Showing 1 - 8 of 8 Movie Blogs
I attended a friend's 30th birthday party this weekend. Following many hours of merriment at a local banquet hall, the party relocated to the birthday boy's house. Drunk as a boiled owl, he was soon ensconced in the bathroom, embracing the porcelain throne, while the rest of us enjoyed his domicile's amenities. After a few games of Burger King Big Bumpin' air hockey (one of those delightful $4 XBox 360 games sold with combo meals), some rounds of Street Fighter II and a requisite game of Mafia, me and my friend, exhausted from many days of editing together a birthday video (which was a big hit), were ready for bed.
We went outside, got in his car, made a u-turn to head out towards the main street, and were hit from behind by a big truck. Now, I had noticed something peculiar about this truck just before being rammed by it: As we were making the u-turn, it began heading down the street we were leaving. But just as we were making our turn onto the cross-street, the driver of the truck evidently changed his mind, quickly steered out of his turn and decided to follow close behind us. A few seconds later, we were both stopped, fenders bent.
My friend got out to find out what had just happened, and the driver, a burly, 40-something man with a bald head and a ghost-white goatee, got in his face and asked, brusquely, "What the fuck are you doing?" My friend, in turn, and more appropriately, asked back, "What the fuck are you doing? You just slammed into me." "What the fuck have you been doing?" the man insisted, a slight change in tense. We were making little headway, and, seeing that this guy was clearly out of his mind and threatening physical violence, my friend requested that I summon the other seven people inside the house. It was a brave move, to be sure, for him to face this irrational savage on his own while I got reinforcements, but seeing as how I'm only as tough as my facade, it was probably the right decision.
By the time I returned with the cavalry, the guy had calmed down, admitting he had made a mistake. Apparently, he'd recently almost been run off the road by someone driving a white car that looks like my friend's (imagine that, more than one white car!), and that's why he hit us. A little case of sociopathic mistaken identity. Happens all the time. At least that's the tack this idiot took while calmly pleading with us not to call the police, which we did anyway. He volunteered his insurance information as a gesture of good faith and we took down his license plate number. He was obviously drunk, as was his stumbling, slurring wife, who was encouraging him to leave the scene. And that he eventually did, leaving her behind a block away.
We waited for the police for over an hour, which made sense considering we'd been repeatedly transferred back and forth between the Sheriff's Department and California Highway Patrol -- it seems none of them know how to handle an "intentional act." The woman who had been deserted stayed hidden behind a bush for a good 45 mintues until her friends arrived to pick her up. It figures they would respond quicker than the police. When the cops finally arrived just before 4:00, they informed us that the man was named James Love, that he was a truck driver, and that he ended up doing what was in his best interests.
You see, though Jimmy Love admitted to intentionally ramming us, because he was intoxicated the act can't legally be considered "intentional" (I guess that's why our call was transferred so many times). And because he wasn't present when the police arrived, he couldn't be given a breathalyzer to determine if he was DUI. Also, because he gave us his insurance information prior to fleeing the scene, it can't be considered a hit-and-run. So this asshole who ran us off the road because he mistakenly believed we had attempted the same against him, and who then abandoned his wife and continued driving drunk (perhaps searching for the real white car), was off the hook because he attempted to placate us before driving away. He did everything he was legally required to do, even as he egregiously broke the law. In the end, it's all a matter for the insurance companies to handle. I gave my statement earlier this afternoon.
When it happened, I thought it was yet another example of how driving drunk is a bad idea. Now I'm just thinking of how best to incorporate the genius of Jimmy Love into my own intoxicated criminal acts.
And about damn time, too.
Actor in a Leading Role
1. Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow
2. Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
3. Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
4. David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck.
5. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
I sometimes wonder if I'm the only one who thinks acting is more than approximating the presence, mannerisms and vocal eccentricities of pop icons. The Academy obviously disagrees, having loaded this category with past celebrities. Philip Seymour Hoffman, the critical favorite and likeliest winner, probably had the easiest job, what with Capote's distinct nasal, whiny lisp and effeminate snobbishness. But that isn't half of what makes his performance so overrated. What some confuse for complex characterization is actually supplied by the screenplay -- the corruption of Capote's journalistic integrity as a function of his pursuit of the nonfiction novel. The character is mostly impersonation atop the actor's ego (whenever he would snicker amusedly, I could sense the effort), and his few moments of regret or recognizably human emotion register as too little, too late Oscar clippery. David Strathairn's low-key performance is mainly a matter of historical record, staring down his nose with sobering seriousness, summoning the spirit of Edward R. Murrow. It's accurate, but not necessarily great acting. Joaquin Phoenix is the only biopic actor to embody the spirit of his character without straining to make us think we're looking at and listening to the real thing. On the from-the-ground-up end of the characterization spectrum, Heath Ledger creates a character that will be remembered for a long while for its marble-mouthed evocation of Marlon Brando. The physical complement of internal repression might be a little too on-the-nose actorly, but it's still preferable to the historical figure handicap. My vote would go to Terrence Howard, not only for adroitly navigating the dramatic arc from pimp trash to rap talent, but for doing so with go-for-broke passion, empathy and that irrepressible Memphis swagger.
