Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The final verdict on the Oscars: Genre Pictures and Oscars

Looking back, I personally think Babel should've won because The Departed was simply near-perfect execution of a good Cops and Robbers movie, while Babel was an innovative picture that made a sweeping statement.

I think in general, genre pictures that are honored by the academy (My Fair Lady, Broadway Melody of 1929, Great Zigfield for musicals, Cimarron for Westerns, and French Connection for cops movies) can get dated pretty quickly. Whereas epics and films with sweeping statements or films that touch on relevant themes. There are obviously exceptions to this rule (i.e. The Godfather was the hallmark of gangster films and American in Paris, West Side Story and Sound of Music are among the best remembered musicals) but generally films that revolutionize and bend the genre like High Noon, McCabe and Mrs Miller, and The Searchers for Westerns or Singing in the Rain for musicals or Little Cesar or pretty much the entirety of film noir don't get recognized in their day and only get appreciated later in retrospect.

So in essence what I'm saying is that the genre pictures that really revolutionize the genre and find an innovative method of redefining it, generally don't get honored right then and there because it takes time to realize the brilliance of it. You need films to follow the particular trend that a revolutionary picture like High Noon is starting before you see how significant of a film it is. This is not neccessarily true: sometimes films that are innovative like West Side Story or the Godfather get honored, but these examples are rare and if a genre film wins, the academy usually will honor a film that executes the existing conventions well. The Departed is in no way revolutionary, but it is an excellent execution of a gangster film. It is also a personal triumph within the Martin Scorsesee canon, in that he was able to return to form. He was able to leave the grandiose ambitions with which he brought to the Aviator and Gangs of New York behind and buckle down to make a solid gangster film. However, the best picture award he received reflected more of a decision to avoid a director/picture split than it did a convincing vote for a best picture. While I concede it was a close race, I personally think that Babel was that epic thematically relevant film which was well-made and spoke to the problems facing the present.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar Blog II: From the 4th worst film critic in the nation

OK, Oscarcentral did actually post my picks and apparently, I am an idiot and a terrible oscar predictor. Out of 80 oscar pundits nationwide I was 4th worst, but I virtually got 3 more right than were listed down. As I said before, I was thinking Alan Arkin/Forest Whitaker but my main goal was to mix up the 5 locks (the 4 acting spots and the 1 directing nod) and I guess I must have picked a Peter O'Toole/Eddie Murphy combination instead. A red-headed girl named Allison, who I watched the Oscars with, can confirm that I did pick Alan Arkin, Dreamgirls for Sound (according to Oscarcentral, I picked Letters from Iwo Jima, which wasn't even nominated, I don't know who I could've done that) and Forest Whitaker. After submitting my picks, I went over to watch the Oscars at a local movie theater and her and I created our own little oscar pool between us where we wagered on each nomination as they came up, and I did pick Alan Arkin, but oh well. I did push for Oscarcentral to accept my picks at the 11th hour and I am happy to be considered one of 80 "Oscar Pundits" nationwide that they consulted and the credibility to me as a film critic is good, so whatever. I'll write more about that as i told Oscarcentral i would, in another post.

Anyway, I think. I did beat David Spade, which is great because I am a big fan of the showbiz show and think David Spade is one of SNL's most underrated alumni (possibly the most) and that it was cool that he was blogging although it says "The Showbiz Show Crew." I am curious, though: According to Tom Shale's "Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live," Eddie Murphy refused to speak to David Spade after he lambasted him on Hollywood Minute. I wonder if Spade will be writing anything on Murphy tonight, or if he'll stay clear. I plan to go over to his site, but I wanted to transcribe my handwritten notes first without inhibitions of what he might've wrote and seen how my notes compared to his, so here are my thoughts about the oscars:

Here are some notes I have:
-I think Ellen DeGeneres did a reasonably good job. I'm kind of a fan of her but not an 100% Ellen fan and I did think she'd be way over her head. She's a good sketch comedian-type and can be funny in certain situations but someone of that nature like SNL's Maya Rudolph I wouldn't tag to host the Oscars either. I think bigger comic acts like Steve Martin and Billy Crystal suffice and I don't see exactly why they've been avoiding them for the last few ceremonies. I think the Oscars will always be watched by the kinds of people who appreciate good movies and it's crowd is already set. If you're a Chris Rock fan or an Ellen DeGeneres fan and you're not that much into watching ambitious high-concept movies, you probably still won't watch the Oscars, or you'll turn it off after the opening monologue when the comic does their comic bits. After that, they don't completely dissapear but they don't appear often enough for someone to want to sit through the other parts. But, still a few will so, maybe the effect on people who were borderline about watching the Oscars is better.

-Ellen was actually pretty good albeit pretty invisible. Her bits with Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsesee were good and I'm not entirely sure why she didn't do more of those. I got a kick out of her trying to set up Peter O'Toole with her mom, so I thought Ellen would chat with him more. I think her oscarbib wasn't really that funny.

-Best score is a funny category, check this article out:

-In reality, though, it was just a really well-done ceremony that I felt had a complete overhall or something. Like they did with the honorary oscar for Robert Altman last year, they had voiceover for the cinematography awards and the little videos for the five best pictures* explaining a little bit about what creatively went into it. They also read excerpts from the ten nominated scripts which was immensely interesting. Also, they found a way to make the costume design interesting with models appearing on stage. They also mixed up the montages by having America as seen through the eyes of the movies, and a salute to foreign films.

-Best presenters: Jaden Smith and Abigail Breslin, I'm not really into child actors or anything, but those two were sooo cute. Some child actors like Haley Joel Osmont and the Olsen Twins and even Leo DiCaprio when he was young try to act so much like adults. Dakota Fanning also falls into this category. Let kids be kids. Also on good presenters, I think considering how little Jerry Sienfeld is on TV these days, it was definitely a highlight of the evening that they could integrate a Jerry Sienfeld monologue into an oscar acceptance speech

-Best people onstage who had absolutely nothing to do with the ceremony: With Borat refusing to show up to the Oscars this year, Jack Black, Will Ferrell and John C Riley were awesome and provided much needed comic relief. I love those guys and Will Ferrell and Jack Black brought down the house with their made-up acceptance speech song "You're Boring." When they did that song, however, they were actually presenting an award and here they were kind of just using up time in a ceremony that went on really, really long. I imagine as a result many reviews of the Oscars will be picking on those guys. What they said, though, rang true. One humongous flaw of the Academy Awards is that they rarely honor comedic performances, when as many directors will tell you, a comedic performance is harder to pull off than a dramatic one. It is ironic though, because Will Ferrell did sell his comedic soul this year to play a serious part this year in Stranger than Fiction and with that role, he had just as much Oscar Buzz pre-release as anyone else, so he did actually have his shot this year at winning an Oscar, but he was just out of his element. While the script was humorous, there wasn't a single bit of humor in his performance (I saw him as more the straight man to Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhall and Dustin Hoffman) and what's the point of casting Will Ferrell if he hasn't got some laughs in his role?

-I thought it was funny that Sherry Lansing wasn't an actor yet she could either remember her entire speech or read it off a teleprompter whereas the actors who won had to bring up a piece of a paper or else they just fell apart when they got onstage.

-One fact that a lot of people in the media have got wrong about Jennifer Hudson was that while she finished 7th, she wasn't exactly the 7th most popular contestant that season nor did Simon or anyone else suggest that she would be a failure. She was considered a dark horse contender to win and wasn't kicked off the show by Simon or anyone else. She was the victim of a phone voting system in which you vote who you want to move on rather who you want to go, that had already elicited controvoursey. She did a good enough job that many people thought the week she was kicked off, that she'd be safe and placed their votes on candidates they thought were on the bubble instead. When she was voted off, Fox was sent a lot of hate mail and accusations that the system was rigged, as mentioned by Ryan Seacrest in the next episde. The point is, she did have quite an impact on the show contrary to what the media is saying.

-So thrilled that Alan Arkin won: I wrote about that in Oscar Blog I.

-I notice that some of the acting clips aren't that long, particularly for the supporting nominees. Abigail Breslin's acting clip just shows her screaming. It's really very unflattering and to anyone who didn't see Little Miss Sunshine, she did more than scream.

-Forest Whitaker won an oscar and he was so nervous up there even though he's had a chance to practice the art of giving a speech at least 3 other times this award season. After Helen Mirren thanked the Queen, I was moderately worried that he might thank Idi Amin or something

-The academy sent a message loud and clear tonight: They don't like Mexicans! When it comes to immigration, they're as conservative as Rush Limbaugh. Of the 7 most critically acclaimed movies of the year, one was made by a Brit, 3 by Americans and 3 by Mexicans, and those Americans who were afraid of having their jobs outsourced made it perfectly clear where they stood by voting down Pan's Labrynth, Children of Men and Babel. I say we start a movement of internet backlash! When will the academy stop being so conservative and accept Mexicans and Gays?!
(by the way, this is a humorous post in response to the partial rediculousness of the backlash of people who felt the academy was anti-Gay for not giving the Oscar to Brokeback Mountain. They did after all nominate the film, give it a best screenplay oscar and the best actor winner was for a gay character, not to mention playing a gay character or a transsexual gives you an automatic edge for an oscar nod)

-Best songs: Thank god, Randy Newman didn't sing. For that alone, I would've given Our Town an award. I actually think, in retrospect, though, Our Town would have been a good choice. People are just not thinking along the lines of what song would make a great radio hit when it comes to this category, which is an excellent opportunity for the Oscars to cross over into the territory of people who like the Grammys. Exceptions to this are generally the rap songs, as with "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" and "Lose Yourself." Beyond that, I don't think Melissa Ethridge's Inconvinient Truth song would be as popular of a hit as "Our Town" which I could see killing on country music stations. I think Counting Crows "Accidentally in Love" might have had a longer shelf life than the Motorcycle Diaries song, and the same to one of the Cold Mountain songs over "Into the West" from Lord of the Rings. I did a whole rant on this under my post "10 biggest Mistakes of the Decade"

-When William Moynahan got up on stage, I said "wow, William Moynahan is ugly" to which Allison pointed out "that's why he's a screenwriter." I don't know, I think there are plenty of handsome screenwriters out there, but then again Cameron Crowe isn't exactly easy on the eyes.

