Sunday, January 17, 2010

Supporting Actress Blogathon:
Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air

There were many supporting women I admired this year, and I really wanted to write on someone original. I've actually seen a good bit of cinema for once, and could've come up with someone really unexpected if I'd tried.

I thought of reaching back to the beginning with Sunshine Cleaning's gloriously deadpan Emily Blunt, or going for one of the Whip It girls (Marcia Gay being my favorite). I thought of Meryl Streep's "foxy woman", Charlize Theron's Road woman (where did she come from??), and even the girls of Zombieland (those would be Abby Breslin and the no-name who plays her teenage sister, a character who it seems was meant for Lindsay Lohan before she found herself uninsurable). I've become enamored of Zöe Saldaña as of late ($2 billion sci-fi double feature!). Julianne Moore's famous Single Man cackle alone merits a write-up. And god knows Mo'Nique is worthy of praise.

But no matter how hard I tried to muster up words for someone else, I kept coming back to Vera. Vera, Vera, Vera... beautiful name. I fell hard for this one during Up in the Air. Isn't it lovely when you have all these preconceived notions of an actor, and out of nowhere, she just takes 'em down like Jake Sully did to that bomber plane? Like Meryl Streep's been doing for decades? Well, Meryl, watch out.

I'd previously pegged Vera as "the new Cate Blanchett" after seeing her in The Departed and Breaking and Entering, in which she portrayed a generic girlfriend and a Slavic whore, respectively. Clearly, she had no lack of range. But I'd seen no hint of the kind of movie star fire, mystery, effortless charm and sex appeal she displays here. And I mean that in the best way. To be blindsided by movie star charisma in an already-known-to-be-technically-brilliant actress is a glorious thing. And if it's all in the service of a role that's basically an "everywoman"? Not a queen, rock star, drug addict, Na'Vi princess, hooker, or glamazon? Wow.

I'm now inclined to anoint Vera "the next Meryl Streep" (no offense to Cate, who has her own strengths); they both have a beautiful looseness and effortlessness at their best which, while perhaps rooted in technique, looks like anything but. Not only could Vera be a Sophie, I think she could be a Karen Silkwood, a Susan Orlean, a Clarissa Vaughan, or dare I say it, an Alex Goran. She can find the extraordinary in the most seemingly ordinary of people, and make a simple close-up feel like heaven.

There's one close-up in particular that I mean. I believe it was the last time Ryan saw Alex before the infamous ending. The twinkle in her eye, the confident smile, the turn of the head - all pure bliss.

Golden Globe winner predictions!

I've shifted my thinking on the globes a bit lately, so I've decided to hedge my bets and predict some things differently here than I have in official prediction contests. Here, I'm saying Avatar wins best pic and the HFPA decides two other awards are enough for Up in the Air. But a big part of me still thinks Up in the Air (the nomination leader) takes it. We'll see:

BEST DRAMA: Avatar
BEST COMEDY/MUSICAL: Nine
BEST ANIMATED FILM: Up
BEST FOREIGN FILM: A Prophet
BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow
BEST SCREENPLAY: Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner
BEST ACTOR - DRAMA: George Clooney
BEST ACTOR - COMEDY/MUSICAL: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
BEST ACTRESS - DRAMA: Sandra Bullock
BEST ACTRESS - COMEDY/MUSICAL: Meryl Streep
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo'Nique
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Avatar
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Can I just say...



















...that I will be sad if James Cameron wins the best director oscar for Avatar. Not because the directing wasn't great. But because of Kathryn Bigelow. And because the rundown would be frustratingly similar to the '93 and '03 situations. I'm referring, of course, to the two other recent years when a woman was a viable candidate for Best Director. In both years, the woman had directed a smallish, critically acclaimed indie film that she had also written. And in both years, she was up against a PHENOMENON: a huge film that had swept the board and literally couldn't lose. And what's happening this year? Yeah, the same thing.

1993: Jane Campion (The Piano) vs Steven Spielberg (Schindler's List)
Win: Spielberg (Campion wins best original screenplay)

2003: Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) vs Peter Jackson (LOTR)
Win: Jackson (Coppola wins best original screenplay)

2009: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) vs James Cameron (Avatar)
Win: ???

Round 3. What will happen?

For all the similarities, it is worth noting that there's a lot that's different about this year.

For one thing, the woman (Bigelow) has literally nearly swept the board of directing honors (so far), to a greater extent than either of her predecessors, I believe. Meanwhile, Cameron (as a director) has won nothing. This bodes well for Bigelow to win, unless the late-breaking phenom that is Avatar starts cleaning up at Golden Globe and DGA time (a distinct possibility).

Also, Bigelow has no consolation prize category to win, as did Campion and Coppola. This could be a factor. I think the fact that Campion and Coppola could be honored elsewhere helped voters feel less bad about denying them the big prize.

ALSO, Cameron has already won. And it was for the most recent film he made (Titanic, 12 years ago). So he's not "due" in any way. In previous years, the men in the race were very highly regarded industry giants who'd never won, despite whole careers of brilliant work. This year, Bigelow is the one with the career that demands attention.

Plus, all the other major films directed by women this year - Bright Star, An Education, Julie & Julia, It's Complicated, Amelia (in rough descending order of significance) - have caused many onlookers to declare 2009 "the year of the woman." There's a definite feeling in the air that "it's time." Everyone seems to feel that a woman should win.

But will she? Or will Avatar just become too big to ignore, as Schindler and Return of the King did before it? And how will the "ex" factor play into the race? You know what I'm talking about.

The dynamics of all three awards years ('93, '03, '09) actually have striking parallels to the recent Hillary/Obama primary war. Isn't that funny? Art imitates life, as film awards imitate politics. Every time a woman comes along and directs a film (or runs a Presidential campaign) that would've won in any other year, she has the bad luck to be up against a once-in-a-generation phenomenon who's simply unbeatable. Them's the breaks, it seems.

Bottom line: This is shaping up to be a very exciting contest, the likes of which we haven't seen for quite a while. All may become clear soon enough, but I, for one, hope there's plenty of suspense right up through the big night. It should be fun.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Golden Globe nominations! (& my prediction success)

I did pretty well on these. Nominees I predicted correctly have an asterisk next to them. Those I'm now predicting to win are in bold. Let's dig in:

BEST PICTURE (DRAMA)
Avatar*
Inglorious Basterds*
Invictus
The Hurt Locker*
Precious
Up in the Air*

I scored 4 of 5. But I'm happy to be wrong on Invictus and wrong about the Precious snub. The latter is a very good film, and I'm glad to see it recognized. In fact, this lineup is pretty great in general. I'm still pretty sure Up in the Air will take this, though Best Director is probably headed to Bigelow (or her ex-hubby).

BEST PICTURE (COMEDY/MUSICAL)
(500) Days of Summer*
A Serious Man
The Hangover
It's Complicated*
Julie & Julia*
Nine*

4 of 5 again. Dammit. Deep down I knew The Hangover would make it here - after all, it was a giant sleeper hit with good reviews - but I refused to believe it. Nine will still win this award, though it isn't looking nearly as dominant as I thought it would.

BEST ACTOR (DRAMA)
Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)*
George Clooney (Up in the Air)*
Johnny Depp (Public Enemies)
Colin Firth (A Single Man)*
Morgan Freeman (Invictus)*
Tobey Maguire (Brothers)

4 of 5 yet again. So Tobey ended up in the wild card spot. Fair enough. He'll most likely be replaced by Renner at oscar time. I do think Clooney will take this one, with the momentum he has from all the critics' awards plus the fact that the starfucking globes love him. But Bridges will likely take home the SAG and oscar.

BEST ACTRESS (DRAMA)
Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria)
Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)*
Abbie Cornish (Bright Star)
Helen Mirren (The Last Station
Carey Mulligan (An Education)*
Saorsie Ronan (The Lovely Bones)
Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)*

Ouch! 3 of 5. I stupidly bet against Mirren, and (like most of the world) didn't see Emily Blunt coming. This probably puts Ronan's oscar hopes to rest... it now looks like Bullock, Mirren, Mulligan, Sidibe and Streep, with Blunt and Cornish looming on the outside. Also: I think Bullock will win this. Mulligan certainly could (as could Sidibe), but An Education didn't register much with them, and if the double nom is any indication, they're itching to reward Sandy.

BEST ACTOR (COMEDY/MUSICAL)
Matt Damon (The Informant!)*
Daniel Day-Lewis (Nine)*
Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)*
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer)*
Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man)*

5 of 5! Nailed it. These really seemed like the right five. I think DDL is winning, but he's not the runaway favorite he would have been if Nine had gotten more love. I don't think Damon or JGL have what it takes, but I could see Downey or Stuhlbarg upsetting (though I haven't seen their films, so I don't know how confident I am in that happening).

