Monday, February 25, 2008

Low Res Oscar Week 2008: Post-Game

So like I said in the comments: 12/24 in the predictions, with 5 dark horses sneaking in, which is exactly how things went last year. I have attained consistency! Anyway, as I said on the TWoP liveblog, this was an uncommonly strong set of winners (Marion Cotillard notwithstanding), so good on the Academy. And with Ang Lee, Scorsese, and the Coen Brothers winning the last three Best Director awards, let's hope the "overdue auteur" streak continues next year (...David Fincher??). Since I've had a very bad day sleep- and internet connectivity-wise, I'm going to be very lazy and post the late-night chat Sarah and I had regarding non-American winners, Supporting Actress, and why Mira Sorvino and Tim Robbins need to give their Oscars back. Before I do, here's a pair of clips of my favorite moments of Oscar night:






Joe: Hey, so no American acting winners this year. I wonder if that's a first or not.
Sarah: I feel like that's happened before. Three Brits and a Canuck.
Joe: According to my very rudimentary Wikipedia check...last time 4 non-American acting winners: 1964.
Sarah: Wow, really? It seems like that had happened in recent memory.
Joe: Best as I can research it. I had a feeling it would be very rare. That year: Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews, Peter Ustinov, and Lila Kedrova
Sarah: Who in the Sam Hill is Lila Kedrova?
Joe: From Zorba the Greek? I dunno.
Sarah: Best Supporting Actress is so often an Academy spazz-out over someone who's never going to do anything worth a damn again. (Tomei)
Joe: Sorvino. Tomei's actually done a decent job of doing good work since then. Mira not so much.
Sarah: Oh, Sorvino. She's not a bad actress, either, but that win was really not a keeper.
Joe: Not when she beat....okay, who did she beat? [Wikipedia break] Oh. Well Joan Allen in Nixon for one.
Sarah: Mare Winningham in Georgia. That was good work. Kathleen Quinlan is a fifth nominee in that race.
Joe: Kate Winslet in Sense and Sensibility...yeah, Mira's gotta give that back.
Sarah: Winslet never wins, it's like a rule. That she didn't get it for Eternal Sunshine STILL makes me mad. ...Oh my God, Babe was up for best director? Hilarious.
Joe: The decision to make the pig talk didn't make itself. That was such a fucked up year.
Sarah: Yeah. That win jobbed Spacey pretty good. He's not a leading man, people, figure it out.
Joe: Director and Picture only matched 3/5. Nothing matched the Golden Globes. Weird.
Sarah: Joss Whedon got a nom for the Toy Story screenplay. Interesting. Oh my God, Il Fucking Postino.
Joe: I know!
Sarah: LOATHED that movie.
Joe: Sharon Stone: Oscar nominee. Batman Forever: Oscar nominee. (for cinematography? Jesus)
Sarah: Well...Norbit.
Sarah: It's a crazy mixed-up world, Joe Reid.
Joe: Also, if Tim Robbins and Sean Penn could've won their Oscars THAT year for Dead Man Walking (when they deserved them), we could have gotten some better winners in the year of Mystic River.
Sarah: If I recall correctly, Robbins seemed embarrassed to have won for that. And should have been. He was fucking horrible.
Joe: Terrible performance.
Sarah: Worse than Linney, and that was the weirdest performance of her career.
Joe: It was a weird performance but a good one if you read the book. Eastwood was at fault for not setting that up properly.
Sarah: Penn, I wasn't feeling it but I didn't feel like it was his fault. That writing, what a mess.
Joe: Robbins just played his character wrong.

And then there were a whole lot of tasteless jokes made about Roy Scheider getting aced out of the In Memoriam, but nobody needs to see that. Least of all Jesus. Non-Oscar blogging (though not entirely) this week, I promise!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Low Res Oscar Week 2008: The Predictions

BEST PICTURE
Should: No Country For Old Men
Will: No Country For Old Men
Dark horse: There Will Be Blood

Not to jinx it or anything, but I don't see anything else winning here. Of course, the last time I said that was the Brokeback Mountain year, which means There Will Be Blood will end up winning. Damn it.

BEST DIRECTOR
Should: Joel and Ethan Coen
Will: Joel and Ethan Coen
Dark Horse: Paul Thomas Anderson

This seems like an even surer thing than Best Picture.

BEST ACTOR
Should: George Clooney
Will: Daniel Day-Lewis
Dark Horse: Johnny Depp

And THIS is the surest thing of all!

BEST ACTRESS
Should: Julie Christie
Will: Marion Cotillard
Dark Horse: Julie Christie

This one's a race. Julie Christie's the best, and has been frontrunning throughout, but I have never been 100% confident in her ultimately winning. She's Sissy Spacek for In The Bedroom. Which would make Marion Cotillard the Halle Berry. Which makes TOTAL sense. Unless Ellen Page is the Adrien Brody. But Adrien Brody was a boy! Cotillard it is. She'll fulfill the annual requirement that one of the acting winners be the worst in his or her category.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Should: Javier Bardem
Will: Javier Bardem
Dark Horse: Hal Holbrook

I had to think for ten minutes before I remembered the other four nominees here.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Should: Tilda Swinton
Will: Ruby Dee
Dark Horse: Tilda Swinton

Most competetive category of the night, with only Saoirse Ronan pretty much out of it (and even then...Anna Paquin). I can't see Blanchett winning her second Oscar for another supporting performance when clearly #2 will be a lead trophy. She's not Dianne Weist. I think it's a pretty tight three-way between Swinton (who deserves it), Ryan (who would deserve it if not for Swinton), and Ruby Dee (who doesn't deserve it but she's great nonetheless). Swinton seems too good to be true and Ryan may have peaked so: congratulations, Mother Sister!

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Should: Michael Clayton
Will: Juno
Dark Horse: Michael Clayton

Did the backlash against Diablo Cody hit while the Oscar voters were filling out their ballots? Consolation prize for Tony Gilroy? If Juno does win, it'll have held off Michael Clayton by a nose.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Should: Away From Her
Will: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Dark Horse: No Country For Old Men

Three-way toss-up between Diving Bell, No Country and There Will Be Blood. The theory is that the Coens can't possibly win all four awards they're up for, which I don't 100% buy, but I do buy Diving Bell being a a threat to win in pretty much every category it's up for. It's The Pianist without the Holocaust aspect (which is why I'm not picking it to win Best Director, but it'll do here).

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Should: Roger Deakins - The Assassination of Jesse James
Will: Janusz Kaminski - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Dark Horse: Robert Elswit - There Will Be Blood

Best category, talent-wise, on the ballot. No win would be unworthy. Kaminski's is the showiest, though, and that's usually good enough.

