Monday, July 7, 2008

This Blog Has Moved To A Different Location

Heyo, anyone who happens by. As it happens, there was already a Reverse Shot, which is a very professional and nice looking film blog/zine in its own right.

So this old blog has hopped over to Kinematoscope- a new, more film nerdier name! And I've embarked on a year and a half long, 400,000 word project to review and analyze all of imdb.com's top 250 films! Exciting, I know.

So follow the jump if that intrigues you.

Friday, February 22, 2008

2008 Oscar Predictions- Duncan

So it's all come down to this, it seems. Never before have I seen all of the Best Picture nominees, heading into the ceremony. I've read awardsdaily.com, I've read NYT's The Carpetbagger, I've pored over charts and figures, and now I have to put myself on record.

Last year, I went 17 for 24- I missed best animated short because I should have went with my gut, not the experts. I missed Alan Arkin over Eddie Murphy because I should have used common sense. I missed Happy Feet over Cars because I underestimated penguins. Otherwise, I missed some unpredictable upsets in cinematography and Foreign Language that nobody saw coming.

What will happen on Sunday? Most of the major categories are locks, except the two actresses. The technical awards are always anybody's guess. And then there are the complete wild cards like documentary short, and best original song.

Well, here's my best guess.

Best Picture

The Winner: No Country For Old Men
Dark Horse: Michael Clayton

Just for the record, we're doing "Dark Horse" picks this year as potential spoilers, but that doesn't mean I think Michael Clayton has a real chance. Nothing has dominated the awards since like No Country since Return of the King, and we all remember what happened there. There's just no derailing it, but if there were some bizarro world situation where No Country and There Will Be Blood split the vote, then Clayton could emerge from the dust on the strength of it's triple nominated cast.

The love for Michael Clayton has baffled some- I think the Academy misses non-Ocean's movies Steven Soderbergh so much that they'll take the nearest substitute. But I think it's great to see an atmospheric thriller recognized in major categories, which wouldn't have been unusual at all forty years ago.

The Rest:
Juno seems like a paper tiger to me, a gimme nomination for a crowd favorite. I liked it much, much more than it's frequent comparison partner, Little Miss Sunshine, but I have no fear of it stealing the Oscar this year- LMS seemed like a real possibility in 07.

Atonement is definitely an odd case- everyone outside America is head over heels for it-we thought it was okay. I wonder if it was marketed differently (and more effectively) overseas- the overall lukewarm reaction here seems to be from people that expected a sweeping, epic romance, and got instead a lighter, quicker meditation on nuance and authorship. Maybe if people could talk about what I mean by that without giving the ending away, the promotional campaign for the film could have been more direct and original than the standard Knightley/McAvoy looks of longing posters.

There Will Be Blood is brilliant, and definitely the second best film of the five, but I get the feeling that if No Country weren't around, there's no way it would have the award sewn up- the third act has proved too crazy and divisive to make it a real front-runner.

Best Director

The Winner: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country For Old Men
Dark Horse: Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

On the strength of his Golden Globe win, and the general feeling that Diving Bell got the shaft, I was leaning toward predicting a victory for Schnabel here. But his general antipathy for the Awards circuit hasn't helped his image, and the Coens took home the all important DGA award.

The Rest:
Tony Gilroy (Clayton) has the makings of an auteur, but is still a first timer and a longshot. Paul Thomas Anderson (Blood) is earning a reputation as a meticulous filmmaker that can create breathtaking films, but I think his achievement is being far too overshadowed by his star- if he returns to the ensemble format for his next film, I could imagine him easily winning a trophy. Reitman (Juno)? I keep forgetting he was even nominated. Sorry, but it's true.

Best Actor

The Winner: Daniel Day Lewis- There Will Be Blood
Dark Horse: George Clooney- Michael Clayton

Little left to say about this one, really. I sometimes wonder if I'll ever go back to the way I was before last year, when I started following awards news and categories with clear favorites like this one (and Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren last year) lost any surprise. But then I remember how much I love this stuff. Even Clooney admits his loss is a foregone conclusion.

The Rest:
Personally, I was always baffled by Viggo Mortensen's lack of respect for taking what JRR Tolkien wrote as a horribly flat character and making him come alive. Maybe this nomination (for Eastern Promises) is for that trilogy, really. Tommy Lee Jones I'm sure did a wonderful job, but it seems like he got some guilt votes from all the academy members that didn't want to see In the Valley of Elah and get bummed out. Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd) gets a nomination for coolness- he won't actually have a chance until he stars in a "serious" film, which is a shame.

Best Actress

The Winner: Julie Christie- Away From Her
Dark Horse: Marion Cotillard- La Vie En Rose

But then again, there are still races that are too close to call- But I think Christie breaks a virtual tie with Cotillard on name recognition alone. The surprise adapted screenplay nomination for Away From Her suggests that it's high-profile enough to secure this award.

The Rest:
Laura Linney (The Savages) seems destined for one of those career recognition Oscars in the supporting category someday- she's always a contender, never quite at the top. Ellen Page (Juno) was in a comedy, and you know the rules on that. Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age) is the only one here with no shot at all- nobody wins Best Actress for a critically panned flop (I'm sure Dave will look something up to prove me wrong on that, though.)

