendants


Best of 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was the top grossing film of 2011. Did it make Red Band Project' s top films of 2011?

It took a while, but we can just about close the book on 2011 with our own ‘Best of’ list for last year. I figure, if the Academy can wait till tonight to give out their awards for last year, why not the Red Band Project as well? Also, the extra time gave me the opportunity to catch up with a few more 2011 films in theaters and on DVD. So without further ado, here are my top films of 2011 . . .


You take the director and star behind the hugely successful Pirates franchise and throw in one of the most powerful effects houses in the world, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), and you could have the makings of a pretty unique film. All of these traits are evident in the finished product–Rango, a quirky animated Western comedy. The animation alone is reason enough to watch the film as the animation style employed by ILM is probably like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s so hyper-realistic that things look and almost feel as if they’re real. Then you have Johnny Depp providing the voice for probably one of his most memorable and quirky characters ever in Rango, an eccentric chameleon who stumbles into becoming sheriff. It’s a fun story with lively characters and great animation.


With urban violence in Chicago at an all time high, a group of mediators called Ceasefire is stepping in to help curb violence before it starts. These ‘violence interrupters’ put themselves in harm’s way to diffuse situations by talking to both parties to try and calm them down. Just how are they able to reach these individuals? It’s because members of Ceasefire are former gang members and criminals who know what it’s like on the other side of the law. The film is a powerful look at the members of Ceasefire, the daily struggles they go through, the families and people that they work with, and an up close and personal look at why inner city violence escalates so quickly. The film showcases some pretty powerful and authentic moments and doesn’t shy away from the fact that not everything the group does works out. If you have the time, check out The Interruptors for yourself, for free, over at the PBS website.


This was probably one of the most fun movies of the summer if not the year. Leading into last summer I was really worried about Captain America due to the problems inherent in a character that’s not of this time. In the end it was a good move for the creators to set the film during WWII–the original era that Cap is from. The superhero period piece stayed true to the character and was a great way to provide his backstory. While we did a bunch of Avengers porn at the end, overall the story focused on Steve Rogers and how he became Captain America–a story portrayed really well in the film.


You really have to hand it to this film for trying something bold as not having dialogue and mainly relying on the audience to ‘feel’ our characters’ performances. As Wall•E proved a few years ago, you don’t have to say anything to let people know how you feel–we can pick it up from the way a character moves and looks. Beyond the Hollywood nostalgia for the good ole days, what The Artist does so well is focus on the basics: have your actors give us a good performance to tell a story.


What I love about Hugo is that it’s a story about magic. The magic of imagination, the magic of cinema, and the magic of storytelling. Martin Scorsese crafts a wonderful tale about Hugo Cabret, an orphaned boy trying to unlock the secret of a mechanical automaton. Through this process Hugo encounters a lot of different people and ends up discovering a secret that the automaton has been hiding. The film is pure magic with it being shot really well and makes the best use of 3D since Avatar.

#4 50/50

Out of all the movies I saw last year, I really wish more people had gotten a chance to see 50/50. It’s definitely not an easy sell as it deals with the subject of what a person goes through when they find out that they have cancer, but it’s definitely worth catching up with if you have the chance. Joseph Gordon Levitt, Seth Rogen, Bryce Dallas Howard anchor a supurb cast in a well written story that will have you laughing and crying before the end.

#3 The Descendants

What else can I say that hasn’t already been said? From top to bottom I thought Alexander Payne put together a really great film. From Clooney’s performance to those of all the supporting characters to the way situations are dealt with to theportrayal of Hawaii, The Descendants has it all.

#2 Drive

From the opening sequence of the film, this movie had me. Ryan Gosling’s Driver is just so cool that it made me want to go drive around with a toothpick in my mouth after I saw the film. With just a few looks and not much else you can feel what his character is going through or know what he would say even though he doesn’t say anything. You also have Carey Mulligan providing a pretty solid performance as Driver’s love interest and the chemistry between them is so great that you get a sense of electricity between them even though they may just be riding together in a car or just talking with one another in the hall. Director Nicolas Winding Refn really puts together a great film with some nice visuals and a solid soundtrack.

