22 February 2007

2007 oscars

Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond";
Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson";
Peter O'Toole, "Venus";
Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness";
Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland."

of this cateogry, i've only seen "last king of scotland", so my grasp on this category is bad. however, everyone else seems to think forest whitaker did a great job, and i think he's an amazing actor and gave a hell of a performance, so let's go with him.

prediction: forest
preference: forest

Penelope Cruz, "Volver";
Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal";
Helen Mirren, "The Queen";
Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada";
Kate Winslet, "Little Children."

of these, i've only seen "volver", in which penelope gave a fine performance in what i thought was a pretty silly film. for whatever reason, everyone seems to think helen mirren is a lock. ok.

prediction: helen
preference: don't care

Supporting Actor:
Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine";
Jackie Earle Haley, "Little Children";
Djimon Hounsou, "Blood Diamond";
Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls";
Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed."

this is a pretty rich category, and i like how it turned out. mark wahlberg was good, but i thought alec baldwin was just even better in a somewhat similar role in the same movie. eddie murphy was the best of all these, though, and the academy loves a comeback story (although they might not like "norbit").

prediction: eddie
preference: eddie

Supporting Actress:
Adriana Barraza, "Babel";
Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal";
Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine";
Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls";
Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel."

jennifer hudson has a lock on this, and that's because her performance is so good that people clapped and cheered more than once during her songs. plus she's got a good story going and its her debut and all that. she's a lock.

prediction: jennifer
preference: jennifer

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel";
Martin Scorsese, "The Departed";
Clint Eastwood, "Letters From Iwo Jima";
Stephen Frears, "The Queen";
Paul Greengrass, "United 93."

as i've written here before, i think "the departed" will, in the future, be considered one of scorsese's more minor works. that said, he comes back to the gangster movie and finally gets the oscar. they aren't going to give it to clint again and they aren't going to give it to some brits or a mexican dude -- their nominations were enough.

predictions: scorsese
preference: don't care. it will be good that he finally gets it.

Foreign Language Film:
"After the Wedding," Denmark;
"Days of Glory (Indigenes)," Algeria;
"The Lives of Others," Germany;
"Pan's Labyrinth," Mexico;
"Water," Canada.

i only saw "pan's labyrinth" out of these, and i didn't much care for it. that said, it will win to acknowledge all the good cinema coming out of mexico these days.

prediction: pan's
preference: don't care.

Adapted Screenplay:
Sacha Baron Cohen and Anthony Hines and Peter Baynham and Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips, "Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan";
Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, "Children of Men";
William Monahan, "The Departed";
Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, "Little Children";
Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal."

love that "borat" got a nomination here, and if it wins, todd phillips will be an oscar winner! that said, "children of men" was amazing and will hold up to time and should have had more nominations. i think "the departed" will win, though.

prediction: departed
preference: children of men

Original Screenplay:
Guillermo Arriaga, "Babel";
Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis, "Letters From Iwo Jima";
Michael Arndt, "Little Miss Sunshine";
Guillermo del Toro, "Pan's Labyrinth";
Peter Morgan, "The Queen."

paul haggis is such a sack of shit.

prediction: queen
preference: little miss sunshine

Animated Feature Film:
"Happy Feet,"
"Monster House."

i'm not a kid anymore, so i have no real idea.

prediction: cars (sucking pixar dick still)
preference: don't care.

Art Direction:
"The Good Shepherd,"
"Pan's Labyrinth,"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest,"
"The Prestige."

this could go any which way, but i think it will go to dreamgirls as part of a consolation prize package (for no director and no picture nods) and because academy voters love the glitz of hollywood.

prediction: dreamgirls
preference: pan's

"The Black Dahlia,"
"Children of Men,"
"The Illusionist,"
"Pan's Labyrinth,"
"The Prestige."

who the fuck knows how this is going to go? lubezki and tim orr are the best cinematographers working, so i'm for "children".

prediction: ?
preference: emmanual lubezki, "children of men"

Documentary Feature:
"Deliver Us From Evil,"
"An Inconvenient Truth,"
"Iraq in Fragments,"
"Jesus Camp,"
"My Country, My Country."

prediction: al gore
preference: al gore

Documentary (short subject):
"The Blood of Yingzhou District,"
"Recycled Life,"
"Rehearsing a Dream,"
"Two Hands."

prediction: whichever one is about the holocaust.
preference: whichever one isn't about the holocaust.

Film Editing:
"Blood Diamond,"
"Children of Men,"
"The Departed,"
"United 93."

prediction: thelma schoonmaker gets it, even though the editing was retarded.
preference: "children of men"

HONORARY AWARD (Oscar statuette): Ennio Morricone

I really like this choice, since music is so often overlooked (even by me! i didn't choose any this year...). i like this choice even more considering ennio said in an interview that he didn't even want it.

Best Picture:
"The Departed,"
"Letters From Iwo Jima,"
"Little Miss Sunshine,"
"The Queen."

this one is weirdly wide open, but i actually think they are going to surprise us...

prediction: "little miss sunshine"
preference: children of men.