Supporting Actor

The Winner: Javier Bardem- No Country For Old Men
Dark Horse: Casey Affleck- The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford

I've heard some complaints that Bardem is going to take home a statue for mostly being silent, but I don't think that's the case- just because sociopathy is a lack of recognizable human emotions doesn't mean that it's easy to pull off. If it was just someone sleepwalking through a wordless part, the character would be boring, instead of terrifying. Casey Affleck would have a much better chance for his nervy, jangling role in Assassination if, you know, anybody saw it.

The Rest:
Hal Holbrook is apparently a respected film veteran, and kudos to him, but it's quite clear that no one had any patience for Into the Wild for whatever reason. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson's War) just looked surly for a while- this nomination baffles me- really? Someone in an Aaron Sorkin scripted movie was irritable and made wisecracks? No way! And Tom Wilkinson was the heart and soul of Michael Clayton, but I guess he was out-crazied by Bardem.

Supporting Actress
The Winner: Cate Blanchett- I'm Not There
Dark Horse: Amy Ryan- Gone Baby Gone

I was too lazy to do the "will win" and "should win" distinctions (like Dave did), as this is really the only likely winner I would strongly disagree with. Really? She plays a man, that's awesome. Who cares?

I think it has a lot to do with impersonating someone, versus making an audience believe in a character from scratch. Anne Proulx, in her steaming-mad indictment of the Crash-Brokeback fiasco, touched upon this much more eloquently:
Hollywood loves mimicry, the conversion of a film actor into the spittin' image of a once-living celeb. But which takes more skill, acting a person who strolled the boulevard a few decades ago and who left behind tapes, film, photographs, voice recordings and friends with strong memories, or the construction of characters from imagination and a few cold words on the page? I don't know. The subject never comes up.
This issue might have tipped my choice in Best Actress (Edith Piaf v. fictional character) as well.

The Rest:
Can we all agree to stop nominating old people who are only in two scenes of a film just because they're old? Hey, good for Ruby Dee (American Gangster), I wish her all the best and have nothing but respect for her career. But she barely has time for one note in her cameo role, let alone the several notes that Amy Ryan hit in multiple scenes. Saiorse Ronan holds the first half of Atonement together, but is spared the more challenging scenes of harrowing guilt that the other two actresses in her role had to deal with. Tilda Swinton would be another worthy winner, as she was more fleshed out into a character that the eponymous hero of Michael Clayton.

Best Original Screenplay

The Winner: Diablo Cody- Juno
Dark Horse: Brad Bird- Ratatouille

It would be hard to send home the only Blockbuster among the best picture nominees with absolutely nothing. And since it has zero chance in picture and director, and a teensy sliver of a chance in actress, it seems to have been decided long ago that Cody's script is the place to honor it. Personally, I enjoyed the film, but it seems hard to credit the script without mentioning that it takes a great cast to make all that slang palatable. And it's unique and all, sure, but how is it that much more impressive than, say, Clueless? Brad Bird's newest film is the most lauded animated feature since Beauty and the Beast, and makes me nervous about predicting all five categories it appears in. Everyone loves this film, especially the critical community.

The Rest:
Nancy Oliver (Lars and the Real Girl) and Tamara Jenkins (The Savages) team with Cody for a record number of female screenplay nominees, and more power to all three- Juno seems to be drawing all of the girl power vote though, despite Jenkins' deft human touches. Michael Clayton is tightly written by Tony Gilroy, but the strength of the film is more in the atmosphere and the performances- corrupt businesses and shady lawyers aren't exactly anything new.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Winner: Joel and Ethan Coen- No Country For Old Men
Dark Horse: Ronald Harwood- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Coens stand to win four statues apiece if everything goes their way, and they're the safest bet in this category, even though the actual writing of the screenplay was mostly done for them by Cormac McCarthy (he doesn't even use quotation marks- they could just scan most of the book and hand it out to people, for crying out loud). Hardwood, a recent winner for The Pianist, had the much more complex job of translating a slim, objectively sparse memoir of a paralyzed man into a sweeping, subjective movie experience - The BAFTA's went with Harwood, but they also went with Atonement for Best Picture...

The Rest:
Sarah Polley (Away From Her) surprised everyone, even one of the movie's biggest fans in yours truly, with a glad-to-be-here fifth nomination in this category. Christopher Hampton (Atonement) also had a weighty task in trimming Ian McEwan's pensive, thoughtful novel of reminiscence into a film with a rapt momentum. Paul Thomas Anderson has himself admitted that the second half of There Will Be Blood has little, if anything to do with Upton Sinclair's Oil!- so while a great script it has little chance at this Oscar.

Best Animated Feature

The Winner: Ratatouille
Dark Horse: Persepolis

It seemed like it would be a tough call, but honestly Ratatouille has been slamming the competition nearly everywhere else- Persepolis came out a little late in the states to turn back the tide, I'm afraid.

Best Documentary Feature

The Winner: No End in Sight
Dark Horse: Taxi to the Dark Side

All about Iraq this year- No End in Sight for the win. But my dark horse is currently at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, I haven't seen any of these, so I could be way off.

Best Foreign Film

The Winner: The Counterfeiters
Dark Horse: Katyn

All anyone knows for sure here is that the loser in this category is international cinema- these nominations make little sense. But the whole Academy votes for this category, so I browsed the subjects and found that Austria's The Counterfeiters is the true story of a Jewish counterfeiter forced to make foreign currency for th Nazis while in a concentration camp. And if you don't think dealing with true stories from the Holocaust is a surefire bet for the win, then you obviously have never watched the Oscars before.