Prediction: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Actress in a Leading Role
1. Felicity Huffman, TransAmerica
2. Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
3. Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice
4. Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
5. Charlize Theron, North Country
Back when Charlize Theron was fuglying up for Oscar glory in Monster, I gave her a hard time for the vanity-sacrificing vanity she displayed. And now here I am praising Felicity Huffman for a performance in which she forgoes femininity to play a woman releasing herself from the trap of a man's body. The difference is that we don't think about the bravery of the performance, but instead marvel at how magnificently she plays a woman getting used to being a woman. She doesn't lower her voice; she plays someone raising his. And it isn't just a stunt. There's real compassion, humor and even a slight conservative bent that makes a certain illogical sense. Reese Witherspoon has always been good. She has one of the best screen presences of any actress of her generation; she's just been hiding it behind subpar rom-coms. And wouldn't you know it, once she starts challenging herself, she becomes an Oscar frontrunner -- and deservedly so (almost). Keira Knightley makes for a delightful Lizzie Bennett, though sometimes she seems a little too modernly coquettish; Judi Dench tosses off some more requisite Judi Denchisms; and Charlize Theron cries while sporting a mullet and enduring the silliest, most obvious forms of sexual harassment imaginable.
Prediction: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Actor in a Supporting Role
1. Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
2. Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
3. George Clooney, Syriana
4. William Hurt, A History of Violence
5. Matt Dillon, Crash
Conventional wisdom would suggest that George Clooney has to win one of his three nominations. The same doesn't follow for people like Robert Altman or Martin Scorsese, but, then, they didn't receive all their nominations in the same year. It's the accolades cluster that signals Clooney is earmarked for victory. Since he won't win director and screenplay seems unlikely, through process of elimination, it looks like Clooney will have to settle for being recognized for his performance as a chess piece in Syriana's muddle. There there, Georgie. It won't be a travesty, at least not among this weak lineup. Matt Dillon uses his vocal constipation to evoke a racist bastard who gets not comeuppance, but rather a contrived Oscar moment in which he's able to save the black woman he finger-raped (it's the social to Syriana's political nonsense). Not much better is William Hurt's cartoonish mob villain cameo, but at least the film is stylized so as to pretend it all means something deeper. Paul Giamatti's role is old-fashioned and corny, but he plays it with conviction. Really, Jake Gyllenhaal is the only nominee that makes any sense. But since when do the Oscars make sense?
Prediction: George Clooney, Syriana
Actress in a Supporting Role
1. Amy Adams, Junebug
2. Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain
3. Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
4. Catherine Keener, Capote
5. Frances McDormand, North Country
There's nothing that would delight me more than to have Amy Adams walk away with the Academy Award. Her performance, which exhibited such a delicate balance between guileless naivete and optimistic resolve in the face of interpersonal stagnation, was the most beautiful and lovable characterization of the year. Well, I say, precursors be damned! Rachel Weisz may have all the momentum for her supporting flashback of liberal guilt, but everything inside me says there'll be an upset. And that's why I think Michelle Williams will win. She's pretty, she's put-upon, she cries, she doesn't play gay, and she's been doing admirable work in independent film for the last few years. In fact, her performance was so emotionally resonant that I began to wonder why I was supposed to sympathize with Ennis' heartbreak. Catherine Keener would have more of a shot if her role weren't the indie equivalent of a sitcom foil whose sole function is to inquire about the lead. And the only thing worse than a phoned-in don't-fuck-with-me Frances McDormand performance is when physical infirmity is thrown into the mix.
Prediction: Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain
1. Steven Spielberg, Munich
2. Ang Lee,Brokeback Mountain
3. George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck.
4. Bennett Miller, Capote
5. Paul Haggis, Crash
Anyone who knows me knows that I love Steven Spielberg. But come on! This contest isn't even close. Spielberg explores the sticky absolutes of moral relativism, fashioning an impassioned yet sociopolitically balanced plea for peace amidst seemingly neverending violence and reprisals, and engaging the eye's mind through his startling images. Ang Lee's range would be impressive were it not for his mere adequacy in the variety of genres he's tackled. Film for film, Lee's directorial blandness is confused for tasteful restraint and understated brilliance. He will win not because he deserves it, but because he makes Academy members feel just in awarding him. Clooney does a bang-up job recreating a 50s newsroom, but he's not nearly as successful in examining the McCarthy era itself, favoring newsclip nostalgia over historical breadth. Bennett Miller's film is so suffused with static indie stylelessness it's as if he literally filmed the screenplay. Still, it's preferable to filming Haggis' screenplay, drunk as it is on interconnected contrivances of epithetically derived epiphany, alternating heavy-handedness with offensive treacle.
Prediction: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
2. Brokeback Mountain
3. Good Night, and Good Luck.
One thing is for certain: Roger Ebert needs to shut the fuck up. Though he led the charge for Charlize Theron and Halle Berry, and was one of the first to champion Million Dollar Baby, nowhere in his job description does it mention moonlighting as a publicity whore for movie studios. He is a film critic, which entails artistic analysis and cultural commentary. Whether Crash deserves to upset Brokeback Mountain isn't his concern. He may predict and opine, but pushing is pushing it. Anyway, he's picked the stinker of the bunch to stage an upset. Crash has as much to say about modern racial tensions as it does about the social significance of car crashes (those who buy into the bullshit explanation of the film's title are probably the same people who think their own relative non-racism proves the film's brutal honesty). Capote officially lost me during Truman's public reading of his nonfiction novel In Cold Blood. Rather than inspire the same awe as his captivated audience, to me, his prose reflected the callous manipulation of Perry Smith and the bloodless wordsmithery of a shameless hack. Not exactly character assassination, the film nonetheless does its titular protagonist no favors. Good Night, and Good Luck recalls a great moment in television journalism, reminding us of the potential value of the media, but it's more of a civics lesson than a dramatic narrative. Munich is the best film of the year, but since when is the best film the Best Picture? And then there's Brokeback Mountain, a film that currently is the zeitgeist. Remembered more for its gay cowboy hook than its romantic conventionality, the film is a juggernaut that not even an inopportune Crash can stop.
