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

31 January 2007

The Nominees: Part I of VIII

I did this last year and I like how it turned out, so I'm going to do it again. There are more films this year (40 as opposed to last year's 35) and I've seen fewer (I had seen 81 by this time last year and this year I've seen a mere 67). Also, you should note that I have 34 films I'd like to see before I close the books on 2006, and so this list and especially the rankings remain in flux--since I know I'm seeing Marie Antoinette tomorrow evening and will doubtless see The Black Dahlia this weekend, etc., etc. At any rate, this is the first of eight planned entries, so from the top:

8 Nominations:

  • Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy
  • Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson
  • Best Costume Design: Sharen Davis (Ray)
  • Best Art Direction: John Myhre (last year's winner: Memoirs of a Geisha), Nancy Haigh (who also has a trophy, for Bugsy)
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Original Song: "Listen" sung by Beyoncé Knowles and written by Henry Kreiger, Scott Cutler and Anne Preven
  • Best Original Song: "Love You I Do" sung by Jennifer Hudson and written by Henry Kreiger and Siedah Garrett
  • Best Original Song: "Patience" sung by Eddie Murphy & Anika Noni Rose and written by Henry Kreiger and Willie Reale

  • Director: Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters)
    Cast: Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy, Anika Noni Rose, Danny Glover, Keith Robinson

    This movie was slated as the frontrunner for Best Picture by pundits and was thought to be the frontrunner for the big trophy on Oscar night but, alas, the film was not nearly as good as everyone predicted it would be and failed to get its predicted Best Picture nomination. Bill Condon also got snubbed as Best Director. The film failed for all sorts of reasons, but critics mostly agree that the film's stars, Beyoncé Knowles and Jamie Foxx, are the ones who really failed. Nevertheless, it looks pretty (much like last year's Memoirs of a Geisha) and got the most nominations of any film. Oscar was paying attention to this movie, but didn't particularly care for it.
    Will Win: Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Sound Mixing
    Might Also Win: Best Art Direction, Best Original Song
    My Rating: #34 out of 67

    7 Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Best Supporting Actress: Rinko Kikuchi
  • Best Supporting Actress: Adriana Barraza
  • Best Original Screenplay: Guillermo Arriaga
  • Best Original Score: Gustavo Santaloalla (last year's winner Brokeback Mountain)
  • Best Film Editing

  • Director: Iñárritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros)
    Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi, Kôji Yakusho, Michael Peña, Clifton Collins Jr.

    Everyone seems to think this film has prestige written all over it. It has some great movie-star-in-makeup-that-makes-me-look-ugly parts and is genuinely emotionally affecting if heavy-handed. The film has support across the board, though it may end up going home with nothing, like last year's Good Night, and Good Luck.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Film Editing, Best Origina; Score
    My Rating: #24 out of 67

    6 Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director: Stephen Frears (The Grifters)
  • Best Actress: Helen Mirren (Gosford Park, The Madness of King George)
  • Best Original Screenplay: Peter Morgan
  • Best Costume Design: Consolata Boyle
  • Best Original Score: Alexandre Desplat

  • Director: Frears (Mrs Henderson Presents, Dirty Pretty Things, High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons, My Beautiful Laundrette)
    Cast: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, Helen McCrory, James Cromwell, Sylvia Syms, Alex Jennings

    Michael Sheen was totally robbed for a nomination. I also really loved Helen McCrory in this film. This is easily my favorite of the Best Picture nominees. As far as Oscar goes, I think for them this film is "The Helen Mirren Show" and not much more, a lot like last year's Capote.
    Will Win: Best Actress, Best Original Score
    Might Also Win: Best Original Screenplay
    My Rating: #9 out of 67

    6 Nominations:

  • Best Original Screenplay: Guillermo Del Toro
  • Best Foreign Language Film: Mexico (El Crimen del Padre Amaro, Amores Perros)
  • Best Cinematography: Guillermo Navarro
  • Best Art Direction: Eugenio Caballero, Pilar Revuelta
  • Best Original Score: Javier Navarrete
  • Best Makeup

  • Director: Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy, The Devil's Backbone, Blade II, Mimic)
    Cast: Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Álex Angulo, Doug Jones

    This is a horror film! The fact that it's doing so well with the Academy is a bit of an anomaly. Fantasy films occasionally do well--okay not that often. But that a horror film did this well is really shocking. These nominations surprised a lot of people, me included, but the film is excellent and I feel like the Academy really did something right here.
    Will Win: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Art Direction, Best Makeup
    Might Also Win: Best Cinematography
    My Rating: #16 out of 67

    5 Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director: Martin Scorsese (The Aviator, Gangs of New York, GoodFellas, The Last Temptation of Christ, Taxi Driver)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Mark Wahlberg
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: William Monahan
  • Best Film Editing

  • Director: Scorsese (Bringing Out the Dead, Kundun, Casino, The Age of Innocence, Cape Fear, The Color of Money, Raging Bull)
    Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin

    This movie is probably the most widely loved of all the candidates this year (as opposed to just generally supported). And the public loves this movie too. It made tons of money and boasts--bar none--the best acting ensemble of any film this year, in my opinion. Warner completely botched the marketing of this film, or you would see many more nominations than you do, including one for Best Actor, one for Cinematography, and an additional one for Best Supporting Actor. The performances in this movie are really outstanding. I expect this movie to take the big prize at the end of the night, but we all know that Best Picture is the most confusing it's been in forever, so who knows what will happen. let me just give one final shout out to the Academy for nominating the perennially underappreciated Mark Wahlberg. His was my favorite performance in the film and I was as excited as I've ever been on nomination morning to hear his name read. Now, if they could just get around to recognizing the brilliance that is Alec Baldwin...
    Will Win: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #30 out of 67

    More to come...

    29 January 2007

    Oh dear lord

    I returned from my area meeting (which was a trial run for some folks presenting papers at a conference we're having at FSU called Film/Lit) to the following message from the staff at Facebook:
    Hey, your account is temporarily unavailable due to site maintenance. It should be available again within a few hours. We apologize for the inconvenience.
    And I don't know what to do. How did I function before facebook?

    Waking Up Scared

    I've been having a series of dreams where I worry. Last night I was back at the old accounting office in Monrovia (before I worked at the airport) making some extra money--something that will never ever happen again. But I was supposed to leave the office at 5:00p in order to make a 6:00p rehearsal call. So I leave the office on time and get in my car and the clock says 6:47p. I am already an hour and 45 minutes late. And I have no idea how that happened or what the dream was about.

    The night before that I dreamt someone had rifled through my wallet and stolen all of my money. I woke up and checked my wallet as though it were real.

    Maybe I'm moving into a paranoid phase.

    Picture Share

    The theatre studies crew.
    From left to right: Julie (Roomie), Amy and me!

    10 points to whoever can name which chain restaurant we're in.
    ...and let's not talk about how shapeless and weird that sweater makes me look. At least I had my hair cut, right? Right?

    Another couple photos to make up for how weird I look above:

    My father is all the way to the left. In the center is my uncle, his brother. It's like we're triplets. I think it's such a trip!

    I took this photo when I got to Hollywood. This is from the top of the parking lot at the Grove. I miss it already.

    Me and my dear Aines.

    I am so blessed to have these people in my life. I love you guys! Truth be told, we're all a little drunk in this photo.

    28 January 2007

    How I Get Convinced to Go to Things

    A series of text messages from my friend Ryan.

