Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Best Picture Race

These are not predictions, just my own personal musings on each film.

BABEL
For it: Babel, more so than any other film in this race, speaks specifically of our time. It is a film of our time, about our time - perfectly realizing our anxieties and fears, and the complexities of life in a globalized world.

Against it: It is timeless? Perhaps not. But one day film historians will look back on this and see it as a statement of life on earth in the early part of the 21st century. But it may not ring true to future audiences. This is a movie for the here and now.


THE DEPARTED
For it: Martin Scorsese again demonstrates why he is a master with this explosively entertaining mob thriller. It is a master class in filmmaking, an intricate thriller with a keen eye for form and content, as well as crackerjack storytelling. It's the most outright entertaining of the nominees.

Against it: The abrupt blood bath ending seems like a bit of a cop-out. And it's not as emotionally engaging as Babel or Letters from Iwo Jima.

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
For it: A quitessintially American director tackles a distinctly Eastern tale of doomed Japanese soldiers coming to terms with their fate while defending Iwo Jima to the death during WWII. It's the completion of Clint Eastwood's staggering Iwo Jima saga, which began with Flags of Our Fathers, and is a monumental, elegiac achievement of great emotional depth.

Against it: Flags was the stronger, more complex film (in my opinion, anyway). And it may have opened too late in the game.


LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
For it:
Irrepressibly plucky and almost impossible not to like, Little Miss Sunshine is an endearing and sweet little comedy.

Against it: It's an endearing and sweet little comedy. A trifle that has does not belong among the five best films of the year while more important films go unnominated.


THE QUEEN
For it: Stephen Frears' stately "what if?" peek into the lives of the British Royal Family is a solid, finely crafted film. It's hard to say anything bad about it. This is world-class filmmaking, and the only nominee that pretty much EVERYONE respects.

Against it: But the key word is "respects," not "loves." Is it too understated? Helen Mirren is getting all the attention for her stunning performance. It's a very good film, but not the Best Picture of the Year. A nomination is all it really deserves.


I still haven't decided if I'm pulling for Babel or Letters from Iwo Jima. I also haven't finalized my predictions, I think I have it narrowed down to two though. Keep checking back.

Abigail Breslin on Oprah

From Oprah.com:

Abigail says she was asleep when the Oscar nominations were announced. "My mom and my brother came in and they were screaming and they woke me up," Abigail says. As far as what she is going to wear to the awards, Abigail says she has no idea. "My favorite color is red," she says.

Even though she doesn't know exactly what her dress will look like on Oscar night, she does know who she is going to bring to the awards. "Well, I'm not old enough to date yet…so my parents and my Curious George," she says.

How ridiculously cute is this girl? She had cookies on her purse at the Golden Globes. Cookies!

You know I wouldn't mind seeing her take home the award. She's just impossible not to like. Plus she's great in the film - she was so natural.

Variety Reader Oscar Reactions

From Variety:

"Why on earth does the Academy insist on wasting a nomination on a child (especially her first performance), who, for the most part, has a more easier time on camera than an adult does? It’s insulting to those adult actors who have spent years learning to do what a child does naturally. This is what winning an Oscar is about. So, in my opinion, nominating a child defies everything a person in this business works for. " - filmmaker/actress

Well first off, Little Miss Sunshine was not Abigail Breslin's first performance. She has shown great growth since Signs. If you want to criticize make sure you have your facts straight first. And "more easier?" Are you serious? You obviously have no talent yourself, otherwise you wouldn't be bitching about an extremely talented little girl getting a much deserved award nomination. I think you're just jealous and bitter that a child is more talented than you. What makes your "talent" more valid than her's? Finding a great child actor is a rare thing, and Abigail Breslin is the best thing to come along since Dakota Fanning. Winning an Oscar is about more than spending years in training - it's about delivering a great performance. And Breslin did just that. How many other kids do you know that could pull of doing a strip dance to "Super Freak" at nine years old?
"Forrest Whitaker is a fine actor, but I must say I would not go to see a movie about Idi Amin no matter the inducement. " - Variety subscriber

Your loss.
"I would love to see Jennifer Hudson to win because it shows that either you have IT or you don't. She's pretty and has not gone to professional acting classes trying to learn how to act. She's a natural." - Variety subscriber

I wouldn't call her a natural. She has an amazing voice but her acting is a bit rusty. It's obvious she is not a trained actress. I still think she deserves the award though.
"I'll just say it and go down in flames: I think "Little Miss Sunshine" is overrated and am scared to death it will win." -Variety subscriber

You and me both. It's a sweet little trifle that has no business in the top 5, especially when a future classic like Children of Men is snubbed.
"I don't care that "Dreamgirls" isn't a best pic nominee, but how did "The Queen" get in there?" - Variety subscriber

Um...it's the year's most highly acclaimed English language film, that's why.


Click here to see all the reactions.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Will This Hurt Eddie Murphy's Oscar Chances?

With previews for Norbit, Murphy's latest multi-character makeup comedy currently making the rounds at multiplexes and on TV, could this remind Academy members that they are about to give an Oscar to Dr. Dolittle? Yes he's good, but seeing those ads might make them think twice. He is, after all, the most vulnerable of the acting race frontrunners.

Monday, January 29, 2007

"Little Miss Sunshine" Grabs Top SAG Award

And the winners are:

Best Ensemble - Little Miss Sunshine
Actor - Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Actress - Helen Mirren, The Queen
Supporting Actor - Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Supporting Actress - Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Sunday, January 28, 2007

"Epic Movie" Takes Number 1 at the Box Office

Further proof that as long as Hollywood keeps turning out brainless shit like this, people will keep eating it up. Go see Pan's Labyrinth people!

1. Epic Movie - $19,200,000
2. Smokin' Aces - $14,262,000
3. Night at the Museum - $9,450,000
4. Catch and Release - $8,000,000
5. Stomp the Yard - $7,800,000
6. Dreamgirls - $6,618,000
7. The Pursuit of Happyness - $5,000,000
8. Pan's Labyrinth - $4,505,000
9. The Queen - $4,000,000
10. The Hitcher - $3,598,000

Source: Box Office Mojo

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mirren vs. Dench

This is hilarious!

Academy Disqualifies Two "Sunshine" Producers

From Variety:

The Academy has decided which three producers of "Little Miss Sunshine" are Oscar contenders, while rejecting the request of Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey to be added to the Acad's producer credits on Warner Bros.' "The Departed."

