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

28 February 2007

Quick Update

So we had our first meeting for what is tentatively titled The New Musical Project. The producer Gretchen, the Musical Director Joe and I met with four of our six cast members, the accompanist and the stage manager. It was an informal meet & greet and Gretchen and Joe did most of the talking. I don't have too much to say about this show right now, but I am very excited to be working on a new show (I haven't really worked on my own show since Boys' Life and Brittney's one-woman show).

It is Spring Break in a couple days and I am going down to Sarasota with two of the directors for a couple of days to check out the Asolo branch of FSU's grad school (that's where the actor MFA program is) and then I'll be back in Tally on Monday.

And I watched Géla Babluani's 13 Tzameti tonight, which is a film all about style and tension. It does what it does very very well. It's a mood piece with lots and lots of suspense. It's also a real-life film noir (not neo-noir like The Black Dahlia and Brick; real noir.) But the film doesn't really allow the viewer in. It's a good movie, but impossible to relate to on any real emotional level (unlike the excellent afore-mentioned Brick).

26 February 2007

A Review or Two

The first movie (for me) of 2007 was Billy Ray's Breach, starring Chris Cooper, the beautiful Ryan Phillippe and, in boring I-wear-a-suit-and-deal-with-very-sensitive-CIA-FBI-DOD-information roles: Dennis Haysbert and Laura Linney. The movie is an okay thriller without much of a plot. It's sold as a thriller, but it's actually more of a character study (not unlike Ray's last movie, Shattered Glass).

Breach starts at its own end, like so many movies these days, so the suspense that the film might hold is greatly alleviated by the fact that we already know how the movie ends. Still, there are great moments of tension and Chris Cooper is riveting. He gives a tortured, fascinating performance as a pervert/spy/devout acolyte of Catholicism. Phillippe, while pretty to look at, mostly pouts through his role and we experience none of the alleged ingenuity the character is supposed to be displaying. Instead, Phillippe makes all of his character's very difficult decisions seem easy and all of the character's moments of brilliance seem like he had them planned out for years ahead of time. Here, perhaps is the real flaw in the film. Pillippe doesn't at all play the tension. The nicest moment in the whole film is Bruce Davison's single scene as Phillippe's father. Davison is perfectly cast (he even sort of looks like Chris Cooper, for a little more of a father-son parallel) and his scene is masterful: filled with history, longing, impulse and regret and yet restrained and measured. It's the best part of the whole thing.

This morning I also finally saw Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes. This classic film from 1948 deserves its status as a cinematic icon. The score is phenomenal, and the film uses ballet in all the ways it ought to (a method much more restrained than Minelli's in An American in Paris). Anyone who works in the theatre should get a kick out of The Red Shoes. It's a film about how much we need art and the sacrifices we make for it. It's also about the family of other artists we create in the theatre and the way artists play and speak with one another. It's gorgeously shot, as well, and the story is so well-told that even the shoe metaphor sneaked up on me. If you haven't seen it...

Some Thoughts on Oscar

I got 16 out of 20 on my predictions. Not at all shabby.
I was delighted Forest Whitaker won. I was a little worried O'Toole would end up with the little gold man after all. Whitaker deserves it and O'Toole got an honorary one not two years ago. Plus, Venus is a performance he could've done in his sleep. Whitaker's speech was great, too. I got a little misty.
It was lovely to see Marty be given his Oscar by Spielberg, Coppola and Lucas. That was a very nice touch and now he finally has one. I bet he wins in a couple years for his next film. And that'll be cool, too.
Helen Mirren looked gorgeous and her speech was nice.
What was up with that Gustavo Santaolalla win for Babel? That's two years in a row for him!
That Lives of Others movie must be really freaking good. It stopped the Pan's Labyrinth machine dead in its tracks.
I love me some Catherine Deneuve.
Nice Alan Arkin surprise. I was glad, even though we all know I was rooting for Mark Wahlberg. Oh well. He will get one soon.
The Dreamgirls medley/sequence thing was really nice.
I loved the dance company and their cool visuals. Especially Snakes on a Plane.
I can't think of anything else off the top of my head.

23 February 2007

My Final Oscar Post Before the Big Day

So, you have my choices for who I think will win the Oscars on Sunday:

Best Picture - The Departed
Best Director - The Departed
Best Actor - The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress - The Queen
Best Supporting Actor - Dreamgirls
Best Supporting Actress - Dreamgirls
Best Original Screenplay - Little Miss Sunshine
Best Adapted Screenplay - The Departed
Best Foreign Language Film - Pan’s Labyrinth
Best Cinematography - Children of Men
Best Film Editing - The Departed
Best Costume Design - Marie Antoinette
Best Art Direction - Pan’s Labyrinth
Best Original Score - The Queen
Best Sound Mixing - Dreamgirls
Best Sound Editing - Letters from Iwo Jima
Best Original Song - An Inconvenient Truth
Best Visual Effects - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Best Makeup - Pan’s Labyrinth
Best Animated Feature - Happy Feet

This year, the Academy's choices have kind of made me fall asleep at the wheel a little. Last year there was Brokeback Mountain to love and A History of Violence to be wildly happy for and Munich and Crash to hate. But this year I feel so underwhelmed by it all. Maybe it's that I'm not in Los Angeles where all the fun buzz is. The stakes seem a lot lower down here in Tally.
But if you look at the Academy's Top Five you'll see that only one is in my top ten. My favorite films of the year—Children of Men, United 93, Half Nelson, The Fountain, Volver—showed up on the Academy's lists, but not with any kind of strength.

However, I will be rooting for people on the big night, despite what I think their chances of winning are:

Best Picture - The Departed. I'm not sure why I want this picture to win. I liked The Queen a whole lot better, but I wanted The Departed to win anyway.
Best Director - The Departed. Duh.
Best Actor - The Last King of Scotland. I'm delighted Forest is going to win this. It's a terrifice performance.
Best Actress - Notes on a Scandal. I'd love for Judi to take this one home. She's consistently brilliant. And she never wins anything.
Best Supporting Actor - The Departed. You know I'm rooting for the Wahlberg.
Best Supporting Actress - Babel. I'm rooting for Adriana Barraza just because I'd like to see an upset.
Best Original Screenplay - Pan's Labyrinth. So much more imaginative than Little Miss Sunshine
Best Adapted Screenplay - Children of Men. My favorite picture of the year.
Best Foreign Language Film - Water.
Best Cinematography - Children of Men. for sure. I think it will win, too, and I will be so happy for Emmanuel Lubezski
Best Film Editing - Children of Men
Best Costume Design - Marie Antoinette
Best Art Direction - Pirates of the Caribbean. Ha ha. Just kidding. I want Pan's Labyrinth to win this one.
Best Original Score - Notes on a Scandal. I'd love for Philip Glass to get an Oscar.

