Monday, January 29, 2007

random epiphanies

OK, so I just realized a few things tonight:

(SPOILERS, for the record, if you haven't seen Volver)

First of all, I saw Volver again. Still great... A- all the way. But I suddenly realized the obvious reason why it was snubbed: the man-hating. Sure, it is largely without malice, and treated in a beautifully humane way, but when you get right down to it, this film is anti-male. Or at the very least, staunchly pro-female... to an extent that most of Pedro's movies haven't been. He's playing to the base here, so to speak. The films doesn't seem to be begging for males to love it (straight ones anyway). So no wonder the male-skewing oscar vote didn't go for it. It's also no wonder that Pedro's most oscar'ed film so far (Talk to Her) is the one about straight men.

For a point of reference re: oscars and man-hating, see the alleged man-hating in Thelma & Louise. I firmly believe that there was no such hating; it was a tale of female liberation, yes, but there were some strong, even saintly, male characters, and the female leads were seen as being just as flawed as the men. But Thelma & Louise missed out on a best picture nom largely because it was perceived as being too radical and too male-bashing. So you can imagine how male voters must feel about Volver.

It's the kind of thing that appeals to critics and gets plenty of good reviews, but would men really vote for it over other things when given the choice? I'd bet not. And I wouldn't really blame them. It must be hard to identify with a film wherein the only representatives of your sex are portrayed as lazy, horny, incestuous rapists. Yes, there is the one guy in the film crew who Raimunda has that crush on, but he's not a major character and doesn't leave much of an impression. Far more crucial are the two incestuous rapists that get the plot moving (even if one of them's already dead).

Plus the film's whole aesthetic is very female. Unrelentingly so. And while all of Pedro's movies lean that way, many (including the oscar-winning ones) have male-friendly hooks. All About My Mother is about mothers and sons. Talk to Her is about male bonding. But Bad Education is VERY much about gay men, and Volver is VERY much about women. And women only. Even Bad Education had other aspects to it, like the indictment of the hypocrisy of organized religion and the twisty meta-narrative about filmmaking. But Volver has no such flourishes; it is entirely about women and their everyday lives. If All About My Mother was about mothers and sons, Volver is about mother and daughters. And sisters. And aunts. And female bonding. So even if men aren't outright offended by the picture, they must find it hard to relate to, and certainly hard to LOVE. And love is what wins you votes.

So, just as I doubt women are giving The Departed many votes, I doubt many men are voting for this. Hence its conspicuous absense in the foreign film category. It's different when you're voting for the sexy, affable Penélope Cruz, but - just like with Brokeback and Ang Lee - putting your seal of approval on the film itself is harder.

Haha. I say all this as if I'm not a man myself. Shame on you, Pedro, for making me choose sides. Well, I guess I did that myself. Whatever.

(and P.S. if this is old news to any of you, it's new to me, so shut up and just let me have my fun)

Anyway, the other random thing I realized is that there are not one, not two, not three, but FOUR contemporary fillms nominated for best picture this year. Crazy, huh? No wonder they aren't racking up the tech noms. Art direction, costumes, cinematography, etc. have never been too fond of 21st century stylings. I'd like to say it's that they're thinking for themselves this year, but I feel like their shunning of the best picture nominees is really just indicative of the same old trends.

Sigh. Who was I kidding with that last post? I'll be blogging forever... though I'm trying not to... really...


Real life > my blog

OK all (whoever you are), I'm just givin' the heads-up that blogging will be lighter for a while now. My last semester of school is just now kicking into high gear, and I'm gonna be pretty busy with that, my show, etc. I'll still do predictions and run-downs for the BAFTAs and of course the Oscars, and there'll be the occasional new film review. And I'll also keep the sidebar updated with new screenings and new happenings with me. But that's it. This daily stuff is just too much.

I'll also get going with the Streepathon and Altmanathon eventually; those are ongoing proects that I do definitely intend to finish. But not until after the Oscars. My personal top ten of last year, along with some form of personal awards, will also likely surface after the Oscars, once I've seen all I plan to see.

In the meantime, enjoy all these lovely Best Actress clips (below). I know I have been. I'm so proud of the academy for recognizing all five of these great performances. Who cares if it's monotonous when the right stuff is getting recognition? Not me. Yay for Penélope, Judi, Helen, Meryl and Kate. That fivesome is definitely a bright spot in this otherwise tiresome year.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

SAG predictions + actuals

Wow, how boring. But I'm glad Little Miss Sunshine won.

My prediction: Peter O'Toole (Venus)
My alternate: Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)
Actual winner: Forest Whitaker

POST-CEREMONY: OK. So... I guess he's winning the oscar. But will they really send O'Toole home empty-handed AGAIN? I just find that hard to imagine.

PRE-CEREMONY: Alright. So I know I've gone on and on about how Will Smith had the best chance to win the SAG because his film is widely seen, etc. but I'm rescinding now. I've heard the news about the 100,000 Venus screeners sent out to the entire SAG membership, and that is enough to give me confidence that he'll take this. Smith may be seen as too light/mainstream to win this, so even though I think he's still very much in the running in a not-so-distant 3rd place, I think it'll go to O'Toole or Whitaker. O'Toole has the edge due both to the inundation of screeners and to his being a legend who's never won a SAG, playing an actor.

My prediction: Helen Mirren (The Queen)
My alternate: Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)
Actual winner: Helen Mirren

POST-CEREMONY: Yawn. Nice speech, though. She's great, I can handle her winning.

PRE-CEREMONY: I'm sticking with Mirren here, but it's not a runaway. SAG has been known to buck trends in their voting, and The Queen couldn't manage any other nominations with them. Streep is the most likely spoiler, since her film is very widely seen and every actor I know worships Meryl Streep and LOVES her in this movie. I think it'll be closer than people realize, at least in this particular race. But I still know a frontrunner when I see one. Mirren it is.

My prediction: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed)
My alternate: Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine)
Actual winner: Eddie Murphy

POST-CEREMONY: That's weird, I really thought they'd honor Leo. Strange that Departed won nothing. I think it's the hyper-masculine factor. Women don't vote for it. So will Murphy actually win the oscar? Probably.

PRE-CEREMONY: This one seems pretty simple to me. Leo has 3 nominations, will NOT be winning for Blood Diamond, and is having a hell of a year, with this being the last chance he has to win something for The Departed. I think he'll take this one, throwing a big wrench in the oscar race. Especially if The Departed loses best ensemble (which people seem to think it will), then I really can't imagine Leo losing here. The obvious backup pick would be Alan Arkin (veteran, in loved film, has never won), but don't think they'll be honoring 3 (!) old crones in one night. Murphy also could continue his streak and win it (he'd be my 3rd choice), but I'm sticking with Leo. And since his performance is easily the best in the category, I'll be happy if he wins.

My prediction: Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)
My alternate: Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)
Actual winner: Jennifer Hudson

POST-CEREMONY: Yeah, duh. No more surprises this year, except best picture.

PRE-CEREMONY: I'm sticking with JHud on this one. Her endless run of wins shows no sign up of letting up now, best pic snub or no best pic snub. I do have some reservations about the way actors in particular will feel about her perf, which is the only reason I'm not 100% sure she'll win this. But I'm not stupid. I know a frontrunner when I see one (see also: Queen Mirren). Still, there's an obvious alternate choice in Abigail Breslin, and I wouldn't be shocked to see her emerge with a trophy... or two.

My prediction: Little Miss Sunshine
My alternate: The Departed
Actual winner: Little Miss Sunshine

POST-CEREMONY: Yay! Expected, but I do love them so. I still don't think the film can win the oscar, but it would be pretty cool if it did.

PRE-CEREMONY: Very much a two-horse race. For a LONG time, I thought The Departed would ride its huge star wattage and general awards strength to a win here. But lately, Little Miss Sunshine has been picking up major steam, due in no small part to its BFCA win for best ensemble. Expect to see that repeated here. This is a true ensemble film, with truly great ensemble work. I'll be so happy if it wins.

