Saturday, April 30, 2011

If I Were An Academy Voter - 1998 Part 1

Best Picture
Academy Winner - Shakespeare in Love
My Pick - Saving Private Ryan
Commentary - I liked Shakespeare in Love, it was romantic, well acted, and had some nice moments of humor. That being said, Saving Private Ryan not winning Best Picture today remains one of the biggest Academy mistakes. Not only was it epic as hell, but it was emotional, well-acted, completely changed the way we look at war movies, and according to surviving veterans, was one of the most accurate depictions of WWII to date. It should have won, plain and simple.

Best Director
Academy Winner/My Pick - Steven Spielberg "Saving Private Ryan"
Commentary - Well at least the Academy got it right in this category. I loved Spielberg's sci-fi adventures, but this and Schindler's List is where Spielberg really shines, as you can see his heart and soul inundating you from every frame. This was a passion project, and it was spectacular.

Best Actor
Academy Winner - Roberto Benigni "Life is Beautiful"
My Pick - Edward Norton "American History X"
Commentary - No offense to Benignil, but I was not happy when he won. Not when the incredibly powerful performance of Edward Norton in the ultra-controversial and hard to watch American History X, was left sitting in the audience. Time and time again Norton proves his chops. This should have been his crowning moment.

Best Actress
Academy Winner - Gwenyth Paltrow "Shakespeare in Love"
My Pick - Cate Blanchett "Elizabeth"
Commentary - This one was tough, but if I had to choose between the two Shakespearean-era performances, the power and emotion that Blanchett brought to the Virgin Queen was simply unmatchable.

Best Supporting Actor
Academy Winner/My Pick - James Coburn "Affliction"
My Pick -  I know this performance was probably not the best of the bunch, but I am a sucker for honoring legends, and Coburn was definitely that. It was nice to finally here the phrase, "And the Oscar goes to...James Coburn." Right or wrong, he would have gotten my vote.

Best Supporting Actress
Academy Winner/My Pick - Judi Dench "Shakespeare in Love"
My Pick - This was not Dench's best performance, hell she was only in the movie for like 10 min. But the same sentiment I gave to Coburn, I am giving here. Dench deserves to be an Oscar winner, plain and simple.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Academy Winner- Bill Condon "Gods and Monsters"
My Pick - Scott Frank "Out of Sight"
Commentary - This was a tough category, as I have always been a fan of Condons. I liked Chicago, loved Dreamgirls, and also really liked Gods and Monsters. That being said however, I went with Scott Franks incredibly clever, funny, and sharp script for the incredibly underrated crime thriller Out of Sight, which featured two great performances from Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney. In terms of the script, I think that Out of Sights was simply better, although I am not at all mad at the Academy's choice. God that was wishy-washy.

Best Original Screenplay
Academy Winner - Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard "Shakespeare in Love"
My Pick - Andrew Niccol "The Truman Show"
Commentary -  Shakespeare in Love wasn't that original, compared to the hilarious and emotional script for Peter Weir's gem The Truman Show. It was pitch perfect in so many ways, and while having a great cast and director didn't hurt, it was definitely Niccol's script that made it soar.

Friday, April 29, 2011

BAFTA and Golden Globes 2012 Dates

The 2012 Golden Globe Awards

Wednesday, November 8, 2011: Cecil B. Demille Award Announcement
Thursday, December 15, 2011: Nominations Announced
Sunday, January 15, 2012: Awards Ceremony

2012 British Academy of Film and Television Awards

Tuesday, January 17, 2012: Nominations Announced
Sunday, February 12, 2012: BAFTA Awards Ceremony

And here for those who missed it, is the Academy's calendar:

The 84th Academy Awards

Thursday, December 1, 2011: Official Screen Credits forms due
Tuesday, December 27, 2011: Nominations ballots mailed
Friday, January 13, 2012: Nominations polls close 5 p.m. PT
Tuesday, January 24, 2012: Nominations announced 5:30 a.m. PT,
Wednesday, February 1, 2012: Final ballots mailed
Monday, February 6, 2012: Nominees Luncheon
Saturday, February 11, 2012: Scientific and Technical Awards presentation
Tuesday, February 21, 2012: Final polls close 5 p.m. PT
Sunday, February 26, 2012: 84th Academy Awards presentation

2011 Drama Desk Nominations

From Awards Daily/Broadway World: "The 56th Annual Drama Desk Awards, hosted by Harvey Fierstein, will be held Monday, May 23, at 9:00 PM at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan Center, 8th Avenue and 34th Street. This year, for the first time, a 90-minute Highlights Special of the Drama Desk Awards Ceremony will be televised nationally on OVATION, the national cable network dedicated to presenting creative arts programming to national TV audiences. The ceremony will be given two primetime broadcasts plus four other airings between June 4 and June 19, 2011."

Outstanding Play

Jon Robin Baitz, Other Desert Cities
Adam Bock, A Small Fire
Stephen Adly Guirgis, The Motherf**ker With the Hat
Samuel D. Hunter, A Bright New Boise
Rajiv Joseph, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
David Lindsay-Abaire, Good People
Nick Stafford, War Horse

Outstanding Musical

In Transit
Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical
See Rock City & Other Destinations
Sister Act
The Book of Mormon
The Kid

Outstanding Revival of a Play

Born Yesterday
The House of Blue Leaves
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Merchant of Venice
The Normal Heart
Three Sisters

Outstanding Revival of a Musical

Anything Goes
Hello Again
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

Outstanding Actor in a Play

Charles Busch, The Divine Sister
Bobby Cannavale, The Motherf**ker With the Hat
Al Pacino, The Merchant of Venice
Geoffrey Rush, The Diary of a Madman
Mark Rylance, Jerusalem
Michael Shannon, Mistakes Were Made
Paul Sparks, Dusk Rings a Bell

Outstanding Actress in a Play

Nina Arianda, Born Yesterday
Stockard Channing, Other Desert Cities
Frances McDormand, Good People
Laurie Metcalf, The Other Place
Michele Pawk, A Small Fire
Lily Rabe, The Merchant of Venice

Outstanding Actor in a Musical

Norbert Leo Butz, Catch Me if You Can
Colin Donnell, Anything Goes
Daniel Radcliffe, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Andrew Rannells, The Book of Mormon
Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert:The Musical
Christopher Sieber, The Kid

Outstanding Actress in a Musical

Sutton Foster, Anything Goes
Beth Leavel, Baby It’s You!
Patina Miller, Sister Act
Donna Murphy, The People in the Picture
Sherie Rene Scott, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play

Brian Bedford, The Importance of Being Earnest
Christian Borle, Peter and the Starcatcher
Boyd Gaines, The Grand Manner
Logan Marshall-Green, The Hallway Trilogy
Zachary Quinto, Angels in America
Tom Riley, Arcadia
Yul Vázquez, The Motherf**ker With the Hat

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play

Lisa Emery, The Collection & A Kind of Alaska
Edie Falco, The House of Blue Leaves
Julie Halston, The Divine Sister
Sarah Nina Hayon, A Bright New Boise
Celia Keenan-Bolger, Peter and the Starcatcher
Linda Lavin, Other Desert Cities
Judith Light, Lombardi

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical

Adam Godley, Anything Goes
John Larroquette, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Brian Stokes Mitchell, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Rory O’Malley, The Book of Mormon
Bob Stillman, Hello Again
Tom Wopat, Catch Me if You Can

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical

Laura Benanti, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Kerry Butler, Catch Me if You Can
Victoria Clark, Sister Act
Jill Eikenberry, The Kid
Nikki M. James, The Book of Mormon
Patti LuPone, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
Laura Osnes, Anything Goes

Outstanding Director of a Play

Trip Cullman, A Small Fire
Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe, The Normal Heart
Moisés Kaufman, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Davis McCallum, A Bright New Boise
Daniel Sullivan, The Merchant of Venice
Kirjan Waage and Gwendolyn Warnock, Baby Universe

Thursday, April 28, 2011

2011 Tribeca Film Festival Winners

So I screwed up a little, and completely missed the Tribeca Film Festival (its still going on I know), but it is that time of year for papers and exams and such, and I have not had my head in the game. Anyway, here are the winners of the fest. Hopefully tomorrow night I can do a little post-game analysis of the biggest films so far from the festival. Winners below:

WORLD NARRATIVE COMPETITION CATEGORIES:

The Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature – She Monkeys (Apflickorna), directed by Lisa Aschan, written by Josefine Adolfsson and Lisa Aschan (Sweden). Winner receives $25,000 and the art award “Anna Christie Entering the Bar, 1965-1967” by Robert De Niro Sr. Sponsored by AKA Hotel Residences. The award was given by Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro and Larry Korman from AKA Residences.
Jury Comments: “Haunting, resonant, but never posed. Conventional shots become dangerous. With balanced storytelling that moves between danger and innocence, this film speaks of sex, adolescence, power, and ambition. It is original and authentic.”