I am so sorry I don't get to have my annual party. Ah well! Happy viewing.

21 February 2007

Improv. You Can Do It Too!

The undergraduates have an improv group here. It's called Murderfist. Or MurderFist. I'm not sure which. They are cute and funny. And there are lots of inside jokes. It's kind of like Evil Monkey Empire. Actually it's a lot like that, only with more style.

It's nothing like Ultimate Improv.

I miss my friends. :-(

20 February 2007

The Nominees: Part VIII of VIII / Summary

1 Nomination:

  • Best Visual Effects

  • Director: Bryan Singer (X2, X-men, Apt Pupil, The Usual Suspects)
    Cast: Brandon Routh, Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, Frank Langella, Parker Posey, Kal Penn, Eva Marie Saint, James Marsden

    High flying effects. This movie is big on effects and probably deserves to win this award. The effects really are top-notch. The movie, on the other hand, is laugh-out-loud bad, with all of the main characters being played by people far too young (and untalented) to fill their shoes. Sometimes the movie looks like a really expensive community theatre production of Superman III. And Kevin Spacey hams it up like you've never seen. Don't expect it to win anything on Sunday.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Visual Effects
    My Rating: #70 out of 74

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Visual Effects

  • Director: Wolfgang Petersen (Troy, The Perfect Storm, Air Force One, Outbreak, In the Line of Fire, The NeverEnding Story, Das Boot)
    Cast: Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Jacinda Barrett, Mia Maestro, Emmy Rossum, Mike Vogel, Jimmy Bennett, Freddy Rodriguez, Andre Braugher, Kevin Dillon

    I liked this movie, and there are a lot of special visual effects in the film, but—here's the thing—they all look fake. I mean, they don't look really fake, but they don't exactly look real, either. I'm assuming that the exterior of the ship is all special effects, which is great, except the boat looks like a CGI creation. I liked the effects better in Casino Royale, though I liked that movie less than this one.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #39 out of 74

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Makeup

  • Director: Frank Coraci (Around the World in 80 Days, The Waterboy, The Wedding Singer)
    Cast: Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Henry Winkler, Julie Kavner, Sean Astin, Christopher Walken, David Hasselhoff, Jennifer Coolidge

    The makeup in this film is really, really good. The film is the most peurile, asinine waste of time you could ever sit through. It's the worst movie I saw in 2006, and I didn't think anything could get worse than De Niro's The Good Shepherd. Boy was I wrong. This movie is unspeakably bad. It has no intended audience, and it recycles a plot we've all seen about three hundred times. Spend less time at work. Spend more time with your family. You'll miss your family when you're older. Then the movie is racist and homophobic on top of all that. Awful. The makeup, as I said, is really, really good. They make Adam Sandler look around 50, and he really looks 50. Like, for real, you believe it. It's damn good makeup.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #74 out of 74

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Animated Feature

  • Director: George Miller (Babe: Pig in the City, Lorenzo's Oil, The Witches of Eastwick, Mad Max and its two sequels)
    Cast: Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Robin Williams, Hugo Weaving, Brittany Murphy, Johnny A. Sanchez, Carlos Alazraqui, Lombardo Boyar, Savion Glover (for the dancing)

    This film is insane, but it's a fun, ridiculous animated feature. Not my favorite of the year, but in a year without Miyazaki, this film deserves its nomination. The plot begins with a cliché, but quickly leaves any semblance of reality behind. It's an out of control plot with totally unbelievable plot elements, and I was fine with all of it.
    Will Win: Best Animated Feature
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #45 out of 74

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Animated Feature

  • Director: Gil Kenan
    Cast: Michael Musso, Sam Lerner, Spencer Locke, Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Kathleen Turner, Jason Lee, Jon Heder

    So fun. This is a truly imaginative feature with all kinds of cool things going for it. My friend Elizabeth even told me that all of the characters' movement is done through a motion-capture process like the one they used for Andy Serkis when he played Gollum. For all the characters! That is so cool. Anyway, it can't really win the award, but it's a cool picture.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #42 out of 74


    Best Picture - The Departed
    Best Director - The Departed
    Best Actor - The Last King of Scotland
    Best Actress - The Queen
    Best Supporting Actor - Dreamgirls
    Best Supporting Actress - Dreamgirls
    Best Original Screenplay - Little Miss Sunshine
    Best Adapted Screenplay - The Departed
    Best Foreign Language Film - Pan’s Labyrinth
    Best Cinematography - Children of Men
    Best Film Editing - The Departed
    Best Costume Design - Marie Antoinette
    Best Art Direction - Pan’s Labyrinth
    Best Original Score - The Queen
    Best Sound Mixing - Dreamgirls
    Best Sound Editing - Letters from Iwo Jima
    Best Original Song - An Inconvenient Truth
    Best Visual Effects - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
    Best Makeup - Pan’s Labyrinth
    Best Animated Feature - Happy Feet

    16 February 2007

    Some Thoughts on Literary Criticism

    Today I was asked the question "What is the importance of literary criticism?" My answer was the following:

    The job of literary criticism is to promote literature. To critique, judge, review and otherwise analyze and assess the form and content of literature in order that the public can know what is good and what is bad and so support the MARKET of literature. Criticism serves a specific function for the literary world, right? And isn't this its only function? To tell people what they should or should not go out and buy? To assess what does or does not fit with known forms?