Achievement in Editing

The Winner: Christopher Rouse- The Bourne Ultimatum
Dark Horse: "Roderick Jaynes"- No Country For Old Men

A head scratcher here- The Bourne Ultimatum took the Guild Award, but the traditional march toward Best Picture for No Country would give the Coens( and their pseudonym) the award here. I'm going with the guild in a close call, since they are nearly always right, but if I'm wrong I'll be pissed.

Achievement in Cinematography

The Winner: Janusz Kaminski- The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Dark Horse: Roger Deakins- No Country for Old Men

It seems weird to have to pick between Deakins work on No Country and Elswit's on Blood, since the landscape and pallet of the two films aren't very distinguishable to a non-DOP like myself. But since this guild is not a very accurate predictor, it's hard to give Elswit's victory there much weight. My gut is telling me that Janus Kaminski, the prohibitive favorite for his long, uncut shots from Children of Men last year, can't be ignored twice in a row.

Achievement in Makeup

The Winner: Didier Lavergne, Jan Archibald- La Vie En Rose
Dark Horse: Rick Baker, Kazuhiro Tsuji- Norbit

I'm hoping for the Rose team here based on their BAFTA win recently. Otherwise, with Rick Baker's resume (Six (6!) Makeup Oscars, including the first one in 1981), Norbit may actually win an Academy Award. But seeing as Norbit pretty much lost Eddie Murphy an Oscar for being in theaters during last year's ceremony, I don't think that'll happen.

Achievement in Costuming

The Winner: Jacqueline Durran- Atonement
Dark Horse: Colleen Atwood- Sweeney Todd

Something is telling me that the green dress from Atonement is the only really memorable costume this year- Marit Allen is a threat for La Vie En Rose, but I think Atwood, a recent winner for Memoirs of a Geisha is the next likely bet.

Achievement in Visual Effects

The Winner: Farrar/Benza/Earl/Frazier- Transfomers
Dark Horse: Knoll/Gibson/Hickel/Frazier- Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End

Another agreed-upon lock- I guess they spent a lot of time making robots into cars. Otherwise, the team from Pirates won last year (that Frazier is the same guy, by the way, John Frazier- he's looking as good as Daniel Day Lewis and the Coen's for a statue).

Achievement in Sound Mixing

The Winner: O'Connell/Russell/Devlin- Transformers
Dark Horse: Thom/Semanick/Kane- Ratatouille

Based on recent history, this guild is usually wrong- sorry, No Country team. I say it falls to Kevin O'Connell and his team- now that he has outdone Randy Newman and been nominated for his 20th Oscar without a victory, I think he'll finally get let off the hook. Nobody can be that cruel- right, sound mixers of the world?

Achievement in Sound Editing

The Winner: Silvers/Thom- Ratatouille
Dark Horse: Hopkins/Van Der Ryn- Transformers

The two Best Picture nominees in this category are actually the two without past Oscar wins on the sound teams. I'm saying this will go to the two guys who won a few years ago for The Incredibles- Ratatouille can't walk away with just one Oscar, can it?

Achievement in Art Direction

The Winner: Ferreti/Lo Schiavo- Sweeney Todd
Dark Horse: Greenwood/Spencer- Atonement

This category tends to go to exotic and distinctive contenders, from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Dick Tracy- and given Sleepy Hollow's win in 1999, I think Sweeney Todd has the best chance for the statue here. The Art Director's Guild went with both The Golden Compass and There Will Be Blood, but they're wrong as often as they're right. Plus, if I didn't disagree with the consensus on something, then my opinion wouldn't really mean anything, would it?

Best Animated Short

The Winner: My Love
Dark Horse: I Met the Walrus

See here.

Best Live Action Short

The Winner: At Night
Dark Horse: The Mozart of Pickpockets

This category I reserve the right to change after I see the shorts tomorrow night.

Best Documentary Short

The Winner: Sari's Mother
Dark Horse: Freeheld

See here.

Best Original Score

The Winner: Dario Marianelli- Atonement
Dark Horse: Michael Giacchino- Ratatouille

A seeming lock for Marianelli since Greenwood's There Will Be Blood score wasn't eligible. But again, Ratatouille scares me in every category.

Best Original Song

The Winner: Hansard/Irglova- "Falling Slowly" from Once
Dark Horse: Menken/Schwartz- "So Close" from Enchanted

The most important award for me. See here.

But the hands down most awesome part about this year's Oscar ceremony is knowing that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are going to perform "Falling Slowly" in front of 40 million viewers, and then watch the sales of Once and its soundtrack skyrocket.

So that it's. All 24. I'll be watching on Sunday, and cursing like a sports fan when the announcements go against me. How this post, which could have been just a list, grew to nearly 3,000 words I have no idea. But thanks for reading.

My totals for, the curious- No Country wins 4, Ratatouille, Atonement, and Transformers win 2, and then 14 other films (including Juno, Diving Bell, and Blood) win one apiece. A big goose egg for Michael Clayton, alas.

2008 Oscar Predictions- Dave


Best Motion Picture of the Year

Will Win: No Country for Old Men
Should Win: No Country for Old Men
Best Dark Horse Chance: Atonement

No Country for Old Men has been the dominant picture of the year. It has won more awards than any other film. It was number one on more top ten lists than any other film. It has more four star reviews than any other film. It is running at a higher “fresh” percentage than any other of the best picture nominees. Basically, No Country for Old Men has set itself up to be the movie to beat on Oscar night, and I do not think any other movie will come close.