BEST ACTRESS (COMEDY/MUSICAL)
Sandra Bullock (The Proposal)*
Marion Cotillard (Nine)*
Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer)
Julia Roberts! (Duplicity)
Meryl Streep (It's Complicated)*
Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)*

4 of 5. I was definitely on the right track here (double Streep, double Bullock, Cotillard, no Pfeiffer), but I did miss the crazy-out-of-nowhere love for Julia Roberts. Though it's really not that surprising. I do think that, with the Nine love dampened and Cotillard's categorization in doubt, Streep has this one locked up. She'll take it for J&J.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Matt Damon (Invictus)*
Woody Harrelson (The Messenger)*
Alfred Molina (An Education)
Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)*
Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)*

4 of 5. Not bad. I had an inkling that Molina wouldn't show up, but I predicted him anyway, leaving off the "duh" choice of Christopher Plummer. I do still think Waltz will win - he's been sweeping the critics, and the GGs are loving his film - but this one could really go to anyone.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Penélope Cruz (Nine)*
Judi Dench (Nine)
Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)*
Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)*
Mo'Nique (Precious)*
Julianne Moore (A Single Man)

4 of 5. I definitely overestimated the Nine love. And I was doubting Moore's chances, so I left her off in favor of perennial nominee Judi Dench. But I think this category is great. Love the Up in the Air girls. Haven't seen Moore or Cruz yet, but love them in general. Also love Mo'Nique (who's clearly winning).

BEST DIRECTOR
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)*
James Cameron (Avatar)*
Clint Eastwood (Invictus)
Rob Marshall (Nine)
Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)*
Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds)*

4 of 5. Overestimated the Nine love once again. And I assumed Eastwood's film would make it, but he wouldn't. Turns out I had that one backwards. This race should be very exciting - Bigelow, Cameron and Reitman are all definitely in play - though I think this one goes to the girl. Should be awesome.

BEST SCREENPLAY
The Coen Bros, A Serious Man
Nick Hornby, An Education
Neill Blomkamp & Teri Tatchell, District 9
Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds*
Nancy Meyers, It's Complicated
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker*
Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air*

3 of 5. Not bad, considering how whacked out this category is. I'm proud of myself for calling The Hurt Locker here. But the Nancy Meyers nomination is unfortunate. The District 9 nomination is weird, but welcome. I'm perplexed by the Coen Bros snub, and rather happy about the An Education snub. All in all, kind of a fun category.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Avatar*
Bright Star
Coco Avant Chanel
The Informant!*
A Single Man
The Lovely Bones
Up
Where the Wild Things Are

2 of 5. Ouch. But the globe score category's always weird. At the least here, the nominees are good-weird. Loving the Single Man and Wild Things nods. Good on you, Golden Globes.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Avatar*
Brothers
Crazy Heart
Everybody's Fine
Nine
Nine*
Precious
Up in the Air

2 of 5. Meh. Sad about the Up in the Air snub. "Help Yourself" is REALLY GOOD, and the sequence where it's used in the film is quite memorable. Oh well. I'm assuming the Everybody's Fine and Brothers songs won't go the distance. What could win here? Tough to say. Right now, I'm saying Crazy Heart.

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Coraline*
Ponyo
The Fantastic Mr. Fox*
The Princess and the Frog*
Up*

4 of 5. This is probably the oscar shortlist. Too bad for Ponyo and Mary & Max.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Baaria
A Prophet*
Broken Embraces*
Coco Avant Chanel
The Maid
Sin Nombre
The White Ribbon*

3 of 5. Not terrible.

So the tally is:

6 - Up in the Air (I guessed 7)
5 - Nine (I guessed 8... oops)
4 - Avatar (nailed it)
4 - Inglorious Basterds (nailed it)
3 - Invictus (got it, though in different categories)
3 - The Hurt Locker (nailed it)
3 - A Serious Man (failed it)
3 - A Single Man (I predicted the wrong Man for 3 nods)
3 - An Education (they didn't love it)
3 - It's Complicated (didn't see that third nod coming)
3 - Precious (got the # of categories right)
3 - The Lovely Bones (not so much)
3 - (500) Days of Summer (the Zooey nomination didn't happen)

So I knew which two movies would come out on top (though I thought Nine would fare better than Up in the Air), and I had a good idea of which other films would do well (i.e. 3 or 4 nods). Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Questions? Comments? Praise? I love reader participation...

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Trailer of the year:



This was up on Awards Daily many months ago, but I thought it deserved another home on my blog. This is one of the most gorgeous and rapturous trailers I've ever seen; it's more moving than it has any right to be. And it's SO ridiculously superior to the first Bright Star trailer, it's unreal. This one really captures the fleeting, poetic beauty of the film.

The music is available on iTunes in a slightly different form (the iTunes track has vocals instead of strings). It's called "To Build a Home", and it's by the Cinematic Orchestra (fittingly enough). It's worth the $0.99. Just beautiful.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

My top five of 2009 so far (in no particular order):

Perhaps the most perfect film this year, Jason Reitman's latest feels both timely and timeless. George Clooney gives the performance of a lifetime in a film that feels like it will age very well, despite its obvious relevance to the here and now. I'm convinced that history will mark this as the zenith of his distinguished career. But the other two principals are stellar as well: Kendrick is impressive in a role tailer-made for her, and Farmiga reveals a sly charisma and mystery that I had no idea was there.

The impeccably crafted script gives the actors room to create real characters, and the film, though annoyingly sleek and glossy at first, keeps deepening until its gloriously "open" ending. In short: believe the hype. This one is the real deal.



I'll be honest: I'm a trekkie from way back. I've seen all of the first ten movies; in fact, I owned nine of them on VHS. But after the embarrassing Star Trek: Nemesis and the slow fizzle of the latest series, I began to question my former fandom, and basically wrote the franchise off for dead.

But this reboot surprised me. I initially dreaded it, assuming it would chuck everything that was great about the originals and replace it with CW-style vapidity. But instead, it turned out to be perhaps the most viscerally cinematic entry in the whole Star Trek canon. All absurdities of physics and preposterousness of plot aside, this is one grand adventure yarn, powered by stirring music, editing and effects, and a wonderfully game young cast. My hat is off.



Lee Daniels' moving film about an obese, abused teenager in 1980s Harlem is not perfect. His seemingly indiscriminate directorial flourishes and indulgent, haphazard style do little to foster any sense of cohesiveness. But then, the world he's putting on display is not perfect either - far from it. And what Precious does best is put us, the audience, deep inside the head of its protagonist, and thoroughly immerse us in her world. The raw open wounds of her life are laid bare for all to see - and feel - in this gripping and deeply emotional film.

Great performances abound, but Mo'Nique is a true standout. Her monstrous Mary Jones is like the gritty naturalistic flipside of Streep's Miranda Priestly: not as sleek or fun, but much scarier and, ultimately, more moving.


What I respect most about Tarantino's newest epic ode to violence, vengeance and showmanship, other than all the pure craft involved, is that he dared to have fun with a topic normally considered sacrosanct: World War II and the Holocaust. As a result, he now has a film that is at once utterly trashy and totally oscar-bait. Oh, the irony.

That this film has become both a financial and (more than likely) an awards success, despite its somewhat divisive nature, is further evidence that filmmakers shouldn't be afraid to go for broke, defy expectations, and challenge stuffy viewpoints, preferably all in the service of a fun ride. Basterds does all this and more, and thus is one of the year's most fun and thrilling cinematic offerings.



Pure poetry. That seems like the most appropriate phrase to describe Jane Campion's beautiful study of first love. Many will find this Keats biopic (of sorts) slow, plodding, or even downright boring, but those adjectives describe many of my favorite films. This is the kind of movie I'll be able to pop in on a quiet afternoon while I work, or at night to help lull myself to sleep. It's a keeper. But it was also a joy to discover for the first time on the big screen: the gorgeous images, vivid atmosphere, and slow-burn romance were infectious.

Abbie Cornish is a revelation in a kind of "everygirl" role, but the underrated Ben Whishaw is also terrific: he captures the charm, elusiveness and "je ne sais quoi" quality of Keats with such aplomb that we easily see how Frannie would fall for him.

These writeups will likely be recycled when I do an official top ten list in the coming weeks. But since I've actually seen enough films so far this year to justify a bit of a retrospective, I thought I'd get started now. Unfortunately, I still have some major blind spots, The Hurt Locker and Hunger chief among them. But those will be rectified soon enough.

Thoughts? Similarities? Differences? I'd love to hear some opinions on this year's crop of films.

I'm back with Golden Globe nomination predictions!

