Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Okay, Time To Wash Some Of That Hollywood Glitter Off

It's hockey postin' time!

As was all over the national sporting news last week, Thursday's Sabres game against the Ottawa Senators devolved into the most glorious pier six brawl, which you can see below. I know my readership is not the most sports savvy, so here's the scenario: the Sabres had, in the last two weeks, lost roughly seven dozen players to injury, including essentially the one tough guy on the team who could actually make plays as well, Paul Gaustad. In the wake of Gaustad's injury, a weird carnival of Sabres have stepped up to try their hand at the tough guy role, leading to such frankly amazing occurrences as shrinking violet Jochen Hecht having a go against the Boston Bruins.

So when Ottawa took a run at Chris Drury -- Sabres captain and team leader -- and injured him, with a hit that managed to be both clean and headhunting at the same time, the Sabres who retaliated were folks like rookie Drew Stafford and hometown boy just called up from the minors Pat Kaleta, not to mention goalie Martin Biron, who got the everloving crap kicked out of him by Ray Emery, the most badass goalie of all time. God, I do love hockey.



My one regret, after watching the video again, is that Rick Jeanneret never busted out the "eeeeeeevrybody's got a partner" soundbite. Jeanneret is the best voice in hockey, and if you've never heard him call a goal, you absolutely need to check out this and this and this and this and this.

Anyway, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was fined $10,000 for the brawl -- for what, I'm not entirely sure -- and fans in Buffalo have been so jazzed about the brawl and the team and Ruff in particular (Bill Parcells wishes he was one half the spectacularly awesome crumudgeon Ruff is) that they've taken up a collection to compensate Ruff for the fine. Ruff's going to donate the money to charity, of course, but it's misguided enthusiasm like this that makes me really love my city. We may not do much right, but we do support hockey thuggery.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Unstructured and Random Post-Oscar Thoughts

Not a bad show, all things considered. I went 12-for-24 in my predictions, which is officially not good, no matter how you look at it. Not that I was particularly crushed by any of it, though I would have liked to have seen Guillermo Del Toro collect that Foreign Film trophy, not to mention the fact that Emmanuel Lubezki really, REALLY deserved to win Best Cinematography. Other than that, I was surprised to see Alan Arkin win, but not unpleasantly so. Among a truly underwhelming set of nominees, he was my favorite. And of course I was happy to see Martin Scorsese win. Good that he's finally got that statue. I still don't think The Departed was anything close to a Best Picture, but it's not an insulting choice. And it's not a typical Oscar movie, so it's nice when they're rewarded.

I thought Ellen was wonderful. Easy, likeable, didn't try too hard. I'd love to see her return. I've seen her take some flak across the internets for being too bland or too uncontroversial, which I think is off the mark. This isn't the comedy event of the season -- though I did appreciate Jerry Seinfeld's foray into stand-up, and even the Ferrell/Black/Reilly number -- it's about keeping things moving and keeping things light and making people forget we're nearing hour five. It was a long ceremony last night but it didn't feel quite as long as I think it might have without Ellen.

In fact, reading the Monday morning quarterbacking, I'm kind of led to wonder is everyone even remembers what the Oscars are like. They're always long. Like, interminably long. That's how it is. That's how it's always going to be. I can understand why you wouldn't want to sit through that, but maybe don't be so surprised that it kept you up past midnight. Also, like, Jessica Biel was a presenter. Deal. Like this wasn't etched in stone all year. Jessica Biel is what Jessica Alba was last year. And Scarlett Johansson was the year before. And Beyonce was the year before. The designated It Girl sexy starlet. That girl always presents one of the below-line awards. This happens every year! Why are we now offended by it? No, she's not a great actress, but for real. It's the Oscars! It's a sham! Have fun with it. Place some side bets on your Oscar pool. How long will it last this time? Will Queen Latifah present Best Song again? Over/under on cutaways to Jack Nicholson. Oh, and those of you who guessed "playing a cancer patient" as to why Jack's suddenly looking like a roll-on deodorant can collect their winnings at the door.

Other thoughts as I try to imagine how many fat suit movies Eddie Murphy's gonna line up as punishment for snubbing him:

-- Loved seeing Melissa Etheridge win. Loved seeing her kiss the utterly fantastic Tammy Lynn Michaels in front of God and everybody. Loved that her win made this as much The Lesbian Oscars as iy was The Mexican-Oh- I-Mean-Spanish-Sorry-Penelope Oscars.

-- I should be clear that I like Al Gore just fine and am all for reversing the effects of global warming, but I couldn't help but think that nothing is going to keep the American public from supporting a sound environmental policy like seeing Al and Leo DiCaprio urging us to go green from the Oscar podium. Though I am starting to like Leo a bit more, I do admit.

