Saturday, January 31, 2009

Rachel Getting Married

I thought this one was on DVD but when my friend wanted to see a film today, I was surprised to see this one was still playing in theaters, nonetheless, i saw it with high hopes but was let down in the end.

Rachel Getting Married is a mellow character drama that's a cross between "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff" and those character dramedies, Lost in Translation, Sideways, Savages and Little Miss Sunshine, that have been popping up at the Oscars the last few years. Three of those four got nominated for a best picture Oscar. Perhaps, Johnothan Demme was trying to be equally as ambitious?

Rachel Getting Married is about a girl, Kim, who returns from rehab to attend her sister's wedding and reunites with her dysfunctional family. I only use the word dysfunctional because i don't even know if the english language has any words that are stronger. Kim's older sister, Rachel has a PhD in psychology so she, Rachel, is constantly analyzing her younger sister's failures and is incredibly cold despite Kim's valiant efforts. The film is constantly switching its protagonist and its villain. At times, Kim is doing something reprehensible only to turn it around on us and make the audience view her as a victim, and the audience loathes Rachel instead. The film plays out over the course of one weekend, and we are treated to the somber and bittersweet moments of two people uniting in holy matrimony with a series of endless arguments and shame cycles between a family.

Audiences might be under the impression that Rachel Getting Married is a comedy because it's shot in the style of an indie film with quirky music, so we're cued to expect soemthing akin to Juno or The Savages. Looking at the film through that lens will easily lead to disappointment. The tone of the film, hand-held camera and akward lighting, is designed to be voyeuristic, in my opinion. We're peering through intimate moments between a family that we're not supposed to be seeing. The movie is definitely interesting and holds your attention in that way.

The problem with the movie is that it ultimately goes nowhere and ends up in a deeply unsatisfying loop. The characters have some intimate moments with each other. At one point, Kim gets hurt and Rachel comforts her and shows her humanity for a moment. This build-up is easily forgotten, however, among all the arguments that don't seem to combine together into as much of a story arc as I would have hoped.

One could argue that, it's lifelike, and the film very much feels relatable in that sense, but I think that this particular narrative deserved an ending. If we're going to watch two hours of a family arguing, I'd like to see it lead somewhere. Also, they should have edited more out.

Recommended films from this article:
-Who's Afriad of Virginia Wolff-A drama with Elizabeth Taylor, George Segal, Sandy Dennis, and Richard Burton that puts the "fun" in dysfunction.

The oscar-winning dramedies. All 4 of these films won Oscar for best screenplay:
Little Miss Sunshine
Lost in Translation

Not recommended (it moves a little too slowly) but if you want you can watch it anyway:
The Savages

Friday, January 30, 2009

An attempted top 10 from veteran movie assistant (to the) director Nick Lazo

My friend Nick Lazo was a fellow student at JMU's film studies program who had interned at Mirage Productions (his grandmother was friends with late producer/director/writer Sidney Pollack, see last post) and has taken film courses at the prestigious USC school of film. Last I heard, Nick had worked as an assistant (to the) director of the marginally unsuccessful film "Never Back Down" (you notice he didn't put that on his list as best films of 2008). I asked Nick to share his top 10 list, while I catch up on a couple more films to formulate mine:

Speaking of people named Nick, I had the recent idea to interview distinguished journalist and broadcaster Nick Clooney. You might know him as the uncle of Crossing Jordan/Twin Peaks actor Miguel Ferrer or the father of George Clooney, but he is also the author of a number of books, one of which "The Movies that Changed Us" is one of the better books I've read about film. He is the scholar-of-residence this year at American University and is teaching a class entirely based around his book. I talked to his media contact and in my pitch, I mentioned this blog, so I imagine
he will be reading this entry at some point and judging it's quality on whether Nick's entry will be good enough, so here goes:

Nick's introduction:
I have never blogged before. I feel like that’s an important fact to disclose. I’m sure there are a great many insightful writers and political scientists and experts on the migration patterns of the Mandarin Duck that have an enormous wealth of knowledge they simply must blog about, and good for them. Their voices (probably) deserve to be heard. Mine, on the other hand… I don’t know. Decide for yourself.
2008 was a pretty good year for the movies. I enjoy going to the cinema, sitting in a sold-out crowd, greedily wolfing down handfuls of popcorn before the previews even start. It’s an experience, and one that I enjoy as frequently as possible. I saw a lot of really good stuff this year, and my friend Orrin asked if I’d share some of my opinions with you. I’m not sure if I’ll make it to 10 films, but we’ll see how it goes.
So let’s begin, shall we! Here they are, in no particular order: Nick Lazo’s Top 10 Movies of 2008! (If you’re expecting deep critical prose, please skip to the end.)
1) MILK.
This one won me over with the trailer. Huge font, a powerful operatic score, and an elegant one-word title. I thought the acting was first-rate (James Franco is one of my favorites; did everyone see Freaks and Geeks?), and the fact that the production moved into the Castro in San Francisco like they did… Well, authenticity paid off in a big way. I’m only sorry the movie didn’t come out sooner, as it may have helped California’s failed “No on 8!” campaign. Bummer City.

I want to travel to India. This deep-seated desire of mine may have skewed my viewing of Danny Boyle’s intricate tale of love and luck, but that’s fine by me. This is the only movie on the list I didn’t see in a theater (it was watched in two parts from my best friend’s couch: Part 1 – before Subway sandwich; Part 2 – after Subway sandwich). I don’t regret this choice (especially when considering the intermission), but I’d pay to watch this again.

I don’t really mind that this wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. That’s fine by me. I got my mind stimulated and still had the popcorn. Not too much else I need to say here.

I love Ron Howard. I saw him once in a Digital Intermediate facility. He ordered a carrot juice from Cynthia, the wonderful woman in charge of the kitchen. Seemed like a nice guy. Oh, and I really enjoy a good political piece, even when I know the ending (see All the President’s Men if you haven’t already).

Awesome, with a capital “A.” I recently got a look at the Blu-Ray disc, and after five hours of bonus features I’d only scratched the surface of what Iron Man has to offer its fanatics. Great movie.

“What the fuck have you done lately?”

I love to learn, and learning while I watch a movie is wonderful. Man on a Wire teaches its audience about passion, about drive, and about the intrinsic need some of us have to do something the majority will find inconceivable. It’s about risks, and the fantastic results of taking them.
So there you have it, Nick Lazo’s Top 10....errr....7 Movies of 2008. I hope you had as much fun reading as I did writing. Maybe I could get into this blog thing after all. And for those of you looking for deep critical prose, apologies for wasting your time.

Since Nick didn't complete his contractually obligated 10 films of the year, I get to chose for him.
8. The Love Guru-It might have won Razzies for worst film ever, but Nick felt it was Oscar-worthy.
9. 27 Dresses-It won chick flick of the year at the teen choice awards, but Nick loved it anyway
10. Pineapple Express-Nick said he loved James Franco and Freaks and Geeks, seems like a logical place to go

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The funnest thing I've ever seen by Dennis Leary

I've always wanted stars to be THIS HONEST. Unfortunately, studio PR people prevent stars from being anything but positive about their projects. If not millions of dollars could be lost, even on DVD residuals.

