Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

28 February 2006

Oscar Nominees: Part Two


3 Nominations: Best Supporting Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup
Russell Crowe's excellent performance was overlooked this year, and though everyone talked up this obvious Oscar-baiter as in the running for Best Picture, no one seemed to actually like the film. I did, but I understand everyone's ho-hum attitude. It's like Seabiscuit all over again. And we all regret that little mistake.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Supporting Actor
My Rating: #33 out of 81 films


3 Nominations: Best Sound Recording, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup
It didn't feel like a Jesus-movie to me, but everyone else saw it as such, or maybe it was just all of that right-wing noise about it being a Jesus-movie. At any rate, Jesus usually doesn't fare well with the Academy. Plus, comparisons with The Lord of the Rings Trilogy were inevitable and the writing and the scale of the thing just don't compare.
Will Win: Makeup
Could Win: Visual Effects
My Rating: #28 out of 81 films


3 Nominations: Best Sound Recording, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects
I liked this picture (at least more than I liked Munich and a good deal more than other Spielberg pictures as well. At its heart, though, it's a B-movie, chock full of aliens, crowd scenes and lasers.
Will Win: Visual Effects
Could Win: Sound Editing
My Rating: #48 out of 81 films


2 Nominations: Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay
Cronenberg is definitely not the Academy's cup of tea. But they still really liked this film. I mean, a screenplay nomination is a big deal, and that William Hurt performance was really short and short is not usually up the Academy's alley, either. Still, there are lots of snubs here. Director and Actress among them.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #6 out of 81 films


2 Nominations: Best Actor, Best Original Song
I think everyone is surprised by this film's popularity, and then they see the film and they understand why. It's formulaic and Hollywood, but boasts some excellent performances and a couple of great songs. Most importantly: to the Academy it's not a gritty, hand-held kind of a thing. It's clean and pretty looking and, like I said, has a lot going for it.
Will Win: Song
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #41 out of 81 films


2 Nominations:Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay
Ah the Clooney. He is everywhere. This movie is a rough go. It looks more intelligent than it is, but it's alarmingly political and really exciting, if defeatist. Seriously,I thought The Constant Gardener was more upbeat, if that gives you any idea how depressing this film is.
Will Win: Supporting Actor
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #23 out of 81 films


2 Nominations: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress
No one liked this film and these nominations are just an example of the group-think mentality that is pervasive during awards season (and other seasons as well). Don't get me wrong, they think for themselves some of the time, but the Oscars (and maybe this is something that needs its own blog entry) so often wind up being, like any election, a contest between people that the Academy is settling for--not too outlandish, often formulaic, a lot of "give us more of what we already know." The problem with this is that more deserving artists are often overlooked because their work pushes the boundaries.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #69 out of 81 films


2 Nominations: Best Actress, Best Costume Design
This movie should've been the favorite of all of the old people in the Academy. It came out a little late to really make a splash, and that's purely the fault of its studio. To get the elderly on board you have to come out much earlier than December 25th. Anyway, it's a light, if overly long, little piece.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #16 out of 81 films


2 Nominations: Best Actress, Best Original Song
This movie sucks. I hated it and I'm sorry that it got any nominations at all (apologies to Dolly Parton and her song.) Kevin Zegers is cute, but I hated the film and I hated the lead performance--hell, all the performances. This subject matter has been covered much better before and I was truly sorry to see this film get the attention it did.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Song
My Rating: #78 out of 81 films

26 February 2006

Oscar Nominees: Part One

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8 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score

The Academy's favorite film of the year, and it's hard to find fault with this drama. It's respectable, well-acted and emotionally affecting. I loved this film, but I am surprised it's taken off as much as it has. I say more power to it and I'm crossing my fingers that it takes home more than two Oscars on the big night.
Will Win: Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay
Could Win: Cinematography, Score
My Rating: #2 out of 81 films


6 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song

The Academy's second favorite film of the year, and Brokeback's only real challenge for the big prize. This film about race relations and interwoven storylines in Los Angeles has appealed to a lot of people. Jean Oppenheimer called it one of the best American films she's seen in years.
Will Win: Original Screenplay, Editing
Could Win: Song
My Rating: #65 out of 81 films