Best Actor in a Narrative Feature Film – Ramadhan “Shami” Bizimana as Yvan in Grey Matter (Matière Grise), directed and written by Kivu Ruhorahoza (Rwanda, Australia). Winner receives $2,500. The award was given by Rula Jebreal.
Jury Comments: “In a world shattered by genocide, this performance was so pure.”

Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film – Carice van Houten as Ingrid Jonker in Black Butterflies, directed by Paula van der Oest, written by Greg Latter (Germany, Netherlands, South Africa). Winner receives $2,500. The award was given by Rula Jebreal.
Jury Comments: “There are a million colors in this complicated performance. We award this honor for bravery and fragility, and for showing tremendous range and strength throughout.”

Best Cinematography in a Narrative Feature Film – Luisa Tillinger, Artificial Paradises (Paraisos Artificiales) (Mexico). Winner receives $5,000 and $50,000 in post production services provided by Company 3. The award was given by Rula Jebreal.
Jury Comments: “A beautiful portrait of landscape and emotion.”

Best Screenplay for a Narrative Feature Film – Jannicke Systad Jabobsen, Turn Me On, Goddammit (Få meg på, for faen) (Norway). Winner receives $5,000. The award was given by Rula Jebreal.
Jury Comments: “This jury was unanimous. Hands-down this is the best screenplay.”

BEST NEW NARRATIVE DIRECTOR:

Best New Narrative Director – Park Jungbum, writer and director of Journals of Musan (Musan Il-gi) (South Korea). Winner receives $25,000, sponsored by American Express; $50,000 in post production services provided by Company 3; and the art award “Double Happiness” by Nate Lowman. The award was given by Zoe Kazan and Jessica Igoe from American Express.
Jury Comments: “This film is an extraordinary study of an outcast, one that examines a complex journey with compassion and grace. The jury was unanimous in honoring this rare film, which is both emotionally arresting and an important social document. We are proud to commend this auspicious debut from an extremely talented filmmaker.”

WORLD DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION CATEGORIES:

Best Documentary Feature – Bombay Beach, directed by Alma Har’el (USA, Israel). Winner receives $25,000 and the art award “Nathans” by Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao. The award was given by Louie Psihoyos.
Jury Comments: “Our unanimous award for the film’s beauty, lyricism, empathy and invention.”

Best Editing in a Documentary Feature – Purcell Carson, Semper Fi: Always Faithful (USA). Winner receives $5,000. The award was given by Amir Bar-Lev.
Jury Comments: “The film skillfully weaves journalistic investigation with emotional personal narrative.”

BEST NEW DOCUMENTARY DIRECTOR COMPETITION:

Best New Documentary Director – Pablo Croce for Like Water, (USA). Winner receives $25,000, sponsored by American Express; and the art award “Path to the Stage” by Inka Essenhigh. The award was given by Lauren Hutton and Jessica Igoe from American Express.
Jury Comments: “The film opens up a violent world in an unexpected way through its sensitive and seamless portrayal of its complex hero, ultimate fighter Anderson Silva.”
Special Jury Mention – Michael Collins, director of Give Up Tomorrow (UK, USA). The announcement was made by Lauren Hutton.
Jury Comments: “A powerful work of investigative journalism. We honor the filmmakers six years of hard work in illustrating how a society can clash with justice, and the impact on an individual life. Everyone should see this film.”

Short Film Competition Categories:

Best Narrative Short – Man and Boy, directed by David Leon and Marcus McSweeney, written by David Leon and Rashid Rasaq (UK). Winner receives $5,000, sponsored by Persol; 5,000 feet of film stock donated by Kodak; and the art award “Gold Dust (Undeclared) by Taryn Simon. The award was given by Denis Leary and Victor Melendez from Persol.
Jury Comments: “The jury liked this film’s marriage of brilliant acting, superb technical prowess, and provocative subject matter, and it’s a movie memorable for upending expectations.”
Special Jury Mention – The Terms, written and directed by Jason LaMotte (UK)
Jury Comments: “Dark, original and beautifully written.”

Best Documentary Short – Incident in New Baghdad, written and directed by James Spione (US). Winner receives $5,000, sponsored by Persol; 5,000 feet of film stock donated Kodak; and the art award “Big Penny” by Tom Otterness. The award was given by Nicole Lapin and Victor Melendez from Persol.
Jury Comments: “The winner is a film that bravely explores the residual effects of experiencing trauma in war in a truthful and fearless manner. Using a mixture of archival and current material, this timely film is the story of one man’s struggle to reconcile war, his place in it, and the legacy he will pass on to his children.”
Special Jury Mention – Guru, written and directed by Jonathan VanBallenberghe (USA).
Jury Comments: “Congratulations to a film that started in one direction and ended up going in another. This unexpected journey was well crafted and followed a unique character for whom we were rooting.”

Student Visionary Award – Rooms, written and directed by Joanna Jurewicz (USA). Winner receives MacPro Desktop with Final Cut Pro and a 24-inch monitor provided by Apple; and the art award “Study: Northern City Renaissance (Mass MoCA #79N)” by Stephen Hannock. This award was also given by Ahmed Ahmed.
Jury Comments: “A simply told story with great depth that examines an average day in the life of an ordinary person living through other people. We applaud this director for her focus, attention to detail, and nuanced acting.”
 Special Jury Mention: Eva – Working Title, written and directed by Dor Fadlon (Israel)
Jury Comments: “Characterized by bold directorial choices, this film is a disturbing and intriguing story   of    an actor’s struggle, and examines the price paid for realizing one’s dreams. We congratulate this filmmaker for his ability to fully realize this story in a unique structure.”

Albert Nobbs Poster

A simple, yet fascinating poster for the upcoming film Albert Nobbs has finally been released. It is supposedly a story of gender-bending and survival, and is sure to attract awards attention to Glenn Close, and potentially some of the other cast members including, Mia Wasikowska, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brenden Gleeson, and Janet McTeer. It also doesn't hurt that Rodrigo Garcia, whose previous outings include Mother and Child and a host of incredible TV credits (In Treatment and Six Feet Under being good examples) is behind the camera. The Poster is below:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: New Trailer!!!!

As an avid Harry Potter geek, all I can say is....wow!

Everything Must Go: Tribeca Film Festival

Early word has already been good for Will Ferrell, and his new dramedy Everything Must Go. Tonight it is being shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, so hopefully tomorrow we will have even more thoughts about what looks like could be a real contender for the comedian. Here is the trailer below:

If I Were An Academy Voter - 1999 Part 2

Best Art Direction
Academy Winner - Sleepy Hollow
My Pick - The Talented Mr. Ripley
Commentary - I actually preferred the costumes to the art direction of Sleepy Hollow, and much preferred the 1950's designs of The Talented Mr. Ripley. They perfectly captured the time frame and the film, and were varied enough (unlike the similar and bleak sets of Sleepy Hollow), to really catch your eye.

