Sunday, October 29, 2006

I finally watched my two Netflix flicks!

Yeah, man. After plunking down $30 for two months of Netflix service, and letting them sit here and collect dust for almost the entire two months, I have finally sat down and watched Mysterious Skin and Donnie Darko. I decided to put my thoughts in haiku form:

Donnie Darko
Good acting abounds
And Jake's hot; shame that the film's
a bunch of hooey.

Mysterious Skin
Good acting here, too
I liked it more than I thought
But it feels dirty.

But seriously. Re: Darko... there's a lot to love in this film, but it's also all just kinda ludicrous and out of control. Lots of great actors and interesting ideas on display, but different tones are flyin' all over the place, there are lots of fun but unrealistic characters, the science fiction plot is too outlandish, and the "atmosperics" often read as self-involved and pretentious. I know that sounds harsh, and to be fair, there's actually a lot I enjoyed about this film (Jake, Maggie, Mary, Drew!), but that doesn't change the fact that I really wasn't buying it... at all. Richard Kelly is no David Lynch.

But if I may reiterate: Jake Gyllenhaal is hot, and was just as hot in 2001. I read Elvis Mitchell's NY Times review where he predicted Jake was "a couple of great roles away from being a star," and oh, how right he was.

As for Skin, I definitely have more respect for it as a film - basically, it "worked" on the whole - but I still didn't love it. I had problems with the frequent halts between scenes that made it look like they were trying to make room for commercial breaks... and as I said, the whole thing just felt kind of dirty. And not just in the sexual abuse/rape/kiddie porn way. The low budget showed. And I guess the storytelling (good but not great) was not enough to totally get me past the sordid things going on. But it was still a good film; Joseph Gordon-Levitt was VERY good (rather reminiscent of Ledger in BBM), as were most of the actors, and it was a touching exploration of the repercussions of sexual abuse. Recommended.

Final verdicts:

Donnie Darko: C+

Mysterious Skin: B-

Anyway, now that those are over with, I will get back to the (MUCH delayed) Streepathon, and will start seeing stuff I missed this year. Yay!

Oscar charts: Best Adapted Screenplay

THE FIVE (4/5=80%)
1) The Departed (=)
2) Notes on a Scandal (=)
3) Little Children (=)
4) Children of Men (=)
5) Borat! (NEW)

UPDATE (1/23): YES!!! I KNEW Prada wouldn't get in here. Smoking, too. So go me. I can't believe everyone was predicting those. I knew Notes and the Children films would get some love here. And I'm SO happy they found a way to honor Borat without having to shaft Ryan Gosling. Borat is more deserving in this category anyway.

UPDATE (1/22): Randomly switching Last King for Veil. I'm hoping the Whitaker wave will sweep in his film's screenplay (instead of a supporting nod for McAvoy, please). I ALMOST decided to give in and predict Prada here, but I'm sticking to my guns and saying it'll be shut out.

UPDATE (1/20): This category is tricky. I seem to be diverging from the consensus in this race.

For one, I don't believe The Devil Wears Prada will score here. Yes, it has the Scripter nod and the WGA nod, but in the case of the Scripter, it didn't have to compete with things like The Departed and Dreamgirls, and the WGA always goes more for comedies and is decided largely by TV writers (who would be more appreciative of Prada's sitcom-style humor). Basically, it's just not the kind of script the academy honors, no matter how successful the film was.

I also don't think Dreamgirls will make the cut over all the more worthy competition. The only lock, I think, is The Departed, but along with it, I expect to see more oscary stuff like Veil, Notes and both Children films. But of course I could be wrong. We'll see.

UPDATE (1/5): The Scripter noms give some new insight into this race, giving boosts to Children of Men, The Last King of Scotland and The Devil Wears Prada, and hurting Little Chldren and The Painted Veil. Todd & Tom's screenplay in particular was looking very solid before the scripter noms, but I have to knock it out of "lock" status, since it was snubbed. I still think both snubbed screenplays will make it, though, along with Notes, The Departed and critical fave Children of Men. I DON'T think Dreamgirls will make it... at least it shouldn't... that writing was nothing special at all.

UPDATE (12/16): Dreamgirls falls to #5. I still think it'll score here (thanks to Letters' switch to "original"), but the multiple globe snubs are not encouraging. The Painted Veil, meanwhile, soars to #4, while Thank You For Smoking rises to #6. Flags, Children of Men, and Last King of Scotland are longshots, but still possible... as is Prada, which I think could actually score here if its unexpected strength is any indication.

UPDATE (12/3): Letters enters and looks like a likely nominee. Flags also rises again with its satellite nom, as does Thank You For Smoking. Good German and History Boys fall due to bad buzz... it looks like the nominees will come from the top ten.

UPDATE (11/13): The Good German takes a hit, due to what appears to be unfavorable reception. The Painted Veil makes a giant leap into my top 5, mostly because it looks oscary. Also, Happyness and Good Year exit (due category change and critical thrashing, respectively), making room for Smoking and Marie.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I'm feeling pretty good about The Departed and Little Children. Notes I also expect to be nominated as long as it's successful... it seems very screenplay-friendly (I believe Judi Dench's character Barbara writes notes and narrates... plus come on, it's Patrick Marber). The Good German I think is something that could score in screenplay (having come from a respected novel), even if it's ignored elsewhere. And Dreamgirls of course could steamroll... though the screenplay might be inexplicably snubbed (it happens often with musicals).

