Kimberly C's blog

A Little Bit of Product Placement

reese's piecesIt’s impossible to escape advertising during a trip to the movies. From the cardboard standees in the lobby, to the commercials and trailers before the movie starts, we are inundated with advertisements the moment we walk inside the theater. And that advertising doesn’t stop when the opening credits role. Now, many movies make some of their profit product placement before the film even opens. Product placement is a technique that allows companies to promote their product or brand through unusual methods.

One of the most well-known examples of product placement in film is with Reese’s Pieces in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Originally, M&M’s were considered for the movie, but when Mars turned the offer down, it allowed a deal to be made with Hershey. After the movie hit theaters, sales for Reese’s Pieces, a less-popular candy at the time, went up dramatically.

Of course, not all product placement in movies is as subtle or as seamlessly integrated into the plot as Reese’s Pieces in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. There are some movies, like The Internship (a movie I enjoy but that is not universally appreciated), that feel too much like one long commercial for a product. Other movies blatantly force advertising into the script, like an awkward conversation about the Omega watch in Casino Royale, instead of subtly using it. And some movies, like Transformers: Age of Extinction, are so overrun with product placements that don’t fit the plot or that are targeted toward one market at the detriment of another that it actually detracts from the action.

Below I have listed some of the most well-known products or brands seen in movies. Are there any product and movie pairs that I left off the list? Let me know in the comments!

After the Apocalpyse

maze runner character cardEarlier this week, I finally had the chance to watch The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, the sequel to 2014’s The Maze Runner. Based on a bestselling Young Adult series by author James Dashner, these movies follow a group of teenagers with no memory of who they are as they try to navigate a post-apocalyptic world they don’t understand and stay one step ahead of the organization chasing them.

Novels like these have become increasingly popular over the past ten years, as have movies along the same theme. Some, like The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games, are based on popular YA books. Many, like Elysium and Mad Max: Fury Road, are original concepts dreamed up for the medium of film. Regardless of their origin, all movies in this genre seek to understand what compels humanity to survive and rebuild in the face of utter devastation.

If you’re in the mood for a post-apocalyptic or dystopian movie this week, check out the list below. I have also included a few TV shows that also fit the bill – just in case you’re in the mood to binge watch a series.

College Bound

New to movie theaters this April is Richard Linklater’s newest film, Everybody Wants Some!! (And, yes. The exclamation points are an official part of the title.) A sequel in spirit to his classic high school film Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! follows an incoming college freshman during his first weekend living on campus with the school’s baseball team. The film premiered earlier this month at South by Southwest to stellar reviews, and promises to be lighter and more humorous in tone than Linklater’s last film, Oscar-nominated opus Boyhood.

College has long served as a backdrop for movies. This is no surprise because it is generally a time of immense change. Freedom from parental figures allows teenagers to finally begin to grow up, reinvent themselves, and experience the world on their own. It also, as many movies set in college focus on, means new friendships, new relationships, and parties. The freedoms of college allow filmmakers to approach their movies from a variety of genres, whether serious (Good Will Hunting) or humorous (Animal House), animated (Monsters University) or empowering (Legally Blonde).

If you’re in the mood for a college movie and can’t wait for Linklater’s newest film to reach Houston’s theaters, browse the HCPL catalog and request something off the list below!

88th Academy Awards

OscarsLast night, this year’s movie awards season finally came to an end at the glitzy and glamorous Academy Awards. The proceedings were kicked off by a powerful, yet still funny opening monologue by second-time host Chris Rock, that addressed the diversity controversy that has shrouded this year’s Oscar nominees. His comments were insightful and set the tone of the rest of the ceremony.

Although perhaps not the most exciting of Oscar ceremonies, there were plenty of surprise wins to balance out the foregone conclusions. The Revenant did take home two of the top prizes with wins for actor Leonardo DiCaprio and director Alejandro G. Iñárritu. DiCaprio’s win, his first after previously being nominated 5 other times, made the Internet explode with glee, while Iñárritu’s win makes him the first director to win back to back Oscars since John Mankiewicz 65 years ago. However, in the end The Revenant couldn’t clinch the best picture win. That Oscar went to Spotlight, the highly-praised ensemble drama about the Boston Globe reporters who investigated reports of abuse within the Catholic Church.

