Monday, January 31, 2011

What I watched this week: Missing entries

Even though I've been posting a lot of reviews lately, I've realized that I've been neglecting my "What I watched this week" series for quite some time now. As a make-up, here's a condensed set of reviews for my undocumented viewings from January, before I wrap up January with the "Best of the Month" post later today.

Cabaret (1972) dir. Bob Fosse
Notable for winning eight Oscars without taking home Best Picture (it lost to The Godfather), Bob Fosse's screen version of the acclaimed Broadway musical is a complex and entertaining look at the lives of outsiders during the rise of Nazism. In addition to Bob Fosse's fantastic direction and choreography, the film benefits from strong performances from Liza Minelli as the boisterous Sally Bowles and Joel Grey as the eerie, seedy MC (both performances and Fosse won Oscars). Other cast members don't fare so well (leading man Michael York is on the bland side), and the subplot involving Marissa Berenson's romance feels slight. Still, the film deserves praise for the way it tackles so many complicated subjects - namely sexuality - with depth and sophistication.

Grade: B+/A-

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) dir. Woody Allen
One of Woody Allen's best-loved films, and deservingly so. While some of the prolific auteur's recent work often delves into tedium, Hannah works on all fronts, as both a comedy and drama. The entire ensemble is strong, especially Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest (both of whom won Oscars). And while some story strands feel a bit hurried in their resolution (Caine's affair with Barbara Hershey's character), this zippy film tackles potentially heavy subject matter with enough intelligence and lightness that it becomes engaging, lively, and wholly entertaining to watch. One of the best scenes involves the titular Hannah (and her sisters) discussing any number of problems over lunch, as the camera circles around them repeatedly. It's a work of masterful directing, shot composition, writing, and acting, that exemplifies Allen at his finest.

Grade: B+

The Vanishing (1988) dir. George Sluizer
What starts as a simple enough case of a missing person gradually becomes deeper and stranger as it progresses along. George Sluizer's slow-burning thriller features surprisingly strong characterization, especially when it comes to the kidnapper (Bernard Donnadieu). By gradually piecing together how/when/why Donnadieu's Raymond Lemorne kidnaps Saskia (Johanna ter Steege), the film becomes a surprising mix of mystery and character study. And even though it drags a bit in finally getting to the point of it all, it has an unsettling, wickedly poetic ending that more than makes up for it.

Grade: B+

The Sting (1973) dir. George Roy Hill
"Heist Film" and "Best Picture Winner" aren't the sort of terms that normally go together, but that's exactly what happened with George Roy Hill's 1973 crime film. Though it marks one of the major collaborations between Robert Redford and Paul Newman, the film's strongest performance actually comes from Robert Shaw as the duo's nemesis. An intimidating presence from his first scene, Shaw pretty much makes the movie, which is a little bit too long for its own good. Still, it's lively and fun, and has enough suspense and twists to make it worth the ride.

Grade: B

I am Love (2010) dir. Luca Guadagnino [3rd Viewing]
Heeeeere we go again. Well, they say the third time's the charm, and that's sort of what happened to me with this film. It's actually much more subtle than I gave it credit for in how it portrays Emma's (Tilda Swinton) feeling of being trapped, and some of the hidden nastiness of the Recchi's comes out. The photography and music also gelled together much better, and for much of the film I found the viewing experience quite thrilling. Unfortunately, the screenplay still has a handful of issues that hold it back. Even though Emma feels trapped, the film still doesn't quite justify her desire to run away. She doesn't hate the family she married into, and even if her husband can sometimes be a little stern, he's done nothing (in what we see or in what is implied) to make him a "bad guy." Worse, the chef Emma has an affair with isn't even remotely charismatic or alluring, which hurts the idea that Emma falls for him over his cooking (one last time: she's filthy rich and lives in Italy; great food is NOT in short supply). But nothing about the film is a bigger offender than the ludicrous ending. Now that so much of the film has improved for me, this part is even worse than before, because it ends on a hollow and unsatisfying note rather than a triumphant one. Even with the incredible choice of music, the close-ups become laughable. Worse, the fact that Emma runs away from her family (and civilized society as a whole, one could infer) right after her eldest son has died and the whole family is genuinely in mourning comes off as being in rather bad taste. As I mentioned in my review of Enter the Void, I am Love is a film that wants to be a thrilling pure cinema experience, but unfortunately falls short because it doesn't give the same attention to characters and writing as it does to its stunning aesthetics, thrilling as they can be.

**I've just realized that I can never talk or write about this movie without going on a rant. Sorry...

[Final] Grade: B-

Insomnia (2002) dir. Christopher Nolan
After watching Inception for what feels like the 10th time, I decided to go back to one of Christopher Nolan's earlier films, and found a pleasant surprise. Insomnia actually makes me wish that Nolan would (after The Dark Night Rises) take a break from the BIG stuff, and do something smaller like this or Memento. It's also, to me, proof that Nolan is a better director than he is a writer. Written by Hillary Seitz (and adapted from a 1997 Norwegian film of the same name), the screenplay is much less reliant on expository dialogue (some of which is beyond unnecessary in Inception), and has an overall better flow than the writing in some of Nolan's bigger productions. And, like most Nolan films, the standout isn't the performances, but rather the construction and execution of the story, which Nolan does a fantastic job of. And while the ending may hit something of a cliched note, this steadily paced thriller actually ranks as one of Nolan's best films.

Grade: B/B+

Richard III (1995) dir. Richard Loncraine
Though not quite as out-there in its imagery as Julie Taymor's Titus (1999), this 1930s set telling of the Bard's play benefits from engaging visuals, clever staging, and a magnificent performance from Ian McKellan. There's plenty of menace in McKellan's Richard, but he doesn't over do it, and even adds tiny little quirks of almost child-like glee to his character's scheming. Unfortunately, Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr. don't fare as well, and their American(ish?) accents clash with Shakespeare's word play. Maggie Smith, on the other hand, completely sells her role in the limited time she's given, and a series of curses she bestows upon Richard to his face is so intense you can almost feel her voice dripping with poison. And when the film reaches its climax, it ends on a wickedly funny note, and uses its time period and location to brilliant effect, even if it results in some slightly stiff green-screen work. Not quite as visionary as Titus, but certainly striking and memorable for a number of good reasons.

Grade: B/B+

"Enter the Void" - REVIEW


Even with the expansion and omnipresence of DVD rental services and online viewing options, I'm one of those people who believes that movies deserve to be seen on the big screen, whether they're Lord of the Rings-style epics or intimate family dramas. Not that I'm not happy about services like Netflix that give me access to movies that I missed in theaters, but at the end of the day, I'll take a theater full of potentially obnoxious people over my laptop any day. And one movie that I wish I could have seen on the big screen is Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void. Even though the director's intentions generally come through, I can't help but feel that I partially missed out on the cinema-as-visceral-experience angle that Noe was going for. That, and I also might have missed some of the problems that I had with the film.

Set primarily in Tokyo, Noe's latest tells the story of Oscar, an American student living (working?) abroad, along with his sister Linda (Boardwalk Empire's Paz de la Huerta). While dropping off some cocaine for his friend on the way to meet Linda, police raid the bar Oscar is visiting. In the midst of the struggle, Oscar is shot. After literally going towards the light, Oscar sees himself dead on the floor. From then on, the film is a series of present glimpses and flashbacks of Oscar and Linda's lives. While flashback sequences are (usually) shot in a standard fashion, everything else is done in first person, even when Oscar is alive.