I'm not sure if Pursuit of Happyness is adapted, but if so, it's a major threat. History Boys and Children of Men also might make waves in this category, but it's too soon to tell. Flags I think will miss here even if it's nominated for Best Picture (and currently I'm predicting it will). And Scotland... well... who knows. The third-tier offerings won't factor in much, I don't think, but it's early still... you never know what might heat up.

So, this is the last of the charts... I might update them later, right from the original posts, but we'll see how that works... I might just not want to deal with it (wish I had an actual website). Someone, please leave comments to show me I didn't waste my time with all this posting. Cause this took like all day long. Damn.

Oscar charts: Best Original Screenplay

THE FIVE (3/5=60%)
1) The Queen (=)
2) Little Miss Sunshine (=)
3) Babel (=)
4) Letters from Iwo Jima (+4)
5) Pan's Labyrinth (+1)

UPDATE (1/23): Oh well. Very sad about United and especially Volver (it deserved to win here), but these are still good nominees. I'm so glad Stranger Than Fiction didn't place. And I continue to be amazed at how everyone assumed Letters was totally out of it, when lo and behold, it even shows up here (don't get me wrong, I bought into the "Letters is dead" theory, too, but at least it took me longer).

Anyway, the win seems like a crap shoot between The Queen and Little Miss Sunshine, with Letters a possible dark horse spoiler. I'd personally prefer that Little Miss Sunshine take this, now that Volver is out of it. We'll see...

UPDATE (1/20): Hmmm... I feel like I'm off by one here... but this is the best combo I could come up with. Letters takes a dive in this category after being ignored by all the guilds. United 93 seems primed to get a consolation nod here for Greengrass in place of best director... or perhaps a second nod. And I'm betting Pedro's reputation and the strength of Volver's screenplay will allow it to hold off late-surging Pan's Labyrinth, which didn't have all this buzz back when voters were turning in their ballots. And I'm just hoping the trite and treacly Stranger Than Fiction script is snubbed. I think it will be.

UPDATE (1/5): Not much to report here. The top 3 are very much locked, Letters is looking very likely, and the 5th spot could go anywhere. I'm thinking it'll go to Volver (it certainly deserves it), but any of the others could get it, too. The WGA will shed some light on this close race.

UPDATE (12/16): The top three spots all seem locked. As for the last two, I think they'll go to to Volver (still looking strong for placement in this category, even if it's best picture hopes are waning) and Letters (apparently campaigning for this category, not adapted). Any of the lower-ranked titles could still swoop in and take one of those spots, but for now, they look like longshots. This category seems pretty firmed up.

UPDATE (12/3): Not much new to report. I'm adding Prairie because I think it's an original screenplay, but I'm not really sure. It still looks like the top four are safe, with the fifth slot up for grabs. It depends which films catch on. We'll see...

UPDATE (11/13): It seems that The Pursuit of Happyness is original after all, so it takes my 5th slot. Stranger Than Fiction and Bobby remain major threats. Babel also drops to #3 and Venus to #12... just feelin' 'em less, is all.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I believe in the top four; it's hard to see any of them missing. The last slot is anyone's guess. I'm currently guessing that it'll be Bobby. Stranger Than Fiction surely seems like the kind of script they'd honor, but I'm currently betting that it won't be well-recieved. United 93 is another possibility, but screenplay? Really? And for the rest, we just have to see how the films do.

Oscar Charts: Best Supporting Actress

THE FIVE (5/5=100%)
1) Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) (=)
2) Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) (+3)
3) Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) (=)
4) Adriana Barazza (Babel) (=)
5) Cate Blanchett (Notes) (-3)

UPDATE (1/23): 5/5, baby. Woop. But this was easy.

Anyway, Jennifer Hudson is still a lock to win it, but I think Abby Breslin will be getting her share of votes, hence her surge into 2nd place. Blanchett I don't think has a chance in hell (category fraud IS often frowned on in terms of actual wins, plus she just won here two years ago), hence her dive into 5th.

UPDATE (1/20): The consensus is that these five are IT, and I tend to agree. Though there's still a possibility that Breslin, Barrazza or Kikuchi could be bumped for Blunt, O'Hara, Collette, or Farmiga. Collette in particular is one of those well-respected but undervalued talents, like Samantha Morton, who seems like she could ride industry goodwill to a surprise nod here for a well-loved film. But that would require bumping off her co-star, so... we'll see.

UPDATE (1/5): So Breslin finally scores. Nice. Her SAG nod suggests that she'll probably place for oscar, too... and to be honest, I couldn't be happier. I actually prefer her to Blunt... but a nom for either would be fine by me. Sadly, only one of them will make it, though, cause the other four slots seem pretty sealed. Blanchett locks in for #2, and Kikuchi and Barazza, while not quite locked, are both looking pretty darn safe. And Hudson, of course, will be winning. Start writing your speech now, Jen.