Also, a note to my subscribers, I'm going to mix my fanbase up by introducing the blog to new people and since the blogger settings only let me put 10 email addresses max, i'm going to put in some new email adresses and introduce new people to my blog. so you won't be gettingmy emails, but i'll still keep writing stuff, so check it out here.

Since this post, consists of links only, let me through in some more of my articles frm
Do I agree with the AFI top ten movie list of all time?

Hollywood and Homosexuality: Keeping homosexuality under raps:

Best track and field athletes in history (I'm a track and field junkee):

Internet Piracy is wrong but it feels so right:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Not one but 3 dead people are getting a shot at the Oscars!

There are 14,000 directors who are registered with the Directors Guild of America and only 30 living people among them have won the most prestigious award in directing: A best director oscar. Two of those 30 people died last year and despite the fact that one started his directing career in the 60's and one started his in his 90's, the two were good friends and professional partners. Anthony Minghellia and Sidney Pollack co-owned Mirage Productions in addition to their directing careers and produced films such as Michael Clayton and more recently, The Reader together. The Reader, a courtroom drama/holocaust film/story about a passionate love affair (it has Ralph Fiennes in it and all Ralph does is movies that involve passionate love affairs. This is Ralph's second film this year in which he plays someone involved in some sort of unholy and sinful romantic relationship for those keeping score), was somewhat of a surprise to be nominated for best picture (if but the great thing about it, is that the academy just decided to stretch the rules a little to allow both Sidney Pollack and Anthony Minghellia to get the nominations for best picture, so Heath Ledger isn't the only dead guy to be competing. Last year Sidney Pollack got nominated for Michael Clayton, but Minghellia being the junior partner got left out of the festivities.

A quick background on who these guys are:
Sidney Pollack is a director, producer, and pretty well-known as an actor as well. You might know him as Will's dad from "Will and Grace" or his role in the film Michael Clayton as Michael Clayton's boss/friend/confidant. He also starred in a great PSA that played before movies in 2007 where he harrassed a guy on a cell phone and said, "I'm sorry, is my directing interrupting you?" Pollack's most famous films included Tootsie, Out of Africa and They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (which imdb describes as a film about a deadly dance marathon). His best films were thrillers such as 3 Days in the Condor, Absence of Malice and most recently, The Interpreter. He was also well-liked and his funeral was attended by pretty much everyone in Hollywood, from what I read. His most frequently used actor was Robert Redford who wrote a tribute to him that I couldn't find with a quick google search unfortunately.

Anthony Minghellia is much different in style and background. Whereas Pollack started out as an actor before transitioning to dialogue coach and then director, Minghellia was a writer and was voted most promising playwright in the London theater. With his string of films English Patient, Talented Mr. Ripley, and Cold Mountain, he turned three best-selling award-winning novels and translated them into Oscar-contenders. It's true that a lot of Oscar winning films are adapted from books, but it's considerably harder to acheive this feat when the book is highly popular (i.e. Da Vinci Code) because everyone is always comparing it to the book. Cold Mountain was my favorite film of its year and because the director that beat him out for his 4th nomination, Fernando Meirelles, was ineligible (City of God was a 2002 film), it's good to see Minghellia finally get nomination #4. Pollack was in his 70's but because Minghellia was only 53 and had such a good track record of quality in his films, one has to wonder what movies he would have made or produced if he would have lived longer. Minghellia's favorite actor to work with was Jude Law who wrote a tribute to him here:

Recommended films:
They Shoot Horses, Don't They
The Slender Thread
The Firm
Out of Africa
The Way We Were
Jeremiah Johnson
Three Days in the Condor
The Interpreter
Anthony Minghellia:
Truly Madly Deeply
Breaking and Entering
The English Patient
Talented Mr. Ripley
Cold Mountain
Breaking and Entering
Arrested Development

Monday, January 26, 2009

Frost/Nixon Review

Frost/Nixon is one of the five movies this year that got nominated for best picture which means that comic book geeks and Pixar fans (I wouldn't call a Pixar fan a geek) hate it, regardless of whether they've seen it or not, because it was one of the five films that was nominated for best picture over the Dark Knight and Wall-E. Well, I've seen Wall-E and loved it and I've seen Dark Knight and can see an argument that it transcends the comic book genre and deserves recognition (although that's been happening for years now), but at the same time, neither of these films are as innovative as Frost/Nixon. Yes, it's true that Frost/Nixon is just a period piece and there have been a million of those honored by the academy whereas there have been very few action films honored by the academy and zero comic book adaptations, but just as the comic book geeks claim that the Academy has a bias towards period pieces, is it possible that the comic book geeks have a bias against period pieces?

Either way, Frost/Nixon is quite a film and stands alongside Gran Torino and Slumdog Millionaire as the three masterpieces I've seen this year. It stands alongside the most insightful of political films and even stands alongside Rudi, Rocky, and the greatest of sports films even though it isn't about a sport in the athletic sense. Like a great sports film, it is about the intensity of competition against a worthy adversary, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat and the price of the risk for entering into the arena (sorry if that last sentence sounded like Bob Costas at commentating about the Olympics).

The arena of competition in this case is public perception as an ex-president and a b-level talk show host are trying to earn critical respectability by making themselves look good throughout the interviews at the expense of the opponent. The way we are glued to our tv screens during the three presidential debates adds merit to the film's theme that public perception is everything. Is Frost/Nixon commenting on whether this our democracy is imperfect, or simply unapologetically stating that politics is a zero-sum game. Nixon calls Frost up on the phone at one point and says something like, "me and you are very much alike, we both want respect, we both are going to take this next interview and get that respect," and Frost responds back "I completely agree, but only one of us can win." It's one of those aha moments, because it's the unstated truth that neither of the two men who have been cordial to each other have acknowledged up to this point.

In one sense, the film is a commentary on the evils of capitalism and that resonates in this time when there are less jobs to go around and we have to compete against our friends and enemies alike for the few jobs that are out there. Both the men are putting on smiles for each other but they both desperately need to sway political opinion in their favor for capitalistic purposes: David Frost is trying to become respected as a journalist and earn bigger endorsement deals and Richard Nixon is trying to elevate his speaking fees as well as earn himself a place back among the Washington elite.

Under the surface, however, there's the suggestion that Nixon (and Frank Langella's characterization leads to this) was just a needy child who just wanted respect. But at the same time, David Frost is a person who needs that level of respect from his peers. Why? I think this was because of the way he responded to being bullied from the drunk phone call. If he didn't have some kind of inferiority complex he wouldn't have pulled an all-nighter to nail his opponent the next day. Again, the two men are mirror images of each other, and in the last line, one (I won't tell you who) suggests to the other that maybe they should have had each other's careers. So there's that duality theme that the Batman series has.