6 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction

The Academy loved this film more than anyone could forsee: more than critics loved it, too, I'd say. They love George Clooney, too. The man is everywhere. The film's appeal is easy to see, too. When I saw it, the audience applauded after the film's end.
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction
My Rating: #3 out of 81 films


6 Nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

Snore. The Academy must've liked this movie more than everyone else did. It had pretty embarassing box office and was widely panned by critics. This movie is tediously boring and obvious Oscar-bait material. It looks so pretty but sounds so stupid.
Will Win: Costume, Art Direction
Could Win: Cinematography, Score
My Rating: #71 out of 81 films


5 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay

This critically lauded indie surprised tons of people (those not paying attention) by actually being nominated for Best Picture. Many have called it slow and boring. It's a very thought-provoking and intelligent film, to my mind, but I understand people's aversion. After all, it is, more than anything else, a film anchored by a star-turn from a fabulous actor.
Will Win: Actor
Could Win: Adapted Screenplay (in an upset)
My Rating: #9 out of 81 films


5 Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Editing, Score
My Rating: #74 out of 81 films


5 Nominations: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Film Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Recording
Will Win: Actress, Sound
Could Win: Editing
My Rating: #37 out of 81 films


4 Nominations: Best Art Direction, Best Sound Recording, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects Editing
Will Win: Visual Effects, Sound Effects
Could Win: Sound
My Rating: #46 out of 81 films


4 Nominations: Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score
Will Win: Supporting Actress
Could Win: Editing
My Rating: #11 out of 81 films


4 Nominations: Best Actress, Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score
Will Win: Nothing
Could Win: Nothing
My Rating: #4 out of 81 films

The Importance of Being Earnest

I had forgotten about this idea until right now, but R&J came up with the idea of doing a production of The Importance of Being Earnest. She would play Lady Bracknell, he would play Algernon and I would play Cecily. The concept is that I would never pretend to be a girl, and that Jack would always just shrug and call me his niece. I think it's hilarious. And you wouldn't even know about this gender bending until Act II!

It sounded a lot more brilliant on Friday night after all of the tequila I had, but I still think it sounds funny two days later.

Saturday from Hell Part Two

After changing a flat on Thursday night and getting a brand new tire on Friday morning ($$), I woke up on Saturday to drink some coffee, repair my leaky toilet and watch Sophie Scholl: the Final Days. So, off to the hardware store, right? You'd think so, but you'd be wrong, because my right rear tire was flat all over again. So I got out the wrench and changed the tire again, headed over to the tire place for about a half hour and then went to OSH.

I bought a light fixture for the little reading cove in my apartment. I've hated the chandelier that came with the place since I bought it, so I figured I'd try to replace it before my next party. Plus I bought stuff to fix my toilet. Got home, put on some music, lit some candles, fixed the toilet. (I'm surprisingly good at these sorts of things. It's odd.) Then I thought I would go install the electrical fixture. Now, I don't want to get too technical, but the way these things work, and I've done this before, you have to attach the electrical wires to the wall with one hand while holding the light fixture (usually heavy) in the other hand. It's a precarious situation and one at which I did not succeed yesterday. I dropped that sucker and damaged it irreparably. Oops. That was stupid.

Then I walk into the bathroom and there's water all over the floor. The toilet wasn't fixed at all. It had just appeared to be. So I'm on the floor, sopping up water and then I get out a wrench and start tightening things when I feel some heat at my back and realize that I'm leaning backwards into a candle. (I had forgotten I even lit a candle! I didn't catch on fire, but I burned a hole into one of my cutest shirts. Ludicrous. I'm telling you. All I could do was laugh.

25 February 2006

Saturday from Hell

My day has been so unbelievably, so ludicrously bad that it is hilarious. And I've only been awake for five hours. I'm getting drunk tonight I swear to god.

24 February 2006

Enormous Questions

The biggest question confronting our times in a post-September-Eleventh world is...
"Why, God, didn't I make coffee this morning? What in the Hell was I thinking?"