    Ryan: 80's night @ brothers??
    Me: When is that?
    Ryan: Tonight
    Me: I know you're joking. I'd love to but I'm drowning here.
    Ryan: Carpe diem - gay research?
    Me: Ha ha ha ha. Sorry. I'm out.
    Ryan: You may be missing your husband! You will miss me next year. These moments will be gone.
    Me: Oh shut up. You are ridiculous. I can't go. I will never get my degree if I do.
    Ryan: You are going to be a spinster with a degree.
    Me: You are so mean.
    Ryan: You know I love you. That is why I am concerned. Well at least you can make me a scarf.
    Me: I hate you.
    Ryan: Brothers 1130? Move away from the loom.

    27 January 2007

    Song for Today

    This is from Damien Rice's new album, which is called 9. The song is called "Accidental Babies". It's totally lyric-driven, and I don't think I've heard such audacious lyrics in a song in a long time.

    I held you like a lover
    Happy hands
    Elbow in the appropriate place

    And we ignored our others
    Happy plans
    The delicate look upon your face

    Our bodies moved and hardened
    Hurting parts of your garden
    With no room for 'apart'
    In a place where no one knows what we have done

    Do you cum
    Together ever with him?

    Is he dark enough
    Enough to see your light?
    Do you brush your teeth before you kiss?
    Do you miss my smell?
    Is he bold enough to take you on?
    Do you feel like you belong?
    Does he drive you wild
    Or just mildly free?
    What about me?

    Well you held me like a lover
    Sweaty hands
    And my foot in the appropriate place

    We used cushions to cover
    Happy glands
    And the mild issue of our disgrace

    Our minds pressed and guarded
    While our flesh disregarded
    The lack of space
    For the lighthearted in the boom that beats our drum

    And I know I make you cry
    And I know sometimes you want to die
    But do you really feel life without me
    If so, be free
    If not, leave him for me
    Before one of us has accidental babies

    For we are in love

    Do you cum
    Together ever with him?
    Is he dark enough
    Enough to see your light?
    Do you brush your teeth before you kiss?
    Do you miss my smell?
    And is he bold enough to take you on?
    Do you feel like you belong?
    Does he drive you wild
    Or just mildly free?
    What about me?
    What about me?

    26 January 2007

    This Weekend's To-do List

    This looks sort of insurmountable, I have to admit.

    • Read Plato: The Republic, Book II

    • Read Plato: The Republic, Book III

    • Read Plato: The Republic, Book X

    • Read Peter Euben: “Plato’s Republic: the Justice of Tragedy”

    • Read Gail Bederman: “Remaking Manhood Through Race and Civilization”

    • Read Richard Janko: “From Catharsis to the Aristotelian Mean”

    • Read Alexander Nehamas: “Pity and Fear in the Rhetoric and the Poetics”

    • Read Robert Bogdan: “Cannibals and Savages”

    • Read Janell Hobson: “Venus in the Dark”

    • Finish reading Bernard Williams: Shame and Necessity

    • Arrange Woyzeck according to Aristotle’s suggestions for a good tragedy

    • See Night of the Iguana

    • See The Prestige

    • See The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

    • Begin grading papers on August Wilson’s Fences

    25 January 2007

    Check This Out!

    A brilliant Terry Gross interview with El Laberinto del Fauno director Guillermo del Toro. This whole thing is so cool! Here is a filmmaker who has read everything.
    Here's a fun bit:

    TERRY: Can you talk a little bit about creating that kind of ugly fairy tale? ...the insect that she turns into a fairy. Were you surrounded by a lot of really big insects in Mexico?
    GUILLERMO DEL TORO: Yes! And I'm not talking about the politicians, only. I really... When i was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time in my grandmother's garden and I would actually do insane stuff like I would spend hours watching an anthill. And I would try and recognize the ants from one another every day and of course the garden was full of insects and I would name them. I admired them. I think that they're present in most of my movies because I have such admiration--and fear of them.
    . . .
    And another...

    TG: ...The princess of the underworld?
    GDT: Of the underworld. I think that there's a point in our life when we're kids when literature and magic and fantasy has as strong a presence in our soul as religion would have in later days. You know, I think it's a spiritual reality as strong as when people say "I accept Jesus in my heart." Well, at a certain age I accepted monsters in my heart. The girl is basically sort of autobiographical.
    TG: Well, I really understand what you're saying because for me the movie is about the stories that we have to tell ourselves to get through life and for a lot of people those stories are religious stories but for some people they're other stories: they're literature or fairy tales or whatever.
    GDT: I think the entire world is fabricated...

    24 January 2007

    Five Movies for Hump Day

    Roomie and I went to see Jesus Camp this evening at the Student Life Building. Jesus Camp is a documentary about an Evangelical youth ministry, and specifically one youth pastor named Becky Fischer, who wants to train children to be militant about Jesus. The film posits it as a fiercely political movement aimed squarely behind the Christian president George W. Bush and directed against global warming (!) and a woman's right to choose. The film is very problematic. It can't hep but totally deride these Christian people who have let them into their homes and the camera feels a little exploitative. This is especially true when the children are being interviewed. They are, of course, terribly indoctrinated and impressionable young people, but they appear really sweet and one ten-year-old girl really tugged at my heart with her story about how she wanted to run a nail shop and just tell people about Jesus while they got their nails done. What's fascinating in the film--the filmmakers make no point of this--is that the film has no reference to anything in the Bible. These people who purport themselves to be Christians and want the world to be Christian have no relationship to Christianity's holy texts, probably haven't even read them. It's extraordinary. They have this twelve-year-old child up onstage preaching to them, but the child wrote his sermon without looking at any scripture whatsoever. This is what terrifies me the most about the people in this film and the Christian Right in general: becaue their faith is grounded in nothing at all, not the words of Christ, not the words of the prophets, not Judaeic teachings, their speech is completely, totally rhetorical. This fascinates me. I'm not even sure why they believe what they believe. Believing I have god's word in my hands and reading it and spending my life learning what it says is one thing. Yelling about bringing Jesus back into our schools is just empty rhetoric without any basis in Christianity.
    Anyway, the film reminded me of my childhood a lot, but I didn't really enjoy the picture, and it's shot for television and not the cinema, so if you do feel like watching it, rent it, because it will look better on your tv than it did in the giant theatre I saw it in.

    Derek Jarman's Edward II is a quasi-modern, very gay adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's Edward II. It was an important film in 1991 when it came out and there was much brouhaha over it. Tilda Swinton stars (and is incredibly overdone.) I didn't like it at all, I have to confess. And maybe that makes me a bad gay man, but, though the costumes are always intriguing, the film has no structure at all. A still bigger problem is that the gay characters are unlikeable and (unfortunately) also uncomplicated. Skip this unless you want a history lesson in gay cinema or really like Marlowe.

    I LOVED The Last King of Scotland. I know everyone's been talking about Forest Whitaker all season, but why has no one mentioned how brilliant Kevin Macdonald's film is? It's one of the best of the year, and boasts a second excellent lead performance from James McAvoy. This is a movie about struggles in Africa and a psychotic dictator, but also a film about white privilege and (I felt) recalled Rachel Corrie's story in a few key ways. By this I mean that The Last King of Scotland seems unafraid to explore the feeling of invincibility that white people seem to feel when they are abroad. It's a superb thriller with some breathtaking action sequences and moments of sheer terror while also being a sensitive, intelligent inquiry of race relations in post-colonial Africa. I loved it.

    Letters from Iwo Jima was not as good as Flags of Our Fathers for me. Everyone likes Letters better than Flags, so I am clearly in the minority on this one, but though I thought Letters was a sturdy, committed picture, it lacked a lot of things I needed it to have. There was, for instance, no rooting interest in the film. The Japanese are all going to die on that island. This is a given from the very beginning and yet the film is still about the fighting of the war. I'm not going to trash the movie too much, but I was bored and everything in the film is so dark (they're in those caves) and for so long. The film also praises the Japanese soldiers who aren't traditionally Japanese and approach the war from a more American point of view. It's more interesting than that, and Eastwood complicates the American soldiers, too, but the whole thing felt vaguely colonialist. The acting is excellent, though. Ken Watanabe and Kazunari Ninomiya are wonderful in their twin lead roles and my favorite performance comes from Tsuyoshi Ihara as a horse-loving former Olympian.