Lastly, I think the film is also a backwards version of that great political story where the outsider comes from nowhere to be the President of the U.S. and lead the country to greatness. Barack Obama had that angle when he was campaigning but many presidents campaign that way. Frost/Nixon is the exact opposite, and I thought that was interesting. Frost/Nixon is the story of a guy who's an outsider whose dream of saving democracy and leading the U.S. forward isn't to become president but to take down an illegitimate US President, which is harder to do, don't you think?

Anyway, an absolutely great picture. I saw this film about 6 weeks after it came out, so I'm sure that those who wanted to see it have already seen it, but it deserves whatever nominations it has, I'll say that.

The SAG awards

I've written about this before but most people know that there are the Oscars and the Golden Globes and I'm guessing some people knew that there was an awards ceremony in between called the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

It was on last night on TNT and offers the opportunity for all the actors to vote on their favorite performances of the year. The vast majority of the time, the people they vote for are the same people that win the Oscars, considering that a smaller body of the Screen Actors Guild are the ones who vote for the Oscars. In other words, this is a somewhat excessive ceremony and there's little reason to televise it or watch it. I watched it for about 10 minutes last night and then realized that it would probably ruin the Oscars for me if I watched this too because over the course of the Oscars, the winners act genuinely surprised and give some impromptu speech, when the screen actors guild award shows might show them giving the same speech (although I suppose to mix it up, an actor could thank completely different people in the SAGs or better yet, thank some of the lesser people who don't necessecarily deserve their names heard on national television, but perhaps, cable television).

Speaking of which, there are likely so many times that an Oscar winner wins something that they really are being patronizing if they act surprised. In last year's race, Tilda Swinton might have had reason to doubt that she was going to win best supporting actress, but on the other hand, Daniel Day-Lewis, lead actor for There Will be Blood, won the BAFTA, the Broadcast Film Critics Award, the Central Ohio Film Critics Association, the Chicago Film Critics Award, and I haven't even gotten to the D's yet. By the time, the Oscars roll around, he's already recited his thank you speech at least a dozen times, I'm sure, so where's the suspense?

Anyway, the SAG's have one award which I kind of like to see because it's entirely unique (at least in respect to the other awards ceremony): Best film ensemble which measures not just the work of one actor but how will the whole cast does. Lately, however, the best ensemble award just goes to best picture, which is a shame because it's a unique award that should honor the work of a group of actors.

Last night they selected Slumdog Millionaire. I think Slumdog Millionaire is the best film of the year and I thought Milk was somewhat boring at times, but Milk was far more deserving of a best ensemble prize. If not Milk, Doubt, which earned 4 different acting nominations this year, would have been a worthy prize.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Increasingly Vague Distinction between Hollywood and Foreign films

It's funny that no one is even noticing that if the Oscars follow the Golden Globes, Slumdog Millionaire will be the closest we've come to a foreign film winning the best picture Oscar.

Slumdog Millionaire was filmed entirely in India, directed by a British director (and co-directed by an Indian director), and is half-English, half-Urdu. It also utilized an entirely foreign crew and its subjects are foreign. The only non-foreign element at play is that it was produced by an American company, Fox Searchlight.

We've traditionally had easier defined boundaries between a foreign film and a non-foreign film, but in this globalized era, ownership of a movie by a single country is a little harder to define. The best directors in the world such as Brazilian Fernando Meirelles (City of God), Chinese director Ang Lee, and Mexicans Alfonso Cuaron (Y tu Mama Tambien), Rob Rodriguez (El Mariachi), and Alejandro Inarritu Gonzalu (Amores Perros) have eventually used their money to come to Hollywood and made English-language films with American actors. When Alejandro Inarritu Gonzalu won the Golden Globe for best picture with Babel, he suggested in his acceptance speech that his film was a true global picture that belonged to the people and crews among three different continents.

Experimentation works both ways however. In 2006 (2007 was technically when the ceremony was held), two of the five directors nominated for best foreign-language film, Mel Gibson for Apocolypto and Clint Eastwood for Letters of Iwo Jima, were American. Woody Allen who has had a decades-long love affair with New York, packed up shop and moved to London recently for the filming of Match Point.

The spread of filmmakers and film making ideas across borders, however, has been going on forever. And the American film industry would never have eclipsed the emerging film industries in France, Italy, and Russia if it weren't for the contributions of foreigners. In other words, this has been going on forever. Most of the great American directors from our Hollywood Golden age have come from other countries, Billy Wilder came from Austria, Otto Preminger and Ernst Lubitsch came from Germany, and Frank Capra came from Italy. This was all the more ironic considering that Frank Capra's film exemplified the ideals of Americana better than any other filmmaker to this day. He made the quintessential film about how good triumphs over evil if our constitution is enforced in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." With the exception of Frank Capra, however, these directors were Jews who were persecuted in Nazi Europe so were exiled to America. Directors who weren't forced out of their homeland tended to stay in their own countries and made films in their own languages. Even our two biggest directors of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchkock were influenced by the German film industry. Alfred Hitchkock interned (yeah, like college internship) with the German film industry before working in the British film industry, and Orson Welles used a German cinematographer, Greg Tolland (Tolland worked with another of other American directors as well).

More recently, Czech director Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, The People vs Larry Flint, Man on the Moon) one two Oscars and because he had made some films in Czech, he technically was the first non-English language director to win an Oscar. At the same time, most of his filmography (or at least the films he's famous for are American) is American. In 1987, "The Last Emperor" won best picture and might be considered the first foreign film. The film, about the exiled Emperor of China, utilized Japanese and Mandarin in its dialogue in addition to English and was filmed in China. It was was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, an Italian director who had made his name in Italian-language films and earned him a best director nomination. The film was bankrolled by a British studio.

It's important to clarify here that British films aren't really considered foreign films. It's not just because of the similar language but because the flow of actors between both countries are pretty interchangeable. British directors David Lean and Oliver Reed have won Oscars for their entirely British films and many found it somewhat curious that the American film institute listed Lawrence of Arabia as the 5th best American film ever made when virtually no part of the production had anything to do with America. David Lean is, after all, is a British institution. Even more curious, the British film institute's list of 100 Greatest British films of all-time has entries which are decidedly Un-British. There is a such thing as a British film industry and certain films like the Bond series, the works of David Lean, Oliver Reed, and Richard Lester, The Red Shoes, Room with a View, etc. are considered quintessentially British films. The British Film Institute's list, however, included films such as Shakespeare in Love or Braveheart, whose only qualifications are that the films are set in Britain and revolve around British history. If we take this definition of where films are set and to what degree they revolve around the country's history and culture, then surely Slumdog Millionaire is foreign because it is a landmark film in presenting images of Indian modern-day life to audiences in the UK and US who knew very little about it.

My vote is that Last Emperor is foreign, Bernardo Bertolucci was the first foreign director to win an Oscar, and that Slumdog Millionaire will be #2. What's yours?