Best Cinematography
Academy Winner/My Pick - American Beauty
Commentary - I was thrilled when the Academy chose this over more obvious choices. For a family drama centered in suburbia, the movies so beautifully shot, with enhanced colors, perfect light angles, all really adding depth to an otherwise "untechnical" type film.

Best Costume Design
Academy Winner - Topsy-Turvy
My Pick - Sleepy Hollow  
Commentary- Like I said, I much preferred the costumes of Sleepy Hollow, the hollow (no pun intended) pastels really popped well against the dreary art direction and cinematography. Also, while I am a fan of Mike Leigh, I never really got into Topsy-Turvy. Not a bad movie by any means, just not one of my personal favorites.

Best Film Editing
Academy Winner - The Matrix
My Pick - The Insider
Commentary - This may seem random, but I really did like The Insider, and it was the most taut and sharp film of the bunch.

Best Makeup
Academy Winner/My Pick - Topsy-Turvy.
Commentary - I know what I just said, but the makeup design in Topsy-Turvy was top notch, and more importantly the other four films are simply not good enough to merit an Academy Award.

Best Original Score
Academy Winner - John Corigliano "The Red Violin"
My Pick - Thomas Newman "American Beauty"
Commentary - I thought The Red Violin was boring as hell, and while its score was good, I much preferred Thomas Newman's score for American Beauty, which effortlessly moved from the lighter to the darker moments, and captured the emotion of the film.

Best Original Song
Academy Winner - Phil Collins "You'll Be in My Heart" from "Tarzan"
My Pick - Trey Parker and Marc Shaiman "Blame Canada" from "South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut"
Commentary - Sorry to Phil, but Blame Canada was one of the funniest songs I had ever heard, and perfectly captured the zany and outrageous tone of the South Park movie. Plus Tarzan was way behind its Disney counterparts.

Best Sound Mixing
Academy Winner/My Pick - The Matrix
Commentary - By today's standards, The Matrix is a thing of the past, but like Star Wars before, and Avatar after it, it was a film that revolutionized film making, particularly in the areas of sound and visual effects.

Best Sound Editing
Academy Winner - The Matrix
My Pick - Fight Club
Commentary - In terms of the best, The Matrix deserved to win. But Fight Club was one of the best films of the last decade, and it deserves something, even if it is just a sound award.

Best Visual Effects
Academy Winner/My Pick - The Matrix
Commentary - See Sound Mixing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Race is On!! - 2012 Academy Awards Calendar

Well, the race has been on since SXSW, but the Academy has officially released its calender, signaling the beginning of what is sure to be another exciting Oscar season. I personally cannot wait.

Thursday, December 1, 2011: Official Screen Credits forms due

Tuesday, December 27, 2011: Nominations ballots mailed
Friday, January 13, 2012: Nominations polls close 5 p.m. PT
Tuesday, January 24, 2012: Nominations announced 5:30 a.m. PT, Samuel Goldwyn Theater
Wednesday, February 1, 2012: Final ballots mailed
Monday, February 6, 2012: Nominees Luncheon
Saturday, February 11, 2012: Scientific and Technical Awards presentation
Tuesday, February 21, 2012: Final polls close 5 p.m. PT
Sunday, February 26, 2012: 84th Academy Awards presentation!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

If I Were An Academy Voter - 1999 Part 1

Best Picture
Academy Winner/My Pick - American Beauty
Commentary - Out of these five, the choice of American Beauty wasn't that hard. The Green Mile and The Cider House Rules were nice, sentimental films, but nothing amazing. The Sixth Sense was fantastic, but since Shymalan's effort was a one-hit wonder, hindsight (which I know is not really allowed, but its my blog, my rules) tells me that it would not be the best choice. The Insider is probably my number two choice, but pales in comparison to Mann's other works such as Heat. That is not to suggest that American Beauty simply wins out of default. It had a well-written script and a wonderful cast, that created a perfectly ironic movie about the American suburbs.

Best Director
Academy Winner - Sam Mendes "American Beauty"
My Pick - Spike Jonze "Being John Malkovich"
Commentary - The weakest part of American Beauty for me was its direction, as some of the directorial flourishes didn't really work. That being said, Spike Jonze's work in Being John Malkovich was clever, funny, romantic, and wacky as hell. Only someone as weird as Jonze could have made it work so well. For that, he gets my vote.

Best Actor
Academy Winner/My Pick - Kevin Spacey "American Beauty"
Commentary - There were a lot of great performances, but Kevin Spacey's transformation, which leads to a midlife crisis, and (SPOILER ALERT) death, is nothing short of amazing, subtle yes, but nonetheless convincing.

Best Actress
Academy Winner - Hillary Swank "Boys Don't Cry"
My Pick - Annette Bening "American Beauty"
Commentary - If Annette Bening had won in 1999 for her brilliant performance in American Beauty, then there would be no more debate about her needing an Oscar. Swank was definitely amazing, but Bening's performance is the one that really blew me away.

Best Supporting Actor
Academy Winner/My Pick - Michael Caine "The Cider House Rules"
Commentary - In this list of so-so performances, Caine was an excellent choice. He was the best thing about the movie, he deserves to be a two-time Academy Award winning actor, and the other actors in the bunch (at least in 1999), had yet to show off their chops. A nice win for a legendary actor.

Best Supporting Actress
Academy Winner - Angelina Jolie "Girl, Interrupted"
My Pick - Catherine Keener "Being John Malkovich"
Commentary - Jolie was definitely shocking in Girl, Interrupted, but the movie as a whole was a mess. I would have much rather seen the underrated Catherine Keener get a little gold man for her delightfully wacky role as Maxine Lund in Being John Malkovich.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Academy Winner - John Irving "The Cider House Rules"
My Pick - Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor "Election"
Commentary - Without Election and The Matrix in the Best Picture running, this year was a wash. Election was such a clever and witty script, that beautifully played out high school politics without being shrill or cliche. I am also convinced that Witherspoon should have gotten her first Oscar nod for the film. Either way, the Academy missed the boat by not awarding such a brilliant screenplay.

Best Original Screenplay
Academy Winner/My Pick - Alan Ball "American Beauty"
Commentary -  This was a tough category, but I think that the Academy made the right choice, as Ball's script, while it has flaws, translated beautifully onto the screen, and gave us a true American nightmare in the backdrop of a supposedly perfect life. It sounds like an easy job, but to do so with the tact and emotion that American Beauty encompasses takes true talent.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Paul Reiser Show Cancelled

After only two measly episodes, the highly anticipated Paul Reiser Show was cancelled. Upon premeire, it had terrible ratings, and even worse reviews (Metacritic Score = 38). NBC said they won't even air the rest of the episodes and will have Office reruns in that time slot instead. Wow! What a turnaround from Mad About You and television success to the bottom of the barrel. Oh well, on a better note, this Sunday Cinema Verite starring Tim Robbins, Diane Lane, and James Gandolfini premeires of HBO, so I hope everyone tunes in.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

If I Were An Academy Voter: 2000 Part 2

Best Art Direction
Academy Winner - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
My Pick - Gladiator
Commentary - I like both movies, but the beautiful sets of Gladiator that perfectly captured ancient Rome. I know a lot of the bigger scenes were done by visual effects, but a lot of the more intricate ones were brilliant.

Best Cinematography
Academy Winner/My Pick - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Commentary - The Academy definitely got this one right, as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon remains today one of the coolest movies to watch. A lot of that is due to the Visual Effects (which were robbed of a nomination), and its beautiful cinematography.