Prediction: Brokeback Mountain
1. Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale
2. Woody Allen, Match Point
3. George Clooney & Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck.
4. Stephen Gaghan, Syriana
5. Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, Crash
Crash has everything a thoughtless movie lover could want: multiple, interconnected storylines; single, easy-to-follow motivations; a socially relevant subject told in broad, disingenuous strokes; and a complete lack of challenge and artistry. How could it not win the screenplay award? The Squid and the Whale possesses so many piercing insights into the casualties of divorce that it sent several shivers of uncomfortable recognition down my spine -- and my parents are hardly pillars of the intelligentsia. I'm uncertain how original Good Night, and Good Luck's screenplay is, considering that it relies mostly on analysis and commentary on existing newsreel footage, but it's a Best Picture nominee and there wasn't a book first, so there it is. Match Point is half of Crimes and Misdemeanors expanded, displaced and de-Woodyfied. Syriana is really only half a screenplay, and original in that "I've already seen Traffic" way.
Prediction: Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, Crash
1. Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, Munich
2. Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain
3. Josh Olson, A History of Violence
4. Dan Futterman, Capote
5. Jeffrey Caine, The Constant Gardener
What the screenplay for Munich lacks the other films display in abundance: deficiency. Brokeback Mountain, in addition to eliding huge chunks of time, lacks the essential deep-burning romance that would lend greater credence to Jack and Ennis' enduring homewrecking affair. A History of Violence is short on novelty, giving us what we've come to expect and then suggesting we (as opposed to it) have got it all wrong. Capote's weakness is in its unsympathetic portrait of the title character and its assumption that such lack of compassion is somehow better than Capote's journalistic corruption. The Constant Gardener, a film about Big Pharma's exploitation of AIDS-ravaged Africa, is missing one key element: AIDS-ravaged Africans.
Prediction: Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain
[color=black]Animated Feature Film: Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit[/color]
Art Direction: Memoirs of a Geisha
Cinematography: Brokeback Mountain
Costume Design: Pride & Prejudice
Documentary Feature: Murderball
Film Editing: Munich
Foreign Language Film: Paradise Now
Makeup: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Music (Score): Memoirs of a Geisha
Music (Song): "Travelin' Thru," TransAmerica
Sound Editing: King Kong
Sound Mixing: Walk the Line
Visual Effects: King Kong[/color][/color][/color]
Back at school.
The first week of the semester is when the wolves come out to feed, hungry for our interest in their fraternity or extracurricular activity. Though I avoided most of their frothing mouths, it was inevitable that eye contact would be made and a flier dispensed. Such was the case with a representative for "Christians on Campus."
The Jesus sympathizers stood holding signs reading, "Racism And Sodomy Are Sins" -- perhaps, but what an odd pairing -- next to members from a different organization with signs reading, "Gay Love Is Not Wrong Love" -- I suppose, though it's probably safer if they keep away from sodomy (and racism). I took one of the Christian's chartreuse leaflets, most likely because ever since I was introduced to the hypnotic hue in junior high I've been unable to refuse anything that comes in chartreuse. Beneath the information stating the time and location of the first meeting was the incentive: "Come join us for pizza & fellowship."
I understood that the meeting would provide both, but why did pizza take precedence? Spiritually, fellowship should come first, not to mention alphabetically. Was pizza the draw and religion merely the chaser? What would the Big G think of that kind of second fiddlery?
But, then, there was the ampersand. Pizza & Fellowship. Not your usual "and," the ampersand suggests not just conjunction but close affiliation, like that of a corporation, a law firm, or certain corrupt federal agencies linked by an ampersand to those corporations & law firms. The flier seemed to be suggesting that pizza and Christian fellowship go hand-in-ampersand. Could it be, then, that this club had discovered the very meaning of existence; the reason millions of religious sheep worship an invisible egoist in the sky; the way, the truth and the deep-dish life?
Pizza! It makes perfect sense. Everyone loves pizza. Even when pizza is bad, it's still miraculously okay. You can put everything in creation on it. And why is that, I wonder. Probably because it is creation. One must beware the wrath of pizza, for, if trifled with, it shall summon the fires of mozzarella and burn the roof of your mouth . Still, when something goes wrong, no one blames pizza. They blame the taco or the hamburger, or occasionally PB&J (ampersand!). When things go right, however, what better exemplifies that felicitious confluence of positive forces than a slice of Italian pie with all your favorite ingredients? I think those stupid Christians just might be on to something.
Pity the meeting was yesterday. I'm hungry.
Last year I went 13 of 20 in the categories for which I made predictions. Exactly a year later I'm back to (hopefully) raise my percentage. First, I'll rank the nominees in order of how deserving I feel they are, followed by some reasoning and prognosticative logic concerning who will actually come away winners. I won't discuss the live action short film or documentary short subject categories, because I haven't seen any of the nominees.
[color=darkred]Actor in a Leading Role
[/color]1. Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda
2. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator
3. Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland
4. Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
5. Jamie Foxx, Ray
"This is Paul Giamatti's award to lose."
It'd be great to be able to say that, but it was also his nomination to lose, and he did, to Clint Eastwood. Eastwood is characteristically stiff and gravelly, but he cries a little and gets to play grumpy-sweet and has a pivotal role in a wildly overrated third act. If anyone has a chance to beat heavy favorite Jamie Foxx, it's him with the sentimental vote. Cheadle and DiCaprio gave the only good performances of the lot (Depp is adequate but ordinary -- not his strong suit), but it's a Foxx-Eastwood fight. I doubt there'll be a late-in-the-game sucker punch this time.