This brings us to the star of the film, Benoit Debie's cinematography. Noe's intent with the film was to capture the sensation of an acid trip, and even on my laptop screen, I can tell you that he generally succeeds. From the epilepsy-inducing credits to the high-flying, gliding camera work, it's a brilliantly shot film from beginning to end, and it benefits from how Debie captures the neon glow of Tokyo's club district.

You've been warned:

Unfortunately, not everything else is up to par with Debie's considerable accomplishments. The acting ranges from bland to flat out bad (de la Huerta's performance is particularly, er, unfortunate). And, like previous Noe films, Void has a tendency to linger and even plod. The man certainly has talent and vision, but he's in dire need of an editor who is willing to make big cuts. The flashback scenes do little to convincingly flesh out the characters, despite the interesting material because Noe only skims the surface. The film is supposed to be about how Oscar watches over Linda in death, but because we're given such flimsy material to work with, there's little between the two to care about, despite the tragedy that defined their childhoods. This causes the film to only be intermittently mesmerizing and trippy, which can make the 2 hr 20 min run time a little anxiety-inducing at times. And of course, no Noe movie would be complete without graphic sex, although this time it's shot from overhead and is at the end of the film (as opposed to Irreversible, which starts with 20 minutes of sex scenes).

Still, in spite of its mix of shallowness and indulgence, it's hard to deny that Noe has a unique vision of sorts. It's just a shame that here he gets so caught up in taking the audience on a cinematic acid trip that he forgets to fill out his characters and get good work out of his cast. In the end, Enter the Void suffers from some of the same problems as I am Love: it wants to give the audience an "experience," but in doing so forgets to add more substance (and quality) to its style.

Grade: B-/C+

Sunday, January 30, 2011

SAG Winners: More "King's Speech" love

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new front-runner, and its name is The King's Oscar Bait. In addition to scoring Best Actor in a Leading role last night, "King" took home SAG's top award, Best Ensemble Cast. And while the BEC award isn't necessarily the best indicator of what will become Oscar's top pick, the SAG triump comes on the heels of The King's Speech taking top honors at both the Producers' Guild and Directors' Guild Awards, both of which are big indicators. So even though The Social Network has been an obvious front-runner for months now, the last few weeks have shown us that for the first time in four years, the critics and the Academy may finally differ on Oscar night.



THEATRICAL MOTION PICTURES

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a leading role
Jeff Bridges, "True Grit"
Robert Duvall, "Get Low"
Jesse Eisenberg, "The Social Network"
WINNER: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech"
James Franco, "127 Hours"

Outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role
Annette Bening, "The Kids Are All Right"
Nicole Kidman, "Rabbit Hole"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone"
WINNER: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Hilary Swank, "Conviction"

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role
WINNER: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
John Hawkes, "Winter's Bone"
Jeremy Renner, "The Town"
Mark Ruffalo, "The Kids Are All Right"
Geoffrey Rush, "The King's Speech"

Outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role
Amy Adams, "The Fighter"
Helena Bonham Carter, "The King's Speech"
Mila Kunis, "Black Swan"
WINNER: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"
Hailee Steinfeld, "True Grit"

Outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture
"Black Swan"
"The Fighter"
"The Kids Are All Right"
WINNER: "The King's Speech"
"The Social Network"

TELEVISION

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series
WINNER: Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"
Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Michael C. Hall, "Dexter"
Jon Hamm, "Mad Men"
Hugh Laurie, "House M.D."

Outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series
Glenn Close, "Damages"
Mariska Hargitay, "Law & Order: SVU"
WINNER: Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Elisabeth Moss, "Mad Men"
Kyra Sedgwick, "The Closer"

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a comedy series
WINNER: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"
Steve Carell, "The Office"
Chris Colfer, "Glee"
Ed O'Neill, "Modern Family"

Outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series
Edie Falco, "Nurse Jackie"
Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Jane Lynch, "Glee"
Sofia Vergara, "Modern Family"
WINNER: Betty White, "Hot in Cleveland"

Outstanding performance by an ensemble in a drama series
WINNER: "Boardwalk Empire"
"The Closer"
"Dexter"
"The Good Wife"
"Mad Men"

Outstanding performance by an ensemble in a comedy series
"30 Rock"
"Glee"
"Hot in Cleveland"
WINNER: "Modern Family"
"The Office"

Outstanding performance by a male actor in a television movie or miniseries
John Goodman, "You Don't Know Jack"
WINNER: Al Pacino, "You Don't Know Jack"
Dennis Quaid, "The Special Relationship"
Edgar Ramirez, "Carlos"
Patrick Stewart, "Macbeth"

Outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or Miniseries
WINNER: Claire Danes, "Temple Grandin"
Catherine O'Hara, "Temple Grandin"
Julia Ormond , "Temple Grandin"
Winona Ryder, "When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story"
Susan Sarandon, "You Don't Know Jack

"


Tom Hooper wins the DGA...


At last night's DGA awards, The King's Speech's Tom Hooper took home the guild's best director award, giving this awards season a whole new sense of uncertainty. The DGA has a stellar track record of matching up with the Oscars, which could be bad news for David Fincher and The Social Network. Are we finally heading for the first major Oscar Best Picture upset since Crash?

For months, Hooper's film was talked about as the sort of old-fashioned type of work that would easily score a bucket-load of nominations, but walk away with few trophies come Oscar night. But in the past few weeks all of that has started to change. Sure, The Social Network scored the Golden Globe, but if you take a look at the GG's for the past few years, it's not the best sign. Recent Globe BP-Drama winners include Avatar, Slumdog Millionaire, Atonement, Babel, Brokeback Mountain, The Aviator, only one of which won best picture (Slumdog).

And even though The Social Network completely dominated the tidal wave of critics awards like The Hurt Locker, Slumdog, and No Country for Old Men, it didn't lead the way with Oscar nominations (THL and NCFOM were tied and Slumdog was #2 in its year). The Social Network score 8 nominations, but Andrew Garfield was missing in Supporting Actor and The King's Speech scored an astounding 12 nominations, which vaults it into a select group of nominated films. Hooper's DGA win either means that The King's Speech has Best Picture and Director locked up, or that this will be only the 7th time that the DGA and AMPAS have differed. Either way, expect February 27th to be a bloodbath between Speech and Social, with Black Swan, The Fighter, and Inception claiming the left overs.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Biutiful" - REVIEW


Many theorists and art critics would argue that artists must evolve, and that to repeat one's self stylistically would be detrimental. Now, when it comes to theory, I'm far from being an expert, but for any artistic or philosophical theory, it always seems to me that there are more than a few exceptions. Unfortunately, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu isn't such an exception, and his latest film, Biutiful is unfortunate proof that old (and not entirely good) habits really do die hard.

Set primarily in Barcelona, Biutiful tells the story of Uxbal (Javier Bardem), a corrupt cop whose life is slowly coming undone. In addition to the cancer that he has left untreated for too long, Uxbal must deal with raising his children, his undependable ex-wife (Maricel Alvarez), and helping illegal immigrants from Senegal and China stay undetected while they try to do business across the city. If this sounds like a recipe for something unbearably bleak, it is, although thankfully Inarritu is less indulgent and contrived here than he was in Babel.