No Country for Old Men offers the most holistic movie of the five nominees. It is perfect in every way that a movie can be. Juno and Michael Clayton are both heralded for their strong script and top-notch performances. There Will Be Blood has the standout performance of the year, which may detract from the movie as a whole because Daniel Day-Lewis is the movie.

This leaves my dark horse: Atonement. Atonement won at the BAFTA’s and the Golden Globes. While the BAFTA’s may not be a good indicator of Best Picture winners (Last year, The Queen won the same award) it may have the British vote. Adding on the Hollywood Foreign Press voting it Best Picture over No Country for Old Men may sway some of the voters’ viewpoint.

I have seen Atonement twice and it held up well the second time around. This could be the movie’s reward as it was snubbed for actor, actress, director, and – arguably – another supporting actress nomination.

However, I still would take No Country for Old Men to the bank.

Best Achievement in Directing

Will Win: Ethan and Joel Coen – No Country for Old Men
Should Win: Ethan and Joel Coen – No Country for Old Men
Best Dark Horse Chance: Julian Schnabel – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Tony Gilroy, Jason Reitman, and Paul Thomas Anderson have their nominations as their reward, leaving three men to battle it out for Best Director.

The Coen Brothers have an outstanding film that is being toted as a masterpiece. Schnabel has an amazing film that benefits from his singular vision. Who will win this clash of the titans?

I think the Coen Brothers will garner the award because No Country for Old Men is a juggernaut and they won the DGA and BAFTA, while Schnabel’s landmark win has been the Golden Globe. Plus, I do not know if the Academy would like to reward a man who said he was going to wear pajamas to the award show.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
Best Dark Horse Chance: Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

When Daniel Day-Lewis wins, I would like his speech to go like this: “Ladies and gentlemen… I’ve traveled over half our globe to be here tonight. I couldn’t get away sooner because my new BAFTA was coming in at my London home and I had to see about it. That award is now glistening on my mantle and is paying me a $50,000 bonus. I have one Oscar already, and sixty other awards. So, ladies and gentlemen… If I say I’m an actor you will agree. You made a great choice here, but bear you in mind; I may not have won if I was not careful. Out of all the men that beg for this award, maybe one in twenty will be actors; the rest will be amateurs – men trying to get between you and the studio. Even if one gets lucky, and has the skills, he will know nothing about acting and they will rely on their co-stars. This is the way it works. Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, I say, I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE! SLURP! I DRINK IT UP!”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Will Win: Julie Christie – Away from Her
Should Win: Julie Christie – Away from Her
Best Dark Horse Chance: Marion Cotillard – La Môme (also known as La Vie En Rose)

Julie Christie’s graceful and sorrowful work in Away from Her is the best female performance of the year. Similar to Daniel Day-Lewis the movie is enveloped in her character to a point that everyone – save Gordon Pinsent – in the movie gets lost. Her performance was that good.

Marion Cotillard has earned some press for her transformation into Edith Piaf. However, she does not seem to have the same heartbreaking rendition as Christie.

How Cate Blanchett snuck into this grouping, I will never know. Congratulations to Laura Linney and Ellen Page, but your time is not now. I believe these two actresses will be rewarded some day for their work.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
Should Win: Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
Best Dark Horse Chance: Hal Holbrook – Into the Wild

Javier Bardem, get your speech ready.

Nobody has a shot in this category because Bardem has dominated this category at every award show, in every possible way.

I choose Hal Holbrook at the dark horse because he may pull an “Alan Arkin” and win for a lifetime of work.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Will Win: Cate Blanchett – I’m Not There
Should Win: Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone
Best Dark Horse Chance: Ruby Dee – American Gangster

The most wide open race at the Oscars this year. There are a lot of memorable performances and all of these women have won multiple awards along the way, except for Atonement’s Saoirse Ronan.

I read in Entertainment Weekly that Tilda Swinton had the best chance after her BAFTA win. I disagree with this. Even though her role in Michael Clayton is strong, I can not remember a true “Oscar scene” for her. Maybe I missed it, but there was not that moment where I said, “This is where she wins it.” Though her work throughout the film was steadfast, it almost seemed too workmanlike.

Cate Blanchett should probably not win for I’m Not There. The notion of a female playing a man – or vice versa – is not Oscar worthy, challenging, or taboo as it once was. She may have the most nuanced performance out of any player in the field, but Amy Ryan’s performance in Gone Baby Gone was more daunting and engaging. Ryan’s performance wraps you in her initial hysteria, but you really do not like her by the end of the film. That alone makes her more worthy in my book than Blanchett. Disappointedly, I do not think Oscar voters will share my sentiments.

The outsider, who is gaining momentum, is Ruby Dee. I think she has the best chance to steal it away from everyone because of a long career and a true matriarch in American Gangster.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Will Win: Diablo Cody – Juno
Should Win: Tony Gilroy – Michael Clayton
Best Dark Horse Chance: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, and Jim Capobianco – Ratatouille

This award has been locked up for weeks by Cody.

Gilroy’s complex script is superior to Cody’s in its depth and vocabulary. However, Cody’s work pulls on the heart far more than any scene in Michael Clayton.