So I got 3/5 in total. Pretty bad. But I felt like taking chances. Really, I'm pretty bored with this awards season now. At least the best pic race is still interesting.


My thoughts on JHud

For the record, this began as a long comment on Nathaniel's blog, as part of the debate going on there about the best supporting actress nominees and particularly the merits of Jennifer Hudson's performance. But it just got so out of control and long that I thought it made the most sense to just create my own post out of it. Maybe it'll start a new discussion here.

Anyway, some have made comments that it's unfair and inappropriate for JHud to have an oscar when she has no intention of building a film career. I don't agree with that sentiment; further aspirations in film should not be prerequisite to winning awards. In fact, somebody pointed out the "supporting actress curse" and how it might as well be set on Hudson since she doesn't seem likely to pursue a film career anyway. I'd rather she get her oscar and go on to success in music than have Breslin suffer the same fate as Tatum O'Neal and Anna Paquin (i.e. peak at age 10). So I'm really fine with JHud winning. Clearly she's very loved. I just think Breslin and the others (haven't yet seen Blanchett) all give superior performances.

There are just things you learn from experience making films and acting onstage that help you to smooth out the rough edges JHud shows here. Generally when actors make a big film debut, they've already had big careers onstage, or at least been trained or had many years of amateur roles. This is why you sometimes see these huge debuts from people like Barbra Streisand, Better Midler and Julie Andrews. But Jennifer Hudson had NEVER ACTED BEFORE IN HER LIFE. And I'm sorry, but I know as an actor that no one is brilliant the first time they ever do anything, even if they're chock full of natural talent. And she shows a lot of promise, and has big presence, but that's not the same thing as giving a great performance.

It takes a true genius to instantly have a sense of how to act brilliantly without any training or experience whatsoever. Like perhaps whatshername the 4-year-old from the french film in 1997. And I'm sure Streep was pretty great the moment she first set foot onstage. But JHud is not there yet.

Abigail Breslin actually, for all her 10 years of age, has actually had far more acting experience than JHud. And it shows. She, I would argue, has a really potent natural gift, but I'm sure she wasn't brilliant either on the very first thing she did. Her perf may come off as "just cute" but there's not a false moment in it, and she makes brilliant choices throughout, and actually displays oodles of range, for a 10-year-old or for an adult.

Anyway, my main point is that I think it's sort of demeaning to the thousands of actors who go to training programs and devote their lives to improving their craft, when the whole world goes crazy for this girl with zilch experience and a great voice, especially since it's far from a perfect performance.

But I enjoyed her a lot, and she's always humble and grateful and fun, so I hold nothing against her. Just against this huge groundswell of love without any sense of critical perspective on her work.

Actually, a lot of the problems with the performance are Condon's fault. She may well have been brilliant if he'd made a better film than he did. But the obvious writing and rushed, sloppy direction detracted a lot from whatever the perf might've been (it's rather shocking to think that Dreamgirls was made by the same person who directed Gods and Monsters). In fact, as a non-actress, JHud probably followed a lot of direction from Condon that was not necessarily good.

I don't know why I'm obsessing so much over this. Partly because I always hate it when everyone is going wild praising something I don't feel to be award-worthy. Partly because I was expecting better, and really wanted to love JHud and the film, and feel sort of personally betrayed by its mediocrity. Partly because my loyalties still lie with Jennifer Holliday, who I think is transcendent (both acting and singing) in my favorite YouTube clip. Party because I as a singer/actor feel that I catch things most people don't about performances like this. Partly because I as a singer/actor am put off by the lack of regard for training and experience in what we worship in our "flavor of the month" fad-based pop culture. Partly because I as a singer/actor am a bit jealous. But I'm just starting to get sick of this "JHud can do no wrong" vibe.

My own reservations about this performance (again, as an actor) are why I'm less than fully confident in Hudson's chances for the SAG award. The actors could go hog-wild for the VERY actor-friendly Little Miss Sunshine and give it all three awards. But probably not. Expect JHud to win the SAG tomorrow night.

P.S. SAG predictions up soon.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Meryl as Miranda. "That's all."

Our final best actress nominee cannot be done justice by a single clip... so I've gone back to an old favorite:

I love whoever made this video. I also love that his/her YouTube username is "vainqueen." Vainqueen has mad skills. So does Meryl.

I'd LOVE it if this performance could upset on oscar night. Or even SAG night (Meryl will apparently not be attending the SAG awards due to a prior commitment co-hosting an environmental stewardship benefit with Al Gore... she's so wonderful). I know there's no chance of a win, but... sigh... I love you, Meryl.

Did I ever mention that I have an autographed photo of Meryl? I got it for my birthday last summer. My mom apparently got it on eBay for a reasonable price. I should have it framed...

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"A life of tradition defines her. The eyes of a nation are upon her. The courage to change will save her."

The Queen:

I couldn't find any simple clips of Mirren's work, but this trailer was designed as a kind of ultimate Helen Mirren clip reel, so here it is.

I still don't quite understand how Mirren's performance became so dominating this awards season. I think it's mainly because hers is the only acclaimed female perf that lands squarely in oscar's comfort zone: she's playing a real-life iconic figure in a classy drama with light moments - it's impossible not to like it. Whereas all the other nominees (and of course the performances that were not nominated) have detractors and/or strikes against them: Streep is too light/mainstream, Dench's character is too hateable, Cruz's lines are all in Spanish, and Kate's film is cold and hard to love. Plus they're all fictional.

So when forced to choose between all of those or just pick Mirren, it's much easier just to pick Mirren. It requires no thought or effort. So that's what everyone's been doing. EVERYONE. Mirren's perf may not be as surprising or groundbreaking as her competitors, but since when have those qualities ever won you points for oscar?

It doesn't hurt, of course, that Mirren has never won, and that the other two most acclaimed and oscar-favored nominees (the other two silver foxes) have.

I'm still holding out hope for a SAG upset by our final (upcoming) nominee, but I'm not holding my breath. Only holding hope, not breath. I don't want to suffocate and die. That would be bad.

My final and favorite clip (of sorts) coming soon...

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"You're NOT YOUNG."

She says this to help you.

I just realized that I'd posted video clips with showcase moments from two of this year's best actress nominees... so to celebrate the grandness of the category this year, why not just go for all five?

Next on the list is a short clip featuring Judi Dench's Barbara Covett. I still haven't seen this yet (STILL trying to finish the book... I'm bad at pleasure reading), but I can't wait. Judi looks positively electric. Enjoy:

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OK, so I was just thinking...

Will New Line FINALLY release Little Children in cities other than New York, LA and San Fransisco, now that it's got the 3 oscar nominations they'd been gunning for all this time? It did damn well, considering no one in the country has seen it in all its 3 months of quasi-release.

I'd actually given up all hope of seeing this in theaters. I'd made my peace with it. But since it did as well with the noms as it possibly could have, I assume New Line will release it for real now. That is what they were waiting for, right? Right, New Line???

I'm pretty upset with New Line over this. They need to learn how to release their films.

They had strong reviews and they didn't release it. They had 3 globe nods including best picture, and they still didn't release it. Then they had 2 SAG nods and still they continued to sit on it. So I hope this is what they were waiting for. 3 oscar noms SELLS, dammit. Now give us the product already!

And if they're not gonna release it now, then what exactly was the point of all this? Why'd they choose to distribute it at all?

Anyway, I'll be watching for it. It better get somewhere near me soon, so I can see more than just compelling clips like this:

And dreamy stills like this:

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And speaking of Volver...

It's just now arriving at my local arthouse theater here in Providence, so I'll get to see it again. Yay!


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Volver will live on...

...even if the subtitles are in the wrong language.