-- Was I the only one puzzled by random out-of-place celebrity sightings? Why was Judge Reinhold on the red carpet? Was that...Ed Begley, Jr. sitting a few rows behind Clint Eastwood? Why was Faye Dunnaway sitting with the short film people? I was one Jamie Gertz sighting from having some sort of cognitive dissonance episode.

-- Reese Witherspoon: Yes, she does seem to be getting skinner from award show to award show, and I hope that stops soon, but she once again looked phenomenal. Loved the laters on the dress, loved the hair. She looks alarmingly good with those bangs. She's still the closest thing we have on this planet to a Cylon, and now she's freed from her marriage and looking better than she ever has. We'd all best be careful.

-- Also looking great: Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Ellen's crushed velvet suit, Celine on the red carpet (not so much on stage), Mark Wahlberg, Clive Owen, and even adorable little Abigail Breslin. Not so much: Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony (drag queen and drag king, seriously), and Gwyneth.

-- Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce splitting duties on "Listen" was fantastic. I didn't think divas were supposed to share.

-- Abigail Breslin and Jaden "Several Extraneous Middle Names" Smith managed to pull off a "cute little kids presenting" gimmick while not being at all irritating. Well done, kids.

-- I really like how they featured the next generation of male movie stars...and none of them were American. Hugh Jackman, Clive Owen, Daniel Craig, James McAvoy, Gael Garcia Bernal. Kind of makes it lonely on the DiCaprio/Maguire side of the aisle.

-- Most satisfying win of the night: Pan's Labyrinth for Art Direction. That's pretty far down the list for a winner that I really got enthused about, but even still, I managed to enjoy the hell out of the ceremony this year. Even though nobody cursed or announced their Presidential campaign. Good show, everyone. Now can I stop talking about it for a while? Even I'm tired of that little Stallone icon in the corner.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Low Res Oscar Week: The Predictions

Well, this is it. I got all my content in before even Joan Rivers has hit the red carpet, which means I win. You'll excuse me, then, if I kind of skimp on the intro to my sure-to-be-inaccurate predictions. I went for straight-up boring in the acting categories, because that's been the trend ever since they shortened the Oscar season. And I think I picked with my heart once too often in the techs. Whatever. I do have to say I find myself utterly compelled to the Best Art Direction race for the first time in ever. That's cool. Anyway, the shoulds and wills and maybes are as follows:


BEST PICTURE
Should: Little Miss Sunshine
Will: Babel
Dark horse: The Departed

BEST DIRECTOR
Should: Paul Greengrass
Will: Martin Scorsese
Dark Horse: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñaritu

BEST ACTOR
Should: Ryan Gosling
Will: Forest Whitaker
Dark Horse: Leonardo DiCaprio

BEST ACTRESS
Should: Judi Dench
Will: Helen Mirren
Dark Horse: Meryl Streep

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Should: Alan Arkin
Will: Eddie Murphy
Dark Horse: Mark Wahlberg

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Should: Adriana Barraza
Will: Jennifer Hudson
Dark Horse: Adriana Barraza

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Should: Little Miss Sunshine
Will: Little Miss Sunshine
Dark Horse: The Queen

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Should: Notes on a Scandal
Will: The Departed
Dark Horse: Borat

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Should: Emmanuel Lubezki - Children of Men
Will: Emmanuel Lubezki - Children of Men
Dark Horse: Guillermo Navarro - Pan's Labyrinth

BEST ART DIRECTION
Should: Pan's Labyrinth
Will: Pan's Labyrinth
Dark Horse: Dreamgirls

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Should: The Devil Wears Prada
Will: Dreamgirls
Dark Horse: Marie Antoinette

BEST EDITING
Should: United 93
Will: Babel
Dark Horse: The Departed

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Should: Phillip Glass - Notes on a Scandal
Will: Alexandre Desplat - The Queen
Dark Horse: Thomas Newman - The Good German

And the rest...

Best Sound Mixing: Dreamgirls
Best Sound Effects Editing: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Best Visual Effects: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Best Makeup: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Song: Dreamgirls - "Listen"
Best Animated Short - Maestro
Best Live Action Short: West Bank Story
Best Documentary Short: Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story
Best Documentary Feature: An Inconvenient Truth
Best Foreign Film: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Animated Feature: Cars

Low Res Oscar Week: The Top Ten (2)

Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.

THE TOP TEN FILMS OF THE YEAR (cont'd)


#5 -- Brick (Focus)
Truth be told, I had to turn the subtitles on my DVD just so I could figure out what the hell the characters were saying half the time. Fine. But while many saw the gumshoe-speak and high-school-noir aesthetic to be gimmicky and shallow, I saw a filmmaker enthusiastically playing with genre types and having a whole lot of fun in the process. Getting too bogged down in the details (nobody has a parent unless it's convenient? How has the drama girl been able to establish a fiefdom in her dressing room? What high school has a dressing room like that?) would keep you from the good stuff: the vivid characters. The wry sense of humor. Lukas Haas's charmingly bizarre (to be charitable) portrayal of The Pin. There were precious few film experiences more enjoyable all year.