    Why do you analyze the things you analyze? Why do I write about film on my blog? The answer is, chiefly, so that other people will go see these films. By this of course I mean that there are a limited number of films that people can see (there is a limited amount of capital available to spend on films) and I wish to promote certain films over certain other films. Isn't criticism merely a capitalist system? Am I being far to cynical? Have I been reading way to much Foucault?
    The lovely young woman who asked me this question actually liked my answer, so I thought I would share it on here since I seem to be sharing nothing on this blog of late.

    P.S. I will finish my "Nominees" series as soon as I am done with Click.
    P.P.S. I saw Poseidon today and I have a lot of thoughts about it:
    A. I miss Shelley Winters
    B. This movie was good. It was, in fact, almost exactly what I want from an action movie.
    C. Though there was a near-palpable dearth of interesting dialogue, this movie was never, ever boring (unlike, say Casino Royale, Eragon, Blood Diamond, V for Vendetta, all of which at some point in the film started to make me fall asleep.)
    D. Running time: 98 minutes. Perfect.
    E. Richard Dreyfuss plays a gay character who functions as a regular guy. His sexuality is never an issue in the film and he isn't used as an easy laugh. It's excellent.
    F. All of the people of color die in the film.
    G. There are no Asian people in this film.
    H. The representations of black men in the film are both stereotypical, de-sexualized figures. There are no black women in this film.
    I. I was very invested in the characters in the film and genuinely felt that any of them could die at any moment.
    J. Emmy Rossum is very pretty but should really, really, really take an acting class. Or five.
    K. I love Freddy Rodriguez and I wish he worked a lot more.
    L. Josh Lucas is hot.
    M. Josh Lucas is hot.
    N. All of the women (there are a total of three) in this film have exactly the same look: dark hair, gorgeous, small facial features, and they should all share a slice of pie.

    14 February 2007

    The Nominees: Part VII of VIII (Aren't We Done Yet?)

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Cinematography: Dick Pope

  • Director: Neil Burger (Interview with the Assassin)
    Cast: Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti, Rufus Sewell

    Zzzzz. This is a bad movie, and don't see it for the cinematography either. I mean, yay, Dick Pope's first nomination and all, but from what I recall of this movie (and I spent a lot of it wishing I would fall asleep), I remember that there aren't very many wide shots because it's kind of a low budget affair with very few sets. This is mostly an interior picture. And I could tell that as I was watching it. I am skeptical of this nomination. There are much more deserving pictures that might've appeared here. Including Best Picture nominee The Departed, which is brilliantly shot.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #65 out of 71

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Costume Design: Milena Canonero (The Affair of the Necklace, Titus, Dick Tracy, Tucker: the Man and His Dream, Out of Africa, and two trophies: Chariots of Fire and Barry Lyndon)

  • Director: Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides)
    Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Rip Torn, Molly Shannon, Asia Argento

    Very good movie. Awful reviews. But the costumes in this film are really a vision. And Canonero hasn't won since 1982. I want her to win again. This category seems sort of tough to predict, but I think I will predict it for the win... mostly because Canonero is who I'm rooting for.
    Will Win: Best Costume Design
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #23 out of 71

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Costume Design: Yee Chung Man

  • Director: Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers, Hero, Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou, To Live, Shanghai Triad)
    Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Ye Liu, Man Li, Jin Chen

    This movie is fun stuff. Of course, almost nobody saw it. It's not a big martial arts/swordfighting bonanza like Flying Daggers and Hero were. And is it just me or was it not marketed as much as those two flicks were? It has all of the eye candy of those films and more if you ask me. Anyway, congrats to the designer on this nomination. And let's hope for more stuff of substance from Yimou. He is a master filmmaker with a lot more good stuff in him. And any excuse to see Gong Li is a good one in my opinion.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #33 out of 71

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Art Direction: Jeannine Oppewall (Seabiscuit, Pleasantville, L.A. Confidential), Gretchen Rau (The Last Samurai, Memoirs of a Geisha—she died last year) & Leslie E. Rollins

  • Director: Robert De Niro
    Cast: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Robert De Niro, William Hurt, Gabriel Macht, Timothy Hutton, Lee Pace, Joe Pesci, Billy Crudup, John Turturro, Michael Gambon

    Just look at that cast! And then look at my rating down below. I have no explanation for this film or this film's appearance among the nominees for an Academy Award. The only thing I can think of is that everyone who saw this movie just stared at the sets because the plot was so sleep-inducing. Actually, in all fairness, the film does cover a huge span of time and involves lots of beautiful set work. It starts at the beginning of the cold war, so the look of the film really is exquisite, particularly when the film moves across the pond to England and the USSR. In addition, there is a whole plotline that involves the contents of a single specific room. The plot is, in a way about the set. But goddamn, this film is awful.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #71 out of 71

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Original Score: Thomas Newman (Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Finding Nemo, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Unstrung Heroes, Little Women, The Shawshank Redemption)

  • Director: Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven and Twelve, Erin Brockovich, Full Frontal, Traffic, Out of Sight, The Limey)
    Cast: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire

    Does anyone have an explanation for how this film missed out on a cinematography nomination? I mean, look at that picture! It's gorgeous. But let's talk about Thomas Newman. My favorite of his scores is the underappreciated Nemo, but this guy has obviously been doing a lot of good work in a very short time. Shawshank was 1995 and it's 2007. That's thirteen years and Newman now has eight nominations. But no wins yet. I don't think he's going to win with this one either, but he needs to get one soon. I also want to talk a little about the score that's actually nominated here. Newman's music has a distinctive sound. We all know the way it works from the "Six Feet Under" soundtrack. Kind of minimalist. High on precussions and low on big orchestrations. But not the score for The Good German. Newman has composed a huge, 1940's movie score. It's grand and opulent and very beautiful. So this is a well-deserved nomination. Hand this man an Oscar soon!
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: Unranked: This film has not appeared in Tallahassee just yet.

    One more to go...

    12 February 2007

    The Nominees: Part VI of VIII

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Foreign Language Film: Germany (Sophie Scholl: the Final Days, Downfall and a win for Nowhere in Africa in 2003)

  • Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
    Cast: Ulrich Mühe, Sebastian Koch, Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Tukur

    This movie is getting stellar reviews and is considered the one that can beat Pan's Labyrinth for the Foreign Language Oscar. The Del Toro film, of course, has six Oscar nominations and should be pretty much unbeatable, but everyone thought that about Amélie in 2002 and it didn't go home with a trophy (it lost to the far superior No Man's Land). I have yet to see this picture. It's out in Los Angeles, but has not ambled its way to Tallahassee, so though I can barely wait, I guess I will have to.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Foreign Language Film
    My Rating: Unranked: Released in 2007.

