Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The End

As so the season has come to an end. I'm always filed with a bit of sadness when it's all over, no matter what the results, the Academy Awards are always on my mind. It's to great dismay to learn that this years telecast was the lowest rated show since 1974. A year in which my favorite film of the year won the big award (that hasn't happened since 2000 with American Beauty.) Was the films that didn't draw in the audience. Dark gloom-ridden masterpieces like No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood did quite well at the box office for off-the-cuff auteurial brain films. Respectively both are all time top grossers for the Coen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson at about $60 million and $35 million. Atonement, while no Shakespeare in Love or English Patient grossed nearly $50 million, not bad for a period piece, in the same vicinity of Michael Clayton. Juno was the only gangbuster at the box office, at $130 million.

But really, why the lack of interest in this years telecast, which I felt was largely superior than past shows, not just because my favorite films were among the honored, but also for Jon Stewart, a witty racantor-- remember they with the writer strike they only had like a week and half to writer the show, not the usual two or three months. The musical performances were done quite well also, with Amy Adams cute and cuddily and the team from Once ruling the world. Sure the show had silly tributes, but they all do-- it's one of those things Oscar fetishists laugh and argue about, but the trivialities of them are apart of why the show is special.

But what was so unappealing about this year-- was it the movies, and the more attention on brain than Hollywood might-- would you really want a best picture line-up consisting of 2007's top grossers-- Spider-man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Shrek the Third. Attention has been focused on the lack of big Hollywood films in the line-up, but none of the films selected were really out and out indies either. Atonement came from Focus Features (the specialty division of Universal), Juno from Fox Searchlight (still Fox), No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood hybrids from Paramount Vantage and Miramax (Paramount and Disney), and Michael Clayton from Warner Bros.

That's been the trend in recent years-- the speciality divisions have been making the Oscar bait movies, while the bigger divisions are making the movies, but on the flip side whenever the big side of the companies do make an Oscar bid, they don't really go for it-- case in point-- last year Paramount Pictures released Zodiac, David Fincher's intelligent, engrossing thesis into the Zodiac killings. The film came out in March to rave reviews and flaccid box office and then was mostly forgotten by years end-- by the distributers, critics and Academy.

It may not be popular, but I rejoice the Academy for (mostly) making the right decisions this year-- none of the films that won weren't deserving-- debates will rage forever if some were more worthy (I have some things to say), but I digress I embrace the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for making happily and intelligently unpopular choices.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

80th Academy Awards

No Country For Old Men
In the end, the best one the top award-- HOORAY! 'Tis rare and beautiful and joyous and contagious and wonderous. YAY!

Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, No Country For Old Men
These boys are odd but thankfully so-- love the "playing in our side of the sandbox" quote. I partially wanted the love to be shared for PT Anderson or even Julian Schnabel, but I just can't complain-- I want too, but I can't.

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Who else could win this award-- his speech quite splendid and happy The Queen knighted him.

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
In the end it Le Mone and not Le Christie crowned, but honestly the AMPAS folk love them biopics, we can't be too surprised can we-- seven of the last ten actresses were playing real people. I still hoped for a Laura Linney shocker, but wasn't gonna happen. Her speech was nicely trembling and exciting-- I'm a fan now.

Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
Like Day-Lewis, who else could have won the award-- happily and deserved.

Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
What was she wearing... it's too funny because one of my best friends looks like Tilda Swinton and that was my running Oscar joke... not bitter about this one (even though Bob Dylan deserved it.) I can't be bitter, Swinton gave such a eloquent, funny and a bit naughty speech.

Juno- Diablo Cody
So nervous about this one, but the most worthy got it-- kudos out to the "superhuman Ellen Page."

No Country For Old Men- Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
They've only "adapted Homer and Cormac McCarthy"-- love this Midwestern bred, married to Frances McDormand (Joel) duo.


Taxi to the Dark Side

The Counterfeiters

There Will Be Blood- Robert Elswit
This year, cinematography was unusually brilliant, I was secretly hoping for a five way tie, but Elswit makes me happy, even though a Deakins win (either for Jesse James or No Country would have made me swoon.)