This is largely thanks to the fact that the film only has one true protagonist, whereas Inarritu's three previous films have all depended on fractured narratives colliding with each other. As Uxbal, Bardem navigates all of the character's angles with skill and restrained power. It's unfortunate, though, that the film around him isn't of equal quality. Despite the narrowed focus, Biutiful still has prominent vestiges of Inarritu's previous work, and tries to shoe-horn in additional important characters, such as a widowed Senegalese women, and a pair of gay Chinese immigrants. Of the supporting characters, the only one who really comes through in the writing is Alvarez's Marambra. It's a passionate performance, and her broken chemistry with Bardem clicks (if anyone wants to do a Spanish remake of Blue Valentine, look no further for your leads) in all of the right ways.

In fact, if Inarritu had kept the focus more on Uxbal's family, instead of throwing everything at him all at once, Biutiful could have been a much more effective (and shorter) film. As it is, though, it's too long considering how average the execution of all of the subplots is. It's not exactly boring, but throughout the 2 hr 15 min runtime I kept waiting for "the good stuff" to happen, which is never a good sign. Special mention should go to Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography, though, for the richly composed images of outer decay. On the other hand, the sound design, while effective, is often distracting, and there are any number of moments when people hug when I swear you can hear the static coming off of their hidden microphones. Meanwhile, Gustavo "why the hell did I win back-to-back Oscars?" Santaolalla's score feels simplistic and derivative, and rarely contributes to the moods or emotions of the film.

These aspects make Biutiful a frustrating experience. It's certainly far from being awful, but there's so little that deserves praise outside of Bardem, Alvarez, and Prieto. It's the kind of film that, despite possessing a small handful of strong elements, you have a hard time recommending because of everything else around them. You want to root for Bardem, but Inarritu makes it difficult because he refuses to really change his game, which results in a middling effort on almost all fronts.

Grade: C

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Dogtooth" - REVIEW


In recent years, the select group of AMPAS members who decide on the nominees for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars have strayed toward a mix of critical favorites, and "safe" traditional films. And even when they reached into slightly new territory - 2008's animated documentary Waltz with Bashir - they've ended up choosing a safer film (09's The Secret in Their Eyes over favorites The White Ribbon and A Prophet). It's circumstances like these that make me wonder how on earth they even let Dogtooth, Greece's (now nominated) submission, within five miles of the list of finalists, as it's one of the more unsettling films of 2010 (or any year).

Set somewhere within Greece, the film focuses on a nameless couple and their three nameless children, all of whom look to be in their late 20s/early 30s. And right from the beginning, it's clear that they're, um, different. The siblings listen to a tape that instructs them on the meaning of several words. For example, a "sea" is a type of chair, and a "telephone" is what one uses to sprinkle salt on food. In addition to their unique vocabularies, the children are also in constant competition with each other, performing endurance contests (such as holding their breath under water) to earn stickers. Clearly, the kids (and the family as a whole) are not all right.

And for much of the film, this is all director Yorgos Lanthimos gives us: examples of the family's weirdness as the parents terrorize their children into submission. Perhaps even more disturbingly, Lanthimos and co-writer Efthymis Filippou refrain from going overboard on all fronts (that is, aside from the sexual angle). There's no score to speak of, or any eerie sound effects, and the film is starkly shot, as if to make everything going on seem plain and ordinary. The effect is that the film becomes more disturbing after it's over, because Lanthimos doesn't play up the weirdness at every chance, nor does it stick out like a sore thumb. Save for a few scenes at the father's office, the household is all we know, and one becomes eerily accepting of what's going on.

However, this concept can only take the film so far. Even at a clean 90 minutes, it does tend to lag in the second half. After minutes and minutes of merely showing us the life that the family lives, the film tries to introduce a story of escape. But because the characterization has been limited to the weird and strict rules the children live by, there isn't much to go on, and the change one sibling goes through just sort of happens after one incident. Lanthimos also goes a bit overboard in what he shows when it comes to the sexual side of the characters. It's not quite pornographic, but it does verge on being indulgent and in slightly poor taste. And when the actual plot reaches its conclusion, the film goes out with too much of a whimper. I understand what the last shot is trying to say, but the timing and location feels a bit lightweight when it should be more suspenseful. To put it simply, if you're one of those people who hated the way the Coen brothers ended No Country for Old Men, then you'll likely hate this ending in equal measure.

Yet even with its flaws, Dogtooth remains a quietly effective, occasionally jarring piece of work. What it lacks in fully fleshed out characters, it makes up for in the quietness and restraint of its execution. And while it might not be entirely successful at accomplishing all of its thematic and story telling goals, it's an uncompromising vision of a seriously messed up family that will likely shake you up quite a bit when it cuts to the credits. Oh, and AMPAS members, it would make an inspired choice for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar *hiiiiiiiiiiiiiint*.

Grade: B

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2011 Oscar nominees


The complete list of nominees for the Oscars:


Best Picture:
  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King's Speech
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter's Bone
Predictions: 9/10. The only one I didn't call was 127 Hours, but I'm not at all surprised that it showed up here. Certainly no surprising omissions or inclusions...unlike the next category.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role:
  • Javier Bardem - Biutiful
  • Jeff Bridges - True Grit
  • Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
  • Colin Firth - The King's Speech
  • James Franco - 127 Hours
Predictions: 4/5. Looks like Sean Penn and Julia Roberts' support came through after all. Even though Bardem never really gained much traction over the course of awards season, obviously enough members of AMPAS watched their Biutiful screener DVDs at the right time, which explains why he made it over other outside contenders like Gosling and Duvall.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:
  • Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
  • Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
  • Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
  • Natalie Portman - Black Swan
  • Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine
Predictions: 5/5. I'm both surprised and glad that Williams actually made it in here, as this could have easily gone to Julianne Moore. I had a few minor last minute doubts about Kidman getting in, but she prevailed, along with the other three expected nominees.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role:
  • Christian Bale - The Fighter
  • John Hawkes - Winter's Bone
  • Jeremy Renner - The Town
  • Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech
  • Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
Predictions: 4/5. I wasn't entirely sure that AMPAS would go for Ruffalo's laid back turn over Garfield's more sympathetic "betrayed best friend." I'm still surprised that he got in and Julianne Moore didn't; apparently AMPAS really wants to make her wait before she finally scores her next nomination.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role:
  • Amy Adams - The Fighter
  • Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech
  • Melissa Leo - The Fighter
  • Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
  • Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom
Predictions: 5/5! Even with the SAG snub, Weaver managed to pull through, and I'm ecstatic about that. And as expected, Steinfeld got put in supporting even though she clearly belongs in lead. If she were to actually win the award, it would be one of the biggest cases of category fraud since Timothy Hutton won Supporting Actor for Ordinary People.

Best Director:
  • Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
  • Joel and Ethan Coen - True Grit
  • David Fincher - The Social Network
  • Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
  • David O. Russell - The Fighter
Predictions: 4/5. Oh lord, I can hear the hardcore Christopher Nolan fanboys crying foul from here. This is actually a surprise, though, because the general concensus was the Nolan was in, and that the fifth slot would be a fight between the Coens and Russell.