BEST ART DIRECTION
Should: Sweeney Todd
Will: There Will Be Blood
Dark Horse: Atonement

I have no idea. The art direction on Blood is good but doesn't seem to be to the Academy's taste. But neither does the film as a whole and they nominated it eight times, so what do I know?

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Should: Atonement
Will: Atonement
Dark Horse: Elizabeth: The Golden Age

I would kind of love to see Elizabeth win here if only because: hilarious. Best=most, remember.

BEST EDITING
Should: No Country For Old Men
Will: No Country For Old Men
Dark Horse: The Bourne Ultimatum

"Roderick Jaynes," the editor for No Country, is, as you probably know, a pseudonym for the Coen Brothers. I'm betting the Academy doesn't know that. So there goes that whole "don't want to give the Coens too many awards" argument.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Should: Dario Marianelli - Atonement
Will: Dario Marianelli - Atonement
Dark Horse: Michael Giacchino - Ratatouille

Marianelli wins almost by default in this uninspired category. Though things hardly go the way you think they will in Best Score lately.


And the rest...

Best Sound Mixing: The Bourne Ultimatum
Best Sound Effects Editing: Transformers
Best Visual Effects: Transformers
Best Makeup: La Vie En Rose
Best Song: Enchanted - "That's How You Know"
Best Animated Short - Peter & The Wolf
Best Live Action Short: Il Supplente
Best Documentary Short: Sari's Mother
Best Documentary Feature: No End In Sight
Best Foreign Film: Counterfeiters
Best Animated Feature: Ratatouille

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Low Res Oscar Week 2008: The Top Ten (2)


2006: Children of Men
2005: Brokeback Mountain
2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2003: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
2002: The Hours
2001: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
2000: Almost Famous
1999: Fight Club
1998: Pleasantville


Best Picture

#5 -- Away From Her (Lionsgate)
With Sarah Polley directing a Canadian film amid some kind of permanent winter setting (they do get a summertime up there, you know) about the not-so-happy subject matter of Alzheimer's, with Atom Egoyan producing, I know I, for one, was expecting something that would remind me of The Sweet Hereafter. Which wouldn't have been a tragedy, given how much I loved Egoyan's 1997 film, but it would have seemed like a first-film crutch for Polley. But aside from the famous Canadian female covering a song made famous by a famous Canadian male over the closing credits (k.d. lang's gorgeous cover of Neil Young's "Helpless," contrasted with Polley herself covering The Tragically Hip in Hereafter), this film stands confidently, heartbreakingly on its own. Polley benefits from a pair of the strongest performances of the year, but she also knows when to back out of the marital drama and look elsewhere to tell their story.



#4 -- Zodiac (Warner Bros.)
It's a common rationale, but I wonder if the fact that this time David Fincher made it look so easy ended up counting against him. Particularly after the effort-laden Panic Room (and certainly Fight Club, a film I worship and adore, was not lacking for the visible hand of the auteur), I wonder if something that appeared so organic felt like a letdown by comparison. That doesn't quite feel like a completely satisfying explanation, but otherwise I'm at a loss as to how this movie wasn't a sensation. Particularly in a year when Michael Clayton redefined the legal thriller, Fincher's procedural-on-meth approach should have made for an easy parallel at year's end. But rather than grouse (uh...further) about the lack of acclaim, I'll just praise Fincher's absolute confidence on display -- there's no visual or storytelling device he leans on, no quirk he fetishizes, just perfect period detail, wire-tight suspense, spellbinding cinematography (by Harris Savides), and a stellar cast.



#3 -- Atonement (Focus Features)
I've defended it, tried to rail against the predictable but no less depressing backlash against it, backed off of it for a while to let it breathe, realized that it was going to be tarred with the "failed period romance" brush no matter what, and finally made peace with the idea that the film I saw told a story far more complex. The slow unraveling of almost the entire film continued long after the credits had rolled, deepening rather than invalidating everything we'd seen. Yes, the epic romance seemed strangely unrealistic and hollow. Yes, the war seemed melodramatically harrowing. Consider the source. James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, and Romola Garai give performances packed with meaning and deeply internalized regret, and Kiera Knightley's not half bad with the film's least knowable character. The production design seems to be the one thing everyone can agree on, with Seamus McGarvey's cinematography worth so much more than that ballyhooed tracking shot.



#2 -- Once (Fox Searchlight)
There is nothing in this movie that won't break your heart if you let it. The music, the unexpectedly open characters, the father/son relationship, that ending that sweeps you out the window and onto the street. The "musical" tag on Once never felt quite right to me, but the more I think about it...it's about music, the performances advance the narrative however abstractly, and (most importantly, to me) Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's performances come alive most vibrantly when they're singing. It makes sense -- they're singers, not actors -- but it also underlines that this is as true a musical as Dreamgirls or Sweeney Todd or The Simpsons Movie (unless that constant chorus of "Spider-Pig" was only in my head). Plus, as ever, the rule is that if a movie makes me cry and I don't feel bad about it afterwards, it's a keeper.



#1 -- No Country For Old Men (Miramax)
I feel like I've said everything I've got to say about this movie, but let's hit those bullet points again: crackerjack tension, dynamite actors, and a story that's got way more to say than what the backlashers-come-lately want to admit. Just a shoot-'em-up B-movie? Hardly. The slow but unstoppable march of time, sweeping out one generation and clearing the way for a new one has been a subject that's enraptured me before. But while both No Country and Angels in America saw this march as violent and unstoppable, Angels ultimately saw the world spinning forward, sweeping itself clean, bringing with it the possibility for change. No Country For Old Men leaves its audience no such assurances. Just Death cutting a swath through lawmen, rugged individualists on-the-make, and deep-pocketed corporate types, bringing a world full of uncertainty and chaos. Plus DOOD, did you see him choke the SHIT out of that one guy?

Low Res Oscar Week 2008: The Top 10 (1)

THE TOP TEN FILMS OF THE YEAR

Honorable Mentions:

Into The Wild (Paramount Vantage)
The very definition of an honorable mention: a movie I respected but didn't love. A skillfully put together film with a strong point of view that I happened not to agree with. No shame in that. Sean Penn clearly felt an admiration for Christopher McCandless that swelled to the edges of his film. That didn't make the film any less impressive, though it is likely what kept it at "top 12" rather than "top 5" for me this year. But man, it does have a whole lot to recommend it. Beautiful photography, a penetrating score, warm supporting performances, and Emile Hirsch making a leap up the leading man food chain. If only he hadn't been playing such a d-bag.