Hi, all! I know I don't blog anymore, so my readership is probably gone, but I'm gonna start back up again anyway since it's AWARDS SEASON now, and I have to vent my obsessions. I hope I can corral some people in here to comment. Early winner predictions in bold, with asterisks if I'm extra confident:

BEST PICTURE (DRAMA)
Avatar
Inglorious Basterds
Invictus
The Hurt Locker
*Up in the Air*

So many options... I wanted to go out on a limb and predict something like Bright Star or The Road or The Last Station, but there just doesn't seem to be room for a smaller film to break through. Apparently Avatar was very well received at an HFPA screening, Invictus has "bait + Clint Eastwood + international" in its favor, Inglorious Basterds is also international (so many languages!) and also has verve and an a marquée director, and Hurt Locker and Up in the Air have had all the buzz for some time now. I realize I'm taking a risk by leaving off Precious, but it hasn't had quite the box office people expected, and I'm sensing it's on the wane... and what is life without risks? And obviously An Education could show up here, too, though I feel surprisingly confident that it won't.

BEST PICTURE (COMEDY/MUSICAL)
(500) Days of Summer
A Serious Man
It's Complicated
Julie & Julia
*Nine*

The Hangover poses a definite threat, but I refuse to predict it. Here's hoping A Serious Man keeps it out of this list... though I suppose Sherlock Holmes is possible, too.

BEST ACTOR (DRAMA)
Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
George Clooney (Up in the Air)
Johnny Depp (Public Enemies)
Colin Firth (A Single Man)
Morgan Freeman (Invictus)

I think Depp takes Renner's spot here. The other four seem locked and loaded for both this list and oscar's. The one other guy (aside from Renner) who could totally end up on this list is Viggo... but I don't think there's room.

BEST ACTRESS (DRAMA)
Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
Abbie Cornish (Bright Star)
Carey Mulligan (An Education)
Saorsie Ronan (The Lovely Bones)
Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)


This category's actually quite crowded. I'm gonna just roll the dice and say Mirren gets snubbed (maybe they just won't respond much to The Last Station?) in favor of the above five. I wanted to predict Swinton, but I can't see her beating out any of these buzzier contenders. And that SUCKS. But there you go.

BEST ACTOR (COMEDY/MUSICAL)
Matt Damon (The Informant!)
*Daniel Day-Lewis (Nine)*
Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer)
Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man)

Let's just go with this. There are other contenders, but I feel pretty good about these five.

BEST ACTRESS (COMEDY/MUSICAL)
Sandra Bullock (The Proposal)
Marion Cotillard (Nine)
Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer)
Meryl Streep (It's Complicated)
Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)

Yes, I am predicting that Pfeiffer will get the shaft in favor of Bullock (or rather, her great year), Cotillard, Deschanel, and a double dose of Streep. I also think Adams will be undone by the prevailing notion that her storyline was the inferior half of Julie & Julia and should've been eliminated altogether. But those two would be the obvious spoliers... along with perhaps Ellen Page and a few others.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Matt Damon (Invictus)
Woody Harrelson (The Messenger)
Alfred Molina (An Education)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds)

I've erred on the side of bigger names here - Damon, Harrelson and Tucci seem like good bets for the globes, along with likely winner Waltz - but I have left off Christopher Plummer. For some reason I'm feeling like they may just completely ignore The Last Station. We'll see.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Penélope Cruz (Nine)
Judi Dench (Nine)
Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
*Mo'Nique (Precious)*

I'm guessing this category gets totally swarmed by women from what I think will be the nomination leaders (and eventual best picture winners) Up in the Air and Nine. But for what it's worth, I think Julianne Moore and Samantha Morton have strong potential to upset this list.

BEST DIRECTOR
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
James Cameron (Avatar)
Rob Marshall (Nine)
Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)
Quentin Tarantino (Inglorious Basterds)

Yes, I think both Clint Eastwood and Lee Daniels will be snubbed in favor of Tarantino and Marshall. I actually think Marshall could win here if they really go crazy for Nine, which they might. Obviously Reitman or Bigelow could also take the prize, as could Cameron if Avatar turns out to be huge.

BEST SCREENPLAY
The Coen Bros, A Serious Man
Nick Hornby, An Education
Quentin Tarantino, Inglorious Basterds
Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
*Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air*

I'm fairly confident in everything but The Hurt Locker. I actually didn't want to predict it, but I couldn't think of anything else I believed in more, so I figured it had the best shot for the 5th slot. It is a very well-regarded film and will probably get nominated somewhere other than picture and director, so I guess this could be the place. Not sure what could really replace it... maybe In the Loop, The Last Station, or The Lovely Bones? We'll see.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Avatar
Bright Star
Coco Avant Chanel
The Informant!
The Lovely Bones

No idea. But I think some of these will be right...

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Avatar
Nine
Nine
Precious
Up in the Air

Again, no idea. But I think some of these will be right, particularly Avatar, the Nine songs, and Up in the Air.

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Coraline
Ponyo
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
*Up*

A Christmas Carol, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs or Mary & Max could definitely place, but I'm betting on these five.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
A Prophet
Broken Embraces
Coco Avant Chanel
Sin Nombre
The White Ribbon

I think three or four of these will definitely place, but I doubt I'm totally on the mark. Just trying to go with acclaim, fame level of the filmmakers, and general buzz... although Spanish and French films are totally over-represented...

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Capitalism: A Love Story
Food, Inc.
The Cove
This is It
Valentino: The Last Emperor

The globes tend to go more populist in this category (as I recall), so I'll go with these. But it's really hard to say.

So the tally is:

Nine (8)
Up in the Air (7)
Avatar (4)
Inglorious Basterds (4)
Invictus (3)
The Hurt Locker (3)
A Serious Man (3)
An Education (3)
Precious (3)
The Lovely Bones (3)
(500) Days of Summer (3)

...and the rest with scraps. So I guess I'm thinking they'll really spread the wealth, outside of the clear dominance of Nine and Up in the Air. Though the best pics are obvious, I expect director to be very tight between Bigelow, Reitman and Marshall, so it should be fun to see how that plays out.

Questions? Comments? Praise? I love reader participation...

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy 60th, Meryl! And happy 26th to me!

Yes indeed. It took Meryl Streep's 60th birthday to bring me back to my blog, but here I am. I hope I still have one or two readers.

I've been very busy with other things for these past few months - gotta love real life - but I hope the blog hasn't completely died. I'm planning on continuing the Streepathon this month - finally - but right now I'm busy celebrating my birthday, which is one day after Meryl's. Or, more accurately, 1:09am in the morning after (so close!). So this post is going up at midnight, right between the two glorious days.

See you soon...

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The List: The Birth of a Nation
(dir. D. W. Griffith, 1915)

So. Hmmm. I really disliked this movie. In fact, it took me many, many tries (and a few months of having it sitting here, sucking up netflix charges) for me to finally get through it. Given the triple whammy of its being...

A) silent
B) 3 hours long
C) incredibly offensive

...I never really expected any better. In any case, I'm gonna say as little about it as possible.

But I will give it this: watching it was an experience. Just not in the good way. Yeah, it was a technical milestone. Yeah, it was the first blockbuster. And yes, it may have secured the future of feature films as we know them. But damn if it isn't a total slog to sit through. The Lincoln assassination scene is cool, though.

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My oscar success rate...

...or lack thereof.

I got 18/24 in my blog predictions, which is better than the 16/24 I got with my (not updated with last-minute hunches) oscar pool predictions, but still not as well as many people did this year. I tripped up some on the small, obscure categories, and defied my earlier, more correct deduction that The Duchess would win best costume design (they really do ALWAYS just pick the most ornate period costumes year after year).

But what really killed me were the two sound categories. I refused to believe Slumdog would win either (though I was truly adamant that it wouldn't win sound editing, and was correct in that regard). I also REALLY thought they'd go on merit and give WALL•E sound editing, since they previously awarded The Incredibles there (d'oh!). I guess they just equate sound editing with action films and guns (animated or not). It was especially frustrating to correctly guess that Dark Knight would take one, but incorrectly guess which one (double d'oh!). Oh well.

I ended up tying for first in my pool - we're sharing the AMC gift certificate - and doing unremarkably here among the internet types... which is fine. Especially since there's probably no one still reading my blog anyway. : (

But let it be known, here and now: I have returned! (cue dramatic music)

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

last minute oscar predictions

Yes, I do realize this is my first post in what seems like months.