#4 -- Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight)
The funniest movie of the year, for one. The most purely enjoyable. Pound-for-pound the best acting ensemble. The perfectly-played car horn gag. The improbably perfect "Superfreak" crescendo, haters be damned. Toni Collette speed-eating the popsicle. Steve Carell running. It's shitty to be the guy who says "check your cynicism at the door," and I hate it when people do that, but it seems with Little Miss Sunshine that you either get it or you don't. Either your problems with indie movies in general, with happy endings in general, with old men and little kids sharing screen time in general cause you to tune out, or they don't. For me, personally, this movie walked the tightrope it needed to, straight through the closing credits.


#3 -- Shortbus (ThinkFilm)
Explicit gay sex on the big screen? How could I NOT have this movie in my top ten? Umm, well, because without everything that makes Shortbus what it is, that's just porn. Shortbus is so much more than that. It's funny, for one thing. Like, un-self-consciously, belly laugh funny, at times. It's charming. It's sad. It deals with sex in a manner that's neither juvenile nor self-serious. It's a subject matter, and like any other subject matter, it tells us about who these characters are. There's a kindness to John Cameron Mitchell's movies that's unexpected for films that deal with characters who would be punished in any other film. Hopefully he doesn't take so long between projects next time.


#2 -- Pan's Labyrinth (Picturehouse)
I love how much Guillermo Del Toro loves making movies. Love it. It's infectious. It's not only present in his interviews, where he often comes across as a wide-eyed, overgrown kid with a taste for the bizarre and a remarkably developed (if a little filthy) vocabulary. It's also evident in his films, especially his latest and most justly praised. If you've heard him speak, if you've seen The Devil's Backbone (or Cronos or Hellboy or whichever Blade movie it was he directed), then you can practically feel his absolute joy when the giant frog regurgitates the giant blob of mess containing the key. Or sets up the underworld banquet with the Pale Man the way he does. Or has Captain Vidal sew his face back together. Or...just the entire ending sequence. Guillermo Del Toro's been waiting to make this movie for a long time, I'd wager. And to see him pull it off with such verve and care is infectious.


#1 -- Children of Men (Universal)
I can only ever talk about one sequence in Children of Men. I mean, it's virtues are many, and not at all limited to one sequence. That breathtaking car chase, at the very least. Clive Owen's perfectly numbed performance. Julianne Moore being a crazy terrorist prophet lady. The explosion in the coffee shop. The homeland security public service messages on busses and billboards. But I can only ever go back to that sequence near the end of the film that made me stop breathing entirely. When the cries of the miracle baby were louder than the war. When the camera raced ahead of Clive Owen to try to find source of those cries. When the entire machine of war paused to genuflect in front of the miracle they'd waited for. And then when that machine of war started up again, because they're not so easy to stop forever. I've spoken about this before, but this was the moment, for me, in film year 2006. Much credit to Alfonso Cuaron and Emmanuel Lubezki for bringing it to me.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Low Res Oscar Week: The Top Ten (1)

Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.

Almost finished: this is the first part of my top ten movies of the year.


TOP TEN FILMS OF THE YEAR

#10 -- Notes on a Scandal (Fox Searchlight)
It's campy and gossipy and loud and (wait for it) scandalous and kind of a guilty pleasure if you tend to feel guilty about being entertained by a scary old lesbian and her mascara-encrusted pedophile colleague. Cate Blanchett and Bill Nighy have their moments of HIGH DRAMA but the film is really buoyed by Judi Dench's canny performance as a desperate, scheming misanthrope.





#9 -- Babel (Paramount Vantage)
If Inñaritu's rather heroic devotion to putting his characters through as much hell as he possibly can doesn't turn you off, Babel is quite an accomplishment. Gone are the showy editing choices and intentionally confusing timelines. I think the fact that Babel's story is so much more straightforward than his previous efforts shows a confidence in the story he's telling. It's doesn't all hang together -- I still say Rinko Kikuchi was performing in an entirely different film altogether -- but I liked the sense that this filmmaker was taking a confident step forward.


#8 -- A Prairie Home Companion (Picturehouse)
It's sad that a man had to die and all, even if he was old and lived quite the full and accomplished life, but if Robert Altman had to go out with any film, it's hard to imagine one more appropriately elegiac than this movie. A more romantically inclined person might think he chose it for that very reason. A diverse yet cohesive ensemble tell stories and sing songs until the late hours, giving a send-off to a bygone era, and more importantly a bygone artform, with the gorgeous specter of death lurking about to remind us we're all eventually headed for that good night.