-"It's too bad Peter O'Toole didn't win" said Ellen, but doesn't the honorary oscar count? Kirk Douglas got to join the 75th Anniversary Oscar Commemoration in 2002 when, in reality, he only won an honorary oscar.

-The academy awards had some softer gentler music this year to let the people know when there speeches were done, did anyone notice that?

-Syd Gannis in under a minute: I absolutely loved that.

-When Martin Scorsesee won, there was a great moment of elation within myself and with everyone in the theater. It felt like when the Boston Red Sox won the World Series: Like we were witnessing something previously thought of as impossible. The truth though, is that it was entirely quite possible for Martin Scorsesee to win an Oscar, and it's not like the Academy was refusing to vote for him out of some dislike for him. You might say that Ordinary People beating Raging Bull was a travesty, but other than that, I think the winners were perfectly reasonable. There was no way in hell that Scorsesee was going to win an oscar for Last Temptation of Christ, and Roman Polanski in 2002 and Clint Eastwood for a second oscar in 2004 were both reasonably good choices. Kevin Costner made the brilliant Dances with Wolves in 1990 that beat Scorsesee's Goodfellas, but quickly dispelled the notion that he had any other brilliant movie ideas by making Waterworld. As for Goodfellas, which is ranked by the AFI's top 100 list as his 3rd best film (behind Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), its loss to Kevin Costner has helped turn it into a cult classic.
But, it was good of the Academy to wait until Scorsesee was really the best in his field this year.

-One of the few things that I officially got right was "Departed" for best editing. I thought it was obvious that Thelma Schoolmaker (hopefully i spelled her name right) would win best editor, on the basis of the fact that she's the most recognizable name of any editor in Hollywood, for her collaborations with Martin Scorsesee, and editing was one of The Departed's strong suits.

*Those videos they made for the pictures were really good. Why don't they use THOSE as trailers. Also, those videos would look good on youtube and would help promote the picture more.

Oscar Blog I: Best supporting actor

OK, I sadly did not get to writing around my predictions last night before the actual ceremony, but I was frantically trying to research and write (and it did require research to back up those opinions) my edgy article below that I was trying to submit to oscarwatch to no avail. I have seen the light of blog publicity and it's name is Oscarwatch, so it's very advantageous to my to appear on that site.

I did actually make a carefully well-thought out set of predictions that I sent to Oscarwatch Central for their critical compilation, but I didn't actually write those predictions down. Oscarwatch Central Predictions are currently trying to retrieve the file that I sent them because #1 I can't remember myself, exactly what I predicted and #2 They were some kick-ass predictions and who knows, I might have won. I predicted William Moynahan*, Departed for editing, and I predicted Alan Arkin for Supporting Actor. The reason that I am writing this oscar blog now (and I do consider this a blog because I'm filtering and recopying my notes from last night) was that I spent last night at a local movie theater (Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse) which had a fun program put up by two film critics. It was a good time and I won a ton of free DVDs for knowing a couple trivia questions**

Even though I picked him myself, I thought Arkin had no chance in Hell of winning and I was thrilled that he did so. Out of boredom at the lock status and the repitition of awards for the same director and actors, it was just an effort to mix it up a little. I personally just wanted to vote for anyone other than Eddie Murphy and felt that Arkin had the best chance. Personally, I thought that Djimon Hotsou and Mark Wahlberg* were the strongest (even though Wahlberg had little screentime) and I confess to not having seen Dreamgirls so I couldn't even tell you if Alan Arkin was REALLY better than Eddie Murphy. The truth was that Alan Arkin was very good but in all honesty, he didn't stick out in Little Miss Sunshine, but that's really a tribute to the strength of the SAG-winning ensemble, and I'm not sure if being the best member in your cast is neccessarily a requirement to being the only actor from your movie to win the oscar.

What really was motivating me was I was just hoping it would be anyone but Eddie Murphy because he really is not fit to be an oscar-winner. The prestigeous label of Oscar-winner gets tarnished if that oscar winner goes on to make bad movies. Everytime, you see "Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham" on the back of a film like "Muppets in Space" at the video store or Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher in "High School High" or Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. in "Rat Race" and "Snow Dogs," it brings the reputation of the academy down that much more. I'm not saying it's not tarnished already, but Eddie Murphy didn't even have the decency to wait before he actually won his oscar to tarnish it by becoming the next Cuba Gooding Jr., wich Norbit. And you know what? Maybe it wasn't a coincidence that Cuba Gooding Jr. was actually in the movie itself. Maybe Murphy was making a bold statement defending the right of oscar winners like Cuba to go on making bad movies. Well, no thanks said the academy, and I fully second that notion. It works just like that in anything else. The NBA probably regretted voting Ron Artest as an all-Star after he went into the stands and started beating up players. Baseball wouldn't let Pete Rose into the hall of fame because he has a disease. And Eddie Murphy has a disease too: he can't stop making bad movies, and he needs to go into a therapy group with Adam Sandler, Pauly Shore and Martin Lawrence. A vote for Alan Arkin was a vote for consistency, who has consistently made good movies. It was a resounding statement that just because you did some great things in your day like singlehandedly resurrect Saturday Night Live, does not mean we will crown you with a title bestowing you as a "great actor" when your latest movie work ranges from mediocre to abysmal.

Now, I have a couple grad school classes to attend, but rest assured, i will continue oscar blogging while people are still google searching for oscar blogs so I can rack up some hits.

*This is the most nitpicky thing you'll ever hear in your life, but why does Scrosesee call him Bill, I'm pretty sure most everyone else calls him William or Will. I know Bill is short for William Moynahan, but if Will Moynahan wanted to go by Bill, he might have submitted his name as such. I am curious to know how many people other than Scorsesee call him Bill. Scorsesee also refers to Robert De Niro as Bobby and I don't think anyone else does that either. Who does Scorsesee think he is?

** Question I didn't know the answer was the last child actor or actress to win. Thanks to the lucky coincidence of having read eddieonfilm.blogspot.com's oscar predictions, I won a DVD of the Prestige, screening passes to 300 and a CD for the soundtrack of Flushed Away for knowing "What was the Artistic Oscar given alongside Wings?" I vaguely remembered the answer was a film called Sunrise.
I also won a DVD of the Guardian for knowing that Bob Fossee beat Ford Copolla for best director the first time he was up for a Godfather film, and not wanting to hog all the gifts I helped someone else in the audience name on of the three actors who Martin Scorsesee has lost to (my initial answer was Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford and Roman Polanski who had a history as a child actor, but they didn't take that as an answer. They were looking for Kevin Costner)

Some other notes on the best supporting actor race:
-I'm not sure whether Mark Wahlberg had a good or bad night. For one thing, he lost and Ellen bothered him right after losing en route to handing Martin Scorsesee her script. I think Ellen was just being friendly but maybe she could've picked a better time. Also Scorsesee was like "I want to thank Jack who's such an honor to work with and gives so much" and "Leo, let's work another 12 or 15 years" and then he was like "and Mark" and that was it. Mark Wahlberg stole the show from Jack Nicholson, Leo, Matt Damon and everyone else, in every scene he was in. Without Wahlberg, the movie's tension wouldn't have been leveled with comic relief, and he handled the dialogue so well. Wahlberg's clip was also pretty short which pissed me off as well. On the bright side, when Jack Black and Will Ferrell beat up the oscar nominees after the movie, they said they'd spare him, so that's good news

-Djimon Hotsou and Eddie Murphy both looked really anxious waiting for the name to be announced. Hotsou looked like he was about to get a flu shot and was waiting for the needle to go in his arm.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lose an oscar, win a cult following

Tonight in one of the most wide-open races in years, Oscar fans with hopes of what film will join the historic pantheon of Best Picture winners that includes "All About Eve", "Casablanca", "The Godfather", "Gone with the Wind", and "On the Waterfront". But there’s no reason to get nervous about it, because who wins Best Picture is irrelevant. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the Oscars are irrelevant. Every acting and directing award has been paramount to helping that person’s career flourish and the same goes for the other categories.

The nominations for Best Picture are also of the utmost importance. Three years ago, for example, six pictures were considered locks for an Oscar nomination and "Cold Mountain" found itself the odd film out. While "Cold Mountain" isn’t necessarily forgotten in history, its status as a future classic is less assured than "Master and Commander" or "Seabiscuit." The same thing happened the year before with "Far From Heaven". Ask your average person on the street if they have ever heard of "Far From Heaven" and think about how different that answer would be if it was "Best Picture Nominee Far From Heaven." The point is recent history suggests that being the perennial sixth film doesn’t bode well for your legacy. While "Dreamgirls" fans were massively disappointed at the film’s snub this year, I doubt they’ll still be making much noise three or four years from now.

But losing an Oscar in a close race, on the other hand, does wonders for your legacy. Aside from "Schindler’s List", the most loved films of the 1990’s have arguably become "Pulp Fiction", "Shawshank Redemption", "Saving Private Ryan", "Fargo", and "Goodfellas", all losers in close races. The winning pictures of "Forrest Gump", "Dances with Wolves", "The English Patient", and "Shakespeare in Love" get the actual award and a place in the history books, but the losers get a contingent of loyal supporters who will protest the merits of those films and who they thought was the rightful winner for years to come. How many message board threads or articles have you read on the topic? “Greatest injustices the academy has made” and counted the victories of "Forrest Gump" and "Dances with Wolves." Little by little, each of those threads, posts, and articles helps that picture get more action on the DVD shelves at local video stores.

The overkill on this subject comes from everyone from Richard Roeper to the guys posting on the IMDB and OscarWatch message boards. My theory is that it comes from a sense of pride you might have as a self-proclaimed film buff. That losing picture, whether Goodfellas or Shawshank, represents you and your tastes and not only can you take pride in promoting a film as one of your favorites that’s a good film, but you can also take pride in personally promoting a film that the high-and-mighty Academy got wrong. You can go around saying, “Schindler’s List is such a great movie, you’ve gotta see it!” but everyone knows that. Identifying yourself as a fan of these also-rans becomes a calling card of sorts for film snobs who wish to proclaim their tastes superior to that of the mainstream.