Movie magic needs no translation.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Oscar nominations video!

Yay! I found an online video of the nominations announcement! Why didn't I think of this right when I woke up at 1:00pm? I could've totally seen the video with all the suspense, and without having to get up early. Damn.

Anyway, here are my top ten favorite moments:

10) When I heard Abigail Breslin's name called (this would've been way further up the list if I hadn't already known).

9) When, during the best picture announcement, I heard the words "Letters from Iwo Jima" instead of the word "Dreamgirls" (hey, I'm trying to pretend I was hearing these for the first time).

8) When I realized that both Mexican screenwriters are named Guillermo (I had never made that connection before... yeah, I'm stupid, so what?).

7) When Sid Ganis mispronounced "Cuaron."

6) When the producers of 2 of the 5 best pic nominees were announced as "nominees to be determined."

5) When Salma struggled to pronounce "Denmark."

4) When Salma said "best foreign film language" instead of "best foreign language film."

3) When Salma yelled "YES!" at the announcement of Penélope's nomination (note how badly Sid Ganis pronounced "Volver" and how it slipped by virtually unnoticed amid Salma's outburst).

2) When Salma got beautifully emotional at the announcement of "Mexico, Pan's Labyrinth" and then suddenly went cold at the announcement of "Canada, Water" (note how she STILL looked a little bit dazed about something right before announcing best picture - I'm snarkily hoping it was the Volver snub, but maybe she was just tired).

1) When Salma totally lost it and started crying when announcing Babel as a best picture nominee (saying the full mouthful "Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu" for the second time). Her honest emotion upon seeing her home country honored is touching.

And I had no problem with her yelp of joy for Cruz. It was a POSITIVE gesture; she wasn't dissing anyone. It's not like she was noticeably displeased with some non-Mexican nominee beating a Mexican nominee-- oh wait, she HAS done that before, hasn't she? Back when Nowhere in Africa beat El Crimen del Padre Amaro in 2003. Whatever, her obvious pro-Mexican bias is totally entertaining, albeit unprofessional at times.

And seriously, do they always go out and get Salma to announce things when hispanics look likely to win? She got to announce Gustavo Santaolalla's win last year, too, and I know she has no other connection to the "best original score" category. I feel like that was deliberate.

But anyway, good show. I enjoyed this. I'm really glad I found the video.

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OK, Dreamgirls did NOT get snubbed because it was "gay"... unless you mean THAT kind of "gay."

I just read Modern Fabulousity's take on the nominations/snubs, and I felt I had to post something on that subject here, because... well, I very strongly disagree.

I am gay as all get-out, I was as pissed as anyone last year when Brokeback lost, I watch Jennifer Holliday's rendition of "And I Am Tellin' You" daily (just check my sidebar), and I wanted to love Dreamgirls. But I came out of it disappointed. And I never would've put it on my ballot for best picture. It was just shoddy filmmaking. And though I was a bit harsh on it in my review (I've softened a bit after a second viewing), I still maintain that this snub was entirely deserved, and had nothing to do with racism or sexism, or especially homophobia.

Oscarwise, Dreamgirls was sort of an amalgam of Cold Mountain and Walk The Line; it was certainly not Brokeback Mountain. It was a case of too much hype too long before release, with too little quality to show for it. It was less than the sum of its parts.

What I find most gratifying, though, is that what (I think) was rejected in Dreamgirls is what I hate most about all bad musicals: the idea that flashiness and catchiness can make up for shoddy dialogue and story. Everyone I know who dislikes musicals does do so because they think musicals inherently use their musical elements as a crutch. They think that just because musicals are glitzy and have hummable tunes, they must also always be shallow, clichéd, obvious, etc. And the worst musicals absolutely are.

Now, Dreamgirls is hardly one of "the worst musicals," but of this charge, it is guilty. It's a mediocre film dressed up as an oscar nominee. I did enjoy it (marginally), but it also embodies everything I hate about bad musicals. Without the music, it'd have nothing. The best musicals (note: I LIVE for great musicals) use music to heighten the impact of an already golden experience; they supplement great filmmaking with great music. Not surprisingly, when people call musicals "gay" (pejoratively), they're usually referring to their shallow, loud, gaudy aspects... the qualities they share with flamboyant gay men. And while I concede that these qualities (shallow, loud, and gaudy) are often associated with my sexual orientiation, I wish they weren't, and I absolutely agree that they're unappealing, at least when expressed without irony (and in Dreamgirls, they certainly are; in that sense, Dreamgirls is very "gay").

So even though it would've been nice to see another musical get oscar-nominated and get a whole bunch of new musicals green-lit, the pleasure would've been dampened by the fact that those new musicals probably would've been just like this one: shoddy, shallow, and far from best-picture-worthy. And I'm not just saying that because Bill Condon is gay.

And for the record, I'd die of happiness if Breslin somehow beat Hudson to the oscar. Seriously. Give Hudson a grammy. But Breslin gave a much better performance. Little Miss Abby has a hold on my heart (and my vote).

"What does 'a-la-modee' mean?"


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Monday, January 22, 2007

final Oscar predictions + actuals

The "big 8" categories are on the charts (all charts are now down to five), and the rest of the categories are right here. Let's see how I did (yikes!):

The Departed
The Queen
United 93
(alt. Little Miss Sunshine)

...and the shockers were: Blood Diamond and Children of Men.

And boy, were they shockers. This category has been veering away from best picture lately. Good for it. And I LOVE that Dreamgirls was snubbed here. That editing was a mess, despite the occasional snappy musical number.

For the win? Babel vs. The Departed vs. United 93

I actually wanna say United takes it, since the other two editors have already won. But this race will be tight.

Children of Men
The Illusionist
(alt. Curse of the Golden Flower)

...and the shockers were: The Black Dahlia, Pan's Labyrinth and The Prestige.

Like, whoa. I really bombed here. Good for them, though, for steering clear of best picture nominees, especially Dreamgirls... oh wait, it wasn't nominated. Hee.

Anyway, I'd like to see Children of Men take this, and it probably will. It's closest competition is probably Pan's Labyrinth, but that will be winning enough other categories that it won't need to win here.

Children of Men
Curse of the Golden Flower
Pan's Labyrinth
(alt. The Prestige)

...and the shockers were: The Good Shepherd and Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

And those really were shockers. Lotsa crazy stuff in these here tech categories. And of course, I got a shitty score here again.

I assume this is between Dreamgirls and Pan's Labyrinth, and in truth I don't much care for either in this category (where is Children of Men???), but I'd rather see Pan's take it than see a repeat of the totally unnecessary Chicago win in this category four years ago. OK, Dreamgirls isn't Chicago, but it's close enough (please don't win!).

The Black Dahlia
Curse of the Golden Flower
The Illusionist
(alt. The Painted Veil)

...and the shockers were: The Devil Wears Prada and The Queen.

Yay for Prada here! Shouldn't have been so cynical about its chances. This is a nice nominee list overall, but I'm not sure what will actually win it. I would've said Dreamgirls (and it probably still has the edge here), but now that it's down and out as a best picture contender, might Marie or Curse or Prada swoop in and take it? Hmmm... my bet is Dreamgirls, but I sense an upset in the works here.

Night at the Museum
Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Superman Returns
(alt. X-Men: The Last Stand)

...and the shocker was: Poseidon.

OK, so that wasn't really a shocker. Shoulda listened to Kris Tapley.

But anyway, I assume Pirates is headed for the win here... even though Superman deserves it. And don't even get my started on The Fountain...

BEST MAKE-UP (2/3=67%)
Pan's Labyrinth
Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest
(alt. Click)

Well, I got Click as an alternate! I think that counts for something.

Anyway, weird that they jettisoned Pirates here... I assumed it was another example of the makeup branch having issues with makeup enhanced by effects work. Whatever. This one's Pan's to lose.