Anyway, I'm changing these a bit from what I predicted in my oscar party contest. I think I slightly underestimated Slumdog and overestimated WALL•E, and I'm changing foreign film from Waltz with Bashir to Departures. There seems to be a last-minute collective feeling that Departures, the more traditional contender, will in fact emerge victorious. I'm also feeling the heat in actor and supporting actress, but I'm not changing them. So:

PICTURE: Slumdog
DIRECTOR: Slumdog
ADAPTED: Slumdog
ORIGINAL: WALL•E
(I'm bucking conventional wisdom here, but I'll probably be wrong)
ACTOR: Sean Penn, Milk
(its only statue of the night, denying Mickey Rourke his)
ACTRESS: Kate Winslet, The Reader
(she's safe; bumping her to lead and then denying her would just be cruel)
SUPPORTING: Ledger & Cruz
(I'm feeling a last-minute Davis hunch, but I'm not following it)
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Slumdog
EDITING: Slumdog
SCORE: Slumdog
SONG: "Jaiho" (Slumdog)
(I'm changing this from "Down to Earth")
ART DIRECTION: Benjamin Button
COSTUME DESIGN: Benjamin Button
(I think it wins here because of those 13 nominations)
VISUAL EFFECTS: Benjamin Button
MAKEUP: Benjamin Button
SOUND MIXING: Dark Knight
SOUND EDITING: WALL•E
FOREIGN FILM: Departures (Japan)
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Man on Wire
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Conscience of Nhem En
ANIMATED FEATURE: WALL•E
ANIMATED SHORT: Presto
LIVE-ACTION SHORT: Toyland

So, Button and Slumdog each take 4 techs, Slumdog sweeps the Big Three. I'm convinced WALL•E will win 3 of the 6 oscars it's nominated for, I'm just not sure which 3. I think Milk wins only for Sean Penn, The Wrestler goes home emptyhanded. WALL•E and Dark Knight split the sound awards, denying Slumdog a clean sweep. I'm not at all confident in Best Song, but I'm giving in to the conventional wisdom that the Slumdog music is unstoppable (plus, I just don't think WALL•E can win 4 oscars).

We'll see how I did in a bit.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

OK, so I did badly on those predictions I just made.

Suffice it to say that I missed all the actual big surprises (The Reader, the Winslet switch, the Dark Knight snub, Michael Shannon, etc.), instead predicting my own big surprises that didn't pan out (Frost/Nixon snubbed for WALL•E, Patel in lead, Marsdan, etc.). I was on to something with the surprises, but my predictions still suffered for it. So basically I did worse than if I'd just played it safe. Oh well. Maybe next time.

I'll be light on the oscar stuff this year, just sayin'... though there will be more content in the near future.

OK, so here are the oscar nomination predictions that I barely have time to do...

Sorry, to anyone still reading. The blog kind of died over the past few weeks. I've been very busy with real life... making my thesis film and whatnot. But I feel like I should at least make some oscar predictions, on the record. So here goes:

BEST PICTURE
Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Milk
The Dark Knight
WALL•E

Mostly wishful thinking, I guess, but I'm gonna stick my neck out and guess that the generally unremarkable Frost/Nixon takes a dive for the very remarkable WALL•E... even though my mind says Milk is the one most likely to be snubbed.

BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle
David Fincher
Gus Van Sant
Christopher Nolan
Darren Aronofsky

Just a hunch that best pic and best director will yield two different surprises. Consensus seems to be forming that The Wrestler is building momentum and Aronofsky is the most likely director to surprise here. Though I have a lingering feeling that Van Sant could actually emerge as the lone director. We'll see.

BEST ACTOR
Sean Penn
Mickey Rourke
Frank Langella
Clint Eastwood
Dev Patel

Yeah, I said it. Dev Patel will be nominated HERE, according to my crazy predictions. As will Clint Eastwood. I'm opting for the total Brangelina snub... dangerous, but with a potentially big payoff if I'm right.

BEST ACTRESS
Meryl Streep
Anne Hathaway
Sally Hawkins
Melissa Leo
Kate Winslet

Jolie is probably in, but I refuse to admit it. This lineup would be so sweet... and I think there is a decent chance of it happening.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Heath Ledger
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Robert Downey Jr.
Josh Brolin
Dev Patel

OK, so here's where I hedge my bets. I really do think Patel will get a lot of votes in lead. But it'd also be crazy to bet against him here, for the simple reason that there's just no one to replace him. I think Shannon and Franco are dead in the water, frankly, mostly cause of lack of love for their films (or in Franco's case, just not ENOUGH love for the film to get it multiple nods here). The only other reasonable alternative is Eddie Marsdan, but Happy-Go-Lucky is on very shaky ground as well. If Hawkins is iffy, then I don't think he has much of a shot. So Patel it is. As long as he gets nominated SOMEwhere, I reap rewards. Hee.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams
Viola Davis
Penélope Cruz
Marisa Tomei
Kate Winslet

I wanted to be ballsy and predict Kate for The Reader in lead, but I really think that in this case, the category placement has set in. It's just how people see it at this point. It's won the globe and BFCA in this category, for chrissakes. But I hope I'm wrong... I really want Cruz to win this award. I've also lost faith in Henson and have gained faith in Adams (after that BAFTA nod). It seems that there are in fact people who love her more than Viola Davis.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Happy-Go-Lucky
Rachel Getting Married
Milk
WALL•E
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

There are a TON of possibilities here. It seems like they should all be able to get in. But they can't. So I just went with the most obviously easy gets: the Pixar film, the Woody Allen film, the Mike Leigh film, the best pic contender, and the nepotism/quirky indie spot (which also just happens to be the most deserving of them all). The Wrestler seems a likely spoiler except for the fact that even the film's biggest fans (Nat, Nick, etc.) haven't been nominating its script, even as they give it love in every other category. In Bruges also really seems poised to score here, but I just can't see it getting in over any of these five. We'll see.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Doubt
Frost/Nixon
The Reader

I think The Dark Knight will take a back seat to The Reader in this category. The other four are pretty locked in. Rev Road is not even close here, I don't think.

Alright, now here's how I think the 5 most nominated films will do:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: 11 nods
Best Picture
Best Director
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Film Editing
Best Cinematography
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Makeup
Best Visual Effects
Best Original Score
Best Sound

The Dark Knight: 11 nods
Best Picture
Best Director
Best Supporting Actor
Best Film Editing
Best Cinematography
Best Art Direction
Best Makeup
Best Visual Effects
Best Original Score
Best Sound
Best Sound Effects Editing

Slumdog Millionaire: 9 nods
Best Picture
Best Director
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best (Supporting?) Actor
Best Film Editing
Best Cinematography
Best Original Score
Best Original Song
Best Sound

WALL•E: 7 nods
Best Picture
Best Original Screenplay
Best Sound
Best Sound Effects Editing
Best Original Score
Best Original Song
Best Animated Feature

Milk: 6 nods
Best Picture
Best Director
Best Original Screenplay
Best Actor
Best Supporting Actor
Best Film Editing

I guess I'm being optimistic. We'll see in a few hours...

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

NSFC predictions and winners

BEST PICTURE
My prediction: WALL•E
My alternate: The Wrestler
Could it happen? The Class
Actual winner: Waltz with Bashir

Well, I got the animated part right... but wow.


BEST DIRECTOR
My prediction: Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky
My alternate: Andrew Stanton, WALL•E
Or will they go with Boyle again?
Actual Winner: Mike Leigh

Yay for me! Is he in contention for an oscar nod? He sure has done well with the critics. No one else really has a claim on the "lone director" spot. So I think if it's not him, the directors will most likely match the best pic nominees.


BEST ACTOR
My prediction: Mickey Rourke
My alternate: Sean Penn
Or maybe... Richard Jenkins?
Actual winner: Sean Penn

Well, I was close. I assumed they'd love The Wrestler a little bit more than they did. But I guess the critics are really getting behind Sean Penn for the win. And why shouldn't they? He'll need to really seem like a sweeper to scoop up oscar #2.


BEST ACTRESS
My prediction: Sally Hawkins
My alternate: Anne Hathaway
Can she win one? Kristin Scott-Thomas
Actual winner: Sally Hawkins

This was fairly easy, I think. They usually go for someone who hasn't yet gotten the critical attention they deserve, but in this case, the established critical favorite STILL hasn't locked up as a nominee, so they're giving her one final push. Good.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
My prediction: Heath Ledger
My alternate: Bill Irwin
Or maybe... one of the Milk guys?
Actual winner: Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky

D'oh! Deep down, I kinda knew they'd go with someone other than Ledger. But for some reason, I forgot all about Eddie Marsan. He and Bill Irwin are sharing the annual "why can't they get traction?" slot. And he did seem like the type who they'd prop up. What was I thinking? Oops.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
My prediction: Marisa Tomei
My alternate: Penelope Cruz
Will they throw her a bone? Rosemarie DeWitt
Actual winner: Hanna Schygulla, The Edge of Heaven

WAAAY outta left field... but that's to be expected with this group. And yay for me for having actually seen this movie! I didn't care for it as much as most people did, but Hanna Schygulla was very good. And bold choices are always fun.