With the increase of the prominence of the blogosphere and Oscar sites, it seems only likely that this backlash against a best picture win will grow stronger as evidenced by last year’s win. How many hits are there on a simple Google search for “Brokeback Mountain” and “Crash” proclaiming the Oscar injustice there.

Perhaps, people are forgetting that the films that won aren’t necessarily unworthy films in their own right. For example, back in 1994, "Forrest Gump" had both critics entranced and moviegoers all over America buzzing. It didn’t even finish #1 on its opening weekend at the box office (True Lies did) but through good word-of-mouth it became the highest grossing film of the year and the 4th highest to date. It also won at the WGAs, the DGAs, was nominated at the BAFTAs (where it lost to Four Weddings and a Funeral) and won the National Board of Review’s prize.

Roger Ebert gave it four stars and wrote, “I've never seen a movie quite like ‘Forrest Gump.’ Any attempt to describe him will risk making the movie seem more conventional than it is.” Rolling Stone called it, “A movie heartbreaker of startling wit and grace,” and gave it 3 ½ stars which was the same rating he gave to Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption. A look back to reviews originally written in 1994 on rottentomatoes.com, shows that with the exception of the New York Times’ Stephen Holden, most of the reviews were highly favorable. Many of the ones that gave poor reviews were only written years later in retrospect. Christopher Null of Filmcritic.com wrote, “Run, Forrest, run! It sure seemed great at the time, but Gump is aging, and it's starting to show a wrinkle or too….. what a crazy chain of events Forrest Gump has spawned: a poorly-received book sequel, a restaurant chain, and hordes of imitators -- not to mention a critical backlash.”

My theory for the backlash would be that Forrest Gump was a bittersweet emotional ride that resonated with a certain generation at a certain point in time. It’s not something that holds up well to repeat viewings. Pulp Fiction, in contrast, is a revisionist genre film that can be watched over and over again by film students interested in dissecting its film conventions. The same can also be said for neo-noir films Fargo and LA Confidential, which were also best picture losers. "Dances with Wolves", similarly is an emotional epic that swept many viewers away on first viewing and was the first Western with a fighting chance of being honored since "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (the only previous Western to actually win the award was the 1931 film "Cimarron").

As for Shawshank, Tim Dirks at Filmsite.org summarizes its predicament best: “Only through positive word-of-mouth (following cable TV and broadcast airings, and then video releases) did the film do well - although its original reception at the box-office was lukewarm.” Shawshank didn’t even get voted into AFI’s Top 100 Films, but when the Institute rereleases their Top 100 list later this year, rest assured that revisionist history will give Shawshank a place (both the winner Forrest Gump and other runner-up from that year Pulp Fiction are on that list). But as with "Dances with Wolves" and "The English Patient" (I won't say "Shakespeare in Love" was exactly deserving), people fail to acknowledge that at the time those were the most popular films of their year and only through a revisionist tide do those facts get lost. That tide is a powerful one, so let that be a consolation to you if your picture loses tonight.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

2006: The Year of the African Picture

10 Best Science Fiction Movies of All Time

This might just be me but I usually see a sort of pattern in each year’s slate of movies. The patterns aren’t entirely exclusive by the year but a case can be made that they are brought on by trends that ebb and flow:

2001 was the year of the dark storyline. Disjointed storylines were abound in Momento, Mullholland Drive, and Vanilla Sky. And In the Bedroom and Man Who Wasn’t There were both films with dark sides. In the Bedroom was nominated for best picture and Mullholland Drive received a best director nomination and Momento received attention for best screenplay. Dark films usually come in low-grossing thrillers but these five films were higher end products that at least all started out with potential for an oscar nomination.

2002 I really couldn’t find a pattern, other than the best picture win for Chicago solidified the Return of the Musical. There are no other films in that year that reflect that trend, however.

2003 was the year of the epic with Pirates of the Carribean, Master and Commander: Far Side of the World, Last Samurai, Cold Mountain and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Seabiscuit also had characteristics of an epic, in that it was a big budget period piece, but it didn’t involve any kind of fighting or battles. The number of big-budget blockbusters and tent poles per year has significantly increased in the ‘00s, but usually they’re constricted to the summer. Last Samurai, Master and Commander, Cold Mountain, and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King were all released in the Oscar Season and either received Oscar nominations or significant
Oscar buzz. One could argue that Lord of the Rings had been going on for three years but a) 2003 was the year in which Lord of the Rings won and b) Return of the King was the most action-packed. The epics that followed in the next year, Alexander and Troy, were far more poorly received.

2004 was the year of the biopic with Ray, The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Kinsey, Hotel Rwanda, Beyond the Sea and Vera Drake. Three of these were nominated for best picture, Hotel Rwanda was the perennial sixth candidate, and nine of the twenty acting nominations, with Kinsey’s Liam Niesson nearly making the lead actor category 5 for 5 in biographically-based roles for the first time in Oscar history. The trend continued to some extent the following with Walk the Line and Capote but Walk the Line was considered more of a love story than its 2004 counterpart, and Capote was more of a crime story than a biopic.

2005 was the year of the social statement film with four of the five best picture nominees in Good Night and Good Luck (the suppression of the press), Crash (interracial relations), Munich (the Palestinian-Israeli conflict), and Brokeback Mountain (homosexuality). In addition, among the other Oscar contenders, there was North Country (sexual harassment), Constant Gardener (corruption in the pharmaceutical industry) and Syrianna (the energy crisis/CIA corruption). Things were getting so ridiculous that political pundits were taking summer popcorn fare like Batman Begins and Star Wars III (whose storyline was conceived before either Bush got into office) and interpreting them as left-wing or right-wing statements about the Iraq war.

This brings us to 2006 which I might call the year of the Third World or more specifically the Year of the African picture with Last King of Scotland, Catch a Fire, Babel, and Blood Diamond. This might make sense considering the success of 2004’s Hotel Rwanda and 2005’s Constant Gardener and the fact that over the last couple years Africa has become a hot-button issue. One thing that comes to mind was the Worldwide 10-City Concert that preceded the G8 Summit Conference in the summer of 2005. Bono, the chief spokesman behind the movement, was named Man of the Year by Time Magazine. Increasingly, globalization and Internet 2.0 are taking storm and have surfaced on the National consciousness as of late.
Lastly, the popular thing for celebrities to do, as demonstrated by George Clooney and his dad, Brangelina, and Madonna, is to go visit Africa firsthand.

The four above-mentioned pictures all harbored serious Oscar ambitions and were shot on location, taking us first hand to the heart of the “Dark Continent.” Pictures have been set in Africa since the days of Beat the Devil, Out of Africa, Snows of Kiliminjaro and the African Queen but the African jungles served as nothing more than a background for stories about the Western colonizers. The latest wave of pictures that has surfaced since Hotel Rwanda has focused on problems facing the indigenous people of the continent which is a massive improvement.

What this means for the Oscars is that in such a close race Babel might have added weight for being part of the year’s movie trend. Voting for Babel would be a way of acknowledging this trend of shedding light on what has been commonly referred to as “The Dark Continent.”

This Oprah Winfrey Oscar Special is rediculous

Tonight's Oprah Winfrey Oscar Special advertises "First-Time Oscar Winners Go One-On-One" with three big interviews: First, Sidney Poitier will be interviewed by Jamie Foxx. Actually, I'm pretty sure those two have met before since Jamie Foxx thanked Oprah in his Oscar acceptance speech for introducing the two. Still, a discussion between the two might offer a lot.

Let's see who's next. Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman. I'm not sure who's interviewing the other. This isn't really an interview from one person to his idol, it's just more like two peers chatting. They've never worked together, so maybe it's their first time chatting, but still if the theme was you could interview anyone, maybe you'd pick Shirley MacLaine, Elizabeth Taylor, Eva Marie Saint, Kirk Douglas, Ernest Borgnine, or some of the other great actors and actresses who are still alive (by the way, I know Kirk's award is only honorary and I'm sure there are five better examples of living oscar legends who are still alive but I can't think of that many off the top of my head, you get my point).

And that goes double for you, Julia Roberts. Roberts is going to be interviewing George Clooney in what I find extremely shameless. First of all, the two have already worked together in self-congratulatory films like Ocean's 11 and Ocean's 12 and she had a rather pointless role in his directing debut "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," and added to the time I'm sure all three (George, Julia, and Oprah) spend chatting in his Italian Villa or whatever, I'm sure they've had enough time to get to know each other. Besides, the degree to which they both admire themselves and each other is evident through their half-baked collaborations with each other for the Ocean's movies and with Stephen Sodebergh (i.e. Full Frontal in which Julia Roberts is just playing herself and thinking her story about how she met and married a crewman on set is interesting enough for a movie). Clooney and Roberts' work with Sodebergh used to be good, but its dissolved into a group of people who are so happy to be in each other's company that they forget they have an audience to entertain. Good German, from what I understood, was an interesting experiment in using film stocks and what not, but I hear it wasn't particularly good as a movie (although mabybe someone has seen it and could post their opinions otherwise, I'd be open to hearing them).

By the way, now I'm going off on a tangent, but I notice that whenever Matt Damon was interviewed about Ocean's 12 and in his upcoming interviews on Ocean's 13 he always likes to stress "we're having fun on set, but we're working too. We realize that we have to be professional and we get to work every day," like he's covering up for playing hooky (sorry if I misspelt that, there's a movie on TCM i'm trying to catch so I'm hoping to wrap up this blog entry soon) from school.