Prediction: Jamie Fox, Ray
[color=darkred]Actress in a Leading Role
[/color]1. Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake
3. Annette Bening, Being Julia
4. Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace
5. Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
Much has been made of the Hilary Swank vs. Annette Bening rematch, but as far as I can tell it's only because they've both been nominated in the same year. No one cares about Bening. Hers was the better performance, but Swank has it in the bag. Winslet's film is too old and "inconsequential" and her performance too pitch-perfect to win, Imelda Staunton is incredibly moving but isn't gorgeous or American, Bening played an actress too well, and Moreno is new and probably too good-looking for a down-on-her-luck drug mule. Swank, on the other hand, plays a completely innocuous character, bright and bubbly and steadfast in the face of poverty and a cartoonishly evil family. Her Maggie possesses a flawless personality -- put-upon while never putting upon -- and she experiences one hell of a contrived, melodramatic ordeal. Boring, sure, but Oscar-style boring.
Prediction: Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
[color=darkred]Actor in a Supporting Role
[/color]1. Thomas Haden Church, Sideways
2. Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
3. Jamie Foxx, Collateral
4. Alan Alda, The Aviator
5. Clive Owen, Closer
Morgan Freeman has played this character before, but at least he played a character (looks in Clive Owen's direction). He is a respected actor without an Oscar and his time has come. Church is a TV actor who caught a lucky break. He's good and gives a brave performance (not in the get-ugly-and-get-naked way, but in the play-ugly-and-still-be-compassionately-human way), but that's not enough to best a deserving actor way past due. Foxx's win will be in the lead category (I'm so sorry, Jamie), and Alda does his Alda thing and his Alda nomination will have to be Alda-nough.
Prediction: Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
[color=darkred]Actress in a Supporting Role
1. Cate Blanchett, The Aviator
2. Virginia Madsen, Sideways
3. Laura Linney, Kinsey
4. Natalie Portman, Closer
5. Sophie Okonedo, Hotel Rwanda
Cate. Beautiful, incomparably talented Cate. She channeled Katharine Hepburn and gave us a fully-realized, flesh-and-blood human character while doing a spot-on impersonation. I don't know how the woman does it, but she's absolutely brilliant. That's why Virginia Madsen will win.
Prediction: Virginia Madsen, Sideways
[/color]1. Alexander Payne, Sideways
2. Mike Leigh, Vera Drake
3. Martin Scorsese, The Aviator
4. Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
5. Taylor Hackford, Ray
Martin Scorsese is used to losing. Which is good because it's going to happen again. The world has fallen in love with Million Dollar Baby (or fallen in love with making a big deal about its ending for all the wrong reasons), and the man who is largely responsible is Clint Eastwood. Having the Golden Globe and the DGA award in his corner doesn't hurt. No one cares about excellent direction of actors and situations, like that of Payne or Leigh; they want either the glamorous (Scorsese) or the falsely profound (Eastwood). Then there's Hackford, who's just a slot-filler.
Prediction: Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby
2. The Aviator
3. Million Dollar Baby
4. Finding Neverland
Million Dollar Baby gives audiences the perfect opportunity to feel good about feeling bad. They get unmistakably worked over, but that doesn't change the fact that something that seems like real emotions happens in a sad, and therefore "true," way. It's a bunch of bullshit. Sideways, on the other hand, is simple and honest and observant and touching, and it doesn't have to pull anything out of its sleeve to get there. And that's the problem. Without the glitz of The Aviator (which could still win, despite the relatively cold reception) or the by-the-numbers formula of Finding Neverland and Ray, Payne's film needed something to knock audiences on their asses and leave them paralyzed with admiration. Alas, it kept it real.
Prediction: Million Dollar Baby
[/color]1. Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. Mike Leigh, Vera Drake
3. Brad Bird, The Incredibles
4. John Logan, The Aviator
5. Keir Pearson & Terry George, Hotel Rwanda
I'll be very upset if Kaufman doesn't win. Eternal Sunshine says more about life and love than any other film in recent memory. It's the best screenplay of the year. The Aviator has a chance because of its accompanying Best Picture nomination, and Hotel Rwanda contains important subject matter despite itself not being very important or very good. Still, there's no denying Kaufman's talent (Eternal Sunshine is considered a Charlie Kaufman and not a Michel Gondry film, fer Chrissakes!) and he probably won't be denied the Oscar either.
Prediction: Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
[/color]1. Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, Sideways
2. José Rivera, The Motorcycle Diaries
3. Paul Haggis, Million Dollar Baby
4. Richard Linklater & Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy, Before Sunset
5. David Magee, Finding Neverland
Sideways is the second best screenplay of the year, with an ear for dialogue and an eye for character that is unsurpassed. But then there's that fucking pest, Million Dollar Baby, and all the hype about Eastwood filming the first draft (gasp!). It's easy to film a first draft when there's no need to include any additional clichés. Before Sunset has the support of those who can identify with people who like to hear themselves speak, but probably not with the Academy (who would rather hear themselves speak), and Finding Neverland is perhaps too stale to fool voters. The Motorcycle Diaries, meanwhile, is foreign and about the early days of a t-shirt.
Prediction: Paul Haggis, Million Dollar Baby
[color=darkred]Animated Feature Film
[/color]1. The Incredibles
2. Shrek 2
3. Shark Tale
Anyone who thinks The Incredibles will lose this also probably thinks Shark Tale isn't completely awful.