#1 Attack the Block

This movie was the most fun I had at the theaters last year and ironically, at the time I saw it I was the only one in the theater when I saw it. What happens when an alien invasion occurs in south London and a street gang of teens are the only ones around? They kick ass and save the day that’s what. The simplest way I can describe the film is that it’s Aliens meets Goonies as you have a group of kids on an adventure to stay alive and battle these aliens who have descended on their home. The creature effects aren’t the greatest, but that doesn’t matter since the storytelling and characters more than make up for that. The whole time you’re rooting for the gang to win even though you’re not sure who is going to live and who is going to die. Do yourself a favor and watch this movie. I promise you, you’ll have a lot of fun.

Looking forward to in 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: I know, I know, this is obviously the most anticipated movie of the year. It’s just one guy, but yes, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises easily beats out the Marvel team-up of The Avengers as the movie event of the year. So much has already come out from trailers to a ton of set photos to the prologue itself that I can’t wait for July.

The Raid: After Dark Knight, this is easily my second most anticipated film of the year. Why? Because the movie looks like it’s going to be an action packed thrill of a ride. I’ve been tracking this film since it debuted last year on the festival circuit and briefly discussed it when it played at Sundance last month. Thankfully I hear that it’s coming to Consolidated Theatres Kahala next month so I we won’t have to wait long to see this one.

Prometheus: Every time I see the trailer I can’t help but get a little more excited for this film. Initially I wasn’t, but there’s just so many good components to this film that I can’t help but get excited. I’ve always been a sci-fi guy so I’m always down for a space thriller, but you throw in great actors (Michael Fassbender & Charlize Theron to name a few) and the director of Alien; count me in!

Discoveries: Of course there’s still a bunch of stuff that I’m looking forward to seeing; the big Marvel team up of The Avengers and then there’s Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit in December, but I’m also looking forward to the surprises that nobody really knows about yet. The ones we won’t discover until they come out in the theater. Hopefully they’ll be just as many this year as there were last year.


Best of 2011 from other local bloggers . . .

To put us all to shame, HIFF’s programming director Anderson Le gives us the top 10 films of 2011 that we all missed out on. [YOMYOMF – Part 1] [YOMYOMF – Part 2]

The good folks over at the Popspotting podcast give us the ‘Best of 2011’ not just for movies but for everything popculturey. [Popspotting]

Here’s their favorite films from 2011 from the book and film themed blog [I Adore Books and Film]

Nonstop’s movie guru Myong Choi lists his Fab Five Films of 2011. [Nonstop Honolulu]

And finally, the Star-Advertiser’s movie reviewer Burl Burlingame gives us his top 10. [Honolulu Pulse]


OW 2012: Best Picture

Brad Pitt wonders whether or not he'll pick up a Best Picture Oscar for being a producer on Moneyball.

This year the Academy implemented new rules that basically stated that depending on how nomination voting goes, there would be no set number of nominees for the Best Picture category as in year’s past. Through there would always be a minimum of five nominations, up to ten total could make the ballot depending on how voting went. Which is how we ended up this year with an odd number of nine Best Picture nominees.

I personally like this rule change even better than implementing the mandatory ten nominations that we’ve had the past two years. It still gives us the potential for more than five films to score a Best Picture nomination, but doesn’t force films in there that might not be worthy. Also, it definitely adds a sense of mystery leading up to the nominations as no one really knows which additional films will make it in (it’s almost like March Madness bracketology in some respects).

Something to remember about this category, it’s the only Oscar category that the entire Academy can vote on. Depending on what branch of the Academy a person is in, they can only vote on awards in those categories (ie: someone in the actor’s branch can’t vote on the Sound Mixing category, etc). In any case, here we are this year with nine nominees for Best Picture.

Who I Think SHOULD Win: The Descendants

I’ve been singing it’s praises for a while now and out of all the other films in the field, I like The Descendants the most. On a subconscious level it may be a homer pick, but aside from that it has a lot of other things going for it . . . first and foremost being great acting. Yes you’ve got Clooney in the starring role, but you’ve also got a great ensemble supporting him as well. Shailene Woodley first and foremost I think should have gotten a supporting nomination for her role as Matt King’s daughter. Then you’ve got really solid secondary performances by Robert Forster as Matt’s father-in-law and Judy Greer as the opposite spouse that’s been cheated on. Like I said, the cast is great top to bottom. The other thing that the film has going for it is great storytelling. I don’t know if it’s Kaui Hart Hemmings book or the way that Alexander Payne put the film together (probably both), but I thought they way everything unfolded, was explained, and felt; was great.