Jenkins and Oliver were rewarded with nominations for their uniquely touching scripts, but that is all they will receive.

This leaves the crew from Ratatouille for the dark horse. A warm script that was much better than people initially gave it credit for in pre-production.

Ultimately this is Diablo Cody’s award.
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Will Win: Ethan and Joel Coen – No Country for Old Men
Should Win: Paul Thomas Anderson – There Will Be Blood
Best Dark Horse Chance: Paul Thomas Anderson – There Will Be Blood

Sometimes a category should be decided by how hard the people work in it. It almost seems unfair that the Coen Brothers did the least amount of work this year, and will win the Oscar for adapted screenplay.

Paul Thomas Anderson has received three nominations for his writing already, but has gotten overlooked every time. This should be his year, but the power of No Country for Old Men will overpower his gloriously bleak script.

Christopher Hampton and Ronald Harwood received nominations because their works are powerful and innovative, but in a crowded field, they will be lost behind the Coen Brothers.

Sarah Polley’s nomination was her reward this year, but it is a promising start to her new avenue in filmmaking.

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Will Win: Roger Deakins – No Country for Old Men
Should Win: Janusz Kaminski – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Best Dark Horse Chance: Janusz Kaminski – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

With the exception of There Will Be Blood, this category’s nominees would be winners in any other year. It is that crowded of a field this year.

Roger Deakins has never won an Oscar. Never. To me, this was the most shocking thing I read about Oscar history. Of all the movies he has shot, all the technologies he has been on the ground floor of, and he has never won… Until this year. This is his year because of an outstanding career and for the dazzling cinematography of No Country for Old Men.

However, I personally do not think this was Deakins’ best work. It was not even his best work this year. While his work on the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is more harrowing, No Country for Old Men has the broader audience and appeal.

Seamus McGarvey did a wonderful job on Atonement and I expect him to win an award one day. He did have a “money” moment, the Dunkirk five minute tracking shot, but that will not be enough in this year.

This leaves multiple winner, Janusz Kaminski. He actually has the best work of the year, but will be overlooked because of Deakins and the fact that he has two Oscars at home all ready. This is truly a shame for his inventive and beautiful work on The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Best Achievement in Editing

Will Win: No Country for Old Men
Should Win: The Bourne Ultimatum
Best Dark Horse Chance: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Into the Wild and There Will Be Blood do not benefit from short running times. The long, purposeful silences in both films may not get them the recognition for the pacing of the film. However, There Will Be Blood was one of the quickest three hour movies I have sat through in recent memory.

No Country for Old Men will get the award because – as Brokeback Mountain found out – it is difficult to NOT win Best Picture without winning Best Editing. Ultimately, the Coen Brothers will walk away with four statuettes from the evening.

However, the two interesting movies are The Bourne Ultimatum and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The Bourne Ultimatum’s frenetic pacing makes it the most exciting movie of the year. The editing is one of those elements in the movie that make the movie excel beyond a solid action film into an excellent one. Plus, it won the BAFTA and two other editing awards.

I feel that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly cannot be discounted because it has the most unique editing, which is why I think it has a chance to pull off an upset. The insertion of black panels, while not revelation, is an addition to the film, similar to the overall editing in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Best Achievement in Art Direction

Will Win: Atonement
Should Win: Atonement
Best Dark Horse Chance: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

American Gangster and There Will Be Blood are not remembered for their fine art direction. They are period recreations, where American Gangster uses existing places and There Will Be Blood is sparsely decorated.

The Golden Compass falls into a similar mold of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but without the same freshness of it all.

The two real competitors in this category will be Atonement and Sweeney Todd. Atonement has glamorous set direction and an epic scale to match. Sweeney Todd features a grim world created by past Oscar winners. Ultimately, I think Atonement will win the category for the re-creation of the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Will Win: Atonement
Should Win: Atonement
Best Dark Horse Chance: Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Costume design tends to be awarded to a movie where the scope of the costumes is awe inspiring or for costumes that are truly out of this world. Sweeney Todd and La Môme do not have the overly bizarre element working for them, nor do they have a wide scope.

While Across the Universe may have the unique element working for it, there is not one costume that I distinctly remember.

Atonement does have one of the most memorable – and talked about – costumes of the year in Keira Knightley’s green dress. I believe the period drama wins another technical award for its expansive work.

Similarly, this is the same reason why I think Elizabeth: The Golden Age has an outside chance.

Best Achievement in Makeup

Will Win: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Should Win: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Best Dark Horse Chance: Norbit

La Môme does not have anything spectacular about its make up. They may have had a difficult time working on Marion Cotillard’s hair, but nothing truly stands out for me.

Norbit has a chance because of two words: Rick Baker. He is nominated for this award every year it seems.

The creators behind The Pirates of the Caribbean lost last year, but will make up (HA!) for it this year. Granted, they did not reinvent the wheel, but their work is more admirable and difficult than the other two.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Will Win: Atonement
Should Win: Atonement
Best Dark Horse Chance: 3:10 to Yuma

Dario Marianelli’s exquisite and singular score for Atonement make it the clear leader in this category, seeing as Jonny Greenwood was not eligible.

Michael Clayton’s haunting score, The Kite Runner’s somber music, and the glee of Ratatouille do not compare to Atonement’s vibrant and dramatic score.