BEST SOUND (4/5=80%)
Blood Diamond
The Departed
Flags of Our Fathers
Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest
(alt. Babel)

...and the shocker was: Apocalypto.

OK, again, not a real shocker. Just a bad decision on my part. Don't know why I believed so much in The Departed here.

I assume this is going to Dreamgirls, with Blood Diamond and Flags each getting their share of votes.

The Departed
Flags of Our Fathers
Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Superman Returns
(alt. World Trade Center)

...and the shockers were: Apocalypto, Blood Diamond and Letters from Iwo Jima.

OUCH. You'd think this category would be easier. Oh well.

It's Flags vs. Letters for the win. Letters will probably take it, best pic nominee that it is.

The Fountain
Notes on a Scandal
The Painted Veil
The Queen
(alt. The Illusionist)

...and the shockers were: Babel, The Good German and Pan's Labyrinth.

OUCH. I SUCK. And so does the music branch. WHERE are The Painted Veil and The Fountain??? Sigh. But maybe Desplat will still win for his other film (thank the lord they finally acknowledged him here, anyway, even if it is for one of his least inspired efforts).

The win seems wide open at this point. Pan's, Notes or Queen could easily take it... tough to predict, this one.

Cars ("Our Town")
Dreamgirls ("Listen")
Happy Feet ("Song of the Heart")
An Inconvenient Truth ("I Need to Wake Up")
Little Miss Sunshine ("'Til the End of Time")
(alt. Dreamgirls ("Love You I Do")

...and the shocker was Dreamgirls (AGAIN, for the song, "Patience")

OK, not so terrible here. I did pretty well, considering. Didn't think they'd snub the globe-winning song, but then I guess they didn't know it'd win the globe when they were voting, did they?

It's Etheridge vs. Krieger for the win. If the Dreamgirls people make it clear that "Listen" is the song they want to win, then its chances are pretty darn good... but I'd love to see An Inconvenient Truth take this.

Anyway, this'll be a great lineup to listen to during the broadcast. Good on AMPAS in this category... though I wish "'Til the End of Time" could've scored here. I do love that song.

Happy Feet
Monster House
(alt. Over the Hedge)

YAY! My first perfect category, outside of acting. And Monster House deserved that last spot. Good show.

Days of Glory (Algeria)
The Lives of Others (Germany)
Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico)
Volver (Spain)
Water (Canada)
(alt. Black Book (The Netherlands))

...and the shocker was: After the Wedding (Denmark).

OK. I mean... it sucks, I know. Volver totally deserved to be here. In fact, it deserved to be in the best pic category and totally deserved to WIN here. But I don't think this means they hate Pedro. I think they just wanted to spread the wealth. They've given Pedro a lot already, and other foreign filmmakers deserve love, too. At least that's what I'm trying to tell myself. Cause I'm PISSED that Volver is not here.

Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp
Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People's Temple
(alt. Shut Up and Sing)

...and the shocker was: My Country, My Country.

OK, so I did pretty well here. In all honesty, I was just copying Kris Tapley's predictions. I didn't even know this My Country thing even existed. But it's probably good.

My prediction score in the "big 8" categories was 33/40 or 82.5%, and I'm pretty happy with that (better than Kris Tapley!). But I'm not even gonna bother calculating a total score for ALL the categories... that's just too much trouble, and it would bring my score down anyway. I'd rather just pretend I got 82.5% acress the board.

Anyway, now let's check my projected nomination totals vs. the actual ones. My predictions are on the right; the actual totals are on the left, in bold. Best pic nominees' titles are also in bold:

8 - Dreamgirls (9)
7 - Babel (7)
6 - The Queen (6)
6 - Pan's Labyrinth (3)
5 - Blood Diamond (2)
5 - The Departed (8)
4 - Little Miss Sunshine (6)
4 - Letters from Iwo Jima (0)
4 - Notes on a Scandal (4)
4 - Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest (4)
3 - Apocalypto (3)
3 - Little Children (3)
3 - Children of Men (3)

...and a whole bunch of other films with 2 nominations each.

I actually got many of the totals right. But it seems I either got it right or misread a film's support completely. I (along with most people) very much underestimated Blood Diamond, Pan's Labyrinth, and Letters from Iwo Jima, and I also overshot significantly on The Departed and a tad on Little Miss Sunshine. I'm proud of predicting that Dreamgirls wouldn't reach the double digits, though even I never thought it would be snubbed in the big race.

And speaking of the big race... what exactly is supposed to win this thing? With the presumed frontrunner GONE, another presumed frontrunner crippled (without a director nod) and yet another (The Departed) dogged by a low nomination total, what will rise up? Letters? Does it have a chance? It has the lowest nomination total of all (apart from Little Miss Sunshine), but I have a feeling it'll be seeing a huge surge of support in the coming weeks). Or could Babel (the nomination leader among the nominees) or The Queen (the runner-up) actually take it? What a roller-coaster ride this best picture race has been. It really is a wide open race.


Blood Diamond

Leo and Djimon running: the best thing about this film.

Haha, I kid.

But seriously, Leo and Djimon's performances really are the best thing about this film. The film itself = "meh." I've now had SEVERAL friends approach me saying something to the effect of "Blood Diamond was such a GREAT movie!" and I'm always like, "um, er..." But both Leo and Djimon score big here. I was VERY impressed by Leo's seemingly perfect accent and subtle mannerisms, and was similarly wowed by Hounsou's intense blend of resolve and vulnerability.

Unfortunately, Djimon Hounsou is pretty much definitely a lead. So the only really annoying part if he gets nominated tomorrow is that it's yet another case of category fraud. It's about both men equally - and arguably about Hounsou moreso - and you can't just call him supporting because he's black and Leo's a bigger star. That is the only reasoning I can think of as to how they're getting away with it. And it's just not good enough reasoning. I suppose Leo has the romance storyline, wherein which Djimon seems more "the sidekick," but then Djimon has the "lost son" storyline, which doesn't really concern Leo. So again... Djimon Hounsou's a lead.

Jennifer Connelly, in her "worst supporting actress" film-bitch-award-winning role, is most certainly bad, but bad in a really entertaining way, so I didn't much mind her. It was almost as fun to watch her amp up the camp of her performance as it was to gawk at Djimon's muscles or Leo's tan. And in fairness to her, I'm not sure what else she could've done with the role as written; it seems as though it was already unredeemably bad on the page.

So I'm not as peeved at her as I am at, say, Thandie Newton in The Pursuit of Happyness, who took what could've been a perfectly understandable and sympathetic character and made her into a raging bitch. I really think a quiet, depressed, run-down, put-upon mother would've been far more interesting than the spastic, hateful woman Newton gave us. Oy, talk about overacting... fussy, bizarre, and painfully grating barely begin to describe that perf's inanity.

OK, that was mean. Sorry, Thandie. But you make it so hard for me.

Anyway. I've gotten a bit off track. But I didn't mean for this to be a Blood Diamond review per se, so much as a vague discussion of certain aspects of it, and what else those aspects led me to ponder. I don't really wanna get into the specifics of the film. Suffice it to say that, though I liked BD more than I thought I would, it sits firmly in the realm of mediocrity.

Verdict: "Five oscar nods? That's bullshit."

P.S. it's definitely better than The Last Samurai anyway... what an awful film that was... (shivers)

Labels: , , , ,

new movies & stuff

So I saw a bunch of movies today. First, I caught Blood Diamond at the mall (decidedly mediocre, but entertaining enough), then a second helping of Dreamgirls at the mall (it went down a little easier this time, but I still say it's the worst of the big five), and then a second helping of Happyness on a friend's pirated DVD (it's still as much of a B- as ever). So I'm all movied out.

Also, I'm very happy to be in on the news that T. R. Knight is gay. I remember thinking during the few times I've watched Grey's Anatomy that he was my favorite, and I'd developed a little bit of a crush on him. So yay! He is one of my people... and now maybe I can meet him and get with him.

