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TWO OF THE BEST FILMS OF 2008 by COOP

Posted on January 5th, 2009
Posted on January 5th, 2009

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

It’s rare when a film like this comes along. Sweeping character epics like “Forrest Gump” and “The Shawshank Redemption” saturated the film market in the 1990’s. “Benjamin Button” continues that tradition by taking a bizarre F. Scott Fitzgerald short story and turning it into a grand, beautiful work of cinema.

On the eve of Hurricane Katrina, Caroline (Julia Ormond) watches over her dying mother Daisy (Cate Blanchett) in a New Orleans hospital. Daisy asks her to read aloud from the diary of a man named Benjamin (Brad Pitt) whom Daisy once knew. The diary reveals Daisy’s love affair with the strange man who was born old, then becomes younger as the years pass.

The film loses half a point due to periodic lapses into mean-spiritedness, but the overall effect inspires. This script became a notorious “floater” in Hollywood, meaning it has changed hands, studios, directors and stars for years (possibly decades) before finally getting made. It needed someone with a vision to see it to a deserving adaptation and Director David Fincher finally pulled the trigger, creating a fine picture. It also required special effects technology to catch up in order to digitally graft Brad Pitt’s face onto various actors to accurately simulate the effects of his abnormal body and growth rate. The effects are so good that you won’t even notice (yep, the makeup/special effects WILL win awards).

Benjamin as a character is fascinating, due largely to Pitt’s humble, yet powerful, performance. Cate Blanchett counters Pitt’s gentlemanly demeanor with a brash and often irresponsible Daisy. She reminded me of the “Daisy” from Fitzgerald’s “Gatsby.” At times she is unlikable, but she manages to redeem her wild ways by the credits. Taraji P. Henson (“Hustle and Flow”) steals the spotlight often as Benjamin’s adopted African American mother, Queenie. With each film she appears in, Taraji’s acting abilities improve greatly and I predict she’s destined for a future Oscar.

If you can sit through its 159 minute run-time, “Benjamin Button” will surely tug at your heart strings. Expect this one to grab multiple Oscar nominations in late January.

Rating: 4 and ½ out of 5 stars

So rarely does the trailer accuratly deptict the film. Here it does. I recommend you not watch it. It spoils too much. Yet here it is…

SLUMDOG MILLIONARE

Definitely the best “feel good” movie of the year, “Slumdog” confirms my belief that director Danny Boyle is one of the most underrated geniuses working in cinema today.

This film, based on the novel by Vikas Swarup, tells the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), who becomes the first uneducated street urchin to reach the 10 million rupee level of the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” With the entire nation’s poverty caste watching and cheering for Jamal, he answers difficult questions no “chi tea server” should ever know. Is he cheating? Is he a genius? Is he lucky? For each question he answers, a clue to his desperate past is revealed, and he hopes with all of his heart that Latika (Freida), his long lost love, is watching.

Dev Patel gives a brave performance as the lanky peasant, Jamal. He’s an intelligent survivor who surpasses the boundaries and limitations of his pedigree and becomes an inspiration to his people. The beautiful Freida Pinto, a model from Mangalore, does a fantastic job in her screen debut as Latika. Indian actresses rarely kiss on camera due to cultural and religious stigmas, but luckily Pinto sidesteps that taboo to please Western audiences.

There hasn’t been a film in 2008 that made me cheer as much as “Slumdog.” It’s sure to get an Oscar nomination and will hopefully get the exposure it deserves at the box office. It will also introduce many Westerners to the Indian cinematic culture known as “Bollywood,” which specializes in uplifting dramas, climaxing in dance numbers that feature the entire cast. Boyle introduces western story elements into “Slumdog,” but manages to keep the film respectful to Indian culture and even adds the dance number for good measure. The actors speak English for 50% of the film, making it more palatable for those with aversions to subtitles.

You can’t miss this one if it’s playing in your town. I’m going to officially declare “Slumdog Millionaire” as my pick for “Best Film of 2008.”

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Here’s the trailer that does the film little justice. Just see the entire film. Do it as soon as possible. You won’t regret it…

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Trailer for the award-winning short PRISMA…


A corporate promotional VHS tape from 1984 conceals a brain-altering signal which is said to grant increased health, longevity and psychic powers to those who watch it. View at your own risk...

WINNER: SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, 2017 Oxford Film Festival

WINNER: BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

SEMI-FINALIST: 2017 NanoCon International Science-Fiction Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST ANIMATION, 2017 End of Days Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST GRAPHICS, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2017 Nightmares Film Festival
2017 A Night of Horror Film Festival
2017 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival
2017 Oxford Film Festival
2017 Crossroads Film Festival
2017 Clarksdale Film Festival
2017 Twisted Dreams Film Festival
2017 Tupelo Film Festival
2017 NanoCon International Sci-Fi Film Festival
2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival
2017 End of Days Film Festival
2017 Grenada Afterglow Film Festival
2017 Shiver International Film Festival

Trailer for the lost short GOD MAKER…


Northern Mississippi 1932:
In a cabin in the woods, a blind blues guitarist will discover his destiny from a lovesick goddess who seeks to corrupt his soul.

GOD MAKER remains unfinished and in limbo for now, but the trailer expresses the mood and imagery intended for the project...

Coop’s award-winning 48 hour short film trailer for REGRESS…


Told in reverse, this experimental made-in-48-hours film begins with a shocking murder then backtracks (like a viewer rewinding a VHS tape) to reveal the chilling origins of this tragedy.

WINNER: BEST SHORT FILM at the 2013 Clarksdale Film Festival...
NOMINATED: BEST DIRECTING by the 2012 48hr. Guerrilla Film Challenge (international contest)...
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Crossroads Film Festival

Watch Coop’s award-winning short film THE BEST DAY…


WINNER: 2012 MAGNOLIA FILM FESTIVAL "Best Homegrown Film"
WINNER: 2012 SEATTLE TRUE INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL "Best Scream"

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2012 OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CLARKSDALE FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CROSSROADS FILM FESTIVAL
2012 NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI FILM FESTIVAL
2012 ATLANTA INDIE HORROR FILM FESTIVAL
2012 OTHERFEST
2012 MISSISSIPPI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
2012 SUN AND SAND FILM FESTIVAL

Morgan Freeman asks Coop a question at THE BEST DAY premiere! Video below…


My short film THE BEST DAY premiered in October 2011 at the Delta Cinema in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

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