Best Costume Design
Academy Winner/My Pick - Gladiator
Commentary - A great choice for the Academy. Every single film/television show that has come out since Gladiator has utilized basically the same costumes that Janty Yates created. Plus, she didn't recycle old, cliche costumes from movies like Cleopatra, but capture a grittier side, which was a nice diversion.

Best Film Editing
Academy Winner/My Pick - Traffic
Commentary - I thought that the Academy might go for Gladiator, as they seem to always go for the longer, more epic film (which is surprising considering the category). But I was so glad when they went with the taut, and well-put-together Traffic. It takes a lot of work to make an ensemble piece like this work, without leaving its characters on the cutting room floor. Luckily, the film editors of Traffic were able to make it work.

Best Makeup
Academy Winner - Dr Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
My Pick - Shadow of the Vampire
Commentary - Sorry to the Grinch, but I could not with good conscious vote for him to win an Academy Award. Not only that, but I loves Shadow of the Vampire, and while the makeup was not over the top like the Academy's pick, it was still pretty darn cool.

Best Original Score
Academy Winner - Tan Dun "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"
My Pick - Hans Zimmer "Gladiator"
Commentary - Nine nominations and only one win, Hans Zimmer is like the Meryl Streep or Susan Lucci of this category. Plus his epic score for Gladiator was fantastic.

Best Original Song
Academy Winner/My Pick - Bob Dylan "Things Have Changed" from Wonder Boys
Commentary - I still love that we can say Academy Award Winner Bob Dylan. I really loved this song, and I like Wonder Boy's a lot, and thought Michael Douglas should have gotten an Oscar nod. That is beside the point. Things Have Changed was great, and I'm happy it got some recognition.

Best Sound Mixing
Academy Winner/My Pick - Gladiator
Commentary - Out of the choices, this one is definitely the best. The swordfights and cheering crowds definitely enhanced the movie-going experience.

Best Sound Editing
Academy Winner/My Pick - U-571
Commentary - This or Space Cowboys? Lame choices, guess U-571 was at least pretty cool (not that good, but cool), and the sound was intricate.

Best Visual Effects
Academy Winner - Gladiator
My Pick - The Perfect Storm
Commentary - I think that the waves alone were award-worthy. Maybe a little more flashy than Gladiator, but I think that it would have gotten my vote over the Best Picture winner.

The Help Poster

Well, they are not wasting time. Only a couple of days after the trailer comes out, they follow up with a nice, simple poster. It is below:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises: Casting News

This was on IMDB and EW yesterday, so I'm sure most of you already know, but two of my favorite actors Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are reteaming with Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight rises. Here is what EW had to say:

"Warner Bros. has announced the official casting of Oscar winner Marion Cotillard and Joseph-Gordon Levitt in Christopher Nolan’s third Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. Cotillard will play Miranda Tate, described as “a Wayne Industries board member eager to help a still-grieving Bruce Wayne [played by Christian Bale] resume his father’s philanthropic endeavors for Gotham.” Gordon-Levitt will play John Blake, described as “a Gotham City beat cop assigned to special duty under the command of Commissioner Gordon [played by Gary Oldman].” Both actors appeared in Nolan’s 2010 smash Inception. They’ll join Anne Hathaway (playing Selina Kyle) and fellow Inception alum Tom Hardy (playing the villain Bane), who were formally cast in January."

I am excited. Period.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Trailer: The Help

One of my mom's favorite books of the last ten years was The Help, and the new trailer is posted below. It looks like it might be a little too lightweight for the Academy, but if the performances are strong enough (and the screenplay lives up to the book's promise), there just might be some room in the acting categories, and maybe even Best Picture for a solid, feel-good film. Either way, I am excited.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

If I Were An Academy Voter: 2000 Part 1

Best Picture
Academy Winner - Gladiator
My Pick - Traffic
Commentary - This was a tough one, but overall, I think I would have gone with Steven Soderbergh's gritty masterpiece about the drug trade, over the more classic Gladiator. That being said, without Almost Famous or Requiem for a Dream in the running, this race was useless for me, as those two movies still remain the best films from 2000.

Best Director
Academy Winner - Steven Soderbergh "Traffic"
My Pick - Ridley Scott "Gladiator"
Commentary - So I would have split BP and BD like the Academy, but would have reversed it. I preferred Traffic to Gladiator, but Scott is way overdue for an Oscar, and I thought his even-handed direction was actaully better than the younger Soderbergh.

Best Actor
Academy Winner/My Pick - Russell Crowe "Gladiator"
Commentary Hanks has done better work, Harris should have won in 95 for Apollo 13, Rush won in 96, and should have, and in hindsight, we know that Bardem would have won in 2007 for NCFOM. I am not saying that Crowe won by default, as his performance was emotional and powerful, but I will say that in terms of who is due and who is not, it was a vote that worked two ways. A win win for the Academy.

Best Actress
Academy Winner/My Pick - Julia Roberts "Erin Brockovich"
Commentary - I know a lot of people were pissed about Roberts winning, and maybe I'm just another populist boob who falls for a pretty actress, pushing herself and wearing revealing clothing. Or maybe, just maybe, I found that Roberts' performance was actually pretty damn good, a nice stretch for her, but still maintained the charm and humor that has made her America's Sweetheart for many years. I liked Erin Brockovich, and thought Julia was great. So hate me or love me, she would have gotten my vote.

Best Supporting Actor
Academy Winner - Benicio Del Toro "Traffic"
My Pick - Albert Finney "Erin Brockovich"
Commentary - If Del Toro should have won for 21 Grams, then in 2000, the great Albert Finney could have finally won his elusive Oscar. Not only was he overdue, but was great in Erin Brockovich, and still remains one of the best actors to never win an Academy Award.

Best Supporting Actress
Academy Winner - Marcia Gay Harden "Pollock"
My Pick - Kate Hudson "Almost Famous"
Commentary - I know Kate's career hasn't done much since this stunning performance, but in that year, no one in this category was better than Kate. She was airy, and mystical, strong, yet vulnerable, and absolutely brilliant as Penny Lane in Almost Famous. To this day,  I still think is one of the Academy's biggest mistakes.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Academy Winner/My Pick - Stephen Gaghan "Traffic"
Commentary - Traffic did what a lot of other ensemble dramas are not able to do: deftly combine a plethora of characters into an intricate web of drugs. This is due in part to the wonderful, Academy-Award-winning script by Stephen Gaghan.

Best Original Screenplay
Academy Winner/My Pick - Cameron Crowe "Almost Famous"
Commentary - One of the best scripts of the last decade, Cameron Crowe's screenplay was funny, original, and personal, yet also struck a deep chord with any teenage boy who has ever dreamed of becoming famous in the crazy world of entertainment.

Best Foreign Language Film
Academy Winner/My Pick - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Commentary - A kick-ass film that was miles above its competition.