#7 -- The Fountain (Warner Bros.)
Darren Aronofsky's wild, time-traveling, operatic, emotional, beautiful, zen passion project is patently ridiculous at times. I mean, how are you supposed to feel 100% good about yourself when you're watching a bald Hugh Jackman in full lotus position floating up to heaven? Really. Which makes it all the higher achievement that the film succeeds anyway. If indulging in Aronofsky's Buddhist fantasies is the trade-off for the breathtaking sights and penetrating emotion of the three-tiered story about defeating death, how do you not take that trade in a heartbeat?



#6 -- United 93 (Universal)
I don't think I took a breath for long stretches of United 93. I expected to be queasy and on edge, but the tension in Paul Greengrass's film didn't feel cheap. It didn't prey on our emotions. It built up tension the old fashioned way -- it locked the doors. Beyond the technical virtuosity, which is considerable, what makes United 93 one of the best films of the year is they way it treats its characters. The passengers and crew of United Flight 93 are neither heroes nor victims. They don't have time to be either. No time for a "yippee-kay-yay, motherfucker." No time to comment on the politics of the situation. No time, even, for the mythologized "let's roll" to sink in. What they accomplished was heroic. In the rush of the moment, what they did was all they could think to do. I'm grateful that Paul Greengrass felt that that was enough. It was.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Low Res Oscar Week: The Directors

Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.

This installment: Best Director



BEST DIRECTOR
Darren Aronofsky - The Fountain
Alfonso Cuaron - Children of Men
Guillermo Del Toro - Pan's Labyrinth
Paul Greengrass - United 93
Rian Johnson - Brick

Matches with Oscar: 1/5. The Academy's "Lone Director," Greengrass, was the only choice I agreed with.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain); 2004: Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind); 2003: Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King); 2002: Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers); 2001: David Lynch (Mulholland Dr.)

Why These Five? Up until the last minute, Aronofsky was riding at the top of this list, while The Fountain was missing my Best Picture ballot altogether. Which I found kind of appropriate, considering how much I want to top my hat to Aronofsky for getting his film made, despite the nagging flaws that keep it from Top 5 greatness. Rian Johnson made a monster of a debut film that makes me awful excited for what he's up to next. Cuaron and Del Toro lived up to all that Three Amigos hype that turned pretty obnoxious pretty quickly (they're directors! And they're Mexican!). And Paul Greengrass managed to win me over with a 9/11 movie I wasn't entirely sure should have been made in the first place.

Who Wins? All five of them are worthy choices, I mean that sincerely. A great year for young directors. My pick is Cuaron, for crafting the year's most energetic, meaningful, hopeful, and sad picture of the year.

Low Res Oscar Week: The Lead Performers

Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.

Next up: Best Actor and Actress



BEST ACTOR
Matt Damon - The Good Shepherd
Will Ferrell - Stranger Than Fiction
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Brick
Ryan Gosling - Half Nelson
Hugh Jackman - The Fountain
James McAvoy - The Last King of Scotland

Matches with Oscar: 1/6. Ryan Gosling brings people together, y'all.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain); 2004: Paul Giamatti (Sideways); 2003: Bill Murray (Lost in Translation); 2002: Daniel Day Lewis (Gangs of New York); 2001: Guy Pearce (Memento)

Why These Six? I chose six because I couldn't choose between MacAvoy -- who carried a good deal more of Scotland than I expected he would, though I've been trumpeting his talent for years -- and Ferrell, who I thought was underrated for the strong work he put into his film. I continue to be amazed at the direction Gordon-Levitt's career is taking. He just impresses me more and more each year. Gosling was exhilaratingly natural and unaffected in his performance. Damon had a fantastic year, between Shepherd and The Departed. Hugh Jackman knocked me the hell out with his deep he burrowed into his character. He really got to the heart of both his character and Aronofsky's overall vision.

Who Wins? In a close race with Jackman, Ryan Gosling pulls it out. I love how he played drug addiction and disaffectedness without the usual brooding tics.




BEST ACTRESS
Judi Dench - Notes on a Scandal
Shareeka Epps - Half Nelson
Maggie Gyllenhaal - Sherrybaby
Helen Mirren - The Queen
Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada

Matches with Oscar: 3/5. Maybe Kate Winslet cracks this lineup if, oh, maybe her movie opened anywhere at all. Oscar opted for her and Penelope Cruz (a close sixth here) rather than Gyllenhaal and Epps.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Joan Allen (The Upside of Anger); 2004: Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind); 2003: Charlize Theron (Monster); 2002: Julianne Moore (Far From Heaven); 2001: Naomi Watts (Mulholland Dr.)

Why These Five? Dench gave a capital "P" performance and I loved every single second of it. Epps held her own with Gosling's award-winning performance. Gyllenhaal was the best I've ever seen her as a tough, flawed, sympathetic, and maddeningly difficult woman. Mirren anchored a film whose flaws were certainly not in her performance, which was dignified and convincing. Streep hit all the right notes as the icy queen bitch Miranda Priestly. A big diva performance in a big diva role.