No End In Sight (Magnolia Pictures)
If you're looking for the reason I'm going to spend the foreseeable future huddled under a blanket in a double-reinforced steel bunker because the situation in the Middle East is so far gone as to have doomed us all, this movie is why. This is why I never wanted to see An Inconvenient Truth. I heard a lot of "preaching to the converted" remarks made about this movie, as a negative; I'm sorry, but that's such crap. The fact that certain aspects of the population won't subject themselves to the hard truths of the war in Iraq unless you sneak a reel into the middle of Transformers doesn't make these movies a waste of time. Even for someone (me) who counts himself as one of the "converted" this was an eye-opening experience. But man, we are so screwed, you guys.


#10 -- Southland Tales (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
I've really been pulling for this movie to make my Top 10, to tell you the truth. Not because I'm such a contrarian (one look at my #1 film will tell you that), but because I feel there should always be a place in one's Top 10 for the all-guilt-aside best time they had at the movies that year. Be that The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Daniel Craig as James Bond, 300 (if that's your thing), or the whole Grindhouse phenomenon (I have a feeling if I'd seen it on the big screen, it may have made this list as well). So it was with Richard Kelly's great debacle. Did I understand every inch of that plot, in all it's purposeful weirdness? No. But I understood enough of it to allow myself to revel in the moments of inspired comedy and unexpected sadness. Jason at My New Plaid Pants was a big help in getting me all the way there with regard to Justin Timberlake's and Seann William Scott's characters, who are pretty much the key to the whole thing. But this isn't the place to start unraveling that particular ball of string. Like I said, I had a ball watching this, plain and simple. Somewhere, on my map of Film Year 2007 is an image of Mandy Moore screaming "Cockchuggin'!" And thank God for that.


#9 -- The Darjeeling Limited (Fox Searchlight)
When I first saw this movie (back when it was getting backhandedly dismissed by the critical mass -- the year-end retrospectives have been much kinder) I said of it that if Wes Anderson wants to keep making the same movie every three years or so, then I'm totally fine with that because I love them. I think I was being too glib about things back then. This isn't just The Royal Tenenbaums in India, despite the similar dialogue rhythms and idiosyncratic production design. All of Wes Anderson's films take place in a certain universe all its own, granted, but he really branches out in this film, both in the emotional places he's willing to go and the emotional states he's willing to lead his characters to. It's never been exactly "happy endings" with Wes, but they always conclude with a wry smile at the very least. Darjeeling ends with something less reassuring, and I liked that. Not that it's this total bummer. It's got everything I watch a Wes Anderson movie for: the distinctive dialogue, the winningly self-absorbed characters, and the design elements that go all the way to the edges of the screen. So long as he keeps making these movies, I'll keep seeing them. ...Well, here we are again.


#8 -- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Paramount)
I've said it before and I'll say it again, this film feels like Tim Burton and Stephen Sondheim collaborated on this project from day one -- like one's vision never existed without the other's. It's such a welcome change from the obtrusiveness that characterized Burton's work on the Planet of the Apes and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movies. As always, I'll make it plain that I had no previous experience with any of the stage incarnations of Sweeney, but I found Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter's vocal limitations not at all the stumbling blocks others did; in fact, I found their performances to be among the film's stronger virtues. As a fan of Burton's movies for a long time -- there's no budging Edward Scissorhands from my list of all-time favorite movies -- I was happy to see what appeared to be the culmination of everything Burton's been working towards, every visual tendency, every narrative theme was somehow leading him to the demon barber. Sometimes things really must work out for a reason, because check it out.


#7 -- The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (Warner Bros.)
I didn't anticipate myself loving this movie the way so many other people did. So long. So ponderous. So reminiscent of Malick. But it won me over, bit by brilliantly rendered bit. First came Roger Deakins's cinematography, which was the perfect bait for the hook. Then that pitch-perfect ensemble of outlaw doofuses, starting with Sam Rockwell and moving on through Paul Schnieder, Jeremy Renner, and Garrett Dillahunt. Casey Affleck, worthy of that Oscar nomination, made for a fine envious weasel. And Brad Pitt was the perfect marriage of ideal casting and a performance that knew when Jesse James's stoicism should fall away to reveal the petty human beneath. Bit by bit, my hardened shell was chipped away, by the design elements, the score, the keenly observed screenplay. Chip, chip, chip. "Uncle!" I said to director Andrew Dominik and the film's small but passionate legion of fans. I feel bad There Will Be Blood came along and stole this film's thunder as the "man's man with a brain" film of choice for 2007 (for whatever strange reason, No Country For Old Men never laid claim to that particular crown; Real Men don't like Oscar frontrunners, I guess). A world where Jesse James drinks up Daniel Plainview's milkshake is one I'd want to live in.


#6 -- Michael Clayton (Warner Bros.)
Buoyed by three positively stellar performances -- the justly Oscar-nominated Clooney, Wilkinson, and Swinton -- and a screenplay that steered away from taking down Big Pharma (or whatever the People vs. MacGuffin Industries case that sits blurrily at the center of the film) and towards penetrating character work, Tony Gilroy gave maybe the most surprising film of the year. It shouldn't seem strange that a movie called Michael Clayton is, at its heart, a character study about one Michael Clayton, but with all the legal thriller accoutrements running interference, the fact that we end up digging deep into Clooney's character is somewhat surprising. Especially considering it's Clooney, who, however you may have enjoyed him before, hasn't ever really dug deep into any of his characters before. As an added bonus, Gilroy and Swinton teamed up to burrow right to the heart of her corporate lawyer and offer not so much a counterpoint but a woman whose arc takes off perpendicular to Clayton's. That's the key to the film right there, I think, and what puts it above the kind of Law & Order-writ-large label it's been occasionally given.

Low Res Oscar Week 2008: The Directors

Almost to the top now. I'm going to try to get my Top Ten films of the year up tomorrow (uh...later today) and also an Oscar prediction column. Let's see how I do!

Anyway, the Oscars went auteur crazy in the Best Director category this year, they just (in my opinion) picked the wrong auteurs. My list includes two (or three, technically) visionaries, two visionaries-in-training, and one debut director who made one hell of a splash (and career transition).



BEST DIRECTOR
Joel and Ethan Coen - No Country For Old Men
Andrew Dominik - The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
David Fincher - Zodiac
Sarah Polley - Away From Her
Joe Wright - Atonement

Matches with Oscar: 1/5, with the Coens the only choice in common.

Runners Up: Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd); Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton); Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly); John Carney (Once); Wes Anderson (The Darjeeling Limited).

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men); 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.); 2000: Steven Soderbergh (Traffic); 1999: David Fincher (Fight Club); 1998: Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan).

Why These Five? Fincher because he managed to create a twin pillar to Fight Club by making a film that's nothing like Fight Club; the Coens because they've finally come up with something to rival Fargo; Dominik because he defied my every expectation; Polley because she lived up to my every hope; and Wright because he steered one hell of a big ship safely into port.