    And I saw The Good Shepherd which is painfully, horribly bad. I moved it to the very bottom of my list for '06. I haven't been that bored in a film since Pirates of the Caribbean 2. It's totally plotless, completely lacking in stakes of any kind and boasts about twenty well-known actors saying and doing absolutely nothing. This list includes Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Billy Crudup, Michael Gambon, Barton Fink John Turturro, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lee Pace, and many more that you would recognize immediately--which just makes the whole thing so much worse! Angelina Jolie is quite good in the film, doing unexpectedly good work with terrible material. This film is terrible. It's this year's Alexander. Avoid at all costs.

    23 January 2007

    New List

    Oscar-nominated films I haven't seen yet:

    An Inconvenient Truth
    Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)
    Efter Brylluppet (After the Wedding)
    Indigènes (Days of Glory)
    Marie Antoinette
    The Black Dahlia
    The Good German
    The Good Shepherd
    The Prestige

    Hmm. I will have to Netflix some of these, which means I have to send back my DVD of Alban Berg's Wozzeck. I'm going to see The Good Shepherd tonight. I'm prepared for the worst.

    Christmas Morning

    Some thoughts...

    The Departed
    Letters from Iwo Jima
    Little Miss Sunshine
    The Queen

    *I got 4 out of 5 here. Just like last year. The Dreamgirls snub is a big talking point everywhere. The film is not that great, so I really don't blame them for snubbing this movie. They also, if you'll remember, snubbed the similarly musical Walk the Line last year in favor of Munich. Letters is the big story here. No one thought it had as much traction as all this.

    Babel, Alejandro González Iñárritu
    The Departed, Martin Scorsese
    Letters from Iwo Jima, Clint Eastwood
    The Queen, Stephen Frears
    United 93, Paul Greengrass
    *With its strong showings elsewhere, I'm very surprised Del Toro didn't make the cut here. Everyone seems crazy over Labyrinth. I got 3 out of 5 here, but I don't really care because Paul Greengrass made it in and I'm very excited for that. A little sad Alfonso Cuarón didn't score here, but I recognize not everyone thinks Children of Men is as brilliant as I do.

    Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond
    Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson
    Peter O’Toole in Venus
    Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness
    Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland
    *Okay, Blood Diamond sucks. Didn't anyone see it? Boo to Leo being snubbed for The Departed. I got 4 out of 5 here.

    Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine
    Jackie Earle Haley in Little Children
    Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond
    Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls
    Mark Wahlberg in The Departed
    *This is the category I am most happy about. Mark Wahlberg's nomination makes my whole day. It was a longshot prediction and I'm delighted. I think he's hugely talented (I would've nominated him in this category two years ago for I ♥ Huckabees as well.)

    Penélope Cruz in Volver
    Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal
    Helen Mirren in The Queen
    Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada
    Kate Winslet in Little Children
    *5 for 5 on this one. It's a good list.

    Adriana Barraza in Babel
    Cate Blanchett in Notes on a Scandal
    Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine
    Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls
    Rinko Kikuchi in Babel
    *5 for 5 again. As I said before, I'm not crazy about this list at all, but it was sort of easy to predict.

    Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
    Children of Men
    The Departed
    Little Children
    Notes on a Scandal

    *Woo hoo! I'm delighted Borat showed up here. The Last King of Scotland should have been here for sure, but I guess no one was paying attention to anything but Forest Whitaker in that film.

    Letters from Iwo Jima
    Little Miss Sunshine
    Pan’s Labyrinth
    The Queen

    *I think Babel's kind of a mess, but this is an adequate list. I would substitute Half Nelson and Volver for any of these movies, though.

    Happy Feet
    Monster House

    *I'm out of the loop on Cars, but the others are fine choices.

    The Good Shepherd
    Pan’s Labyrinth
    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
    The Prestige

    *Fucking Pirates?!?! That's so ridiculous. What about Curse of the Golden Flower?

    The Black Dahlia, Vilmos Zsigmond
    Children of Men, Emmanuel Lubezki
    The Illusionist, Dick Pope
    Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo Navarro
    The Prestige, Wally Pfister
    *I'm sort of anti-Illusionist, but good for Dick Pope on his first nomination. I think Lubezki is my favorite in this list. He shot my fave from last year, too: The New World. This is a cool list, though, I would've loved to have seen The Fountain place.

    Curse of the Golden Flower
    The Devil Wears Prada
    Marie Antoinette
    The Queen

    *The academy done good here. That Prada got a nomination is really a great step in the right direction for the costume branch, which has consistently ignored brilliant contemporary work (Remember Clueless?) The others on the list are excellent. I love Sharen Davis's work and I think the costumes from Golden Flower are out of control and fabulous. And Milena Canonero deserves all the nominations she gets.

    Blood Diamond
    Children of Men
    The Departed
    United 93

    *Another nice list. Except for fucking Blood Diamond. Why is that picture making an appearance anywhere?

    After the Wedding - Denmark
    Days of Glory (Indigènes) - Algeria
    The Lives of Others - Germany
    Pan’s Labyrinth - Mexico
    Water - Canada
    *These better be some damn good films, because Volver, which didn't place is brilliant. To be fair, I love Water and I really liked Pan's Labyrinth, but no Volver??? I am sad about that. I love me some Pedro.

    Pan’s Labyrinth

    *Um, Click? Really?

    Babel - Gustavo Santaolalla
    The Good German - Thomas Newman
    Notes on a Scandal - Philip Glass
    Pan’s Labyrinth - Javier Navarrete
    The Queen - Alexandre Desplat
    *Now, you know I love Philip Glass, but the score for Notes on a Scandal is insistent and jarring. I mean, I'm glad he got a nomination and all, but I wish it had been for The Illusionist or something else. Ditto Alexandre Desplat's first nomination. I wish he had gotten nominated for The Painted Veil instead of The Queen. As usual, the music branch is on crack and brilliant at the same time. Thank god, though, that John Williams didn't make an appearance this year. He's ineligible this year, which is the only reason. Expect him back in 2008.

    "I Need to Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth, Music and Lyric by Melissa Etheridge
    "Listen" from Dreamgirls Music by Henry Krieger and Scott Cutler, Lyric by Anne Preven
    "Love You I Do" from Dreamgirls, Music by Henry Krieger, Lyric by Siedah Garrett
    "Our Town" from Cars, Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
    "Patience" from Dreamgirls, Music by Henry Krieger, Lyric by Willie Reale
    *Hee hee. Three Dreamgirls tunes. So nice for Henry Krieger. They're good songs, too. I have to say.

    Blood Diamond
    Flags of Our Fathers
    Letters from Iwo Jima
    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

    *Should I complain some more about Blood Diamond? I am happy to see Flags here, though. I'm the only one in the world who loved that film, it seems, except for the sound branch at AMPAS.

    Blood Diamond
    Flags of Our Fathers
    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

    *Um, how are these two categories different? I've never understood that.

    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
    Superman Returns

    *This makes me want to sing "There's Got to Be a Morning After". And I guess this means I have to finally see Poseidon.