Best Original Screenplay:
  • Another Year - Mike Leigh
  • The Fighter - Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, Keith Dorrington
  • Inception - Christopher Nolan
  • The Kids Are All Right - Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
  • The King's Speech - David Seidler
Predictions: 4/5. If any of my predictions had to go, it had to be Black Swan. I'm still surprised that it showed up as much as it did over the course of awards season, since the film's detractors would likely argue that the script is where the flaws stem from. On the other hand, Another Year has become Happy-Go-Lucky all over again for Mike Leigh, with his praised actress being snubbed while his screenplay lands a surprise nomination.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
  • 127 Hours - Simon Beaufoy, Danny Boyle
  • The Social Network - Aaron Sorkin
  • Toy Story 3 - Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
  • True Grit - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Winter's Bone - Debra Granik, Anne Roselini
Predictions: 5/5. Nothing really surprising here, although I thought that The Town might sneak in.

Best Animated Film:
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • The Illusionist
  • Toy Story 3
Predictions 2/3.

Best Foreign Language Film:
  • Biutiful (Mexico)
  • Dogtooth (Greece)
  • In a Better World (Denmark)
  • Incendies (Canada)
  • Outside the Law (Algeria)
Predictions: 4/5.

Best Cinematography:
  • Black Swan
  • Inception
  • The King's Speech
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit
Predictions: 4/5.

Best Editing:
  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • The King's Speech
  • The Social Network
Predictions: 4/5.

Best Art Direction:
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1
  • Inception
  • The King's Speech
  • True Grit
Predictions: 4/5.

Best Costume Design:
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • I am Love
  • The King's Speech
  • The Tempest
  • True Grit
Predictions: 3/5. I really really didn't expect I am Love or The Tempest to show up here at all. Having watched the former for the third time, I actually think that it's a great choice. As for the movie itself, the whole thing fit together better and it's actually more subtle than I gave it credit for. That said, there are still a handful of problems that hold it back from greatness, namely the ending. But more on that in another post (and then I promise to shut up about this damn movie once and for all).

Best Makeup:
  • Barney's Version
  • The Way Back
  • The Wolfman
Predictions: 1/3.

Best Original Score:
  • 127 Hours - AR Rahman
  • How to Train Your Dragon - John Powell
  • Inception - Hans Zimmer
  • The King's Speech - Alexandre Desplat
  • The Social Network - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Predictions: 5/5.

Best Original Song:
  • 127 Hours - "If I Rise"
  • Country Strong - "Coming Home"
  • Tangled - "I See the Light"
  • Toy Story 3 - "We Belong Together"
Predictions: 2/5 or 2/4 I guess. I didn't realize that the category had only been given one extra slot this year. Strange.

Best Sound Mixing:
  • Inception
  • The King's Speech
  • Salt
  • The Social Network
  • True Grit
Predictions: 2/5.

Best Sound Editing:
  • Inception
  • Toy Story 3
  • TRON: Legacy
  • True Grit
  • Unstoppable
Predictions: 3/5.

Best Visual Effects:
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1
  • Hereafter
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2
Predictions: 4/5. How on earth does Hereafter score here while TRON: Legacy gets passed over? Did they feel obligated to give the Eastwood movie something?

Best Documentary:
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • GasLand
  • Inside Job
  • Restrepo
  • Waste Land
Predictions: 3/5.

Best Documentary - Short Subject:
  • Killing in the Name
  • Poster Girl
  • Stranger No More
  • Sun Come Up
  • The Warriors of Qiugang
Best Short Film - Animated:
  • Day & Night
  • The Gruffalo
  • Let's Pollute
  • The Lost Thing
  • Madagascar, A Journey Diary
Best Short Film - Live Action:
  • The Confession
  • The Crush
  • God of Love
  • Na Wewe
  • Wish 143



Monday, January 24, 2011

Final Oscar Predictions


The waiting game is finally coming to a close. Tomorrow morning at 5 (East Coast time) Mo'Nique and AMPAS President Tom Sherak will unveil everything that the past 3 months have been building towards: the Oscar nominations. Like the past two Awards Seasons, a great many of the nominees are rather easy to call, but AMPAS loves to throw us a handful of curve balls every year, which adds to the fun (even if the nominee is something like The Blind Side in Best Picture). So, who should look forward to having his/her name read off tomorrow morning? Here's my final set of predictions on (most of) the categories:

**Nominees listed by likelihood of nomination

Best Picture:
  • The Social Network
  • The King's Speech
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • True Grit
  • Toy Story 3
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • Winter's Bone
  • The Town
Alternates: 127 Hours, Blue Valentine, The Ghost Writer, The Way Back

Best Director:
  • David Fincher - The Social Network
  • Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
  • Christopher Nolan - Inception
  • Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
  • David O. Russell - The Fighter
Alternates: Joel and Ethan Coen (True Grit), Danny Boyle (127 Hours), Roman Polanski (The Ghost Writer)

Best Actor in a Leading Role:
  • Colin Firth - The King's Speech
  • Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
  • James Franco - 127 Hours
  • Jeff Bridges - True Grit
  • Ryan Gosling - Blue Valentine
Alternates: Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter), Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Robert Duvall (Get Low)

Best Actress in a Leading Role:
  • Natalie Portman - Black Swan
  • Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
  • Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
  • Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
  • Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine
Alternates: Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit), Lesley Manville (Another Year)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:
  • Christian Bale - The Fighter
  • Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech
  • Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
  • Jeremy Renner - The Town
  • John Hawkes - Winter's Bone
Alternates: Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:
  • Melissa Leo - The Fighter
  • Amy Adams - The Fighter
  • Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech
  • Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
  • Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom
Alternates: Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Lesley Manville (Another Year), Barbara Hershey (Black Swan)

Best Original Screenplay:
  • The King's Speech
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The Fighter
  • Black Swan
Alternates: Another Year, Blue Valentine,

Best Adapted Screenplay:
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter's Bone
  • 127 Hours
Alternates: Rabbit Hole, The Town, The Ghost Writer

Best Editing:
  • The Social Network
  • Inception
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • The King's Speech
Alternates: 127 Hours, The Town, True Grit

Best Cinematography:
  • True Grit
  • Inception
  • Black Swan
  • 127 Hours
  • The King's Speech
Alternates: The Way Back, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1, Never Let Me Go

Best Art Direction/Set Design:
  • Black Swan
  • Inception
  • The King's Speech
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • True Grit
Alternates: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1, Shutter Island, The Ghost Writer

Best Costume Design:
  • The King's Speech
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Black Swan
  • True Grit
  • Secretariat (I know it vanished, but it could randomly show up here with the period setting and all)
Alternates: Robin Hood, TRON: Legacy, Inception, Burlesque

Best Visual Effects:
  • Inception
  • TRON: Legacy
  • Iron Man 2
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1
Alternates: Hereafter, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Clash of the Titans (lol)

Best Make Up:
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • The Wolfman
  • True Grit
Alternates (from the list of finalists provided by AMPAS; this category is weird that way): The Fighter, The Way Back

Best Original Score:
  • Hans Zimmer - Inception
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Social Network
  • Alexandre Desplat - The King's Speech
  • John Powell - How to Train Your Dragon
  • AR Rahman - 127 Hours
Alternates: Alexandre Desplat (The Ghost Writer), Rachel Portman (Never Let Me Go), Daft Punk (TRON: Legacy)