UPDATE (12/16): Interesting. Hudson and Blanchett seem like the only locks (and not even Blanchett, really); Breslin takes a dive after failing to get a globe or BFCA nod. Barazza and Kikuchi keep making all the lists, so it looks like they'll both make oscar (though that's far from certain). From there, it could go anywhere; both the Sunshine girls are now in play (though neither looks all that likely), Farmiga has the frontrunner film, O'Hara has a BFCA nod, the NBR win, and probably lots of goodwill, Thompson has a BFCA nod and her own uber-awesomeness, Epps has critical support, and of course BLUNT has the globe nom. Let's just say they stick with Blunt for oscar, however unlikely that may be.

UPDATE (12/3): Still very unclear. Hudson, Breslin, and Blanchett are all looking strong for nods (thanks to their borderline lead roles), but the other two slots are a mystery. As such, I've decided to just keep my lineup the way it is for now, though I don't pretend to know who #4 and #5 will be. I still say that Kikuchi and Barazza will cancel each other out, and Anika won't get in without Beyoncé... but the globes and BFCA will tell the tale.

UPDATE: (11/19): Lotsa changes. I let go of Phyllis Sommerville due to Little Children's general lack of traction (though I still wouldn't be shocked to see her pick up steam and make it). Also, Cate for Babel is gone, since it looks like her nom will definitely be coming from Notes. Other changes at the bottom of the chart include Frances De La Tour's exit (cause... whatever), and the appearance of Catherine O'Hara for FYC and Meryl for Prairie, cause in an up-in-the-air category, you can't exactly count them out.

FIRST THOUGHTS: This category is SO up in the air. I don't know what I'm doing. Beyond JHud, anything is possible. That said, Breslin has an edge, her film already having been released and loved. Blanchett is looking solid to snag the annual category fraud spot (but maybe voters won't buy it?). Sommerville I just have good feeling about (I think Little Children might find a late surge after critics' awards have been processed). And I'd like to think that they won't nominate Cruz without nominating Maura, too.

Of course, all the Babel girls are in play... but which one will stand out most? Even Blanchett could end up nominated for that film, if they don't buy the Notes fraud but want to nominate her anyway. Thompson I think lives or dies by the reception to her film as a whole, which I'm betting won't be great. And Noni Rose I think is more of a factor than people think, though I'm still not predicting her for a nod.

Gyllenhaal could resurge for WTC, but I think she will fall victim to bad films and vote splitting. Blunt, godwilling, might have a chance... but probably not. Weaver I guess might become a big story, but as of now, I'll believe it when I see it. De La Tour also lives or dies with her film... as does Bonnie Henna. And I've added Juliette Binoche for good measure... you never know with her. Oh, and Vera Farmiga, too. Man, this category is a mystery.


Oscar charts: Best Supporting Actor

THE FIVE (4/5=80%)
1) Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls) (=)
2) Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine) (+1)
3) Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children) (+1)
4) Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond) (+1)
5) Mark Wahlberg (The Departed) (+1)

UPDATE (1/23): Argh. I swapped out Wahlberg for Hounsou at the last minute, but in truth, I knew both would get in. But I never thought of taking out Nicholson (!), who apparently suffered some of the same category issues Leo did (or else, they just didn't love the perf that much). Good, though. Jack annoyed me in The Departed; I'm much happier with Wahlberg here. In fact, I like all of these performances, so I'm pretty happy with the lineup overall (well, I haven't seen Haley yet, but I know I'll like him, too). Hounsou's a lead, of course, but whatever. I've given up all hope on that subject.

UPDATE (1/22): Swapping Hounsou for Wahlberg. Having recently seen Blood Diamond, I now understand why people love Hounsou's perf so much. But it pains me to leave out Mark Wahlberg... I really really feel like he'll make it.

UPDATE (1/20): So hard to predict what'll happen here. Of the people I haven't chosen, I'm most concerned about Hounsou, who's scored everywhere but the globes, and Sheen, who's scored nowhere but has Queen Mirren on his side (actually, I think Mirren is overshadowing Sheen to the point where people are forgetting that he was great, too... so maybe she's helping, not hurting). Pitt and Affleck seem to have fizzled out somewhat, though they still wouldn't surprise me at all. Ultimately, I think Wahlberg has the edge from the NSFC award and the frontrunner film... and if you think about it, he's done as well as Jack in the precursors, so there's no reason to predict one and not the other. And Haley I think has enough critical love and peer love on his side (witness the SAG nod) to prevail. We'll see...

UPDATE (1/5):Crazy, crazy category. Beyond Jack and Eddie, anything's possible (yes, Jack will still make it, despite the SAG snub... that was Leo's fault). Right now, I'm thinking Arkin (looking good with ISA, BFCA and SAG nods), Haley (SAG! yes! sweet vindication!), and Sheen (very shaky, but still a major player). The most likely to displace someone is Hounsou, but I'm thinking it's either Leo and him or neither... and I think Leo's getting nommed for The Departed in lead... but maybe here instead (see his re-entry at #10).