On everyone else . . .

The Artist: I like The Artist (as apparently so do a whole lot of other people). As a whole it’s wonderfully shot and wonderfully conceived, but like I mentioned in my previous posts about the actors’ race, I think the silent film “hook” of the film is what’s giving it a lot of play. Don’t get me wrong, the film has a lot going for it with great performances by both of the leads, but take away novelty and what have you got?

The Help: The film definitely has the best ensemble cast out of all the nominees with not just one, not just two, but count em, three actresses nominated for Oscars coming out of this film. The story is fun and the book is beloved by all. So why won’t it win? Partly because I don’t think there’s one singular thing for the audience to focus on in the film. When everyone in the cast is great–no one is great. Secondly, the Academy has a history of voting for smaller (not mainstream) films. I won’t be surprised if they go for another film over The Help. A lack of technical nominations isn’t going to help either.

Hugo: The film is a visual masterpiece and a wonderfully heartwarming story about the early days of cinema. And it’s also the one film that makes me wish I had a 3D TV (for when it comes out on blu-ray next week Tuesday). However, with no stand out acting performances in the film, it won’t take home Best Picture. Nostalgia is always best when you just look back fondly on things. Sadly, the same things goes for Hugo.

Midnight In Paris: Ok, Midnight is actually a curious case because it would seem like the perfect Oscar bait for The Academy to bite on. It’s got a great director in Woody Allen returning to form, it’s got art nostalgia with it’s main character visiting artists in the past, and it’s sent in Paris. But, Midnight is also afflicted with the same things that I just mentioned about Hugo . . . it doesn’t have great acting to support it and the nostalgia factor can only take it so far.

Moneyball: Like the Best Actor race, I really like Moneyball but it’s in my three spot after films I like more in The Descendants and The Artist. You’ve got wonderful performances anchoring with it and an unconventional sports story to boot. However, I think the story is too new for the Academy to recognize. Also, only a small percentage of sports films have been nominated for Oscars let alone have won the top prize (only three: Rocky-1976, Chariots of Fire-1981, & Million Dollar Baby-2004). With more to choose from with this year’s nominees, it’s going to be hard for Moneyball to snag the top prize.

War Horse: Everybody loves Steven Spielberg. Anytime he puts out a film you know it’s definitely worth going to see. Sadly though, I think our expectations for him our too high these days as I wasn’t all that amazed by War Horse. Don’t get me wrong, I was invested in Joey’s story and when he gets tripped up (literally) in No Man’s Land I winced along with everyone else in the crowd. The film is also wonderfully shot and put together as well. But, if anything, the film felt so stereotypically “Spielbergian.” If I had to convey to someone what a typical Spielberg film looked like, I would describe War Horse to them as everything seemed like it was a process or paint (or film if you will) by numbers. Typcial Spielberg isn’t going to win any Oscars.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close & The Tree of Life: Did not view.

Who WILL Win: The Artist

The reality of the situation is that The Artist has always been the frontrunner and seems poised to win. As I’ve mentioned before it’s got great acting and the ‘old Hollywood story’ that I’m sure the Academy will eat up. However, it’s also got 10 nominations going for it, which means that it’s also well liked in the more technical areas of the film as well (it’s nominated for Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Music-Original Score). Remember in the beginning of this post when I mentioned that all branches of the Academy can vote on Best Picture? That’s where having a lot of nominations comes in to play. The Artist will most likely be picking up votes from all branches of the Academy which will probably propel it to victory.


So some things came up and I had to change the order of my Oscar Watch posts. Yesterday I mentioned I would be covering the Oscar shorts today. Well that post will be coming tomorrow now instead (hopefully) and possibly one or two more Oscar categories to conclude our Oscar Watch coverage before the awards on Sunday. You have any opinions on the Best Picture winner or nominees for this year? Am I being too much of a homer by picking/wanting The Descendants to win? Let us know in the comments.


More Oscar Watch Reading . . .