Sweeney Todd- Dante Ferritti & Francesca Lo Schiavo

Elizabeth: The Golden Age- Alexandra Bryne

The Bourne Ultimatum- Christopher Rouse

Atonement- Dario Marianelli

"Falling Slowly," Once- Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
I was too thrilled for this victory and then what do you-- they cut the mic off Irglova right as she began to speak. How freaking dare you cut off Irglova, cut one of them Plan B tributes (bee-stings?) And then relief-- my hero Jon Stewart brought back the lovely Irglova to speak, and a lovely one it was. I fell in love with Once all over again. YAY!


The Mozart of Pickpockets

Peter & the Wolf

La Vie en Rose

The Bourne Ultimatum

The Bourne Ultimatum

The Golden Compass

Another Oscar year over, another hangover. The good-- Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart, Jon Stewart-- he funny! Amy Adams was cute as a button nailing the Disneyified performance of "Happy Working Song." The bad-- cutting off MARKETA IRGLOVA (again thank you Jon Stewart.) The ugly-- Bee Movie presenting an Oscar-- stop this crap!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Independent Spirit Awards


Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly

Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Savages

Ellen Page, Juno

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Talk to Me

Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There

The Lookout

JOHN CASSAVETTES AWARD (film under $500,000)
August Evening

The Savages- Tamara Jenkins

Juno- Diablo Cody


Crazy Love

The Diving Bell & the Butterfly- Jamusz Kaminski

The director, casting director and ensemble of I'm Not There

Obviously Juno won the award-- the usual drill with the Indie Spirits is that the one lone pic nominated for the Oscar does win, therefore dooming it the next day. I have problems with this, especially since it doesn't really seem to embody independence anyway.

At a glance:

2007: Little Miss Sunshine (The Departed won Oscar)
2006: Brokeback Mountain (Crash! won Oscar)
2005: Sideways (Million Dollar Baby won Oscar)
2004: Lost in Translation (The Lord of the Rings won Oscar)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Best Performance Not Awarded by Anyone

The rule for this award is simple- a performance I deemed superior-- that hasn't been acknowledged by any critics prizes, any organizations, internet cineasts, or wasn't in a film that received awards traction this past season. And that honor, in my humble opinion, this year belongs to Marley Shelton for her portrayl of Dr. Dakota Block in Grindhouse, or Planet Terror to be exact. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez crafted a loving homage to trashy exploitation of film yore and came up with something quite brilliant. The collective film only grossed about $25 million last April, but Shelton, a young beauty known primarly for forgettable girl next door parts in films like Pleasantville, Sugar & Spice and Uptown Girls, before an inticing cameo at the start of Sin City, clearly gets the joke and gives a charming and full knowning spin to her role of a doctor running from her zombie husband (Josh Brolin- great pre-No Country) and trying to get to her true love one (a spicey girl played by Fergie.) She understands what's expected of her and has the best running in any film of 2007:

Dr. Dakota Block: Hi, Joe. I'm going to give you a very strong anesthetic, so you won't feel anything during the procedure. These...
[pats the needles in her shirt pocket]

Dr. Dakota Block: ...are my friends. My yellow friend is to take the sting off.
[injects Joe in the arm with the yellow needle]

Dr. Dakota Block: My blue friend you'll barely feel.
[injects Joe in the arm with the blue needle]

Dr. Dakota Block: That means my yellow friend is already taking effect.
See how fast my friends work?
[injects Joe in the arm with the red needle]

Dr. Dakota Block: And after my red-headed friend, you'll never see me again.
[Joe slobbers over himself and passes out]


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Best Picture

And the nominees are:

Michael Clayton
No Country For Old Men
There Will Be Blood

So, 2007 was a great year of American filmmaking, and the Oscar (with minor exceptions) did it right. To prove this point, this year the Academy acknowledged my three favorite movies of the year in the Best Picture category. This never happens. Last year, Children of Men was my favorite (and snubbed.) 2005, Brokeback Mountain was my favorite, which got the shaft in an event that disdains and maddens me to this day. 2004, Kill Bill: Volume Two and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind were the best, in my opinion, both of which pretty much ignored, the list goes on. This is a joyous occassion where the Academy selected artistic triumphs and while Atonement and Michael Clayton aren't my favorites (I'd pick I'm Not There, The Savages, The Darjeeling Limited, Once, Sweeney Todd, the list goes on...), it's still a terrific selection compared to many years of constant disapointment. No Country For Old Men, with it's plethora of awards (PGA, DGA, SAG, millions of critics prizes) that's on top, and rightfully so, but if there's a There Will Be Blood or Juno shocker, I'd be amazed and joyed at that. Right on, Academy, job well done for honoring artistically successful and real pieces of art. End scene.