I've also just been feeling a little odd lately about my life in general... you know what feeling you get occasionally when you're like, "Why do I spend so much time obsessing over stupid awards season? OMG where is my life???" Maybe it's also cause I'm just now heading into my final semester of college and am still uncertain as to what's going to happen afterward... but I just feel in a kind of haze... like I need a change.

Maybe I should buy something?


Sunday, January 21, 2007

PGA awards

So apparently Cars won the PGA for best animated film... best picture winner TBA.

For the record, I am predicting The Departed to take it, and I'm pretty confident that it will.

UPDATE: Little Miss Sunshine wins! And I couldn't be happier. I remember thinking it had a better chance than people were giving it credit for here, but I never thought it would actually win. My bad. I may be changing my oscar predictions now, putting Dayton & Faris in the top five after all (though this award has no direct bearing on whether they'll be nominated or not).

And really, I'm so happy LMS won here, both because it's my personal favorite of the nominees (though with a gun to my head I might admit that The Departed is a better film) and because this makes the race that much more interesting. This is a good sign that LMS could win the SAG and WGA as well. And if that happens and then, say, BAFTA goes for The Queen... well, the best pic race will be VERY interesting, far moreso than it's been in a while.

And this kind of "no clear frontrunner" climate is exactly what something like Sunshine would need to win.

OMG I love this movie. I think I'm buying it now.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

final Oscar chart update

All charts are updated (check the sidebar). Barring any last minute changes, these will be my predictions (I'll add tech predictions later). But director, supporting actor, and both screenplay categories are tough, so I may yet change my mind on those.

Will the LAFCA not be so predictive this year?

It just occured to be that this year, the LAFCA turned out not to be a good oscar indicator... at all. It's very possible that nearly all of their winners could be snubbed. Their best picture, director, supporting actor, and supporting actress winners (along with one of their two best actor winners) are all looking either incredibly shaky or flat-out unlikely for nominations this year. Of the big six, only the Mirren win seems likely to cross over.

This does not diminish the LAFCA, of course. It's just an interesting observation. They are after all supposed to be the most oscar-predictive critics group, but they don't seem to be living up to that reputation.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Channing Tatum in an open shirt: the best thing about this film.

Um... yeah. So this was not very good at all. Part of me wants to cut it some slack, and chalk it up my just not identifying, but GOD, it was just so bad.

Did I just not relate to these characters? I admit that I didn't grow up in the ghettos of Queens; maybe this is how things really are. But I feel like the characters' assholish tendencies and inarticulate ramblings of profanity could've been made more accessible. I just couldn't bring myself to care about any of it (for a MUCH better film about lower-class teenagers with issues, see Raising Victor Vargas).

And the acting was pretty uneven. Some was very good, but some really wasn't, and the actors that WERE good weren't being done any favors by the script and direction. Plus, the film loses points for showing Dianne Wiest older, fatter, and more sidelined than I've ever seen her. And for asking me to believe Shia LaBoeuf and Robert Downey Jr. were the same person. AND for never once giving me any real nudity from Channing Tatum (I mean, what else is he there for anyway?).

Actually, the highest praise I can think to give this film is that it reminded me somewhat of Crash.

And if I am forced to hold up Crash (!) as a better example of what this film was TRYING to be, then, well...


How did this get so many good reviews???

Verdict: "I just didn't like it at all."

(P.S. I'm pretty sure the title is grammatically incorrect, thus upping the ante on Pursuit of Happyness-style "write it the wrong way" antics - this film just misfires everywhere it can)

Friday, January 19, 2007

How far can Forest go?

"Run, Forrest, run!"

Can Forest Whitaker actually win the oscar?

The globe win gave me more confidence, but I still have my doubts. And his speech didn't really help either. People were super excited when he won, and clapping and cheering like crazy, but maybe that's because they knew that that was his last chance to win a big award? I have my doubts about that oscar, and about the SAG award, too.

I currently think that Smith will win the SAG and O'Toole will eke out a victory in the three-way race to the oscar. SAG-wise, Whitaker and especially O'Toole are at a disadvantage, since few people have seen their films, including the many thousands of SAG voters. Approximate box office totals:

Venus: $220,000
The Last King of Scotland: $3.7 million
The Pursuit of Happyness: $140 million (and counting)

I honestly don't see how Smith loses the SAG, unless people really don't think of him as worthy of a win and hence don't vote for him. He is, however, the kind of big box office megastar that often leaves SAG voters cold (Nicole Kidman for example is often snubbed, as was Will Smith himself for Ali a few years back), and Forest is the kind of longstanding, only sorta famous character actor whom SAG respects. So he MIGHT win. Hoffman, for example, won the SAG just last year over the more widely seen Heath Ledger - yeah, he was on a hell of a run already, but then, so is Whitaker. Of course, Capote had more heat than Last King overall... which is strange to me, since Last King is just as good a film, in my view. And of course, O'Toole will be taking some votes, too, so this year is different than last.

But all things considered, I feel like Smith has the advantage with SAG. And if he wins, Whitaker stumbles from his nonstop awards grabbing, leaving O'Toole the opening he needs. It looks like either Whitaker wins both the SAG and the oscar, denying O'Toole his first oscar, or Smith wins the SAG and O'Toole pulls ahead in the oscar race.

It's all quite suspenseful, though I must say I actually don't care all that much. I wish I did, but in my world, Hugh Jackman owns this category, along with probably Ryan Gosling, who I haven't yet seen. And if neither of them can win, then I don't really care who does.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Blacks win on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Hmmm... isn't it interesting that 3 of the 6 golden globe winners for film acting were black, and on Martin Luther King Jr. Day no less? Dr. King's dream of equality was fulfilled today (literally; 3 winners were black and 3 were white, including 2 brits, 1 jew, and 1 Meryl Streep).

And it's very possibly that 3 of the 4 winners at the oscars will be those same 3 black actors. That would definitely be a first (although twice so far this decade have 2 of the winning 4 been black). Might the desire to make racial equality history trump the desire to give Peter O'Toole an oscar? We'll see. Maybe that's just what Whitaker needs in order to go all the way. Though he is of course deserving on his own merits... even if I'd rather have Jackman.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Golden Globe predictions & actuals + other stuff too

Oy. I have no time to blog lately. And I'm kinda over awards season now. I can't keep doing these extensive run-downs on every new award that pops up. F*** it. But the globes are important, so let's see:

PRE-NOMS: I say it goes to Babel. Departed could take it, of course, but I think the HFPA love Babel enough to give it the prize. They have to honor it somewhere... why not here?
ALTERNATE: The Departed

HA. WHAT did I say??? I don't get why people were so surprised at this. Props to me for seeing this as the obvious win that it was.

PRE-NOMS: Oy. I really wanna say Dreamgirls loses, but I just don't see it happening. Sure they didn't love it as much as they could have, but that goes double for LMS, which they only gave 2 nominations. Where was the love for Greg Kinnear? And the screenplay? They went for the movie stars in supporting, but Kinnear really should've taken Chiwitel Ejiofor's spot. So I just don't think they love LMS enough. Hell, maybe Borat will actually take it. But I doubt it.
PREDICTION: Dreamgirls
ALTERNATE: Little Miss Sunshine
WINNER: Dreamgirls

Yup, Dreamgirls pulled it off. I guess that's fine. It was okay. Whatever. At least Beyoncé didn't win (not even in song!).