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Foreign Language Film: Canada (recent winner for Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions. Canada's other two nominations are also Arcand films: Jesus of Montreal and The Decline of the American Empire)

  • Director: Deepa Mehta (Earth, Fire, Bollywood/Hollywood, The Republic of Love)
    Cast: Sarala, Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas, John Abraham, Waheeda Rehman

    This movie is very moving and beautifully shot. It also has a good back-story. The film is part of a series of films by Mehta concerning the four elements. The Academy changed its rules this year for the language of the films in this category. Last year, Italy submitted a film entirely in Aramaic, but it was asked to resubmit because according to the old rules the foreign language had to be one that was actually spoken by a large number of the population of the film's home country. This happened a couple years earlier with the UK as well (they had submitted a British film shot entirely in an Indian language (Urdu? I can't remember.)) At any rate, this year they changed the rules, allowing Canada to submit Water, a film made by Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta and shot almost entirely in Hindi.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #7 of 71

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Foreign Language Film: Denmark (two wins in the 1980s—Babette's Feast and Pelle the Conqueror, but nothing in the last fifteen years)

  • Director: Susanne Bier (Brothers)
    Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgård, Sidse Babett Knudsen

    Bier's previous movie was a moody war drama of which a lot of people were fond. I wasn't particularly enamored, but it did star the lovely Connie Nielsen. This film is supposedly excellent (it ought to be, since it beat out Volver for a nomination in this category). It probably doesn't have much of a chance of winning, but this nomination ensures a pretty kind reception by movie-goers when it is eventually released in theatres in this country.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: Unranked: Released in 2007.

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Foreign Language Film: Algeria (Dust of Life ['96], Le Bal ['84], and a win in 1970 for Costa-Gavras's Z)

  • Director: Rachid Bouchareb (Little Senegal, Dust of Life)
    Cast: Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila

    I know next to nothing about this film except that it's a WWII movie. You know how the Academy loves its WWII dramas. This probably won't translate to a win for Algeria, but it's nice to see Bouchareb get another nomination. Again, I hope this movie is really good, because it beat out the magnificent Volver for a nomination.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: Unranked: Released in 2007.

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Cinematography: Vilmos Zsigmond (The River, The Deer Hunter, and a trophy for Close Encounters of the Third Kind)

  • Director: Brian De Palma (Mission to Mars, Snake Eyes, Mission: Impossible, The Bonfire of the Vanities, The Untouchables, Scarface, Carrie)
    Cast: Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, Scarlett Johanssen, Hilary Swank, Mia Kirshner, Fiona Shaw

    This movie, I think, expected a lot more. This film was supposed to be the second coming of the brilliance that was L.A. Confidential. It wasn't. Everyone I know hated this movie, and when I was in Los Angeles last I was listening to a radio program on NPR, where people were calling in trashing this film. The guest on the show was—of all people—head Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan, who had a new book out and was spending a lot of his time trashing on The Black Dahlia. When I finally saw the film, I understood why everyone was so down on the movie, but despite the general hatred for the film. There are very few people who dislike Vilmos Zsigmond. He's a widely respected guy who deserves his nomination, despite the film's many failings.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #66 of 71

    10 February 2007

    The Nominees: Part V of VIII

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Actor: Forest Whitaker

  • Director: Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void, One Day in September)
    Cast: James McAvoy, Forest Whitaker, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, David Oyelowo, Simon McBurney

    This film is one of my favorites of the year and Whitaker has been the frontrunner in the Best Actor race for at least two months. This is another Jamie Foxx in Ray juggernaut for the Best Actor race. Unfortunately, this excellent film, which was written by The Queen's scribe, Peter Morgan, and boasts another superb lead actor performance (from James McAvoy), has been mostly ignored except for Whitaker's performance (which is, admittedly, a remarkable one). This film is the movie about Africa that should have been recognized by the Academy (have I mentioned how much I hate Blood Diamond?)At any rate, Whitaker will win his Oscar and the film will get seen because of him, so I can't complain too much.
    Will Win: Best Actor
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #6 out of 69

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Actor: Peter O'Toole (My Favorite Year, The Stunt Man, The Ruling Class, Goodby, Mr. Chips, The Lion in Winter, Becket, Lawrence of Arabia)

  • Director: Roger Michell (Enduring Love, The Mother, Changing Lanes, Notting Hill, Persuasion)
    Cast: Peter O'Toole, Jodie Whittaker, Leslie Phillips, Vanessa Redgrave

    O'Toole, who, as you can see above, has received his eighth Oscar nomination for Best Actor this year was actually given an honorary Oscar two years ago for his contribution to "cinema history". When the Oscar is awarded to Forest Whitaker on February 25th, O'Toole will be the most frequently-nominated performer in history to never actually win an Oscar. In 1963, when he was first nominated (the performance that seems to stand out in most people's minds) he lost to Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird. This seems a difficult decision with which to argue. His subsequent nominations are easier ones to argue in favor of O'Toole, but not that easy. For example: would you take away Brando's Oscar for The Godfather in order to give O'Toole one? What about De Niro's for Raging Bull? After I've said all of that, O'Toole is definitely Whitaker's fiercest competition for the trophy and though he got off to a late start, he has been campaigning like a champ. I recently heard an interview with him on Fresh Air, and he's also been appearing on Television. I think it would be a shame to rob Whitaker, but maybe O'Toole'll win one after all.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Actor
    My Rating: I haven't seen it. (Curse you, Tallahassee!)