Who Wins? Joel and Ethan Coen. If they weren't so incredibly young, given their cinematic output, I'd say this would be a good time to go out on top. Thankfully, they won't be going anywhere.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Low Res Oscar Week 2008: The Lead Performers

With one or two exceptions, these could have conceivably been the Oscar lineups this year. That they weren't is the greatest tragedy of all. Not an overwhelmingly deep year for these categories, at least not when compared to the embarrassment of riches found in the Supporting categories.

Zodiac and Atonement now share the nomination lead at 6 apiece.



BEST ACTOR
George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
James McAvoy - Atonement
Gordon Pinsent - Away From Her

Matches with Oscar: 3/5. I went for McAvoy and Pinsent, while the Academy liked Viggo and Tommy Lee Jones.

Runners Up: Casey Affleck (Assassination of Jesse James... / Gone Baby Gone); Tommy Lee Jones (In The Valley of Elah); Frank Langella (Starting Out In The Evening); Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Before The Devil Knows You're Dead); Ryan Gosling (Lars and the Real Girl).

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson); 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); 2000: Ed Harris (Pollock); 1999: Edward Norton (Fight Club); 1998: Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters).

Why These Five? Depp for "You sir! Too sir!"; McAvoy for the grin at "cunt"; Pinsent for "I never wanted to be away from her"; Clooney for "I'm not the guy you kill, I'm the guy you buy!"; and Day-Lewis for everything besides "I drink your milkshake."

Who Wins? Look. I get why Daniel Day-Lewis is going to win the Oscar. Good for him, seriously. He's a phenomenal and frightening actor, he's redefining the Method, and he gives 80% of a killer performance in There Will Be Blood. If I'm at all resentful, it's because the credit he's getting is mostly for that other 20%. I'm going with Clooney, both because it's such a huge leap from what he's been able to do onscreen so far, and because he pulls together such a complete character.


BEST ACTRESS
Amy Adams - Enchanted
Julie Christie - Away From Her
Angelina Jolie - A Mighty Heart
Laura Linney - Jindabyne
Ellen Page - Juno

Matches with Oscar: 2.5/5 -- the Academy liked Linney, but in The Savages instead, and they also went for Marion Cotillard and Cate Blanchett instead of Jolie and Adams.

Runners Up: Keri Russell (Waitress); Helena Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd); Nicole Kidman (Margot At The Wedding); Laura Linney (The Savages); Sarah Michelle Gellar (Southland Tales).

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal); 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.); 2000: Laura Linney (You Can Count On Me); 1999: Annette Bening (American Beauty); 1998: Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth).

Why These Five? The degree of difficulty in what Amy Adams is able to do in Enchanted is, I think, wholly underappreciated. In a way, I think Jolie suffers from that as well -- the performance she gives doesn't coast on star power or self-regard. She puts the work in. It's tempting to blame Ellen Page for the verbal excesses that spew from her character's mouth in the film's first half (she didn't write it), but I'm more impressed by how she handles Juno's awakening in the second half. Laura Linney was, I thought, much more affecting in Jindabyne, a movie that has more to say about modern-day guilt than, say, Atonement (much as I love it), and didn't get credit for it. And then there's Maude Julie Christie. Who has kind of been dressing like Maude at some of these awards shows lately.

Who Wins? Julie Christie who, like Javier Bardem, is approaching "what can you say?" territory about her performance. I don't think this has been the strongest year for lead actress performances, but hers is the one powerhouse I believe in.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Low Res Oscar Week 2008: The Supporting Performers

For as much as I differ with the Academy's nominations in the following two categories, you'd think I found the supporting categories at the Oscars to be utter crap, when the truth is: this year's Supporting Actor nominations are the strongest they've been in years, and the supporting actresses are pretty stellar too. It's just that the pool of nominatable performances ran deep this year. I had a lot to choose from.

And it looks like we have a new nominations leader: welcome, Zodiac and your six nominations. Please don't shoot me and write letters about it.



BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men
Robert Downey Jr. - Zodiac
Ben Foster - 3:10 To Yuma
James Marsden - Enchanted and Hairspray
Mark Ruffalo - Zodiac

Matches with Oscar: 1/5. Javier Bardem rules all.

Runners Up: Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton); Tommy Lee Jones (No Country For Old Men); Chris Cooper (Breach); Stephen Graham (This Is England); Paul Schnieder (Lars and the Real Girl; The Assassination of Jesse James...).

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland); 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); 2000: Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich); 1999: Christopher Plummer (The Insider); 1998: Ed Harris (The Truman Show).

Why These Five? If you think Marsden's a lightweight entry because the brand of light comedy he was in this year looks easy, you're not paying attention; Downey and Ruffalo spent their entire film wrestling the other out of the "best in show" circle; Ben Foster was by far the best thing about 3:10 To Yuma, and I kept wanting the story to cut back to him for a while longer; and I'm not sure what else can possibly be said about Javier Bardem that hasn't already been said.

Who Wins? Javier: "I think you know." [Joe: "AAAAAHHHHHH!!!" runs away]




BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Lauren Ambrose - Starting Out In The Evening
Jennifer Garner - Juno
Allison Janney - Juno
Margo Martindale - Paris Je T'aime
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton

Matches with Oscar: 2/6. Oscar liked Cate Blanchett, Ruby Dee, and Saoirse Ronan better than Garner, Janney, Ambrose, and Martindale.

Runners Up: Lili Taylor (Starting Out In The Evening); Sigourney Weaver (The TV Set); Emily Mortimer (Lars and the Real Girl); Kelly MacDonald (No Country For Old Men); Deborra-Lee Furness (Jindabyne).

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Emma Thompson (Stranger Than Fiction); 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); 2000: Kate Hudson (Almost Famous); 1999: Helena Bonham-Carter (Fight Club); 1998: Kathy Bates (Primary Colors).

Why These Six: I get to cheat once, okay? Ambrose squeaks on the list for getting her character's monstrous presumption exactly right; Martindale for being sad but not pathetic in Alexander Payne's Paris short; Ryan for all the reasons she won the Breakthrough award; Swinton for her from-the-ground-up character building and constant subtle physicality; and as for the Juno women, it's a near toss-up: Janney's laser-like piercing through every bit of Juno's bullshit, or Garner's uncompromising presentation of an uptight suburban yuppie with an actual soul to her? It's a tough call...

Who Wins: Lucky I don't have to make it, thanks to Tilda Swinton. That rehearsal scene in front of the mirror is just too good.

Low Res Oscar Week 2008: Continues!

"Miscellaneous" sounds so dismissive. This batch of categories covers the most prestigious of the techs, and a trio of categories that I'd love to see the Oscars embrace. Particularly Ensemble and a more general Music category (for those occasions when a Jonnny Greenwood gets DQ'd from Original Score for bullshitty reasons).