Also, I'm not gonna say I'm sick and tired of George Clooney and I hate him, because I realize that it's just natural human tendency to feel that way about someone when they're a little over exposed, and I want to be aware that it's not so much him but his overexposure I'm getting tired of. I liked him in late 2005 when he had that successful run of 2 critical hits in the same year with Syrianna and Good Night and Good Luck, but I notice that all people ever do to George Clooney is shower him with praise. I don't think he's faced a remotely tough question in an interview lately. He gets lobbed the same questions: "Why do you go to Africa?" "Why do you make political movies?" (that's an easy one, rather than asking him IF he has political views, ask him ABOUT his political views) "How nice is your villa in Italy?" "Can I come?". Enough already.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

12 Best songs of 2002

A leftover list from 2002, the year when a whole batch of new stars like John Mayer, Kelly Clarkson, Nora Jones, Avril Lavigne, Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton hit the scene. Of course now, these people are well-established veterans who are on their 2nd and 3rd records. It really was a great year for music, just one that I vividly remember (it was the first time I made a list of this sort, i'm pretty sure):

1. Don’t Know Why, Nora Jones: Jones’ retro-jazz act turned the music world on his head this year. Her lighter than air voice was contagious. Don’t Know Why was the most successful track on her debut album which landed her eight grammy nominations.
2. Lonesome Day, Bruce Springstein: Springstein’s voice was clearly not what it once was on his last comeback tour and still isn’t. However, this up-tempo track off his new album, inspired by the events of 9/11, brings back that uncontainable energy E Street was once known for. This ultimately led to the most uplifting musical response to last year’s tragedy that we’ve heard.
3. Thousand Miles, Vanessa Carlton: This ballerina-turned-singer/songwriter combines her graceful aura with a delightfully raw voice. She packs more punch into a piano virtuoso riff, drums and orchestration than most guitar acts in this single that finished #1 on the ARC charts.
4. Lose Yourself, Eminem: For this controversial rapper’s entrance into movies with a semi-autobiographical, he had a task cut out for him in producing the feel-good pump-you-up anthem to end the song, and he lives up to it. “Back to reality/oops there goes gravity/the music/moment/you own it, etc.” His chorus is this generation’s version of “The Little Engine That Could.”
5. No Such Thing, John Mayer: Acoustic guitarist in touch with his sensitive side finds the right words for this perfect late adolescence anti-conformist anthem. If he had a voice to match his words, he’d be great but with the way he handles the guitar you know the conviction is still there.
6. Without Me, Emimem: Those that think Eminem has gone family-friendly this year and who like 8 Mile because of it, should know that Eminem is all about controversy, whether in a bad or good way. He comes out again with his alter ego and several other voices (his trademark specialty), parodying both himself, the public, and staying one step ahead of his critics.
7. Where Are You Going, Dave Matthews Band: Last year when Matthews switched producers from Steve Lillywhite to Glen Ballard, he made a wrong move in the eyes of his fans by switching to electric and taking that organic quality out of his sound. Busted Stuff, the release of year-old session recordings with Lillywhite, was capped off with this newly written song. This mellow track is a serenade to his lost fans in an effort to woo them back, admitting, “I am no superman/I have no answers for you/But I do know where you are, is where I belong.”
8. Sk8ter Boi, Avril Lavigne: Among the talented young singer-songwriters to enter the scene this year, Lavigne is the least refined and the most proud of it. A rebellious punk rocker girl (and that’s a rarity in itself), she isn’t short on talent or range with her no-frills style. Her high-octane Sk8ter Boi, in contrast to her more emotionally powerful Complicated, is nothing but a wild and fun ride.
9. Cry Me a River, Justin Timberlake: Took a very public break-up and channeled it into a song that could make his career. The debate over N’Sync vs Backstreet Boys hasn’t been settled yet, but in the debate over the biggest star to emerge from the boy-band era, it could be him.
10. Here is Gone, Goo Goo Dolls: Whoever broke Jonny Resznick’s heart and enabled him to express such articulate feelings about heartbreak, must have really been something else. Dating back to songs like “Iris,” Resznick’s romantic setbacks continue to be the musical world’s gain. In his latest song and one of his best, he shows this mystery girl a resolve to get through whatever he’s going through, with or without her, and it’s powerfully stated.
11. Get the Party Started, Pink: The chorus “I’m coming up so you better get the party started,” sums it up perfectly. Otherwise a piece of fluff, it serves as a great party tune.
12. A Moment Like This, Kelly Clarkson: This clichéd chase-your-dreams themed song really is an obstacle course for Clarkson’s voice with a soul-tinged opening verse, a soaring chorus, and a belt-it-at-the-top-of-your-lungs bridge. She passes the test in flying colors.

Honorable Mention:
My Sacrifice, Creed-The constantly hoarse baritone Scott Staff comes his closest to finding a melody here.
This Side, Nickel Creek-Nickel Creek can't easily be categorized here, but this might be closest to a radio hit song. The sheer virtuosity of these three really is unparalleled.
Travelling Soldier, Dixie Chicks-First, the harmonies on the chorus really fit the Dixie Chicks. It sounds so convincing, you're gonna think they wrote it themselves. It's much better than Landslide
Soak up the Sun, Sheryl Crowe-Music pundits like to find the "song of the summer" every year. This is one that could fit in with any summer.
Grey Street, Dave Matthews-Leroi Moore's sax work is exceptional on the particular take that went on the record. (There are other takes you might get off limewire or Napster if you listen closely)
Neon, John Mayer-If you look at the sheet music for Mayer's guitar part, you can see how mind-blowing his guitar work is firsthand
Dilemna, Nelly feat. Kelly Rowland-A marriage of two voices that seems to fit. Here's hoping that Rowland breaks out like Beyoncee
How You Remind Me, Nickel Back-One of the most popular tracks of the year

Monday, February 19, 2007

The falliable link between the SAG Awards and the Oscars

Oscar pundits are always trying to fit square pegs into round holes. One annoying habit they have is trying to take every award ceremony that comes along and use it for some kind of barometer for their predictions of the oscars from which they continually change those predictions with each new incoming set of results. The Oscars are treated like one of these trivia games were clues are slowly being given so that in time you will be able to make deductions and figure out the answers. Entertainment Weekly devotes three full issues exclusively to the Oscars each year (up from two five years ago), message boards swarm with people posting predictions and countless blogs and websites have surfaced that follow the phenemonen. Even the Toronto Star and the LA Times have put up exclusive websites to monitor awards buzz. In all this excitement, it might be lost that not every awards ceremony is a precursor to the Oscars and might not necessarily alter the results of the Oscars.

Take the SAG Awards. One publication noted that Little Miss Sunshine might win an Oscar because it won the SAG ensemble award, which is the "closest thing the SAGs have to a best picture award." Language like "the closest thing there is to _____" is indicative of how much people are trying to stretch things to fit in with the oscar buzz phenomenon. President Bush's line about how sunny skies lie ahead this year can be said to be the closest thing in his State of the Union address to an endorsement for Little Miss Sunshine for best picture, but so what?

The fact of the matter is that by their very definition, the SAG Awards have no award that serves as a vote for best picture and I wish people would stop treating it as such. A best ensemble award and a best movie award are too entirely different things. I personally was severely disappointed by the film Capote and consider it my least favorite Best Picture Oscar Nominee in years. At the same time, I liked the performances of Catherine Keener, Chris Cooper, and Clifton Collins Jr. enough to feel like it would be a very deserving best ensemble nominee. I would similarly feel that Batman Begins had the best ensemble of the year last year, but by no means, the best picture of the year or anywhere in the top five. Even great individual acting performances don't necessarily translate to a best ensemble award in my opinion. Morgan Freeman and Hillary Swank might have been great in Million Dollar Baby, but can they top the chemistry shared between the quartet of character actors in Sideways?

Any connection between SAG ensemble wins and best picture wins surely must be coincidence and statistically insignificant (scientifically speaking, all Oscar buzz precursors are statistically insignificant since the sample size is 78 at best). Last year, I noticed that in a crowded and somewhat deadlocked field, momentum shifted significantly toward Crash and Capote once they got nominated for SAG awards and once Crash won the SAG, momentum shifted toward Crash for the win. There might even be more dangerous consequences of this if one affects the other. If there's the question of life imitating art vs art imitating life than there could very well be the question of oscar buzz imitating results vs results imitating Oscar buzz. Whether that's the case or not, it would be helpful if pundits would stop making connections that aren't there, like with the SAG awards.

Beware of the film snob

Often, you will come across a critic's top ten film list of the year or some other compilation of one's favorite films and you'll have no idea what many of the films are and this will make you feel like you have the cultural IQ of a baboon for not even having heard of these movies, let alone having seen any of them. This would be especially stinging if you consider yourself to be a film expert. I have a pet theory, in fact, that film critics try to one-up each other with their top ten lists by finding increasingly more obscure movies, and making their colleagues feel like dopes. Take a look at this list, I saw on a messageboard I was recently browsing. This is one person's opinions of how he would arrange the oscars if he could pick the categories:

Best Picture

Amazing Grace
Children Of Men
Half Nelson
Journey From The Fall
The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Lead Actor

Al Pacino - 88 Minutes [what a fantastic performance for such a horrible film]
Alan Rickman - Snow Cake
Cillian Murphy - The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Ioan Gruffudd - Amazing Grace
Ryan Gosling - Half Nelson

Lead Actress

Emma Thompson - Stranger Than Fiction
Helen Mirren - The Queeen
Julie Christie - Away From Her
Laura Linney - Jindabyne
Sigourney Weaver - Snow Cake

Supporting Actor

Albert Finney - Amazing Grace
Brian Blessed - As You Like It
Forest Whitaker - The Last King Of Scotland
Jackie Earle Haley - Little Children
Paul Giametti - Lady In The Water

Supporting Actress

Bryce Dallas Howard - As You Like It
Cate Blanchett - The Good German
Julia Ormond - Inland Empire
Rinko Kikuchi - Babel
Sarah Polley - Away From Her


Alfonso Cuarón - Children Of Men
Han Tran - Journey From The Fall
Ken Loach - The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Michael Apted - Amazing Grace
Ryan Fleck - Half Nelson

Written For Film

Angela Pell - Snow Cake
Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck - Half Nelson
Han Tran - Journey From The Fall
Paul Laverty - The Wind That Shakes The Barley
Steven Knight - Amazing Grace

Previously Released Writing Adapted For Film

P.D. James - Children Of Men
Patrick Süskind - Perfume [Sorry Will!]
Steven Millhauser - The Illusionist
Tom Perrotta - Little Children
William Shakespeare - As You Like It

Cinematography and Art Direction

Children Of Men
Journey From The Fall
Lucky Number Slevin
Perfume [both Oscars]
The Wind That Shakes The Barley


Amazing Grace
As You Like It
The Magic Flute
The Queen


Children Of Men
Half Nelson
The Illusionist
The Painted Veil


Pan's Labyrinth
Pirates Of The Caribbean
The Magic Flute

Foreign Film

Kekexili: Mountain Patrol
The Lives Of Others [Das Leben Der Anderen]


A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash
An Inconvenient Truth
Buddha's Lost Children
G-d Grew Tired of Us: The Story Of Lost Boys Of Sudan
When The Road Bends

OK, go through this list and while there are some you might recognize like Stranger than Fiction, Lucky Number Sliven and The Queen, even someone who prides himself on being well-versed on movies will wonder "huh?" what the heck are "Wind that Shakes the Barley" "Snow Cake" "As You Like It" "Away from Her" "88 Minutes" and "Journey from the Fall"? If Al Pacino was in 88 Minutes, I'm sure I'd have heard of it or something. If Bryce Dallas Howard was in a film other than Lady in the Water this year, wouldn't the press that did articles on her for Lady in the Water have made a mention of that movie?