Who Wins? This is another incredibly close contest that I changed my mind on several times. I thought Dench was astounding in a way I don't always think of her. But I'm giving the award to Gyllenhaal for bringing so many facets to her character and never once letting her off the hook.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Low Res Oscar Week: The Supporting Performers

Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.

This installment: Supporting Actor and Actress



BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Steve Carell - Little Miss Sunshine
Greg Kinnear - Little Miss Sunshine
Sergi Lopez - Pan's Labyrinth
Stanley Tucci - The Devil Wears Prada
Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland

Matches with Oscar: 0/5, though Oscar liked Whitaker's performance enough that they bumped him up to Best Actor and are probably going to give him the statue for it. Which is nice.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Jeff Daniels (The Squid and the Whale); 2004: Clive Owen (Closer); 2003: Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai); 2002: Paul Newman (Road to Perdition); 2001: Ian McKellan (Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring)

Why These Five? Whitaker's been named "Best Actor" by many groups, and while I think you could credibly classify him either way, the fact that it's Garrigan's story means Amin is the secondary character, no matter how big and unforgettable the portrayal is. As a supporting performance, it's a knockout. Lopez may not have been an unambiguous villain, but what a villain. Tucci was unexpectedly affecting, bringing warmth and humor to a character who might have been aloof and condescending in other hands. Kinnear and Carell gave the two best performances in an excellent LMS ensemble.

Who Wins? It's tough to not reward the Little Miss Sunshine boys, who worked hard and were brilliantly funny. But Forest Whitaker's Amin was scary, convincing, and unforgettable




BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Adriana Barraza - Babel
Emily Blunt - The Devil Wears Prada
Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine
Meryl Streep - A Prairie Home Companion
Emma Thompson - Stranger Than Fiction

Matches with Oscar: 2/5. The Academy went with Rinko Kikuchi, Jennifer Hudson, and Cate Blanchett, rather than Blunt, Streep, and Thompson.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener); 2004: Natalie Portman (Closer); 2003: Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent); 2002: Meryl Streep (Adaptation); 2001: Carrie-Ann Moss (Memento)

Why These Five: Here's a better question: why not any of thirteen others? This year was ridiculously deep in award-worthy supporting actress performances, and any of the following women would have made more than worthy nominees: Frances McDormand (Friends With Money), Frances De La Tour (The History Boys), Lola Dueñas and Carmen Maura (Volver), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Stranger Than Fiction), Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine), Edie Falco (Freedomland), Lindsay Beamish (Shortbus), Vera Farmiga (The Departed), Catherine O'Hara (For Your Consideration), Maribel Verdu (Pan's Labyrinth), Lily Tomlin (A Prairie Home Companion), and Mia Kirshner (The Black Dahlia).

Who Wins: Coming out at the top of that pile is worthy of a win in and of itself. My choice, ultimately, is Emma Thompson, who was brilliant as ever playing the depressed and prescient author.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Low Res Oscar Week: The Screenplays

Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.

Next up, we've got Best Original and Adapted Screenplay.



BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Brick
Half Nelson
Little Miss Sunshine
Stranger Than Fiction
United 93

Matches with Oscar: 1/5. Hmm. They've got Little Miss Sunshine, like I do, but then they prefer Babel, Pan's Labyrinth, Letters From Iwo Jima, and The Queen.

Previous Rezzie Winners: 2005: Syriana; 2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; 2003: Lost in Translation; 2002: Adaptation; 2001: The Royal Tenenbaums

Why These Five? Brick started with a gimmick and ended up with a story, working hard to make the film not an intellectual exercise in genre-swapping but an exciting and inventive mystery. Similarly, Stranger Than Fiction took a gimmicky concept and made you feel for the characters. Half Nelson and Little Miss Sunshine drew some vivid characters and trusted its actors to do the rest. United 93, while a largely visual triumph, handled the most sensitive of subject matters on the screenplay end and silenced its detractors without backing away from the event itself.

Who Wins? I'm actually changing this at the last minute. I loved Stranger Than Fiction's script, but I keep going back to how moved I was by United 93 and the way its characters didn't appear motivated by heroism or any of these Hollywood mythmaking ideas -- the sheer "what do we do now?" mindset of the characters, dealing with events moving far too fast for them to keep up with and no room to think beyond what was directly in front of them. I expected to be moved by the film, but not in this way.



BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Children of Men
The Departed
The History Boys
The Last King of Scotland
Notes on a Scandal

Matches with Oscar: 3/5. Oscar fell under the Borat spell and also honored the unseen-by-anyone-between-the-coasts Little Children, whereas I preferred (or at least SAW) The History Boys and The Last King of Scotland.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Brokeback Mountain; 2004: Closer; 2003: American Splendor; 2002: The Hours; 2001: Memento

Why These Five? In a stronger year, I might not have been as impressed by The History Boys' sparkling dialogue, or The Departed's slur-a-minute energy, or even Scotland's cult of personality horror story, but they're all quite good. In any year, I think I'd have found the prying-eyes menace of Notes on a Scandal to be highly entertaining. And I loved every other aspect of Children of Men, which includes the script.

Who Wins? Patrick Marber picks up his second imaginary award given by a pissant blog that nobody reads. Congratulations! I'm one of the rare people who appreciated Notes on a Scandal both for its camp appeal AND on its wicked, wicked merits.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Low Res Oscar Week: Continues!

Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.

This installment: Cinematography, Ensemble, Breakthrough

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Matthew Libatique - The Fountain
Emmanuel Lubezki - Children of Men
Guillermo Navarro - Pan's Labyrinth
Wally Pfister - The Prestige
Rodrigo Prieto - Babel

Matches with Oscar: 3/5. Oscar liked The Illusionist's Dick Pope and The Black Dahlia's Vilmos Zsigmond better than Prieto and Libatique.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain); 2004: Robert Richardson (The Aviator); 2003: Anthony Dod Mantle (28 Days Later); 2002: Conrad L. Hall (Road to Perdition); 2001: Roger Deakins (The Man Who Wasn't There)

Why These Five? I always feel like I'm trying to catch flies with chopsticks when I talk about cinematography. It looks...pretty? No, because that's not exactly it. I can see a movie that looks pretty without necessarily praising its cinematography. Navarro created fantastically creepy and threatening environments, both below ground and above. Pfister, among other virtues, had those awesome shots up on Tesla's mountain. Lubezki's camera never seemed to stop moving and almost told more of the story than the actual script. Libatique had a lot to work with -- who wouldn't love to fill a floating golden Buddhist orb? -- but also lived up to high expectations. And Prieto -- who should have won the Oscar last year -- seemed to take pity on the Babel characters when the story did not.

Who Wins? It's a strong field, but not much of a competition, either. Lubezki's work was breathtaking, on more occasions than I can mention.


BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
Lindsay Beamish - Shortbus
Emily Blunt - The Devil Wears Prada
Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine
Dominic Cooper - The History Boys
Shareeka Epps - Half Nelson

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Amy Adams (Junebug); 2004: Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria, Full of Grace); 2003: Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) and Shoreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog); 2002: Alison Lohman (White Oleander); 2001: Naomi Watts (Mulholland Dr.)

Why These Five? Beamish created a character who rode the tough/vulnerable line and made her funny without being mockable. Blunt -- have you heard -- stole scenes from everyone, not only in The Devil Wears Prada but in other movies she wasn't even in. Breslin also stood toe-to-toe with an impressive cast, stole a few scenes of her own, and displayed a wherewithal that allowed her to show off as an actress while still portraying a child. Not an easy task at 10 years old. Cooper...well, I'm certain he's a fantastic actor, too. But I was more taken with the unholy amounts of charisma that kept radiating from him. Dude's a star in the making. Shareeka Epps performed a hell of a performance duet with Ryan Gosling.

Who Wins? The casting directors have already borne this out, to an extent, but Emily Blunt's dance card is going to be mighty full for a long, long time.

BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
A Prairie Home Companion
Shortbus
Volver

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Happy Endings; 2004: I ♥ Huckabees; 2003: 21 Grams; 2002: The Hours; 2001: The Royal Tenenbaums

Why These Five? The Shortbus cast, full of people I didn't know who aren't big-time actors, really came together (har har) and committed to the film's concept. The Departed, on the other hand, had a big cast full of big names, and they all got their chance to show off, and while I wasn't entirely wild about all of them, enough of them worked to have been worthy of a nomination. The women of Volver proved to be a funny and familially credible group. A Prairie Home Companion was the latest (and last) Altman cast to run like a well-oiled machine. And I believe I've said enough about the Little Miss Sunshine cast to fill a VW bug.

Who Wins? Okay, I guess I'll have to say a bit more. Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Steve Carell, Abigail Breslin, Paul Dano, Beth Grant, guy who played the biker dude who went "YEAH!"...I salute the lot of you. I loved your movie, and y'all are the reason why.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Low Res Oscar Week: The Techs

Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.

Next up: the technical categories.


BEST EDITING
Brick
Children of Men
The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
United 93

Matches with Oscar: 3/5. They preferred the multiple arcs of Babel and the...whatever the hell happened in Blood Diamond to Brick and Letters.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: A History of Violence; 2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; 2003: Kill Bill, Vol. 1; 2002: The Hours; 2001: Memento.