The nomination tallies remain led by Atonement, Sweeney Todd, and The Darjeeling Limited, with 5 apiece.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Roger Deakins - The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
Roger Deakins - No Country For Old Men
Robert Elswit - There Will Be Blood
Seamus McGarvey - Atonement
Harris Savides - Zodiac

Matches with Oscar: 4/5, as I swapped out The Diving Bell and the Butterfly's Janusz Kaminski (a close sixth on my list) for Savides. Honestly, it's the best cinematography lineup I've ever seen the Oscars acknowledge. Good for them.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men); 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); 2000: Matthew Libatique (Requiem For A Dream); Conrad L. Hall (American Beauty); 1998: John Lindley (Pleasantville).

Why These Five? In this uncommonly fantastic year for visually transcendent films, these five lensers stood out from the pack. Savides alternated between foggy uncertainty and obsessive precision; Elswit painted in the genuine terror of American grandeur; McGarvey displayed the show-offy tendencies that the self-conscious narrative required, and when you're this good at showing off, all the better; and finaly, Roger Deakins has done so much great work in his career, I start to feel like my praise is getting repetitive. And then I see something like Jesse James, the world's most precise and fascinating shadow puppet theatre, and realize I haven't sung his praises nearly enough.

Who Wins? Deakins, certainly. And in a lesser year, he's take it for No Country and no one would complain. Not this year. The Cinematographer of The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, the Genius Roger Deakins.



BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
Nathan Baesel - Behind the Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon
Michael Cera - Superbad / Juno
Nick D'Agosto - Rocket Science
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Michael Shannon - Bug

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada); 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? Cera for cashing in his Arrested Development chips and becoming the year's most unlikely teen romantic hero; D'Agosto for imbuing an insufferable character with the slightest flashes of humor, transforming him almost entirely; Baesel went and created an instantly iconic horror character for whoever bothered to see it; Shannon gave a performance of quiet menace...or is it tortured madness...or desperate shouting at the moon; Amy Ryan gets white-trash defensiveness and entitlement exactly, infuriatingly right.

Who Wins? Amy Ryan, who has probably filled out her dance card for the next couple years off of this one film.


BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE
The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Away From Her
Juno
No Country For Old Men
Zodiac

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Little Miss Sunshine; 2005: Happy Endings; 2004: I ♥ Huckabees; 2003: 21 Grams; 2002: The Hours; 2001: The Royal Tenenbaums; 2000: Traffic; 1999: American Beauty; 1998: Saving Private Ryan.

Why These Five? For Assassination: the modulations and variations in the members of the James gang, plus a smidgen (a seriously tiny smidgen) of Mary-Louise Parker and Zooey Deschanel on those rare occasions the film wants to hear from a woman. For Away From Her: the incredibly powerful leads and the unexpected interior lives found in Olympia Dukakis and Kristen Thomson's characters. For Juno: film-saving work by old pros and up-and-comers alike. For No Country: four (mostly) solo acts, yes, but the sum of those parts is intimidating. For Zodiac: each of the principals shoulders his share of the weight, while the villains, victims, and red herrings simmer on the margins.

Who Wins? The cast of Juno, every one of whom should be called to accept any and all awards it may receive in the real world: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Allison Janney, JK Simmons, and Olivia Thirlby.


BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC*
The Darjeeling Limited
Into The Wild
Once
Southland Tales
Sweeney Todd

*Covers original songs, nonoriginal compilation scores, and the integration of both with the original score.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Little Miss Sunshine; 2005: Walk The Line; 2004: Ray; 2003: A Mighty Wind; 2002: Chicago; 2001: Hedwig and the Angry Inch; 2000: Almost Famous; 1999: Go; 1998: The Big Lebowski.

Why These Five? Darjeeling for the Kinks and the Stones' "Play With Fire"; Into The Wild for Eddie Vedder's stirring songs; Once for everything that made Once fantastic; Southland for the Moby score and JT lip-synching The Killers; and Sweeney for Johnny Depp growling him some Sondheim.

Who Wins? Once. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's time to shine.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Low Res Oscar Week 2008: The Screenplays

If Paul Thomas Anderson ends up winning the Oscar for There Will Be Blood and Diablo Cody, as expected, takes the trophy for Juno, that'll mean I missed the boat on both Oscar winners. Or did the boat miss me? Think about it.

Atonement and The Darjeeling Limited move into a tie with Sweeney Todd at four nominations each.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Darjeeling Limited
Death Proof
Margot At The Wedding
Michael Clayton
Once

Matches with Oscar: 1/5, matching Michael Clayton and nothing else.

Previous Rezzie Winners: 2006: United 93; 2005: Syriana; 2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; 2003: Lost in Translation; 2002: Adaptation; 2001: The Royal Tenenbaums; 2000: Almost Famous; 1999: Being John Malkovich; 1998: The Truman Show.

Why These Five? Darjeeling because Wes Anderson, while sharp as ever, began to find his heart; Once because it radiates warmth from the inside out and avoids the usual street-musician-makes-good clichés; Margot because it is the sharpest, meanest, most quick-witted collection of words coming out of unlikeable characters we saw this year; Michael Clayton because it snuck a character study in through the "legal thriller" door; and Death Proof because I could listen to Quentin Tarantino's characters yammer on about nothing all day.

Who Wins? Michael Clayton, for its unexpected head-first dive into the soul of a man who's suddenly discovering how much he's worth. And a woman finding out how much she's worth, for that matter. And for "I am Shiva, the god of death."



BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Atonement
Away From Her
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
No Country For Old Men
Zodiac

Matches with Oscar: 4/5; they liked There Will Be Blood, I liked Zodiac.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Little Children; 2005: Brokeback Mountain; 2004: Closer; 2003: American Splendor; 2002: The Hours; 2001: Memento; 2000: Traffic; 1999: Election; 1998: Primary Colors.

Why These Five? Zodiac because it made the looking more worthwhile than the finding; Diving Bell because it made me cry; Atonement because it didn't (and contrary to a lot of opinions about it, I don't think to was supposed to); Away From Her because simple can be huge; and No Country because the Coens make huge look simple.

Who Wins? Away From Her. Sarah Polley, bitches.

Low Res Oscar Week 2008: The Techs

The Low Res Movie Awards continue with the best in the so-called "below the line" categories. A year as strong as 2007 is only as strong as its tech elements allow it to be, and that's borne out in these categories. Atonement and Sweeney Todd pick up three nominations apiece in these categories, giving Sweeney the overall nomination lead, currently, at four. I'll be interested to see how long that lasts.