    Award Totals:
    8 Dreamgirls
    7 Babel
    6 El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth)
    6 The Queen
    5 Blood Diamond
    5 The Departed
    4 Letters from Iwo Jima
    4 Little Miss Sunshine
    4 Notes on a Scandal
    4 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
    3 Apocalypto
    3 Children of Men
    3 Little Children
    2 Cars
    2 Flags of Our Fathers
    2 The Devil Wears Prada
    2 The Prestige
    2 United 93

    Big winner of the day: Pan's Labyrinth and Blood Diamond (fist to the sky!), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (second fist to the sky!)
    Big losers of the day: Dreamgirls, Casino Royale, Flags of Our Fathers, Volver

    22 January 2007

    On Vacation I Think About Time

    I wrote this on 3 January 2007:

    On Vacation I Think About Time

    Away from home I spend an inordinate amount of time waiting
    Expecting friends to show
    Dawdling expectantly before movies start
    Peevishly biding time until roads are cleared

    I am not in control of sequences of time
    The way I would be if I were in my own stomping grounds
    But then, I think, even there

    Even in my bedroom or on my sofa
    In the high-backed overstuffed chair in my living room
    Or running my fingers over the speckled counter-tops in my kitchen
    Time enslaves me there, too

    As I wait to hear the deep mellow tones of your voice
    Cracking slightly under the weight of the day
    Or is that break the low gravel of artifice?
    A voice made deeper for my benefit
    A performance of masculinity I believe unquestioningly

    I wait for that crack, its belying surety
    As though I have no other schedule
    No demands but those hopeful glances I steal toward the telephone
    Hoping you'll call

    21 January 2007

    A Poem for Today by Linda Pastan

    "I Married You" by Linda Pastan, from Queen of a Rainy Country. © W. W. Norton & Company.

    I Married You

    I married you
    for all the wrong reasons,
    charmed by your
    dangerous family history,
    by the innocent muscles, bulging
    like hidden weapons
    under your shirt,
    by your naive ties, the colors
    of painted scraps of sunset.

    I was charmed too
    by your assumptions
    about me: my serenity —
    that mirror waiting to be cracked,
    my flashy acrobatics with knives
    in the kitchen.
    How wrong we both were
    about each other,
    and how happy we have been.

    20 January 2007

    Oscar Predictions

    The Departed
    Little Miss Sunshine
    The Queen

    I think everyone's pretty sure this is how it's looking. This is the DGA and PGA lineup.
    Best film not on this list: Children of Men

    Cuarón, Children of Men
    Del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth
    Frears, The Queen
    Gonzalez Iñárritu, Babel
    Scorsese, The Departed
    I'm predicting a snub for Dreamgirls' Bill Condon. I think the film has already peaked.
    Best director who won't be nominated: Paul Greengrass, United 93

    DiCaprio, The Departed
    Gosling, Half Nelson
    O'Toole, Venus
    Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
    Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
    You won't see Sacha Baron Cohen here on Tuesday morning, I'm sorry to say, though I'd trade him for Will Smith any day.

    Cruz, Volver
    Dench, Notes on a Scandal
    Mirren, The Queen
    Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
    Winslet, Little Children
    There are no spoilers for this list.

    Haley, Little Children
    Hounsou, Blood Diamond
    Murphy, Dreamgirls
    Nicholson, The Departed
    Wahlberg, The Departed
    This is the craziest category this year. Expect surprises. Michael Sheen, Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin and even James McAvoy could all potentially take one of these slots. Murphy is the only sure thing.

    Barraza, Babel
    Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
    Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
    Hudson, Dreamgirls
    Kikuchi, Babel
    This is the list everyone's predicting and I sort of hate it. I don't think anyone else can place, though.

    I'm going to just relax on the other categories and let them happen on Tuesday without thinking about them too much. I feel far away from all of the buzz down here in Tally and I don't have a very clear picture of how Los Angeles is thinking.

    Sarcasm with a Light Cream Sauce: The Movie!

    The Movie Soundtrack of Your Life!
    The meme asks:
    If your life is a movie, what songs are on the soundtrack?
    1. Open iTunes; 2. Put it on shuffle and press play; 3. For every stock movie scene listed, note the song that's playing; 4. Make up a title; 5. Choose cast

    I'm playing this meme because I was tagged by the fierce and fabulous Stinkylulu.

    And now for the movie:

    Confessions of a Matinee Idol

    Jude Law as Aaron
    with Takeshi Kaneshiro as Aaron's love interest
    Drew Barrymore as Jaime
    Rachel Weisz as Julie
    Claire Danes as Aines
    Catherine Zeta-Jones as Lisa
    Hugh Grant as Derek
    Rick Yune as JDD
    Hugh Jackman as Ryan
    Rachel McAdams as Roomie
    ...and FEATURING all of the rest of my friends in their big movie-star breaks as themselves.

    The Songs

    Opening Credits:
    "Karma Police" by Radiohead
    This is an ominous opening. It's like I'm the star of a Mel Gibson film and I'm going to kick everyone's ass. This could be fun.

    Waking Up:
    "In the Springtime of His Voodoo" by Tori Amos
    We're off to a bizarre start. This "waking up" means were clearly beginning this movie in medias res. Aaron appears to be waking up from an awkward assignation with someone he doesn't want to see anymore.

    First Day At School:
    "Mean Green Mother from Outer Space" by Levi Stubbs Jr. from Little Shop of Horrors
    My first day at school and I've already met (and appear to have conquered) my mortal enemy.

    Falling In Love:
    "Evergreen" by Barbra Streisand
    Oh my lord. I guess I've taken a break from subjugating people to my will to fall in love to the song stylings of Barbra.

    Fight Song:
    "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance" by Diana Krall
    Slow-motion fight. Maybe I'm fighting with Barbra.

    Breaking Up:
    "Butterflies and Hurricanes" by Muse
    Oops. This just turned very sensitive and emo. Aaron flees from the room in hysterics, mascara streaking his face (even though he never wears mascara). This is clearly a fictional film.

    "Represent, Cuba" by Orishas, featuring Heather Headley
    A nice beat. We're re-writing history and pretending I had dance moves in high school. "Let me introduce myself!" Hell yeah.

    "Merrily We Roll Along" by Stephen Sondheim (from the musical)
    This is a quickly-paced montage wherein Aaron moves up in his career and establishes his worldwide fame.

    Mental Breakdown:
    "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston
    I'm glad this song made an appearance. Aaron realizes his life is meaningless without love. He sits in the car with Celeste Holm and says the immortal words "And in the last analysis nothing is any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed and there he is." Celeste nods knowingly.

    "Like I Love You" by Justin Timberlake
    Oh yeah. We're driving now. The top is down. JT might even be in the car at this point, making a cameo. I think this is where I meet Takeshi.

    "Bodyrock" by Moby
    Um. Okay. This must be a flashback to some sort of alcohol-induced hallucination. Probably late in high school (which is when this fucking song came out).

    "Kiss" by Prince
    Best. Wedding. Ever. It ain't in a church, if you were wondering.

    Birth of Child:
    "Take a Look, Lee" from Stephen Sondheim's Assassins
    I've given birth to a psychopath, obviously. ...And I'm training him to kill the president.

    Final Battle:
    "She's Your Cocaine" by Tori Amos
    Turn the soundtrack way up on this one. Aaron returns to his ass-kicking roots and battles his nemeses to cacophonous electronic Tori from her most ass-kicking album.

    Death Scene:
    "Tearing Herself Away" from the score to The Hours by Philip Glass
    This seems appropriate, although I'm a little sad I don't get to die at the opera.

    Funeral Song:
    "End of Our Days" by Howie Day
    Howie sings "We'll escape" and my ghost makes a final appearance, squeezing Takeshi's hand for the last time and then walking out of the theatre auditorium where they're holding my memorial service. Everyone's crying buckets at this point in the film in case you were wondering.