Why These Five? Brick was a dense mystery with potentially confusing dialogue, so the editing went a long way to making it as comprehensible as it was. The Departed paralleled the DiCaprio and Damon halves of the story without being too regimented. Iwo Jima and United 93 were sad, fatalistic tales that nevertheless played as alive and breathing. The pacing on Children of Men left audiences breathless for long stretches, with the most important cuts being those that weren't taken.

Who Wins? I still can't get some of those action sequences in Children of Men out of my head, which makes this a terribly close race. Ultimately I felt the work accomplished on United 93 was so closely tied to the reasons it succeeded -- the heart-stopping tension involved in a story where we know exactly what happened; the frantic and frustrating cross-cutting while the plane's still on the ground; the canny way the voices and intentions of the passengers become clear among the chaos. An incredible accomplishment.


BEST ART DIRECTION
Children of Men
The Fountain
Marie Antoinette
Pan's Labyrinth
Stranger Than Fiction

Matches with Oscar: 1/5. Yikes. The Academy's on my wavelength re: Pan's Labyrinth but not much else. I mentioned in the Oscar Symposium how weak the Academy's art direction choices were, particularly compared to the other tech categories.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Sin City; 2004: The Life Aquatic; 2003: Kill Bill, Vol. 1; 2002: Far From Heaven; 2001: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

Why These Five? Pan's Labyrinth is here for those grisly subterranean fantasy realms. The Fountain for not only that golden orb of heaven but also for pulling off those Spanish and Mexican locations on a limited budget. Marie Antoinette started with the majesty of Versailles and really pulled the walls in on Mariet's pretty prison. I found Stranger Than Fiction's minimalist sets to have surprising variety (note the mathematical precision of Harold's environment contrasted with the gray emptiness of Katharine Eiffel's). Children of Men painted all the way to the edges, creating a brand new world and then set it to crumbling.

Who Wins? Children of Men's dying police state.


BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Devil Wears Prada
Dreamgirls
Marie Antoinette
A Prairie Home Companion
Shortbus

Matches with Oscar: 3/5. They liked Curse of the Golden Flower and The Queen. I liked A Prairie Home Companion and Shortbus.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Sin City; 2004: The Aviator; 2003: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King; 2002: Catch Me If You Can; 2001: The Royal Tenenbaums

Why These Five?: Dreamgirls is kind of a no-brainer. A Prairie Home Companion had all those cool cowboy outfits, Meryl Streep's Loretta Lynn on the High Seas getup, and Virginia Madsen's breathtaking white coat. Shortbus made the discerning choice to have cast members be naked a whole lot, which is appreciated, but when they were clothed -- Lindsay Beamish's bondage gear, Sook Yin Lee's dowdy professional look -- it was pretty inspired. Both Prada and Marie took subjects whose clothes defined so much of them, which made for big expectations that were more than lived up to.

Who Wins? Tough call between the queen and the editor-in-chief, but I give The Devil Wears Prada degree of difficulty points for being subject to closer scrutiny for being a contemporary picture.


BEST MAKEUP
Marie Antoinette
Pan's Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest

Matches with Oscar: 1/3. Once again, we agree on Pan's but nothing else.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Sin City; 2004: Hellboy; 2003: Monster; 2002: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; 2001: Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Why These Three? Jack Sparrow's eyeliner came to play for the second film in a row, not to mention the rogue's gallery of pirates, witch doctors, and rampaging islanders. Marie paints a gallery of pretty and bored faces. Pan's Labyrinth...well, Pan's Labyrinth created the Pale Man.

Who Wins? Pan's Labyrinth created the Pale Man.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Phillip Glass - Notes on a Scandal
Alberto Iglesias - Volver
Nathan Johnson - Brick
Clint Mansell - The Fountain
Gustavo Santaolalla - Babel

Matches with Oscar: 2/5. The Acadamy liked Thomas Newman (The Good German), Javier Navarrete (Pan's Labyrinth), and Alexandre Desplat (The Queen) better than Iglesias, Johnson, or Mansell.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2005: Mark Isham (Crash); 2004: Marcelo Zarvos (The Door in the Floor); 2003: Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King); 2002: Phillip Glass (The Hours); 2001: Angelo Badalamenti (Mulholland Dr.)

Why These Five? Santaolalla -- Oscar winner for Brokeback Mountain -- continues his streak of sprawling and memorable work. Same for Iglesias, who once again teams successfully with Pedro Almodovar. Once again, I find myself on the same side as the divisive Phillip Glass, who also delivered his signature strong, plinky work on The Illusionist. Nathan Johnson, much like the film he served, took traditional noir themes and modernized them in a much more interesting way than the work that Thomas Newman got nominated for on The Good German. Finally, I can't find enough good things to say about Clint Mansell's score for The Fountain...