I don't blame the guy who posted this and I don't feel like he's a big jerk for posting this. Calling him a "film snob" in the title of my post is really as far as I will go in terms of giving him a bad name, and i don't neccessarily mean that in a duragatory way. He surely didn't have bad intentions and wasn't trying to make us feel dumb. Usually when you ask one of these people, "wtf?" they'll usually say that they should make these movies more advertised and release them on a national scale so that they'll be well-known and more people can revel in their joy. I wrote this guy, and I'm guessing that's what his response will be.

But, nevertheless, I think that most of us would will feel like idiots when we read this.

But don't fret. I did some research to look up these movies if they actually existed and were circulating on a scale of national distribution, and here's what I found.
As You Like It-A picture with Bryce Dallas Howard has that name that was originally released in 1999 that grossed $300,000 total in 2 countries: Italy and Greece and doesn't even list a domestic box office

Snow Cake-Was released in 12 theaters nationwide and made $73,000 domestically and $430,000 internationally.

Away From Her's release date is May 4th, 2007, so the person must've seen that in advance?

Amazing Grace's release date is February 23rd, 2007, this coming weekend. Did this person have a time machine or something?

Perfume made 2 million domestically, $119 million internationally. That might be the most commercially widely seen film of any on the list of questionables, but 2 million opening weekend, let alone total, is considered a failure for any film unless it's an independent film like the ones that come from Sundance.

88 Cakes is listed as 2007, so doesn't count by 2006 standards.

Laura Linney's Jindabayne and Journey from the Fall are not even listed on box office mojo, so they must be incredibly obscure

So in summary:

This guy must be from a country outside the United States or you must be from a very small handful of people who are screening these films inside the US. He also must have a time machine on him.

In short, he's not the average filmgoer and while more power to him for seeing all these films, the number of people he can have an intelligent discussion with about them who aren't full-time professional film critics in the United States is probably somewhere around 100. Don't feel stupid for not knowing as much as he does.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Actors and how many best picture nominees they've been in

This was a lot harder than the previous list with best picture nominees, but it was a rather enjoyable way to spend free time. That gives me an indication over what kind of job I should go for if i can do this and it's not considered work.
I had help from two other people on this, so thanks to them, whatever their names are. This isn't a complete list of course, because we can only do one actor at a time. I also really hope there isn't a computer genius out there who figured out how to do this in an easier way. I'd like to hope I'm the only person out there with these statistics and that i've done something revolutionary here.

Some observations:
-What does this list show? I think it shows more than the previous list of actors in 2 or more best picture nominees because the tastes of people who award the best picture vary so much from year to year and dynasties don't regularly play out in terms of best picture winners. Good movies usually do get in the best picture category and the club of nominees ranges from things as diverse as coming-of-age stories in American Graffiti and Breaking Away to action films like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, to musicals (lots and lots of musicals, to .
-Appearing in a lot of good movies and having a lot of great accolades doesn't neccessarily coincide as is the case with Meryl Streep, Humphrey Bogart, or Katherine Hepburn. Good actors and actresses will stand out in extreme cases. Actors can get oscar-nominations for artsy films that wouldn't get the best picture prize but take Lawrence Olivier vs Dustin Hoffman. Dustin Hoffman is an iconic figure in film history because whenever we think of Rain Man, All the President's Men, Tootsie, Midnight Cowboy, or The Graduate, we think of him. His characters have had some of the most memorable scenes and lines in movie history. Lawrence Olivier was possibly the best actor ever, but exactly what do we remember of him? Wuthering Heights? Hamlet? Henry V? No doubt, great films, but the number of high profile films, I think makes a difference, that's all I'm saying.
-Being friends with Frank Capra and John Ford would get you high on the list. Every major work of theirs earned a best picture nomination. To a lesser extent, Eliza Kazan, William Wyler, Fred Zinneman, and Billy Wilder had that same success.
However, an eye for good projects makes a star bankable and you're more likely to have a legacy and be remembered if you're in great pictures. Harrison Ford never earned acting acclaim but until the last couple years where he slowed down in project selection he was one of the most visible and most popular stars in Hollywood, and this list indicates that.
-Way to go Ward Bond! I did this through clicking random names and came across this guy and slowly started working my way up the list and going "this guy might beat Jack Nicholson!" and i counted one after another after another. He was an uncredited actor (his biography said he was friends with John Ford who kept giving him bit parts) but by the time we got into the 40s, he was starting to have speaking roles and he even played Morgan Earp (Wyatt's brother) in My Darling Clementine. So Ward Bond, I salute you, and if your descendants are reading this be sure to contact me to claim your complimentary prize for winning the contest.
-Incredibly useless stat: Shirley MacLaine and Morgan Freeman rank highest on conversion of nominees to best picture winners by going 3 for 4
-Slightly more intersting stat: John Cazale has only appeared in 5 movies and 5 of them are best picture nominees
-Kevin Bacon does pretty well among his contemporaries with this criteria with 4 films. I wonder how much of the Six degrees of Kevin Bacon game can be played on those 4 films alone since they're all ensemble pieces
-John C. Riley with Chicago, The Hours and Gangs of New York in 2002 and Thomas Mitchell with Mr Smith Goes to Washington
-Robert Duvall has 8 films on this list, 7 of which are on AFI's top 100 list (all except Tender Mercies). He holds the distinction of being in the most movies on that list, although To Kill a Mockingbird is more like a cameo than a part.