The trio for "Little Miss Sunshine" are David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf and Marc Turtletaub. Also receiving onscreen credit are Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa. Acad rules state that only three producers are eligible.

About 20 producers who sit on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' executive committee made the decision Thursday night, naming Graham King at the only producer of "Departed."

The Producers Guild of America had earlier denied Grey credit on the pic. The Academy uses PGA decisions as a guideline, but reviews the ruling if the guild decision is contested.

On Jan. 21, all five "Sunshine" producers were given the PGA award because the guild does not limit the number of producers.


So due to the Academy's ridiculously specific rules (anyone wanna talk about the insane foreign language film rules?), the two producers who got Sunshine started have been disqualified, and if it goes on to win the big award, they will not recieve statuettes.

Is it just me or is that supremely unfair? Academy representatives said that they turn to the PGA to determine nominees, and the PGA recognized 5 producers, 2 more than the Academy's limit.

They need an appeals system, those two deserve to be recognized just as much as the other three.

Friday, January 26, 2007

"An Inconvenient Truth" Raises Hackles in Washington

From Boston.com:

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Frosty Hardiman is neither impressed nor surprised that "An Inconvenient Truth," the global warming movie narrated by former vice president Al Gore, received an Oscar nomination this week for best documentary.

"Liberal left is all over Hollywood," he grumbled a few hours after the nomination was announced.

Hardiman, a parent of seven in the southern suburbs of Seattle, has roiled the global-warming waters.

It happened early this month when he learned that one of his daughters would be watching "An Inconvenient Truth" in her seventh-grade science class.

"No, you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation -- the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet -- for global warming," Hardiman wrote in an e-mail to the Federal Way School Board.

The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who said he believes that a warming planet is "one of the signs" of Jesus Christ's imminent return for Judgment Day.

His angry e-mail, along with complaints from a few other parents, stopped the film from being shown.

The teacher in that science class, Kay Walls, said that after Hardiman's e-mail her principal told her she would receive a disciplinary letter for not following school board rules that require her to seek written permission to present "controversial" materials in class.


Click here to read the full article.


I'm sorry, but can people get any more stupid? Stuff like this is what's wrong with this country. I finally saw Jesus Camp the other night, and it shows a mother telling her child that global warming is a lie made up by non-Christians. What on earth has that got to do with Christianity and the Bible?

Seriously. Wake up and smell the melting ice caps.

Tom O'Neill on the "Dreamgirls" Snub

From The Envelope:
Unbelievable! Not once do they even mention the racial divide between the young black gals up on screen and the old white guys in the audience — guys who failed (or refused) to project themselves into the heads of Effie & galpals. I'm not talking racial prejudice here. I'm talking a failure to empathize.

As David Carr said in the New York Times, "Dreamgirls" was a "tough sell to begin with among white males, a demographic that describes the majority of the academy's 5,800 voting members."

There — David nailed it. But nowhere in their chat do Patrick and John even discuss race as a possible factor.

Ugh! There he goes again...just because his precious Dreamgirls wasn't deemed among the 5 best films of the year, he goes off crying racism. In the year of the most ethnically diverse Oscar nominations ever. Yes, ever.

He then goes on to say:
They failed to do their jobs as film pros. Why? Because they're stubborn old guys — just like grandpa.

What? I would love to know where this is coming from. It reeks of bitterness.

Academy: Dreamgirls is a good movie, we give it 8 nominations. But it's not one of the 5 best of the year.
O'Neill: Oh yeah? Well you're a racist.

I loved Dreamgirls, I was swept up in the story and the music, but it is not one of the five best films of the year. Just because it's full of flash and pizazz does not mean it should be a Best Picture contender. End of story.

Does he think that Letters from Iwo Jima, the film which took Dreamgirls' slot, should have been snubbed instead? A brave, powerful, and yes, important film that examines a famous battle from the other side?

I'm sorry. Dreamgirls was a very good film. But it was typical Oscar bait. And this year Oscar chose to honor the films that deserved it, not the ones who shamelessly pursued it.

If you want to complain about something getting snubbed, complain about Children of Men. That's a film that will be taught in film classes for decades to come. Dreamgirls? Not so much.

Isn't that what Best Picture SHOULD be about?

Click here to read O'Neill's full story.

Film Comment's Critics Poll

Listed in the latest issue of Film Comment is their 7th annual critics poll, which lists the top 50 films of the year according to their contributors:

BEST FILMS OF 2006 (Released theatrically in the U.S.)
1. The Departed Martin Scorsese, U.S. 779 points
2. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu Cristi Puiu, Romania 740
3. Army of Shadows Jean-Pierre Melville, France/Italy 657
4. L’Enfant Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium/France 611
5. The Queen Stephen Frears, U.K./France/Italy 587
6. Borat Larry Charles, U.S. 455
7. Half Nelson Ryan Fleck, U.S. 454
8. United 93 Paul Greengrass, France/U.K./U.S. 432
9. Volver Pedro Almodóvar, Spain 429
10. Inland Empire David Lynch, U.S./France/Poland 414
11. Three Times Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan 379
12. A Scanner Darkly Richard Linklater, U.S. 363
13. Old Joy Kelly Reichardt, U.S. 352 (tie)
Flags of Our Fathers Clint Eastwood, U.S. 352
14. Tristram Shandy Michael Winterbottom, U.K. 333
15. Pan’s Labyrinth Guillermo del Toro, Mexico/Spain/U.S. 322
16. Letters from Iwo Jima Clint Eastwood, U.S. 318
17. Mutual Appreciation Andrew Bujalski, U.S. 248
18. A Prairie Home Companion Robert Altman, U.S. 246
19. Children of Men Alfonso Cuarón, U.K./U.S. 244
20. Casino Royale Martin Campbell, U.K./U.S. 228
22. Climates Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/France 223
23. Inside Man Spike Lee, U.S. 202
24. The Descent Neil Marshall, U.K. 199
25. Clean Olivier Assayas, Canada/France/U.K. 189
26. Our Daily Bread Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Germany/Austria 188
27. Iraq in Fragments James Longley, U.S./Iraq 186
28. Little Miss Sunshine Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Faris, U.S. 171
29. Miami Vice Michael Mann, U.S. 162
30. Gabrielle Patrice Leconte, France 161
31. The Proposition John Hillcoat, Australia/U.K. 155
32. Fast Food Nation Richard Linklater, U.S. 148
33. An Inconvenient Truth Davis Guggenheim, U.S. 147
34. Woman Is the Future of Man Hong Sang-soo, Taiwan 145
35. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party Michel Gondry, U.S. 144
36. Battle in Heaven Carlos Reygadas, Mexico 141
37. Brick Rian Johnson, U.S. 138
38. 49 Up Michael Apted, U.K. 134
39. When the Levees Broke Spike Lee, U.S. 123
40. The Science of Sleep Michel Gondry, France/U.S. 122
41. Lady Vengeance Park Chan-wook, South Korea 115
42. Little Children Todd Field, U.S. 108
43. The Case of the Grinning Cat Chris Marker, France 107
44. Thank You for Smoking Jason Reitman, U.S. 104
45. Shortbus John Cameron Mitchell, U.S. 102
46. 4 Ilya Khrjanovsky, Russia 98
47. The Ister David Barison/Daniel Ross, Australia 94
48. Marie Antoinette Sofia Coppola, U.S. 92
49. The War Tapes Deborah Scranton, U.S. 89
50. The Prestige Christopher Nolan, U.S. 87