This leaves the lone outside, 3:10 to Yuma. While energetic and engaging, it lacks the presence of Atonement’s score. This is why I feel Atonement will win this category with minimal problems.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
Will Win: “Falling Slowly” – Once
Should Win: “Falling Slowly” – Once
Best Dark Horse Chance: The Academy

There should be no competition in this category. The only way that Once loses this category is if the Academy has a fit about its own ridiculous nomination rules and disqualifies it. Otherwise, this category is a slam dunk.

Best Sound Effects

Will Win: Transformers
Should Win: No Country for Old Men
Best Dark Horse Chance: The Bourne Ultimatum

While Transformers had a plethora of sound effects and did an excellent job at it, it should not win. However, it will because of those aspects. No Country for Old Men was much more reliant on its sound to create a behind-the-camera effect that enhances the movie, like the editing in The Bourne Ultimatum.

3:10 to Yuma is grand in the scope of its sound, but not much more. Ratatouille does a good job, but that is merely in terms of an animated film.

I penciled The Bourne Ultimatum in because it already has won some awards for its sound effects, but I do not think the Academy will look at that as a positive.

Best Sound Effects Editing

Will Win: Transformers
Should Win: No Country for Old Men
Best Dark Horse Chance: The Bourne Ultimatum

See above. I really can not explain this category.

Best Visual Effects

Will Win: Transformers
Should Win: Transformers
Best Dark Horse Chance: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

This should be an easy category because Transformers possessed a lot of special effects, which were really the star of the movie. It took over 80 hours per frame to create a scene in which a Transformer appears.

The Golden Compass will get thrown by the wayside as people are reminded too much of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but the effects are nowhere near the level that those two franchises are.

As for Pirates of the Caribbean, they present the best dark horse chance. Why them? Oscar history likes repeat winners in this category. Recall 2001 through 2003? Lord of the Rings won every year. Did Fellowship of the Ring deserve the award? Yes. Did The Two Towers deserve the award? Yes, it expounded upon the wondrous effects in Fellowship with the inclusion of Gollum. Did Return of the King up the ante? No. Did Jim Rygiel get his third Oscar? Yes. Why? The Academy likes repeat winners, like Dennis Muren and Stan Winston.

Best Animated Film

Will Win: Ratatouille
Should Win: Ratatouille
Best Dark Horse Chance: Persepolis

Can someone down at the Academy’s office explain to me how Surf’s Up got a nomination over The Simpson’s Movie? Anyone? Please, feel free to.

This leaves two real contenders for this category. Up first is Persepolis, a critically raved about film that has more meaning and heart than Ratatouille.

However, Ratatouille – in addition to being one of my favorite films of the year – is a part of the Mouse House. I would bet on those guys every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

Best Foreign Language Film

Will Win: Beaufort – Israel
Should Win: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Best Dark Horse Chance: The Academy

I have not seen one of these movies, but Beaufort has gotten a lot of praise.

However, the Academy’s rules are bogus in this category. They have the potential for an all-star gathering in this category, but ruled out The Band’s Visit, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Lust, Caution, and 4 Months, 3 Threes, and 2 Days. I smell a rule re-write coming.

Best Documentary Feature

Will Win: No End in Sight
Should Win: No End in Sight
Best Dark Horse Chance: Taxi to the Dark Side

No End in Sight was one of the best films of the year and this should be its reward. The control and focus of this movie is beyond reproach and holds more of an impact than Fahrenheit 9/11.

While Sicko may have the “celebrity” appeal of Michael Moore, it lacks the passion and grandeur of his past works. Additionally, I have never heard of War Dance and Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience.

This leaves the much lauded Taxi to the Dark Side. What hurts this film’s chance though is its late release in the year.

Totals

No Country for Old Men – 6, Atonement – 3, Transformers – 3, Away from Her – 1, Beaufort – 1, I’m Not There – 1, Juno – 1, No End in Sight – 1, Once – 1, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – 1, Ratatouille – 1, There Will Be Blood – 1

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Review

Let me preface this review by saying: I am a complete sucker for film. In person, in conversation, to most people, I'm a cynic and a wise-ass, but if you set a halfway decent scene in a film to the right piece of music, I'll get chills every time.

But though I am so prone to falling under the escapist thrill of the theater, losing myself in another world, they all vanish when the house lights come up, and the world fades from vision like a camera flash- by the time I see something on video, it's not clear what the magic was in the first place.

Given all this, however, I still cannot even begin to describe to you how profoundly moving, and lasting, Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre Et Le Papillon) was for me. The true story of a man paralyzed by a stroke, and only able to communicate by blinking his left eyelid- Jean Dominique Bauby painstaking composed a memoir in his head, and slowly dictated it to a transcriber in 1997.

And while I realize that the truth behind the story does most of the heavy lifting emotionally, it's to the film's ultimate credit and benefit that it doesn't approach it in any way with a Reader's Digest, disease of the week melodramatic approach- Bauby's memoir is wry and uncomplaining, a tone preserved for his character.

There's no cloying voice-over, there's no forced reconciliations, and no attempt to disguise the complicated relationship between Bauby and the estranged mother of his children. Instead, Schnabel and screenwriter Ronald Hardwood, both Oscar nominees, make the film as subjective and visceral as possible- the first ten minutes are hazy, out of focus and incoherent, as the audience experiences waking up with Bauby after a three week coma, to discover his "locked-in" syndrome.