Best picture predictions

My best picture predictions are the result of what I'd like to see and what I think will get the nominations. This is because I will get double the enjoyment out of seeing the films I want to get the nominations be rewarded and enjoy the fact that I called it. I am going to try not to base this on historic trends because I have protested the other movie writers getting so obsessive about forecasting the oscars

Here is my list:
Picture: Slumdiog Millionaire, Milk, Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons, Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon
Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, Buttons, and Frost/Nixon are all in and Dark Knight and Wall-E are fighting for the fifth slot is my understanding. Both films are unconventional choices but so well-loved that they could potentially both get in. I at first wanted Wall-E to get in. It was on so many critics' number one lists, but later I felt that Dark Knight was somewhat unstoppable (at least for the nomination) and that I've seen an animated film nominated for best picture in my lifetime (Beauty and the Beast) but I've never seen a superhero film nominated in my lifetime. I disagree that Dark Knight was an effective film thematically and I'll cover that in a different post, but in the meantime, because I'm tired as hell and trying to get to sleep.....

Director: Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road; Chris Nolan, Dark Knight; Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon; David Fincher, Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons; Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire.

I hate to follow historic precedent but a very large percentage of the time, the best picture and best director line up in 4 of 5 cases. The tragedy of this is that because I believe it has only happened once out of 77 Oscar ceremonies that the film (it might have happened a few more times in the '30s or '40s) that didn't get the director nomination won best picture (Driving Miss Daisy, 1989), that fifth picture is immediately relegated to "not going to win, happy to be nominated status" so it becomes a race of four films. I was tempted to go five for five, but because I am a fan of Sam Mendes' work and the other films that got the next 5 sports for best pictures have directors that are less comparable:
-Andrew Staunton for Wall-E directed an animated film which takes significantly less effort
-David Stanley Hare for the Reader has a very thin resume
-Darren Aranofsky might have a chance for the Wrestler but he's a bit more of a cult director and David Cronenberg wasn't rewarded for going mainstream in 2005
-Stephen Daldry for Doubt (his first name is Stephen, right? if it isn't i don't care) already has more than enough noms for films that have since been forgotten (i.e. how many people even remember a film named "Billy Elliot" 8 years later?)
As for the four other directors, the two frontrunners, Boyle and Fincher have been cult directors with cult hits like Fight Club and Seven for Fincher and Trainspottin for Danny Boyle. Chris Nolan has been also somewhat of a cult director with American Psycho, Momento, Insomnia before getting mainstream recognition with the Batman series and Prestige. Neither of the three have been anywhere near this kind of recognition before this year. The fourth guy is your average Joe with commercial tastes, Ron Howard, who's had two best picture nominations before but only one nom with Beatiful Mind.

Actor: Pitt, Buttons; Eastwood, Gran Torino; O'Rourke, Wrestler; Penn, Milk; Langella, Frost/Nixon

I haven't seen Jenkins but I know that the other two borderline performances, Eastwood and Pitt are truly outstanding. Brad Pitt has been gathering goodwill and is slowly becoming the most loved Hollywood star on the planet and he's been waiting for a lead actor nomination for close to 20 years now, so I'm having trouble beleiving Richard Jenkins can compare to that at this point. Clint Eastwood is a former cowboy star who just won't quit making quality films and expanding his boundaries. This is clearly superior as a performance to Million Dollar Baby or Unforgiven, and it deserves to be recognized on behalf of all aging actors who deserve one last shot at creating a great iconic character on screen.

Actress: Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long, Meryl Streep, Doubt; Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road; Melissa Leo, Frozen River; Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Hathaway, Winslet, and Streep are locks. I DO want Angelina Jolie on here and I DON'T want Sally Hawkins on here (mostly because I dislike Mike Leigh who directed the film), so I'll split the difference and put two actresses with equally good chances. As for Kristin Scott Thomas, a French woman got nominated last year and won, so I'm getting the feeling that good performances in French films don't go unnoticed.

Original Screenplay: Rachel Getting Married, Wall-E, Wrestler, Milk, Gran Torino
If people are as gaga as they say they are over Wall-E, then I have a feeling it's going to get a few more nominations than it deserves. I don't think Wall-E is a remarkable screenplay (the first 15 pages or so must consist of "Wall-E: beep, Eve: beep beep" over and over again with stage cues) but rather a remarkable story and a remarkable job on animation, but because I don't believe (someone correct me if I'm wrong) that Wall-E is eligible for art direction or cinametography, It will get rewarded here. The Wrestler and Milk are favorites for the picture. Rachel Getting Married has been one of the most highly praised films of the year by the critics. For the fifth slot, there are a lot of quirky films like In Bruges, Happy-Go-Lucky, Syndechone New York and I was thinking Burn After Reading. I thought if the academy members love Gran Torino to half the extent that some of the critics are (including myself), it could get slot #5. My alternate is Burn After Reading. Vicky Christina Barcelona is a possibility but I will not bet on it. Woody Allen has more screenplay noms than anyone else in history at this point and it's already been known that he won't show up for the ceremony.

Adapted Screenplay: Frost/Nixon, Doubt, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire, Buttons
I think people are ready to give some love to Eric Roth (who wrote Forrest Gump) again and Slumdog is a clear front-runner. Patrick Marber adapted a rather static stage play with only one set into a lively film so that takes guts. I've just seen on the other oscar prediction sites that Doubt will get nominated, and I'll go for Revolutionary Road to be consistent. If the voters are voting RR as the spoiler, they'll like it enough to put here. Dark Knight will get left out, because it's just a comic book and not even a specific issue from which the film is adapted from. I know it's impressive to make a comic book THAT good, but quality comic book adaptations have been going on since the X-Men and Spiderman series and it's the technical awards that made Spiderman good.

Supporting Actor: James Franco, Milk, Ralph Feinnes, The Reader, Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight, Josh Brolin, Milk, PS Hoffman, Doubt
See previous entry

Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Doubt; Penelope Cruz, Vickey Kristina Barcelona; Amy Adams, Doubt; Taraji P Henson, Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons; Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married
I think there's too much wishful thinking on my part to think that Rosemarie DeWitt, Amy Adams, and Taraji will all get noms. I think The Reader has enough category fraud that voters might not go for it, especially since they're nominating her for lead in Revolutionary Road. Unless it's incredibly clear, actors and actresses normally don't get two noms in the same awards ceremony. Holly Hunter, Al Pacino, Cate Blanchett and Jamie Foxx were pretty clear-cut in their definitions. No one put Al Pacino for lead on Glengarry Glenn Ross or Jamie Foxx on Collateral for example. Julianne Moore in 2002 was a different story, however, and provides a good counter example. I also just think Kate Winselt didn't have a lot of precursor love aside form the Globes and since the Globes is 80-something reporters, I can't imagine that they're not impervious to their choices being snubbed for the Oscars. Amy Adams was nominated once but she was considered being denied a win and she has been slowly building good and frequent roles (i.e. Charlie Wilson's War, Talladega Nights, Enchanted) to merit another nom 3 years later. Henson played a diverse range of ages.