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Oscar Race Breakdown

With 2006 being the most wide-open Oscar race in years, I think it's prudent to take a look at the race category by category to help decide who will take Best Picture, since at this point it's literally anybody's game.

I don't think the Best Picture winner will win more than 4 awards, if that (which isn't much of a stretch considering two nominees are only nominated for four - but neither one of those will win all their nominations). And it is more likely that it will only win 3 or less. The only film with a real chance to win more is Babel, which COULD win 5 (Picture, Screenplay, Supp. Actress, Score, Editing), but I doubt it. If Little Miss Sunshine takes Best Picture, it will do so with a maximum of 3 awards (unless the Academy goes ape for it and awards Abigail Breslin Best Supporting Actress, but again I doubt it), winning Picture and Screenplay, and MAYBE Supporting Actor. The little bus that could has a real shot at being this year's Cinderella story and taking home the gold, but I think it will have to settle for Best Original Screenplay.

The Departed could win Picture, Director, Screenplay and Editing. With editing such an important category when it comes to predicting Best Picture winners, that leaves it between Babel and The Departed. If either of those wins it could be an early indicator of a Best Picture win. If, however, the award goes to a non-Best Pic nominee, then we're back at square one. As for Martin Scorsese, I can't really envision a scenario where he doesn't win, even if The Departed doesn't win Best Pic. Unless the Academy decides to award Clint Eastwood for his double achievement of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, which I highly doubt they will do because letting Clint beat Marty again would just be beyond cruel. The only other real challenger to Scorsese is Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who could win if Babel sweeps. But again, this award is Marty's to lose.

I could see a scenario where Letters takes home Best Pic while Departed wins Best Director, but if that's the case it could be the first time since Mutiny on the Bounty in 1935 that a film has won Best Picture and no other awards - since Sunshine will probably win Screenplay, and Departed Director. It could always pick up Sound Editing as a small throwaway prize, but I see that award going somewhere else. But you never know. Letters has a bit of a Munich vibe to me - the well respected, deadly serious masterpiece made by a beloved auteur that is just lucky to be nominated, and won't win anything.

As for The Queen, well, I think it's more of a threat than people realize. It's the only Best Picture nominee with across the board respect and admiration. No one has anything bad to say about it. Helen Mirren will win Best Actress, no question. But if it takes home Best Score, it might end up going all the way with a three win tally for Best Picture. It may be the only result that leaves everyone satisfied.

If I had a vote, it would go to Letters from Iwo Jima, followed closely by Babel. Eastwood's film represents half of one of the greatest filmmaking achievements of the last 20 years, while Babel is the most intricate and complex of the nominees. Both films generate empathy for other cultures, forcing us to see the world from the point of view of those who are different from us.
But the real point here, is that any one of these films, with the exception of Little Miss Sunshine, is a worthy Best Picture winner. And even Sunshine has that hard-won underdog glory vibe to it. This is anybody's game. Which makes my job of Oscar prognostication extremely hard.
Maybe things will become clearer as the season wears on. Perhaps this Saturday's SAG awards will help to narrow the race.
Either way, we are in for one of the most unpredicable Oscar ceremonies ever. And that only makes things more fun.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Black Snake Moan"

I think I am quite possibly looking forward to this more than any other film of 2007. And it has one of the best posters I have ever seen:

Directed by Hustle & Flow (a film I was admittedly not impressed with) helmer Craig Brewster, Black Snake Moan stars Samuel L. Jackson as a simple, God-fearing man living in the backwoods South, who comes across a self-destructive nymphomaniac (Christina Ricci), and decides to chain her into his house until he can cure her of her behavior.

The poster and premise have gritty exploitation written all over it, but with such a knowing wink that any hint of sexism is dispelled. Check out the trailer:

In a surprisingly glowing review in the latest issue of Film Comment, Nathan Lee says:

Black Snake Moan sings the blues—hard, long, from the bottom of the gut, slushing around in bile and Jack Daniels and yesterday’s grits, wailing on a slide guitar, thunder, lightning, heartbreak, death, regret, baby Jesus, gravy. Life hurts bad, and Brewer doesn’t shy from real suffering. Snarky retro camp has nothing to do with it. There’s no condescension here. Rae’s road back to something like self-control is hard won, fraught with slippage, as serious and persuasive as the journey of L’Enfant. Brewer’s recipe is solid: home-cooked meals, hothouse blues, God’s love, patience. Ricci’s performance is so fearless, specific, and blazingly committed it carries the second half of the picture over the slight underwriting of Jackson’s character and his clear limitations as an actor. She’s the white-hot focal point of Brewer’s loud, brash, encompassing vision of the soul’s dark night survived, peering into the dawn. That’s right, haters, I said “vision.” And one so honest and healthy and against the grain of indie solipsism and Hollywood cynicism that it’s just about visionary.

That is high praise indeed, especially from a high brow cineaste magazine like Film Comment. I can only hope the film lives up to my expectations at this point.

Black Snake Moan will be released everywhere on February 23.