PRE-NOMS: Yikes. Tight three-way race. Even DiCaprio could take it if they really love him and Departed, but it will most likely go to Smith, Whitaker, or O'Toole. Any one of them could happen. It all depends on what kind of mood the HFPA is in, and/or what kind of agenda they have. Whoever they pick here gains all the momentum. Do they want to keep the Whitaker train going, or give O'Toole the steam he needs to get that elusive oscar? Or do they really love Will Smith? Let's just say Smith and DiCaprio split the movie star vote, and they aren't that in love with O'Toole.
WINNER: Whitaker

Yay! Since I can't have Hugh, I'll gladly take Forest Whitaker. People really seem to love him AND the performance. I think he's winning the oscar.

Then again, Peter O'Toole has won globes before, so... hmmm...

PRE-NOMS: Much less drama here. Not even worth writing about.
ALTERNATE: maybe Dench? whatever.
WINNER: Mirren

Full speed ahead to the oscar.

PRE-NOMS: Again, not worth typing about. I do have a life, after all.
ALTERNATE: how 'bout Depp?

Yay! He deserved it. Plus, he's hella sexy. I seriously don't get how he's so different in his movies. In real life, he is HOT HOT HOT. Maybe it's the accent. Or that he just cleans up better, I guess, when he makes an effort. But Sacha Baron Cohen is my choice for "best de-glamming in the service of art." Loves it.

PRE-NOMS: I think a Beyoncé win is still not totally out of the question, but since Dreamgirls only has five nods and every one of them seems more winnable than this one, I think Beyoncé will be left smiling in her seat. At least until the song category's announced. Dreamgirls can't win all five globes.
WINNER: Streep

Yay!!! I love my Meryl. So glad she's finally won an award in this category. She's never won here before.

PRE-NOMS: Again, my time is precious, so...
ALTERNATE: Eastwood (Letters)
WINNER: Scorsese

Pre-ordained. This win was never in doubt. He will win the oscar for sure.

PRE-NOMS: Yikes. A tough one. I could really see this going to any of them, even Wahlberg. But the scenario I'm going with now is Departed winning only director, and Babel winning only picture and score. Which leaves Affleck (who's kinda over) and...
OR: any of the other three
WINNER: Murphy

Makes sense. I thought perhaps he was being overshadowed by JHud, but he managed to win here anyway. As I predicted he would.

PRE-NOMS: Alas, I wish Blunt had a chance here, but at least she'll probably come in second. The Babel girls will cancel each other out, and Blanchett just doesn't seem that competitive for the win, which of course is heading to...
WINNER: Hudson

Full steam ahead for the oscar. Fine with me. She was the best thing about Dreamgirls. Plus, she keeps my perfect prediction score intact. Woop!

PRE-NOMS: I am going out on a limb with this one. I honestly don't think it'll be Departed or Babel, which will be honored in picture and director. I say this is between The Queen and the two nominees nobody thinks has a chance. And I'm betting it goes to...
PREDICTION: Little Children
WINNER: The Queen

Oh well, there goes my perfect score. Honestly, I knew in my brain that The Queen would take this. But I wanted to have a fun prediction. So there you go. At least I had Queen as my alternate.

PRE-NOMS: I'm going with Santaolalla, cause his score's great and he lost in this category last year before winning the oscar. But I wouldn't be shocked to see Clint Mansell or the French god Desplat take it.
ALTERNATE: The Painted Veil
WINNER: The Painted Veil

Yay! Alexandre Desplat finally gets some love!!! Oscar voters, take note. I actually would've predicted him, cause they've nominated him a bunch of times now, but then I realized they snubbed him for Birth (of all things) so he didn't actually have 4 nominations in a row. But he still won. Yay! He was, of course, my alternate ; )

PRE-NOMS: Let's say, for fun, that they deny Beyoncé both her globes, and give another big black diva due her due here instead.
PREDICTION: Bobby ("Never Gonna Break My Faith")
ALTERNATE: Dreamgirls ("Listen")
WINNER: Happy Feet ("Song Of The Heart")

The first (and only) category I totally missed. But I should've known. Songs called things like "Song Of The Heart" always win golden globes. I did, however, predict the Beyoncé shutout. Nice.


Damn. Cars wins. I haven't seen it yet, but it looks kind of bland. And does Pixar REALLY need another oscar? Oh wait, this is the globes, and they've never had this category before. Maybe that has something to do with it. Were they trying to honor all Pixar's previous efforts by awarding Cars? It's possible. SAG sometimes does that with veteran actors whose heyday was before SAG existed (Peter O'Toole, perhaps?).

PREDICTION: Letters from Iwo Jima
ALTERNATE: Pan's Labyrinth
WINNER: Letters from Iwo Jima

Pretty simple, this. At least Letters can't win the foreign film oscar... or the best picture oscar, apparently.

So I did pretty well! 10/14 (71%) in the film categories, including both best picture wins and ALL the acting wins. And if I'd been using my head instead of trying to predict unlikely upsets, I definitely would've gotten screenplay right. And once more, I ask WHY did everyone think Babel had no chance of winning? I always knew it would win picture and barely anything (or actually, nothing) else, just like The Hours did.

Also, for an entertaining round of globe predictions, check out Low Resolution. Joe Reid gives us the likely winners in various hypothetical situations (race, brawl, pageant, etc.). It recalls the old "Beyond Actress-Dome" tournament. I approve. Don't know what he'll do with the actual win info, but it'll probably be funny, too.

I'd post my thoughts on the BFCA awards and BAFTA nods, but I just don't care anymore. Too much! And I have essays to write for my film school application. But here are things that just pop into my head immediately:

1) James McAvoy in supporting. I want to cry.

2) Weird that United 93 made the best British film list, but not the best picture list. Is it really a British film? It stars a bunch of Americans and is about 9/11. Um....

3) The exact SAME best actress lineup even at the BAFTAS??? Talk about locked up...

4) I hope Emily Blunt wins the BAFTA. I think she might. She's on her home turf.

5) Yay for Bond! Daniel Craig! Woop!

6) Wow, LMS and Dreamgirls both sure did win a lot, considering they both lost best picture.

7) Is anyone surprised that Departed won best picture here? I'm not.

8) I wanna see the BFCA broadcast (even though it always sucks) just to see Paul and Abby speak. I heart them.

9) It will be really tight, I think, between LMS and Queen for the screenplay oscar. Can't call that one, really.

10) I hope Babel and Dreamgirls win the globes and LMS wins the SAG, just so best picture will be REALLY unclear.

OK, that's it. Comment if you wish. I will answer. Yay, globes!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Just because.

ACE eddie award predictions & actuals

OK, predictions and actuals. Why am I doing this? Someone, leave a comment! Validate me! I should be studying. Or sleeping. My test is in 10 hours! Anyway, here we go:

The Departed
Little Children
The Queen
United 93
(alt. Letters from Iwo Jima)

...and the shocker was: Casino Royale.

I forgot, alas, that spicily edited populist films like Royale can actually score here. Good on them. And good choices in this category, in general. Bad news for Clint Eastwood, though... that strategy of his totally TOTALLY backfired. Zero attention from the guilds. Zero.

The Devil Wears Prada
Little Miss Sunshine
A Prairie Home Companion
(alt. Thank You For Smoking)

...and the shocker was: Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Alas, I also forgot that mediocre but REALLY popular blockbusters can also be nominated here. Oh well. And I haven't seen Thank You For Smoking, so maybe the editing's good, but I can't help but feel like Prairie was totally robbed here. Annoying. And what happened to Borat? Curious.

Anyway, I assume these two awards will ultimately go to Dreamgirls (sigh) and The Departed. Hopefully the oscar goes to the latter. We'll see...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

WGA predictions & actuals

Here are my predictions for the two WGA categories, with actual nominees in bold:

Babel by Guillermo Arriaga
Half Nelson by Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden
Little Miss Sunshine by Michael Arndt
The Queen by Peter Morgan
Stranger Than Fiction by Zach Helm
(alt. Borat by Sacha Baron Cohen)

...and the shocker was: United 93 by Paul Greengrass

POST-NOMS: So they honored United here after all. I was starting to give up hope. I think it's looking better for some oscar attention, either here or in director. Half Nelson, apparently, didn't have the support to place here, though my alternate made the OTHER list. All in all, this category was not too surprising...