Best Director

And the nominees are:

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, No Country For Old Men
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman, Juno
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly

This is a fine selection here. I want Anderson, the Coens, Reitman and Schnabel to share the prize, but there can be only one victor. Of course, I believe, the Coen Brothers will take it, but a case can be made for Anderson (Blood, I believe, is more a directorial triumph than a written one), Reitman (many people are bothered by his inclusion, but I protest, Juno is an accomplished comedy because of Reitman's pacing control and wonderous effect with ensembles) and Schnabel (for his riveting audacity to make a painful subject beautiful and poignant without ever getting sappy.) I would have enjoyed Tim Burton included here, but a bountiful selection like this (minus Gilroy) is a rare and amazing thing. Again, I feel, why complain?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Best Actor

And the nominees are:

George Clooney, Michael Clayton
as: Michael Clayton

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
as: Daniel Plainview

Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
as: Sweeney Todd

Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
as: Hank Deerfield

Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
as: Nikolai

A fine group, but Daniel Day-Lewis is too good, too monumental, too grandiose, too freaking brilliant to be overlooked here. End scene. Congrats. What have liked to see Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild) and Glen Hansard (Once) acknowledged anywhere, but in the end the right man in ahead.

Best Actress

And the nominees are:

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
as: Queen Elizabeth I

Julie Christie, Away From Her
as: Fiona Anderson

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
as: Edith Piaf

Laura Linney, The Savages
as: Wendy Savages

Ellen Page, Juno
as: Juno MacGuff

The majestic Julie Christie has pretty much swept the critics prizes, the Golden Globe, and SAG award... she's Hollywood royalty (remember Darling, Dr. Zhivago, her love affair with Warren Beatty.) My brain says it's going to Christie this year for her lauded turn as a woman battling Alzheimers. However, Cotillard recently snapped up the BAFTA prize to go to her wrongly awarded Golden Globe, and the Academy loves them tortured biopic stories. Then again Page is the star of the year, and Juno is the zeitgeisty hit of the year, and my heart goes with her. It's the age old question of brain vs. heart, and problem I think a lot of Academy votes suffer from. My argue that Jodie Foster and Angelina Jolie were the painful snubs of the year, but I'm more upset about Amy Adams for enchanting Enchanted and Nicole Kidman's achingly blunt Margot at the Wedding. In the end of Christie gets the pick for the eventual winner, but Cotillard or Page are not far behind. In a rare twist of the Academy wronging the sins of the critics, the Globes, and everybody else they honored Laura Linney for her singular, completely honest and tender portrayl in The Savages. She would have my vote, period. The less said about the double Blanchett nomination, the better-- love ya, but yeah.

Best Supporting Actor

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
as: Robert Ford

Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
as: Anton Chigurh

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
as: Gust Avrakotos

Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
as: Ron Franz

Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
as: Arthur Edens

With the exception of the hammy grandiose performance given by Philip Seymour Hoffman this is a solid list. Of course it's Javier Bardem's fierce, frighteningly scary turn in No Country that's on top-- as well it should be. It's one of those performances that deserves to be in front of the pack. If there's an upset (which would be most likely the biggest shock of the night) it will be Hal Holbrook, which would be fine, since he's quite moving in Into the Wild, but c'mon-- Anton Chigurh is the ultimate badass. I'm especially glad for Affleck's nomination, even though he's really the lead in Jesse James, but category fraud is never going away. I want to know, however, why Jason Bateman (Juno) and Bruce Greenwood (I'm Not There) have been this entire award season. It's not right.