Great Films that Were Snubbed for Best Pic

The Envelope has compiled a list of great films that were not nominated for Best Picture in an attempt to place Dreamgirls in their company:
"The African Queen"
"Being John Malkovich"
"Being There"
"The Big Sleep"
"Breakfast at Tiffany's"
"Bringing Up Baby"
"Carrie"
"Charade"
"City Lights"
"Close Encounters of the Third Kind"
"Easy Rider"
"8 1/2"
"The Empire Strikes Back"
"Gods and Monsters"
"His Girl Friday"
"Inherit the Wind"
"Intruder in the Dust"
"King Kong"
"The Lady Eve"
"The Manchurian Candidate"
"Manhattan"
"Mean Streets"
"Meet Me in St. Louis"
"The Miracle of Morgan's Creek"
"Modern Times"
"A Night at the Opera"
"North by Northwest"
"Notorious"
"The Producers" (1968)
"Psycho"
"Rear Window"
"Rebel without a Cause"
"Rosemary's Baby"
"Sabrina"
"The Searchers"
"Serpico"
"Shadow of a Doubt"
"Singing in the Rain"
"Snow White"
"Some Like It Hot"
"Strangers on a Train"
"Sullivan's Travels"
"Sweet Smell of Success"
"Thelma and Louise"
"The Third Man"
"Touch of Evil"
"Toy Story"
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
"Vertigo"
"The Wild Bunch"

Are they really putting Dreamgirls in the company of 2001, Psycho, Vertigo, and 8 1/2? They can't be serious. No matter how you spin it, Dreamgirls is nothing more than an entertaining, rousing musical extravaganza. But is it on the level of Singin' in the Rain or Busby Berekely's Footlight Parade, or even for that matter, Moulin Rouge? No. If you want to start putting a 2006 film in the pantheon, the only one that really deserves such immediate classic recognition is Children of Men, and perhaps Clint Eastwood's Iwo Jima films. Time will tell about the others (although I could see Pan's Labyrinth being remembered for years to come).

Yes Dreamgirls was a surprising snub, but to compare it to a brilliant, timeless masterpiece like 2001: A Space Odyessey is just reckless. I guess that's what separates Oscar pundits and serious film critics and historians. They mistake Dreamgirls for classic, groundbreaking material when it is really nothing more than a well made, entertaining crowd pleaser that doesn't really cover any ground we haven't seen before.

It didn't get nominated. It's time to move on and focus on the ones that did. There are some damn good films in that Best Picture list this year.

Entertainment Weekly on the "Children of Men" Snub

Maybe its harrowing portrait of a dystopian future was more than Academy voters could bear. Maybe its late release date and the truncated Oscar calendar combined to work against it. Either way, the omission of Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men from the list of this year's Best Picture nominees is one that film historians and fans alike will almost certainly look back on with befuddlement. Children of Men is the rarest of films — it's a nail-biting adventure that follows an expectant mother (Claire Hope Ashitey) and her skeptical guardian (Clive Owen) in a race against time; a subtle commentary on global politics; and a gut-wrenching vision of a world without children, without hope. In much the same way the film haunts viewers days, even weeks, after seeing it, we suspect the specter of its snub will haunt the Oscars telecast come Feb. 25. —Michael Slezak

I couldn't have said it better myself. Not nominating Children of Men may not be a surprise right now because of its weak campaign, but down the road, not nominating the best film of the decade will be a shame the Academy may not live down - akin to not giving Citizen Kane Best Picture. It will be seen as a sign of the climate at the time, sure, and the late start in the gold derby didn't help. But ignoring COM is one of their greatest injustices.

Oscar Facts

Some reasons why 2006 is one for the record books, from Variety:
With his eighth acting nom, for "Venus," Peter O'Toole is a winner either way. If he wins, great; if not, he goes down in the record books as the actor with the most noms without a win (he was previously tied with Richard Burton).

With her 14th nom, Meryl Streep ("The Devil Wears Prada") furthers her lead for most nominated actor ever. Runners-up are Jack Nicholson and Katharine Hepburn, with 12 apiece. Kevin O'Connell, nommed for sound mixing in "Apocalypto," scores his 19th nom. He furthers his status as the Academy's most nominated individual who, so far, hasn't won. Distant runners-up are composer Alex North and art director Roland Anderson, at 15 each.

"Dreamgirls" is the first live-action film to have three of its songs nominated. Two animated films can lay claim to the same record: "The Lion King" in 1994 and "Beauty and the Beast" in 1991.

"I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth" is the first song from a docu to be nominated since "More" from "Mondo Cane" was up for the award in 1963.

Alan Arkin has gone 38 years since his last nom --1968's "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" -- the same amount of time Jack Palance spent between "Shane" in 1953 and "City Slickers" in 1991. Henry Fonda is still the title holder at 41 years between acting noms.

With "Little Children," Kate Winslet, 31, becomes the youngest actress to garner five noms. She has made 19 movies. Previous record holder was Olivia de Haviland, who secured her fifth at the age of 33. By that time -- 1950 -- she had made 33 films.

Ten-year-old Abigail Breslin, should she win the supporting actress trophy, will tie Tatum O'Neal as the youngest Oscar winner. O'Neal, however, at the time of her win at the 1974 ceremony, was six months younger than Breslin will be in February.

Click here to read the entire article.

What Happened to "Dreamgirls?"

Erik Beck on the Dreamgirls snub:

The more stunning fact is that it got 8 nominations, a major number for a non best picture nominee (trailing only They Shoot Horses Don't They and tying Poseidon Adventure, Close Encounters and Ragtime). It leads the pack. I say again: IT LEADS THE PACK. Horses was beaten by Anne of the Thousand Days, Poseidon by Cabaret and the Godfather, Close Encounters by Julia, Turning Point and Star Wars, and Ragtime by Reds and On Golden Pond.

No film had ever had the most nominations in a year and failed to get a Best Picture nomination. Obviously this is a historic year, as I have pointed out on the boards. It is the fewest combined nominations by the 5 Best Picture nominations since they went to 5 nominees back in 1944. It is the first time since the Oscars inception year of 27-28 that no Best Picture nominee has a Best Actor nominee (the other sure bet I had been telling people is that Leo would be nominated for the Departed for that very reason). How bizarre is this? Unless Babel wins, we're looking at a Best Picture winner with fewer than 7 nominations.

Two historic years back to back. Culturally significant future classic Brokeback Mountain gets upset by well-liked ensemble piece Crash was like How Green Was My Valley beating Citizen Kane in 1941, or Shakespeare in Love beating Saving Private Ryan in 1998 (although Shakespeare is a more worthy film than Crash).