Best editing: Wall-E, Buttons, Slumdog Millionaire, Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon
Frost/Nixon, Dark Knight and Slumdog would be the front-runners. I'm not even sure if Wall-E is eligible for cinametography or art direction since it's animated, but I think it might be eligible in animation since I've seen that predicted on an Oscar predicted site. Milk is also an option here but I don't see it getting any other technicals.

Best cinametography: Dark Knight, Australia, Buttons, Slumdog Millionaire, Revolutionary Road
Australia is sure to grab a few technical nods plus the same old powerhorses of DK, Buttons and Slumdog. Sam Mendes' films usually grab art direction and cinametography nods.

Art Direction:
Indiana Jones, Australia, Revolutionary Road, Benjamin Buttons, Duchess
Indiana Jones should get at least 2 or three nods. Even if the story faltered, it's respected technical work. Australia and Revolutionary Road are still in. Slumdog Millionaire is a close call.

Reader, Slumdog Millionaire, Defiance, Frost/Nixon, Wall-E
Wall-E's score was the only thing that kept it going for quite some time. Slumdog Millionaire looks positioned for a win. Frost/Nixon has a good score as well.

Slumdog Millionaire, Gran Torino, Wall-E, Cadillac Records, Wrestler
This means I have to discard Cadillac Records, but I think Wall-E will get nominations all over the place, and I just think it would be fun to see Clint Eastwood sing. Wrestler has Bruce Springstein who's hard to vote against. Slumdog Millionaire's entry is more like a dance track than it is a song with lyrics.

Australia, Benjamin Buttons, Duchess, Valkyrie, Iron Man
Tom Cruise's film I'll predict will get it's only nom here as a consolation for being well-made technically. Duchess is a period piece and Indiana Jones should have a place here

Visual Effects:
Iron Man, Benjamin Buttons, Dark Knight
Honrestly, I would have picked Indiana Jones and the Day the Earth Stood Still if I could. I don't think Dark Knight had much to offer in terms of effects

Indiana Jones, Frost/Nixon, Iron Man, Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon

Sound Ediitng:
Frost/Nixon, Dark Knight, Iron Man

Benjamin Buttons, Tropic Thunder, The Reader
Tropic Thunder could potentially sneak in, who knows.

Buy the films:

Friday, January 16, 2009

How to make the Oscars Less Predictable and Why this is a Necessity

Few people probably know that once upon a time, the Academy would issue press releases to the newspapers announcing the winners before the Oscars were presented but in 1939 when some of the greatest films ever created up to that date (Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gone with the Wind, and Wizard of Oz) were locked in a tight race and the results got leaked to the press, some complained that this ruined a considerable amount of the suspense and excitement of the night. In 1940, the Academy decided to go with a policy of complete secrecy. The policy has remained to this very day.

Today, however, the Oscars have reverted to the 1930s where the winners are basically known in advance and that's a good reason why they're considerably less exciting. In the previous Oscars for the 2007 film season, 59 out of 63 film critics correctly predicted the best picture winner according to Oscarcentral. In addition, 61 out of 63 predicted the best actor, 61 of 63 picked best supporting actor, 60 of 63 film critics picked best director, 57 of 59 picked best original screenplay, and 47 out of 59 picked best adapted screenplay. Two years ago, best picture was up in the air and the best supporting actor category was an upset, but Mirren, Whitaker, Scorsese, William Moynahan (for Departed) and Michael Ardnt (for Little Miss Sunshine) were pretty much locks.

It's true that this is better than in the 1930's because the studios aren't announcing the winners beforehand, but is that really much of an improvement? Today an army of Oscar bloggers and prediction-oriented websites analyze historical trends and trace the momentum of awards season so they can virtually guarantee who will win in some race. Even the Los Angeles Times (theenvelope), Toronto Star (Peter Howell's blog), and the New York Times (carpetbagger) have joined in the phenomenon with highly popular websites dedicated to the Oscars and other awards races that utilize Hollywood connections to enhance their predictions. Are these online Oscar trackers perfectly accurate? No, but they are all usually very similar which makes the case that the sheer number of them is excessive. When the Oscar bloggers are wrong, they're usually all wrong together as well, so it's little improvement. For best actress, all but 10 of the Oscar pundits predicted Julie Christie.

The only one of the major races that was truly exciting to follow this past year was best supporting actress, because Ruby Dee of American Gangster, Amy Ryan of Gone Baby Gone, Tilda Swenton of Michael Clayton, and Cate Blanchett of I'm Not There all had legitimate chances at winning and when my preferred choice Tilda Swenton won it, that was the highlight of the night for me because there was genuine suspense and subsequent joy. I would have imagined that thirty or forty years ago that sense of suspense existed in every race. I remember loving last year's race much more than the the years that preceded it because I didn't bother to read the suspiciously accurate Entertainment Weekly Oscar Prediction issue.

I think this excitement-diminishing epidemic is spreading to the casual viewer as well. Your average casual viewer will probably involuntarily come across three or four of these sources telling them who will probably win by the time Oscar time comes around. A special Oscar section will be printed at least two or three times before the ceremony in USA Today and their daily newspaper, they'll probably see the Golden Globe Results on the CNN ticker and their Morning news program will feature the entertainment correspondent telling them who will win. When it all adds up, you're average viewer will already have as good of an idea as I do over who will win.

Solutions I am proposing?
1. Guild awards should not take place or if they do, that should happen after the Oscars. It's a fairly dead giveaway who will win when a great number of the same people are voting in both contests.

Revolutionary thought: Just because you have a guild doesn't mean you have to have an awards ceremony. I'm sure other professional organizations like the American Institute of Engineers or the Meatpackers' Union doesn't give annual awards with nominees and a red carpet celebration. Your writing, cinematography, acting, directing and producing professions are already honored through the Golden Globes and Oscars, this is clearly redundant. Especially, the producers guild. If anything, I question whether producers even need a guild. Guilds stemmed from the Middle Ages as a way of protecting the interests of the artisan class, not upper-level management. You guys own movie studios, you make millions of dollars, you have the town of Hollywood at your hands, do you really need statues and awards to make you feel pretty?

2. Critics awards groups, the Golden Globes should make efforts to present different awards: Best family comedy, best breakout performance, best low budget film, best ensemble. The Golden Globe adds suspense to the ceremony because it nominates 10-12 actors, movies, and actresses, and sometimes an additional supporting actors, supporting actress, or director so that they will give you a broad field but narrow enough that you know who is likely to win.