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Actor: Ryan Gosling

  • Director: Ryan Fleck
    Cast: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie, Monique Curnen, Deborah Rush, Jay O. Sanders, Karen Chilton, Tina Holmes

    Another of my favorite films of the year that was all-but-ignored by the Academy. Shareeka Epps performance is an excellent one and the script is one of the smartest of the year. I've lauded the film before (you can get to that through the link down below if you are so inclined) so I won't rehash that, but I would like to celebrate Gosling's nomination, even if it meant that Sacha Baron Cohen was excluded from the category. Gosling's performance is an honest, powerful one that reveals layer upon layer. Everyone should be paying attention to this guy. He's at the top of his game and is doing excellent work.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #3 out of 69

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Actor: Will Smith (Ali)

  • Director: Gabriele Muccino (Remember Me, My Love, The Last Kiss)
    Cast: Will Smith, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, Thandie Newton, Brian Howe, James Karen, Dan Castellaneta

    This is a case of a giant movie star in a vehicle that is perfect for him. Smith's performance in the film is quite good for a movie star (in the way, say, Julia Roberts' performance was quite good in Erin Brockovich). The film is ridiculously sappy and at the same time, both relentlessly depressing and wildly triumphant. The Academy, understandably, has ignored everything but Smith's work. Should we even talk about the mis-spelling in the title? It makes sense in the context of the film, but everytime I type the title I want to write [sic] after it.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #46 out of 69

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Actress: Penélope Cruz

  • Director: Pedro Almodóvar (Bad Education, Talk to Her, All About My Mother, What Have I Done to Deserve This?, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown)
    Cast: Penélope Cruz, Lola Dueñas, Carmen Maura, Blanca Portillo, Yohana Cobo, Chus Lampreave, Antonio de la Torre

    How I love this film! and how I love this filmmaker! This film totally got robbed for a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. This hurts even more because frequently Spain has been electing not to submit Almodóvar's films for the category. The big snub is probably due to a male-dominated voting bloc in the category that would, understandably, not really connect with Almodóvar's stories about women and the men they have to overcome. Cruz's nomination is much-deserved, though, so I'll just be glad about that. It would've been really ridiculous if this film had received no nominations at all.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #5 out of 69

    09 February 2007

    The Nominees: Part IV of VIII

    2 Nominations:

  • Best Cinematography: Wally Pfister (Batman Begins)
  • Best Art Direction: Nathan Crowley, Julie Ochipinti

  • Director: Christopher Nolan (Batman Begins, Insomnia, Memento)
    Cast: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johanssen, Rebecca Hall, Piper Perabo, Andy Serkis, David Bowie (!), Samantha Mahurin, Roger Rees, Edward Hibbert, Ricky Jay

    One of the two "magician movies" that graced theatres this summer, this film seemed to get forgotten, since it was released a few weeks after the other "magician movie" of the summer, The Illusionist. The superior script, filmmaking, acting, etc. of The Prestige does not seem to have been lost on the Academy, who remembered it well on nomination morning. The Academy clearly likes Christopher Nolan's work. Pfister's surprise nomination last year means that they are paying attention to Nolan's movies (which are all thrillers—a genre traditionally overlooked by Oscar). As well they should be. Nolan's movies are the best the high-gloss thriller genre has to offer and his Batman Begins is easily the best comic book movie I've seen in years. We should note that The Prestige was one of two movies this year that starred both Scarlett Johanssen and Hugh Jackman (the abominable Scoop was the other). The Academy continues to overlook Johanssen (not that her work was particularly good in this film. The movie also boasts yet another excellent supporting performance by Michael Caine. He just keeps cranking them out (he was also great in Children of Men).
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction
    My Rating: #23 out of 69

    2 Nominations:

  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Sound Editing

  • Director: Clint Eastwood (Letters from Iwo Jima, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, The Bridges of Madison County, Unforgiven)
    Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford, John Benjamin Hickey, Melanie Lynskey, Barry Pepper, Jamie Bell, Paul Walker, Joseph Cross

    One of two Clint Eastwood films. It's really part two of a pair, though the films are only related by subject matter; the content hardly links at all. This was the first of the films out of the gates and was mostly crucified by critics, but expected to do well with the Academy. The Academy was cold on the movie for some reason (there are myriad explanations for this). At any rate, Warner Bros., seeing Hollywood's cold reception of Flags, decided to bring out Letters from Iwo Jima in December (it was originally scheduled for 2007). This explains two things: the (ever-so-slight) resurgence in love for Flags and the very limited amount of love for Letters which seems to be almost universally admired, though mostly ignored by the Academy. It just came out too late to hit the jackpot. This is all Warner's fault, of course. (I blame them for lots of things. See: The Departed.) I, for one—I am well aware of my minority status on this one—am delighted that there was at least a small amount of love shown for this earlier Eastwood film, which I liked quite a bit when I saw it. But then, I'm a sucker for father/son narratives...
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #8 out of 69

    2 Nominations:

  • Best Original Song: "Our Town" performed by James Taylor and written by Randy Newman ("If I Didn't Have You" from Monsters, Inc., "A Fool in Love" from Meet the Parents, "When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2, "That'll Do" from Babe: Pig in the City, "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story, "Make Up Your Mind" from The Paper, "I Love to See You Smile" from Parenthood, "One More Hour" from Ragtime)
  • Best Animated Feature Film

  • Director: John Lasseter (Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life, Toy Story)
    Cast: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry the Cable Guy, Michael Keaton, Jenifer Lewis, Cheech Marin, Jeremy Piven, John Ratzenberger

    Geez. Look at all those previous nominations for Randy Newman. And that's just in the Original Song category. He could win again, of course, but I think it unlikely. Cars is in a much-loved lineup of Pixar films, and though it is not as widely loved as its predecessors—Toy Story and its sequel, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc., you get the drift—I think it could win simply on the basis of these past successes. However, I don't think it will. I think most everyone saw this film, thought it slightly sub-par, and will give the big trophy to the other huge money-making animated film from 2006.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Original Song, Best Animated Feature
    My Rating: #37 out of 69

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Original Song: "I Need to Wake Up" written and performed by Melissa Etheridge

  • Director: Davis Guggenheim (Gossip)
    Cast: Al Gore

    I'm putting this film next because, although I don't include documentaries in my awards numbers, it obviously does have more than one nomination. It is also nominated (and will probably win) in the Best Documentary Feature category. I think, in fact, that it will take home both of the trophies it's nominated for. Plus the song is a really cool anthem by a hugely popular artist.
    Will Win: Best Original Song (& Best Documentary Feature)
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: Unranked: I don't rank the documentaries I see. It doesn't seem fair.