Best Original Song:
  • "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" - Burlesque
  • "I See the Light" - Tangled
  • "Shine" - Waiting for Superman
  • "Coming Home" - Country Strong
  • "Bound to You" - Burlesque
Alternates: "We Belong Together" (Toy Story 3), "Express" - Burlesque, "If I Rise" - 127 Hours

Best Sound Mixing:
  • Inception
  • Black Swan
  • True Grit
  • TRON: Legacy
  • Shutter Island
Alternates: Iron Man 2, 127 Hours, Salt

Best Sound Editing:
  • Inception
  • Black Swan
  • TRON: Legacy
  • True Grit
  • The Town
Alternates: Salt, 127 Hours, Unstoppable, The Social Network

Best Animated Film:
  • Toy Story 3
  • How to Train Your Dragon
  • Tangled
Alternates: The Illusionist, Despicable Me

Best Documentary Feature:
  • Waiting for Superman
  • Restrepo
  • Inside Job
  • Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer
  • Gasland
Alternates: Exit Through the Gift Shop, The Tillman Story

Best Foreign Language Film:
  • In a Better World (Denmark)
  • Biutiful (Mexico)
  • Incendies (Canada)
  • Life Above All (South Africa)
  • Outside the Law (Algeria)
Alternates: Dogtooth (Greece), Confessions (Japan), Even the Rain (Spain)






"Another Year" - REVIEW


The title and premise of Mike Leigh's latest film, Another Year, suggests the potential for a lagging, meandering, and weightless slice of life. It's the sort of film that could have easily sunk into tedium, especially considering its two hour run time and very limited plot/story. And yet through a key stylistic difference (I'll explain in a minute) and a strong group of performances, Another Year turns out to be one of the director's finest, and this is coming from someone who isn't exactly a fan of his.

Tom and Gerri (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) are a happily married couple living in the London area, and over the course of the film (broken up into four segments; one for each season), we see them interact with various friends and relatives, usually at a meal or outing. Yet the film doesn't begin with Tom or Gerri. An entire first scene goes by without either of the two appearing, and the focus of the scene is on a woman who only appears once more (in the very next scene) in the entire film (Imelda Staunton). On the other end of things, the film concludes with a lingering shot on someone other than Tom or Gerri as well. I bring this up because it plays into the strange discussion that has dominated talk of the film's awards season prospects: is actress Lesley Manville - as Tom and Gerri's friend Mary - in a leading or supporting role. Judging the film based on how it begins and ends, I got the sense that while Tom and Gerri ground the film, they aren't exactly the leads (at least not the primary leads). We may not see Mary at home or by herself, but she's the character we get to know best over the course of the film.

Either way, it's a shame that Manville has been largely overlooked over the course of awards season, because her work here stands among the best of the year, lead or supporting. Mary may not exactly have her life together (as evidenced by the jumpy manner in which she moves and talks), but Manville is careful not to take the performance to the point where she becomes annoying or exhausting. And part of this is, perhaps, due to one of the key changes that Leigh seems to have made in this film: he's either cut down on improvisation, or his direction and his actors have made their improvisation less obvious. So even though the film may still feel a little long in some parts (the final section, Winter, goes on just a little too long), the film has the overall feeling of being better constructed and less open than much of Leigh's previous work.

This is also, in large part, due to the strength of the performances. Manville may be the MVP here, but she's beautifully backed up by Broadbent and Sheen, along with smaller turns from David Bradley (AKA Mr. Filch from Harry Potter) and a stunning cameo performance from Imelda Staunton. Staunton in particular nails her two scenes at the film's beginning as a woman whose situation, though never specified, is in shambles. Despite the bleak nature of her scenes, she's one of the supporting characters you wish that Leigh would bring back in. Alas, that might have proven to be too much, and would have weighed down the film's happier segments (Spring and Summer).

But this is where we come to one of the problems with the film. Despite the general quiet warmth of the film, at times it does seem a little condescending. Everyone around Tom and Gerri is usually a mess of some sort, and they're all single, whether through divorce (Mary) or death (Tom's brother). The film seems to treat Tom and Gerri as slightly superior to everyone else simply because they're a happy couple, as though the only way to achieve happiness and stability in life is to be with someone. It's not a glaring issue, but it rears its head enough times to make it somewhat noticeable. The last shot also seems to reinforce this (while simultaneously evoking Mary as actually being the film's lead). For Tom and Gerri, the course of the film really does depict just another year, but for people like Mary, it depicts another year of loneliness and dissatisfaction.

Thankfully this is an issue that never becomes so prominent as to drag down the entire film. Leigh's writing, while a times a little drawn out, is effective at showing the connections among his characters, and his actors do a strong job of projecting a sense of camaraderie. And while it may not be as heartwarming as it's been advertised, it rings true enough in the right places to remain effective without becoming hopeless or bleak. And despite its title, it certainly deserves to be given a chance, because this is more than just Another Mike Leigh Film; it's one of his best.

Grade: B/B+

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Producers Guild of America shakes things up...in one category



People often write about how the glut of critics awards all but kills the suspense of awards season, and I'm inclined to agree. Even when my favorite film of the year sweeps nearly every city/grouping of critics and most of the televised shows (The Hurt Locker, No Country for Old Men), it's almost disappointing. Not content to join the chorus of love for The Social Network, the PGA announced its winners today, with Tom Hooper's The King's Speech coming out on top.
"B-b-bring it, Zuckerberg."

This is a big push forward for the film, which had lost a little steam (Colin Firth aside) as The Social Network's path of domination began. It also reinforces the status of the film as the biggest potential spoiler of TSN's best picture chances. After all, many, if not all, of AMPAS' members belong to one of the guilds, which means that The King's Speech has a good chunk of the PGA in its graces, even if the votes were spread among 10 films. For a look at the rest of the winners and nominees, continue reading:

Feature Film
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
***The King's Speech***
The Social Network
The Town
Toy Story 3
True Grit


Animated Film
Despicable Me
How To Train Your Dragon
***Toy Story 3***


Feature Film
Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer
Earth Made of Glass
Inside Job
Smash His Camera
The Tillman Story
***Waiting for Superman***


Long-Form Televison
Agatha Christie's Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express (#12.4)
***The Pacific*
The Pillars of the Earth
Temple Grandin
You Don't Know Jack


Episodic Television - Comedy
30 Rock
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Glee
***Modern Family***
The Office


Episodic Television - Drama
Breaking Bad
Dexter
LOST
***Mad Men***
True Blood


Non-Fiction Television
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
***Deadliest Catch: Crab Fishing in Alaska***
Intervention
Undercover Boss


Live Entertainment/Competition Television
The Amazing Race
***The Colbert Report***
Project Runway
Real Time with Bill Maher
Top Chef

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Villains revealed for "The Dark Knight Rises"


After months of waiting, Christopher Nolan has finally given us his villains for his third (and final) Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, due out in July 2012. Anne Hathaway will play Selina Kyle, who traditionally becomes Catwoman, and Inception and Bronson star Tom Hardy will play Bane. Hardy's casting as Bane makes sense enough; he has the right look to play someone frighteningly equipped with brawn and brains in equal measure. According to Wikipedia, the character is even considered one of Batman's greatest powerful foes; apparently in one comic book storyline, he even manages to break Batman's spinal cord. Ouch.
Hathaway, on the other hand, is more of a question mark. She's certainly a talented actress, but she has a certain joy about her that makes it difficult for me to picture the future Oscar co-host as the classic villain/love interest. After all, Hathaway is nearly a decade younger than Christian Bale, which has the potential to cause chemistry issues. Then again, the character could simply be more Selina Kyle, and less Catwoman. She could start off as another love interest, and the film could set up for her transformation, either within the film or as an incomplete subplot (though that would be odd, considering that Nolan isn't returning after TDKR).