BEST EDITING
Atonement
Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
No Country For Old Men
Zodiac

Matches with Oscar: 2/5; they went with Into The Wild, There Will Be Blood, and The Bourne Ultimatum instead of Atonement, Before The Devil..., and Zodiac.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: United 93; 2005: A History of Violence; 2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; 2003: Kill Bill, Vol. 1; 2002: The Hours; 2001: Memento; 2000: Traffic; 1999: Being John Malkovich; 1998: Run Lola Run.

Why These Five? Creating heart-stopping tension is such an accomplishment of editing that I wonder why this category isn't always just stacked with the five scariest movies. No Country and Zodiac keep the tension screamingly tight. (Zodiac also manages to make 2+ hours fly by.) Before The Devil utilizes fancy-shmancy nonlinear timelines as a way to peel away the layers around characters rather than just a stunt. Atonement makes sure the audience keeps questioning its perceptions, often without realizing it. The Diving Bell floats around like the titular butterfly.

Who Wins? No Country For Old Men barrels down on you as steadily and unceasingly as its most notorious character does.


BEST ART DIRECTION
Bug
The Darjeeling Limited
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Sunshine
Sweeney Todd

Matches with Oscar: 1/5, only agreeing on Sweeney Todd.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Children of Men; 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; 2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; 1999: Sleepy Hollow; 1998: Velvet Goldmine.

Why These Five? Sweeney's barber chair (and washed-out London), Darjeeling's train (and luggage), Harry Potter's Ministry of Onyx (and kitty cat portrait walls), Sunshine's psychedelic gardens (and solar panels), and Bug's impossibly dingy motel room (and all that tin foil).

Who Wins? Know that I am absolutely in love with all five here, and it's a tough call. As a Tim Burton fan, perhaps it's easier for me to see what might otherwise be a recycling of old sets and motifs (it's been well-documented everywhere how much Sweeney borrows visually from Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow especially) as a culmination of a spectacular career. Sweeney Todd for the win.


BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Atonement
The Darjeeling Limited
Enchanted
Southland Tales
Sweeney Todd

Matches with Oscar: 2/5. They liked Across the Universe, Elizabeth, and La Vie En Rose better than Darjeeling, Southland, and Enchanted.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: The Devil Wears Prada; 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; 2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; 1999: The Talented Mr. Ripley; 1998: Velvet Goldmine.

Why These Five?: Southland's rocking the body-conscious riot gear; Sweeney's Gothic couture manages to conceal (Judge Turpin's slashable neck) and display (Mrs. Lovett's dirtypillows) its characters' vulnerabilities; Enchanted wrings a healthy bit of comedy out of puffy sleeves and the world's most formidable petticoat; Darjeeling once again shows Wes Anderson's affinity for trust fund babies gone to seed; and Atonement has that green dress people can't seem to stop talking about, plus a whole lot of torso-friendly threads for James McAvoy.

Who Wins? Atonement. You create something iconic, you ought to be rewarded for it.


BEST MAKEUP
300
Planet Terror
Sweeney Todd

Matches with Oscar: 0/3. Shut up, Norbit, La Vie En Rose, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Pan's Labyrinth; 2005: Sin City; 2004: Hellboy; 2003: Monster; 2002: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; 2001: Hedwig and the Angry Inch; 2000: The Cell; 1999: Fight Club; 1998: Velvet Goldmine.

Why These Three? I thought Sweeney added depth and dimension to the usual deathly pallor that comes with an overzealous powderpuff. 300 sure did a hell of a job painting abs onto its manly menfolk (though to what end is what depresses me). And then there's the orgy of gory viscera and oozing pustules that was Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror half of Grindhouse. Excuse me, I have to go throw up again.

Who Wins? Plan...blurrrgh...Planet Ter...huuuulppph...aw fuck it: Sweeney Todd.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Paul Cantelon - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Jonny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood
Dario Marianelli - Atonement
Eddie Vedder, Michael Brook, Kaki King - Into The Wild

Matches with Oscar: 1/5, both agreeing on Dario Marianelli.

Past Rezzie Winners: 2006: Clint Mansell (The Fountain); 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.); 2000: Clint Mansell (Requiem For A Dream); 1999: Rachel Portman (The Cider House Rules); 1998: Randy Newman (Pleasantville).

Why These Five? Cantelon's score was sweet; Vedder's was soulful; Marianelli's burrowed into your brain and tinkered with your perceptions; Greenwood's sonic pressure caved in your skull, ten-pin style; and Cave and Ellis produced a score that, like the movie it served, was unexpectedly lush, riding the edge of those mournful violins but with an underlying vitality that sweeps it away into something vibrant.

Who Wins? The Assassination of Jesse James, by a lot.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Low Res Oscar Week 2008: The Trailers

Yes, I'm doing this again. Yes, I'm still calling them the "Rezzies." Yes, I hate myself for that. No, I couldn't think of anything else to call them.

Anyway, the Oscars are on Sunday! And if any movie blogger out there ever felt ashamed about caring too much about the Academy Awards, this is the year to hold their heads high. Think the Oscars are too trivial to care about? Well this silly little awards show just ended the writers strike. Chew on that for a bit. So in celebration of this suddenly-more-important-than-ever Oscar ceremony, I promise to do my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday.

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.

So our first Rezzie (stiiiill hating myself) category, appropriately enough, is for the best trailer. And you know how much I love the trailers.

BEST TRAILER



The Darjeeling Limited
For whatever reason, this was not a terribly exciting year for trailers. Not a ton that really jumped out at me. Which I suppose explains why this clip made the top five, even though it's a simple rehash of trailers for the last two Wes Anderson films (a criticism that was, somewhat unfairly, leveled at the film itself). But it put two of the film's chief virtues front and center: the cast, including Anderson newcomer Adrien Brody, and those wonderful Kinks tunes. That did it.



Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
It's a little longer than I like my trailers, but it showed off Tim Burton's delicious vision of London and Johnny Depp's underrated growling (which I will readily admit may not have been as big a problem for me since I never saw the stage version). No clip did more to get me from zero to sixty in terms of anticipation for a movie this year, though.



There Will Be Blood
That music! That voice! That unsettlingly specific voice-over ripped from the pages of the script without context! The fact that the film didn't live up to my expectations didn't mean this trailer didn't do a great job of raising those expectations in the first place.



Zodiac
I remember people being not so enamored with this clip when it first came out. I was never among them. I thought from moment one it hit the atmosphere, the period, the tension of it all. A few teasing glimpses of some of David Fincher and Harris Savides's more eye-catching visuals were all most of us needed in a clip. It managed to make Rod Stewart sound menacing. No small feat.