The camera eventually moves outside of Bauby's perspective, as his family and friends come to visit, or don't- his girlfriend doesn't work up the nerve, and in the film's most moving scene, his aging father (a completely robbed-by-the-Academy Max Von Sydow) has to call him on the phone and awkwardly communicate with an interpreter, since he is unable to travel to the hospital where his son lies imprisoned.

The hazy, dreamlike quality of the film's look is beautifully matched to the wistful, quick tone of Bauby's memoir, which is told entirely in vignettes of a few pages. Harwood does a wonderful cataloging these brief impressions into a powerful narrative.

When to See It: As Soon As Humanly Possible

Leftover thoughts:

  • After much deliberation, I'm putting this in at number 2 on the top twenty of 2007 list- it's just not as complete a film as No Country, which is equally profound without relying on an unavoidable rush of empathy from the viewer. But choosing between two films so completely different is a fool's errand anyway.
  • It's hard not to compare oneself to Bauby- especially since I've never finished a book (I'm a wannabe writer) with the use of my body entirely intact.
  • Julian Schnabel- actually a New Yorker that learned French to make this film in the language it should be in. That explains the use of mostly English-language soundtrack music, though (like a great Joe Strummer song over the closing credits).

Best Documentary Short Speculation

Ah, best documentary short. Always a mystery. Always annoyingly obscure. Let's see exactly what we can find out about the four nominees this year.

Freeheld- Trailer
Director: Cynthia Wade, first time Oscar nominee

Subject: Doesn't get much more moving than this- a dying New Jersey policewoman wants to secure her pension for her lesbian life partner of six years- but of course, can't. It chronicles the efforts of activists to sway the will of the "freeholders" in charge of the pension board before she dies.

La Corona- (interview with Micheli)
Director: Amanda Micheli/Isabel Vega- first time Oscar nominees

Subject: A "character driven" piece about a beauty pagent in a women's prison. Seems like a longshot.

Salim Baba (official site) (interview with producer)

Director: Tim Sternberg, another first timer

Subject: A 14-minute affair about a man from north Calcutta that earns a living by "screening discarded film fragments for neighborhood children on a hand-cranked projector bequeathed to him by his father." Sounds interesting, but slight once again.

Sari's Mother (official site)

Director: James Longley, Oscar nominated director of last 2006's Feature Documentary Iraq in Fragments.

Subject: A mother tries to care for her HIV infected, ten year old son in war torn Iraq.

So it sounds like a tossup between Freeheld and Sari's Mother, based on the subject test. Too bad we can't know anything more. I would guess that Longley's relative name recognition, and the more hot-button issue of Iraq would push the latter film to the podium (plus we know how the Academy feels about gay people, don't we?).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

And now- Top Ten Lovies Stories

Honorable Mention: Cinderella, Pretty Woman, and When Harry Met Sally

10. It’s a Wonderful Life – A Christmas movie!? Yes, it is that, but it also has a tale of enduring love as James Stewart is shown what his life would be like if he had never existed.
The movie was initially rejected by the studios because it was deemed “too depressing” following World War II. It then opened to a middling box office before becoming an all-time classic.

It’s a Wonderful Life is for the couple who is truly happy with one another.

9. Some Like It Hot – Billy Wilder is the king of romantic hijinks. He directed so many wonderful pictures over the years, but this Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis vehicle has laughs a plenty.

Marilyn Monroe appears as Curtis’ love interest, and Jack Lemmon has a more unique love situation on his hands.

This movie is for the unusual couple, going through unique circumstances.

8. Shrek – Sure, it is a cartoon, but it has charm and laughs coming out of it. 2001’s smash hit has a tender store about being who you are, and loving who you want to.
Plus, it features a tolerable Eddie Murphy.

Shrek is for the couple that is young at heart.

7. Groundhog Day – “You like boats, but not the ocean. You go to a lake in the summer with your family up in the mountains. There's a long wooden dock and a boathouse with boards missing from the roof, and a place you used to crawl underneath to be alone. You're a sucker for French poetry and rhinestones. You're very generous. You're kind to strangers and children, and when you stand in the snow you look like an angel.”

This movie is for the couple that falls in love over and over.

6. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – If you can get past the racist portrayal by Mickey Rooney and the fact that George Peppard is actually a male prostitute, there is a touching love tale about two people finding one another.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a movie for people who never even truly realized they loved one another… Until a rain-soaked cat brought you together.

5. The Graduate – Imagine that you have just graduated from college. Imagine that you are dating a beautiful young woman, who you are now engaged to. Imagine that she has a mother, who is also quite attractive. Imagine this mom is a MILF. Imagine that she wants to seduce you. Imagine that you give into your urges and begin a relationship with your girlfriend’s mother. Imagine your girlfriend leaves you. Imagine you chase her down to a church and interrupt her wedding. Imagine you ride away with her into the sunset, aboard a city bus.

If you’re Mike Nichols, imagine how many parodies you have seen of this.
This movie is for the couple that may have been a part of a love triangle at some time.

4. Sabrina – Billy Wilder strikes again! So does Audrey Hepburn.
This is probably the most charming movie ever made about the ugly duckling that becomes the beautiful swan and how two brothers compete for her affection.
Ignore the ridiculous 1995 remake. Sabrina is for the couple that came together after a third party finally let them be.