BEST SCREENPLAY
My prediction: Rachel Getting Married
My alternate: Happy-Go-Lucky
Could it score here? The Class
Actual winner: Happy-Go-Lucky

Well, I knew they'd like Happy-Go-Lucky. Just didn't know it would be to THIS extent. I thought for sure Rachel Getting Married would score with this group somewhere, and this seemed like the most likely place. But alas, they really REALLY love Mike Leigh. So there you go.

BEST DOCUMENTARY
My prediction: Trouble the Water (kill the Man on Wire sweep!)
My alternate: Man on Wire
Actual Winner: Man on Wire

Boring.

Well, anyway... looking at the balloting scores, WALL•E actually tied for 2nd (with Happy-Go-Lucky) in best picture, so I wasn't that far off. Rourke and Ledger were also 2nd in their categories. And Viola Davis was actually numerically tied with Schygulla in supporting actress, but since she was on fewer ballots, she lost the tiebreaker (Cruz was in 3rd).

This has gotta be disappointing for Rachel Getting Married and The Wrestler, neither of which got anywhere with this group. I thought one or both of them would get a lot of love here. But you never can tell. Always an interesting group, that NSFC.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Wow, why didn't I watch THIS on New Year's Eve?



My family decided to go the traditional route, so I got stuck with Dick Clark, Ryan Seacrest, and that hyperactive Kate Hudson wannabe. But I bet they would've watched CNN, had they known Kathy and Anderson were on.

p.s. Just come out already, Anderson. It's time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

OMG, WALL•E just won yet another critics' award.

Chicago. This makes 3, all from relatively major cities (including L.A.). One might even call it this year's critical favorite, though Slumdog and Milk are certainly running close. We'll have to see how the top ten lists go, but so far, it looks like WALL•E may be on top.

Please please please let it be nominated for best picture.

SAG nominations!

Quick thoughts: Doubt did extremely well, like I thought. 5 nominations, including both supporting actress nods, as well as ensemble. This has to boost its best picture profile, though I still doubt it'll make the cut in that race. Frost/Nixon managed an ensemble nod despite its being basically a duet, so that indicates it has huge best picture support. And Slumdog made the ensemble cut even though it has no stars and is not really an actors' piece, so it of course is locked in for best picture as well. Milk bounced back with nods for the ensemble and for Josh Brolin, though Franco missed, and is sadly out of the race for oscar : ( The last nominee was Benjamin Button, which solidified its own nomination for best pic as well. Ensemble list:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (3 noms)
Doubt (5 noms)
Frost/Nixon (2 noms)
Milk (3 noms)
Slumdog Millionaire (2 noms)

No out-of-nowhere choices this year, but still some major snubs. Big "ouch" for Revolutionary Road. Beyond Winslet's "Year of Kate" citation, it failed to get traction. Rachel Getting Married, as I feared, went by the wayside as well. Something worthy always does. And finally, The Dark Knight failed to lock in its best pic chances today, which is what would've happened if it'd scored here. In the actors' minds (as in the globes'), it's Heath Ledger's show only. So it's anyone's guess as to whether the academy'll go for it, even if it has the guilds (which it will).

This could be the oscar lineup right here, though The Dark Knight and/or WALL•E still stand poised to replace something here, most likely the nomination leader, Doubt. I went 3/5 in my predictions, thinking Dark Knight and Rachel's ensembles would prove too enticing to ignore. But alas, the buzzy prestige best pic contenders ruled the day.

Best Actor:

Richard Jenkins
Frank Langella
Sean Penn
Brad Pitt
Mickey Rourke


Alright then. Penn, Rourke and Langella are still locks. But the surprise here is really Brad Pitt. The actors clearly loved Benjamin Button (the film and the character) more than expected. And consensus this season, surprisingly, seems to be that Brad > Leo. Maybe people are finally getting behind Brad with this prestige performance, thinking it's his time. And they'd be right. Jenkins makes his play here for the final oscar spot, and he could easily get it. And YAY for Clint Eastwood being snubbed again! Does this knock him down to 7th position? Is this the oscar list? Is Leo out? Is Brad in? Could both Leo and Brad get in? I think that's possible... we'll see. I went 4/5 in my predictions, like everyone else, missing Brad for Leo.

Best Actress:

Anne Hathaway
Angelina Jolie
Melissa Leo
Meryl Streep
Kate Winslet


Interesting. My Leo (Melissa, that is) hunch was correct. But it came at the expense of someone unexpected: Hawkins. This reminds me of last year's Linney-for-Jolie switch at oscar time. It's hard to believe Hawkins is out of the oscar race, having nearly swept the critics' awards, but who does she replace? Not Streep. Not Hathaway. Not Winslet. She could bump Leo even after Leo overtook her here. OR (more likely, I think), she could bump Jolie, who I just don't think will get #1 votes on ballots to make the oscar shortlist. OR, horror of horrors, Hawkins could miss. She has missed both the BFCA list and the SAG list, only making the cut at the globes in the comedy category. That does not bode well. So continue to rally, critics. Apparently she needs it. Ftr, I scored 4/5 here, missing Jolie for Hawkins, though I think my lineup could still be the one we see from oscar.

Best Supporting Actor:

Josh Brolin
Robert Downey, Jr.
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Heath Ledger
Dev Patel


EWWW, Dev Patel. Can't they at least reserve category fraud for truly exceptional performances? You can have your Gyllenhaal in Brokeback and Winslet in Reader, but Dev Patel? Really? Sigh. This puts him right back in contention for the oscar nod, surging him right ahead of James Franco (sigh). Though this reminds me a lot of the Keisha Castle-Hughes citation here that ultimately led to a lead nod from the academy. No other groups have really been buying the fraud on this one, and SAG probably only did it because they're only allowed to vote for people in the category they're gunning for. Hopefully Dev's votes will split at oscar time, and he'll be left out. But then, who would replace him? Neither Franco nor Michael Shannon have been doing particularly well, despite both being in films with big campaigns. And Cruise is not happening. So Dev could easily slip in. In any case, the other four are pretty locked. Ftr, I was 3/5 here... not good for me.

Best Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams
Penélope Cruz
Viola Davis
Taraji P. Henson
Kate Winslet


Interesting. My last-minute Amy Adams prediction was a good call, but swapping out Taraji Henson was not. Both made it. So my the net effect was nil, giving me a success rate of 4/5. The loser in all of this, of course, was Rosemarie DeWitt (my one bad prediction). Rachel Getting Married has gotten pretty shafted all season (beyond Hathaway), and the eponymous Rachel has been doing no better. So this appears to be a 6-woman race between Adams, Cruz, Davis, Henson, Tomei & Winslet, with DeWitt falling into "longshot spoiler" status. Of those 6, I'd take out Adams first, as I can't imagine her being #1 on many ballots above Viola Davis, but she's done well so far, so I dunno. Tomei or Henson could also miss. We'll see.

For the win, the big question is of course: Where will they give it to Kate?? Or will they at all? SAG has given her a win before (waaaay back in 1995), so they're not under the same pressure to honor her. She's nominated twice this year, but neither of her ensembles are. In fact, she's the only nominee from each of her films. So it seems its not about the films, it's all about her. If Doubt takes ensemble, which I think it will, then they may not need to give best actress to Streep, giving Kate an opening there. But I could also see her upsetting Cruz, who just doesn't seem to me like a SAG winner for some reason. Could Kate win both, with enough people voting for her twice, simply to cover themselves? I don't think it's out of the question. Could she win neither? That's not out of the question either. It'll be very exciting.

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last minute SAG prediction changes

I'm switching out Taraji P. Henson for Amy Adams, who I think will benefit from massive Doubt love among actors. I'm also seriously considering Slumdog Millionaire for best ensemble, as it just seems too big at this point to be left out, but the fact is, I don't know what I'd bump to give it a spot. I still see Button, Dark Knight and Rachel ahead of it, though I fear that Rachel would be the first to go.

I really hope it doesn't miss here, since this is the award it most deserves to be up for. But the actors have a strange way of missing truly great ensembles, even from films on their radar (Juno, Junebug, etc.). I hope that when they pop in the DVD to see Anne Hathaway do her breakthrough thing, they notice how great everyone else is, too, and how well they work together. We'll see.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I love Wanda Sykes.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Predictions, predictions, predictions...