After returning my rental car ($$) and getting my car back from the shop on Wednesday afternoon ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$), I drove myself to work in my newly fixed car Thursday morning. But after working ten hours at the airport, I went out to the parking lot and lo!, I realized I had a flat tire. (Good thing I had decided to wear an orange shirt that day.) So today's trek into work will be slowed down by the necessity of replacing one of my tires. Grrr.

Sorry I haven't posted in ten years. I've had car trouble. But I keep meaning to do a sort of countdown of posts about the OSCARS, which arrive on March the fifth. So, yeah, I'll get on that...


20 February 2006

The 40 Year Old Virgin / Nine Lives

I finally saw Judd Apatow's The 40 Year Old Virgin, and I suppose that my reaction to it doesn't matter too much since everyone else has already seen this film (which, inexplicably, has won numerous awards and been on myriad top ten lists). Ergo, I will keep my response to this movie brief.

The virgin, er, version I saw was the "Unrated" DVD version being released by Universal. This, hopefully, explains why the movie I saw was full of unfunny scenes and why some of the funny scenes go on too long (i.e. until they're not funny anymore.) I trust that the theatrical version was funnier, tighter, cleaner machine, because in reality The 40 Year Old Virgin is a very funny movie, full of ludicrously hilarious gags and clever non sequitors. The problem for me is that everything just goes on too long and there is so much unnecessary filler. It felt to me as though much of the film was improvised and perhaps this is true, but improvisation without very clear character choices can be a very bad thing and I think a lot of the choices are unclear.

My favorite parts of the movie focus on Andy's friends (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogan) and their hilarious byplay with one another and with Andy. Also hilarious is Gerry Bednob as their co-worker Mooj. All of that stuff about "You know how I know you're gay?" was hilarious to me, and I loved the Hair sequence at the end of the film even though I think it makes no fucking sense and is totally unrelated to the rest of the movie.


Rodrigo García's Nine Lives is now one of my favorite movies of 2005. Like Tony Takitani, I know it's late, but I have to add Nine Lives to my Top Twenty-Five of 2005 list. It's the story of nine women, or more specifically, a part of the story of nine women. The film is done in nine short segments, each about fifteen minutes long and each of which is a single steadicam shot with no editing. It's a fascinating experiment that leaves very little room for moments that feel staged or untrue. Instead, the film feels blazingly original and wonderfully honest. Each of the stories has a single female as its focus and charts her emotional experience over the course of only about a quarter of an hour. And this is the thing: each of these stories is totally fascinating and emotionally raw. It's never boring. Nine Lives doesn't suffer from the problems of most ensemble dramas: some characters are usually more interesting than others and when the boring ones are on, the audience is willing the filmmaker to get back to the interesting characters. All of García's characters are interesting. These women are phenomenal creations of will and strength and beauty and the film paints nine unique and intriguing portraits.

In addition, the acting is absolutely incredible. Best in show are Robin Wright Penn, Holly Hunter, Sissy Spacek, Amy Brenneman, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Glenn Close, but the film is positively filled to the brim with superb, emotionally raw performances from the likes of Kathy Baker, Jason Isaacs, Aidan Quinn, Stephen Dillane, Joe Mantegna, Mary Kay Place, William Fichtner, Molly Parker, Ian McShane, Elpidia Carrillo and Dakota Fanning. I loved the score, by Ed Shearmur: it's quiet, poetic and haunting, just like the film.

The real master at work here, though, is Rodrigo García himself. He has displayed with Nine Lives that his understanding of human nature is profound and his ability to write dialogue that sounds organic and honest is positively uncanny. The films themes run deeply and quietly into the audience's heart and with almost no showmanship at all, Mr. García packs up his tale and leaves the audience to itself. He doesn't talk down to the audience and he isn't interested in explaining everything to us. Knowing everything there is to know about these characters is not necessary. What he really wants us to do is see these women and love them for what we do know about them. This film is superb: highly recommended.