3. Amelie – “A woman without love wilts like a flower without sun.”

This French film – directed by the same man who made Alien Resurrection – is a contemporary charmer about a young girl who ends up loving a porn store clerk. Granted, this movie takes on numerous twists and turns, and has some striking visuals, but this is a love story… Set in a porn store…

Amelie is for the couples who were worlds apart, but are not together.

2. Say Anything – Lloyd Dobler is a hero to all men. Seriously. It gives any good-hearted, sarcastic, and nerdy guy hope that he can win over the girl of his dreams by just being himself.
Cameron Crowe perfectly captures teenage angst, love, and adversity in this 1980’s classic. John Cusack is the perfect hero in this movie and Ione Skye’s career pretty much died after this movie. However, “In Your Eyes” never got such good press, ever. Peter Gabriel owes his career to this movie.

Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy – when romantic comedies were still good – is perfect for any couple who loves their partner for who they are.

1. The Princess Bride – To all the couples all out there:
This is the perfect romance movie. William Goldman’s script has laughs, cries, action, and emotions!
Three simple words say so much, and it’s not what you think- “As you wish.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Top Ten Love Stories… That Don’t End Happily Ever After…

Feeling blue this Valentine’s Day? Looking to delve into misery so that you don’t feel alone and alienated by the Hallmark holiday? Then this is the list for you.

Here are the top ten movie love stories where the lovers do not get together in the end.

SPOILERS!

Honorable Mention: Before Sunrise, The English Patient, Forrest Gump, and Moulin Rouge

10. Vanilla Sky – The entire second half of the movie is really just Tom Cruise’s imagination. His hope and desire to be with Penelope Cruz actually never came to fruitition, and the heartbreaking part is that we see the life that he truly wanted to have. This is a good movie for a person who dreams about what might have been with his or her lover. Also, I had a weird fascination with this movie when it came out. Maybe it struck a chord, maybe it was a Tom Cruise man-crush, or maybe I just really like Cameron Crowe movies. It is probably a combination of all three.

9. The Fly – James Cameron once said that every movie he makes is a love story at heart. The Fly is in that vein with Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis in love, but torn apart by Goldblum’s scientific quest. This movie has regained appreciation over the years, which is wonderful to see. Ultimately, this is a good movie for a person who lost his or her lover because their lover was too involved with his or her work.

8. Out of Sight – Steven Soderbergh’s crime story has a good, law abiding girl falling in love with a bank robbing, charismatic George Clooney (NOTE: Clooney is not a man, he is his own category). While Clooney and Jennifer Lopez’s chemistry on the screen is fiery, their relationship on-set was strained, at best. However, their characters love can not come together because she has to arrest him when he is breaking the law. Even though she hesitates, Clooney forces her to make the right choice and not compromise her ethics… More than they have already been compromised.

Out of Sight is for a person whose love is incarcerated… Or a career criminal.


7. Annie Hall – Woody Allen’s finest hour. The whole movie is a build-up to a relationship that will never happen.

This movie is for someone who has been friends with someone for a very long time, but has never gotten together with their significant other.

6. Philadelphia – An amazing soundtrack and Tom Hanks’ finest performance in a golden career. What tends to get overlooked in Philadelphia is the love between Hanks and Banderas. Banderas cares so much for Hanks: Feeding him meds, taking him to the emergency room, doting on him, and wearing a matching Halloween costume.

Philadelphia is for a person who has lost his or her lover to any illness.

5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – This is my second favorite foreign language film of all-time (I don’t know where The Diving Bell and the Butterfly may fall, though. DO YOU HEAR THAT LANDMARK!?). This movie is beautiful in every single aspect, as it captured four Oscars out of ten nominations.

At the core of this movie are two love stories. One about two lovers who can not communicate how they feel to one another, and the other about two lovers who lead vastly different lives.
Ang Lee excellent constructs a tale of failed love as neither of these couples can ever really have the chance to get to be with one another.

This movie is for someone whose love has left them for reasons unknown.

4. Casablanca – If you don’t know about this movie, I am sorry. I can not help you.

3. The Lives of Others – 2007’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and deservedly so. The love between Koch and Gedeck in Communist Germany is harrowing as lies, the government, and a desire for freedom tear them apart. Gedeck sacrifices herself for Koch, leaving him with the memories of what they shared.

The Lives of Others is for anyone who has sacrificed something for the one they loved.

2. Atonement – Betrayal, jealously, immaturity all hamper the love between Knightley and McAvoy in Joe Wright’s film. When Knightley’s younger sister “misinterprets” what she sees, it results in McAvoy being sent to prison. While Knightley and McAvoy try to be together, their love is futile as war tears them even further apart.

Atonement is for someone who has lost his or her lover because of another person’s intervening.

1. Brokeback Mountain – Entertainment Weekly recently called this a “Contemporary Masterpiece.” It is hard to argue against Ang Lee’s compelling drama about two lovers who can not come to terms with who they are. Mesmerizing performances are everywhere in this drama about two cowboys in 1960’s Wyoming. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger turn in career-defining performances as the aforementioned lovers. Gyllenhaal’s unconditional love for Ledger is admirable as all he wants in life is to be with the one he loves. Ledger’s refusal to admit to himself who he really is condemns him to loneliness until it is too late.

Outstanding cinematography, an elegant score, and the most heartbreaking final scene in recent history leave the viewer breathless.

Brokeback Mountain is for anyone who has had a relationship fail because this movie is that beautiful and holds many truths within.