UPDATE (12/16): This category has gotten confusing. It's VERY crowded; different groups have lauded different people, and even some who have not been lauded seem like genuine possibilities. The only locks seem to be Jack, Eddie and to some extent Michael Sheen (Sheen failed a globe nod, but was placed in lead at the globes; his LAFCA award and The Queen's general strength seem to indicate that he's in). From there, we have movie stars (Pitt), veterans (Arkin), critics' darlings (Haley), comeback kids (Affleck), wildcards (Hounsou), dark horses (Nighy), and a few men attached to acclaimed ensembles (Carrell, Damon, Wahlberg). I say it's anyone's game. But for now I've gone with Pitt (globe nom + general Babel heat = likely oscar nom), and in a leap of faith, Jackie Earle Haley. He seems as likely as anyone else, and for now I wanna say he shocks and makes it.

UPDATE (12/3): I'm finally giving in to the Arkin buzz; it looks like he's in the lineup. Jackie Earle Haley will probably sit this one out. Also, Leo reappers in this category with his supporting nod at the satellites, and Adam Beach rises with his nod. And Tobey Maguire falls to the bottom of the chart with Good German's fading buzz.

UPDATE (11/13): Minor shakeup at the lower end of the chart. Leo apparently is now lead for Departed... at least that's what Tapley thinks. So I'm going with it. Also, Wahlberg and Sheen appear at the bottom, cause when a movie gets this big, you never know.

UPDATE (11/1): Jack is back. He's apparently going supporting, along with Leo (fraud!). This knocks out Mark Wahlberg (who can't be expected to compete with both Jack AND Leo in this category) and also Greg Kinnear (competition from within and without his film is just too great).

FIRST THOUGHTS: I'm going out on a limb and predicting Jackie Earle Haley for a nod. Despite his film's box office troubles, reviews have been very good, and this just seems like one of those stories the academy won't want to ignore. But other than that, I have the same top five as most. Murphy and Pitt seem like locks, and Sheen and Maguire are looking very good. One of the Sunshine boys could easily make it, but I'm predicting they'll eat away at each other's support and kill each other's chances. Affleck, I think, will get the globe nod (celebrity, you know), but then miss out on oscar. And many of the other men down below also seem quite possible, despite the "firming up" of this category... we'll see what happens...

Oscar charts: Best Actor

THE FIVE (4/5=100%)
1) Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) (=)
2) Peter O'Toole (Venus) (+1)
3) Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness) (-1)
4) Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson) (=)
5) Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond) (+1)

UPDATE (1/23): Goddammit. Now, I liked Leo in Blood Diamond. I really did. It's hardly an embarassing best actor choice. But his work in The Departed is just SO MUCH better. Mostly because The Departed is a better film. But anyway. The irony here for Leo is that he clearly could've gotten a double nom this year if he's just committed to the supporting categorization. I happen to think it's not entirely fraudulent, so I wouldn't really have minded. Cate Blanchett, for example, is much more worthy of my ire. But yay for Gosling, anyway. Glad he hung on. And yay for Leo for not totally missing a nod. I liked his Blood Diamond performance. I don't really mind it being here.

UPDATE (1/20): These five are looking pretty solid. I still don't think O'Toole is a lock, simply because no one has seen the film (and cause they might want to avoid handing him another loss). And Gosling and DiCaprio are still iffy. But who would actually replace them? No one, save another DiCaprio and MAYBE Cohen. But I doubt it. So this is the five. The least competitive best actor race in years... shame that Jackman, McAvoy, and others never got any traction.

UPDATE (1/5): Some important changes. Ryan Gosling gets a much-needed boost from SAG and rises into the top 5. Watanabe falls hard, failing to be noticed anywhere as his film goes from "near-lock" to "probably still safe" (reminds me of Eric Bana in Munich). And of course DiCaprio now struggles with category confusion with his double nod from SAG. I think his Departed perf will hold on here, but don't be surprised if he's left out on nomination morning, or (worse yet) nominated for Blood Diamond instead.

UPDATE (12/16): The field narrows. Whitaker is the only lock in what has become a 7-man race (8 if you count Leo for Blood Diamond). Smith and O'Toole still look likely, even with their less-than-enthusiastic precursor attention. DiCaprio has been popping up everywhere, but vote-splitting could still undo him, since he's been popping up everywhere for BOTH films. Watanabe, I think, will nab the last spot, though Gosling and Cohen are right there with him. This lineup will be hard to peg. SAG should help quite a bit, though.

On the lower end of the second tier, Eckhart finally pops up, since no one else has managed to get traction and he at least has a globe nod and a film with a matching globe nod (deserved or not). And Jackman, who I maintain will be getting SOME votes from people who actually saw The Fountain, rounds out the actors' top ten.

UPDATE (12/3): Lotsa changes. Ken Watanabe enters the chart (and the top five) as Leo drops out due to category confusion... it's still unclear which category he'll ultimately go for, but he just got a supporting nod from the satellites, which doesn't help his lead campaign(s). Damon for Good Shepherd rises again now that it doesn't look like his Departed performance will get in the way. Foxx holds steady at #10 (I think people are underestimating him, though I don't think he'll actually make it), Cohen rises, Clooney and Law fall, and Jackman enters the chart for The Fountain.