The grand list:
Ward Bond-12 films-Mister Roberts, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Maltese Falcon, Seargent York, Grapes of Wrath, Gone with the Wind, You Can’t Take it With You, The Informer, Lady for a Day, It Happened One Night, Arrowsmith, The Quiet Man
Jack Nicholson-10 films-As Good as It Gets, The Departed, Reds, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Terms of Endearment, Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, Broadcast News, A Few Good Men, Prizzi’s Honor
Elizabeth Taylor-9 films-Father of the Bride, A Place in the Sun, Quo Vadis (uncredited),
Ivanhoe, Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cleopatra (1963), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Anne of the Thousand Days (uncredited)
Gregory Peck-8 films-Guns of Navaronne, To Kill a Mockingbird, How the West was Won, Roman Holiday, Twelve O'Clock High, Gentlemen's Agreement, Yearling, Spellbound
Dustin Hoffman-8 films-Tootsie, The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy, Finding Neverland, Rain Man, Kramer vs Kramer, All the President’s Men, Lenny
William Holden-At least 8 films-Bridge on the River Kwai, Network, Our Town, Sunset Boulevard, Born Yesterday, Towering Inferno, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, Country Girl
Gary Cooper-8 films-Wings, High Noon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Pride of the Yankees, Mr Deeds Goes to Town, Seargent York, Friendly Persuasion, Farewell to Arms
Robert Duvall-8 films-Tender Mercies, Apocolypse Now, Godfather II, Godfather, The Conversation, Network, To Kill a Mockingbird, MASH
Harrison Ford-8 films-American Graffiti, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Witness, Working Girl, The Fugitive, Conversation, Apocolypse Now
Marlon Brando-7 films-A Streetcar Named Desire, Julius Caesar (1953), On The Waterfront (Winner), Sayonara, Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), The Godfather (Winner), Apocalypse Now
Thomas Mitchell-7 films-High Noon, It’s a Wondeful Life, Our Town, Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, Lost Horizon
Robert De Niro-7 films (Godfather II, Deer Hunter, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Brazil, Goodfellas, Awakening)
Henry Fonda-7 films-On Golden Pond, The Ox-Bow Incident, Grapes of Wrath, How the West Was Won, Jezbezel, 12 Angry Men, Mister Roberts
Katherine Hepburn-6 films-Stage Door, Little Women, Philadelphia Story, On Golden Pond, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Lion in the Winter
Daniel Day-Lewis-6 films-Ghandi, Room with a View, My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, Gangs of New York, There Will be Blood
Jean Arthur-6 films-Mr Deeds Goes to Town, You Can’t Take it With You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Talk of the Town, The More the Merrier, Shane
Al Pacino-6 films-Scent of a Woman, The Insider, Godfather, Godfather II, Dog Day Afternoon , Godfather III
Tom Wilkinson-6 films-In the Name of the Father, Sense and Sensibility, Full Monty, Shakespeare in Love, In the Bedroom, Michael Clayton
Anthony Hopkins-5 films-Lion in the Winter, Elephant Man, Silence of the Lambs, Howard's End, In the Name of the Father
John Cazale-5 films-The Godfather (Winner), The Conversation, The Godfather: Part II (Winner), Dog Day Afternoon, The Deer Hunter (Winner)
Ingrid Bergman-5 films (?)-Bells of St. Mary's, Gaslight, Spellbound, Casablanca, For Whom the Bell Tolls
Willhem Defoe-5 films-Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Mississippi Burning, English Patient, Aviator
Russell Crowe-5 films (in the last 9 years which is pretty damn impressive)-
LA Confidential, Insider, Gladiator, Beautiful Mind, Master and Commander
John C Riley-5 films-Thin Red Line, Aviator, The Hours, Gangs of New York, Chicago
Gene Hackman-5 films-Bonnie and Clyde, French Connection, The Conversation, Reds, Unforgiven
Cate Blanchett-5 films-LOTR I-III, The Aviator, Elizabeth
Tommy Lee Jones-5 Films-Love Story, Coal Miner’s Daughter, JFK, The Fugitive, No Country for Old Men
Tom Cruise-4 films-Born on the 4th of July, Rain Man, Jerry MaGuire, and A Few Good Men
Shirley MacLaine-4 films-Around the World in Eighty Days (Winner), The Apartment (Winner), The Turning Point, Terms of Endearment (Winner)
Richard Dreyffus-4 films-The Graduate, American Graffiti, Jaws, Goodbye Girl,
Faye Dunaway-4 films-Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown, Network, Towering Inferno
Tom Hanks-4 films-Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, Green Mile
Humphrey Bogart-4 Films-Treausre of the Sierra Madre, Caine Mutiny, Casablanca, Maltese Falcon
James Cromwell-4 films-Babe, LA Confidential, Green Mile, The Queen
Morgan Freeman-4 films-Driving Miss Daisy, Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Shawshneck Redemption
Walter Huston-4 films-Treausre of Sierra Madre, Dodsworth, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Maltese Falcon
Ian Holm-4 films-Aviator, Chariots of Fire, 2 LOTRs
Vanessa Redgrave-4 films-Man for All Seasons, Julia, Howard's End, Atonement
Leo DiCaprio-4 films-Aviator, Gangs of New York, Departed, Titanic
Ed Harris-4 films-The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, The Hours
Geoffery Rush-4 films-Shine, Shakespeare in Love, Elizabeth, Munich
Kelly McDonald-4 films-Elizabeth, Godsford Park, Finding Neverland, No Country for Old Men
Claude Rains-4 films-Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, Mr Smith Goes to Down, Kings Row
Kevin Bacon-4 films-JFK, A Few Good Men, Apollo 13, Mystic River
Allison Janey-3 films-American Beauty, The Hours, Juno
Chris Cooper-3 films-American Beauty, Seabiscuit, Capote
Sean Penn-3 films-Dead Man Walking, Mystic River, Thin Red Line
Judi Dench-3 films-A Room with a View, Shakespeare in Love, Chocolat
Maureen O’Hara-3 films-How Green was My Valley, Miracle on 34th Street, Quiet Man
Alec Baldwin-3 films-Working Girl, Aviator, The Departed
George Clooney-3 films-Thin Red Line, Good Night and Good Luck, Michael Clayton
Beth Grant-3 films-Rain Man (as the woman from the farmhouse who let Ray watch Jeapordy), Little Miss Sunshine (as the bitchy beauty paegent organizer), No Country for Old Men (as Kelly McDonald's mom)
John Voight-3 films-Midnight Cowboy, Deliverance, Coming Home
Robin Williams-3 films-Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, Good Will Hunting
Natalie Wood-2 films-Miracle on 34th Street, West Side Story
Daniel Craig-2 films-Elizabeth, Munich
Woody Harrelson-2 films-Thin Red Line, No Country for Old Men
Barry Del Sherman-2 films-American Beauty, There Will be Blood
Sidney Pollack-2 films-Tootsie, Michael Clayton
Brenda Blethyn-2 films-Secrets and Lies, Atonement
JK Simmons-2 films-Cider House Rules, Juno
David Warchofsky-2 films-Born on the Fourth of July, There Will be Blood
Paul Dano-2-Little Miss Sunshine, There Will be Blood
Stephen Root-2-Ghost, No Country for Old Men
If anyone wants to assist in this list, go right ahead

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Top ten films objective by year 01-98

1. A Beautiful Mind, Ron Howard
2. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson
3. In the Bedroom, Todd Fields
4. Godsford Park, Rob Altman
5. Moulan Rouge, Baz Luhrman
6. Black Hawk Down, Ridley Scott
7. Mullholland Drive, David Lynch
8. Momento, Christopher Nolan
9. Amilie, Jean Pierre-Juenet
10. Royal Tannenbaums, Wes Anderson
(Man Who Wasn’t There, Joel and Ethan Coen, Ocean’s 11, Steve Sodebergh)

1. Gladiator, Ridley Scott
2. Traffic, Steve Sodebergh
3. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee
4. Erin Brockovitch, Steve Sodebergh
5. Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe
6. Chocolat, Lasse Holstrom
7. The Contender, Rod Lurie
8. You Can Count on Me, Kenneth Longerean
9. Oh Brother Where Art Thou?, Joel and Ethan Coen
10. Cast Away, Rob Zemenicks
(Wonderboys, 13 Days, Requiem for a Dream, Billy Elliott)

1. American Beauty, Sam Mendes
2. The Insider, Michael Mann
3. Cider House Rules, Lasse Holstrom
4. Sixth Sense, M. Night Shaylaman
5. Green Mile, Frank Dabranot
6. Talented Mr. Ripley, Anthony Minghellia
7. Magnolia, Paul Thomas Anderson
8. Being John Malkovitch, Spike Jonze
9. The Matrix, Andy and Russell Watchowski
10. End of the Affair, Niel Jordan
(Blair Witch Project, Fight Club, Toy Story 2, October Sky, The Straight Story)

Four other lists. I go about as far back as 1998. Beyond that, I'm not really knowledgable about how films were received.

1. Saving Private Ryan, Stephen Spielberg
2. Shakespeare in Love, John Madden
3. Life is Beautiful, Robert Begnini
4. Elizabeth, Shekhar Kapur
5. The Thin Red Line, Terrence Malick
6. The Truman Show, Peter Weir
7. A Simple Plan, Sam Raimi
8. Affliction, Paul Schrader
9. Bullworth, Warren Beatty
10. A Civil Action, Steve Zillian
(Rushmore, Gods and Monsters, Central Station, Pleasantvillle)

Definitive Top 10 films: 2003 and 2004

Again, there are my attempts at what the consensus top ten films were for recent years, not my own personal choices. Factors such as the oscars play a big role, as well as oscar buzz, critics awards, box office, word of mouth, general reviews publications on top ten lists, word of mouth, how they advanced reputations of directors or actors. When i have the chance, i'll expand on these and also expand on the criteria i used

1. Aviator, Martin Scorsesee
2. Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood
3. Sideways, Alexander Payne
4. Finding Neverland, Marc Forrester
5. Ray, Taylor Hackford
6. Hotel Rwanda, Terry George
7. Closer, Mike Nichols
8. Kinsey, Bill Condon
9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michael Gondry
10. Phantom of the Opera, Joel Schumaker
(Vera Drake, The Incredibles, Collateral)

1. LOTR: Return of the King, Peter Jackson
2. Mystic River, Clint Eastwood
3. Cold Mountain, Anthony Minghellia
4. Master andjavascript:void(0)
Save as Draft Commander, Peter Weir
5. Lost in Translation, Sophia Coppolla
6. Seabiscuit, Gary Ross
7. In America, Jim Sheridan
8. Last Samurai, Edward Zwick
9. 21 Grams, Alejandro Irratu Gonzales
10. (tie) House of Sand and Fog, Vladim Perelman; Big Fish, Tim Burton
(Finding Nemo)

Actors in 2 or more best picture oscar winners:

This is a list of actors who have appeared in 2 or more best picture oscar winners.
Things we can learn from this list:
-If you judge actors and actresses by this criteria, it boosts the status of Clark Gable and Dustin Hoffman, the only 2 actors to earn play a leading role in leading three seperate pictures to best picture oscars. Hoffman and Gable each got a best actor nomination in each of those 3 pictures that they led to an oscar which are Rain Man, Kramer vs Kramer and Midnight Cowboy for Hoffman and Mutiny on the Bounty, Gone with the Wind, and It Happened one Night for Gable.
-Gable had less competition, in the sense that in the 1930s, I don't believe many of the stars that we associate with the Golden Age really were up and rolling with their careers. Jimmy Stewart had little outside Frank Capra's pictures, John Wayne wasn't a hit until Stagecoach, and Humphrey Bogart had more hits in the 40's, I believe. I think the same goes for Henry Fonda. Gary Cooper and Clark Gable were the two biggest leading men in the '30s and Gable brought enormous revenue to whatever projects he chose. I think that Gone with the Wind might have done so well, because of Clark Gable
-Morgan Freeman, Dianne Keaton and Meryl Streep get kudos for lead or supporting roles during each of those three pictures
-This list indicates that in the oscars there really aren't any dynasties, as in a certain kind of picture wins year after year. Even if actors might not be as steadfast to a certian type of genre as directors are, you'd think that if for example, gangster films were the ones that won all the time, that Robert De Niro or Al Pacino would win over and over. If you looked at directors, like Frank Capra, who's been honored a LOT of times by the academy with 5 best picture noms and 3 directing oscars (2 best picture winners), or John Ford, who's won 4 oscars (but only one of those was for a best picture winner), you'd find that even their type of genre doesn't win every time it's up. So no one really is ever on a roll, from an actor's perspective in leading a picture to win every time.
-Finally, we can also conclude, that this list doesn't neccessarily mean much. It could be dumb luck that you found yourself in 2 or 3 best picture nominees, especially since Around the World in 80 Days cast a lot of people like Shirley MacLaine and Peter Lorre as extras

How I did this:
It's not that long of a list, nor are there any that I could find who had appeared in over 3 films. It actually was somewhat simple to look this up. I went to the imdb.com's section on best oscar winners and clicked on every one. When that happens the links sort of change color to indicate that it's a link to a film that you've already seen, and then i started clicking on names under the best picture winners and scrolling down to see how many colored links they had. I didn't click on every extra and side player so there might have been someone who have been in 4 films, for all I know