The Mist
Sunshine

I'm putting these two together because I'm pretty sure the main reason I liked them as much as I did was due to the repurposing of Clint Mansell scores. Sunshine used the Requiem music, so often placed in montages these days, while The Mist took the next evolutionary leap forward and laid the score from The Fountain down. Of course, they had virtues of their own. Marcia Gay Harden bellowing "We want the boy!" was a favorite line of mine throughout the fall. And that first glimpse of the Icarus II in Sunshine. But they'll always be linked in my mind for the music.


The winner is THERE WILL BE BLOOD, an odd choice for the first award handed out, to be sure.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

We Meet Again, Big Brother

It's taken me a few days to see the first few episodes of this couple-themed, strike-necessitated (though not anymore, whoops, CBS!), and seemingly shortened season of the dumbest show on TV. And in the time it's taken me to catch up, these two...













...have already been eliminated. And I don't even know if I'm happy about that or not. Although odds are? I won't be sad to see any of these functionally retarded personality disorders leave the house. I haven't found anyone who's truly likeable yet, so this could be a long season indeed. So who are we talking about?

These two...














... (Jen and Ryan) are secretly dating in real life. Or were, but now the secret's out. He seems like the closest thing the show has to a decent guy (that I've seen), but she's an overhyper drama queen.

These two...













... (Joshuah and Neil) have been paired up together, seeing as they're The Gays and all. But their relationship hasn't seen nearly the kind of chemistry and closeness exhibited by...













...these two (Alex and Matt). Yes, it's your semi-annual DudeBro alliance, where bros come before hoes. They haven't allowed the New York/Boston rivalry to keep them from pledging their fidelity to each other to the bitter end. Oh, and they'll probably drag their respective balls and chains to the finish line with them. If they have to. Matt's a total lost cause (naturally, he's the Boston one), but it's a real shame Alex seems to be such a d-bag. He's what Corey Haim could have become if he'd stayed away from the meth.

Then there's a bunch of flighty, squeaky-voiced girls. The drama's been pretty mundane so far. The one big SCANDALE has been Jen and Ryan outing themselves/getting outed by other people. Which led to the supremely stupid moment when Joshuah...

...(this guy, remember?) passed a Bible around and made everybody swear that they didn't also have a pre-existing alliance. I nearly threw something at the TV. You stupid fucking homo! A Bible?? We're supposed to know better, dickhead.





Other than that, it's been three episodes worth of not much of anything, really. Oh, except for Adam. Who will haunt your dreams...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sports' Greatest Injuries: Blades of Gory

[Note: I'm only using a jokey title because everything turned out okay and because we laugh so as not to cry. Don't email me.]

So I suppose I should talk about the Richard Zednick story, since a) I was actually watching the game when it happened, b) I've been following the story obsessively since then, and c) once the word "Buffalo" is uttered in the popular culture three times, I show up like Beetlejuice. Anyway, I'm embedding the clip below, and it's not like you see the guy's throat get slashed up close, but the trail of blood and (especially) the terrified look on Zednick's face are both pretty freaky.



Anyway, when Harry Neale (the color commentator) said "I don't think I've ever seen so much blood," I said at the exact same time as Rick Jeanneret (the legendarily effusive Sabres play-by-play guy), "I have," because obviously the Clint Malarchuk thing came immediately to mind. [By the way, don't google "Clink Malarchuk" unless you want to maybe throw up. Way more gruesome a clip. Clint, meanwhile, still hasn't gotten over it, not that I'm surpised.] As bombastic as Jeanneret is, it's that much freakier when he goes silent, and the eerie silence of both him and the Buffalo crowd kind of told the whole story.

But I'm glad to hear Zednick's alive and well, and also that Buffalo has gained this mini-reputation as of late (between this and the Kevin Everett thing) as the city of miraculous outcomes for sports injuries. We're not just chicken wings and lost Super Bowls anymore! The next time one of you sprains a knee playing softball, be sure to let me know and I can arrange for some water from the sparkling shores of Lake Erie (or, oooh! Cazenovia Creek!) that you can rub on your injury. You're welcome!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Harder, Better, Dumber, Whinier

Didn't watch the Grammys last night -- I actually haven't watched them, I'm realizing now, for a long time; since...I'm remembering a Moby performance with Blue Man Group?...it's been a while -- but I've read the roundups (congrats to Amy Winehouse, I suppose; now can I not have to hear about her?) and I've seen the Kanye West performance (and read that embarrassingly self-aggrandizing speech), and I have to say that was a heady mixture of awesome and bullshit. Just the Kanye performance, I mean. Observe:



First of all, "Stronger" is a hot song, one that hasn't diminished in the several months since it's been out. And it's a dazzling, energetic performance, of which I am assuming the Grammys were in dire need if the stills I'm seeing of Josh Groban and Alicia Keyes were any indication. And it's good to see Daft Punk recognized for the vital role they played in the song's hotness. That being said, if there is any venue that was guaranteed to magnify the jerkoff quality of Kanye's lyrics, it's the goddamn Grammys. And of course he made sure we knew what he was talking about when he screamed for emphasis that we should feel lucky he deigned to show up at all, and if we don't understand why, all us haters can go fuck ourselves. If you listen to Kanye, you have to put up with this kind of self-aggrandizement all the time, but to realize that he gets this worked up about not winning a Grammy? Or a Video Music Award? It's embarrassing for everyone involved.

2008, By God

It's about this time of year that I get so damn sick of the 2007 crop of movies that I can't think straight. Thank God, Nathaniel shares this malady, and for the second year in a row he's invited me to help combat it by counting down the movies we're most looking forward to this year. The fifteen most anticipated movies have been voted on my a jury of my peers, and you can (and should) go read about them at The Film Experience.

Since this is my blog, however, I'm going to ring the bell for the movies I can't wait for that didn't make the list:

The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson)
A globe-trotting con-man adventure with Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo as brothers and swindlers who set their sights on an heiress (Rachel Weisz). Rinko Kikuchi from Babel is playing the brothers' mute cohort. Rian Johnson directed Brick, which was one of my favorite movies last year, and the Brody/Ruffalo/Weisz trio only raises the stakes. The images I've seen suggest a highly stylized production -- The Sting meets Wes Anderson crossed with Richard Kelly? -- but Johnson did stylized damn well in Brick, so I trust him.

The Day The Earth Stood Still (Scott Derrickson)
Keanu Reeves in a remake of the 1951 alien-and-robot-visitors classic. Yes, remakes are the devil, and no, Keanu isn't much of an actor, but this is a case where I'm forgiving both sins at once. After fifty years, I think we're ready for a new version, and if you cast Keanu correctly, he's fine. And honestly? He's kind of an alien anyway, so it's no big stretch. The rest of the cast -- Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, John Hamm -- is very strong, and Derrickson did a decent job in spots on The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I worry about his handling the political and allegorical elements of the plot, but perhaps he can rise to the occasion. This could also turn out super cheesy and "warm," but I really hope not. There's a lot of potential here, but a long way to fall if it sucks.