*I do realize my glaring omission of Thank You For Smoking's Aaron Eckhart; I just honestly don't see him having any chance at all, despite his satellite nod, and I didn't want to make an 18th slot.

UPDATE (11/13): Leo is back. I think he's going lead (as well he should). With this development, Luke falls and Ryan rises. Also, the Prestige men make way for two Matt Damons. That's it for now.

UPDATE (11/1): The men from The Departed have departed. In their place, I now have Luke and Gosling. But I really have no idea who will place in this category. A lot of space has now opened up. A major shake-up, this was.

FIRST THOUGHTS: People seem to agree at this point that O'Toole, Nicholson, Whitaker, and Smith are looking good for nods. Beyond that, it gets tricky. I am of the opinion that Leo will probably get nominated for something, and I think he could actually make it for The Departed along with Nicholson, though that is by no means certain. 7 through 9 are also very possible, though I think someone lower would need a big change in buzz to rise up (or in Foxx's case, an even bigger Dreamgirls steamroller effect than is currently anticipated).

Oscar charts: Best Actress

THE FIVE (5/5=100%)
1) Helen Mirren (The Queen) (=)
2) Meryl Streep (Devil Wears Prada) (+1)
3) Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal) (-1)
4) Penelope Cruz (Volver) (=)
5) Kate Winslet (Little Children) (=)

UPDATE (1/23): Yawn. But also, YAY! What a sweet lineup this is.

And Mirren is still a lock for the win... hence the continued bold type.

UPDATE (1/20): So BAFTA puts their hat into the ring and nominates the SAME five ladies. Can you say "locked"? It is rather bizarre how literally every organization has had the exact same lineup. But it's fine with me. They all deserve it.

UPDATE (1/5): Not much to say. These are the five. SAG says so and BFCA says so. Plus they deserve it.

Each of the others all has some advantage that keeps her on the chart at all - a major year, Hollywood royalty status, frontrunner film, globe nod, frequent nudity - but none of them will make it. This race is done.

UPDATE (12/16): Mirren, Dench, Streep, Cruz and Winslet will be the lineup. But if they do decide to shun Kate or anyone else, the 5th spot could go any which way... though it'll most likely go to Bening or Gyllenhaal.

UPDATE (12/3): No change in the top five; I think this is the lineup. But Beyoncé moves into striking distance as Dreamgirls' buzz comes to a head, and Blanchett takes a hit, having failed a nod at the satellites. Maggie G and Gretchen Mol rise up with their satellite nods (and possible globe nods). Watts rises as her film exceeds expectations... and Kidman finally falls out of the top ten (and how).

UPDATE (11/19): No change in the lineup, and very little change in the order... but my girl Kate is slipping. I still think she's in the lineup, but many don't. I say she ekes this one out over Blanchett and Bening, for many reasons. Shame, though, that she has no chance of winning.

FIRST THOUGHTS: Great crop of actresses this year, even without Ashley Judd for Bug. Unfortunately for most of them, this race already seems all locked up. Mirren will win, says everyone, and while I don't know quite how locked up that win is, it sure would be hard for someone else to overtake her. And the other four slots are pretty much taken, too. I find it hard to imagine (after seeing the Notes on a Scandal trailer) that they will pass on Streep, Winslet, or Dench (they're all huge oscar favorites, at least nomination-wise). And if you believe the hype, the annual "breakthrough" slot belongs to Cruz.

Blanchett is a distinct possibility, but I feel like German will be too cool and stylized for the academy, and she'll have to sit this one out and settle for a fraudulent supporting nomination for Notes. Bening also still has a shot, but when push comes to shove, the bad response to Scissors will probably kill her nod. Beyoncé, I think, will get closer to a nod than people are expecting, but will not make it simply due to the stiff competition. Nicole and Renée will have to settle for globe nods (as they often do).

Oscar charts: Best Director

THE FIVE (4/5=80%)
1) Martin Scorsese (The Departed) (=)
2) Clint Eastwood (Letters) (+5)
3) Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (Babel) (-1)
4) Stephen Frears (The Queen) (-1)
5) Paul Greengrass (United 93) (-1)

UPDATE (1/23): NOOOO!!! I had this category PERFECT forever and then yesterday I changed it, opting for the Sunshine duo over Clint. WHY??? I KNEW he'd make it. I also KNEW Greengrass would make it. I should've gone 5/5 here. DAMMIT.

Anyway. I still think Marty has this locked up, but now Clint is looming... so you never know...

UPDATE (1/22): Swapping Dayton & Faris for Eastwood. This might be a dumb move, but I'm thinking that Eastwood might actually still be splitting his votes in this category between his two films, paving the way for someone to take that spot. Plus, he's been nowhere except the globes. So here's hoping Dayton & Faris ride this wave of LMS heat right into the lineup (I really do think Condon has the been chance of missing).