But this...this is unprecedented. A welcome precedent, to be sure (I liked Dreamgirls, but didn't think it was Best Picture material - ditto for Little Miss Sunshine), but definitely unexpected and significant.

Does this mean that the Academy is turning over a new leaf? Letters from Iwo Jima is without a doubt the better film - a bold and daring work of art. And I doubt that you will find anyone who disagrees outside of Dreamgirls' rabid fanbase. Could it be that the Academy is beginning to recognize worthy films over popular choices?
Dreamgirls seemed to have Oscar written all over it. It was a successful, glitzy Broadway adaptation filled with excellent craftsmanship and plenty of glitz and glamour. But they passed it over in lieu of a grim and somber subtitled American war film that portrays a historic battle from the viewpoint of the "enemy." Sure it was directed by Oscar favorite Clint Eastwood, but that is a daring move for the Academy.
It's probably not the start of a new trend, at least not a sudden one. They made the right choice this time, but they will fall for the razzle-dazzle again. I'm just glad to see a worthy effort make the top 5 over a popular but unworthy frontrunner.
Now if they would have only remembered Children of Men and Pan's Labyrinth...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

So, What Does it All Mean?

Well I said I hoped that Oscar provided us with some surprises - and they really came through this time. There weren't that many, but the ones that did were HUGE.

First off, the obvious snub for Golden Globe champ Dreamgirls in the Best Picture and Best Director categories, while still managing to garner the most nominations (thanks it's 3 Best Song noms). I had a feeling Letters from Iwo Jima would sneak in, but I was expecting it to knocl Little Miss Sunshine out of the race instead of the pre-ordained frontrunner since before the nomination race began.

Then, Pedro Almodovar's Volver failed to make the Best Foreign Language Film cut, the nod insead going Denmark's After the Wedding or Canada's Water, depending on which you were predicting (I went with Water).

In another shocker, Leonardo DiCaprio got nominated for Best Actor for Blood Diamond (which got 5 nominations) instead of The Departed, while Jack Nicholson got passed over for a nod in lieu of co-star Mark Wahlberg.

As it stands, the nomination counts for Best Picture looks like this:

Babel - 7
The Queen - 6
The Departed - 5
Letters from Iwo Jima - 4
Little Miss Sunshine - 4

I was hoping that todays nominations would shed some light on who may end up taking home the gold on February 25. But no, it's only helped to muddy the waters. This is literally anybody's race, the most wide-open in years. They clearly love Babel, but Sunshine got two acting nods, indicating support but not enough to get a Best Director nod. The Departed got snubbed in two major categories (although in Supporting Actor it was made up for by a surprise showing of Wahlberg). And the unexpected (by some) success of Letters indicates that has more support than we thought.

Things may become more clear as awards night approaches. But right now, welcome to the most unprecitable Oscar race in recent memory (but Helen Mirren is still going to win for The Queen).

And the Nominees Are...

BEST PICTURE
Babel
The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

BEST DIRECOR
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel
Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears, The Queen
Paul Greengrass, United 93

BEST ACTOR
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

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

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Adriana Barraza, Babel
Cate Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg, The Departed

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Babel
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal


FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
After the Wedding (Denmark)
Days of Glory (Algeria)
The Lives of Others (Germany)
Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico)
Water (Canada)

ANIMATED FEATURE
Cars
Happy Feet
Monster House


ORIGINAL SCORE
Gustavo Santaolalla, Babel
Thomas Newman, The Good German
Philip Glass, Notes on a Scandal
Javier Navarrete, Pan's Labyrinth
Alexandre Desplat, The Queen

ORIGINAL SONG
"I Need to Wake Up" An Inconvenient Truth
"Listen" Dreamgirls
"Love You I Do" Dreamgirls
"Our Town" Cars
"Patience" Dreamgirls

ART DIRECTION
Dreamgirls
The Good Shepherd
Pan's Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Prestige

CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Black Dahlia
Children of Men
The Illusionist
Pan's Labyrinth
The Prestige

COSTUME DESIGN
Curse of the Golden Flower
The Devil Wears Prada
Dreamgirls
Marie Antoinette
The Queen

FILM EDITING
Babel
Blood Diamond
Children of Men
The Departed
United 93

MAKEUP
Apocalypto
Click
Pan's Labyrinth

VISUAL EFFECTS
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Poseidon
Superman Returns

SOUND MIXING
Apocalypto
Blood Diamond
Dreamgirls
Flags of Our Fathers
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

SOUND EDITING
Apocalypto
Blood Diamond
Flags of Our Fathers
Letters from Iwo Jima
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Deliver Us From Evil
An Inconvenient Truth
Iraq in Fragments
Jesus Camp
My Country, My Country

DOCUMENTARY SHORT
The Blood of Yingzhou District
Recycled Life
Rehearsing a Dream
Two Hands

ANIMATED SHORT
The Danish Poet
Lifted
The Little Match Girl
Maestro
No Time for Nuts

LIVE ACTION SHORT
Binta and the Great Idea
Eramos Pocos (One Too Many)
Helmer and Son
The Saviour
West Bank Story

Epic Movie

I'm sorry, but do people really think this shit is funny? Seeing dreck like this passed off as entertainment (and the people who eagerly lap it up), always makes me despair for humanity (not to mention the art of film).

Monday, January 22, 2007

On the Eve of Oscar Nominations

With the Oscar nominations being announced in the morning, I wanted to do one last column about the state of the race.

The generally touted "Big Five," Babel, The Departed, Dreamgirls, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Queen are being proclaimed invincible. But I wouldn't be so sure. First off, LMS, while charming, funny, and exceptionally well made - it has no place among the top five films of the year. Period.

While my pick to replace it would be Children of Men (the most jaw-dropping, affecting, groundbreaking, and in my opinion, the best film of the year), I know it's a long-shot. It opened too late and it's campaign never fired into high gear - and its bleak apocalyptic vision didn't exactly have them turning up in droves.

And while Notes on a Scandal is probably my favorite film of the year, it's chances outside of the acting and writing races are pretty much zero.

So I want to make the case for Guillermo Del Toro's haunting gothic fantasy, Pan's Labyrinth.


Pan's Labyrinth is the kind of film that deserves to be recognized. It's the kind of film I think can be easily embraced. In fact if it were given a bigger marketing push I think that Picturehouse would have a huge crossover mainstream hit on their hands. Pan's is the most imaginative film of the year, and Del Toro should be recognized in the Best Director category as well...instead of Bill Condon, perhaps?