Other surprises of the evening included Mark Rylance winning Supporting Actor over Stallone, the sentimental favorite; the visual effects team for the fairly low-budget Ex Machina winning over blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road; and, in a musical upset, Sam Smith’s song for the newest Bond film winning over Lady Gaga’s documentary anthem, an earlier performance of which had prompted a standing ovation.

The big winner of the evening, taking home the most statues, was the post-apocalyptic film Mad Max: Fury Road, with six wins in technical categories. Highly rated by critics and audiences alike, it was nice to see the Academy voters honor such a high energy, big budget summer movie. I was disappointed that George Miller did not take home the Oscar for best director or picture, but it was lovely to see how much respect the winners in the technical categories had for Miller’s artistic vision.  

If you missed the ceremony last night, the official Oscars website has a complete list of winners, as well as videos of most of the acceptance speeches. There are also videos of Chris Rock’s opening monologue, performances of three of the nominated songs, and the In Memoriam accompanied by Dave Grohl singing “Blackbird.”

2016 Oscar Nominations: Best Actor & Best Supporting Actor

oscar statueWe are only two weeks away from the Academy Awards live telecast, which means it is time to take a closer look at the ten men nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Although there appears to be a clear front runner in each category, there could be surprises in store. I have not yet had a chance to see all of the nominated movies, but I still have my favorites. Who would you like to see win in each category?

This year, only three of the ten nominated actors (Matt Damon, Eddie Redmayne and Christian Bale) have previously won an Academy Award, and only two of those (Redmayne and Bale) in acting categories. This is also the first Oscar nomination for three of the actors (Bryan Cranston, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance). Interestingly enough, all but two of the ten actors (Damon and Stallone) are nominated for portraying real people.

Most of the nominated films are still in theaters so not yet available in HCPL’s catalog, but make sure to check out previous works by the actors!

Best Actor:

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo): Although this is Cranston’s first Academy Award nomination, he is no stranger to the awards circuit with multiple wins and nominations for his television work (most notably for Breaking Bad), and a Tony win for Best Actor in a Play. In the biographical movie Trumbo, Cranston plays Dalton Trumbo, a famous screenwriter and one of the Hollywood 10, a group of 10 screenwriters who refused to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Matt Damon (The Martian): In The Martian, based on the book of the same title by Andy Weir, Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut presumed dead and stranded alone on Mars. A talented actor, Damon’s career spans genres with roles in critically-acclaimed movies (Saving Private Ryan, The Departed, Syriana) and box office hits (The Bourne Trilogy, Ocean’s 11). This is Damon’s third acting nomination at the Academy Awards, with previous nominations for actor in Good Will Hunting and supporting actor in Invictus. He previously won an Oscar, shared with Ben Affleck, for original screenplay for the movie Good Will Hunting.

Love & Laughs

heartIt may seem hard to believe, but Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Or maybe it doesn’t seem hard to believe. After all, most stores did transition directly from Christmas decorations to Valentine’s Day treats. I know I’ve been seeing pink and red hearts for weeks. Regardless, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching with heart-shaped cookies and candies, glittery cards, and romantic movies in tow.

I do enjoy a sweeping romantic film on occasion, but I am much fonder of romantic comedies. I love how different they can be, while still following a familiar formula. They show movie viewers that love can be fun even when it’s a little bit (or a lot) crazy. That miscommunication happens to the best of us, but that we can apologize and move forward. That we all have different expectations for romance and relationships, and that compromise is key. Above all, the show us that life and love aren’t perfect, and that’s okay.

Below, I have put together a list of some popular romantic comedy titles. The earliest movie on the list is It Happened One Night, which premiered in 1934 starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The latest movie, Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer and Bill Hader, opened in theaters just last year. Did your favorite romantic comedy make the list? Share your favorite in the comments!

A Comparative Look at the 2016 Movie Awards Season

academy awardThis morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominations for the 88th Academy Awards. Honoring achievements in film, the Oscars are the culmination of the film awards season, following on the heels of the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA Awards), the Critics Choice Awards, and the various guild awards (Screen Actors Guild, Producers Guild, and Directors Guild).

One of my favorite things about movie awards seasons, is trying to predict who will win the Academy Award in each category. Because the Academy Awards are the last of the major movie awards telecasts, predictions are often made based on the winners at the other shows. The winners don’t always match up (sometimes the nominees don’t even match up!), but there generally seem to be frontrunners in most categories. This year, the category with the most stability in nominees across the board is that of lead actor. By contrast, the lead actress nominees have skewed wildly from one award to another. It will be interesting to see how the wins line up over the few weeks leading up to the Academy Awards.