Prediction: The Incredibles
[/color]1. The Aviator, Art Direction: Dante Ferreti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
2. A Very Long Engagement, Art Direction: Aline Bonetto
3. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Art Direction: Rick Heinrichs; Set Decoration: Cheryl Carasik
4. Finding Neverland, Art Direction: Gemma Jackson; Set Decoration: Trisha Edwards
5. The Phantom of the Opera, Art Direction: Anthony Pratt; Set Decoration: Celia Bobak
If The Phantom of the Opera were Moulin Rouge, it would win, because it's gaudy and cluttered and downright unattractive. Thankfully, it's The Phantom of the Opera, and you can't dress up shit. Lemony Snicket looks great in that Rick Heinrichs Sleepy Hollow way, but The Aviator recreates the Golden Age of Hollywood, and Hollywood will honor it for reminding them we aren't there anymore.
Prediction: The Aviator, Art Direction: Dante Ferreti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
[/color]1. Zhao Xiaoding, House of Flying Daggers
2. Bruno Delbonnel, A Very Long Engagement
3. Robert Richardson, The Aviator
4. Caleb Deschanel, The Passion of the Christ
5. John Mathieson, The Phantom of the Opera
Hero looks better than all the nominees, but Zhang Yimou's other martial arts film, House of Flying Daggers, still looks better than everything else. Not that any of that matters. Though the Riefenstahl-esque cinematography of The Passion of the Christ is much celebrated and Robert Richardson always does good work (plus, his film is up for Best Picture, always a good sign in this category), I think the Academy will go with the ASC on this one, and give it to A Very Long Engagement.
Prediction: Bruno Delbonnel, A Very Long Engagement
[/color]1. Sandy Powell, The Aviator
2. Colleen Atwood, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
3. Alexandra Byrne, Finding Neverland
4. Sharen Davis, Ray
5. Bob Ringwood, Troy
You can't go wrong with Sandy Powell's Aviator costumes. She designed clothes that helped the actors playing Hollywood legends remind us of those legends. It's the perfect mix of period and skill. The rest are boring by comparison (though Atwood's Lemony Snicket duds are weirdly classical and Ringwood's Troy costumes are memorably reminiscent of something you'd find at a Halloween novelty shop).
Prediction: Sandy Powell, The Aviator
[/color]1. Thelma Schoonmaker, The Aviator
2. Jim Miller and Paul Rubell, Collateral
3. Matt Cheese, Finding Neverland
4. Joel Cox, Million Dollar Baby
5. Paul Hirsch, Ray
Million Dollar Baby could've afforded to move along at a faster clip (and perhaps be an act shorter) and Ray needed to slow down and be interesting. Cheese did good work on Finding Neverland (editing was not its problem) and Miller and Rubell did what they could to elevate the middling material they were given, but Schoonmaker is a master editor who gave The Aviator a shape and pace that was thematically focused and dramatically compelling. I don't see the Academy disagreeing.
Prediction: Thelma Schoonmaker, The Aviator
[/color]1. Keith Vanderlaan and Christien Tinsley, The Passion of the Christ
2. Valli O'Reilly and Bill Corso, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
3. Jo Allen and Manuel García, The Sea Inside
Though Javier Bardem looked convincingly older and immobile in The Sea Inside, I think that's due to his performance more than the makeup artists, whose work isn't altogether different from the prostethics used on Lemony Snicket (if you can imagine Jim Carrey playing the fourth role of a quadriplegic). And as much as I destest Gibby's Catholic porno, there's no denying Jesus looked beaten to shit. That's the sign of some good makeup work. Nevertheless, I think Academy voters would rather award something they can marvel at than something they have to look away from.
Prediction: Valli O'Reilly and Bill Corso, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
[color=darkred]Music (Original Score)
[/color]1. John Williams, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
2. James Newton Howard, The Village
3. Thomas Newman, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
4. John Debney, The Passion of the Christ
5. Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, Finding Neverland
John Williams has been so good for so long it'd take something mind-blowing for him to win again (nominations are another matter altogether). James Newton Howard's work on The Village is memorable for its mostly subtle ambience, though that doesn't exactly translate into suspense. Thomas Newman goes through the motions, but damn if those aren't some mighty fine motions! And didn't John Debney score Christ's crucifixion with typical "when faced with villainy, wail like a Middle Easterner" bombast (sure, it took place there, but why the bombast)? Anyway, it's still preferable to Jan A.P. Kaczmarek's completely unoriginal and uninteresting approximation of a child-friendly Philip Glass. Usually the Academy finds a way of making a good choice in this category. Not this year, I suspect.
Prediction: John Debney, The Passion of the Christ
[color=darkred]Music (Original Song)
[/color]1. "Al Otro Lado Del Rio," The Motorcycle Diaries
2. "Look to Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)," The Chorus (Les Choristes)
3. "Believe," The Polar Express
4. "Accidentally in Love," Shrek 2
5. "Learn to Be Lonely," The Phantom of the Opera
I've got to be honest. I don't remember most of these songs. I do remember "Accidentally in Love" because it got airplay, and I remember not liking it. I sort of remember "Believe" and that it's sappy and dumb. And though I don't remember "Learn to Be Lonely," I remember everything else from that film and it all sucked. So that leaves us with the two foreign songs, which seem classy because they're foreign. I give the edge to "Al Otro Lado Del Rio" because I hated The Chorus. Will the Academy share the same reasoning? I doubt it, but they'll probably be just as arbitrary. And the toss-up goes to...
Prediction: "Believe," The Polar Express
[color=darkred]Short Film (Animated)
2. Guard Dog
3. Gopher Broke
- Birthday Boy
So I caught the Salon article that featured these three Oscar-nominated animated short films. Ryan is the best of the three because it does the most with its premise, is extremely weird, and has my name for a title. Guard Dog isn't animated all that well, but it possesses classic Bill Plympton insanity and speaks to the small-dog owner in me (that Pom never stops yapping, and now I know why). Gopher Broke is kind of cute, but a bit of a Pixar rip-off.