14 February 2007

88. field of dreams

sarge loves this shit. i can see why. it starts with a great opening montage, a cornucopia of still and moving images from old to new, with a voiceover by kevin costner telling us about baseball, his dad, and himself. and that's the movie in a nutshell.

i was surprised by how quickly we are introduced to The Voice. its immediate. costner is in the field in the first shot (post-intro) and The Voice come to him: "if you build it, he will come." this is now iconic, but think about how that must have felt to new audiences -- what a great hook!

and one thing i love about this movie is the reaction the characters have to the supernatural. ray hears a voice in his field, and he and his wife, both old hippies, have a very accepting and bemused view of this new intrusion on their lives: "what did The Voice say today?". compare this to an m. night shamalamadingdong movie, where hearing a voice would mean ray's daughter would mope around or cry in the dark. in this movie, such a supernatural element is described as "really interesting" and "cool". ray and his family think this whole thing is fun and they want to see what happens next, and the audience can't help but agree. and i love that decision on the part of the filmmakers.

this movie is in a long line of media and pop culture that uses the supernatural or ghosts as a genre or conduit to explore more "literary" themes. "beloved" would be another, but in this case the theme we're looking at is how the national pasttime of america helps bind together fathers and sons. deeper than that, though, is the way fathers can live vicariously through their sons, and how the unfulfilled dreams or goals of a father can be taken on by a child. i'm reminded of my step-grandfather and his dream to live and die by the water; he never got it, but my step-father just moved to the ocean to retire based on his own desire and his need to fulfill that unrequited dream of his dad.

otherwise, this movie is classic hollywood stuff in all the best ways. they have a charming movie star in the lead role. its easy to forget why costner was so big when he was, but he had good looks and a very palpable everyman quality to him that was very engaging. and the structure of the film is fast and solid: within the first fifteen minutes the field is built and we're given tons of wonderful information about the setting and the backstory of ray's family and what shoeless joe jackson means to both him and the world at large. and then: he shows up. the movie's good writing shows in its economy, its humor, its raising of the stakes with money issues (losing the farm), and the way it uses its central theme to touch us and reaffirm our national notions like all good classical hollywood cinema:

the last thing ray says in his intro voiceover is "i'm afraid i'm turning into my father." and this movie rebukes him: is that really such a bad thing?

13 February 2007

12 best films of 2006

Admittedly, there was much that I missed this year, but based on what I saw, here are the best films of the year. Alphabetically ordered, they are as follows:

  • Borat -- outrageous and controversial and funny as fuck, with an amazingly committed performance by sasha baron cohen
  • Brick -- reworked old noir in a new way, with great lingo and fine performances. made for almost nothing.
  • Cache -- haneke continues his cinematic mindfucks. makes establishing shots menacing.
  • Casino Royale -- action movies are great if they have brains behind them. a welcome jolt to an almost-dead franchise.
  • Chapelle's Block Party -- funny, exciting, joyous, moving. this was dave chapelle's version of going to a shrink.
  • Children of Men -- a realistic view of the future, with some of the most fantastic camerawork and mise-en-scene this year.
  • An Inconvenient Truth -- global warming isn't real! it's snowing outside!
  • The Last King of Scotland -- simply because of forrest whittaker and the cinematography by anthony dod mantle.
  • Little Miss Sunshine -- the little movie that could, and did, and does.
  • LOL -- joe swanberg makes movies at a rapid clip, and not one of them is bad. sex, lies, and videotape, eat your heart out.
  • Marie Antoinette -- horribly overlooked, this movie was a stunner in all ways. give it another chance.
  • Thank You For Smoking -- a great debut with biting satire the likes of which we rarely see these days.

12 February 2007

89. forrest gump

i'm not really sure why this film is on this list. i like robert zemekis quite a bit, epecially in how he's able to use studio resources to make idiosyncratic films that somehow appeal to a huge audience. think of his other big tom hanks movie, "cast away". the majority of the film concerns hanks on a deserted island talking to a volley ball. and it KILLED. people loved it.
same thing here: he's making a film that's basically about a retard shuffling his way through history through no fault of his own. who would greenlight that? and yet it made $700 million dollars. not everyone can do that, but zemekis did it through his own sensibilities: hollywood production values, amazing visual effects, overbearing score, mix of movie stars and character actors, sweet nostalgia.
but i have problems with this film, mostly in that i think its in quiet contempt of america and the importance historical events of the past 50 years or so. how simple, how crass to condense such events like watergate, like elvis' sullivan appearance, like vietnam protests, as just by-products of a bumbleton's stumblings. that's pretty vile, as far as i'm concerned. also vile is the subtly racist and sexist undertones of the film: the stereotypical depiction of the black panthers, jenny's descent into drugs and forrest having to save her from herself over and over and over, because she's a fallen virgin who became a whore.
so i have serious problems with the content of the film and its contempt for culture (as well as counter-culture) in this country, but i do think the movie is well-written in structure and form. i don't appreciate the blatant tear-jerking, but the film does a lot of intangibles right: it moves FAST, covering a lot of years in a relatively short time with economy (50's to 80's with tonnes of history); it juggles a large and colorful cast with distinction and characterization (lt. dan and his backstory in particular); mixes public/historical and private moments with ease (going between forrest's love for jenny and meeting presidents, for example); creates iconic movie moments and quotes out of thin air ("run, forrest, run!"). and the use of voiceover is quite good, with forrest commenting subtly on the action, or creating jokes by speaking a line of dialogue right before its shown diegetically, or when lt. dan tells his troops "shut up!" and forrest starts whispering on the soundtrack. nice.
but much more interesting to me than the writing is certain technical concerns: the visual effects are obviously great, although they haven't aged all that well, with president's rubber-mouthed when speaking to forrest. i like the relatively long takes and use of cranes for floating-style shots. and although the score is AWFUL, the soundtrack of pop music is a fine survey of pop music from the last 40 years or so and comments on each scene rather faithfully.