    1 Nomination:

  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Sacha Baron Cohen, Peter Baynham, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer, Todd Phillips

  • Director: Larry Charles
    Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Ken Davitian, Pamela Anderson, Luenell Campbell

    This film's nomination is very exciting, I think. The Academy, it seems to say, is not as stuffy as you might think. Sacha Baron Cohen probably just missed out on a Best Actor nomination, as well. (Hey, if Roberto Benigni can fit in this category—Benigni even took home a statue—so can Cohen.) Some have wondered why this film is an "adapted" screenplay and not considered in the "original" category. Screenplays that are based around characters who were not invented for a specific film, but were invented for a previous film or some other medium are usually considered "adapted". This is an odd thing for the Academy that they seem to decide both ways. It always seems arbitrary to me. For instance: in 2005, the brilliant script for Before Sunset, which told the story of characters invented for the film Before Sunrise was nominated in the "adapted" category. And yet the year before (2004), Denys Arcand's script for The Barbarian Invasions, which is clearly based on characters from his earlier film The Decline of the American Empire was nominated as "original". It's possible that they evaluate such things on a case-by-case basis. I'm not sure.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Adapted Screenplay (dark horse)
    My Rating: #26 out of 69
    More soon. I'm playing catch-up...

    08 February 2007

    The All New Pixar Movie

    I am of two minds about Disney/Pixar's Cars. Let me first say that I am a big fan of Pixar and an even bigger fan of John Lasseter, Cars' director. But Cars is not Pixar's usual, innovative, hilarious fare. In fact, it's a whole lot different. Cars looks fabulous. The movie is, in fact, worth seeing just for the amazing visual panache that the film boasts. There are some really awesome sequences and very cool camera angles. The casting, too, is nearly uniformly excellent, with some wonderful, grin-inducing cameos (my favorite was hearing Click and Clack from NPR's Car Talk). The film stars Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Larry the Cable Guy and John Ratzenberger (of course).

    But then the film is also kind of, well, formulaic, simple and totally clichéd. It's another in a long line of films about people who are just going too fast in their lives and need to learn to slow down and appreciate the lives that are just racing by them (I haven't seen it yet, but I'm assuming Click is next in line--it arrives next week.) This movie is directed at people like me: people who are in too much of a hurry to notice how beautiful life really is. Except that all of that fantastic nostalgia is bullshit. Call me a cynic, but I think I can move quickly through life and appreciate what it has to offer. I don't think it's completely necessary for me to be living in a small town in order to live a good life. I live in a small town now and I have to say I think the slow life is a little overrated. The kind of ideological sermonizing in Cars bores me to tears.

    The movie isn't boring, though. It's not boring at all. There are some slower sequences, but they're nothing like the down time in, say, the excruciating Blood Diamond or the sleep-inducing V for Vendetta. Cars zips right along, gets lots of laughs and engenders all kinds of good will. I didn't fully understand the mechanics of the races (the opening one or the final one--why does that yellow car slow everyone down?), and it isn't anywhere near A Bug's Life or Monsters, Inc. or The Incredibles but I think Cars is my favorite animated feature of the year. (It's a year without Miyazaki. What can you do?)

    05 February 2007

    The Nominees: Part III of VIII

    3 Nominations:

  • Best Actress: Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Iris, Titanic, Sense and Sensibility)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Jackie Earle Haley
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Todd Field (In the Bedroom) and Tom Perotta

  • Director: Todd Field (In the Bedroom)
    Cast: Patrick Wilson, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly, Noah Emmerich, Jackie Earle Haley, Phyllis Somerville, Jane Adams

    This movie was predicted as one of the big prestige pictures of 2006. A screenplay nomination is a very big deal, so it still looks as though a lot of people paid attention to and liked this film, but it seems like reception to the film is overall more cool than anything else. This is to be expected for a film that worked hard to create distance from its audience. Still, three nominations is a lot of love and the Jackie Earle Haley nomination was a welcome surprise on nomination morning. This is Kate Winslet's fifth Oscar nomination. Make a note. She has yet to win.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Supporting Actor
    My Rating: #51 out of 69

    3 Nominations:

  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También), David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Otsby
  • Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki (The New World, Sleepy Hollow, A Little Princess)
  • Best Film Editing

  • Director: Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Y Tu Mamá También, Great Expectations, A Little Princess)
    Cast: Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Pam Ferris

    This is my favorite movie of the year. Blame its weak showing at the Academy on a too-late release date (this is Universal's fault) and on subject matter (sci-fi is not usually their thing.) But a film this good doesn't need a whole lot of Oscar nominations. People are going to be talking about how great this movie is for years to come. At any rate, Emmanuel Lubezki deserves to win in his category hands down. Hopefully by then, members of the Academy will all have seen this gem.
    Will Win: Best Cinematography
    Might Also Win: Best Film Editing
    My Rating: #1 out of 69

    3 Nominations:

  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Makeup

  • Director: (Crazy) Mel Gibson (The Passion of the Christ, Braveheart, The Man Without a Face)
    Cast: Rudy Youngblood, Dalia Hernandez, Jonathan Brewer, Morris Birdyellowhead, Carlos Emilio Baez

    This is a good movie, for the most part, though its subject matter and director obviously make it a tough pill for Hollywood to swallow. Still, The Passion of the Christ got Oscar nominations and so did this film. Winning anything is a different story altogether, and the presence of Pan's Labyrinth in the makeup category means Apocalypto will go home with nothing on Oscar night. That said, the makeup in this film (as in Gibson's last film) is extraordinary and the nomination is well-deserved.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #26 out of 69

    UNITED 93
    2 Nominations:

  • Best Director: Paul Greengrass
  • Best Film Editing

  • Director: Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, Bloody Sunday, The Murder of Stephen Lawrence, The Theory of Flight)
    Cast: David Alan Basche, Cheyenne Jackson, Christian Clemenson, Trish Gates, Khalid Abdalla, Lewis Alsamari, Omar Berdouni, Jamie Harding