[/color]1. Michael Silvers and Randy Thom, The Incredibles
2. Paul N.J. Ottosson, Spider-Man 2
3. Randy Thom and Dennis Leonard, The Polar Express
Animated films have come a long way. Traditionally, they don't win in sound editing, probably because it's easier to fake sound for animated images than it is to match live-action scenes. That could mean that Spider-Man 2 has an easy victory here. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the other superhero film will triumph. Its action scenes were just as, if not more, thrilling, and the editors had to create sounds for a family of four heroes, a sidekick, a villain, and all those wonderful toys. The web-slinger doesn't quite match up.
Prediction: Michael Silvers and Randy Thom, The Incredibles
[/color]1. Tom Fleischman and Petur Hliddal, The Aviator
2. Randy Thom, Gary A. Rizzo and Doc Kane, The Incredibles
3. Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Joseph Geisinger, Spider-Man 2
4. Scott Millan, Greg Orloff, Bob Beemer and Steve Cantamessa, Ray
5. Randy Thom, Tom Johnson, Dennis Sands and William B. Kaplan, The Polar Express
Randy Thom is everywhere! If he doesn't win something, he's a big loser (which, I guess, goes without saying). Well, he won't win here. The Aviator not only sounded great, but it sounded great while harking back to the time of the first talkies, which is what I think will give it the edge over its main competition, Spider-Man 2 and The Incredibles.
Prediction: Tom Fleischman and Petur Hliddal, The Aviator
[/color]1. Roger Guyett, Tim Burke, John Richardson and Bill George, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
2. John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier, Spider-Man 2
3. John Nelson, Andrew R. Jones, Erik Nash and Joe Letteri, I, Robot
Spider-Man 2's visual effects were much improved over the original, but Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban utilized them better. Both films never lost sight of their human story (I, Robot had no human story, nor did it have particularly eye-catching effects), but Harry Potter's story was often told through the effects, not alongside them. Still, Spider-Man 2 was the more popular film, thanks in large part to its thrilling action sequences.
Prediction: John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier, Spider-Man 2
I have only seen two of the Documentary Features (Super Size Me and Tupac: Resurrection), neither of which I think will win. The Oscar will probably go to Born Into Brothels, because it sounds important.
Also, I have only seen two of the Foreign Language Film nominees (The Chorus and The Sea Inside). The Chorus is just terrible, but The Sea Inside is pretty good and seems to have the most visibility, so I think it'll win. I've heard good things about Downfall, but apparently Hitler isn't the most popular historical figure.
Million Dollar Baby - 5
The Aviator - 4
The Incredibles - 2
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - 1
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events - 1
The Passion of the Christ - 1
The Polar Express - 1
Ray - 1
Ryan - 1
Sideways - 1
Spider-Man 2 - 1
A Very Long Engagement - 1 [/color]
The following are my predictions for the Academy Awards on Sunday. First, I'll rank the nominees in order of how deserving I feel they are, followed by some reasoning and prognosticative logic concerning who will actually come away winners. I won't discuss the short film categories, or documentary short or foreign language categories, because I haven't seen any of the nominees.
Actor in a leading role
[list=1][*]Bill Murray, Lost in Translation [*]Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl [*]Sean Penn, Mystic River [*]Ben Kingsley, House of Sand and Fog [*]Jude Law, Cold Mountain [/list]Sean Penn proves he's acting by being in a constant state of emotional torment, while Murray digs deeper and gives a more subtle performance. The Academy doesn't like actors who pussyfoot around their emotive instincts, so Penn will come up victorious. Also, there's a "Lifetime Achievement" feel to the whole thing. But then there's the surprise SAG winner Johnny Depp, whose late surge in momentum can't be discounted. Though that's exactly what I'm going to do here.
Prediction: Sean Penn, Mystic River
Actress in a leading role
[list=1][*]Samantha Morton, In America [*]Naomi Watts, 21 Grams [*]Charlize Theron, Monster [*]Diane Keaton, Something's Gotta Give [*]Keisha Castle-Hughes, Whale Rider [/list]Nothing will stop Charlize Theron, because she was so unattractive when she didn't have to be and so sympathetic when she should've been repellent. I still think her performance is a bit of a sham (I blame Roger Ebert for starting this snowball), but her winning is a foregone conclusion. Castle-Hughes is the sympathetic favorite, but hopefully the Academy has restricted their treacle to the nominations. Keaton is the flip-side of Theron, playing attractive when she should just be old, but her performance gets annoying right around the time when it should be poignant. Watts acts the hell out of her role, but her part is chopped to bits by splice-happy editors and ridiculous screenwriters. Morton actually gives the best performance, so she hasn't got a chance.
Prediction: Charlize Theron, Monster
Actor in a supporting role
[list=1][*]Tim Robbins, Mystic River [*]Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams [*]Djimon Hounsou, In America [*]Ken Watanabe, The Last Samurai [*]Alec Baldwin, The Cooler [/list]Yeah, so, Tim Robbins. I can't imagine anyone else winning.
Prediction: Tim Robbins, Mystic River
Actress in a supporting role
[list=1][*]Renée Zellweger, Cold Mountain [*]Patricia Clarkson, Pieces of April [*]Shoreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog [*]Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River [*]Holly Hunter, Thirteen [/list]Marcia Gay Harden got nominated for maintaining composure in an insulting role, but she has already won in this category. Holly Hunter does what nominated actresses do best: she shows some skin and goes raw. It's a bit typical if you ask me. Patricia Clarkson received a nomination for the wrong movie, but she's a consistently good actress and well-respected, so she has a shot. Shohreh Aghdashloo, like the film she appeared in, annoyed me at times, but she has gained some steam in recent weeks. Zellweger is the frontrunner, and easily the best of the lot -- people like to complain that hers is a shallow performance, but they're just shallow viewers -- but I think the backlash will be enough to produce an upset.