UPDATE (1/20): Whoa. Many are predicting a 5/5 correlation here with best picture, but I just don't think that will happen. Condon, Dayton & Faris COULD of course be nominees, but I'm betting their slots go to Greengrass & Eastwood. Just a hunch. Both of them seem like perfect candidates for the "lone director" spot... and Condon, Dayton & Faris seem like perfect candidates for dropouts. Though actually, I wouldn't be shocked to see any of the presumed "locks" miss here (save Scorsese).

UPDATE (1/5): I'm dropping Condon, and giving into the inevitability of Frears. Having seen Dreamgirls, I now believe more strongly than ever that the directors will snub it (if the DGA snub Condon, he's gone). And The Queen's semi-surprise PGA nod indicates a lot of strength for that film. So I'm feeling good about my predicted five. Still, the spanish men and Todd Field are all still possible, as is a double dip for Clint.

UPDATE (12/16): Marty continues to lead the pack. Clint joins him at the top. Those two are the only locks. Inarritu and Greengrass are both looking good, whether or not their films make the cut. And Condon takes a bit of a dive, having failed a nod with the globes, but he still holds spot #5, thus shutting out Frears, who I continue to believe will be snubbed for no logical reason. Other than those 6, Clint for Flags stands the best chance of getting a nod. Pedro, Guillermo and Todd are here mostly as longshots/space fillers.

UPDATE (12/3): As with best pic, no change in the top six, but lots of movement elsewhere. Eastwood for Flags makes a big leap up, but I'm still betting Eastwood for Letters gets the nod. Still think Frears will get pushed out. Also, Guillermo Del Toro, Gabriel Muccino, and Sunshine's two directors all join the chart as their films' profiles rise... as does Robert Altman with his death.

UPDATE (11/19): Lots of movement here. First of all, I've added Clint for Letters From Iwo Jima, which I think will easily get him a nod now (instead of Flags) if it's as good as they say. I am also losing some faith in Inarritu, but I've kept him in for now. And I don't know why I'm so resistant to Stephen Frears. I just feel like there are so many "lone director" types this year, and that he will be one of the ones who's booted for, say, Eastwood or Greengrass. Also, Stone makes a leap upward to #12, and Cuaron falls to #16.

UPDATE (11/1): I've bumped Eastwood. His film has been losing steam. In his place, I have Paul Greengrass, who I think will be this year's lone director, replacing Stephen Frears for The Queen.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I don't expect my lineup to be the lineup. Probably Almodovar and/or Eastwood will miss to make way for Greengrass and/or Frears. At this point, the top 7 seem like where the final 5 will come from. The others on the chart are definite possibilities if their films catch fire later in the season, but for now, they all seem doubtful. Marty, it seems, is headed for the win, but saying that might jinx it, so "sssssshhh!"

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Oscar charts: Best Picture

THE FIVE (4/5=80%)
1) Letters From Iwo Jima (+5)
2) The Departed (-1)
3) The Queen (=)
4) Babel (=)
5) Little Miss Sunshine (=)

UPDATE (1/23): WOW. Dreamgirls is GONE. Letters, on the other hand, shoots straight to #1. I have no idea what'll actually end up winning, but something tells me the surprise nominee could become the surprise winner. What a crazy year.

UPDATE (1/20): Suddenly, best picture seems sewn up. Little MIss Sunshine leaps into lock status, and Babel moves up a slot with its globe win. Those two and the three above them will be the nominees. The only real threats are Letters (strangely shut out of all the guild noms) and United, though either would register as a shock.

UPDATE (1/5): Not much has changed in this race. Babel has done well with the globes and the guilds, so it retains its hold on the 5th spot. But Little Miss Sunshine has also been doing better lately, so it could still swoop in, as could United if voters are listening to the critics. Actually, one of them could also take Letters' spot, since it has not done as well with the guilds so far... but I doubt it. Eastwood worship will pull it through.

UPDATE (12/16): Much clearing up here after critics' awards and globe noms. Babel was starting to look iffy for a while, but it's frontrunner status at the globes helps it hold its place at #5. Dreamgirls also has lost its frontrunner status, but it's still looking good for a nom. The Queen holds steady at #3 on the chart, while Letters vaults into #4. Sunshine, United, and Flags are nipping at the heels of the frontrunners - all are possible, but have big disadvantages and did poorly with globe voters - while surprise globe nominees Children and Bobby fill out the top ten.

UDPATE (12/3): No change in the top six, but lots of changes below. The satellites gave boosts to all my predicted best pic nominees, and also to Little Children (which I'm predicting to take the NBR as well). Flags is also still alive, apparently, though the Flags/Letters double dip could be rewarded any number of ways. We'll see what happens with the globes...

UPDATE (11/19): So I have dropped Volver. Sad. I'm not feeling great about Babel either, but it stays in for now. Little Miss Sunshine makes a leap into the top five for now, Happyness enters at #8, and Letters enters at #13 with its new qualifying run. And, much as it pains me to do it, I've ousted Little Children altogether... but it could be back. We'll see.

UPDATE (11/1): I just got to thinking that since I'm now predicting Luke for a best actor nod, his film should at least be on the chart (it's gotten good reaction at screenings). So here it sits at #13, knocking off the O'Toole vehicle Venus.