Seems like Borat/Bruno star Sacha Baron Cohen (who is attending because he was in Hugo) wants to crash the Oscar ceremony dressed as his new character from his upcoming film The Dictator. Well of course the Academy doesn’t like that one bit. [link]

Speaking of voting for Best Picture nominees, over at Cinema Blend they look at ‘Why It’s Ridiculous to Have 9 Best Picture Nominees.’ Their solution is to go smaller, like down to three nominations for Best Picture. I think that’s a worse idea. [link]


OW 2012: Actors in Leading & Supporting Roles

Yesterday we looked at the Actress categories for this year’s Oscars, today we focus on the Actor categories. In one race you pretty much have a sure thing, in the other you could have a major upset. Read on to find out which is which.

Actor in a Leading Role

Who I Think SHOULD Win: George ClooneyThe Descendants
Ever since I saw The Descendants back at HIFF in October, I’ve loved the film and Clooney’s performance. Sure he’s had bigger roles, but he plays sad-sack dad Matt King so picture perfect. The look in his eyes, the way he struggles to be father, dealing with his father in law–Clooney’s portrayal is the genuine thing. There’s just something about his performance that felt really true to me. I liked Clooney a couple of years ago in Up in the Air. This time though, I think we get a little more from him. He’s won a Supporting Oscar and has been nominated for Lead Actor before, but I think Clooney should take home gold this year.

On everyone else . . .

  • Demián Bichir: The story from A Better Life isn’t something a lot of us can relate to, which makes it all that more poignant for people to check out. As I was watching the film the whole time the title echoed in the back of my mind as Bichir’s character, Carlos Galindo, tries to better his station in life so that he can provide for his son. Bichir gives a subtle performance and you can feel his character trying to be different things: on one hand he’s trying to be a provider, on the other he’s afraid of being deported and losing his son. Bichir also gets a chance to shine at the end with a monologue that gets the waterworks going. In the end, though good, I wanted to see more depth from his character.
  • Jean Dujardin: The same thing I said about Bérénice Bejo in the Supporting Actress category I’ll say again for Dujardin . . . though I thought his performance was really great in The Artist, to win Best Actor, I need to hear you speak. Just like Bejo, Dujardin gives a great performance and he really says a lot with body language, mannerisms, and facial expressions. I just want to know that he has the whole package before I can give him this award.
  • Gary Oldman: I love Gary Oldman and the man has done a lot of great work, I just don’t think he does enough in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. George Smiley maybe a smart and cunning Mi6 agent, but animated and expressive he is not. While I didn’t think it was a bad performance by Oldman he does not have a lot to do with his character. Though I hate to say it, the nomination may be the reward for Oldman (it’s his one and only Oscar nomination to date).
  • Brad Pitt: If I had to pick a second place Oscar or if Clooney wasn’t as good, I’d probably give it to Pitt for taking on the role of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane in Moneyball. I was only lukewarm on the film when it first came out, but the more I think about it, the more I see that it’s better than I originally thought. It’s not your typical sports movie that’s for sure, but Pitt definitely turns in a great performance. Sure he has the typical Brad Pitt like moments where he gets to be that smug guy, but he also has some great moments where its him and the baseball field or when it’s just him and Jonah Hill trying to figure things out that really elevate his performance. Great editing may have helped, but there are moments in the film when you see Pitt as Beane alone with his thoughts. Nothing is spoken, but you can hear his character’s thoughts–all conveyed by the way Pitt looks.

Who WILL Win: Jean DujardinThe Artist
Dujardin has been the favorite for a while and has already picked up a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild award, and a British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) award for his lead performance in The Artist. I even thought he was all but a lock to win after his Funny or Die audition sketch and appearance on SNL with Zooey Deschanel. With him jumping into the mainstream-how could you NOT vote for the guy? However after reading this post by Oscar reporter Anne Thompson, a split in the voting could lead to anyone winning the award. Though Dujardin is the favorite, don’t be surprised if someone else sneaks by for the win.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Who I Think SHOULD Win: Christopher PlummerBeginners
This is another case where the supporting category has a clear frontrunner (and most likely a winner). Plummer’s turn as Ewan McGregor’s father who’s recently come out of the closet at such a late age and is also dying of cancer make for a great mix of comedic and dramatic moments from his character in Beginners. The portrayal of balance that Plummer shows in the role of this man trying to finally live his life under the cloud of cancer hangs over all of it definitely hits the right tones at the right moments. They feel real as the character struggles with life and death.

On everyone else . . .