To be fair, many of us had similar thoughts when Ledger was cast as the Joker ("how on earth is that guy going to become the Joker!?!?!"). And of course, we aren't even remotely close to knowing what the Nolan brothers' (plus David S. Goyer) vision/design is for the character. It's safe to assume that she'll be scaled down somewhat in terms of flamboyance (Nolan's bat-verse is pretty free of camp). And I doubt that we'll be seeing anything like this:

All in all, the pair of Hathaway and Hardy make for an interesting pair of casting choices. The film doesn't begin shooting until April or May, which means we won't get any grainy on-set photos from afar for quite a while now. Hopefully Nolan and co. will give out a costume sketch or something along the way, but if not, we'll simply have to play the waiting game.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Blue Valentine" - REVIEW


Blue Valentine, Derek Cianfrance's (temporarily NC-17 rated) look at a marriage gone awry, opens with a simple enough scenario: the family dog has gotten out of her cage, and is missing. Yet by the time this scene concludes (and an answer is still not given), the film has elegantly, effectively shown you that Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy's (Michelle Williams) marriage isn't in great condition. It's scenes like these, some downcast, some charming, that allow Blue Valentine to reach the filmmaking and acting highs that it does.

As the film's only two real characters (in the sense of being fleshed out), it's up to Gosling and Williams to create a compelling doomed couple, and in this they succeed. It's not necessarily because they're written (initially) as likable people, but rather because of the skill and commitment that the two actors bring to their performances. A scene where Williams almost goes through with an abortion chills all the way down to the bone thanks to the actress's subtle skill at communicating her gradual change of mind.

As a result, neither half of the story ever feels shortchanged, because we believe this couple in their happier days and in their more dour moments. Some have accused the film of being slanted against Williams' character (Cianfrance based it - somewhat - on an actual relationship), but if anything the film leans slightly in the opposite direction. Cindy goes through with her plan to study medicine and becomes a nurse, whereas Dean gives up on his own potential and settles, never actually acting to make life for the household better, even if he wants it. And when the first, only really, explosive argument hits, it all rings true.

Labeled as a love story in reverse, Cianfrance's film is more of a love story put in a blender. It jumps often between the two sides of the film (Dean and Cindy getting together and happy vs. Dean and Cindy married and at odds with each other), though never to be confusing. Transitions between the two sides of the film are handled with a number of elegant linked cuts. A scene in which "Past Dean" look across a hallway and sees Cindy for the first time is followed by a reaction shot of present-day Cindy staring off at something else. These cuts, along with the strangely effective soundtrack by Grizzly Man and near constant presence of the color blue, help add the tiniest flourishes of style in a story that we know is headed for a bad place.

Unfortunately the film, like the relationship, has its issues. Some of the normal cuts between time periods can give off a sense of bi-polar film making, rather than two elegantly woven halves. And though much of the film works, it does sometimes lag. At 1 hour and 50 minutes, it never drags to the point of tedium or boredom, but let's just say that there are a handful of places where you might find your mind wandering. A few minor characters, though played effectively, feel unfortunately one note (ex: Cindy's angry father).

On the whole, though, Cianfrance, through the strong work of his leads, is able to craft a compelling look at a match not quite made in heaven. It never descends into melodrama or engineers cheap ways to elicit overwrought screaming matches from its characters. Films like this are often sunk by aspects like direction or script, and even with the handful of issues with the writing, Cianfrance's film easily stays afloat thanks to the keen awareness of his direction, and the wonderful work from his committed leads.

Grade: B/B+

2010 BAFTA Nominees


One of the last major nominee announcements before the Oscars (the 25th) is the BAFTAs, who unveiled their nominees earlier today. And even though the BAFTA voting body is only slightly larger than AMPAS (6300 vs. 5900 approx.), until the past few years, they've been overlooked as an Oscar indicator in favor of the Golden Globes. With today's nominees come a mixed bag of surprises both good and bad:

BEST FILM:
Black Swan
Inception
The King's Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

An interesting line up. I wouldn't have pegged BAFTA to go for a western, yet the Coens' re-adaptation made in it in over competition like The Fighter. All five of these are either have strong shots (some almost definite) at BP nominations from AMPAS, but there will be five other films. The interesting thing would be to see how much each of these film is liked by the two voting bodies (wouldn't it be great if BAFTA and AMPAS released vote tallies? At least for us, anyway).

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
127 Hours
Another Year
Four Lions
The King's Speech
Made in Dagenham

I've never really understood the need for this category, even if it does mean that the hilarious Four Lions can finally say that it was nominated for something important. Isn't it almost insulting, as if to say, "We're rewarding you in spite of your limitations [???] as a British film," or some nonsense. And considering that only one of these films is both here and in the Best Film line up, I think we know where this trophy is going.

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR, OR PRODUCER
The Arbor - Director/Producer - Clio Barnard, Tracy O'Riordan
Exit Through the Gift Shop - Director/Producer - Banksy, Jaimie D'Cruz
Four Lions - Director/Writer - Chris Morris
Monsters - Director/Writer - Gareth Edwards
Skeletons - Director/Writer - Nick Whitfield

DIRECTOR
127 Hours - Danny Boyle
Black Swan - Darren Aronofsky
Inception - Christopher Nolan
The King's Speech - Tom Hooper
The Social Network - David Fincher

Boyle is the only surprise here, nudging the Coens out. His film certainly didn't perform as well as expected during awards season, and even with this nomination, I don't see a surprise Oscar nomination coming his way. The fifth slot will most likely go to O. Russell, and if not him, then the Coens.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Black Swan - Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John McLaughlin
The Fighter - Scott Silver, Paul Tamasay, Eric Johnson
Inception - Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right - Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
The King's Speech - David Seidler

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
127 Hours - Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel
The Social Network - Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 - Michael Arndt
True Grit - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

And unfortunately, this is where the unfortunate love for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo begins (it gets worse). Where this category is actually interesting, though, is in Original. Black Swan keeps popping up, even though it's much more of a "director's movie," and the category lacks a clear front runner like Adapted. Seidler won two awards over the weekend, which bodes very well for him, and BAFTA will likely swing his way too. AMPAS is a different story, and they may go with Nolan, who hasn't been nominated for anything since writing Memento. Interestingly, The Fighter scores here, but not in Picture, Director, or Supporting Actress, and that film belongs more to its director and actors than it does to its screenplay.

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
Biutiful - Mexico
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Sweden
I am Love - Italy
Of Gods and Men - France
The Secret in Their Eyes - Argentina

ANIMATED FILM
Despicable Me
How to Train Your Dragon
Toy Story 3

LEADING ACTOR
Javier Bardem - Biutiful
Jeff Bridges - True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
Colin Firth - The King's Speech
James Franco

At long last, Bardem shows up in a major awards line up. Unfortunately, as far as his Oscar campaign goes, the performance likely isn't going to make the cut. Firth has a strong shot at winning for the second year in a row here, but if not, Franco or Eisenberg will take it.