Also, I've come to my senses and put The Queen in the top five. It replaced FooF, which has been dying at the box office. Babel has also slipped a bit to fourth, as its reviews have been somewhat mixed.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I honestly believe #1-#4 will be nominated, at least for now. #5 is more wishful thinking. I suppose The Queen or Bobby is more likely to take that spot, but something always surprises, and I think Volver might really cross over.

Little Miss Sunshine probably has little chance at the big show, but is already a bona fide success and will at least have globe love and actor love, so it'll stay in the mix all season. The two "good" films are still total wild cards, but at this point, I don't see them overthrowing the films above them.

Little Children only has a chance if the critics really rally behind it, but with things like Babel, The Departed and United 93 in the mix, critics' awards are likely to be split. And Venus I don't really see getting anywhere other than Best Actor and maybe a screenplay nod, but if they decide they REALLY love O'Toole this year, then you never know (think Scent of a Woman)... so I thought it deserved a place on the chart.

Thoughts? (more charts to come in a bit)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Thoughts on the weekend box office

Interesting 3-way race this weekend at the box office:

Prestige vs Flags vs Departed

Probably Prestige will come out on top, powered by the combined force of Bale/Jackman/Johannson/Nolan and what turned out to be pretty good reviews. But Eastwood's Flags is also opening this weekend, and that can't be counted out as a major player. AND I also wouldn't be shocked to see The Departed reclaim the #1 spot in its third week, if the other films perform below expectations. Its starpower and hype is great, and it will surely hold up well in the ensuing weeks. I expect it to finish up in the $120+ range... plus lots of DVD $, and possibly a rerelease for awards season.

I suppose my brain is saying:

1) The Prestige
2) Flags Of Our Fathers
3) The Departed

...albeit with very very close totals.

But something's telling me it won't actually pan out that way. I think Flags may have trouble attracting audiences outside the older male crowd, at least at first, whereas The Prestige and The Departed seem to have potential for wide fanbases (including women and gay men who love Bale, Jackman, DiCaprio, Damon, et al).

I say The Prestige ekes out a narrow victory, and The Departed comes in second again.

UPDATE: I forgot that Marie Antoinette is also opening this weekend (though it's not opening in my city, strangely). So it will probably come in second, over The Departed. But maybe not...

SECOND UPDATE: It appears Marie Antoinette is only in limited release. That makes sense. According to Friday estimates, my original hunch about The Prestige and The Departed going 1 and 2 was right, but The Departed is actually in more theaters than either of its two main rivals. Its per theater average was the lowest of the three (unsurprisingly).

We'll see how the rest of the weekend goes.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Point A: Shortbus was really good and broke some new ground in the way it demystified sex in movies and desensitized its audience to the sex (arousal isn't really the point... at least usually). But I also felt like it was a bit scattered and had some pacing issues and felt a little TOO improvisational at times. But I have to see it again before making judgment. It's a lot to process. But it was easily the most unique and interesting film I've seen this year, in terms of both content and style. Not sure if that means "best" though.

Point B: Running with Scissors is in some very serious trouble, awardswise. It currently stands at 0% fresh on the tomatometer with 7 reviews counted, and that just cannot be good. Also, there are lies posted on the Running with Scissors website; if you navigate to the section with info on Annette Bening, you'll see it claiming that she won the Academy Award for Being Julia and a Golden Globe for American Beauty (she of course lost both trophies to Hilary Swank). Now, it could be an honest mistake, but it reads more as some Republican-like attempt at creating one's own reality. I have my own feelings about those awards races, as do others, but facts are facts. Somebody should really fix that.

p.s. Nathaniel, is this your doing? You know better than that.

Point C: I will soon be posting some rudimentary oscar charts for the major categories, because I feel like it.

(Hint: Bening will not be in the projected Best Actress nominees)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

OK, I saw Little Miss Sunshine again...

...and the love has faded a LITTLE bit.

As with Devil Wears Prada, the second viewing revealed more of the gears turning. The "wow, this is so fun" factor could no longer hide the slight contrivances, and the film's first half or so did not hold up so well. You see how a few things were forcibly stitched together... and the whole thing just seemed less impressive... which was annoying. Cause I really LOVED it that first time.

But that said... there is still greatness within. I still give huge props to the amazing cast. Ensemble acting just does not get better than this. These are tricky characters to inhabit and make work, and not only did all six actors do that, but they also managed to form a cohesive unit and be believable as a family. GREAT work by all.

The standouts for me this time were Kinnear, Carrell, and Dano. I was REALLY impressed with Dano. Seeing him go from L.I.E. to this was kind of amazing. Maybe I just have a crush on him? I dunno. But I was actually bizarrely attracted to Dwayne. Jailbait indeed.

Arkin, though great and loveable as the uninhibited grandpa, did not seem to have as challenging a role as the other men. Grandpa was kind of one-note. Collette worked magic again in being able to appear perfectly ordinary (it's so much harder than it looks), and how can you not love Abby Breslin? But as I said, I was actually more impressed with the men this time out.