Best Documentary Feature
Academy Winner/My Pick - Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport
Commentary - I can see why the Academy chose this documentary, as it is emotional, shocking, yet poignant. It stuck with me a long time after its final frame...in my book that is a good movie.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

37th Annual Saturn Awards Nominations - LATE NOTICE

WOW!! Did I miss the boat or what? In February, apparently these nominations were announced. In the midst of the crazy Oscar Season, I missed the whole thing. Well the nominees are below for those that were as clueless as me. For most people this is old news, so my suggestion would be to ignore it. I am only posting the film ones, the rest of the televison nods can be found at http://www.saturnawards.org/:

Best Science Fiction Film
Hereafter (Warner Bros.)
Inception (Warner Bros.)
Iron Man 2 (Paramount/Marvel)
Never Let Me Go (Fox Searchlight)
Splice (Warner Bros.)
Tron: Legacy (Walt Disney Studios)

Best Fantasy Film
Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Studios)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (20th Century Fox)
Clash of the Titans (Warner Bros.)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Warner Bros.)
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Universal)
Twilight: Eclipse (Summit Entertainment)

Best Horror/Thriller Film
The American (Focus)
Black Swan (Fox Searchlight)
Kick-Ass (Lionsgate)
Let Me In (Overture/Relativity Media)
Shutter Island (Paramount)
The Wolf Man (Universal)

Best Action/Adventure Film
The Expendables (Lionsgate)
The Green Hornet (Sony)
Red (Summit Entertainment)
Robin Hood (Universal)
Salt (Sony)
True Grit (Paramount)
Unstoppable (20th Century Fox)

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges (Tron: Legacy) (Walt Disney Studios)
George Clooney (The American) (Focus)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception) (Warner Bros.)
Leonardo DiCaprio (Shutter Island) (Paramount)
Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man 2) (Paramount/Marvel)
Ryan Reynolds (Buried) (Lionsgate)

Best Actress
Cecile De France (Hereafter) (Warner Bros.)
Angelina Jolie (Salt) (Sony)
Carey Mulligan (Never Let Me Go) (Fox Searchlight)
Ellen Page (Inception) (Warner Bros.)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan) (Fox Searchlight)
Noomi Rapace (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) (Music Box Films)

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale (The Fighter) (Paramount)
Andrew Garfield (Never Let Me Go) (Fox Searchlight)
Tom Hardy (Inception) (Warner Bros.)
Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) (Walt Disney Studios)
John Malkovich (Red) (Summit Entertainment)
Mark Ruffalo (Shutter Island) (Paramount)

Best Supporting Actress
Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2) (Paramount)
Keira Knightley (Never Let Me Go) (Fox Searchlight)
Mila Kunis (Black Swan) (Fox Searchlight)
Helen Mirren (Red) (Summit Entertainment)
Vanessa Redgrave (Letters to Juliet) (Summit Entertainment)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom) (Sony Pictures Classics)

Best Performance by a Younger Actor
Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief) (20th Century Fox)
Frankie/George McLaren (Hereafter) (Warner Bros.)
Kodi Smit McPhee (Let Me In) (Overture/Relativity Media)
Chloe Grace Moretz (Let Me In) (Overture/Relativity Media)
Will Poulter (The Chronicles of Narnia: The
Voyage of the Dawn Treader) (20th Century Fox)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) (Paramount)
Charlie Tahan (Charlie St. Cloud) (Universal)

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) (Fox Searchlight)
Clint Eastwood (Hereafter) (Warner Bros.)
Christopher Nolan (Inception) (Warner Bros.)
Matt Reeves (Let Me In) (Overture/Relativity Media)
Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island) (Paramount)
David Yates (Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1) (Warner Bros.)

Best Writing
Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) (Walt Disney Studios/Pixar)
Alex Garland (Never Let Me Go) (Fox Searchlight)
Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John McLaughlin (Black Swan) (Fox Searchlight)
Peter Morgan (Hereafter) (Warner Bros.)
Christopher Nolan (Inception) (Warner Bros.)
Matt Reeves (Let Me In) (Overture/Relativity Media)

Best Music
Daft Punk (Tron: Legacy) (Walt Disney Studios)
Clint Eastwood (Hereafter) (Warner Bros.)
 Michael Giacchino (Let Me In) (Overture/Relativity Media)
Gottfried Huppertz (as Conducted by Frank Strobel) (The Complete Metropolis) (Kino Lorber)
John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon) (Paramount/DWA)
Hans Zimmer (Inception) (Warner Bros.)

Best Costume
Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland) (Walt Disney Studios)
Milena Canonero (The Wolf Man) (Universal)
Isis Mussenden (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) (20th Century Fox)
Jany Temime (Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1) (Warner Bros.)
Michael Wilkinson (Tron: Legacy) (Walt Disney Studios)
Janty Yates (Robin Hood) (Universal)

Best Make-Up
Howard Berger, Gregory Nicotero - (Splice) (Warner Bros.)
Andrew Clement, Donald J. Mowat - (Repo Men) (Universal)
Andrew Clement, Jennifer McDaniel, Tarra Day - (Let Me In) (Overture/Relativity Media)
Mark Coulier, Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight (Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part 1) (Warner Bros.)
Rick Baker, Dave Elsey - (The Wolf Man) (Universal)
Lindsay MacGowan, Shane Mahan - (Alice in Wonderland) (Walt Disney Studios)

Best Production Design
Kathy Altieri (How to Train Your Dragon) (Paramount/DWA)
Dante Ferretti (Shutter Island) (Paramount)
Darren Gilford (Tron: Legacy) (Walt Disney Studios)
Rick Heinrichs (The Wolf Man) (Universal)
Guy Hendrix (Inception) (Warner Bros.))
Robert Stromberg (Alice in Wonderland) (Walt Disney Studios)

Best Special Effects
Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Karl Denham, Nikos Kalaitzidis - (Tron: Legacy) (Walt Disney Studios)
Angus Bickerton, Barrie Hemsley (The Chronicles of Narnia: The  Voyage of the Dawn Treader) (20th Century Fox)
Tim Burke, John Richardson, Niholas Ait’Hadi, Christian Manz (Harry Potter & The Deathly- Hallows: Part 1) (Warner Bros.)
Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Begg- (Inception) (Warner Bros.)
Ken Ralston, Tom Peitzman, David Schaub, Carey Villegas-(Alice in Wonderland) (Walt Disney Studios)
Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright, Daniel Sudick - (Iron Man 2) (Paramount/Marvel)

Best International Film
The Complete Metropolis (Kino Lorber)
Centurion (Magnolia Pictures)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Music Box Films)
Monsters (Magnolia Pictures)
Mother (Magnolia Pictures)
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Best Animated Film
Despicable Me (Universal)
How to Train Your Dragon (Paramount/DWA)
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Warner Bros.)
Shrek Forever After (Paramount/DWA)
Tangled (Walt Disney Studios)
Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney Studios/Pixar)

Review: Scream 4

When Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the infamous surivor of the Woodsboro Massacres (three times I might add), returns on the anniversary of the murders to promote her new book about overcoming victimization and rising to a new life, it turns out that someone is not ready for her to move on. Upon her return, we get to see our favorite characters Dewey (David Arquette) and Gail (Courtney Cox), who are ironically married, and Gail in particular, is looking for a new project after her successful journalism career has been put on hold for domestic life. However, when the murders start again, this time targeting the friends of Sidney's cousin Jill (Emma Roberts), and her aunt (Mary McDonnell), Sidney must once again overcome Ghostface, and stop the murders before they get to her.

From its first scene, the film, within the film, within the film, to its last shocking frame, Scream 4 still provides
all the thrills, laughs, and twists that made the franchise such a hit in the first place. It is energetic, mocking, sharp, and a hell of a lot of fun to watch. This is thanks to the talents of Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven, who recognized the mistakes of the previous entry, and mostly succeed in bringing back the movie magic that made the first two such cult classics.

The cameos, along with the main characters, are sharp, particuarly some of the kids, my personal favorite being Hayden Panettierre, who proves that her career could be in snarky comedys, as she nails the sarcasm and sexiness of her character Kirby. Furthermore, this may be my nostalgia kicking in, but I have missed our main cast of characters. Neve Campbell's concerned face, Courtney Cox's ambition, and David Arquette's cluelessness. None of them are the greatest actors in the world by any means (Although Cox will always have a place in my heart for Monica), but they know their characters, and the ease of which we slip back into their story makes us feel comfortable, despite the bloodshed and twisted plot.  