John Gielgud 3 (Around the World in 80 Days, Ben Hur, Chariots of Fire)
Hugh Griffith 3 (Tom Jones, Ben Hur, Oliver)
Ward Bond 3 (Gone with the Wind, It Happened One Night, You Can't Take it With You)
(all as an extra....this guy has actually appeared in 11 oscar nominated films, more than anyone including Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Cooper, and Henry Fonda)
Donald Crisp 2 (Life of Emile Zola, How Green was my Valley)
Clark Gable 3 (Gone with the Wind, It Happened One Night, Mutiny on the Bounty)
Dustin Hoffman-3 (Rain Man, Kramer vs Kramer, Midnight Cowboy)
Meryl Streep-3 (Deer Hunter, Out of Africa, Kramer vs Kramer)
Dianne Keaton-3 (Godfather, Godfather II, Annie Hall)
Morgan Freeman-3 (Unforgiven, Driving Miss Daisy, and Million Dollar Baby)
Shirley MacLaine-3 (Around the World in 80 Days, The Apartment, Terms of Endearment)
Gene Hackman-2 (Unforgiven, French Connection)
Richard Harris-2 (Unforgiven and Gladiator)
George Saunders-2 (All About Eve and Rebecca)
Jack Hawkins-2 (Ben Hur and Bridge ont he River Kwai)
Claude Rains 2 (Lawrnece of Arabia and Casablanvx)
Anthony Quayle 2(Hamlet and Lawrence of Arabia)
Al Pacino 2 (Godfather and Godfather II)
Marlon Brando-2 (On the Waterfront, Godfather)
Peter Lorre-2 (Casablanca, Around the World in 80 Days)
Clint Eastwood-2 (Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby)
Karl Malden 2 (Patton and On the Waterfront)
Rob Duvall 2 (Godfather, Godfather II)
Russell Crowe-2 (Beautiful Mind and Gladiator)
Jack Nicholson 2 (One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and Terms of Endearment)
Lawrence Olivier 2 (Hamlet, Rebecca)
Christopher Walken 2 (Deer Hunter and Annie Hall)
Peter O’Toole 2 (Last Emperor and Lawrence of Arabia)
Gladys Cooper 2 (My Fair Lady and Rebecca)
Rod Steiger 2 (On the Waterfront and In the Heat of the Night)
Cathy O’Donnell 2 (Best Years of Our Lives and Ben Hur)
Leslie Caron 2 (Gigi and American in Paris)
Ernest Borgnine 2 (From Here to Eternity and Marty)
Ian Holm 2 (LOTR: Return of the King and Chariots of Fire)
Nigel Davenport 2 (Chariots of Fire, Man for All Seasons)
Evelyn Keys 2 (Around the World in 80 Days, Gone with the Wind)
Melville Cooper 2 (Around the World in 80 Days, Rebecca)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Top 15 Songs of 2005

1. Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Green Day: Greenday re-
entered the scene this year to remind us that the 90s havent
slipped away just yet. Boulevard, the groups take on
alienation is poignant and telling.
2. Diamonds from Sierra Leone, Kanye West: Kanye West
deserves credit alone for finding such diverse sources for
his material and reintroducing them to new generations. In
this case he uses an underrated James Bond theme, Shirley
Basseys haunting Diamonds are Forever, speeding up the beat
and playing around with the subtext. Is he using the diamonds
theme to call attention to deaths that result from demand for
diamonds or as an excuse to talk about himself? Either way,
its most interesting to try to figure it out.
3. Golddigger, Kanye West: Striking while the fire is
hot (on the movie Ray and the popularity of Ray Charles
period), West uses Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles for another
popular track.
4. Since Youve Been Gone, Kelly Clarkson- In her single
before this, Breakaway, Clarkson was just expressing
wishful thinking. It wasnt until she let loose on the chorus
of this single that Clarkson finally broke away from her
status as a contest winner into a force to be taken seriously.
5. Speed of Sound, Coldplay- Maybe Coldplay is a little
diluted in their career plans to be the best rock stars in
history but they have a certain unique mix of synthesized and
instrumental in their sound that they can make work for them
sometimes. Speed of Sound, has a quasi-futuristic
otherworldly sound to it, made up of synthesizers and a
pulsating beat that’s like nothing else.
6. Lonely No More, Rob Thomas- Through four albums now,
Matchbox 20s front man has kept producing good songs from
his passive-aggressive rock. His voice matches his
songwriting incredibly well and he has a great sense of
placing his words in the right places. Lonely No More opens
with a memorable riff that Thomas sings himself between
7. Incomplete, Backstreet Boys: Was the boy band and the
endless NSync vs Backstreet Boys debate just a phase? Well,
the Backstreet Boys are back to convince us that theyve
matured and grown, and despite bad timing (we forgot about
them 2 or 3 years ago), they come through pretty well with
this single.
8. Feeling Good, Michael Buble: This severely underage
crooners quest to bring jazz standards back into the main
stream is a noble one and he did much more for his cause by
writing his own songs on his latest album. The beauty
of Feeling Goodis that it doesnt sound like an obvious
effort to write a song, it sounds like something written for
a James Bond movie 30 years ago.
9. Landed, Ben Folds Five: One of Ben Folds more colorful and
complete songs with an octave-jumping chorus that gets you
10. Blue, Sheryl Crow and Zuchero: Crowe, who is unfairly labeled
as county, has a voice that can evidently match opera
singers. She sings beautifully on a duet, thats a grandiose
orchestral work that has a way of sounding like a Sheryl Crow
11. Mr. Brightside, The Killers: The Killers have an edgy
intensity just this side of mainstream. Its a close call
over whether this or 2004 Somebody Told Me are more
memorable, but both have a lot of firepower. Their video is
also one of the few thats worth watching.
12. Holiday, Greenday-Adolescent California fun that makes us
want to join in. Its catchy if nothing else.
13. Dreamgirl, Dave Matthews Band: Back with his band,
Matthews produced a song that in my opinion was anything
better than he did in his last album in which he went solo.
The spiritual chant at the beginning of the track didnt
really do much for me, but no complaints once the bass, sax
and guitar kicking in. Also, this was Julia Roberts last
acting gig before going into retirement (Im not COMPLETELY
sure thats true, I just read it somewhere and also Julia
Roberts is like 30 or 40-something and she seems really
flaky, shell probably change her mind somewhere along the
14. Best I Ever Had, Gary Allain-In an effort to include all
kinds of music and since this is one of the few country songs
Ive heard, and also because I like Vertical Horizon which
originally wrote this song a few years ago, Ill throw this
in here. This version sounds a lot better than the original,
which is strange because, again, I dont really like country
music too much.
15. Let Me Go, Three Doors Down-On the one hand, Three Doors
Down is awfully generic for southern rock, but on the other
hand with their virtuosic rhythmic guitar and their insertion
of intensity in the right places, they might be the best
example of it. I dont recommend buying their album, their
songs sound a lot alike, but they make a good song now and
then, this being one of them.

Honorable Mentions:
True, Ryan Cabrera-Only because maybe if we throw our weight
behind Ryan Cabrera, maybe Jesse McCartney will go away.
When September Ends, Greenday-Another good Greenday song that
also seems like something I can relate to
I Aint as Good as I Once Was, Toby Kieth-OK, Ive heard
about 2 country songs this year
Photograph, Nickelback-I imagine a lot of people must have
really liked it if it was played every five minutes on the
Sunday Morning, Maroon 5-I put Maroon 5 all over last years
list, so I thought Id mix it up, this is a great new song, a
more upbeat tone than Harder to Breathe and This Love and not
as emotionally straining as She Will Be Loved
Goodbye is All We Have-Allison Krauss & Union Station-A great
bluegrass/folk number
Be Without You, Mary J Blige-Although, I might be thinking of
another one, not really into hip-hop/rap either, but like I
said, trying to be inclusive of everyone.

The indiscriminate nature of the gun and Departed

I spent a third of a semester in my film genres class on Westerns, and one of the first ones our class saw was High Noon. My class had an interesting reaction to that film. There general sentiment was: "This was totally lame. Why did Gary Cooper have to go out into the street? Why didn't he just climb on a rooftop and shoot them from above like a sniper?" Our film professor who had noted at the start of the semester that he had seen easily over 100 Westerns, was somewhat baffled at this assertion. He had trouble explaining it but he just said, "That just wouldn't happen in a Western." It's not what a Western hero does. And that's what we call a film convention. Something we're used to seeing in a certain genre to the point where audiences expect it and filmmakers use it as a language.

I was watching a program of the history channel this afternoon on sharpshooters of the Old West and most historians, apparently, would've sided with my class. Historians said that there might have only been one or two shootouts in the history of the West that happened like High Noon. Most of the time, people shot each other in the back or in their sleep, which would have sent my old film professor into shock that there was little sense of an honorable way to shoot someone back then. The quickest and most efficient way to lodge a bullet into your enemy's head seemed to be the route that was more often taken. It was the pulp fiction novelists who started this tradition of the pulp fiction hero and sold that image back to the folks back East, so that convention has started for longer than Westerns.

Later in the semester, we saw Sam "Bloody Sam" Peckinpaugh's The Wild Bunch which was considered to be later in the evolution of the genre. The film was just as compelling a story as Stagecoach or High Noon, but it was also very bloody and gory. One of the students delivering a report on the film said that one of the themes of the movie was "The indiscriminate nature of the gun." He noted that the film stressed the myth that a bullet would never hit a woman or a child when someone fired it. And it's true: Guns do tend to defy the laws of physics by discriminating against their target. It seems that whenever a sharpshooter aims at James Bond, he has a rare miss. There are whole armies firing at James Bond and he runs fast and manages to emerge unscathed but logically, one of those bullets will hit the guy. The message from these movies is that a true hero won't get shot and that's potentially dangerous to a world.

As the genre has evolved, it seems like film directors like Clint Eastwood, Sam Peckinpaugh, and Martin Scorsesee in the urban crime genre have dutifully attacked the myth and that's where their brilliance comes from. Eastwood's Unforgiven is self-referencing as he inserts a pulp writer (played by Saul Rubineck) directly into his movie of the exact same kind that romanticized the West and those conventions in the first place and through his eyes, we see myths being made in the process.