Miracle At St. Anna (Spike Lee)
Four black soldiers in WWII -- Derek Luke and Michael "Hello, Blue Eyes" Ealy among them -- find themselves stranded in a Tuscan village and under fire. I figure Spike Lee taking on the greatest of American stories will either result in Spike's great return to mainstream American consciousness or else an unholy implosion that will anger old white men from sea to shining sea. Either way sounds like fun to me. The fact that it's being produced by Disney is troublesome -- particularly concerning the film's awards chances -- but Spike is Spike, and the supporting cast features Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Gandolfini, and John Turturro. What's not to like?


Pineapple Express (David Gordon Green)
The other Apatow-produced comedy this year, this one featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco (Freaks and Geeks freaks reunited!) as a pair of stoners on the run from the cops. Smiley Face is my favorite stoner comedy of the moment, but this could certainly contend. Particularly with the odd but possibly inspired choice of David Gordon Green (Undertow, All The Real Girls) as director.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another For The "Why Was I Not Informed?" File

So apparently last month that was a minor brouhaha at an ESPN roast for Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg (that's your first problem right there) where heretofore winning and non-offensive former Cold Pizza host Dana Jacobson got drunk, took the podium, and insulted the hell out of Notre Dame (I believe "fuck Notre Dame" and "fuck Touchdown Jesus" were part of the barrage). Predictably, some people got up in arms, including the "Catholic League," which, in a bit of irony Linda Richman would be proud of, is neither "Catholic" nor a "League" (discuss...). I'm just catching up on this now, likely because the story got buried under an avalanche of Super Bowl and Roger Clemens stories, so allow me to roll this around in my brain for a few moments:

-- You may or my not know my historical opposition to Notre Dame in all its (non-basketball) forms, which certainly posed a challenge while growing up in Greater Irish-Catholicia, NY, but the gasping reaction to this kind of thing is part of the reason why. Notre Dame is not, in fact, a church. It's not the Vatican's Indiana branch. It's not consecrated ground...actually, knowing how fucking crazy the Catholics in this country are about Notre Dame it might be, but it shouldn't be. "Fuck Notre Dame" is in point of fact the exact same thing as "Fuck the Yankees," and everyone seems to be in agreement that that's okay.

-- If everyone's going to react this way to things that get said at a roast, we're going to need to stop having roasts. Because there's no such thing as "non-televised" in this age of the camera phone, so someone's always going to end up recording your off-color comment. Honestly, though, unless you're going full-on Michael Richards at one of those things, I don't give a shit. It's a style of comedy. An outdated style of comedy, perhaps, but not one I'm getting worked up over.

--As an offshoot of this "controversy," now I hear about some Christian group planning to protest ESPN for condoning "goddamn" and the pejorative use of "Jesus Christ" by its employees, which are just as offensive as "nigger" or "faggot," they would like us to know. Oh...Christian protest groups. You're adorable, is what you are.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Lay Me Out

I'm tinkering with the layout, as you can see. I'm not finished tinkering, and may not be finished for a few weeks yet, but I figured I needed a change. I never liked the way the links failed to pop on the blue background, for one thing. This new layout has an awful lot of white, I'll say that right now. It's much easier to read text, but maybe too washed out. We'll see. Anyway, don't bitch me out if you think it's ugly -- it's a work in progress.

One More Link

TWoP managed to land an interview with television persona/horrible face-morphing monster Heidi Montag this week and it's posted now, and...just read it.

Sample exchange ("LB" is our interviewer, "HM" is...well, you know):

LB: You were working at Bolthouse, correct?

HM: Um...yeah.

LB: Can you tell me about working there?

HM: I was doing, like, event planning and stuff.

LB: Did you like doing that?

HM: Yeah, I did. But singing is my passion.

LB: Not event planning?

'Round Springfield

Spurred by the latest Vanity Fair Hollywood issue (the one with all the Hitchcock photos) Nathaniel presents the latest in his addictive series examining VF's Hollywood issue covers across the years. This installment covers the 1998 cover, back when Cate Blanchett and Claire Forlani were both given equal chances to be the next big thing. Poor Claire Forlani. Poor droopy-faced crappy-acting Claire Forlani. We'll always have Mallrats, hon.

Jason at My New Plaid Pants gives me even more reasons to love Mike Vogel.

AfterElton points me towards a UK poll which asked British gays which actor they'd most want to go on a date with. Daniel Craig and James McAvoy I agree with, but Colin Farrell in third place? I'm not sure I'd so much go on a date with him as agree to meet in a secluded place and never speak of it again.

Finally, SinkyLulu checks back in with another post on VH1's Celebrity Rehab, which has become a favorite of mine to the point that, save for Lost, it might just be the best show on TV. I don't even think I'm exaggerating. The levels of bullshit and self-deception and pain and guardedness and trauma that have to be peeled away from these people has them more complex than almost any fictional construction on TV, which is weird when you consider that reality television often flattens and one-dimensionalizes its "characters." I can't imagine, for example, the frustration of having to dig past Chyna's layers and layers of self-protective denial. Or Mary Carey's sense of self (and lack thereof). It's a fascinating show and I think everybody should be watching it.

Lost, Week 2

So, yeah, like I said last week: a new group of outsiders whose trustworthiness is at issue. What I like about Jeremy Davies and Co. is that we immediately know a lot more about them after this hour than we did at the beginning. We don't know everything, and we shouldn't expect to, but it's better than how we kept running around and around with the Others last season.

I should mention that Miles the Ghostbuster (Ken Leung, above) is my new favorite character. So angry! So hyper! So able to communicate with the dead for no good reason! Plus he was great in that mental institution episode of The Sopranos.

I like that whole group, in fact. Davies has increasingly adopted the same squirrely demeanor in all of his performances, but I liked the anthropologist's honest empathy and Jeff Fahey as the pilot is great casting. Mostly, I like that these are honest characters who are taking in what happens in a relatable way. None of the cryptic know-it-allness of the Others. Of course, they're having their strings pulled by that guy from The Wire, but that's what the show is about.

As for the people we didn't just meet tonight, I was amused by the thought of Ben being an eternal island punching bag, and I could get used to Sawyer and Locke sniping at/with each other (rather than at/with Jack). That's not a relationship that's been explored too much, and after the events of last season, with Locke's dad, it makes sense to develop it now.

And as far as meta jokes go, Locke noting that Walt appeared "taller" in his vision was pretty decent. Another good one. I remain more intrigued than frustrated, which is the way to go.