PRE-NOMS: I'm not entirely sure all these are eligible for the WGA (Babel in particular is a question mark), but I left off both the foreign films cause they are generally NOT eligible. This category sure is thin without those foreigners, huh? Sad.

Children of Men by Alfonso Cuaron, et al
The Departed by William Monahan
The Devil Wears Prada by Aline Brosh McKenna
Little Children by Todd Field & Tom Perrotta
Notes on a Scandal by Patrick Marber
(alt. Thank You for Smoking by Jason Reitman)

...and the shocker was: Borat by Sacha Baron Cohen (predicted in other category)

POST-NOMS: Wow. So three of my predictions, my alternate, and my OTHER alternate all made it. And Dreamgirls didn't. Yay!

Weird to see Notes on a Scandal miss here... but then, not really; Patrick Marber missed in this category when he wrote Closer a few years ago. Is the Notes script not as safe as it seemed? Both it and the snubbed Children of Men could resurface as oscar nominees, but I'm not holding my breath.

This nod is very good news for The Devil Wears Prada. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but Prada's huge success might carry it to a nod in the most unlikely of categories: writing! Then again, maybe not... this is the kind of thing the WGA often goes for when oscar does not. Also happy for Little Children, which looks good with both this and a globe nom.

But the real question here is: can Borat repeat this trick at the oscars? It's not totally fraudulent (it is basically adapted from the TV character, and TV is technically another medium), but it recalls the bizarre Before Sunset placement (that WAS fraud; jesus, you can't call it adapted just cause it's a sequel). Anyway, I'm betting it'll be replaced in the end by Children, Notes or Veil, but Borat is a contender, to be sure.

PRE-NOMS: This category's not so thin. I'm pretty sure all of these are eligible. And there are several more that I couldn't even list as alternates (Dreamgirls, The Painted Veil, The Last King of Scotland, The Illusionist) even though any of them could make it. I don't expect to be right here. But I could get lucky.

P.S. Sorry, I have no time to deal with the ASC awards or other things. GRE, GRE, GRE!

Monday, January 08, 2007

DGA nods, with my predictions

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel
Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Bill Condon, Dreamgirls
Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears, The Queen

...and Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, Little Miss Sunshine.

WOW. No Clint. I'm a bit surprised at the Dayton/Faris nod, but not overwhelmingly so... and I do think they're deserving. Definitely more deserving than Condon and arguably more deserving than Gonzalez Inarritu and Frears. The only one I think everyone agrees is great is Scorsese, who looks like a lock to win.

But what of Clint? Is he dead? Did no one watch their screeners? I hope this isn't another boring 5/5 year in picture/director, cause there are SO many great possibilities for lone directors. I could see it being 5/5 or 2/5 this year... really tough to call. But I hope at least one of them is booted come oscar time, preferably Condon.

So it looks like this is our best picture list:

1. The Departed
2. Dreamgirls
3. Babel
4. The Queen
5. Little Miss Sunshine

and far, far behind...
6. Letters from Iwo Jima
7. United 93

And for best director, perhaps:
1. Martin Scorsese
2. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
3. Stephen Frears
4. Paul Greengrass
5. Clint Eastwood
6. Bill Condon
7. Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
8. Alfonso Cuaron
9. Guillermo del Toro

It could of course be a simple 5/5, with Dayton & Faris suddenly frontrunners for a nomination. But I think if anyone has the power to boot them or Condon (or Frears), it's Eastwood (hero worship) or Greengrass (critical backing). I think Cuaron and Del Toro are splitting each other's support.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Little Miss Sunshine line readings

I was just thinking, if I were to fill out a ballot of five in the category of "best individual line reading" (best. category. ever.), I'd never know how to narrow it down. I could fill out a whole ballot and then some with great lines just from Little Miss Sunshine (not to mention all the great Devil Wears Prada line readings, "that's all" among them). But if I were to narrow it down to one line for each of the six main characters in LMS, just based on what first comes to mind, this is what I'd choose:

Richard: "sweet... sweetness..."
Just hilarious. This is all Richard could think to say when the cop stopped them and found the porno magazines, and was looking for affirmation of his approval. He just stares in disbelief at the magazines and utters: "sweet... sweetness." According to the directors' commentary, this was an ad-lib. I love Greg Kinnear in this.

Sheryl: "Push down hard."
Sheryl savors it when she discovers that the trouble with the van is not her fault.

Frank: "Outstanding, soldier, OUTSTANDING!"
Frank gets his groove on after the first round of pushing the van. Watching Frank smile in this is akin to watching Wednesday Addams smile in The Addams Family. Heartwarming (it was actually really hard to choose one for Carrell... he's just great all the time).

The obvious choice.

Olive: "What does 'a-la-modee' mean...?"
Watch Breslin's face as she says this line. It's priceless. She gives the waitress this awful look, like "a-la-modee" is the most disgusting thing in the world. At first I thought it was glaringly out of place, but it's just ridiculous enough that a real kid would probably do it. I heart Abigail Breslin.

Grandpa: "Politics." response to Olive's "what are you guys talking about?" But it's not just the line. It's how he says it. It's beyond perfection. I can't even describe how great it was.

There is also, of course, the wonderful exchange about Olive dedicating her dance to grandpa, and his being in the trunk of their car. But it's a whole extended exchange, not just a line, so I don't think it counts. And the "a-la-modee" bit is even more unexpected and great.

Anyway, I know I love this film more than most people, but I assure you, my love is true. I realize it has flaws, but the pluses more than make up for it, IMHO. I think it's just golden. I love it even more after hearing on the commentary that there was NOTHING exaggerated about the beauty pageant sequence. All they did was get actual contestants with their own acts, their own makeup, and their own clothes, and let 'em rip. So don't say they were playing up the camp; that's actually how it really is.


Abigail Breslin & Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine

For StinkyLulu's supporting actress blogathon, I offer up a two-pack. One of these actresses earned a globe nod for her performance; the other has a SAG nomination. Both are oscar-worthy.

First off: Abigail Breslin as Olive. She's looking good for an oscar nod even without my endorsement (which obviously carries much sway in academy circles), but I still feel the need to give a shout-out.

I've heard this perf pooh-pooh'ed many times as a typical "child actor" performance, i.e. she's just being cute. I beg to differ. Can you think of any other child actress who would've been as perfect in this role? I can't. Dakota Fanning would've fallen flat (but then Dakota is more satanic than cute). Most kids would've fallen flat. But not Abby. The whole film rests on having the perfect girl playing Olive, and Abby Breslin is that girl.

Consider any number of tricky but lovely scenes: Olive's squeal with joy at hearing the answering machine message, her frantic exclamations to her stuffed animals. Her teary confession to grandpa in the hotel, and her dejected look in the hospital. Her silent plea to Duane after his meltdown, her exhange about heaven with Frank. Her controlled excitement in declaring track "twelve," her awkward pageant catwalk. Her perfect line reading of "in the trunk of our car," and of course, the dance. Olive's pure joy and innocent exuberance is what sells it. It's neither too sexual nor too timid.

I fell in love with Abby Breslin through her portrayal of Olive Hoover, and that was through my critical instincts, not in spite of them. Any number of things could've gone wrong in this performance, but she strikes just the right balance throughout; the performance is pitch-perfect and adorable. She's willing to act goofy and look ugly to become her character (a quality AMPAS always loves), and she holds her own and then some against a cast full of oscar and emmy nominees. As the titular Little Miss Sunshine, Breslin shines, and holds the film and the family together.

And speaking of holding the family together, we come now to Toni Collette's Sheryl.