I also really appreciated the music this second time. There's not much of it, but what there is of it is just perfect. That one nagging central theme is just genius. In the opening credits, it seems to signify a kind of resignment in all the characters to their dreary mediocrity, even as they all strive for more (or, in some cases, strive to end it all). The drive to succeed just eats away at them, and the music really captures that. It's almost hauntingly sad. But then, as circumstances change, that same theme becomes a kind of anthem. The sadness and resignment is still there, but suddenly the characters are proud of it. It's a different kind of sad. It's a tricky tone to set, but it works, largely because of the music.

If there was any major change in the viewing experience this time, it was that the film took longer to really take flight. I got more bogged down by the contrivances, especially in the first half, once the surprise factor was gone. But despite the creaky foundations, this film still has moments of transcendence. I cried when Dwayne had his breakdown and screamed at his family, only to be mollified by his sister's wordless plea. I felt all warm and fuzzy when Duane and Frank exchanged thoughts about how our years of suffering are our most important. And the beauty pageant scene. That song... those dance moves... sheer brilliance.

All-in-all, still a wonderful viewing experience, if a bit tempered this second time.

Verdict: B/B+ (OK, I'm being wishy-washy... shutup)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

OMG, Shortbus is playing here this weekend!!! AND I saw The Science of Sleep, in which my boy Gael gets naked.

Yes! It's true! I just found out that as part of National Coming Out Week, RISD will be having a special prerelease screening of John Cameron Mitchell's new film Shortbus this Saturday at 8:00. A-MAZ-ING. It looks like it's free, even. I must see it.

Also, brief thoughts on The Science of Sleep (the first film I've seen in quite some time):

Alright, first of all... Gael Garcia Bernal is hot. And a God. And a great actor. I would pay to watch him do anything... ESPECIALLY lie in a bathtub, which he does in one scene of Sleep. Gael also dreams a lot, speaks three different languages, romances a French girl, dreams som more, and even appears nude in a hallway for good measure. It's a great little showcase for him. But the film around Gael is unfortunately less than great.

Director Michel Gondry meanders a lot, and needs someone to keep him in check. Like maybe Charlie Kaufmann? But alas, this film is all Gondry, so it was bound to be at least a tad screwy. Indeed, more than a tad: it flies clear off the rails many times. It's like a flying train, blissfully unaware that trains shouldn't fly. Who knew Charlie Kaufmann was such a grounding force?

Anyway... the premise is interesting, and the film mostly engaging (thank you, Gael), but the whole affair just didn't hold together. It was long, erratic, and unfocused. It seemed like one of those pet projects on which it's way too easy to lose perspective; Gondry's clearly in love with his ideas and his creation, but sadly, love is blind. Sometimes TOO much love is just weird and confusing. And even boring. There was often so much going on here that it became hard to process... in the bad way.

Get a good screenwriter next time, Gondry... like maybe Charlie Kaufmann again. You need help in focusing your madness. That said, I do admire your effort, enthusiasm, and innovation. In most films, those qualities are sorely lacking.

Final verdict: B-

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Alright, back to film awards.

So Proof is good and over. Bye bye, Proof. Now it's time to get back to prognosticating. Here are my thoughts on the Best Actress globe races:

Cate Blanchett (The Good German)
Ashley Judd (Bug)
Nicole Kidman (Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus)
*Helen Mirren (The Queen)
Kate Winslet (Little Children)

Annette Bening (Running With Scissors)
Penelope Cruz (Volver)
Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)
Beyoncé Knowles (Dreamgirls)
*Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)

That's right, I think ScarJo may actually fail to get a nomination this year. I don't see how they'd make room for her.

These lineups seem like easy guesswork. Assuming Annette goes the comedy route (which it really seems she will), then she should place without much trouble... as will Cruz, I think, along with Streep and the two Dreamgirls. From this lineup, it looks like Streep would win, as well she should. It's a travesty that she's never won this category, despite Postcards and Death Becomes Her. The real question is whether JHud will be put in lead. If so, she'll split the vote with Beyoncé.

The drama lineup, after removing Bening, also seems pretty straightforward. No highly buzzed contender is left out. Mirren and Winslet are locks. Kidman is Kidman, and will of course be here even if her film fails to factor in the oscar race. Blanchett is apparently a force to be reckoned with. And Judd I think will take the last slot even if she fails to get an oscar nod for Bug. It's Mirren VS Winslet for the win, I think, with Mirren taking it if current wisdom holds.

It would be really cool to see two postmenopausal women win these categories this year, even if I'd rather see Winslet win one. So I think I'll be pleased no matter what happens. Even the tragic spectacle of Beyoncé winning a globe would be kind of enjoyable in a trainwreck/WTF/fascinating kind of way.

Anyway, yeah. Whatcha think?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I miss Proof.

Proof has closed... and I am in withdrawal.

Sure, now I have my life back, and will have time now to do things like eat, sleep, read, work out, and go to movies, but I would rather just keep doing Proof. I already miss everyone and feel an overwhelming sense of emptiness and heartache.

At least we'll always have the memories.

Bye bye, cast. I will love you forever.

Labels: , ,