LEADING ACTRESS
Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Julianne Moore - The Kids Are All Right
Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Noomi Rapace - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit

Of the two "Kids" ladies, Moore is certainly less secure, and the two will likely split votes and only make Portman's win easier. Then there's Rapace, who beat out much better performances from Michelle Williams and Nicole Kidman because apparently the British really, really liked this damn movie. On the other hand, they were smart enough to actually put Hailee Steinfeld in lead where she clearly belongs.

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale - The Fighter
Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
Pete Postlethwaite - The Town
Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush - The King's Speech

Ruffalo hasn't appeared consistently, but he's been there enough to be a threat (for the nomination). Postlethwaite, nominated over co-star Jeremy Renner, well, we know why he's there, sadly.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams - The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter - The King's Speech
Barbara Hershey - Black Swan
Lesley Manville - Another Year
Miranda Richardson - Made in Dagenham

Out goes front runner Melissa Leo, and in goes...Barbara Hershey? That one's actually inspired, BAFTA. Meanwhile Manville is in here when many say that she should be leading, and Miranda Richardson's someone stagey performance is in over Jacki Weaver, whose Oscar hopes may have finally ended with this snub and the lack of nomination from SAG.

For the rest of the nominees, hop on over to The Guardian.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Golden Globe Winners


Best Picture: Drama: The Social Network
Best Actor: Drama: Colin Firth - The King's Speech
Best Picture: Musical or Comedy: The Kids Are All Right
Best Actress: Drama: Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Best Actor: Musical or Comedy: Paul Giamatti - Barney's Version
Best TV Series: Comedy or Musical: Glee
Best Director: David Fincher - The Social Network
Cecil B. DeMille Award: Robert DeNiro
Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture: Melissa Leo - The Fighter
Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series - Comedy or Musical: Laura Linney - The Big C
Best Foreign Language Film: In a Better World (Denmark)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a TV Series, Mini Series, or TV Movie: Jane Lynch - Glee
Best Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network
Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini Series or Motion Picture Made for TV: Claire Danes - Temple Granden
Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini Series or Motion Picture Made for TV: Al Pacino - You Don't Know Jack
Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3
Best Original Score: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Social Network
Best Original Song: "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" - Burlesque
Best TV Series: Boardwalk Empire
Best Performance by an Actor in a Drama Series: Steve Buscemi - Boardwalk Empire
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Mini Series, Motion Picture, or Made for TV Movie: Chris Colfer - Glee
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Christian Bale - The Fighter

Golden Globe Awards Predictions




One of the biggest events of awards season, the Golden Globes will be coming to us tonight at 8 (eastern). And even with the recent glut of critics awards that have spoiled most of the categories for us already, the Globes always save room for an upset or two. And of course, the general drunkenness of the nominees (well, except for Natalie Portman) should make for a more entertaining set of acceptance speeches than we were treated to two nights ago. Hopefully MC Ricky Gervais will make a good number of jokes about the, er, lackluster roster for Musical/Comedy. Here's my take on who/what will, and should take home a Globe tonight.

** In case you forgot, the Nominees are...

Best Picture - Drama:
Will Win: The Social Network
Should Win: Black Swan

Nothing against Fincher's Facebook tale; it's one of my favorites of 2010, actually. However, Darren Aronofsky's ballet thriller soared like nothing else from the last 12 months did. It builds gradually, until it finally unleashes its full madness in the last act, where it soars to rapturous heights. That said, this is a category where I would have no problem with any of the nominees winning, even though some aren't in my current top 10. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for our next category...

Best Picture - Comedy or Musical:
Will and Should Win: The Kids Are All Right

It's not a film that I was crazy about, but when you look at its competition, this category is pretty bleak. So many good films could have been nominated here, but instead we have the garish Alice in Wonderland and The Tourist, a film whose pulse flat-lined as the opening credits played out. Unless the HFPA decides to completely lose their collective minds, Lisa Cholodenko's film will take this.

Best Director:
Will Win: David Fincher - The Social Network
Should Win: Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan

While Fincher's contributions to his film are strong, they've often been overshadowed by the strength of the screenplay, and there's a reason for that. Black Swan, on the other hand, succeeds because of how Aronofsky's brings his nightmarish vision to life with such precision. As far as threats go, Tom Hooper or Christopher Nolan (who might have some sympathy after being snubbed for The Dark Knight) each have a chance, but it's doubtful.

Best Actor - Drama:
Will and Should Win: Colin Firth - The King's Speech

It's the sort of performance that's practically written to win awards (real-life royalty + disability = awards wet dream), but here's a case of someone who really deserves it. Granted, he's in spectacular company, and Eisenberg, Franco, or Gosling (a Blue Valentine review later today or tomorrow) would certainly be worthy winners. Wahlberg is good, but not necessarily outstanding (that, and his cast mates outshine him everywhere), and there are others who are more deserving (this guy). There's a chance that the HFPA will pull a shocker and pick Eisenberg or Franco, but Firth should take this without so much as a hiccup (or a stutter, for that matter).

Best Actress - Drama:
Will Win: Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Should Win: Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole

Here's a rather strange set of nominees. One is the star of an acclaimed film that has exceeded expectations and has taken in $72 million (on a $13 million budget). Two star in acclaimed, often bleak films that are hovering around the $1 million range (one over, one under). One was in an indie hit over the summer and has, surprisingly, lost buzz over the past few weeks. And one is in a movie that has barely seen a theatrical release. And even though Halle Berry has no shot in hell at winning, it's still puzzling to see her here since the film hasn't exactly received much of a campaign. Not that it matters, since Portman will continue her near-sweep (especially since Benning isn't in this category). Kidman and Williams (Kidman moreso; HFPA likes her) have slim chances for their beautiful, raw performances, but they won't be able to stop Portman.

Best Actor - Comedy or Musical:
Will Win: Johnny Depp - Alice in Wonderland
Should Win:...

I haven't seen Barney's Version or Casino Jack, but I can only hope that Paul Giamatti and Kevin Spacey give remotely enjoyable performances, because otherwise this category really is a trainwreck. Depp is nominated for two of the worst performances of his career, and to think that the film's success could propel him to a second Golden Globe win isn't pleasant. Jake Gyllenhaal's work in Love and Other Drugs wasn't necessarily special, but he was charming and had good chemistry with co-star Anne Hathaway. This is a dangerous thing to say, but I'd rather see one of the performances I haven't seen take this, because aside from Gyllenhaal's looks/charm, there's nothing worth rewarding among the others.

Best Actress - Comedy or Musical:
Will Win: Annette Bening - The Kids Are All Right
Should Win: Everyone except Angelina Jolie

None of the performances would place in my top 10 for actresses (maybe Stone...maybe), but Stone, Bening, Moore, and Hathaway at least gave performances. Jolie is simply here for being herself, because that's essentially what she did in The Tourist; she was pretty and mysterious(ish), and that's about it. At least, unlike the C/M men, this category has an 80% chance of picking a decent winner.

Best Supporting Actor:
Will and Should Win: Christian Bale - The Fighter

Possibly the best performance of the year (certainly the most lively), Bale is a deserving front runner. Rush is his closest competition, and even he is miles and miles behind.