    These nominations are a big surprise. Critics loved this film, and clearly so did the Academy's director's branch, which is—in general—more discriminating than the body as a whole. But audiences didn't seem to take notice of this movie, despite critical enthusiasm about it. I personally loved the film and it sat at my number one spot for almost the entire year. It's a superbly directed film. I can't wait for Greengrass's next offering: The Bourne Ultimatum.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Film Editing
    My Rating: #2 out of 69

    2 Nominations:

  • Best Actress: Meryl Streep (Adaptation., Music of the Heart, One True Thing, The Bridges of Madison County, Postcards from the Edge, A Cry in the Dark, Ironweed, Out of Africa, Silkwood, The French Lieutenant's Woman; she has Oscars for Sophie's Choice and Kramer vs. Kramer but hasn't won in 24 years.)
  • Best Costume Design: Patricia Field

  • Director: David Frankel (Miami Rhapsody)
    Cast: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Adrien Grenier, Simon Baker

    The Best Actress nomination was a given, but the Best Costume Design nomination is a big surprise. The Academy usually likes to nominate period films and fantasy films in this category. Contemporary costume work usually gets left behind. This bodes well for the future. Streep hasn't won an Oscar since 1983. It is time to hand her another trophy, people! Her work is always stellar, never even slightly sub-par, and it always feels like you never knew her before when she's onscreen.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Costume Design
    My Rating: #47 out of 69

    I Can't Get Enough of This Song

    This boy's name is Von Smith. And I want to be him when I grow up:

    04 February 2007

    There's a First Time for Everything

    I did my 2006 Federal and California income tax returns today. Usually I don't even start looking at that stuff until April Fool's Day.

    The Black Dahlia

    Brian De Palma's attempt at the neo-noir 1940s crime genre is a nearly unmitigated disaster. The Black Dahlia stars Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johanssen, Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank, almost all of whom look like they're playing dress-up. The whole thing rings screechingly false, as though people like those depicted in the movie never existed in the history of the world, and our real noirs from the 1940s were just as phony. The film is so bad that it made me want to re-think the entire genre.

    The script is sufficiently convoluted that you might mistake yourself for being involved in a tension-filled mystery, but the plot-lines are so numerous and so undeveloped that nothing more than incoherence is ever really achieved. Roomie and I had no idea what was going on for most of the film, and still after nearly ten minutes of discussion couldn't figure out why certain characters behaved in certain ways other than that the plot dictated such actions. Script problems aside (they are too numerous to explore) the film looks beautiful. It's gorgeously shot by Vilmos Zsigmond and designed beautifully by Dante Feretti and Jenny Beavan. Actually, the worst part of the film (and the script is so terrible that what I am about to say is really quite a pronouncement) may be Hilary Swank's performance. It's a kind of bizarre star turn that is so actor-ly, so inhuman that she actually appears to be something other than a carbon-based life form. When we first see her character, we catch sight of her through the eyes of our hero (Josh Hartnett) across the smoke-filled lounge of a gay bar and so Swank appears to be a drag queen. Her movements and gestures contain the kind of exaggerated femininity associated chiefly with female impersonators—certainly not with a confident, sexual woman with an awareness of her own power. When we hear her speak her accent is at once unplaceable and improbable, so much so that it can only be an affect. Her look and her voice are both so unmistakeably fake that assuming she's a drag queen makes perfect sense. Worse yet, the performance never moves from this place. Nowhere does Swank present the vulnerability of women like Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep or Faye Dunaway in Chinatown or Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential. Instead, we get only a steely-eyed intensity so obviously phony you can't help but wonder why Josh Hartnett doesn't burst out laughing in the middle of the narrative.

    In short, skip this film. If you want to see something from the neo-noir genre, rewatch The Grifters or Body Heat. If you want to catch good drag, rent Die, Mommie, Die! Swank is a poor substitute for Charles Busch.

    It Happens for a Reason

    "Everything Happens for a Reason"
    I hear this said very frequently be people I like, even by people I respect. But this phrase always makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The phrase implies a larger narrative into which we all fit—for better or worse—and implies that everything in life serves some larger, greater purpose.

    So I was thinking about the phrase on Friday and I thought, "Everything doesn't happen for a reason; everything happens." It occurred to me, of course, that it is impossible for me to phrase my own beliefs in this way. "Everything happens" is not true at all. Everything does not happen. Many, many things do not happen. This means, then, that the phrase "Everything happens for a reason" contains the very same lie. Everything does not happen and therefore everything cannot happen "for a reason." The phrase (that I still bristle at) should more properly be phrased "Everything that happens happens for a reason." When phrased in this particular way, the maxim seems to take on a new meaning—at least for me. It seems to imply, not that everything has a purpose, but that everything has an impetus. Everything happens because someone or something decided it would. With this, I can most certainly agree, as long as that someone or something is removed from the realm of the divine.

    01 February 2007

    The Nominees: Part II of VIII

    5 Nominations:

  • Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator, What's Eating Gilbert Grape)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Djimon Hounsou (In America)
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Sound Editing

  • Director: Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai, The Siege, Courage Under Fire, Legends of the Fall, Glory)
    Cast: Djimon Hounsou, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, David Harewood, Kagiso Kuypers, Arnold Vosloo, Michael Sheen

    The popularity of this movie both with critics groups, awards-giving bodies and the Academy has been astounding to every pundit who talks about Oscar. Mostly, I think, because all of us saw this film and said both to ourselves and collectively "what a dreadful piece of junk." This lead to most people predicting that DiCaprio would be nominated as lead actor not for Blood Diamond but for The (far superior) Departed. Nonetheless, this film, a superficial exploration of western colonial influences on Africa and a poorly-directed action movie with a shamelessly sentimental streak, presisted in the minds of the Academy's voters and it wound up one of Oscar's most-nominated films this year. It won't win a thing, of course, unless I am--once again--underestimating this movie.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing
    My Rating: #58 out of 68

    4 Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director: Clint Eastwood (who has one nomination—Mystic River—and two trophies—Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven)
  • Best Original Screenplay: Iris Yamashita, Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby and Crash, last year's winner)
  • Best Sound Editing

  • Director: Eastwood (Flags of Our Fathers, Space Cowboys, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, The Bridges of Madison County)
    Cast: Ken Watanabe, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Ryo Kase, Nae, Yuki Matsuzaki