14 February 2006

On Love (For Valentine's Day)

From "The Absence of God" on Rilo Kiley's More Adventurous:

Rob says you love, love, love and then you die.
I've watched him while sleeping
And seen him crying with closed eyes.
And you're not happy but you're funny and I'm tripping over my joy
I just keep on getting up again

We could be daytime drunks if we wanted
We'd never get anything done that way baby
And we'd still be ruled by our dueling perspectives
And I'm not my perspective
Or the lies I'll tell you every time

And Morgan says, "Maybe love won't let you down...
"All of your failures are training grounds,
"And just as your back's turned, you'll be surprised," she says,
"As your solitude subsides."

13 February 2006

Kontroll / Aparajito / Yesterday

No movies tonight because the roommate is here and he is busy playing Final Fantasy. I painted yesterday. The color is awesome. It's called Saffron. It's from Restoration and looks a lot like saffron rice. I'm all about it. My house just looks so much warmer, you know? It makes me want to paint every room.

I had serious code red laundry tonight. I swear I run out of work clothes so much quicker since casual Friday was abolished last month.
So no movies, but I did my laundry and I fixed myself a gin and tonic (I'm on the second one now) and I made a blondie. I'm debating whether to take it to work and share it or not.

Kontroll is a Hungarian movie set entirely in the Hungarian underground subway system. It's darkly funny and the mystery is genuine and gripping. There's a lot of really weird and cool photography (no sunlight ever, as you can imagine) and some of the writing is great. Just typing this I'm remembering some of the really high-tension scenes in Kontroll. It's a movie with an electric current running through it and yet the director (Nimród Antal) has a singular vision and allows himself to slow down and speed up at will. Even the more slowly-paced scenes seem fast. He is a clever man, this Nimród Antal: expect more and exciting things from him. Recommended.

Aparajito is the second in Satyajit Ray's renowned Apu Trilogy. I watched the first part, Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road) what seems like ages ago and I only got around to Part Two on Saturday morning. I am sorry I waited so long, and by the same token I also understand why I did. I was even going to watch Part Three the next day, but I just couldn't make myself. They're just so sad. Ray knows what he's doing and he carefully crafts his films, so Aparajito is undeniably brilliant in what it's doing and of course I was emotionally affected by his story, but I just couldn't stomach another of of his bleak films in the same weekend. Perhaps I'll watch it tomorrow as a part of National Single-Awareness Day. This film is the second in a trilogy. Do not watch it without having watched Pather Panchali first. If you haven't seen Pather Panchali, you ought to add it to your Netflix queue immediately. It's one of the world's great films.

So instead of a bleak film by Satyajit Ray, I watched Yesterday, by Darrell James Roodt (Cry, the Beloved Country). It's about AIDS in South Africa and it's in the native Zulu tongue. FUN! Yesterday is the name of the main character, a young mother and wife with the most positive attitude of anyone ever in the history of the world (the most unbelievable and most loveable part of the film). We first meet her walking four hours to visit a clinic in a nearby village. Her husband is away in Johannesburg working in the mines. She spends all of her time with her daughter and alone. The main actress's name is Leleti Khumalo and it would be quite impossible for anyone not to immediately fall in love with her. She has the loveliest smile I think I've ever seen on anyone. Yesterday has, of course, contracted HIV from her husband, unbeknownst to her, and must figure out how to tell her husband that he is also HIV positive and care for her daughter as she becomes sicker. I loved this movie and I know it's a bit Hollywood-hokum and sounds like sort of typical Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences fare (uplifting, serious, heartwarming Kolya/Life Is Beautiful/Three Men and a Cradle-style), but Yesterday works. It's moving and heartfelt if a tad sentimental and predictable.

08 February 2006

Love in Thoughts / Saving Face

Love in Thoughts is a story that seems really familiar. It's a German film by Achim von Borries whose German title is just a tad longer: Was Nützt die Liebe in Gedanken or "What's the use of love in thoughts?". The German title with its extra three words conveys a pointlessness that I guess I should have been hip to before I stuck this movie at the top of my Netflix queue.