  • Jonah Hill: Though it wasn’t overly dramatic, it was great to see Jonah Hill stretch his acting chops in Moneyball. They had some comedic lines and moments for him to put his own stamp on the character, but he also did a great job in a really understated role. Again, I think the nomination is the reward here as I’d like to see more from Hill in the future.
  • Nick Nolte: The recovered alcoholic father Paddy Conlon in Warrior was probably THE perfect role Nolte. Throughout the entire film I felt really bad for this guy. He seemed to have put his destructive ways behind him and was making a heartfelt effort to bridge the relationship with his sons and they just wouldn’t have it. The agony on his face every time one of his sons rejected him was just so heartbreaking. Then there was the stereotypical emotional moment that story-wise felt forced, but acting wise was great.
  • Kenneth Branagh & Max von Sydow: Did not view My Week With Marilyn or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Who WILL Win: Christopher PlummerBeginners
It’s definitely hard to speak to who should actually win this category when I hear that the two performances that I haven’t seen (Branagh & von Sydow) are pretty good in their own right. However, all the Oscar talk I’ve read points to all signs for the gold to go to Plummer. He has a long and distinguished career and he’s been giving a number of wonderful interviews in the past two months. Like his counterpart in the Supporting Actress category Octavia Spencer, he too has won a Golden Globe, SAG award, and BAFTA award for his supporting role in Beginners. This year, he’ll take home his first Oscar as well.

That’s it for today. Stay tuned tomorrow as we leave the acting categories behind and take a look at both Short Film categories which you can catch right now at Consolidated Kahala 8.


More Oscar Watch Reading . . .

Nonstop Honolulu’s movie blogger Myong Choi gives his picks for this year’s Oscars. And like I said, we all seem to agree on who should get the awards in the acting categories. [link]

Honolulu Weekly’s Bob Green also gives us his picks for Oscar night. He goes out on a limb in some categories, but I do like his logic. [link]


Go Out and See The Descendants!

The talk of this year's Hawaii International Film Festival is finally out in theaters.

HIFF 31 wrapped exactly one month ago, and while the hoopla from the closing night film The Descendants died off a short while after that, it’s all being ramped back up again as the film makes it way to local shores today in an expanded limited release. Seriously, more about The Descendants!?! Yes, more Descendants! More Clooney! More Shailene Woodley! (who?). Anyway, here are a few reasons why you should go out and see The Descendants this Thanksgiving weekend . . .

    1. IT’S SET IN HAWAII :: Yes, us locals are always suckers for when Hollywood productions are set or filmed in Hawaii. I’m not sure about everyone else, but films about or shot in Hawaii always get a few more points in my book, mainly because I think it’s good exposure for the state AND it’s sort of a thing of pride. It also features a lot of local Hawaiian music, predominantly from Gabby Pahinui but also from other local singers as well. Tons of movies are filmed/set in New York or LA. Movies filmed or set in Hawaii are few and far between so anytime I can brag to people about a movie from Hawaii . . . I’ll take it!
    1. GREAT PERFORMANCES :: While George Clooney is the headlining star of the film, he’s not the only one that stands out. Right next to him should be Shailene Woodley who plays Clooney’s daughter in the film. She’s just as great if not better than Clooney. Also count solid performances from Judy Greer, Matt Lillard, and Robert Forster and you’ve got a bunch of great actors contributing to the film.
    1. GREAT STORY :: The story by local author Kaui Hart Hemmings is masterfully adapted to the screen by director Alexander Payne (Election, About Schmidt) and perfectly folds humor and sadness into the heart wrenching plot of the film. You can literally be laughing in one scene and then crying in the next. It’s storytelling at it’s finest.
    1. OSCAR BUZZ :: Even before it’s release last week Wednesday, The Descendants has been gathering a lot of positive Oscar buzz on the film festival circuit. Come Academy Awards time February, don’t you want to be able to say you saw at least one film that deserves to have an award? You’ll be able to contribute to any Oscar conversation as I’m sure The Descendants will pick up multiple nominations.

Where to see The Descendants?

So, here comes the tricky part. Though the film has been released today, it’s not a ‘wide release’. Wide releases are your typical Hollywood films that are released at every theater in your city/town. The Descendants is a film brought to you by Fox Searchlight. While Fox Searchlight is associated with 20th Century Fox (one of the big six studios) it is its own entity and is actually a smaller studio/film distributor that focuses on independent and art house cinema. The film is making it’s way to Hawaii via an expanded limited release. Limited release films generaly start off playing in New York and Los Angeles and gradually expand to playing in other, less populated, cities in forthcoming weeks.