    End Credit:
    "Gnossiene II" by Erik Satie
    A little bittersweet solo piano to take us out of the movie theatre

    And I tag: Julie (my dear roommate), , , Debbye and .

    19 January 2007

    The First of a Couple Posts about Oscar Before the Nominations on Tuesday

    I should say first of all (stop me if you've heard this before) that I love Oscar nomination morning. It's my Christmas morning. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call it—quite literally—my favorite day of the year. The reason for this is that I love all of the surprises and all of the wealth that gets spread. Oscar night itself, with its glitz and glamor and montages, is relatively lacking in surprises (the ridiculously homophobic display that constituted Crash's win last year excepted). But the morning of the Oscar nominations... there are so many names! And there are so many shockers! I can get so excited when things come through for someone whose performance I think is aces. Last year there were genuine surprises in the nominations for Amy Adams and William Hurt and some years it's downright crazy (remember Keisha Castle-Hughes getting nominated for Best Actress for Whale Rider?) On the west coast, too, there is even more ceremony. To watch the nominations on television in Los Angeles, you have to wake up at 5:30a on a Tuesday... something I know many people are loathe to do. I always do it. In the pre-dawn, I make my coffee and sit with a blanket wrapped around me and yawn while I wait for the president of the Academy to walk out and start reading off names. It's the best day of the year. This year, I'm on the east coast, so I won't have to wake up ridiculously early. I'm sure that will put a glitch in the ceremonial aspect of the morning for me, but I expect the anticipation to be just as pregnant. I can't wait!

    A couple more things before I move on to predictions in a day or two (I have a lot of Greeks to read, so forgive me). I want to go over how the nominations work and explain my ballots a little better. The way Oscar nominations work is really weird. First off, everyone votes in their own fields: only actors vote for acting nominations, only cinematographers vote for cinematography nominations and only music composers vote in the music categories. The breakdown of the Academy (this is from Oscarwatch) is as follows:
    Actors: 1260
    Producers: 461
    Executives: 429
    Sound: 415
    Writers: 396
    Art Directors: 378
    Directors: 376
    Public Relations: 371
    Members at Large: 283
    Shorts/Feature Animation: 316
    Visual Effects: 249
    Music: 237
    Editors: 224
    Cinematographers: 186
    Documentary: 134
    Makeup: 115
    Total: 5830

    The way I understand the nomination process to work is like this: each voter picks five names in the order of their preference. For example, my ballot for Best Director would be (in order):
    1) Aronofsky, The Fountain.
    2) Cuarón, Children of Men.
    3) Greengrass, United 93.
    4) Almodóvar, Volver.
    5) Frears, The Queen.

    Next, the ballots are put into piles based on the first choice listed. (My ballot goes into the Aronofsky pile.) From here, the ballots in the pile with the fewest number of votes are removed. Let's say there are ten directors who picked Oliver Stone for World Trade Center as their first choice. If that pile is the smallest, those votes are removed from the Ollie Stone pile and re-distributed based on the second choice on the ballot. This continues until there are only five left. This encourages voters to actually pick the choice that is their favorite as their top choice, because even if their first choice isn't in the popular running, their vote still counts. In this way, too, it makes sense for a voter to weight his or her ballot toward the nominees with the least chance (notice my first Best Actor choice was Melvil Poupaud for Time to Leave, an actor with a snowball's chance in Hell of nabbing a nomination.) So, in my director example, let's say that at some point the Darren Aronofsky pile is the smallest pile, the ballots from that pile are re-distributed and my ballot gets put in the Alfonso Cuarón pile, where it hopefully stays, taking Cuarón to his first Best Director nomination. If Cuarón's pile becomes the smallest pile, my vote will again be re-distributed, this time to Paul Greengrass's pile. The vote only counts once, though, so my vote can really only help one of the directors in question. By this line of thinking, I should be happy if one of my five choices makes it to a nomination on Tuesday morning, since my vote can only count once anyway. This is how I try to approach it. Last year, Amy Adams was my first choice as supporting actress, Philip Seymour Hoffman was my fourth choice as lead actor, Judi Dench was my fourth choice as lead actress and William Hurt was my fourth choice as supporting actor. I try to pick my five favorites and then put the people who I think need the most help at the top of the list. But one person from each of my lists made it on the final ballot, so I have to be happy with that. That's all the say I would've gotten even if I were a proper voting member of the Academy.

    That's it for now. I'll have proper predictions later on in the weekend after I see Letters from Iwo Jima and The Last King of Scotland, which both have finally arrived in Tallahassee.

    16 January 2007

    Best Supporting Actress

    My top choices in the order I would place them on my Academy ballot if I were allowed to vote:


    SHAREEKA EPPS, Half Nelson

    CARMEN MAURA, Volver

    DIANA RIGG, The Painted Veil

    HELEN McCRORY, The Queen

    Runners-up in alphabetical order:
    Adriana Barraza (Babel)
    Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada)
    Marylouise Burke (A Prairie Home Companion)
    Lola Dueñas (Volver)
    Mona Hammond (Manderlay)
    Jeanne Moreau (Le Temps Qui Reste [A Time to Leave])
    Blanca Portillo (Volver)
    Maribel Verdú (El Laberinto del Fauno [Pan's Labyrinth])

    And apologies to Luminita Gheorghiu because Netflix refuses to send me The Death of Mr. Lazarescu no matter how many times I put it at the top of my queue.

    My Best Supporting Actress Picks for 2005
    My Best Supporting Actress Picks for 2004

    13 January 2007

    Three Reviews

    I say this to spare you. If you're heterosexual, don't see Another Gay Movie. You will be horrified. Ryan and I watched this movie on Thursday night and both of us were in hysterics and totally mortified as well. It's hilarious and irreverent and ridiculous. A lot of noise has been made about this movie. Most people saying "why do gay people need a movie like this," and I suppose it's dreadfully lowbrow of me to say that I enjoyed the film. My gay friend and I needed a little time together to bond and this movie was so ludicrous, so plotlessly asinine, so deliriously campy, that we laughed our heads off. A good time was had by all: certainly the filmmakers enjoyed themselves making it. This movie has no fear; it goes where you think no movie would be willing to go to find humor and it's definitely worth it.

    And I loved Friends with Money. A reviewer in Los Angeles when it came out called Nicole Holofcener the Jane Austen of Los Angeles and I totally understand why. It's a lovely, thoughtful and funny film about Angelenos and their foibles, loves, insecurities, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was sad and romantic and very funny with some running gags that are priceless. There is also a final touching moment at the end that I won't spoil, but was, for me, the icing on the cake of the film. It's a movie about friendships, marriages, loneliness and wealth. Loved it.

    And today I finally saw Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang finally has reunited with his muse from the 1990's, Gong Li (they made Raise the Red Lantern, To Live, Ju Dou, and Shanghai Triad together) and the film is quite good. As you may know, I am not a fan of Zhang's recent work. I haven't yet seen Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, but I was mostly bored with both the ridiulously over-praised Hero and the Takeshi Kaneshiro-starring House of Flying Daggers. Golden Flower is not a martial arts movie. Instead, it is a royal melodrama of the Lion in Winter variety. Sons and heirs and incestuous relationships and betrayal. This is a film with tricks and surprises up its sleeve. It's also breathtakingly gorgeous to look at. But (and here's the surprise) it's also a film that actually cares about the thousands of people it slaughters, and takes time to deconstruct the pageantry and beauty of all of those monochromatic court ceremonies. It's high tragedy and high diva stuff. Gong Li is totally fucking fabulous and soars in her role and Jay Chou is fantastic as her loyal son. It's a surprisingly excellent film.