And for some reason, I feel that if enough of the Academy has seen Pan's, that they will fall all over themselves for it. It's clearly well loved in Hollywood, and will probably go on to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, but wouldn't it be something to elevate it to the top 5, making it the first foreign language film nominated for Best Picture since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? It's fans are passionate - and sometimes that's all it takes to get nominated.

This has the potential to be their darling - and as the pinnacle of world cinema this year, it should be recognized.

I can see it happening. But sadly the chances probably aren't that good. Wouldn't it be great though to wake up tomorrow morning and hear Pan's Labyrinth called out as a Best Picture nominee?

Letters from Iwo Jima is generally considered to be the only film that can break into the top five. And that would be fine with me, I want Eastwood's achievement to be recognized, even if I would rather it be for Flags of Our Fathers, pretty much anything besides Little Miss Sunshine would make me happy at this point.

We'll all know tomorrow morning, the mystery dispelled, and we can finally get down to the business of predicting the winners. With such a wide-open race this year, I'm hoping for some surprises tomorrow. How did such a wide-open year become so predictable?
Tomorrow, I'm hoping, surprises us all.

"Basic Instinct 2," "Little Man," Lead Razzie Nominations

From Razzies.com:
Any honest Academy member will admit that Oscar voters are dealing with slim pickings for 2006. But at the other end of the quality scale, voters for this year's 27th Annual RAZZIE® Awards had literally dozens of deserving contenders to choose from. And choose they have…and RAZZ the nominees they will, in ceremonies to be held at 7:30pm/PST on Oscar eve, Saturday, February 24 at Hollywood's Ivar Theatre.

Heading the dis-honor roll of Worst Achievements in Film this year are a lascivious murder mystery that turned out to be a laugh riot, and a comedy nearly as devoid of laughs as SCHINDLER'S LIST:
Sharon Stone as a "femme fatale" The L.A. Times called "footloose and panty-free" in BASIC INSTINCT 2 and Shawn and Marlon Wayans in their brother Keenan Ivory Wayans' blatant knock-off of a 1954 Bugs Bunny cartoon, LITTLE MAN. Each racked up 7 shots at the spray-painted gold statuettes no one in Hollywood really wants to "win." Joining these films in the final circle as Worst Picture nominees are M. Night Shyamalan's brain dead bedtime story (and box office dud) LADY IN THE WATER, Oscar winner Nicolas Cage donning an unconvincing bear suit in the laugh-out-loud funny remake of the Australian thriller WICKER MAN, and a film helmed by the man many Internet users consider the worst director alive today, Uwe Boll's BLOODRAYNE.

The Wayans brothers and Cage will be competing for Worst Actor of 2006 against last year's "winner" Rob Schneider in BENCHWARMERS, former TV funnyman Tim Allen, with a trio of terrible titles (SANTA CLAUSE 3, SHAGGY DOG and ZOOM) and Larry the Cable Guy (Dan Whitney) as Larry the Cable Guy in LARRY THE CABLE GUY: HEALTH INSPECTOR. Vying with Stone for Worst Actress will be repeat offender Jessica Simpson (nominated this year for EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH), teen-idol (and terrible role model) Lindsay Lohan in JUST MY LUCK, newcomer Kristanna Loken in BLOODRAYNE and spelling-challenged risible siblings Hilary and Haylie Duff in MATERIALS GIRLS. Other well-known names and former Oscar darlings getting dinged with Golden Raspberry nods for 2006 include Ben Kingsley, Martin Short and Danny DeVito competing as Worst Supporting Actor, and RAZZIE® regulars Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra competing with LOST star Michelle Rodriguez, Kristin Chenoweth and Kate Bosworth (as an ultra-lame Lois Lane in SUPERMAN RETURNS) for Worst Supporting Actress. This year's newest RAZZIE® category salutes the dearth of quality G and PG rated movie fare in 2006: Nominated as Worst Excuse for Family Entertainment are DECK THE HALLS, GARFIELD 2, RV, SANTA CLAUSE 3 and SHAGGY DOG. Links to the complete list of nominees are on the left column of this page.

Click here to read the full story.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

First Annual Front Row Award Nominations - 2006

Winners to be announced at a later date.


BEST PICTURE
BABEL
CHILDREN OF MEN
THE DEPARTED
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
PAN'S LABYRINTH

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuarón, CHILDREN OF MEN
Clint Eastwood, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
Alejandro González Iñárritu, BABEL
Martin Scorsese, THE DEPARTED
Guillermo del Toro, PAN’S LABYRINTH

BEST ACTOR
Sacha Baron Cohen, BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
Leonardo DiCaprio, THE DEPARTED
Peter O'Toole, VENUS
Ken Watanabe, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
Forest Whitaker, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

BEST ACTRESS
Penelope Cruz, VOLVER
Judi Dench, NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Helen Mirren, THE QUEEN
Ellen Page, HARD CANDY
Meryl Streep, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Adam Beach, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
James McAvoy, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
Eddie Murphy, DREAMGIRLS
Jack Nicholson, THE DEPARTED
Brad Pitt, BABEL

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Adriana Barraza, BABEL
Cate Blanchett, NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Jennifer Hudson, DREAMGIRLS
Rinko Kikuchi, BABEL
Emma Thompson, STRANGER THAN FICTION

BEST YOUNG PERFORMER
Ivana Baquero, PAN’S LABYRINTH
Abigail Breslin, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Dakota Fanning, CHARLOTTE’S WEB
Elle Fanning, BABEL
Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCE
Dominic Scott Kay, CHARLOTTE’S WEB
Larry the Cable Guy, CARS
Julia Roberts, CHARLOTTE’S WEB
William Shatner, OVER THE HEDGE
Robin Williams, HAPPY FEET

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST
BABEL
THE DEPARTED
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
SHORTBUS

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Guillermo Arriaga, BABEL
Rian Johnson, BRICK
Iris Yamashita, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
Guillermo del Toro, PAN’S LABYRINTH
Peter Morgan, THE QUEEN

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J, Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, CHILDREN OF MEN
William Monahan, THE DEPARTED
William Broyles, Jr., Paul Haggis, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
Patrick Marber, NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Jason Reitman, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (DRAMATIC)
Gustavo Santaolalla, BABEL
Clint Mansell, THE FOUNTAIN
Philip Glass, NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Javier Navarrete, PAN’S LABYRINTH
Alexandre Desplat, THE QUEEN