3. I thoroughly enjoy some of the sites which revolve primarily around Oscarbuzz so I say with much love for these people that there is a definite oversaturation of Oscar buzz-oriented sites out there. Writers on these sites need to avoid focusing solely on predictions for the Oscars. They treat the preidction of the Oscar nominees and winners as if they were trying to decipher the passcode to a nuclear missile silo and are missing site of the opportunity for meaningful analysis. Besides, using historical progressions (i.e. 9 out of the last 10 best supporting actresses won the BAFTA award and got a nomination for the Chicago film critics award, so we can count on Actress B to win) to try to trace down the nominees does not make for particularly interesting writing anyway. To avoid redundance, there should be more emphasis on who should win or more emphasis on the "precursor awards" as if they were a means to their own end. This also prevents quality films from being invalidated because they didn't make the final five as A.O. Scott recently wrote.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Best of 2008

My best of 2008 were submitted to a helium writing contest

Athlete: 2nd place winners

Athletic Team: The South Korean baseball team

Gadget: Amazon Kindle

Movie (Comedy): Burn After Reading (Be Kind Rewind, Religulous runners-up)

Movie (Drama): Slumdog, Gran Torino, Frost/Nixon, Wall-E, Australia

TV Show (Comedy): My Name is Earl, 30 Rock, Big Bang Theory, Miss Guided, It's Always Sunny, Gary Unmarried, Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog

TV Show (Drama): Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Pushing Daisies

Best Website of the Year: List of 10

America gets it right at the box office: Gran Torino!

I complained a week ago that America had consistently ignored Oscar-caliber films and were discouraging their commercial viability through selecting Bedtime Stories, Marley and Me and Yes Men instead. However, there's light at the end of the tunnel. Gran Torino, in its first weekend of wide release grossed $29 million and beat Bride Wars to take first place. Gran Torino nearly doubled Bride Wars' total and it was playing in 400 fewer theaters. I also wasn't paying too much attention to per-screen average earlier because I hadn't noticed that Benjamin Buttons was slowly chugging its way up the ladder to a very handsome $92 million. Once the Oscars are announced and Ben Buttons makes the final five, one can expect to see it get an extra boost from that as well.

In terms of Gran Torino taking first place at the box office. It's hard to put in perspective how unlikely that was. $29.8 million is more than healthy for a December opening. Tom Cruise pre-Oprah gate didn't gross that much with his Oscar contender The Last Samurai and neither did Will Smith in his Oscar-buzz film Pursuit of Happiness. I could read you a long list of oscar contenders with crossover mainstream appeal that never reached that number on opening weekend, but suffice it to say, it's pretty much everything except Lord of the Rings and King Kong.
In addition, Clint Eastwood while a legend of Hollywood for sure, does not have the box office draw that Brad Pitt, Leo DiCaprio, or even Owen Wilson or Anne Hathaway enjoy. The cinematically literate crowd knows of him more as a director (consider that he only appeared as an actor in 1 of his last 5 critically acclaimed films), the non-cinematically literate crowd thinks of him as an old guy who used to be in Westerns 40 years ago. There could very well be a group of teenagers today who don't really know of him at all. And yet, somehow the 15-28 year old demographic that supposedly leads the movie industry flocked to see him in droves.

In a way, that's what the film was about: Clint Eastwood as an octegenerian had his toughest battle because he was facing teenage hoodlums who were raised on rap and MTV and not only were they unafraid of him, they didn't even know who he was. Well, the numbers indicate a large percentage of America is getting to know who Clint Eastwood is in his old age. When was the last time an 80-year old beat a hot 20-something A-lister (Anne Hathaway) at the box office? I'm pretty sure the answer is never.

Without Clint Eastwood's involvement, the story would never have even been greenlighted by a major distributor without some success at Sundance beforehand. Gran Torino's story about a cranky old veteran who copes with the changing demographics of his rustbelt suburb by befriending his immigrant neighbors and defending them from gang violence, is the kind of plot that usually has to gradually warm up to an audience. The film made the top 10 films of the year list for AFI and made it's way onto a few other critics' lists (it's in my top 2, i'll say that), but did not have the kind of mass Oscar buzz to turn people into the theater.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A plausible line-up on Oscar night

Pitcute: Slumdog Millionaire (I'd love to see a quasi-Bollywood film win)
Director: Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Actor: B Pitt, Benjamin Buttons (I think it could be anyone's game, who knows)
Actress: Winslet, Revolutionary Road (finally, let's see Winslet get it)
Supp. Actor: Ledger, The DK (posthumous award sounds interesting, also )
Supp. Actress: Cruz, VCB (It would give Woody Allen another supporting actor/actress win, and I like Penelope Cruz. I like seeing Latinos be rewarded and she's been paying her dues for a while. Certainly better then Selma Hayek, IMO)
O Screenplay: Rachel Getting Married (Milk? if Milk is original or adapted i don't remember, Rachel Getting Married screenplay wouldn't go to Johnothan Demme, but it would make him look good, so why not? Besides i don't want to see O Screenplay go to a dramedy/comedy AGAIN (i.e. Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Sideways, Lost in Translation))
A Screenplay: Benjamin Buttons (I'd like to see Ben Buttons and Slumdog be the top 2 award getters of the night so throw Ben Buttons the screenplay, even though there's much to
Editing: Frost/Nixon (I wouldn't mind seeing Frost/Nixon walk away with a win, and it's a little better edited than Dark Knight, IMO)
Score: Slumdog Millionaire
Song: Wall-E (Wall-E was a unique film, i'd like to see it get more wins than just animated)
Cinematography: Dark Knight or Slumdog (I'm torn, I understand that Dark Knight had revolutionary new methods and innovations in cinematography, but Slumdog was amazing and traditionally the best picture gets at least 2 or 3 other wins for the night)
Art Direction: Benjamin Buttons (that makes 3)
Costumes: Australia (Australia deserves a technical, i don't want to see it go all Memoirs of a Geisha and sweep the technical awards when it clearly wasn't a deserving picture as a whole, but one technical award sounds right)
Make-Up: Dark Knight (2nd for Dark Knight. I would've liked to see it win cinematography but what can you do
Sound: Wall-E (I had no idea how to judge best sound until I heard Wall-E and knew that the film was great, in part, because of the sound)
Sound Editing: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (I'd like to see it get a technical award somewhere, maybe Lucas and Spielberg couldn't make a great story out of their efforts to revive the Indiana Jones
Animated: Wall-E
Documentary: Encounters at the End of the World, Warner Herzog (I don't even know if it's eligible, but it was my personal favorite)
Special Effects: Iron Man (when you think about it, Dark Knight has a lot of drama, and a small amount of explosions, but nothing in the way of Iron Man)
Foreign: Waltz with Bashir (catchy name for a film. reminds me of Dr. Bashir on Star Trek, so I'll go with that)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Best Supporting Actor

The two guys that are definitely in already that I agree with:

Josh Brolin, Milk:
My favorite supporting actor performance. I think he's pretty set for a nomination considering he's suddenly risen as a Hollywood name with his last 3 movies.

Heath Ledger, Dark Knight:
Ledger is my 2nd favorite and will easily get a nomination. I thought the film was disturbing but it's fun to see a pop culture comic book character that's been played so many times finally get a nom.

3 guys I'd like to see:
James Franco, Milk-I want Franco in because more than Emile Hirsch or Jake Gyllenhall or Peter Sargasaard or John Rhys-Meyers, I like him the best of all the up-and-comers. He's humble, he's clearly hard working (he's going for a master's degree, how admirable is that), he has a great sense of humor, he paid his dues by playing a supporting role in Spiderman, and he said all the right things wehn people kept probing him about how disgusting it must have been to kiss Penn. He also made an additional supporting turn in Pineapple Express which was the only good thing about the movie.