Prediction: Shoreh Aghdashloo, House of Sand and Fog
[list=1][*]Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [*]Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation [*]Fernando Mereilles, City of God [*]Clint Eastwood, Mystic River [*]Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [/list]The Academy has a recent history of breaking through sexual and racial barriers, which might work in Sofia Coppola's favor. Hers is the best reviewed film of the year, owing in no small part to her direction. However, she's up against three years of directorial mastery by Peter Jackson, who has more than earned the honor. Clint Eastwood could always sneak in there if Mystic River has a good night (it won't be shut out), but Jackson is the best bet.
Prediction: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
[list=1][*]Lost in Translation [*]The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [*]Mystic River [*]Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [*]Seabiscuit [/list]This one is between The Return of the King and Mystic River. Mystic River seems more important, but that's only because audiences have been trained to find profundity in darkness and scoff at twenty minutes of extended, bittersweet endings. Still, there's no denying the push for Peter Jackson's conclusion to his trilogy, and industry vigilance of the Academy's enduring discrimination against fantasy films bodes well for Jackson's film.[color=Black]
Prediction: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
[list=1][*]Jim Sheridan & Naomi Sheridan & Kirsten Sheridan, In America [*]Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation [*]Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, and David Reynolds, Finding Nemo [*]Steven Knight, Dirty Pretty Things [/list]As much as I love Lost in Translation, I'd give the slight edge to In America's family of writers for penning some of the loveliest dialogue and scenarios this year. Lost in Translation is unstoppable, though. (I haven't seen The Barbarian Invasions.)[color=Black]
Prediction: Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
[list=1][*]Robert Pulcini & Shari Springer Berman, American Splendor [*]Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [*]Braulio Mantovani, City of God [*]Brian Helgeland, Mystic River [*]Gary Ross, Seabiscuit [/list]Epics don't usually win screenplay awards because they're too big for dialogue, and The Return of the King won't win here. It's between the invention of American Splendor and the searing conventionality of Mystic River. The latter has Best Picture nomination support and the Academy loves what it can readily digest.
Prediction: Brian Helgeland, Mystic River[color=sienna]
Animated feature film[/color]
[list=1][*]The Triplets of Belleville [*]Finding Nemo [*]Brother Bear [/list]Triplets is grotesque and original where Nemo is conventional and sweet, but Nemo is homegrown where Triplets is foreign. Oh well. I like Nemo, at least.
Prediction: Finding Nemo
[list=1][*]The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Art Direction: Grant Major; Set Decoration: Dan Hennah and Alan Lee [*]Girl with a Pearl Earring, Art Direction: Ben Van Os; Set Decoration: Cecile Heideman [*]The Last Samurai, Art Direction: Lilly Kilvert; Set Decoration: Gretchen Rau [*]Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Art Direction: William Sandell; Set Decoration: Robert Gould [*]Seabiscuit, Art Direction: Jeannine Oppewall; Set Decoration: Leslie Pope [/list]The attention to detail in The Lord of the Rings' sets have been so outstanding that it's unbelievable they haven't been awarded an Oscar yet. The good news is that Return of the King isn't up against any musicals (which, for some reason, have stolen the award from Jackson's films in each of the last two years, regardless of how obviously designed their sets were). All of the nominated films take place in real or imaginary history, but Grant Major's meticulous work can no longer be ignored.
Prediction: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
[list=1][*]Eduardo Serra, Girl with a Pearl Earring [*]John Seale, Cold Mountain [*]Cesar Charlone, City of God [*]John Schwartzman, Seabiscuit [*]Russell Boyd, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [/list]Eduardo Serra's lighting scheme may be an obvious tip of the cap to Vermeer, but it's pretty and sure does lend veracity to the film. Seale's work is undervalued precisely because it works so well, while Charlone's is perhaps overvalued for the same reason -- gritty is more exciting than chilly. Schwartzman equates American nostalgia with autumnal colors, which is visually agreeable but thematically uninteresting -- perfect Academy fodder -- and winning the ASC award definitely helps.[color=Black]
Prediction: John Schwartzman, Seabiscuit
[list=1][*]Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [*]Dien van Straalen, Girl with a Pearl Earring [*]Ngila Dickson, The Last Samurai [*]Judianna Makovsky, Seabiscuit [*]Wendy Stites, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [/list]The odds are with Ngila Dickson, if only because she's nominated twice (then again, she could always split the vote with herself). Despite the supposed authenticity of Master and Commander, Stites' wardrobe doesn't look altogether unlike that of any seafaring adventure. And Makovsky's Depression-era threads look bland, if comfy. Dickson's biggest competition (aside from herself) should be van Straalen's costumes, which are simple yet appropriately evocative of character and period.
Prediction: Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
[list=1][*]Jamie Selkirk, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [*]Lee Smith, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [*]Walter Murch, Cold Mountain [*]Daniel Rezende, City of God [*]William Goldenberg, Seabiscuit [/list]Yeah, yeah, yeah, those endings! Just because they weren't cut off doesn't mean they weren't cut well. The popular opinion seems to be that Rezende deserves the award for his razzle-dazzle cutting of City of God, but Selkirk makes Return of the King's scenes exciting without telling us how they were made that way. If Master and Commander seems a tad boring, it has more to do with the script and direction than the editing, which is pretty tight. Murch deftly avoids the pitfalls of crosscutting and fudging the passage of time, but many feel the film is overlong and dreary, and he'll receive much of the blame.