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (COMEDY OR MUSICAL)
Randy Newman, CARS
Danny Elfman, CHARLOTTE’S WEB
John Powell, HAPPY FEET
Nigel Westlake, Rachel Portman, MISS POTTER
Alberto Iglesias, VOLVER

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Randy Newman, “Our Town” CARS
Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler, Beyoncé Knowles, Anne Preven, “Listen” DREAMGIRLS
Melissa Etheridge, “I Need to Wake Up” AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
Philippe Rombe, “I’m Dreaming of Home” JOYEUX NOEL
Gabe Saporta, Sam Hollander, D. Katz, Travis McCoy, “Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)" SNAKES ON A PLANE

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION
BABEL
CHILDREN OF MEN
THE DEPARTED
MARIE ANTOINETTE
SHORTBUS

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Steve Yedlin, BRICK
Emmanuel Lubezki, CHILDREN OF MEN
Tom Stern, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
Steven Soderbergh, THE GOOD GERMAN
Guillermo Navarro, PAN’S LABYRINTH

BEST ART DIRECTION
Thomas Sanders, APOCALYPTO
Jim Clay, Geoffrey Kirkland, CHILDREN OF MEN
Tingxiao Huo, CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER
Henry Bumstead, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
Eugenio Caballero, PAN’S LABYRINTH

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Chung Man Yee, CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER
Patricia Field, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
Sharon Davis, DREAMGIRLS
Renee April, THE FOUNTAIN
Milena Canonero, MARIE ANTOINETTE

BEST FILM EDITING
Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione, BABEL
Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Cuarón, CHILDREN OF MEN
Thelma Schoonmaker, THE DEPARTED
Joel Cox, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
Clare Douglas, Richard Pearson, Christopher Rouse, UNITED 93

BEST MAKEUP
APOCALYPTO
CLICK
PAN’S LABYRINTH
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST
THE PRESTIGE

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
THE FOUNTAIN
PAN’S LABYRINTH
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST
SUPERMAN RETURNS
X-MEN: THE LAST STAND

BEST SOUND MIXING
APOCALYPTO
CARS
CHILDREN OF MEN
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
WORLD TRADE CENTER

BEST SOUND EDITING
APOCALYPTO
CARS
CHILDREN OF MEN
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
HAPPY FEET

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU (Romania)
THE HOUSE OF SAND (Brazil)
PAN’S LABYRINTH (Mexico)
SOPHIE SCHOLL - THE FINAL DAYS (Germany)
VOLVER (Spain)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
CARS
HAPPY FEET
MONSTER HOUSE

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
JESUS CAMP
WHY WE FIGHT
WORDPLAY


NOMINATION TALLY:
BABEL - 11
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS - 10
PAN’S LABYRINTH - 10
CHILDREN OF MEN - 9
THE DEPARTED - 8
CARS - 6
CHARLOTTE’S WEB - 4
DREAMGIRLS - 4
HAPPY FEET - 4
NOTES ON A SCANDAL - 4
APOCALYPTO - 3
THE FOUNTAIN - 3
THE QUEEN - 3
VOLVER - 3
BRICK - 2
CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER - 2
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA - 2
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH - 2
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND - 2
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA - 2
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE - 2
MARIE ANTOINETTE - 2
SHORTBUS - 2

"Sunshine," "Cars" win PGA

From Variety:
'Little Miss Sunshine' was the surprise winner at the PGA Awards. In an unpredictable turn in the wide-open awards season, the Producers Guild of America has tapped offbeat family comedy "Little Miss Sunshine" as winner of its top feature film award over "Babel," "The Departed," "Dreamgirls" and "The Queen."

The PGA, based on voting by its 3,300 members, gave its Darryl F. Zanuck trophy to "Sunshine" producers Marc Turtletaub, David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf, Albert Berger & Ron Yerxa in ceremonies Saturday night at the Century Plaza. The award, presented by Tom Cruise, was only the second comedy ever chosen by the PGA, joining "Forrest Gump."

With a $12 million price tag, "Sunshine" was the lowest-cost of the nominees for the PGA award. Fox Searchlight acquired the pic -- starring Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Abigail Van Breslin, Steve Carrell and Paul Dano as a dysfunctional family -- at last year's Sundance Film Festival.

In his acceptance speech, Turtletaub singled out Michael Arndt's screenplay and said the key scene in making him decide to back the project came when he read about the grandfather advising his grandson to have sex with a lot of women -- "I mean, like a thousand."

"Thank you Michael," he added. "Without your wonderful screenplay, with equal parts of humor, heart and wisdom, none of us would be here tonight."

Click here to read the full story.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Oscar Predictions 2006

Here are my predictions for the nominations in major categories for the 2006 Academy Awards:


BEST PICTURE
BABEL
THE DEPARTED
DREAMGIRLS
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
THE QUEEN

BEST DIRECTOR
Bill Condon, DREAMGIRLS
Clint Eastwood, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
Stephen Frears, THE QUEEN
Alejandro González Iñárritu, BABEL
Martin Scorsese, THE DEPARTED

BEST ACTOR
Leonardo DiCaprio, THE DEPARTED
Ryan Gosling, HALF NELSON
Peter O’Toole, VENUS
Will Smith, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
Forest Whitaker, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

BEST ACTRESS
Penelope Cruz, VOLVER
Judi Dench, NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Helen Mirren, THE QUEEN
Meryl Streep, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
Kate Winslet, LITTLE CHILDREN

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jackie Earl Haley, LITTLE CHILDREN
Eddie Murphy, DREAMGIRLS
Jack Nicholson, THE DEPARTED
Brad Pitt, BABEL
Michael Sheen, THE QUEEN

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Adriana Barraza, BABEL
Cate Blanchett, NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Abigail Breslin, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Jennifer Hudson, DREAMGIRLS
Rinko Kikuchi, BABEL

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Guillermo Arriaga, BABEL
Iris Yamashita, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
Michael Arndt, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Peter Morgan, THE QUEEN
Pedro Almodovar, VOLVER

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Alfonso Cuarón, Timothy J, Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, CHILDREN OF MEN
William Monahan, THE DEPARTED
Bill Condon, DREAMGIRLS
Todd Field, Tom Perrotta, LITTLE CHILDREN
Patrick Marber, NOTES ON A SCANDAL

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
DAYS OF GLORY (Algeria)
THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Germany)
PAN’S LABYRINTH (Mexico)
VOLVER (Spain)
WATER (Canada)

ANIMATED FEATURE
CARS
HAPPY FEET
MONSTER HOUSE

ORIGINAL SCORE
Gustavo Santaolalla, BABEL
Danny Elfman, CHARLOTTE’S WEB
Clint Mansell, THE FOUNTAIN
Philip Glass, NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Alexandre Desplat, THE QUEEN

Nominations will be announced at 8 am (5 am Pacific) on January 23.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ratings System Reform on the Way

From Variety:
Looking to reform and demystify the ratings system, the MPAA and National Assn. of Theater Owners are planning a series of changes, including a new admonishment to parents that certain R-rated movies aren't suitable for younger kids, period.