The biggest problem with Scream 4 isn't that many of its characters are not developed, or that the end has just one too many twists and potential stopping points which made the whole audience groaned, because that was exactly was Craven and Williamson intended. They were not trying to make some valuable piece of art, just a hell of a good time with some old friends (and some new ones), that would make audiences laugh, jump, and cheer, all of which were true of the film. No, the problem is that I am concerned that the franchise will continue, that there will be more killings, and more laughs, and more and more and more. This was a nice reboot, and a much better way to end the series than the dreadful Scream 3, but my hope is that this is it, the true finale, a nice reminder of a wonderful horror franchise. Because in Scream 4, the fatigue seems to be setting in, as many of the old tricks are employed for the viewers nostalgia, despite the promise of "New Decade, New Rules". I enjoyed the film, embraced its cheesiness, its flaws, and its rollercoaster ride. But I hope that ride has ended for good.

Grade: B+

Oscar Potential: Duh

Friday, April 15, 2011

State of the Race: First Predictions - Animated Feature

Predictions
Cars 2
Happy Feet 2
Kung-Fu Panda 2

Other Possibilities - Arthur Christmas, Rango, Winne the Pooh, Gnomeo and Juliet, Rio

Commentary - So I am playing it safe when it comes to these predictions, and putting three sequels to past winners/nominees, although the likes of Arthur Christmas, Rango, and Rio could bump in for a spot or two. It looks like there is a rematch between Happy Feet and Cars, with both their sequels looking to be the top contenders once again. I think this time that Cars may have the better shot. Happy Feet doesn't seem like the movie that would have a great sequel, and although Cars is considered the one Pixar dud (still got rave reviews and huge box office reception mind you), they know how to make good sequels (aka Toy Story 2 and 3). Finally, Kung-Fu Panda won a bunch of Annies, but there was no way in hell it could beat Wall-E, but this time it has less competition, and if it is good, could sneak in and grab an Oscar.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sally Field is Mary Todd Lincoln

This rumor has been swirling around for years now, but there was never any official confirmation. The Hollywood Reporter (and of course the always wonderful Awards Daily) now says:

"“I’m excited to be working with Sally for the first time,” Spielberg said of the two-time Oscar winner. “I’ve admired her films, and she has always been my first choice to portray all the fragility and complexity that was Mary Todd Lincoln.”

The film, which centers on the political clashes between Lincoln and the officers of his cabinet, is based on the book Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which has been adapted for the screen by Tony Kushner. It will be produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Spielberg."

I think this is a wonderful idea because Field has always been an incredible actress. Yes she can get shrilly on the always over the top Brothers & Sisters, but with the right script (adapted from one of my personal favorite books - I am a history major, and eat that shit up), and director, Field could once again put herself in the Oscar race.

2011 Cannes Film Lineup

This year looks be a great one at Cannes with some of the best names in the buisness: Pedro Almodovar, Woody Allen and Terrence Malick being just some of the many highlights. We will also get a look at some of the bigger summer blockbusters including the 4th Pirates and Kung Fu Panda 2. Here is the entire list of this year's lineup:

Opening Film

Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen

In Competition:

The Skin That I Inhabit – Pedro Almodovar
L’Apollonide – Betrand Bonello
Foot Note – Joseph Cedar
Paterre – Alain Cavalier
Once Upon A Time In Anatolia – Nuri Bilge Ceylan
The Kid With The Bike – The Dardenne Brothers
Le Havre – Aki Kaurismaki
Hanezu no Tsuki – Naomi Kawase
Sleeping Beauty – Julia Leigh
Tree of LIfe – Terrence Malick
La Source de Femmes – Radu Mihaileanu
Polisse – Maïwenn Le Besco
Harakiri – Takashi Miike
We Have A Pope – Nanni Moretti
Melancholia – Lars von Trier
Michael – Markus Schleinzer
This Must Be The Place – Paolo Sorrentino
Drive – Nicholas Winding Refn
We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lynne Ramsay

Un Certain Regard:

Restless – Gus Van SantMartha Marcy May Marlene – Sean Durkin
The Hunter – Bazur Bakuradze
Halt auf freier Strecke – Andreas Dresen
Skoonheid – Oliver Hermanus
Hors Satan – Bruno Dumont
Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro – Robert Guédiguian
The Days He Arrives – Hong Sang-Soo
Bonsai – Christian Jimenez
Tatsumi – Erik Khoo
En maintenant, on va ou? – Nadine Labaki
Ariang – Kim Ki Duk
Loverboy- Cătălin Mitulescu,
Toomelah – Ivan Sen
Yellow Sea – Na Hong-Jin,
Miss Bala – Gerardo Naranjo,
L’exercice de l’Etat – Pierre Schoeller,
Oslo, August 31st Joachim Trier
Travailler fatigue – Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra

Out of Competition:

The Beaver – Jodie Foster
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Rob Marshall
La Conquete – Xavier Durringer
Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom Of Doom – Jennifer Yuh

Special Screenings:

Labrador – Frederikke Aspock
Le maître des forges de l’enfer – Rithy Panh
Un documentaire sur Michel Petrucciani – Michael Radford
Tous au Larzac – Christian Rouaud

Midnight Screenings

Wu Xia – Peter Chan Ho-sun
Dias de gracia – Everardo Gout

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

If I Were An Academy Voter - 2001 Part 2

Best Art Direction
Academy Winner/My Pick - Moulin Rouge!
Commentary - The vibrant sets of Baz Luhrman's musical masterpiece were simply spectacular.

Best Cinematography
Academy Winner/My Pick - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Commentary - I know that I refrained in other years from giving this award to the franchise, but I acutally preferred the shots in the first one. The constrasts of light and dark that encapsulate the story are simply overdone by darkness in the last two (I know that is because of the story). Anyway, in this year, it was the clear winner for me.

Best Costume Design
Academy Winner/My Pick - Moulin Rouge!
Commentary - Once again, Moulin Rouge's technicals made it vibrant and popped off the screen in a way that was a treat for the eyes. So naturally, costumes, as well as the sets, deserved as much recognition as they could have gotten.

Best Film Editing
Academy Winner/My Pick - Black Hawk Down
Commentary - I actually loved this pick for Film Editing, because I feel that the best films are the ones that make you forget that you are sitting in a theater, and never linger. Even LOTR, a fantastic film, had moments that could have been cut. But Black Hawk Down was so intense, so taut, so much so that every moment counted.

Best Makeup
Academy Winner - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
My Pick - Moulin Rouge!
Commentary - In my book, the trilogy would have won later down the line, and in this case I would have gone for the circus esque makeup of Moulin Rouge. Sure it is over the top, but it is another reason that it was so pleasing to look at.

Best Original Score
Academy Winner -Howard Shore "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"
My Pick - John Williams "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"
Commentary - So I know that the LOTR had an incredible score, but the one that Williams wrote for the first couple Harry Potter's is one that is recognizable to anyone who hears it being played or hummed. To me, the best scores are the ones that are stuck in your head long after you leave the theatre, and Harry Potter's was one of those scores.

Best Original Song
Academy Winner/My Pick - Randy Newman "If I Didn't Have You" from Monster's Inc.
Commentary - Finally, Randy Newman won his Oscar (he now has two!). Not only would I have voted for this because it was Newman, but because it is a wonderful song that was perfect for a wonderful movie.

Best Sound Mixing
Academy Winner/My Pick - Black Hawk Down
Commentary - This should have been nominated for Sound Editing, for all of its intricate detail, which is probably why it won this award, because people felt they needed to give it something for the incredible, yet coherent sound of the gritty Black Hawk Down.

Best Sound Editing
Academy Winner - Pearl Harbor
My Pick - Monster's Inc.
Commentary - I cannot, in good heart, give an Academy Award to the mess that was Pearl Harbor. So even though it was probably superior in terms of this category, I am going with it's competitor Monster's, Inc., simply for being a much better film. I know this is bad, and is probably why we have undeserving winners at the Oscars, but in some cases I believe it is okay.

Best Visual Effects
Academy Winner/My Pick - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Commentary - Duh.