As such, The Descendants is only playing at three theaters on Oahu:

Choose the appropriate location for your movie viewing.

Anything else I should know?

I know it can be a bit much taking my word for it on seeing The Descendants. So, here’s what other local film bloggers have been saying about the film (we pretty much all agree that you should see it):

Jen and Ryan over at the Popspotting podcast

Ed Morita over at NonStop Honolulu

Suzie Setzler over at the I Adore Books and Film blog

Burl Burlingame over at Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s HonoluluPulse

Mindy Pennybackers over at the Honolulu Weekly


HIFF 2011: Hodgepodge & Festival Wrap Up

I know, I know, I’m still writing stuff on HIFF. It’s such a huge film event here in Hawaii that it warrants a lot of coverage by a movie blog based in Hawaii. I promise you though that this will be pretty much the last post on this year’s festival. So please, bear with me as I put down a few more thoughts on the closing days of HIFF 31 in order to try and wrap things up.

Final Entry into the Diary of a HIFF Volunteer

So my last day/s of volunteering didn’t provide as much writing material and hence, this small section is going to close out my experience working as a volunteer at this year’s festival. The one thing I did want to mention again, is that you can end up working with some really cool people as a volunteer.

HIFF volunteers direct festival attendees to the appropriate theater.

On the lone Tuesday night of the festival, I was put into this team of three and we were posted at theater 12. Sadly I can’t remember my teammates names, but it was me, this other guy that I had worked with on Saturday, and this girl. I don’t know how it came up, but it eventually came out that we were all the same age as we were all born in 1980. I mean, I’m sure the odds of something like that happening were way more possible than say me winning the lottery, but at the time I found it pretty striking. With some common ground between us, we started chatting away as we worked.

Of course, the conversation turned towards where we lived and where we were from. Through all of our conversation up until this point I had just assumed that we were all locals. Nothing that anyone had said would have given me reason to think otherwise. However, the other guy in our group told us that he was originally from Houston, Texas. This sparked an amazing conversation on how he came to be in Hawaii and of his travels around the world.

It started off with the usual questions; we asked him what he was doing here in Hawaii, how long he had been here, where he was before he came here. Come to find out that he was watching his friend’s house while he was deployed. Since his friend had a car as well, he even had a car to get around in. How he got here was pretty cool too (figuratively, not literally). Basically his friend called him up towards the end of last year and asked if him if he wanted to live in Hawaii while he was deployed. At the time he was finishing up his stay in Australia and he didn’t really have anything else to do so he took his friend up on his offer.

Naturally the question of “well what were doing in Australia” came up. This pretty much lead into a whirlwind tour of my teammate’s travels around the world. He told us that he was in Australia for volunteer work and it was through the volunteer service that placed him there that he’d traveled all over. He then told us about his experience volunteering in Ethiopia, what life was like there, and about the Internet cafes they had there. The whole time I was listening I was pretty amazed. He was such a low key guy and he had these interesting stories about where he’d been. He even told us that he was a fugitive in Australia. He got fined for trespassing down there and he was supposed to appear in court. The thing was, his court date was a week or two after his flight to Hawaii. He said they’d probably never let him back into the country for skipping town, but he wasn’t heartbroken about it since he had already seen the country and didn’t really need to go back.

Teammates, volunteers, festival friends, call them what you will. You meet these people possibly one night out of the festival and never see them again till the spring or the following year. Working with a good group of people will make the time just fly by while working with not so great people . . . well, let’s just say that’ll probably make for some fun stories. Whatever the case may be, you’re going to meet interesting people when you volunteer at HIFF.

George Clooney at HIFF

The George Clooney cardboard cutout was a big hit on the final night of the festival.

Going into the festival, I (along with everyone else) knew that Descendants director, Alexander Payne, was going to be here for closing night. It was reported by the Star-Advertiser and other media outlets. Hollywood film, shot in Hawaii, about Hawaii, and the director was going to be here to receive an award and talk about the film . . . yeah, even before the festival started you knew closing night was going to be crazy.