    Let's also just take a moment to appreciate how gorgeous Gong Li is:

    That's all.

    11 January 2007

    Best Supporting Actor

    My top choices in the order I would place them on my Academy ballot if I were allowed to vote:

    ADAM BEACH, Flags of Our Fathers

    MARK WAHLBERG, The Departed

    ALEC BALDWIN, The Departed & Running with Scissors

    MICHAEL SHEEN, The Queen

    PAUL DANO, Little Miss Sunshine

    Runners-up in alphabetical order:
    Michael Caine (Children of Men)
    Matthew Goode (Imagine Me & You)
    Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls)
    Nick Nolte (Clean)
    Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist)

    Apologies to Ben Affleck. I still haven't seen Hollywoodland. And to Jason Isaacs, one of my favorite actors, whose film, Friends with Money is sitting on my desk, still unwatched.

    My Best Supporting Actor Picks for 2005
    My Best Supporting Actor Picks for 2004


    So my teacher is wrapping up her introduction to the Advanced Theatre History I class (we'll be studying Greeks, Romans, Japanese and Medievals) and she sums up this way:

    "Once upon a time there were plays in Ancient Greece. These are not they."

    I thought it was brilliant.

    10 January 2007

    Best Actress

    My top choices in the order I would place them on my Academy ballot if I were allowed to vote:

    NAOMI WATTS, The Painted Veil




    HELEN MIRREN, The Queen

    Runners-up in alphabetical order:
    Annette Bening (Running with Scissors)
    Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal)
    Julia Jentsch (Sophie Scholl - die Letzten Tage [Sophie Scholl: the Final Days])
    Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)

    Apologies to Gong Li, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Kirsten Dunst, whose films I still haven't seen.

    My Best Actress picks for 2005
    My Best Actress picks for 2004

    09 January 2007

    Best Actor

    My top choices in the order I would place them on my Academy ballot if I were allowed to vote:

    MELVIL POUPAUD, Time to Leave (Le Temps Qui Reste)

    CLIVE OWEN, Children of Men

    HUGH JACKMAN, The Fountain

    RYAN GOSLING, Half Nelson


    Runners-up in alphabetical order:
    Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed)
    Colin Farrell (Ask the Dust)
    Pascal Greggory (Gabrielle)
    Brad Pitt (Babel)
    Patrick Wilson (Little Children & Hard Candy)

    Apologies to Jude Law, Peter O'Toole, Ken Watanabe, James McAvoy and Forest Whitaker, whose films I regrettably have not yet seen.


    My Best Actor picks for 2005
    My Best Actor picks for 2004

    Formal Exercises

    Last night I saw Little Children, the new film from In the Bedroom director Todd Field. I loved In the Bedroom, as you might recall, but Little Children I found difficult, distanced, overly formal, and nowhere near as good as John Curran's We Don't Live Here Anymore. The actors are wonderful, particularly Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson and Phyllis Somerville. Actually, I loved the entire cast, with the exception of Mary B. McCann's ridiculously played one-note performance as a suburban mother. The film exercises a formal device, namely voice over intended (I assume) to distance the film's viewers from the action of the film, as though the entire thing were an elaborate case study—some kind of microcosm of Americana. The device works if this is the intended effect, but it also put me off the film entirely. I felt far removed from the characters, their petty, suburban problems, and I felt ridicule rise in my gut whenever they expressed any kind of pain. The voice over, by distancing me from the characters' lives, made me think their lives ridiculous. When the final horrifying reveal occurred at the end (a Caché moment like nothing else this year) the whole thing seemed even clearer to me: how dare these happy, gorgeous suburbanites complain about anything when there are people with real problems, real pain, living just next door.

    Patrice Chéreau's Gabrielle uses an even larger number of formal devices in its exploration of marital unhappiness at the turn of the twentieth century, but this film I responded positively to. Chéreau (whose work I almost always admire) uses black-and-white as well as color photography throughout the picture as well as the astonishing convention of title cards in key emotional moments. It's an incredibly intriguing choice with the resulting creation of very real intimacy with the characters. The film, which is based on The Return, a short story by Joseph Conrad, mines the depths of a relationship's failure after a woman leaves her husband and then returns, incapable of her act, four hours later. Isabelle Huppert (always brilliant) and Pascal Greggory are fantastic as the couple in question and the film is painful, beautiful and, at times, truly disturbing. The score, by Fabio Vacchi, which sounds more than anything like Igor Stravinsky, is passionate, enormous and unquestionably modern. It's a fascinating film.

    08 January 2007

    Some Movie Madness for 2006

    It's the first day of school today, so I'm back in super-student mode, but I wanted to put out a couple of movie lists before I head back in to all-studying all-the-time madness levels.

    First off, the movie list for 2006:

    1. Children of Men
    2. United 93
    3. Half Nelson
    4. The Fountain
    5. Volver
    6. Water
    7. Flags of Our Fathers
    8. The Queen
    9. Brick
    10. L'Enfant

    11. Fateless
    12. Imagine Me & You
    13. Sophie Scholl: the Final Days
    14. The Painted Veil
    15. Pan's Labyrinth
    16. C.R.A.Z.Y.

    Really Liked:
    17. Little Miss Sunshine
    18. A Prairie Home Companion
    19. Tsotsi
    20. Time to Leave
    21. Babel
    22. Apocalypto
    23. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

    Liked More Than I Disliked:
    24. Ask the Dust
    25. Clean
    26. The Departed
    27. Thank You for Smoking
    28. Dreamgirls
    29. Notes on a Scandal
    30. Summer Storm
    31. Duck Season
    32. Monster House
    33. X-men: the Last Stand
    34. Happy Feet
    35. Running with Scissors
    36. The House of Sand
    37. Lady in the Water

    Barely Liked More Than I Disliked:
    38. The Pursuit of Happyness
    39. The Devil Wears Prada
    40. Evil
    41. Casino Royale
    42. Snakes on a Plane
    43. Little Children
    44. The Oh in Ohio

    45. Eragon
    46. For Your Consideration
    47. Art School Confidential
    48. Don't Tell

    49. Blood Diamond
    50. Manderlay
    51. Hard Candy
    52. V for Vendetta

    Complete and Total Wastes of Time:
    53. Scoop
    54. The Illusionist
    55. Joyeux Noël
    56. Superman Returns
    57. The Promise
    58. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

    Now, this list is far from complete. In 2002, I saw 68 movies, in 2003 I only saw 61, but then in 2004 I caught 76 films and last year, the total was 87! (Not bad for an amateur, really.) Here's where you all come in, dear readers. I'm gonna list the films I've yet to see for '06 and I need feedback on stuff that I have left off both of these lists: films you think are must-sees for 2006. (Jackass Number Two does not count, .) Anyway, these are the ones on my radar still to see:

    1. Letters from Iwo Jima
    2. Curse of the Golden Flower
    3. The Last King of Scotland
    4. The Dead Girl
    5. Bobby
    6. The Good Shepherd
    7. Venus
    8. The Good German
    9. Breaking and Entering
    10. Cars
    11. Sherrybaby
    12. Another Gay Movie
    13. Basic Instinct 2
    14. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints
    15. 13 (Tzameti)
    16. Don't Come Knocking
    17. Everything's Gone Green
    18. Find Me Guilty
    19. The Last Kiss
    20. Friends with Money
    21. Gabrielle
    22. Inside Man
    23. Miami Vice
    24. Moonlight (the Paula van der Oest movie that finally got released in '06)
    25. Odete (Two Drifters)
    26. Rescue Dawn
    27. Shortbus
    28. The Lady in Question is Charles Busch
    29. The Quiet
    30. Three Times
    31. The Notorious Bettie Page
    32. Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles
    33. Marie Antoinette
    34. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu

    And, for purists out there, a list of films I saw in 2006 that weren't from 2006 (this is a list that accurately illustrates just what a loner [loser?] I am, though in '05 the total was around 100 and this year it's 44 [just shows how busy I was with school I guess]):

    Le Samouraï (The Samurai) 1967
    Aparajito (The Unvanquished) 1957
    Badlands 1973
    The Third Man 1949
    Pinky 1949
    Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) 1963
    Leave Her to Heaven 1945
    Metropolitan 1990
    Le Fils (The Son) 2002
    Son Frère (His Brother) 2003
    Kitty Foyle 1940
    Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) 1959
    Sex, Lies, and Videotape 1989
    The Nun's Story 1959
    Hope and Glory 1987
    The Fallen Idol 1948
    Le Souffle au Cœur (Murmur of the Heart) 1971
    The Witches of Eastwick 1987
    Sons and Lovers 1960
    Tequila Sunrise 1988
    An Unmarried Woman 1978
    Barry Lyndon 1975
    L'Armée des Ombres (Army of Shadows) 1969
    Harry and Tonto 1974
    À Bout de Souffle (Breathless) 1960
    The Hudsucker Proxy 1994
    Angst Essen Seele Auf (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul) 1974
    Le Cercle Rouge 1970
    Born Yesterday 1950
    Sudden Fear 1952
    Morocco 1930
    L'Avventura 1960
    The Informer 1935
    Nicholas and Alexandra 1971
    Body Heat 1981
    After the Thin Man 1936
    Mogambo 1953
    Yi Yi (A One and a Two) 2000
    ¿Qué He Hecho Yo para Merecer Esto!! (What Have I Done to Deserve This?) 1984
    Walk on the Wild Side 1962
    The Big Sleep 1946
    The Barefoot Contessa 1954
    City Slickers 1991
    Rope 1948

    Soon: Final Oscar predictions and my favorite performances of 2006.

    07 January 2007

    Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon

    John Curran's film of Somerset Maugham's novel The Painted Veil boasts some memorable performances, gorgeous scenery, beautiful costumes, an exotic locale and a heartbreaking score by Alexandre Desplat. It is a film, really in the tradition of James Ivory and Ismail Merchant more than it is anything else. Which is, of course, why I liked it so very much—liked it more, in fact, than Merchant-Ivory's final collaborative effort The White Countess.

    This post is part of The Class of 2006 Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon hosted by Stinkylulu, so this post really needs to focus on the actressing at the edges that The Painted Veil (so handsomely) contains. The actress to whom I refer is sixties and seventies sex symbol/glamor icon and eighties and nineties "Mystery!" host Dame Diana Rigg, who, in The Painted Veil gives a lovely, sensitive performance of quiet grief and steely determination.

    Naomi Watts' English aristocrat Kitty Fane, having lost her husband's love and relocated deep into the interior of the Chinese mainland, finds herself bored and feckless. She seeks out purpose at an orphanage run by a group of French nuns supervised by Rigg's Mother Superior. Though the relationship between Kitty and her husband Walter (an earnest-as-usual Edward Norton) it is the relationship betweenn Kitty and the Mother Superior that becomes crucial to the way the film works. The Mother Superior is what Kitty didn't have in her own mother back in England and both women accept the relationship quickly.

    Rigg's work in these moments is exceptional. The actress is, of course, costumed in the full habit of the brides of Christ and so she has only her face and her voice as instruments. But the character emerges fully formed from the first scene: commanding the consumption of a specially-made madeleine and sternly refusing a male access to her convent. The Mother Superior is worn, exhausted from years of service and yet occasionally, in flashes of superb transformation, her eyes twinkle and hope dances in their spheres. When she talks about love with Kitty, Mother Superior speaks of her relationship with god as difficult but old and comfortable. She speaks of her contentment with her choice, but her actions are at odds slightly with this alleged peace. Mother Superior fights with all her power to bring Kitty and her husband back together and when given the opportunity, she forbids Kity from choosing nobility over her own happiness.

    Her last word onscreen is "no," a command after which Kitty offers no argument. The film cuts away after the word. Rigg is so convincing, her character so compelling, we don't even need to see if Kitty has tried to argue. We know she hasn't. Rigg's delivery says that the argument is over. It's a brilliant performance.

    04 January 2007

    SAG nominations

    The SAG nominations are out today, being the last precursors to the Oscar nominations for the actors. Academy Award nominations will be announced on January 23rd and the polls close on the 13th, so not even the way everyone looks at the Golden Globes will have an effect on the nominations now. All there is left is Hollywood chatter (of which, as ever, there is a lot.) Anyway, on to today's nominations...
    The Departed
    Little Miss Sunshine
    Now don’t get to thinking that this is really some kind of Best Picture lineup. I know everyone says that SAG’s ensemble nomination is really some kind of BP precursor. Not so. We have the producer’s guild and the director’s guild for that. Mostly I think this category usually sucks. They do silly things like nominate Babel for this category. While I liked Iñárritu’s film, and it’s probably going to end up with a Best Picture nomination on 1/23, it was filmed separately and that’s been said in numerous interviews and is, well, sort of obvious when watching the film. So it isn’t really ensemble work per se. And that SAG left off The Queen, which is pretty much a shoo-in for a BP nomination is ridiculous, especially with all of those great performances. I would’ve left Bobby off of this list, too, in favor of Children of Men.
    Best Actor.
    Leonardo Dicaprio, Blood Diamond
    Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
    Peter O'Toole, Venus
    Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness
    Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
    So there was apparently some sort of glitch with DiCaprio for SAG. Warner Bros. was flip-flopping on where to promote him and spent a lot of time promoting DiCaprio for Best Supporting Actor for The Departed (he’s clearly the lead, but they do what they want—remember Jamie Foxx as Supporting Actor for Collateral? Sometimes they’re stupid.) But why has Blood Diamond picked up so much traction? It sucks so bad. Anyone who’s seen the movie must know this. I haven’t heard anyone say they liked it. So the list for Oscar looks like it’s gonna be Smith, Whitaker and O’Toole for sure. Slot four, I think, goes to DiCaprio, but for The Departed (where Warner is now promoting him). Can Gosling hold on to this slot? I loved Half Nelson and I loved him in the film. To be honest, I would be abandoning hope right now that he could hold on to the slot, except that I don’t see anyone else waiting in the wings to take it. The big surprise on 1/23 in this category, though, could be a complete DiCaprio shut-out. Blood Diamond (ugh) and The Departed (yay) could cancel one another out leaving Leo in the cold. But in favor of… I don’t really see anyone coming up. I think this is the lineup, but I think the Academy will favor Leo’s turn in The Departed over the Blood Diamond bomb.
    Best Actress.
    Penélope Cruz, Volver
    Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal
    Helen Mirren, The Queen
    Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
    Kate Winslet, Little Children
    This is Oscar’s lineup. Period. And it’s a good list. Poor Annette Bening; I love her but it ain’t happening this year. Running with Scissors just wasn’t a good enough movie.
    Best Supporting Actor.
    Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
    Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departed
    Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
    Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
    Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
    Murphy is a lock. But I think he’s the only lock in this list. Arkin is probably more of a lock than I give him credit for, but you never know. And (though I hate admitting it) I think Hounsou is in for Blood Diamond. I don’t know why anyone’s talking about this film! DiCaprio’s performance (as I said before) in The Departed is going Lead for Oscar, so he’s definitely out. I also think Haley is shaky although he is getting a lot of traction. I would expect a Jack Nicholson nomination on 1/23. The Academy loves them some Jack, even when he’s overdone and scene-hogging like he is in The Departed. I am also crossing my fingers for Mark Wahlberg’s performance in The Departed. I can’t realistically see him getting a nomination in this crowded category, but I can dream. There is also Michael Sheen in The Queen, a performance I am very fond of which isn’t showing here either. Plus Ben Affleck (Hollywoodland) and Adam Beach (Flags of Our Fathers) and Brad Pitt (Babel). This is a hard one to predict. For now I say Murphy, Nicholson, Hounsou, Pitt, Arkin. Grr.
    Best Supporting Actress.
    Adriana Barraza, Babel
    Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
    Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
    Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
    Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
    This list makes me want to go to sleep. Seriously. No Shareeka Epps (Half Nelson). No Seema Biswas (Water). No Carmen Maura (Volver). No Helen McCrory (The Queen). I liked all of these performances more than all of the ones mentioned above. I think this one is a hard one to call for Oscar, too. Hudson is, of course, a lock. The girl is fierce! It’s looking like Barraza and Blanchett are in, too. Breslin, I think, is a dark horse for an Oscar nomination. Kikuchi seems to be a big favorite, too. Expect a surprise here on 1/23. (Hopefully) someone will spoil this pretty list. Maybe Vera Farmiga (The Departed) or maybe Catherine O’Hara (For Your Consideration).
    That’s it for now. I will have my faves soon.