I rented it for a couple of reasons. It stars Daniel Brühl, also of Goodbye, Lenin!, Ladies in Lavender., The Edukators, and the soon-to-be-released and recently-Oscar-nominated Joyeux Noël. The other reason was that the synopsis on Netflix was phrased in such a way to infer that the two main male characters were in the throes of a deep, juvenile, erotic passion. Well, they both are: the catch is that it isn't with one another. Paul (Brühl) is in love with Hilde (Anna Maria Mühe) and Hilde's brother Günther (August Diehl) is in love with Hilde's lover Hans (Thure Lindhardt). Most of the threesome stuff with Hilde, Hans and Günther is kind of fun, and this is the main problem: the threesome isn't the focus at all. Instead, the focus is Brühl's brooding, moping main character and his unsuccessful efforts to get Hilde to love him. He's the movie star and he has to be the focus of the film, but unfortunately he's not nearly as interesting as the desperate Günther, who is driven nearly mad by his sister's lover. The movie mopes around a lot and feels very sorry for all of its youthful characters, but I didn't really ever get into it, and we all know that I am not particularly partial to the trials and tribulations of melodramatic, disaffected youths with death wishes. I almost liked it. In the end, though, I think Love in Thoughts falls on the other side of the line: I disliked it more than I liked it.

Saving Face, a romantic comedy by American Alice Wu, is in Mandarin and English both (it echoes Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet in more ways than this). It's about a young, lesbian, Chinese-American doctor named Wil whose forty-eight year old mother moves in with her. The comedy is this: mom is pregnant (!) and she won't tell who the father is. Wil is also trying to work on her budding relationship with a ballet dancer, trying to find her mom a husband so that she'll move out and her dad will let her back into the family. She's also keeping her lesbianism a secret from her grandparents and her mother's also having a difficult time accepting her for who she is. The movie never really sees homosexuality in the Asian community as more than comic fodder, which, frankly, was a bit of a relief. It wasn't a movie that wanted to preach at me, but, instead, simply presented a series of farcical situations and let the characters collide. Saving Face is great fun and very charming. More than that, it's a movie about loving who you want to love and not allowing your parents dictate what you should do. Joan Chen plays Wil's mother. I feel like I haven't seen her in, like, forever: seriously, like since The Last Emperor. Where has she been? She's beautiful and vulnerable and very funny. Someone give this woman a job!

P.S. I decided to make Brownies Cockaigne tonight. Yum.

Being Sensitive to Cultural Sensitivities

Whole groups of religious people are protesting a bunch of cartoons published in Denmark. And people like Kofi Annan are saying things like, “But of course freedom of speech is never absolute.” And The Vatican issued a statement saying, "The right to freedom of thought and expression cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers."

This is almost laughable. Actually, it would be funny if it weren't so damned frustrating. Religious sentiment is not a very good reason to get worked up. And, yet, religious people rule the world, so why is everybody so touchy?

Freedom of speech is freedom of speech is freedom of speech. You can't decide that it's not free when it starts to offend religious people. The very next step down that path is religious control of popular media.

Check out this really pissed off article by Choire Sicha in The Morning News.

05 February 2006

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Quite frankly, I'm shocked that almost no one liked Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I had heard such bad things about this film, and then I watched it this morning and enjoyed it thoroughly. I thought it was absolutely hilarious and full of magic and fun. It's cartoony and silly and bizzare and, well, nearly perfect. I do think Johnny Depp is creepy and weird and that white makeup he's wearing is quite freakish, but he's just so funny in the movie.

I liked Charlie better than Corpse Bride, but I had the same complaint with Charlie: I hate the songs. HATE the songs. I think the film would be great if it didn't have all of that stupidity. It'd be different if the songs were at all good, but they're not. They're all--without exception--dreadful. I had the same gripe with Corpse Bride. Really good film, really bad songs. And lest you think I dislike Danny Elfman, let me tell you that I think the scores to both movies are quite good. It's the songs that Burton and Elfman feel the need to pepper their films with to which I object. They're just ...annoying. They serve no narrative purpose most of the time and none of them has any lyric worth repeating or melody-line worth humming.

But Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: good movie--good, clean, wholesome fun.

04 February 2006

Spielberg. Cruise. War. Worlds. Of The.

I liked War of the Worlds. I mean, I didn't love it or anything, but I liked it fairly well. It's certainly a Hell of a lot better than Munich or The Terminal.