What I wasn’t expecting though, was the rumor mill buzzing about how George Clooney might be coming to the festival as well. I heard people talking about this from opening night! No one really knew for sure if he was coming, but it seemed as if everyone had heard from someone that an effort had been made to bring him out here. Now I’m sure Clooney was reached out to and asked to attend, however from the way people were talking about it, it seemed as if everyone thought he would make an appearance and that it was just this secret that was under wraps.

I knew from the beginning that Clooney wasn’t going to be here. There’s no way something like that could be kept a secret, it would have been reported somewhere. And also, this isn’t Telluride or Comic-Con where stuff is kept secret up until the moment it happens. No, if Clooney was coming, everyone would know.

Fast forward to closing night. I didn’t know it as we walked through the lobby, but George Clooney did show up for this year’s HIFF. He was in the lobby in front of the HIFF sponsor backdrop posing for pictures with guests. Ok, well, it wasn’t the real George Clooney, it was a cardboard cutout of him. It was really fun to see everyone wanting to take their pictures with the cutout and I thought it was a really great way to use the buzz surrounding the rumors of his appearance to engage festival attendees.

So just how did the festival get “Clooney” to show up? Festival director Joshua Nye said he had a brainstorm Friday night about the Clooney cutout and rushed out to get it made in time for the closing night film on Sunday.

Thoughts on The Descendants

And what of the closing night film itself? Call me a homer, but I loved The Descendants. I thought Clooney was great in the lead role of Matt King and I especially liked the relationship that he had with his daughters. Overall I thought the entire ensemble cast did good job, even down to Matt Lilliard who, when I saw his name come up in the opening credits I was like, “Ugh, not the guy from Scooby Doo!” However, I thought he had a great understated performance that didn’t make me think about his previous roles.

During the post film Q&A with director Alexander Payne, he talked a lot about how he wanted to get things right about Hawaii and even went so far as to live here for a few months before shooting began to get a good feel for Hawaii. All of Payne’s hard work definitely shows in the film. The way that our local lifestyle is depicted, from family gatherings, right down to the main character of Matt King–everything felt pretty authentic to me. I personally don’t know anyone like Matt King, but there are people like that here. They may not look local, or they may not act local, but they ARE local. And it was things like that that I appreciated from the film.

Anytime you have a film with George Clooney claiming Hawaiian, I’ll take that movie any day of the week. So yeah, like a lot of other locals, I really enjoyed The Descendants and I’m putting it in my Top 10 films of 2011.

Closing Thought’s on this Year’s Festival

Overall I had a really great experience this year, from both working as a volunteer and as a festival goer. If I had to say, I think I enjoyed more of the festival this year than I did last year. From the perspective of the blog, I definitely covered more than I have in the past. Things were really going good in the beginning when I had five or six days of consecutive posts and for a brief time I thought I could keep that pace. Sadly though reality eventually set in and I decided to choose sleep (and other real world responsibilities) over posting.

As for the final count of films that I saw, I believe the count stands at seven:

  • Paradise Broken
  • 6B
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Elite Squad: The Enemy Within
  • Knots
  • Bullhead
  • The Descendants

Though I didn’t get to see everything that I wanted to, which would have been physically impossible, I do know which films I want to look out for should they make their way to theaters within the next few month or appear on Netflix.

One takeaway from this year’s festival that will stand out for me is what local filmmakers are doing here in Hawaii. I’ve always been hesitant to check out local productions only because for such a long time there hasn’t been anything all that great. From commercials to the stuff on OC16, there is a lot of locally produced stuff that is really lame, kinda cheesy, or just plain tacky–and it was because of all of this that turned me off from local productions. Paradise Broken changed all that. It made me realize that we do have people who are doing great things in Hawaii. Like anything else, some things are going to be better than others and if you search for it, you will find quality work and storytelling going on here.

So I think that’s going to do it for this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival. Definitely some good times. If you enjoyed the festival this year or if you have anything to add, go ahead and hit me up in the comments.


Catch up with other closing thoughts from this year’s Hawaii International Film Festival from other local bloggers:


First Look: HIFF 2011

HIFF watch has officially begun and of course a dirty RED DOG is The Red Band Project's most anticipated film at this year's fest.