For a look at the entire list of nominations for each award show, visit the Academy Award website, the BAFTA Awards website, the Critics' Choice Awards website, the Producers Guild Awards website, the Directors Guild Awards website, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards website.

My Favorite Things

When the dog bites, when the bee stingschristmas at Disney
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad
- 'My Favorite Things', Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II

I don’t honestly remember when the song 'My Favorite Things' from the musical The Sound of Music first made it onto the Christmas music playlist. I suppose it does talk about “sleigh bells” and “snowflakes” and “silver white winters”, but it has never struck me as overly Christmassy in nature. In the context of this blog, however, it fits perfectly.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always one of the busiest for many people, myself included. End of year deadlines approach, relatives and friends visit, holiday preparations plow steadily forward, and there are too many parties and get-togethers to number. But even in the midst of everything associated with the holiday season, I still make time to watch some of my favorite Christmas movies.

I enjoy Christmas movies of all kinds – animated, black & white, made for TV, etc. – but there are a handful that I love the most. These are the movies I have to watch each holiday season or I feel like something is missing. For instance, my Mom and I always watch White Christmas while decorating the family Christmas tree. It’s been our tradition for years, and one I would be sad to miss.

For this last blog of the holiday season, Donna (my wonderful movie blogging partner) and I have put together a list of our must-watch holiday movies. What movies do you consider essential holiday viewing?

A Christmas Carol

scrooge's turkeyOf all the traditional Christmas tales, there is one that has been explored in movies and television more than any other: A Christmas Carol. Originally a novella written by Charles Dickens in 1843, A Christmas Carol is an enduring classic of the holiday season. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who detests Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by three spirits who help him transform into a kinder and gentler man who embodies the spirit of the season.

It’s not hard to see why filmmakers have continually found themselves drawn to retell Dickens’ classic tale. It includes many of the elements audiences find most compelling: a holiday setting; a transformation for the better; a variety of ghosts; and an endearing family who are down on their luck, yet still happy. It is also a story that lends itself easily to adaptation. Dickens’ story has been retold as a comedy (Scrooged), a parody (Blackadder’s Christmas Carol), a musical (A Christmas Carol: The Musical), with Muppets (The Muppet Christmas Carol) and mice (Mickey’s Christmas Carol), a science fiction tale (Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol), and more. Some of the elements might change from version to version, but the general story of transformation and rebirth is always present.

If you’re in the mood to watch a version of the Charles Dickens classic this holiday season, check out the list below. Some of the titles listed below are available through Hoopla, HCPL’s streaming media catalog. If you have questions about how to use Hoopla, please call any of the HCPL locations and ask a librarian for help getting started.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town…

Babbo NataleYou'd better watch out, you'd better not cry
You'd better not pout, I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
- 'Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town', John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie

I’ve said this year after year, but it bears repeating: I love Christmas! Christmas was always a big celebration in my house as a child, so the holiday has always been my favorite. I love putting up decorations (in fact, I’ve already helped decorate 3 different trees!), singing Christmas carols, watching Christmas movies, making Christmas cookies, and picking out the perfect gifts for family and friends.

As a child, one of my favorite things about Christmas was, of course, Santa Claus. I loved picturing him in his workshop at the North Pole, preparing all year long with the elves for Christmas. There was nothing I wanted more than to take The Polar Express to the North Pole and hear the reindeer bells. I even wrote a letter to Santa every year and, once or twice, received a reply! And there was nothing more fun than waking up Christmas morning to find that Santa had eaten the cookies we set out and left presents under the tree.

Although Christmas movies take all forms and genres, Santa continues to be a popular theme. In some, like The Santa Clause, he is the main character, while in others, like Frosty the Snowman, he plays only a minor role. A few of these movies, like The Nightmare Before Christmas, even feature a character posing as Santa for some nefarious purpose. But no matter the role, Santa is always crucial to the climax of the story.

It’s early in December yet, but it’s certainly time to start watching favorite Christmas movies! If you’re in the mood for a movie featuring Santa Claus, check out one of the titles below. Many of the movies on the list are meant for children, but that doesn’t mean adults can’t still watch them and remember the magic and wonder of Christmases past.

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