Toni has the unfortunate distinction of being Hollywood's go-to-girl for atypical, earthy, or otherwise unglamorous women. She plays the frumpy sisters, the put-upon mothers, the "natural beauties" who often play second fiddle to the stars. Her Sheryl Hoover is right in keeping with this trend. She's the only one in the cast of quirky characters without a real dream of her own, a goal for which to hope and strive. Her only wish and ambition is for others around her to be happy, for them to reach their goals, for the family to be at peace.

But Collette endows Sheryl with a great sense of personal identity. She lives for her family, but she knows who she is. Sheryl is all our mothers, but also her own person - an archetype and a distinct character. This is no small feat for an actress. Collette understands that in a script full of archetypal characters in absurd situations, the actor must find the truths and specifities of her own character, and then use them to stay totally, truthfully responsive to the moment, however implausible that moment might be.

It may seem that Collette has little to do in her part, but don't be fooled by its lack of showiness. That Collette slides effortlessly into this great ensemble is a testament to her individual talent. With a lesser actress in this pivotal role, the film as a whole would not have worked. But Collette is in tune with the work of her fellow actors just as Sheryl's in tune with the happiness of her family, and thus, the characters and performances all fall beautifully into place.

My favorite moments in Collette's performance are the quiet ones, where she shows Sheryl's wry humor and weary pride in her work of family maintenance. Watch her reaction to hearing of Olive's placement in the pageant, the slight bit of annoyance and sarcasm in her smile as her daughter squeals with joy; Sheryl is of course happy for Olive, and knows Olive would never notice her annoyance, but we the audience can see it in Sheryl's eyes: "oh boy, here we go again." And listen to the quiet pride she takes in being right when the stick shift breaks; "push down hard," she tells her husband. And then there are the scenes where we see her softer side; when Sheryl's shell cracks and she breaks down and cries in the hospital, we want to both laugh at her and cry with her, but most of all we want her to feel better.

We're always rooting for Sheryl because she's rooting for everyone else, even when she's angry at them. And we're always rotting for Olive, because... well, come on, how you can you not? I'll personally be rooting for both these actresses on oscar nomination morning.

For your consideration:
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Toni Collette, Little Miss Sunshine

Toni & Abby forever.

National Society of Film Critics winners

BEST PICTURE: Pan's Labyrinth, dir. Guillermo del Toro
(runner-up: The Death of Mr. Lazurescu)

BEST DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass, United 93
(runner-up: Martin Scorsese & Guillermo del Toro)

BEST ACTOR: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland (zzzz...)
(runner-up: Peter O'Toole, Venus)

BEST ACTRESS: Helen Mirren, The Queen (zzzz...)
(runner-up: Laura Dern, Inland Empire)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
(runner-up: Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Meryl Streep, Prada and Prairie
(runner-up: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls)

(runner-up: The Departed)

(runner-up: Pan's Labyrinth)

Interesting choices, these. Well, except best actor and actress.

Actually actor was sort of interesting because it was a tie; O'Toole and Whitaker tied and Whitaker won by one vote in the tie breaker. I wonder whether Whitaker might actually win the oscar? O'Toole's inability to win a single award (even the satellite for comedy/musical, which he lost to Joseph Cross) can't be a very good sign. So that category looks a little bit up in the air to me.

This supporting actor win should give Wahlberg a leg up in the oscar race... NSFC wins tend to really help out in the final stretch. Woulda been nice for Jackie Haley to really cement his status as the critical favorite, but at least he got runner-up.

Very interesting to see Streep land in supporting for the first time ever... I doubt it means anything, but maybe she has some unseen support for her Prairie perf? I dunno.

And I assume this means The Queen will probably win the screenplay globe and then the original screenplay oscar. Babel and Little Miss Sunshine don't quite seem to have the strength to win there.

And hopefully Greengrass' win here will cement his claim on oscar's lone director spot. I don't really expect his film to make it, but he sure as hell better get in himself; he and his film have been all over the critics' awards, and he really really deserves it.

As for the Pan's Labyrinth win... I don't really know what to say. Haven't seen it yet. I don't really expect Guillermo del Toro to get nominated for directing, but maybe a screenplay nod is in order? I should probably add it to my chart. Even more interesting than their best picture winner, though, is their choice for runner-up. Maybe I should see this Mr. Lazarescu film?

Anyway, I'll go now with the addendum that posting will be less frequent this week, since I have the GREs on friday, and should really be studying my ass off. Between that and movies and other things, I don't think I'll have time to blog. I'll comment on any big new nominations and whatnot, but other than that, not too much.

Friday, January 05, 2007

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Babbling about Babel

I am of two minds regarding Babel. Part of me wants to praise its seriousness and ambition. Another part of me wanted to scream at it for being so forcefully and needlessly depressing.

I was truly impressed (for the most part) with the film's performances, cinematography, editing, and music, and I appreciated the global nature of the story. Adriana Barazza in particular gives a beautifully lived-in turn, and I'm a sucker for Santaolalla. Overall, I found the film quite moving. But I have to ask (SPOILERS):

Would any little kids REALLY shoot bullets at a bus so unthinkingly?

Would any good housekeeper REALLY take kids out of the country without their parents' permission AND THEN drive back into the country with someone who'd been drinking, and who clearly has a short fuse?

Would said person REALLY speed away from border patrollers, and with kids in the car? I mean, hello, stupid.

Would a deaf-mute Japanese girl REALLY go around flashing her dentist and other strangers, just because she felt lonely?

And also, was I missing something about the balcony thing at the end? I might just be stupid, but why did Rinko tell a story different from what actually happened? I hope it wasn't just so the film could close on that shot of the skyline.

Anyway, some of these questions are really too difficult to ignore. I'm generally one for allowing huge coincidences in films - I had no problem with the sequence of "oh sheesh" problems encountered by the Little Miss Sunshine gang - but I am given pause when so many characters make such unfathomably stupid decisions. Coincidental is one thing; impossibly stupid is another. And when people behave that stupidly, it makes it hard for me to sympathize with them.

That said, the actors generally did such a great job carrying it off that it wasn't that big of a problem. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett's lack of chemistry aside, the cast as a whole did a great job. Which is why I think the film largely worked.

Still, I didn't feel the kind of catharsis that would've made the trip to hell and back totally worth it, so it's hard for me to wholeheartedly recommend this one, much less call it a "great film." Others may love it and think it award-worthy, and I take no issue with that; it is serious, ambitious, and well-made. But I saw enough flaws and felt distant enough from the characters to think Babel merely "pretty good."

Verdict: "Sober and serious... to a fault."

Are you KIDDING me!?

OK, so I was just looking over the BAFTA longlists in the acting categories, and I noticed something that really pissed me off.

It seems that the organization that always makes its own decisions about where to put people and almost always puts questionable candidates in lead (witness the lead placements of Cate Blanchett, Emma Thompson, Eva Green, Jodie Whitaker, Juliette Binoche, Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon) has placed ANNE HATHAWAY and JAMES McAVOY in SUPPORTING.


That is absolutely ridiculous.

And it angers me.

For an organization like BAFTA to do this, when they have always shown good sense in this regard (and even a habit of erring on the side of lead), is very disheartening. Either they don't understand what a lead is or they just don't care. I thought that if anyone would actually give McAvoy a lead nomination, it would be BAFTA. But no. And the Anne Hathaway thing is even worse, cause no one anywhere else this award season had ever once claimed she was supporting.

I don't remember whether they put Jamie Foxx in supporting 3 years ago or not. Whatever. But I just don't get it. But when they put every single questionable case in lead (including Cate Blanchett, who maybe isn't really all that questionable) and then put this year's two unquestionably lead performances in supporting, just cause they were upstaged by their co-stars... well, I just don't know what they're thinking. I really don't. But it makes me crazy.

I love James McAvoy in Last King, but if he makes the supporting actor list, I'll scream. It's just not a supporting performance. Period.