The fall. It’s that time of year between the summer blockbusters and the start of Oscar season. It’s also when Hollywood decides to dump more films on moviegoers that they aren’t all that interested in supporting, albeit a few glimmers of hope (Drive, Moneyball, Contagion). Thankfully though we have HIFF next month to help get us through these dark days of fall. Though it’s just a little over a week long, we can start looking forward to what’s in store for us for HIFF 31 by analyzing the films already announced, right now!

Note: For trailers to the 13 films announced for HIFF 31, head over to their website where they have posts with trailers/descriptions for each of the films.

Red Dog

Out of the 13 films announced so far, Red Dog is definitely the front runner for the film I want to see the most at HIFF 31 (photo above). Call me sentimental, call me an animal lover, call me a dog lover, but the trailer for this film had me smiling and grinning the entire time. Who wouldn’t like to see a story about a dog that is an entire town’s pet. Red Dog definitely seems like he’s almost a human being from the way he’s depicted in the film. Smart, funny, emotional, not since Wall•E have we seen someone who doesn’t speak convey so much with gestures. Take a look at Koko’s (aka Red Dog) screen test below and you’ll begin to see what I mean:


The Other 12 Films (so far)

The only other thing that intrigued me was Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey which describes the gentleman behind the famous Sesame Street character. It got lots of praise coming out of Sundance earlier this year (via /Film & Cinema Blend) and should definitely be a crowd-pleaser here as well. Whether I see this or not will depend on the schedule.

After that, the rest of the films didn’t really stand out to me. Don’t get me wrong, there may be some great films in here that I’m overlooking (and I’m certainly not saying any of them are bad), it’s just that none of them are really speaking to me at the moment. Ninja Kids and My Wedding and Other Secrets look to be fun and cute. Jiro Dreams of Sushi looks interesting and will not only attract foodies to this film, but make all of us wish that we had sushi right there with us next to our popcorn I’m sure. A few documentaries and dramas round out the rest of the currently announced titles:

  • Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (United States)
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi (Japan/United States)
  • The Journals of Musan (Korea)
  • Jump Ashin! (Taiwan)
  • Legend of the Millennium Dragon (Japan)
  • My Last Day Without You (United States)
  • My Wedding and Other Secrets (New Zealand)
  • Ninja Kids! (Japan)
  • Skateistan: Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul (Afghanistan)
  • Top Floor Left Wing (France)
  • Unfinished Spaces (United States)
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin (UK/United States)


The Descendants

What's George Clooney got to hide from? Why only the masses and masses of people that are going to try and see The Descendants on the closing night of HIFF. That's all.

Though not officially announced or noted on the HIFF website, it is already being reported that The Descendants by Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election) starring George Clooney, will be the closing night film for this year’s HIFF. Generally a lot of people go to the opening night, centerpiece, gala, and closing night films because they’re bigger films, receive more publicity, and are showcase features for the festival. However, The Descendants has the distinct privilege of not only being a Hollywood picture, but as previously mentioned stars George Clooney, AND was shot here in Hawaii–a trifecta.

The film was just screened at the Telluride Film Festival this weekend and is already garnering positive buzz from media outlets (via The Hollywood Reporter) and movie bloggers . . .
via /Film:

Loved Alexander Payne’s The Descendants. Worn out from emotion. Great performances from George Clooney. (link)

And the rest of the cast. It will have you crying while you’re laughing and laughing while you’re crying. (link)

Now, normally I’m a mainstream Hollywood movie kind of guy and I’d JUMP at the chance to see this film. However, so is everybody else that’s coming to the festival. Right now I’m going to guarantee that the closing night of the festival is going to be a madhouse with everyone and their mother trying to get into this screening. And you know what . . . I’ll be right there with them!

How you might ask? By not buying a ticket. Call me crazy, but I want to work the festival that night! With my event background, there’s just something about working big crowds that is pretty fun (and yes, pretty crazy sometimes too). Yeah, I do want to see The Descendants, but I really have no desire to even try to stand in line and fight a crowd to see it as a civilian. I can wait till Thanksgiving weekend when the picture has its theatrical release. I don’t mind waiting.

And now we wait . . .

While HIFF 31 is still a good month and a half away, I can’t help but get excited for it. What I’m interested to know is, if you’ve watched any of these trailers or know any more about these films, definitely let me know in the comments below if I’m missing something for those other films. Also, if you were at the special HIFF membership appreciation screening of Senna this week, I’d also like to hear your thoughts on these films as well. Let us know!

Contact Red Band Project