Here's how I'm expecting the SAG races to shape up:

BEST ENSEMBLE
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Doubt
Milk
Rachel Getting Married

This is far from final, but I think at least 4 of these 5 will be nominated. Which 4 is still unclear. The only one I'm totally confident in is Milk, globe snub or no. It's the only best picture frontrunner that's being touted for its ensemble acting, and has abundant stars. Button I think will show up, too, due to its combo of best picture frontrunner status and the mixture of established and rising stars. Doubt is a bit iffy, as its best picture stock is falling, but the ensemble cast is the film's main draw, and with all four of them waking up to globe nods this morning, I think it's safe to say they're in (and could even win). The Dark Knight is another film with lots of stars all doing good work, that's also in the thick of the best pic race. That leaves one spot open, which I'm hoping against hope will go to Rachel Getting Married simply because it's so deserving. They've nominated quirky indies out of nowhere here before - remember The Station Agent? - so I'm thinking this truly great ensemble might have a chance this year.

Frost/Nixon, though looking good for a best pic nom, is clearly a duet, rather than an ensemble, and I think that'll doom its chances here. Revolutionary Road is certainly a threat, but I think general mixed feelings toward the film, combined with the fact that it seems to be registering only as the Kate & Leo show, will cause it to miss here (but just barely). Slumdog Millionaire could certainly show up as well, but I think the fact that everyone in it is unknown, and that even its most diehard fans wouldn't claim that it's an acting showcase, will shut it out of this particular race. And finally, The Wrestler could surface here, but I think voters will think of it mostly as Rourke's show, and so it won't be able to slip ahead of any of the five titles above.



BEST ACTOR
Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road)
Richard Jenkins (The Visitor)
Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)
Sean Penn (Milk)
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

I have a lot of confidence in this lineup. Unless Clint manages to rebound with this group (unlikely, if he couldn't get the globes to notice him), this is probably the list. I doubt the actors will go for Brad, since they usually prefer to recognize lesser-known character actors like Jenkins when they can, instead of super-famous stars.



BEST ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married)
Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky)
Melissa Leo (Frozen River)
Meryl Streep (Doubt)
Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road)

This is a tough one. I have a strong feeling Melissa Leo will resurface here. She's the kind of under-the-radar gem, like Jenkins, that they love to throw a bone to (most of the voters are unknown actors, after all). But Kristin Scott Thomas' globe nod indicates that she does have support, and isn't going away. It's either/or for the 5th spot, I think. Blanchett will have to sit this one out, I'd wager, as will Jolie.



BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Josh Brolin (Milk)
James Franco (Milk)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt)
Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road)

On this one, I'm really torn. As I said, I think Rev Road is registering mostly as the Kate & Leo show, and this is hurting Shannon. But he's also the kind of lesser-known, acclaimed actor that the SAGs love (see Jenkins & Melissa Leo). So I think he'll make it, even if the film misses ensemble (but I'm less than confident). I also think Milk will rebound here big-time, with both its supporting contenders getting in. Fiennes, I think, will suffer from vote-splitting and be left out. But Downey Jr. will be right on the heels of these five and could easily replace someone, most likely Shannon or Franco. Of course, this is also the lineup I predicted for the globes, and I was very wrong. So we'll see.



BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Viola Davis (Doubt)
Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married)
Taraji P Henson (Benjamin Button)
Kate Winslet (The Reader)

This is a toughie; this race is still very fluid. I would not be surprised in the least if Amy Adams got in again here, though I'm betting they'll think the ensemble award is honor enough for her. Marisa Tomei could of course make it, too. But I think the SAG preference for lesser-knowns gives DeWitt and Henson the edge. Look for Kate Winslet or Viola Davis to upset Cruz here... I just have a feeling.


I've also been thinking about the best picture race relative to the best picture races of the recent past, and I keep coming back to this feeling that Slumdog Millionaire will win it all. Maybe I'm just being pessimistic, but I really think it will. The two races that seem most analogous to this year are 2004 and 2005. Here are the parallels:

If 2008 = 2004 (which thankfully it doesn't, at least in politics)...

Benjamin Button = The Aviator (big, tech-heavy period epic with Cate Blanchett billed second to a Hollywood heartthrob; helmed by a respected, overdue auteur; early anointed frontrunner with double-digit nomination total; turns out to be "cold" and inaccessible to some)

Slumdog Millionaire = Million Dollar Baby (very emotional, somewhat facile, late entry that takes the awards race by storm; about competition with an underdog protagonist and hence has that scrappy "underdog" feel; has "million" in title to give it extra zing)

Milk = Ray OR Sideways (prestige biopic about eponymous famous man, with a central performance that lifts the whole film to oscar glory OR slightly prickly critical favorite, with strong ensemble acting along with an acclaimed central performance... take your pick, though it's really a combo of the two)

Of course, if this is the scenario, Slumdog wins, though there'll be suspense to the very end. For the record, that's what I think will happen. Not convinced? Here's exhibit B:

If 2008 = 2005...

Benjamin Button = Brokeback Mountain (big, beautiful tragic romance; helmed by a respected, overdue auteur; nabs the most nominations of all films, but some thing it "cold", "inaccessible" or "slow"; no emotional hand-holding)

Slumdog Millionaire = Crash (very emotional, somewhat facile, smaller film; feel-good entry that didn't seem awardsy until people declared it "the underdog" and then it became cool to vote for; doesn't require much thought; the kind of film people like to root for)

Milk = Capote OR Good Night and Good Luck (unconventional biopic about eponymous famous gay man, with a central performance that lifts the whole film to oscar glory OR small, overtly political film about recent historical events... take your pick, though it's really a combo of the two)

In this scenario, again, Slumdog comes out on top, though it's more of a shocking upset in this case.

Regardless, I'm starting to think it's Slumdog's year. It just feels right (even if it feels wrong). Then again, I could be wrong. After all, Benjamin Button IS an epic romance and is NOT gay. Plus, Slumdog has no stars attached (M$B and Crash definitely did). That counts for a lot. Then again, Button IS about a man who ages backwards, and it DOES show Brad Pitt as an elderly baby. That shit weirds people out.

Anyway, while The Curious Case of Benjamin Button may look like the frontrunner now, that's precisely why I think it'll end up losing. We'll see.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

GG nominations (w/ my predictions)

BEST PICTURE (DRAMA)

My predictions:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Milk
Revolutionary Road
Slumdog Millionaire
The Wrestler
alt. The Reader

Actual nominations:
Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
The Reader
Revolutionary Road
Slumdog Millionaire

My success rate: 3/5
That's 4/5 with my alternate. I had a feeling The Reader would surprise here. But the Milk exclusion floored me. Don't expect it to transfer to Oscar - Capote, for example, got nothing but a best actor nod here either - but it's still disheartening and a bit of a shock. In any case, the Rev Road crew must be happy. Today really saved them.

BEST ACTOR (DRAMA)

My predictions:
Leonardo DiCaprio
Frank Langella
Sean Penn
Brad Pitt
Mickey Rourke
alt. Clint Eastwood

Actual nominations:
DiCaprio
Langella
Penn
Pitt
Rourke

My success rate: 5/5

100%! Yay! I'm SO glad they booted Clint Eastwood. Maybe he'll be shut out of oscar after all? And yay for me for being right about it. With any luck, the oscar race will be similar to this, probably with Jenkins replacing Pitt... we'll see.

BEST ACTRESS (DRAMA)

My predictions:
Anne Hathaway
Angelina Jolie
Melissa Leo
Meryl Streep
Kate Winslet
alt. Cate Blanchett

Actual nominations:
Anne Hathaway
Angelina Jolie
Meryl Streep
Kristin Scott Thomas
Kate Winslet

My success rate: 4/5
Not bad predictions from me. I saw the Blanchett snub coming (just not enough room). But I thought they'd keep the Leo train going here, instead of stopping it in its tracks. Kristin Scott Thomas can breathe a sigh of relief that she hasn't been totally forgotten this awards season. She's not the critical fave we expected her to be, but she's still right back in the thick of it. I would expect that this will be close to the oscar lineup, with Hawkins replacing someone, mostly likely Jolie. But Leo and Blanchett aren't out of it yet... SAG will tell the tale.

BEST PICTURE (COMEDY/MUSICAL)

My predictions:
Burn After Reading
Happy-Go-Lucky
Mamma Mia!
Sex and the City
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
alt. Cadillac Records

Actual nominations:
Burn After Reading
Happy-Go-Lucky
In Bruges
Mamma Mia!
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

My success rate: 4/5
Pretty strong slate of nominees, all things considered. All of these were acclaimed films, give or take global phenom Mamma Mia!, which you can't really blame them for recognizing. Given their love of Vicky Cristina overall, it could be headed for a win here, but the recent critical love for Happy-Go-Lucky will boost its profile. In Bruges could take it, too, I think. We'll see.

BEST ACTOR (COMEDY/MUSICAL)

My predictions:
Javier Bardem
Steve Carrell
George Clooney
Colin Farrell
Dustin Hoffman
alt. Robert Downey Jr.