Ralph Feinnes, The Reader-He should just get a 3rd Oscar nom already. I haven't seen the Reader yet, but I just saw him in In Bruges and he was great in that, and he's consistently good, so why wouldn't I expect the best of him from In Bruges. He's overshadowed by Gleason and Farrell in In Bruges and he doesn't have a lot of screen time in In Bruges so I hope people don't vote for that and I worry voters will split too many Ralph Feinnes votes if they split The Reader with In Bruges and The Duchess. The Reader has a far more visible profile than The Duchess which only grossed $13 million domestically.

Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road-I primarily want to see Shannon in this film because I love Sam Mendes' work and I want to see it get as many accolades as possible. The more I think about it, the more I want Shannon to get a nom.

Someone who I'm not rooting for but who will probably get a nom:
Phillip Seymour Hoffman-Doubt
He is probably in, but I'd like to see Feinnes, Shannon, and Franco get nominated first. I'm indifferent to Phillip Seymour Hoffman but he just got two nominations in the last three years and that's enough for now.

People who I'm rooting against:
Eddie Marsden, Happy-Go-Lucky-Never gotten any sort of buzz before. He's been in a lot of movies and in 21 Grams he was slightly memorable, but definitely needs to earn his dues. Besides, I already have my 5.

People who I'm rooting against with a passion:
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire
-Dev Patel isn't awful by any stretch of the imagination. He makes the far-fetched love story work, but at the same time, outside of his chemistry to Freida Pinto, he's not particularly memorable. Besides, this is the most blatant case of category fraud I've seen. It stretches the definition of supporting actor to the point where it's a meaningless category designed as a consolation prize for those who couldn't compete with Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Frank Langella, Mickey, and Clint Eastwood. Award the supporting actors to people who played supporting roles.

Rob Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder-Since it's just a popcorn comedy and the Academy has their unconventional film bases covered with Dark Knight, leave him behind. I have two main issues with Rob Downey Jrs' nom. First, the Academy sometimes awards an Oscar nom to make up for a past mistake but this is the first known instance in which we're giving him an unnecessary nomination to make up for a FUTURE PERFORMANCE in The Soloist. Oscar buzzers and the academy basically all decided Downey Jr. deserved a nod this year for his great year in The Soloist, Iron Man, and Tropic Thunder BEFORE the Soloist got pushed back to 2009. That's probably going to be his best of the three, so reward him then. The second reason I'm against rewarding Downey Jr. is we already have a number of actors this year joining the two-nomination club: Amy Adams (possibly), Brad Pitt (definitely), Angelina Jolie (probably), and Penelope Cruz (definitely). This is a big milestone because it means you weren't a one-hit wonder. Let's not overdo it.

Reason #3? I'm tired of hearing about how great of a year Rob Downey Jr. has like this was all highly improbably. The pundits are acting like Downey was unemployable before now, when in fact he was recently in Good Night and Good Luck and starred in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. It's irrelevant if Hollywood selects you for a $50 million dollar film or a mega blockbuster, the fact is you've already been let back in. Mega blockbusters don't rest as much on star power as they do special effects, the cast, and the quality of the story. One would be misguided to tell me that Tobey Maguire was a bankable star anytime he steps outside of spandex. When was the last time he did that and had a success? A supporting role in The Good German was his last non-Spiderman film. That didn't do very well at the box office and it doesn't speak well for him that he got relegated to a supporting part. Similarly, does anyone even know the name of the actors who play Dr. Richard Reed or Ben Strom in the respectably grossing Fantastic Four or Hellboy in the Hellboy film and is anyone putting money on them in non-superhero films? Besides, lots of Hollywood stars have been to prison and in rehab and have emerged to do fine.

Please let me know your thoughts!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Review of In Bruges and a review of ranked films at 2008 at the 25 film mark

Here's my review of In Bruges which I just saw on DVD.

It's one of the films nominated for a Golden Globe tomorrow night in the comedy section:

In Bruges is a black comedy whose idea arose from a vacation writer/director Martin McDonagh took to the pristine town of Bruges, Belgium. McDonagh reflected in the DVD featurette that he was in awe of the town's medieval beauty but had the simultaneous feeling of being incredibly bored after two or three hours. He took these two disparate feelings and split them up over two characters. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleason are a pair of hit men who are paid by their boss to go to Bruges for an undisclosed assignment. They are supposed to pose as two tourists and maintain a low profile while waiting for a phone call. Ken (Gleason) takes an interest in the sights of the town and jollily obliges, while Ray (Farrell) is very bored. He is somewhat of a cultural boob with low intellectual curiosity but he gets more likeable as the film progresses as we slowly see that he starts to develop a curiosity about living a better life. He is also bored because he has just accidentally shot a boy and is coping with guilt over that. Ralph Feinnes also enters in the story a little later as the enigmatic boss. The film is also populated by the kinds of characters that come with small-town comedies: An obnoxious Canadian tourist, a pregnant innkeeper, an alluring coke dealer (who Ray falls in love with) and her unfortunate boyfriend, and an opinionated midget.

The film reminds me of Analyze This or Anger Mangement in that it features a star (Robert De Niro or Jack Nicholson in the above examples) making fun of their screen personas. Colin Farrell is playing to type in an extreme sense, reflecting his public image: Shallow and mostly interested in booze and women. (In real life, Colin Farrell is an avid reader and student of history who would be the kind of guy who's interested in a place like Bruges, but I digress). It's an interesting mix of genres but as is the staple of this genre, the black comedy, there are usually meaningless deaths. I won't spoil what happens but I grew close enough to these characters that I came to hope that we wouldn't be seeing anything bad happen to them.

The film also has an interesting and curious romance between Ray and the cokedealer. She seems to give him a lot of chances but it turns out that she has a dark side to her as well.

The dialogue was really good and it was clearly an engaging film but a pet peeve of mine in the dialogue is that everyone talks the same and uses the f-word in every sentence. The screenwriter did such a great job of giving everyone distinct personalities so I wish they would give them distinct styles of speech.