There's a lot of really fun stuff in the movie. The effects are really cool. Um, what else did I like about it... I really liked everything about the aliens. The scene with the weird cobra thing that had a giant eye on the end of it: I loved that. I loved the aliens themselves – like the aliens from Ridley Scott's Alien crossed with giant frogs. That was fun. And I love all the stuff about the blood growing into giant roots. The idea of that is so unbelievably disgusting... and cool. My favorite part of the movie is when they go down into the basement to hide with Tim Robbins. At that point, the movie stops being a movie about physically running away and turns into some kind of futuristic Diary of Anne Frank with all of the expected tension and suspense. This stuff was extremely successful to my mind, and this part I enjoyed thoroughly.

**I am about to talk about the end of the film right now. Don't yell at me about spoiling things, because this story is over fifty years old – or if you think I'm going to spoil something for you, you could just stop reading right about here.**

Typically for a Steven Spielberg movie, there are three endings in War of the Worlds. I hate that he does that and I'm not sure why he does it. Instead of tricking us into thinking the scene is an ending scene and then continuing on, why doesn't he somehow stop these penultimate scenes from looking like endings. I mean, why keep ending the movie? He only makes us want the movie to end.

Instead of giving us a wide shot where Ray gets taken up by the alien and then pausing and only then following Ray into the little human-basket, why not just follow Ray into the basket? Instead of telling us the truth here and following our protagonist, Spielberg pulls away and lets us think this is the end for Ray. I don't get it. So we all, collectively go, "this is the end" and then he jumps to inside the basket. And then after Ray delivers little Rachel to her mother and hugs Robbie, we pan out, away from the central family, to a wide shot of Boston. This is the end. It's over. Everyone's safe.

...And then Morgan Freeman starts talking. The movie isn't over, guys, hang on. Let me get back into the movie and start listening again. What is Morgan Freeman talking about? Oh, the aliens were defeated by germs. That makes sense. He's talking about evolution now. Okay. I get it. I'm with him on this. That makes sense. Humans have paid their dues. Cool. I dig it. So why does Spielberg tell me it's okay to tune out if he has more to say? Why not stick with the main family and start the voice-over earlier? What if Morgan Freeman started his summation before we panned away from Ray and his kids? Then I would still be involved in the story and wouldn't have to bring myself back into the movie.

Steven Spielberg is really good at endings. I understand that: he has at least two in each of his films. We ought to do what we're good at, and if you're good at endings, I suppose you should do as many as possible, but I think it acts counter to the idea of storytelling.

I did like the movie, though. I did. Spielberg just frustrates me.

02 February 2006

The Cherry Orchard

I saw a production of Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard this evening at the Mark Taper Forum (where I am a subscriber). Actually, before the show I hung out with my friend Danny who works nearby. We got ridiculously cheap food and then I sat down for two and a half hours of sublime Chekhov. It starred Annette Bening, Alfred Molina, Frances Fisher and Lothaire Bluteau. I enjoyed it thoroughly. If you don't already have tickets, though, you probably won't be able to get them for very long. i hear it's selling out. It was sure sold out tonight.

Chekhov is an interesting thing: I get why not everyone digs the plays and I understand why directors always fuck them up, but it is really nice to see good Chekhov. This Cherry Orchard is not without its problems: it has dialect inconsistencies that I found incomprehensible and Alfred Molina is too old to play Lopakhin, but Annette Bening and Frances Fisher were wonderful and the new adaptation by Martin Sherman moves right along and has loads to say. I loved it.

One day, hopefully before I'm thirty, I'd like to play Lopakhin in a production of Cherry Orchard. I don't see how it will ever happen, considering I never act in anything and haven't in, like, three years, but it is a dream I've had for a long time.

01 February 2006

Oscar Nominations

This post is a day late, but, as they say, better late than never, and I know none of you could live without my thoughts on the nominations. So...

Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck.

*I got 4 out of 5 here. I predicted Munich wouldn't make the cut and Walk the Line would grab a nomination instead. I guess that was just wishful thinking. Funnily enough, I strongly disliked both Crash and Munich, yet I LOVE the other three (they're all in my Top Ten.) I expect Brokeback to win this award quite easily.

Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Bennett Miller, Capote
Paul Haggis, Crash
George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck.
Steven Spielberg, Munich
*I got 5 out of 5 in this category. Yay me. But see above for my feelings on these films. I don't like Spielberg as a director (which you've heard me say more times than you'd probably like) and I think Paul Haggis' work in Crash is deeply flawed. I would've liked to have seen Terrence Malick, Michael Haneke or David Cronenberg here much more. Interestingly enough, I'm reading that the director category hasn't matched exactly with Best Picture since the 1982 Oscars (there was a big upset that year: Chariots of Fire narrowly eked out a victory.) Miller, Haggis and Clooney are all being nominated for the first time this year. This is Spielberg's seventh nomination. He's won twice. Anyway, I think this is Ang Lee's award. Everyone expected him to win in 2001 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (his only prior nomination) and he's hugely respected.

Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck.
Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow
Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
*I predicted this lineup. 5 of 5 again for me. This matches Best Picture pretty closely, too, especially if you note how this-close to a BP nomination Walk the Line was. Ledger, Hoffman, Strathairn and Howard are ALL first-time nominees. Phoenix has one prior nomination (supporting actor for Gladiator). This is Hoffman's party. He's won everything there is to win so far and he's mind-blowing in the role: as both a fine performance and a wonderful act of mimicry. It's unbelievable that he's never been nominated before. He's known mostly as a supporting actor, of course, and he did almost get nominated as a lead in 2000 for Flawless, but it's his year this time. Heath Ledger, his main competition, will have to win some other year.

Judi Dench, Mrs Henderson Presents
Charlize Theron, North Country
Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
*I got 4 out of 5 in this category. I am grateful to say that the Academy pleasantly surprised me by omitting the name of Zhang Ziyi in the oh-so-boring Memoirs of a Geisha in favor of Keira Knightley in a film I truly enjoyed (it's in my Top Ten). The Academy missed the big boat here, though, by not giving a nomination to the nothing-short-of-brilliant Joan Allen in The Upside of Anger. Notice, also, the dissimilarity here between Best Picture and Best Actress. I don't really have anything to say about that: draw your own conclusions, friends. I should take this opportunity to bitch one more time about Felicity Huffman's inclusion in this list. It just drives me crazy. I think Transamerica is a puerile, idiotic film and I think Huffman's performance is broad and grating. It's too bad critics got behind her as much as they did. A true shame when they had so many good actresses to choose from (Emmanuelle Devos in Kings & Queen, Vera Farmiga in Down to the Bone, Juliette Binoche in Caché, the aforementioned Joan Allen, Claire Danes in Shopgirl, Q'orianka Kilcher in The New World). I mean, if you're gonna go indie... So Reese Witherspoon wins this one handily and good for her. Her performance here is the best of the list and this is a way for the Academy to honor a film that most of them really liked. She is a true talent and a comedic genius.

William Hurt, A History of Violence
Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Matt Dillon, Crash
George Clooney, Syriana
*I got 4 out of 5 on this one and it's because I have no faith. I knew that Bob Hoskins really wasn't going to be nominated, and I loved William Hurt's performance. It's one of my favorites of the year, in fact, but I just didn't think the Academy could do it. I am glad to say I've been proven wrong. This is probably going to be the most hotly contested award of the evening. And it's a good list. (I mean, except for Matt Dillon. What's he doing there?) And I don't know who's going to win, frankly. Clooney took home the Golden Globe and Giamatti recently won the SAG award. There are no more important precursors, so it could really be either. We'll see how well they sell themselves in the next couple weeks. Frankly, I wish Jake Gyllenhaal would win. I love his performance. But I guess he's too young, really. He'll have other years (although we said that about Matt Damon and he hasn't been nominated since Good Will Hunting in 1998).

Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain
Catherine Keener, Capote
Amy Adams, Junebug
Frances McDormand, North Country
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
*5 out of 5 again. I rock! Poor Scarlett Johanssen missed out again (snubbed also in 2004 for Lost in Translation). I guess the Academy just doesn't like her. Her films do well and she doesn't. It's so odd. But I am just so happy about Amy Adams' inclusion in this category. Her performance is really remarkable. If you haven't seen Junebug, it's a must-rent kind of thing: heartfelt, intelligent and truly insightful about the blue state/red state divide. Everyone was saying this award was up for grabs, but Weisz has bagged everything so far. I wouldn't be too shocked if the winds changed before March 5th, but right now she's the obvious frontrunner.

Top 6 predictions: 90%. Not too bad.

Corpse Bride
Howl's Moving Castle
Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
*I am SO GLAD that the Animation Branch opted out of Chicken Little. I had no faith in them after last year's embarassing Shark Tale nomination, a film far inferior to The Polar Express, which was inexplicably passed over. But, thankfully, Howl's Moving Castle prevailed. Should I confess I haven't actually seen it? Wallace & Gromit will win this one easily.

Good Night, and Good Luck.
Match Point
The Squid and the Whale

*This is pretty close to what I predicted. I expected that Syriana, which was having a little category confusion (the screen credits even say it's based on the book See No Evil by Robert Baer) would be omitted. Woody Allen is the most frequently nominated screenwriter EVER, by the way. Match Point is his fourteenth Original Screenplay nomination. He's back! This is George Clooney & Grant Heslov's for the taking, though. Their film is the most widely loved.

A History of Violence
Brokeback Mountain
The Constant Gardener

*5 out of 5 again with this category. I liked all of these films, aside from my, by this point well-documented, hatred of Munich, but I can't even be too mad about that one. I mean, Tony Kushner got an Oscar nomination and I'm too happy for him to even be mad about the piece of shit film he got it for. This is Brokeback's Oscar anyway, so it doesn't matter too much.

Batman Begins
Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Memoirs of a Geisha
The New World

*I know it seems crazy that The Constant Gardener missed a nomination here in favor of Batman Begins, but Batman is beautifully shot and Gardener is burdened with occasionally grainy and often jumpy photography that isn't popular with Academy members. I am beyond excited that The New World was included here. It won't win, but I don't even care. I'm just glad someone said mentioned my favorite film of the year. It deserved a lot more nominations that just this solo one, but I got to be happy with what I got.

Good Night, and Good Luck.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
King Kong
Memoirs of a Geisha
Pride & Prejudice

*Whatever. I got only 3 out of 5 here. I'm glad to see Harry made a showing, but I'm a little sad that the respectable White Countess didn't make a showing even here.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Memoirs of a Geisha
Mrs Henderson Presents
Pride & Prejudice
Walk the Line

*I did even worse here, only picking 2 out of 5. This is notoriously a hard group to predict, though I should have seen the Henderson thing coming. Ah well. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Really?! I haven't seen it yet, to be honest, but really?

Brokeback Mountain
Pride & Prejudice
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Constant Gardener

*Well, I certainly called the John Williams thing, but something weird happened this year, where I got really pissed and really happy with these nominations. Three of the nominees--Gustavo Santaolalla, Dario Marianelli and Albero Iglesias--have never before been nominated. Usually, the number of first-time nominees they choose is one. This category is usually filled with people who have already been nominated two and three times. (Recently they've shown a penchant for the great-but-not-that-great Thomas Newman.) But this year: three new people! And then the other two nominations went to John Williams. Give me a break! John Williams got his thirty-ninth and fortieth nominations on Tuesday morning. Why do they love him so damn much? I don't get it.

As for Best Makeup and The New World's exclusion. Something is definitely wrong with the world. Overall, though, I think the nominations made me pretty happy.

Movies that were nominated that I still haven't seen:
War of the Worlds (it arrives tomorrow from Netflix)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I already borrowed it from my boss)
Howl's Moving Castle (doesn't come to DVD until March... oops)
Joyeux Noël (hits theatres 3/6/06, so I'll see it right before the ceremony)
La Bestia nel Cuore (Don't Tell) (this movie played an L.A. festival last year, but I missed it. Who knows when I'll see it.)
Paradise Now (hits DVD 3/21/06)
Tsotsi (in theatres 2/24/06)

Good Night.
And Good Luck. I'm off to have a drink with some friends.