Monday, April 11, 2011

State of the Race: First Predictions - Best Adapted Screenplay

Predictions
Christopher Hampton "A Dangerous Method"
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash "The Descendants"
George Clooney and Grant Heslov "The Ides of March"
David Nicholls "One Day"
Cameron Crowe and Aline Brosh McKenna "We Bought A Zoo"

Other Possibilities - Hugo Cabret, War Horse, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Help, On the Road, Jane Eyre, Moneyball, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Rum Diary, The Skin I Live In, Cars 2.

Commentary - A lot of great writers are competing for five measly spots, so this will be an interesting race to watch. Right now I am going with more traditional picks, but as always, something may come out of nowhere and become a contender. My top choice for the moment is Alexander Payne's latest The Descendants, because his last major awards contender Sideways took home the prize. I am also intrested in Cameron Crowe's latest We Bought a Zoo, as he too is a previous winner, with a buzzed project. I am also going with One Day because Lone's last film An Education managed not only a Best Picture nod, but a screenplay nod, and early word is very good for the film. My last two slots are going to films that seem to be getting a lot of attention, A Dangerous Method and The Ides of March. If I had to guess which one has a greater shot at sticking around it would be Clooney's lastest, as the Academy loves him and hell, he makes damn good movies.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

If I Had Been An Academy Voter - 2001 Part 1

Best Picture
Academy Winner - A Beautiful Mind
My Pick - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Commentary - A Beautiful Mind was okay, but glossy, Hollywood chic, pretending to get to the nitty gritty of John Nash's life, when in reality, leaving so much out. Instead I would have gone with the best of LOTR, series. This one may have been just a setup, but its story and heart is what, in my humble opinion, made it better than its sucessors.

Best Director
Academy Winner - Ron Howard "A Beautiful Mind"
My Pick - Peter Jackson "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Commentary - That being said, Jackson definitely deserves the credit for bringing what many people felt was unfilmable to life, and giving the series the start it needed to become so successful and so memorable.

Best Actor
Academy Winner/My Pick - Denzel Washington "Training Day"
Commentary - A lot of people felt that Denzel only won because Russell Crowe did so many personal things wrong and made a fool of himself. However, if  I had been voting, Washington would have got my vote anyway for playing a character that was so good, and so bad at the same time, that his performance left me breathless at the end of the last frame.

Best Actress
Academy Winner/My Pick - Halle Berry "Monster's Ball"
Commentary - I know a lot of people felt that she won only because of the historical moment, that everyone knows that Kidman and Spacek were ten times better, and maybe their right. That being said, I loved Berry in Monster's Ball, and even though I too am a sucker for historical moments (aka Bigelow), I don't think she deserved anything less.

Best Supporting Actor
Academy Winner/My Pick- Jim Broadbent "Iris"
Commentary - To this day I am stoked that the always wonderful Jim Broadbent won a surprise Oscarin 2001. I had written him off, but the Academy finally used their brains and their hearts and rewarded a truly fantastic performance and actor.

Best Supporting Actress
Academy Winner - Jennifer Connelly "A Beautiful Mind"
My Pick - Marisa Tomei "In the Bedroom"
Commentary - No offense to Connelly, she was one of the brighter spots in the otherwise eh A Beautiful Mind, but she would have never gotten my vote. Instead I think I would have gone for Tomei here in her gut-wrenching performance in In the Bedroom. Everyone knows that it was probably a fluke that four British actresses split the votes and allowed Tomei to win in 1992 for My Cousin Vinny. That being said, she has definitely proved herself as an Oscar-worth actor, and in this year, she should have won outright.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Academy Winner - Akiva Goldsman "A Beautiful Mind"
My Pick - Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"
Commentary - The first part of the LOTR is the one that is almost entirely about its story, the connections between our characters that last us through two more chapters. The last film may have won the screenplay Oscar, but this was the one that truly deserved recognition.

Best Original Screenplay
Academy Winner- Julian Fellowes "Gosford Park"
My Pick - Christopher Nolan "Memento"
Commentary - This one was tough, because I love Gosford Park, but Memento, to this very day, remains one of the best written films of all time. In hindsight we now know just how brilliant Christopher Nolan is, and it would have been nice to say Academy Award winner in front of his name.

Best Animated Feature
Academy Winner - Shrek
My Pick - Monsters, Inc.
Commentary - Another tough category, as I loved Shrek (the first one that is), but Monsters, Inc., one of Pixars more underrated classics, is a personal favorite of mine, as I still pop it in from time to time when I need a good laugh. I'm not mad that Shrek won, it deserved it as well, but I still would have voted the opposite way.

Best Documentary Feature
Academy Winner/My Pick - Murder on a Sunday Morning
Commentary - A shocking documentary about our judicial system that still resonates ten years later.

Best Foreign Language Film
Academy Winner/My Pick - No Man's Land
Commentary - So happy this beat out the overrated Amelie. A wonderful film, plain and simple.

Review: Win Win

In a heartwarming tale about honesty, struggle, perserverance, and family, Paul Giamatti plays Mike, a struggling lawyer who takes on care of a client in order to receive a monthly commission that would help keep his practice and his family afloat. Meanwhile, as his practice struggles, so does the local highschool wrestling team that he coaches, as they haven't won a match the whole year. However, when Mike declares he will take care of his client Leo, he doesn't bother to tell his loving wife (a wonderful Amy Ryan), and then breaks his promise to keep him home by lying to him and putting him in a retirement home. When Leo's grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) shows up on Leo's doorstep, Mike must take the kid in for a couple of days. When a couple of days turns into a longer time, as his druggie mother is still in rehab, Mike discovers that Kyle was one of the best wrestler's in his home state of Ohio (the movie takes place in New Jersey), and with Mike's encouragement, he regains his confidence to wrestle again and uplift a dying team. However, when Kyle's mother comes back to get him, Mike must confront his lie, as well as protect a kid who has become like a son to him.

In many ways, Win Win is a conventional tale about family values, the importance of paying it forward, never underestimating the underdog, and learning that lying gets you no where in life. Yet as you watch it, it is its conventionality, along with some more deeper struggles of anxiety and love, that make Thomas McCarthy's Win Win such a pleasure to watch. It never panders to its audience, and in many ways avoids the annoying cliches that have become so prevalent in other films of similar magnitude. This is especially true of the ending, which is not cheesy, but instead quietly poignant.

What really makes this film pop is the collective work of its incredible cast, that truly brings a wonderful combination of heart, humor, and talent to McCarthy's script. Paul Giamatti may keep playing similar, down-on-his-luck characters, but while every one of them has his signature style, he also knows that each character is different and attacks them with that in mind, and his portrayal of Mike's struggle is nothing short of amazing. Although I don't know if anyone is surprised he pulled it off. But Giamatti is not alone, as his cast of supporting characters pull their weight. Amy Ryan is tough, yet loving as Mike's wife Jackie, Bobby Cannavale is absolutely hilarious as Mike's friend Terry, Jeffrey Tambor, whose role is slight, still manages to make his mark, and as Kyle's mom Melaine Lynskey proves that she deserves better and bigger roles in years to come. Even the young Alex Shaffer holds his own against his more experienced co-stars, and brings emotion and heart to his character. 

However, the film is not devoid of flaws, particularly in the second half, where it seems to drag a little bit, and the script gets a little disjointed. Despite that, I can't help but think that that is exactly what McCarthy intended, as the characters get a little haywire, so does its script. Maybe that was the point, that life is messy sometimes, and that in the end not every loose end is tied up. If that is the case, the McCarthy has proved himself to be a true master of the human experience, and has succeeded bringing a touch of warmth and realism to an uplifting tale about underdogs who rise to their full potential. Hopefully this wonderful film will be showing in a theater near you. If so, find your way to the theater. I promise it will be worth your time.