So, this makes my list of rankings as follows. I have now seen 25 2008 films, and they are ranked as follows (I have to sleep on In Bruges for a while to see where I'd like to rank it):
1. Gran Torino 2. Slumdog Millionaire 3. Wall-E 4. Burn After Reading 5. Be Kind Rewind 6. Quantum of Solace 7. In Bruges 8. Valkyrie 9. Milk 10. Iron Man 11. Blindness 12. Dark Knight 13. Bottleshock 14. Brideshead Revisited 15. Indiana Jones 16. Step Brothers 17. Gonzo 18. W 19. Madagascar 2 20. Love Guru 21. Get Smart 22. Pineapple Express 23. Flow 24. Baby Mama 25. Happening 26. 21: Bringing down the House

Oh, what do you know, I've seen 26 films from 2008! Films I would like to see ASAP: Religulous, Frost/Nixon, Encounters at the End of the World, Films I would like to see after those: Revolutionary Road, Benjamin Buttons, Day the Earth Stood Still, The Reader, Tropic Thunder

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Brian Filmmaking Achievement Awards (BFAA's)

If I could hand out awards to this years best films, here is what the list would look like:

Foreign Film: (Tie)
Waltz With Bashir [Blu-ray]
Let The Right One In

Original Score:
Alexandre Desplat- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Original Screenplay:
Simon Beaufoy- Slumdog Millionaire

Adapted Screenplay:
Eric Roth- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Animated Film:

Costume Design:
Catherine Martin- Australia

Sound/Music Design:

Art Direction:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Cinematography: (Tie)
Cluadio Miranda- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,
Mandy Walker- Australia

Supporting Actor:
Heath Ledger- The Dark Knight

Supporting Actress:
Taraji P. Henson- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Sean Penn- Milk

Cate Blanchett- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


David Fincher- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Film- Comedy (Tie)
Be Kind Rewind, Zack and Miri Make A Porno

Best Film- Science Fiction

Best Film- Action
The Dark Knight

Best Film- Drama (Tie)
Milk, Slumdog Millionaire

Best Film- Overall
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

And finally, the first ever:
Brian Filmmaking Achievement Award for Impact:
This award goes to a film that is extremely powerful in its execution, and communicates a message that attempts to progress the world in a positive direction towards unity, by promoting respect and appreciation of others.
The first BFAA for Impact goes to:

Thanks for reading the list of awards of the BFAA's!

Buy the Films:

Thursday, January 08, 2009

New game: Adaptation or original screenplay?

New game:
Which of these are adapted screenplays and which are original.

Gangs of New York
About a Boy
25th Hour

Pirates of the Carribean
Bend it Like Beckham
Big Fish
Last Samurai
House of Sand and Fog

Finding Neverland
The Motorcycle Diaries

In Her Shoes
Walk the Line
Good Night and Good Luck
Match Point
New World

Good German
Prairie Home Companion
Children of Men

3:10 to Yuma
Assassination of Jesse James
Away from Her
Michael Clayton
Into the Wild
Across the Universe
Great Debaters
In the Valley of Elah
American Gangster
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
La Vie en Rose
Elizabeth and the Golden Age

The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire
Tropic Thunder
Vickey Christina Barcelona

I will have the answers for you all shortly....

2008 Director's Progress Report

In the last calender year, I have seen the following leftovers from 2007 that enhanced my director count:
1 Mike Nicholls film-Charlie Wilson's War
1 Lasse Hollstrom film-The Hoax
1 Curtis Hanson film-Lucky You

I've seen the following films in theaters which further enhanced my director count:
1 Clint Eastwood film-Gran Torino
1 Bryan Singer film-Valkyrie
1 Coen Brothers film-Burn After Reading
1 Peter Segal film-Get Smart
1 Stephen Spielberg film-Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

And I plan on seeing this afternoon:
1 Ron Howard-Frost/Nixon

In addition, I watched on video or TV:
1 Martin Scorsesee film-Gangs of New York
3 Mike Nicholls films-Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff, Postcards from the Edge, and Charlie Wilson's War
1 Brett Rattner film-Red Dragon
1 Johnothan Demme film-Melvin and Howard
1 Rob Reiner film-Alex and Emma (don't ask, I'm as embarrassed about it as I can be)
1 Penny Marshall film-Awakenings
2 Rob Altman films-California Split and Buffalo Bill
1 Terry Gilliam film-The Fisher King
1 Howard Hawks film-Rio Bravo
1 Tom Shadyac film-Patch Adams
1 Woody Allen film-Sleeper
1 Robert Wise film-The Day the Earth Stood Still
1 Steve Soderbergh film- Ocean's 13

Bringing my total to:
18 Alfred Hitchkock
13 Stephen Spielberg
12 Woody Allen
8 Mike Nicholls, Joel and Ethan Coen
7 Rob Altman, Rob Zemeckis, Billy Wilder, Ivan Reitman
6 Frank Capra, Frank Oz, Vincente Minelli, Terry Gilliam, Mel Brooks, Peter Segal, Martin Scorsese
5 Barry Levinson, George Lucas, Gore Verbinski, Bryan Singer, Brett Rattner, Clint Eastwood, Orson Welles, Stanley Donen, Joel Schumaker, Howard Hawks, Terrence Young, Jon Glenn, John Huston, Sydney Pollack, Jay Roach, Robert Rodriguez, Tom Shadyac, Steve Soderbergh
4 Johnothan Demme, Penny Marshall, Roland Emmerich, Ernst Lubitsch, Tim Burton, Rob Reiner, Curtis Hanson, Christopher Guest, Lasse Hollstrom, Christopher Columbus, Wes Anderson, Sam Weisman, Dennis Dugan, Derek Schrempf, (Ron Howard), Guy Hamilton, John Lynn, Tony Scott, John Lassiter, Harold Lloyd, Peter and Bobby Farrelly, Kevin Smith

People I need to work on. New Year's resolutions:
To see more Clint Eastwood, Rob Altman, Sidney Lumet (still hasn't made my list yet!), Robert Wise (ditto!), Steve Soderbergh, and Curtis Hanson.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

America gets it wrong week after week

I'm getting pissed off at this country for their moviegoing tastes. An adam sandler film (his 22nd in a row in which he talks like a kid and has bathroom jokes) and a film featuring tabloid sensation jennifer anniston in a film about a dog, have beaten revolutionary road, curious case of benjamin buttons, valkyrie (it's at least made by a respectable director) 2 weeks in a row.

Before that, Yes Men, a Jim Carrey copy-off of Liar Liar and nowhere near the level of acting that he displayed in Majestic, Man on the Moon, Truman Show or Eternal Sunshine, beat Seven Pounds, Doubte and Frost/Nixon. Four Christmas pummeled Milk and Doubt, two or three weeks before that.

Anything that's remotely worthy of an Oscar is not getting any people to see their movie. I can understand a slight discrepancy and that the popcorn fodder would perform well but Four Christmases doubled Australia's box office per theater total and grossed $26 million dollars more. Reviews I read in the Washington Post and New York Times praised Australia. I know Oscar buzzers have written it off, but mainstream reviewers said it was worth seeing, on the whole.

Anyway, it would take a lot of analysis to measure this correctly because the holiday releases release in a lot fewer theaters and work their way up, but on the whole people are choosing to spend their money on generally unintelligent films such as Bedtime Stories, Yes Man, The Tale of Despereaux, Four Christmases, than films with oscar buzz. I realize that a film being nominated for an Oscar doesn't make it better, and I appreciate a wide range of films. Cheaper by the Dozen, Anchorman, X-Men 2, Finding Nemo all made my top ten lists of their respective year and this year's lot will include Be Kind Rewind, Quantum of Solace, and possibly Valkyrie.

Still, I generally believe that oscar-buzz films are of greater quality on the average than Yes Men, Four Christmases, Marley and Me and Bedtime Stories