Prediction: Daniel Rezende, City of God
[list=1][*]Richard Taylor and Peter King, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [*]Ve Neill and Martin Samuel, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl [*]Edouard Henriques III and Yolanda Toussieng, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [/list]It seems that a prerequisite for receiving a nomination in this category is a subtitle, since Master and Commander's makeup appears largely restricted to hairstyles and grubbiness, while Pirates of the Caribbean's makeup appears largely restricted to Johnny Depp's eyes. I'm gonna go with Return of the King on this one. Just a hunch.
Prediction: Richard Taylor and Peter King, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Music (original score)
[list=1][*]Howard Shore, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [*]Gabriel Yared, Cold Mountain [*]James Horner, House of Sand and Fog [*]Danny Elfman, Big Fish [*]Thomas Newman, Finding Nemo [/list]Earlier in the year, I thought Newman's score for Finding Nemo was one of the best; in retrospect, I think that's mostly because I joyfully recognized its composer was Thomas Newman and not his Pixar-friendly cousin, Randy (who I despise). Shore already won for Fellowship, Yared already won for Minghella, and Horner (also a winner) is better loved when he reminds voters of the composers he's ripping off. Newman and Elfman are the only non-winners, and since the Academy tends to disregard buttressing nominations with respect to this category, I suspect Elfman's sweet, if unexceptional, score will triumph.[color=Black]
Prediction: Danny Elfman, Big Fish
Music (original song)
[list=1][*]"Into the West," The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [*]"Scarlet Tide," Cold Mountain [*]"Belleville Rendez-vous," The Triplets of Belleville [*]"A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow," A Mighty Wind [*]"You Will Be My Ain True Love," Cold Mountain [/list]Though perhaps the sentimental choice, "Into the West" beautifully encapsulates the film's more plaintive qualities, and has a lot more in common with the lovely "Scarlet Tide" than many might think. "Belleville Rendez-vous," though skimpy on meaning, is catchy as hell. "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" only works in the movie because of the conviction of the actors; the song really isn't that good. But it's a song from a film about folk singers, which gives it that little bit extra that might secure it an Oscar. And "You Will Be My Ain True Love" is just dull.[color=Black]
Prediction: "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow," A Mighty Wind
[list=1][*]Gary Rydstrom and Michael Silvers, Finding Nemo [*]Richard King, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [*]Christopher Boyes and George Watters II, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl [/list]Finding Nemo won't win not because it doesn't deserve to, but because everyone knows that a computer animated film's sound effects can't be real, never mind the fact that how real the film seems owes a lot to the sound department. But whatever, on to the real movies. Both Master and Commander and Pirates of the Caribbean are swashbucklers, but only the former is serious about it. The question then becomes: Do we want our sword clangs and cannon booms to be serious or not? It's a tossup, but I'm gonna go with "yes."[color=Black]
Prediction: Richard King, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
[list=1][*]Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges and Hammond Peek, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [*]Paul Massey, D.M. Hemphill and Arthur Rochester, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [*]Christopher Boyes, David Parker, David Campbell, and Lee Orloff, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl [*]Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer and Jeff Wexler, The Last Samurai [*]Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer and Tod A. Maitland, Seabiscuit [/list]To be honest, I'm not sure the Academy can tell the difference between sound editing and sound mixing, since all the nominees in both vary only in their degrees of loudness. Return of the King has the most interesting sound mix, but it got passed over in the sound editing category and it probably won't win here. It's most likely between the swashbucklers again, and if the Academy splits up the trophies they'll have to answer for their reasoning, which they probably wouldn't be able to do. They'll keep their sound logic hidden, and unsound.[color=Black]
Prediction: Paul Massey, D.M. Hemphill and Arthur Rochester, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
[list=1][*]Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cooke and Alex Funke, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King [*]John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and Terry Frazee, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl [*]Dan Sudick, Stefen Fangmeier, Nathan McGuinness and Robert Stromberg, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World [/list]As impressive as Pirates of the Caribbean's moonlit pas de deux of actual and CGI is, Return of the King is loaded with goodies, from fell beasts to oliphaunts to falling horses to matte paintings to good ol' reliable Gollum -- all well done. Master and Commander, meanwhile, either had such good effects that I don't remember them, or it didn't have them.[color=Black]
Prediction: Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cooke and Alex Funke, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
[/color][I have only seen two of the Documentary Features (Capturing the Friedmans and The Fog of War), but if I had to decide between them, my personal pick would be Friedmans while my prediction would be The Fog of War.]
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - 6
Mystic River - 3
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World - 2
[b]A Mighty Wind - 1
[/b]Big Fish - 1
City of God - 1
Finding Nemo - 1
House of Sand and Fog - 1
Lost in Translation - 1
Monster - 1
Seabiscuit - 1
I started reading a new book today. Which one, she asks? Well, an old Ukrainian proverb warns, "A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil."
Droogy has a journal. Yay! Yippee! Hooray! Big woop, I have no convictions.
I'm going to try to keep my entries restricted to capsule reviews of movies because, frankly, I haven't much else to talk about.
It seems RT has a uniform ratings system to which I'll have to subscribe, despite reservations about how the numbers correspond to fresh/rotten status. To me, a 6 is not fresh, but considering it will appear fresh here, I'll have to adjust my ratings so that certain barely recommendable movies are 6s. And so it shall be. I'll begin by reposting my old Lost in Translation spoilerfest.