    03 January 2007

    Ponderous Vacation

    Here in Los Angeles for a week or so, I was looking at the Christmas cards that my parents and (by extension, I suppose) I received this year. Most of the cards are accompanied by photographs of families, smiling together at me from glossy paper. The photographs are especially important when new additions have been made to these families, so far away, or so busy, that we don't see each other. We haven't yet been able to picture the new family members, spoken about, perhaps, in letters exchanged or telephone conversations, but with a photograph of the family, new addition welcomingly included in the happy fold, we are able, gratefully, to put faces to names.

    I was browsing quickly through the letters and cards--caring mostly for the photographs and less for the notes, with their usual litanies of the year's accomplishments--and I started to wonder about spinsterhood a little. When daughters and sons marry, their spouses are added to the list of family members--this has happened for my brother and his lovely fiancée in our family--and included in the photo. I am terrified, of course, that I won't have anyone to add to the photograph for a long time. But I also wonder whether, if by chance I were to stumble upon a young man who wanted to be my boyfriend, mine would be added to the family along with everyone else's. Certainly he would be... eventually. I wonder, though, how long it would take. Marriage not being an option in most locales, my folks would just have to take my word for our commitment to one another.

    I envision a huge scene with an ultimatum from me (one that probably would not turn out in my favor). Or perhaps I wouldn't care at all about being included in the photograph and ask, politely to be excluded, anticipating the inevitable and heading it off at the pass like making the gay joke before the rest of the table does so that I can control how much it hurts.

    Four More

    My favorite movie so far this year is Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men. I caught it on New Year's Eve at The Grove (which is, I guess, the only place it's playing right now). It's a sci-fi piece set in 2027, in a sort of post-apocalyptic Britain. It stars Clive Owen and it--more than anything else--is ostensibly a genre piece: an action/road movie with lots of guns. But it's also a movie about the end of the world, the miracle of birth, and humankind's capacity for both cruelty and generosity. I completely loved it. It's funny and imaginative and brilliantly scripted, not to mention beautifully shot by Emmanuel Lubeszki. Go.

    Another Mexican film I saw recently is Guillermo Del Toro's El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth), which is an imaginative fantasy/horror story set against the backdrop of 1944 Spain. The story follows a little girl who escapes from the tyranny of her stepfather by imagining (or is he real) a giant faun who assigns her magical tasks to complete and tells her she's really the daughter of the king of the underworld. It's a magical, beautiful movie full of spectacle and gore. I totally dug it.

    Last night I also caught Bill Condon's Dreamgirls. Now, you probably know that I love this musical (the original production was on Broadway in 1982), and while I was very excited for the film version, I wasn't too excited about the way it was looking from all of the clips and interviews I watched about it. The film is pretty much all I expected it to be. Jamie Foxx, as the film's headliner, is near terrible; he is the focus of the film and its empty heart of a center. He pouts and sneers his way through the movie and comes across as unlikeable and frustrated. The character is odious, of course, by the film's end, but it would have been nice had the character had a bit of a journey. Foxx picks a note and keeps playing it for two hours. Eddie Murphy is fantastic as James Thunder Early. He gives a fierce, enjoyable performance that's sure to get awards play with the Academy (about time, too, if you ask me). Beyoncé Knowles is excellent as superstar Deena Jones, and looks gorgeous in the film, almost impossibly so. I forget how beautiful this woman is. She also had a song written for her for the film. It's called "Listen" and she sings it in act three with power and vehemence (it's a touch earnest, but her only real belt number). The person everyone will be talking about after this movie, though, will be Jennifer Hudson, the lead of the film and the person with the biggest voice. She has an extraordinary singing voice and her performance as Effie is a great tribute to the original Effie, Jennifer Holliday. Her two huge numbers are showstopping film moments--the movie's worth it just for her. The film itself is a bit of a mess, I'm afraid. I found myself bored quite a bit. Dreamgirls takes a lot of time focusing on Jamie Foxx's character, and he's so dour that he just can't hold interest. Condon, too, has crafted a musical (the same way he worked Chicago) where the singing doesn't happen organically as a part of the narrative, but happens during specific "singing" moments. He makes the music a realistic part of the story. I thought this technique was sort of clever (though unnecessary) in Chicago, but it doesn't work at all in Dreamgirls. Condon has cut songs and parts of songs in order to force the musical into this construct, but he is compelled to keep certain numbers, particularly the act one finale "And I Am Telling You," and so the musical jumps in and out of Condon's reality in a way that rings false. I'm not sure why Condon tries to make this work in the first place. If the audience will buy the actors singing to one another at certain points, then why not all the time? And we know audiences don't really mind singing as an integral part of the show--pretty much everyone I know enjoyed Moulin Rouge! and it's musical number after musical number--so why does he bother? Anyway, I liked the movie alright, but it's the music that's the star of the show here, and I could probably survive by just listening to the soundtrack over and over again and not revisiting Condon's film.

    One more: The Oh in Ohio is a little indie with Parker Posey and Paul Rudd. Parker Posey is a seriously frigid wife who Rudd can't make cum. The film is set in Cleveland (although the Walt Disney Concert Hall makes an appearance) and also stars Mischa Barton, Danny DeVito, Keith David and Liza Minelli. I pretty much rented this because I love Parker Posey, I think Paul Rudd is hot and I wanted to see Liza (she plays a sex therapist who says "vagina" about fifty times.) This movie's fairly stupid and almost totally plotless. It's funny briefly. It was good to see Liza, Paul Rudd is still hot, and Mischa Barton gives a horrible, boring performance as a student who seduces Rudd. Posey and Rudd work hard and provide honest, interesting acting, but there's just nothing happening in this film. It's harmless, but a waste of time.

    01 January 2007

    Happy New Year!

    I spent the new year with my dear friends in California, running around visiting everyone and seeing as many movies as I can see before I return to the hustle/bustle of grad school and the black hole of cinema that is Tallahassee.

    I feel terribly lazy doing all of this vacationing. (Heaven knows I should be reading plays by Euripides or somesuch, but instead I'm reading a deliciously sexy and brilliantly written novel by Alan Hollinghurst--what can you do?)

    AND I think I saw my favorite movie of the year. Hint: it's by a Mexican director and it ain't Babel. I'll write more soon.

    Much love for 2007

    And I am making a resolution this year; two, in fact. I will keep them to myself for now, so as not to jinx them.