Scorsesee really has built a reputation for attacking the romanticism of violence head-on. In Goodfellas, he starts out showing the romanticism of the mob life but slowly disintegrates it throughout the film. In The Departed, however, he really targets that convention about the "indiscriminate nature of the gun" I was thinking of.
*Spoiler warning*

You go through the movie thinking that Jack Nicholson is one of those invincible larger-than-life heroes who partially because he has been alive so long and partially because of those conventions you think that no matter how many bullets go whizzing by in a shootout, he will emerge unscathed. But, no, just like that, in the most anticlimatic way, he is shot by Matt Damon in something that isn't thought out particularly well. You get the feeling that if Matt Damon were thinking through his actions, he wouldn't have shot the guy who he'd been devoting all his time to risking his career to protect. But that's just the point: to shoot a gun, you don't have to think about it very long. All you have to do is just apply one inch of pressure and in a quarter of a second, massive consequences can happen.

The same thing happens to Leonardo DiCaprio. Because he's the hero and we're conditioned to believe, he'll get his happy ending, we're absolutely in shock because it all happens so quickly. But that's really how guns work.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Reviews of bad films

One perk of being a film critic is that every movie you see is a good experience. Either you like the movie which is good, or if you don't like the movie you get to write a review tearing the movie into pieces which is particularly fun. Here are some movies, I didn't like much:

A View from the Top: (2003)
Gwenyth Paltrow plays a girl determined to rise above her small-town roots and, with the inspiration of a TV infomercial, become a stewardess. The story about this girl's search for happiness is moderately inspiring and when she finds it in the end, I'm touched. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble being forgiving for everything in the middle. I'm not sure whether it's a comedy or a drama but it doesn't really succeed at either. The movie has a grand total of maybe three minutes of humor in it. I'm not saying the movie tried to be funny and only succeeded a little. It clearly chose to infuse only a small scattering of jokes and to rely more on the touching story instead. Sadly, the casting director and the score writer were not informed of the game plan as comic genius Mike Meyers was cast and, unfortunately, underused and the score sounds like an episode of Malcolm in the Middle. As for the drama, it's really not compelling at all, possibly due to the lack of chemistry between pretty much anyone.

Down with Love: (2002)
I don't know whether Director David Reed was a fan of those Doris Day/Rock Hudson romantic comedies that this is supposedly a tribute to, because he seems to be simultaneously trying to glorify and mock them. We are treated to a background of those neat bright colors from the 60s and the leads, Rene Zellweger and Ewan MaGregor, embrace their parts to the point where it's easy to join in on the fun. On the other hand, everyone here feels more like a caricature of the era than a real person. The sexual undertones are grossly exxagerated and the characters possess seemingly infinite smartness (when Zellweger's character makes a confession at the movie's climax, you'll know what I'm talking about). The point, however, is that Down with Love acts is of something was wrong with the 60s, and contrary to what history tells us, people back then were not thinking, 'this aversion to sex is ridiculous, if only this film had more direct references to sex, I really would enjoy this film.'

Hot Shots Part Duex (1992)
Due to an evident lack of standards in what he'll accept a paycheck for, Charlie Sheen returns in a sequel to the Top Gun as his character goes on a top secret mission to rescue hostages of Iraq, in what is possibly supposed to be a political send-up of the Iran Hostage Scandal and the Gulf War. The movie doesn't really ever decide what it's spoofing and doesn't think it needs to, although a central theme is the testosterone-heavy hero movies of the 80s as it takes cues from Rambo, the films of Jean Claude Van Damme, and violent comedy video games. The film also plays on everything from Goldfinger, to American Gladiator, to President Bush's famous vomiting episode.The tempo of the comedy is very rapid and very random with jokes being thrown from all directions. At best, this film can pass as a guilty pleasure, as you could take in the jokes that hit and discard the ones that miss.

Jonny English (2003):
I hate to say it but this movie would have been easier to enjoy if we hadn't been recently flooded with James Bond spoofs in the form of the Austin Powers trilogy. Still, Jonny English becomes pretty unique within the bumbling spy genre when it doesn't try to mock everything in sight and insert as much bathroom humor as they can fit into every minute. Rowan Atkinson plays the title character, a third-rate spy who comes to power when everyone else is killed in an explosion he accidentally caused, Ben Miller plays cinematic history's most overqualified sidekick, Natalie Imburgia exhibits a playful sense of humor as the steaming love interest, and John Malkovitch's performance as the villain is choked up in an annoyingly thick French accent. The humor, revolving around English's stupidity, gets to be repetitive and the film makes the mistake of caring too much about a plot not worth caring about.

If you had to bet money on the 6th nominee....

If you had to bet money on what the 6th nominee was of each Oscar race over the last few years, who would you chose. My picks below:

6th Nominees:


Picture: Dreamgirls

Director: Bill Condon, Dreamgirls

Actor: Sasha Baron Cohen, Borat

Actress: Maggie Gyllenhall, Sherrybaby

S. Actor: Brad Pitt, Babel

S. Actress: Emily Blunt, Devil Wears Prada

O. Screenplay: Zach Helm, Stranger than Fiction

A. Screenplay: Paul Haggis & William Broyles Jr, Flags of Our Fathers


Picture: Walk the Line

Director: Fernando Meirelles, Constant Gardener

Actor: Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man

Actress: Zhang Zhiyi, Memoirs of a Giesha

S. Actor: Don Cheadle, Crash

S. Actress: Scarlett Johannson, Match Point

O. Screenplay: Thomas Bezucha, The Family Stone

A. Screenplay: Deborah Moggach, Pride and Prejudice


Picture: Hotel Rwanda

Director: Marc Forrester, Finding Neverland

Actor: Liam Niesson, Kinsey

Actress: Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. 2

S. Actor: Peter Sargasaard, Kinsey

S. Actress: Meryl Streep, Manchurian Candidate

O. Screenplay: Taylor Hackford & James L. White, Ray

A. Screenplay: Patrick Marber, Closer


Picture: Cold Mountain

Director: Anthony Minghellia, Cold Mountain

Actor: Russell Crowe, Master and Commander

Actress: Jennifer Connelly, House of Sand and Fog

S. Actor: Albert Finney, Big Fish

S. Actress: Scarlett Johannson, Lost in Translation

O. Screenplay: John Logan, The Last Samurai

A. Screenplay: Patrick O’Brien & Peter Weir, Master and Commander


Picture: Far From Heaven

Director: Alexander Payne, About Schmidt

Actor: Richard Gere, Chicago

Actress: Maggie Gyllenhall, The Seceretary

Supp. Actor: Dennis Quaid, Far From Heaven

Supp. Actress: Edie Falco, Sunshine State

O. Screenplay: David Benioff, 25th Hour

A. Screenplay: Chris Hampton and Robert Schenkman, The Quiet American


Picture: Black Hawk Down

Director: Todd Fields, In the Bedroom

Actor: Gene Hackman, Royal Tannenbaums

Actress: Naiomi Watts, Mullholland Drive

Supp. Actor: Jude Law, A.I.

Supp. Actress: Gwenyth Paltrow, Royal Tannenbaums

O. Screenplay: David Lynch, Mullholland Drive

A. Screenplay. Ken Nolan, Black Hawk Down


Picture: Almost Famous

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen, Oh Brother Where Art Thou

Actor: Michael Douglas, Wonderboys

Actress: Michelle Yeoh, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Supp. Actor: Gary Oldman, The Contender

Supp. Actress: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Traffic

O. Screenplay: Rod Lurie, The Contender

A. Screenplay: David Self, 13 Days


Picture: Talented Mr. Ripley

Director: Anthony Minghellia, Talented Mr. Ripley

Actor: Matt Damon, Talented Mr. Ripley

Actress: Reese Whitherspoon, Election

Supp. Actor: Al Pacino, The Insider

Supp. Actress: Cameron Diaz, Being John Malkovitch

O. Screenplay: Woody Allen, Sweet and Lowdown

A. Screenplay: John Roach and Mark Sweeney, The Straight Story

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Definitive Top Ten List of 2002

This is again, taking a set of criteria and applying it to a certain year. Here's my take on 2002, discuss amongst yourselves


  1. Chicago, Rob Marshall

-Won best picture

-Actors, directors considered locks and got a screenplay nom

-Won art direction awards

-Considered more successful mainstream improvement to Chicago

  1. Pianist, Roman Polanski

-Won screenplay, actor and director awards despite Polanski’s PR problems

-Untouchable for critics to knock

-Won New York film critics award

  1. Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsesee

-Hailed by Ebert as #1

-Had most nominations

-Had some supporters who felt it was Scorsesee’s return to form

-Oscar buzz for Sorsesee as best director

  1. The Hours, Tom Daldry

-Won drama award but considered just a little bit too oscar-buzzy

-Won actress award and had 3 solid performances all oscar worthy

-Adaptation nomination

-NBR Review award

  1. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Peter Jackson

-Nominated for best picture

  1. Far From Heaven, Todd Haynes

-EW Predicted it in final 5

-Won snub poll of 6th contender

-Named as #1 movie of the year by Lisa Schwarzbum

-Many top 10 accolades

-Positioned Julianne Moore for a win and best screenplay award for a win

  1. About Schmidt, Alexander Payne

-Alexander Payne’s best performance of Nicholson which got him an academy award

-Runner-Up in NYC Film Critic Awards

  1. Road to Perdition, Sam Mendes

-Received with great buzz and hailed by Washington Post’s Tom Shales as a must-see even if it didn’t live up to expections

-Buzz for against-type Tom Hanks role with Jude Law and Daniel Craig and Paul Newman in great supporting roles

-Big Production feel with cinematography and art direction awards going towards a lock

-One of approximately 7 or 8 films on the imdb 250 from the year

  1. Adaptation, Spike Jonze

-Worthy followup to John Makovitch by Jonze/Kaufman team that was even more mainstream in some cases

-Nominations abound for acting parts

-Screenplau contender

  1. Catch Me If You Can, Stephen Spielberg

-Held its own against many of the great December releases during Oscar season

-Considered for golden globe nominations for Spielberg and generated oscar buzz

-Box office success