Best Supporting Actress

And the nominees are:

Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
as: Jude Quinn (Bob Dylan)

Ruby Dee, American Gangster
as: Mama Lucas

Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
as: Briony Tallis

Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
as: Helene McCready

Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
as: Karen Crowder

This is the most contested of the big categories...seriously anyone can win. Blanchett has the buzz role (and the Golden Globe), Dee has the old, never Oscared title (and the SAG award), Ryan has the trashy, toned-down (but she's pretty) role, Ronan is the revelation and Swinton has the character actress made it into a big movie (and the BAFTA) role. My heart belongs to Blanchett for her inspired and breathlessly original take in I'm Not There... she's extrordinary. Dee might actually be the eventual victor here, but I think Ryan (winner of the most critics prizes) and Ronan have a shot too. The should be nominated list (in my humble opinion) is Catherine Keener (the heart and soul of Into the Wild), Imelda Stauton (hammy and great in pink in Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix) and Jennifer Garner (has she ever been better than in Juno.)

Best Original Screenplay

And the nominees are:

Juno- Diablo Cody
Lars & the Real Girl- Nancy Oliver
Michael Clayton- Tony Gilroy
Ratatouille- Brad Bird
The Savages- Tamara Jenkins

This is one of the only categories I'm totally possessive over-- if Juno doesn't win, I'll go bonkers...stark raving mad. It's won the most critics prizes, the WGA award, and BAFTA, if it doesn't win, it's not funny. It's obviously the best of the bunch, including The Savages, the second most deserving. The snubbed ones are The Darjeeling Limited and Year of the Dog, but they never had not shot, but I at least felt they were better than the over-cooked Michael Clayton. But seriously, it's Juno's award... and as far as I'm concerned, that's final...

Best Adapted Screenplay

And the nominees are:

Atonement- Christopher Hampton
based on the novel by Ian McEwan

Away From Her- Sarah Polley
based on the short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain," by Alice Munro

The Diving Bell & the Buttery- Ronald Harwood
based on the novel by Jean-Dominique Bauby

No Country For Old Men- Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy

There Will Be Blood- Paul Thomas Anderson
based on the novel "Oil," by Upton Sinclair

This is another category where I feel no need to complain (what a rare Oscar season this has been.) Sure I, or others, could surely make a case for Gone, Baby, Gone or Into the Wild, or even perhaps Hairspray, but why... it's still gold. The will\should win goes handily to No Country For Old Men for it's the best picture of the year and the pacing\dialogue\characterization is not only perfectly Coen Brothers, but perfect in itself. Still if there's an upset I think it will be The Diving Bell (it's obviously loved, and Ronald Harwood already had a surprise upset with The Pianist.) But, whatever happens I'll be fine.

Best CInematography

And the nominees are:

The Assassination of Jesse James- Roger Deakins
Atonement- Seamus McGarvey
The Diving Bell & the Butterfly- Janusz Kaminski
No Country For Old Men- Roger Deakins
There Will Be Blood- Roger Elswit

This category is such an embarrassment of riches, it's positively ridiculous and this category incapsulates that completely. Not a dud or unimpressively photographed film above. I want to root for Roger Deakins for being awesome and utterly un-Oscared for so long, but I fear that two amazingly beautiful films will cancel him out. Elswit (Good Night, and Good Luck) won the ASC, and I'd be totally cool if he won, as I would with Kaminski and McGarvey. I can't predict who will win because it breaks my heart too much to pit them against each other. Happily, for me, whoever is called upon the Oscar stage is worthy. Of the films that missed the cut, Across the Universe and Sunshine and Lust, Caution deserved the mention as well but I won't complain here because the nominees are so good. The Assassination of Jesse James is achingly, beautifully filmed. Atonement is perfectly old school and that 4-minute war shot is incredible, if awkward to the story. The Diving Bell & the Butterly (which I think has the advantage) perfectly captures the birds eye view of "locked-in syndrome. No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood are prettily gritty and at some points just plain pretty.

Best Art Direction

And the nominees are:

American Gangster- Arthur Max, Beth A. Rubino
Atonement- Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
The Golden Compass- Dannis Gassner, Anna Pinnock
Sweeney Todd- Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo
There Will Be Blood- Jack Fisk, Jim Erickson

The recent art directors guild award went to There Will Be Blood (period film), The Golden Compass (fantasy film) and No Country For Old Men (contemporary film), so it proved unhelpful. My pick would go to Blood for it bare boned depiction of early-California-- it was subtle, but perfect in it's unshowiness, but I think it will come down to Sweeney Todd and Atonement. I'm deeply saddened that Across the Universe (especially for the freakily amazing circus scene) and The Assassination of Jesse James (for everything) are sadly missing from the list.
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