Best Supporting Actress:
Will Win: Melissa Leo - The Fighter
Should Win: Jacki Weaver - Animal Kingdom

This is the one acting category with some genuine suspense. Leo has won the most awards and has a strong shot at taking this, and yet she doesn't feel as secure like Bale, Portman, or Firth do. She could easily lose to her co-star Amy Adams, who has been nominated more times and has yet to win, well, anything. Weaver has her share of wins, and frankly I'm still surprised that the HFPA nominated her while SAG didn't. Either she got in because she's somehow going to take this, or she's one of those lucky-to-even-be-there nominees, which is a shame, considering how good her performance (and the film it's part of) is.

Best Screenplay:
Will and Should Win: Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network

Possibly the screenplay of the year, and for good reason. I'd be shocked if another name was read after the envelope is opened.

Best Animated Film:
Will and Should Win: Toy Story 3

There's room for an upset from either Dragon or The Illusionist, but not much. The Pixar train should keep on rolling without interruption.

Best Foreign Language Film:
Will Win: I am Love
Should Win: N/A

Even if I end up hating the winner, just please let it be something other than this overrated, thinly written, overblown mess/waste of Tilda Swinton.

Best Original Song:
Will and Should Win: "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" - Burlesque

Best Original Score:
Will Win: Hans Zimmer - Inception
Should Win: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Social Network

Friday, January 14, 2011

BFCA Critics Choice Award Winners



Best Picture: The Social Network
Best Director: David Fincher - The Social Network
Best Actor: Colin Firth - The King's Speech
Best Actress: Natalie Portman - Black Swan
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale - The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo - The Fighter
One of these things is not like the others, can you guess which? The answer is Melissa Leo. Despite having won a very healthy portion of Supporting Actress awards from critics (and she could very well take the Globe on Sunday), this is a race that's poised for an upset (Jacki Weaver, please). The Globes and SAG will likely swing Leo's way, but don't be too surprised if we have a Tilda Swinton-level surprise on February 27th. As for the rest? As predictable as they come, but that's certainly not a bad thing. That said, I wouldn't mind seeing Darren Aronofsky score a few Best Director awards for bringing out Black Swan's madness so brilliantly.

And by the way, Critics Choice show runners: what the hell was up with Jacki Weaver sitting in the dark as her name was read aloud? Personally, I think Ms. Weaver has a message for those responsible:


Best Acting Ensemble: The Fighter
Best Original Screenplay: David Seidler - The King's Speech
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin - The Social Network
The Fighter's win is a bit of a surprise, if only because Ensemble isn't an Oscar category so people don't spend lots of time predicting front-runners. This could, however, be an indication of some more love at the end of the month from SAG. That is, unless the Guild decides to vote based on what they want for Best Picture, instead of voting by the category's actual title: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. As for the screenplays, most critics awards don't distinguish between original and adapted. With Sorkin sweeping, this has left Original Screenplay wide open. Many, myself included, figured this would go to Inception, but apparently not. At least not for now. This category will only get more interesting when the WGA announces its picks on February 5th.

Best Animated Film: Toy Story 3
Best Young Actor/Actress: Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
Best Action Movie: Inception
Best Comedy Movie: Easy A
I give my full support to the first three winners wholeheartedly. Best Comedy is a different story. While the BFCA didn't mess up this category as badly as the Globes did (although they did have The Other Guys in there...bleh), they did neglect a number of deserving films. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Four Lions, and Please Give would like to have a word with you, BFCA.

Best Foreign Language Film: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Sweden)
Best Documentary Feature: Waiting for Superman
While the overrated crime film is better than that unfortunate mess from Italy (haven't seen Biutiful, so no comment there), this just seems like strong evidence of what a weak year it was for foreign language films (that met eligibility). As for documentary, a category I usually pay little attention to, I would have preferred Restrepo or Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, but I haven't seen the winner, so I can't rightfully complain about it winning.

Best Song: "If I Rise" - 127 Hours
Best Composer/Score: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Social Network
Indifferent on the first, but a big HELL YES to the second. People credit Sorkin's script for the film's success, and it certainly deserves that compliment. However, Reznor and Ross's electric, pulsating score was a perfect cherry on top, giving the film's already top-notch story telling an extra boost, the way a great score should.

Best Picture Made for Television: The Pacific
Best Cinematography: Wally Pfister - Inception
Best Art Direction: Guy Hendrix-Dyas - Inception
Best Editing: Lee Smith - Inception
Best Costume Design: Colleen Atwood - Alice in Wonderland
Best Make Up: Alice in Wonderland
Best Visual Effects: Inception
Best Sound: Inception
It's a little odd to give out an award to a TV film/mini-series at a show dedicated to honoring theatrical releases in all of the other categories, isn't it? At least at the Globes there are an entire set of awards given out for work on the small screen, whereas the honor sticks out like a sore thumb here. As for the rest, clearly the BFCA was a big fan of the production values of Inception and The Great Eyesore in 3D. While I doubt that this slew of awards will translate completely on Oscar night, it's a big (and not unexpected) indicator that Nolan's latest is going to do veeeeeery well in the artistic/tech categories.

Check back Sunday for the Golden Globes. I'm going to try doing some live blogging since that show usually promises some more interesting (read: drunken) celebrity behavior than the other awards shows. And of course, Ricky Gervais will be there to stir up some trouble, which guarantees a good time...for the TV audience at least.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Spiderman: Turn On the Reboot

Spiderman has been receiving a lot of press as of late, both good and bad. On the Great White Way, Julie Taymor's U2-penned musical "Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark" has suffered delay after delay after delay (delay could also be switched out for 'disaster'). Cast members have been injured or have left all together, and despite good notices for the stunts (when they, y'know...work), the production has been troubled to say the least.

Thankfully, not all is bad for the famed web-slinger. After months of collective head scratching over the decision to reboot the franchise instead of create a proper 4th film, the first still of our new Spidey, Andrew Garfield, in costume has emerged.

Garfield is certainly lankier in frame than Tobey Maguire, but despite my initial doubts, the suit actually looks convincing on him. Judging by the state of the costume and the downcast look, it's safe to assume that this shot comes from a rather dark moment in the story (unless this turns out to be nothing more than a publicity still). But the real test Marc Webb's (500 Days of Summer) will face will be whether it can make audiences go back to the beginning with Peter Parker for a second time. Granted, Batman Begins had no problems doing this, but in that case, the Batman films had become a complete joke. Despite the lackluster reception of Spiderman 3, the film made bucket loads of money, unlike Batman & Robin.

And even though this is a reboot, the film won't be exactly the same story. A look at the cast list reveals that Rhys Ifans is Dr. Curt Connors, AKA the Lizard. This is somewhat appropriate seeing as Dr. Connors (played originally by Dylan Baker) was rumored to become the Lizard in the 4th Spidey film before it fell apart. In fact, looking at the cast list, there's no one listed as playing Harry or Norman Osbourne, the roles inhabited by James Franco and Willem Dafoe in the original trilogy. And as far as love interests, all we have now is Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), with no one cast as Mary Jane Watson.

So even though the there's obvious that plenty will be different, there's bound to be uncertainty about this project until it finally hits screens...or until the first fan-boy reviews leak from any test screenings conducted by Sony. Either way, we'll have to wait until 2012 to find out exactly what Marc Webb and Garfield have come up with. Just please, please don't let it be even remotely like 3. We can't go through that mess again.