    This is Eastwood's companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, which came out earlier in the year. This movie, unlike its predecessor, was met with rave reviews. Its subject matter and language difference—it's filmed almost entirely in Japanese—have caused it to meet with a less-than-warm reception with American audiences, however. The Best Picture nomination may be a boost for the film, but this film is one of the lowest grossing films ever to be nominated for Best Picture, or so I am told. It's a prestigious-looking piece and it's a World War II drama, though, and we all know how well those go over with the Academy. They will all see this movie and it will probably go home with a trophy or two. Let me grudgingly say that we should never underestimate the Eastwood (or Paul Haggis, for that matter).
    Will Win: Best Sound Editing
    Might Also Win: (in an upset) Best Original Screenplay
    My Rating: #34 out of 68

    4 Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Abigail Breslin
  • Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt

  • Director: Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
    Cast: Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Alan Arkin, Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Bryan Cranston

    The little movie that could! This is certainly this year's My Big Fat Greek Wedding, though this film got much further than Wedding ever did with the Academy and is a much, much, much better film. I mention Wedding because both were independent comedies that gained massive public popularity through word-of-mouth, enough to influence the Academy. This happens very rarely and for a picture like this to get a nomination in the giant Best Picture category is almost unheard of (The Full Monty was ages ago). Best Picture is up in the air this year, though, and a Best Ensemble win at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards means that this movie is in the running—as much as any other candidate for the big prize. And it could happen. This film's got legs.
    Will Win: Best Original Screenplay
    Might Also Win: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor
    My Rating: #18 out of 68

    4 Nominations:

  • Best Actress: Judi Dench (Mrs Henderson Presents, Iris, Chocolat, Shakespeare in Love, Mrs. Brown)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett (The Aviator, Elizabeth)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Patrick Marber
  • Best Original Score: Philip Glass (The Hours, Kundun)

  • Director: Richard Eyre (Stage Beauty, Iris)
    Cast: Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson, Juno Temple, Max Lewis

    This film has Oscar written all over it, of course, and it did very well. These actresses are highly respected and they elevate this material (read: camp), to great heights, but don't expect the picture to win anything. British melodramas never do as well as American ones with the Academy.
    Will Win: N/A
    Might Also Win: Best Original Score
    My Rating: #36 out of 68

    4 Nominations:

  • Best Art Direction: Rick Heinrichs & Cheryl A. Carasik (The team from Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events; he has a trophy for Sleepy Hollow)
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Sound Editing

  • Director: Gore Verbinski (The Weather Man, Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl, The Ring, The Mexican)
    Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightley, Bill Nighy, Stellan Skarsgaård, Naomie Harris, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Tom Hollander

    This made a brave showing on Oscar-nomination morning. Of course its effects are stunning and it is handsomely decorated and beautiful to look at, so no one should have been surprised. Four nominations, though, is nothing short of excellent for a film this boring and obviously soulless. I hated this movie, but it is one of the biggest money-makers of 2006, and the Academy likes to make a point of paying homage to those Hollywood blockbusters in its Effects and Sound categories.
    Will Win:Best Visual Effects
    Might Also Win: N/A
    My Rating: #67 out of 68

    To be continued... (just like Dead Man's Chest!)

    This Weekend's Tasks

    This weekend's work starts early:
    • Read Rush Rehm: Greek Tragic Theatre
    • Read Æschylus: the Suppliants
    • Read Clifford Ashby: "Validation (and Discovery) by Experiment"
    • Read David Wiles: "The Theatre of Dionysus"
    • Read Dion Boucicault: The Octoroon
    • Finish Bernard Williams: Shame and Necessity (I'm loving this book, by the way)
    • Read Sophocles: Electra
    • Read Sophocles: Œdipus at Colonus
    • Read Sigmund Freud: "On Oedipus and Hamlet"
    • Read Joel D. Schwartz: "Human Action and Political Action in Oedipus Tyrannos"
    • Read Dorothy Willner: "The Oedipus Complex, Antigone, and Electra"

    My lord there is so much to do. I am supposed to be attending a conference called Film/Lit this weekend, too. And researching a project on Women in Ancient Greece. This is getting to be ridiculous. I'd also like to catch at least one movie. Oh yeah, and I'll have a new batch of papers to grade too. Help!

    Review Catch-up

    So I've been catching up on films as best I can. Tonight I saw Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette at our free Student Life Cinema theatre. I enjoyed it very much. It's gorgeous, of course, and also very interesting. The cast is almost uniformly made up of comedians (American and otherwise), which made for a very strange film about the French aristocracy. But the film is clearly an homage to La Dolce Vita, while at the same time rooted firmly in Coppola's explorations of teenage girl restlessness, confusion and ennui. The film isn't a complete success as a portrait of privilege, but as I said, it is beautiful to look at (Milena Canonero's costumes are phenomenal) and very, very funny.

    Christopher Nolan's The Prestige is excellent. It stars Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and featuring appearances by all sort of folks (Bowie! Andy Serkis! Ricky Jay!). This is the magician movie that everyone should have seen this summer instead of The Illusionist (which is total crap). This is another film that has a stunning look. There are sequences in the mountains of Colorado Springs that took my breath away they're shot so beautifully. This is a movie with tricks up its sleeve, but has enough sense to let you in on all of its secrets. The title is terrible, but don't let that keep you away from this picture. It's a winner. Bale gives another great performance, and Jackman is great (I'm loving him lately--tell me everyone's gone out and seen The Fountain!) Michael Caine is also very good in the picture, and it was very nice to see Piper Perabo again. Keep giving that girl work, people! This movie is a thriller and a mystery, as well as a bit of a sci-fi flick. I liked it very much.

    Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is tough to get through. No. I lie. It isn't that hard to get through, and it's never really boring, but it also never really goes anywhere either. I guess it's supposed to be funny and horrifying at the same time, but it really never is either of these things. It's frustrating to be sure, but I'm not sure I really like that in my fiction. This was one of the best-reviewed films of the year, but it wasn't my cup of tea and it probably won't be yours either, unless you really like Tsai Ming-Liang or Zhangke Jia. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu reminded me of those guys. I respected the film, but I either didn't get it or got it but didn't care.