Actual nominations:
Javier Bardem
Colin Farrell
James Franco
Brendan Gleeson
Dustin Hoffman

My success rate: 3/5
Not a bad score from me, in what turned out to be a pretty crazy category. Good for them for loving In Bruges, and for finding a way to honor James Franco even if they didn't love Milk. And I'm SO happy about Javier Bardem's including. Now who can win this? I'd guess it's Hoffman's to lose (as I said before the noms came out), seeing as he's got the pedigree and no one else is really standing out.

BEST ACTRESS (COMEDY/MUSICAL)

My predictions:
Sally Hawkins
Frances McDormand
Sarah Jessica Parker
Meryl Streep
Emma Thompson
alt. Scarlett Johansson

Actual nominations:
Rebecca Hall (!!!)
Sally Hawkins
Frances McDormand
Meryl Streep
Emma Thompson

My success rate: 4/5
WHOA. So the only one I missed was SJP? Color me shocked. I guess they feel like they've honored her enough? And good on them for resisting the urge to nominate my alternate, ScarJo, and instead tapping her superior (but unknown) co-star Rebecca Hall. Very nice. And yay for me for predicting McDormand, even if I didn't see the Parker snub coming.

BEST DIRECTOR

My predictions:
Danny Boyle
David Fincher
Sam Mendes
Christopher Nolan
Gus Van Sant
alt. Darren Aronofsky

Actual nominations:
Danny Boyle
Stephen Daldry
David Fincher
Ron Howard
Sam Mendes

My success rate: 3/5
You win some, you lose some. I'm proud of myself for calling Mendes (I knew RR would get a life preserver from this group). But I'm kicking myself for not going with my earlier hunch that The Reader would do well here. Honestly, I'm not at all surprised by Daldry's nod. But no Gus Van Sant for Milk? Color me shocked again. Oscar will rectify that one, to be sure. Though they'll probably keep Ron Howard. Sigh.

BEST SCREENPLAY

My predictions:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Doubt
Frost/Nixon
Slumdog Millionaire
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
alt. Milk

Actual nominations:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Doubt
Frost/Nixon
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

My success rate: 4/5
Not bad. I'm proud of myself for having the foresight to exclude Milk, though I'm sad that I was right. Didn't see The Reader coming, but I'm not really all that surprised. I think the win's between Doubt and Frost/Nixon, depending one which one they aren't able to honor elsewhere. Interesting tidbit: these are all adapted screenplays. Is this the oscar list? Curiously enough, the only major contender missing is RR, which did very well in the nominations overall. What does that mean for its oscar prospects in this category? Also, this doesn't help clear up the original screenplay race, which will be a Battle of the Snubbed (Rachel Getting Married v. Milk).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

My predictions:
Josh Brolin
James Franco
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Heath Ledger
Michael Shannon
alt. Robert Downey Jr.

Actual nominations:
Tom Cruise (!!!)
Robert Downey Jr.
Ralph Fiennes (for Duchess, not Reader)
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Heath Ledger

My success rate: 2/5
3/5 with my alternate... what a nutso category. This muddies the waters considerably. Tom Cruise?? Really??? Whatever. And wierd of them to love The Reader so much but nominate Fiennes for his other film instead. Way to confuse oscar voters. Nice to see Robert Downey Jr. here, though. Sad and rather shocking to see Franco and especially Brolin excluded, but apparently they thought Milk was all about Sean Penn. Brolin, at least, will be back at oscar time for sure.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

My predictions:
Amy Adams
Penélope Cruz
Viola Davis
Taraji P. Henson
Kate Winslet
alt. Marisa Tomei

Actual nominations:
Amy Adams
Penélope Cruz
Viola Davis
Marisa Tomei
Kate Winslet

My success rate: 4/5
5/5 with my alternate. So did pretty well. I'm proud of myself for calling Adams. But I'm a bit surprised that they went with Tomei even though they didn't give The Wrestler a best film nod. Interesting. But Kate Winslet must be the happiest one of the night. Two nods for her, and for both her films as well. She's sitting pretty. I still expect Cruz to win this one, but Winslet's certainly a threat.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

My predictions:
Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire
WALL•E

Actual nominations:
Changeling
Benjamin Button
Defiance
Frost/Nixon
Slumdog Millionaire

My success rate: 3/5
Not bad for this category.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

My predictions:
Australia
Sex and the City
Slumdog Millionaire
WALL•E
The Wrestler

Actual nominations:
Bolt
Cadillac Records
Gran Torino
WALL•E
The Wrestler

My success rate: 2/5
Meh. I hope The Wrestler wins (I think it will).

BEST FOREIGN FILM

My predictions:
The Class
Gomorrah
I've Loved You So Long
Let the Right One In
Waltz with Bashir
alt. The Necessities of Life

Actual nominations:
The Baader Meinhof Complex
Everlasting Moments
Gomorrah
I've Loved You So Long
Waltz with Bashir

My success rate: 3/5
Eh. Whatever. This category's hard. I think it's I've Loved You So Long or Gomorrah for the win.

BEST ANIMATED FILM

My predictions:
Kung Fu Panda
WALL•E
Waltz with Bashier
alt. Bolt

Actual nominations:
Bolt
Kung Fu Panda
WALL•E

My success rate: 2/3
3/3 with my alternate, but there were really only 4 contenders in this case. I forgot they had a way to honor Waltz with Bashir outside this category, hence the opening for Bolt. But WALL•E will win this in a walk.

So, in conclusion...

Single person given most benefit from these nominations: Kate Winslet
(I hope she and Sam and their beautiful kids throw a big party)

Single person hurt most by these nominations: Michael Shannon
(misses critics' awards and now misses with the globes, too, even when his film does well... ouch... not a good day for Michael)

Film that hit the biggest stumbling block: Milk (but it'll recover... that NYFCC award turned out to be very important after all)

Most ridiculous nomination in any category: Tom Cruise

Most welcome surprise inclusion: Rebecca Hall

Most welcome surprise exclusion: Clint Eastwood in best actor
(though they of course found ways to honor him elsewhere)

Most unwelcome surprise exclusion: everyone from Milk except Sean Penn (what's up with that?)

Who will win? Tough to say. The globes threw a few wrenches in the works, and that's exciting!

Streep v. Winslet is still on, and hotter than ever. I can't imagine they'll let 5-time nominee Doubt go home with nothing (even though they DID exclude it from best picture... weird, right?). I also can't imagine they'll let 2-time nominee Winslet go home with nothing. I also can't imagine Cruz not winning. So what gives? Something has to.

Can Penn win best actor all by his lonesome, all Capote-style, paving the way for lots of oscar nominations for his film? Or will Kate and Leo go home with his & hers statuettes? Or will Rourke take it?

Does Heath Ledger have the globe win sewn up? Especially since his main competition, Josh Brolin, was snubbed?

Is it still Button v. Slumdog for best picture (drama)? What about the comedy category?

Very exciting.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

GG - Comedy/Musical: not a pretty sight

Yikes! Apparently the globe people are getting strict about dramedies trying to pass themselves off as comedies, even though they seem to have no problem with leading roles going supporting (sigh). Anyway, this year's GG comedy/musical field is pretty dismal. No real oscar hopefuls. Just one musical (and a widely reviled one, at that). Barely even any good movies to speak of. What a huge change from last year.

Rachel Getting Married, W, and Iron Man were all bumped up to drama, and that's not good news for any of them. In Rachel's case, I think that was the right call, though I now worry for Anne Hathaway's globe (and by extension oscar) chances. In W's case, I think, it's just plain wrong. All that film's value was in the comedy. Tragicomedy, sure, but I laughed at it a LOT (certainly more than I cried). And Josh Brolin really deserved that nomination.

Comedy actor is now particularly empty. All THREE leading contenders will apparently not be there. That'd be W and Iron Man again, plus Philip Seymour Hoffman in Synecdoche, NY. Who's left? Not many people! Dammit, why couldn't Glen Hansard in Once been eligible this year? Sigh. The hilarious thing is that the most likely candidate I can think of right now is actually Colin Farrell in In Bruges... wasn't he really good in that? It's apparently on the GG comedy list.

Anyway, don't be surprised if the list ends up looking like this:

Javier Bardem (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Steve Carrell (Get Smart)
George Clooney (Burn After Reading)
Colin Farrell (In Bruges)
Dustin Hoffman (Last Chance Harvey)

...with no one really looking like a frontrunner to win. Beyond these, there's Jack Black (Be Kind Rewind), George Clooney again (Leatherheads), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), Seth Rogen and James Franco (Pineapple Express). After those, you're really scraping the bottom of the barrell. Maybe they'll throw us a bone and put Robert Downey Jr's Tropic Thunder perf in lead?