Who Wins? ...but I guess I better try. I f you're ever looking for music to ride your fellow conquistadors into battle or float up to a higher plane of consciousness by, this would be your choice. It gets hardcore up at the end there, too. Sneaks up on you a bit. Then shoves you, mile-a-minute up into this rapturous crescendo. Uh, in other words: Clint Mansell.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Low Res Oscar Week: The Trailers


Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.

So our first Rezzie (God, that's gonna get old quick) category, appropriately enough is for the best trailer. And you know how much I love the trailers.

BEST TRAILER



Children of Men
I cannot tell you how crazy this clip made me when it premiered in the summer, followed by the release date being pushed back to Christmas. That the film was more than worth the wait only makes the trailer better, but on the merits alone, it still rocks. The music! The action! The end of the world! Awesome.




The Departed
Rather than getting the next great Scorsese movie, I think we just got the next great Scorsese trailer, but what a nice way to spend two and a half minutes. The best music of any clip this year, from the expected ("Gimmie Shelter") to the really, really unexpected (is that...Van Morrison singing Pink Floyd? Awesome!). The plot gets laid out in simplest terms possible, everyone gets to show off their cool new Boston accents...you know, watching this again, I start to think this really was the movie I thought it'd be. THAT's a good trailer.



The Devil Wears Prada
Gird your loins, y'all. That one, perfect, frantic opening scene. It introduces the major players, actually gets you into the rhythm of watching the movie, and all of a sudden it's over and you're already buying your ticket. Smart marketing.


Marie Antoinette
Oh, it's Sofia Coppola and her New Wave music again. Anyone who had any interest at all in seeing this movie was just knocked out by this first glimpse at it.



The Prestige
Nice play on the three-act structure. Striking visuals. Michael Caine's dulcet tones doing the heavy lifting. David Bowie. You need any more?


And the Rezzie goes to...Children of Men.

Get used to that one.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

What I've Been Up To When I'm Not Here

Yes, it's shitty just to post links to stuff I've written elsewhere. But I hope to be able to plaster this blog with Oscar flotsam and jetsam this week.

First off, I made my second straight appearance on The Film Experience's Oscar Symposium, where I spent three days being pummeled by people smarter and more cinematically literate than I am. I did get a pretty decent defense of Little Miss Sunshine in there, which was more than I expected to be able to.

As for the recaps:

American Idol: Forget the Alamo

American Idol: Leftover Pie

Studio 60: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Trailer Trash: Hotter Than July


I saw the trailer for Shrek the Third during American Idol last night, and...here's the thing: I realize why Shrek is not great filmmaking. I realize why Shrek is annoying. But there are witnesses to the fact that I more-or-less laughed my ass off at Shrek 2, and when I look at the voice cast they've assembled for the third movie? Justin Timberlake, John Krasinski, Ian McShane, and as the fairytale princesses, Amy Sedaris, Amy Poehler, Cheri Oteri, and Maya Rudolph. Plus, and maybe this is just me being easy to please, but Larry King voicing the ugly step-sister? Kills me ever single time.

Check out the trailer. How entirely off-base am I? Keeping in mind that I am fully aware how bad a line "King of the stupids" is. And how tired Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz have become as the leads. And how hacky a lot of the pop references and musical cues are bound to be. I get it. And still...

Sad.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl: 1, Joe: 0

I remember that the Colts won, and I was happy. I recall that if the Colts had punched in just one garbage time TD, my wallet would be $500 fatter. The bar was too loud to really pay attention to the commercials, though everyone kind of shut up and had a collective stroke when those two guys made out over a Snickers bar. That happened, right?

Anyway.

Hopefully I'll post about something soon. Currently, I'm dying from post-Super Bowl internal injuries. Please follow the link in the post below to The Film Experience where I've taken part in that 2007 movie preview I was telling you all about.

Oh, and also: new Studio 60 recap

And: American Idol recap from last week that I forgot to tell y'all about.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Keep An Eye Out


This pic is from the upcoming (well, in June) Judd Apatow comedy, Knocked Up. Seth Rogen steps up from invaluable 40-Year-Old Virgin supporting player to the lead of a mainstream comedy, and Katherine "That's My Girl!" Heigl plays the young lady he impregnates. Tale as old as time...

Oh, and it also stars Paul Rudd, as if you needed any further prodding beyond "from the people who brought you The 40-Year-Old Virgin." And if you're anything like me and can never get enough Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared alums in one place, you'll be happy to know that Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel, and Martin Starr will be along as well. Seriously, June 1st. Cannot wait.


Previewing the movies of 2007 has been a bit of theme around here in the last several weeks, and if you've been enjoying that at all, you'll want to stop by Nathaniel's Film Experience in the next several days, where I'll be participating in a multi-blog 2007 movie preview extravaganza. Just how rabidly am I anticipating a pair of films by directors named "Anderson"? Tune in and see!