Grade: A-

Oscar Potential: I would love to say that Giamatti, Ryan, Cannavale, Shaffer, and Lynskey all had enough buzz to last all year, but it will probably end up being just Giamatti that has a real shot at, at least a Golden Globe nod, maybe more. The script by McCarthy is definitely a contender for Original Screenplay. My only concern is that it is so hard for a comedy (more like a dramedy, but you get the idea) with a small budget, and an early release date to survive the long and strenuous Oscar season. I hope this underdog tale, like its characters, can rise above its obstacles and stay in the race.   

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Review: Your Highness

Your Highness tells the story of two princes: Thadeous and Fabious. Fabious (James Franco) is the golden first child of a king, whose heroics and conquerings make his famous throughout the kingdom. Then there is Thadeous (Danny McBride), whose sexual exploitations, laziness, and failures make him pale in comparison to his statuesque brother. After Fabious returns for a conquering with his new love Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel), the evil wizard who had kept her under lock, Leezar (Justin Theroux) comes to steal her in order to fulfill an ancient prophecy. The King then declares that even the lazy, drunk, and always high Thadeous must go along with his brother to rescue Belladonna before the two moons meet, and Leezar's evil prophecy is fulfilled. Along the way they meet a warrior who saves their lives and joins their mission, Isabel (Natalie Portman), face evil (and sometimes perveted) magical creatures, dangers like no other, and betrayal.

Your Highness has tons of potential, especially since it is from the same people that made Pineapple Express. Despite that, it is only sporadically funny, going through many parts that are completely devoid of laughs, and even the cool special effects cannot make up for a film that seems to be just going through the motions in the hopes that a few stoners will think its the funniest thing they ever saw.

There are some bright moments, especially Danny McBride, whose dry humor was probably the only thing that made me laugh throughout the entire thing, and Natalie Portman's straight laced deliverly was actually welcomed. James Franco needed to really impress me, especially after his despicable lazy Oscar hosting, and I found him completely annoying. His British accent was terrible (which may have served a purpose, but it made him look like an amateur actor who was trying to hard), and his stupid "I am a stoner" grin and lazy delivery slovenly trudged along throughout the entire film with no reprieve. He needs to step his game up to earn my respect again.

Furthermore, while the story line is a classic adventure tail, by the end it seems to be running out of steam, and if the final scene (which I won't divulge) is the indication of a sequel, I think I will convienently have to miss it.

Overall, while Your Highness has some decent moments, it is a chaotic mess that never even gets close to the comedic brilliance of Pineapple Express, despite its best intentions. It is not neccessarily a bad film (after Sucker Punch, this one seems Oscar worthy), but you can tell that it was poorly made, and hoping that pure star power would help overcome its glaring acting and writing flaws. Unfortunately, that hopeful prophecy never came true.

Grade: C

RIP Sidney Lumet

Some very sad news: one of my favorite directors of all time is the great Sidney Lumet who did such classics as Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Murder on the Orient Express, The Verdict, 12 Angry Men, and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead died of lymphoma last night or early this morning. He had been nominated for five Oscars (and was wrongly robbed of at least one or two in my opinion), and was a legend that will be forever remembered. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. Rest in peace old friend.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Grammy's Dramatically Change Format

While the Grammy's are usually one of the lesser awards shows I cover, I still take a great interest in them. According to The  Envelope of The Los Angeles Times:

"The Recording Academy on Wednesday announced a major overhaul of its musical categories that, among other changes, will consolidate a number of awards, eliminate separate awards for male and female vocal performances in the pop, rock, R&B and country genres, and reduce the overall number of categories from 109 to 78, beginning next year. A number of other formerly distinct categories have been combined or folded into existing ones. A new rule will also allow the academy to suspend and eventually eliminate categories that receive fewer than 25 entries for three consecutive years, and to transfer subsequent submissions in that category into the "next most appropriate category." The changes do not affect the top four categories, album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist."

In some ways, I think this is good, because the pre-Grammy ceremony is so bloated with categories that it takes hours and hours. In other ways, I think that this could be detrimnetal, particualrly combining the female and male vocal performances, which in many ways I think could be negative. Also, I know some genres of music are not so popular, but by elminating and consolidating smaller categories, the Recording Academy is losing a forum in which smaller forms of music can get nationwide recognition. We'll have to wait and see how this turns out I guess in order to determine whether it was a good or bad idea.

Here is the link to the rest of the story: http://theenvelope.latimes.com/la-et-grammy-awards-20110407,0,567728.story

State of the Race: First Predictions - Best Original Screenplay

Predictions
Mike Mills "Beginners"
Dustin Lance Black "J. Edgar"
Woody Allen "Midnight in Paris"
Terrence Malick "The Tree of Life"
Diablo Cody "Young Adult"

Other Possibilites - Win Win, The Iron Lady, Shame, Contagion, Take This Waltz, Larry Crowne, Meek's Cutoff, Haywire, Higher Ground

Commentary - There are some serious contenders this year for original screenplay, including many previous winners and nominees. Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman are pairing up again, a duo that won her her first Academy Award, for the highly buzzed Young Adult. If it is as half as good as Juno, it will definitely be a top contender for this prize. Terrence Malick returns again as writer/director, and the long-awaited Tree of Life could be a real threat. Dustin Lance Black also comes hot off of his Milk win, with another biopic, which has a great cast and director. If he brings the same passiona and intelligence to J.Edgar, he could be a winner again. I am also going with a quirkier, smaller choice in Beginners, as the Academy is not afraid to do the same, aka Another Year, in this category. This means that a film like Win Win could also be in contention. Finally, I picked an obvious choice in Woody Allen. If it is good Woody Allen he's in. If not...well I think you know the answer to that one.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

If I Had Been An Academy Voter - 2002 Part 2

Best Art Direction
Academy Winner/My Pick - Chicago
Commentary - The sets of Chicago were fantastic, between the showy stages to the dark prison interiors.

Best Cinematography
Academy Winner - Road to Perdition
My Pick - Gangs of New York
Commentary - Let's face it, Conrad L. Hall, won his third Oscar for Road to Perdition because he had passed away. I hate to say that, but it definitely was a factor. Instead, I would have given the award to Gangs of New York, which was not only completely shut out, but was beautifully shot.

Best Costume Design
Academy Winner/My Pick - Chicago
Commentary - Good choice for the Academy. Atwood did a great job of mixing razzle-dazzle stage clothes with prison garb, with 1920's period pieces.

Best Film Editing
Academy Winner - Chicago
My Pick - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Commentary - The one problem I had with Chicago was that it dragged a little towards the end. In contrast, the succint Two Towers was well put together, much shorter than its LOTR counterparts, and action packed from first frame to last.

Best Makeup
Academy Winner/My Pick - Frida
Commentary - Well, The Time Machine sucked ass, and the eyebrow alone was enough for Frida to get my vote.

Best Original Score
Academy Winner - Elliot Goldenthal "Frida"
My Pick - Elmer Bernstein "Far From Heaven"
Commentary - I preferred Berstein's score in Far From Heaven, as it captures the emotional impact of the film perfectly.

Best Original Song
Academy Winner/My Pick - "Lose Yourself" from "8 Mile"
Commentary - I am surprised and thrilled that the Academy actually recognized the brilliance of this song, and they definitely made the right choice. Who would have thought that Eminem would be an Oscar winner?

Best Sound Mixing
Academy Winner/My Pick - Chicago
Commentary - The vibrant music that pumped into audience's ears was crisp, bright, and pitch perfect. The sound people of Chicago definitely deserved some recognition.

Best Sound Editing
Academy Winner/My Pick - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Commentary - A pleasure for the eyes and ears, like the rest of the series.

Best Visual Effects
Academy Winner/My Pick - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Commentary - See above.