I guess it's kind of cool in a way that the category's so vacant... it leaves possibilities for people you'd never think could surface here (like Bardem in Barcelona, or Farrell in anything). But it's also kind of depressing. I can't even remember the last time I literally couldn't picture ANY of the candidates winning. I was really counting on (and rooting for) Josh Brolin in W... or failing that, Robert Downey Jr. going all populist in Iron Man. Could Dustin Hoffman actually get a trophy again? How nuts.

Actress is a little better, but a little emptier now without Hathaway challenging for the win. These would be my predicted five:

Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky)
Frances McDormard (Burn After Reading)
Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City)
Meryl Streep (Mamma Mia!)
Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey)

...with Hawkins cruising to a win, barring a surge of love for silly, singing Streep (not impossible), or the HFPA's Carrie Bradshaw obsession running even deeper than we thought (also not impossible). I hope Hawkins wins; that'd be good consolation for her now that the oscar nod is looking less likely, what with Blanchett and Jolie breathing down her neck.

Other possible contenders here include Hathaway's other role (Get Smart), Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!) Tina Fey (Baby Mama, having one of those years), Katherine Heigl (27 Dresses), McDormand again (for Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), her costar Amy Adams, and the eponymous girls of Vicky Cristina Barcelona. We'll see what happens.

That leaves Best Picture. Yep, that one's pretty empty, too. Which of course means heterosexual male cinephiles everywhere will probably have to endure both Sex and the City and Mamma Mia! being up for this award (what's scarier is one of them could even win... the category still has no real frontrunner). If even my female directing professor loathes both these films, I can only imagine how straight men must feel.

My predictions, I suppose, would be as follows:

Burn After Reading
Happy-Go-Lucky
Mamma Mia!
Sex and the City
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

...but I could see any of these five being snubbed. Other very real possibilities include In Bruges, Last Chance Harvey, Tropic Thunder, and Pineapple Express. Somewhat longer shots: Get Smart, Cadillac Records, and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.

Any guesses at to what will win? I was really hoping (despite myself) that Rachel Getting Married would get placed here and then pull out a win. But with it out of the running, I'm worried that Sex or Mamma could really take it. But hopefully they split the divisive diva blockbuster vote, and the globes go all Mike-Leigh-highbrow with Happy-Go-Lucky.

It'll be interesting, at least.

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NBR predictions

Here are my predictions for the NBR announcement Thursday:

Best Picture: Milk
alt: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Director: David Fincher (Benjamin Button)
alt: Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road)

Actor: Sean Penn (Milk)
alt: Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road)

Actress: Meryl Streep (Doubt)
alt: Kate Winslet (Rev Road and/or Reader)

Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger (Dark Knight)
alt: Michael Shannon (Rev Road)

Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
alt: Viola Davis (Doubt)

Original Screenplay: Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married)
alt: Dustin Lance Black (Milk)

Adapted Screenplay: John Patrick Shanley (Doubt)
alt: Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

Breakthrough Actor: Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire)
alt: Richard Jenkins (The Visitor)

Breakthrough Actress: Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky)
alt: Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married)

Animated Feature: WALL•E

Special Achievement: Clint Eastwood (Changeling and/or Gran Torino)
alt: John Patrick Shanley (Doubt)

TOP TEN
Doubt
Frost/Nixon
Rachel Getting Married
Revolutionary Road
Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
The Visitor
The Wrestler

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Friday, November 28, 2008

The age old struggle once again in '08: Slumdog Millionaire v. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button











It may be premature to speculate on this, but everyone else is doing it, so why not me?

2008 is already looking like another one of those years where the top category's a hard-fought battle between a cold, cerebral, subtle, (god forbid) "thinky" technical marvel, and a more overtly emotional, "feely" movie that people feel more of a "connection" to, or that makes them feel better about themselves when they vote for it.

Sigh.

This has been played out several times in recent years, and unfortunately, the latter always wins. People love their raw emotional manipulation. People don't like to think. People seem to feel that any degree of emotional distance from a piece necessarily makes it less moving. There's no room for both emotion AND brains in a movie. That seems to be the prevailing notion, anyway.

This bothers me, because it's always struck me as a kind of reactionary overcompensation away from the tendency toward new technologies and modes of storytelling, at the expense of old-fashioned emotional stories that touch one's heart. Emotion is great, and I love being moved by a movie. I'd even go so far as to say that being moving (in some way) is an essential part of being a great film. BUT I'd prefer for movies to make me think, as well as move me. I believe that pushing boundaries, asking the hard questions, being challenging... all that stuff... is the other ingredient in what makes a great film great. That's why I always come down on the side of the big, cold, thought-provoking films, and thus why I am always disappointed.

Let's look at previous examples this decade:

2000
Gladiator vs. Traffic vs Crouching Tiger

Case in point. The traditional, old-school epic about revenge and putting things right beats the marvelous Asian romance-wuxia fusion AND the challenging contemporary movie about the drug war. Granted, this time two better movies split the anti-Gladiator vote, but the outcome still proves my point. Not that Gladiator is bad, mind you. The other two are just better. But they LOST because they're "difficult" (i.e. challenging), whereas Gladiator is the same old yarn we've seen many times before.

2001
A Beautiful Mind vs. LOTR: Fellowship vs. Moulin Rouge

This was touted as something of a threeway race at the time, but let's not kid ourselves: Moulin Rouge! never had a real chance to win. It lacked a director nod, and would've been a pretty big longshot even without that crippling hurdle. So the real fight here was between LOTR (the dazzling epic that made the fantasy genre respectable) and A Beautiful Mind (the biopic that made people feel happy). There were other factors at work here, as there always are, but again, the result proves my point. Mind, despite a 5-nom defecit, emerged the winner.

2002
Chicago vs. The Pianist

This is sort of a counterexample, since Chicago did in fact win the oscar (it's Benjamin Button in the analogy, for those keeping score), while The Pianist, all small and emotional, just barely lost. But that was a timing thing. The Pianist could've won with a bit more time to grow. And the fact that it won three major oscars over the juggernaut that was Chicago, when most people thought it wouldn't win any, again proves my point. The Pianist was really quite good, though - Chicago couldn't really be said to be obviously superior - so I didn't care much about the outcome of this race. But there you go.

2003 is N/A because Return of the King had no real competition.

2004, however...
Million $ Baby vs. The Aviator
Classic example: The Aviator was a technical marvel and the assumed frontrunner, whereas Baby was a sleeper hit that made people cry. The feel-bad movie of the year! (key word: feel). Succumbing to the emotional manipulation, the voters handed Baby the statue, despite Aviator's huge nomination tally.

2005
UGH. CRASH! vs. Brokeback Mountain
Need we even revisit this. Suffice it to say that the result here is consistent with the pattern: subtle films that make you think as well as feel, that don't offer instant emotional gratification, that require processing, that are challenging, that are technical marvels, DON'T WIN. Even when they have more nominations and MANY more precursors. The cheaply emotional, pedestrian, manipulative, nonsensical, self-involved, touchy-feely movies win. Again: UGH.

2006 and 2007 don't really fit the pattern. These two years resulted in two good winners, but the familiar "new and challenging vs. conventionally emotional" paradigm was not in place. This year, it seems, it will be. Button is this former, and Slumdog is the latter. If all goes as it seems it will, Button could get 11-13 noms, while Slumdog will be stuck in the mid-single digits. But that shouldn't keep Slumdog from an "upset" victory.

Just based on trailers and such, I already kind of love Benjamin Button. And Slumdog seems, to me, overly familar. I hope Button lives up to what seems like great promise, but I equally hope that the inevitable "huh?" reaction to it from some quarters doesn't doom its chances for victory.

For challenging films that treat their audience like adults are always the underdogs, no matter how it may seem. Just like Barack Obama.

"Up how many points in the polls? Whatever, I'll believe it when I see it."

Luckily, that one turned out well. We'll see how this next one goes.

The political analogy is, I think, is an apt one, for I see liberalism as the counterpart of the challenging film. It challenges us to think, to reject cheap emotional manipulation, to realize that there's room for more than one thing at a time (think AND feel! preserve my marriage AND allow equal rights for others! keep our country safe AND respected abroad! free market AND regulation!). Like challenging films, liberals often seem cold, scary and mechanical (hello John Kerry) until you actually stop to think about what they're saying. But I reject the notion that we cannot be both rational/thoughtful AND emotionally fulfilled. It's true neither in art nor in politics.

Anyway. This rant was brought to you by Adam C Keller, oscars and politics enthusiast extraordinaire, on a boring friday afternoon. Hope it was fun.

Now let's all root for Benjamin Button to go the distance, if only for the principle of the thing.

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