Another key change: For the first time, a filmmaker will be able to cite another movie when waging an appeal.

Along with specific rule revisions, the campaign to make the ratings process more user-friendly and transparent for parents and filmmakers includes an extensive outreach and education program.

Campaign officially kicks off Monday at the Sundance Film Fest when MPAA topper Dan Glickman and Joan Graves, chair of the Classification & Rating Administration, will meet with indie filmmakers, producers and specialty arm execs to go over the alterations. (CARA is operated by the MPAA, which reps the major studios, and NATO.)

Reforms include:

For the first time, CARA will post the ratings rules on the MPAA Web site, describing the standards for each rating. The ratings and appeal processes also will be described in detail, along with a link to paperwork needed to submit a film for a rating.

Most members of the ratings board will remain anonymous, although CARA will describe the demographic make-up of the board, which is composed of parents. The names of the three senior raters have always been public; now, they will be posted online.

A filmmaker who appeals a rating can reference similar scenes in other movies, although the appeals board still will focus heavily on context.

CARA will formalize its rule that a member of the ratings board doesn't stay on the board after his or her children are grown.

CARA also will formalize its educational training system for raters.

When the CARA rules are implemented later this year, the MPAA and NATO will designate additional members to the appeals board who don't come from the MPAA or NATO fold. (Indie filmmakers might be one possibility.)

NATO and MPAA will occasionally be able to designate additional observers from different backgrounds to the appeals board.

Click here to continue reading.

Nine Foreign Language Finalists

From Oscarwatch:

Beverly Hills, CA — Nine films will advance in the voting process in the Foreign Language Film category for the 79th Academy Awards®. Sixty-one films had originally qualified in the category.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by country, are:
Algeria, “Days of Glory,” Rachid Bouchareb, director
Canada, “Water,” Deepa Mehta, director
Denmark, “After the Wedding,” Susanne Bier, director
France, “Avenue Montaigne,” Daniele Thompson, director
Germany, “The Lives of Others,” Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, director
Mexico, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Guillermo del Toro, director
The Netherlands, “Black Book,” Paul Verhoeven, director
Spain, “Volver,” Pedro Almodovar, director
Switzerland, “Vitus,” Fredi M. Murer, director



What? Where's Hong Kong's The Banquet?

Anyway, my predictions for the final five are:

DAYS OF GLORY (Algeria)
THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Germany)
PAN'S LABYRINTH (Mexico)
VOLVER (Spain)
WATER (Canada)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Goldderby Claims Mirren's Oscar Hopes are in Trouble

In a recent entry in his Goldderby blog, Tom O'Neill claimed that Helen Mirren's Oscar crown is now shaky because of her Golden Globes speech.

Huh? Is he serious? Mirren was regal as always. She has had this award in the bag since before the season begun. There is no way she can lose at this point. To think that the voters wouldn't vote for her because of her Globes acceptance speech is just absurd. She remains the undisputed frontrunner of the race. Yes Meryl Streep had a great speech, but to say that voters would switch their vote to her because of her speech is, well, underestimating them. Mirren will be crowned queen of the Kodak theatre on February 25th. If the Academy doesn't recognize her they will come off looking like idiots, as the ONLY voting body not to do so. And I think they know that. They cannot ignore the single best performance of the year, and one that has a universal consensus behind it.

Her throne isn't shaky. It's as strong as ever. And her win last night only cemented her victory.

My Top Ten Films of 2006

There are still some films I have yet to see...but I can't wait any longer, especially since this was published last week. Here it is, my picks for the ten best films of 2006:

1
CHILDREN OF MEN

D: Alfonso Cuarón; S: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine; R
Stands the greatest chance of any film this year of one day being regarded as a classic. A breathtaking masterpiece from start to finish that evokes the works of Welles, Kubrick, and Godard in its dark, dystopian vision of a not-too-distant future, where the one hope for humanity is a lone, pregnant young girl in a world full of infertile women. It is quite simply the best film of this seven year old decade.


2
FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS

D: Clint Eastwood; S: Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford; R
Clint Eastwood's powerful war drama examines not just the battle of Iwo Jima and its effect on three men, but the very idea of heroism and how they are shamelessly exploited to drum up support by those in power.


3
THE GOOD SHEPHERD

D: Robert DeNiro, S: Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Robert DeNiro; R
The 70s are alive and well in this intricately plotted thriller about the birth of the CIA. Robert DeNiro directs with a stylistic flair that comes straight from the decade that gave him prominance.


4
THE HOUSE OF SAND

D: Andrucha Waddington; S: Fernanda Montenegro, Fernanda Torres; R
A gorgeous windswept drama tracing three generations of women stranded in the Brazillian desert. It's quiet grandeur is nothing short of stunning.


5
SHORTBUS

D: John Cameron Mitchell; S: Sook-Yin Lee, Paul Dawson; Not Rated
John Cameron Mitchell's exuberant celebration of sex in all its forms is not only the most sexually explicit non-porn film of all time, but it is also the most essential film about sexuality since Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris.


6
BABEL

D: Alejandro González Iñárritu; S: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Rinko Kikuchi; R
Alejandro González Iñárritu's sprawling international drama explores how miscommunication between different cultures effects three groups of people leading inexorably connected lives.


7
THE DEPARTED

D: Martin Scorsese; S: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson; R
Martin Scorsese returns to form in this slam bang thriller about two moles desperately trying to uncover each other's identity. Unmistakably the work of a master working at the top of his game.


8
THE QUEEN

D: Stephen Frears; S: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen; PG-13
Helen Mirren delivers the performance of the year in this razor-sharp drawing room satire about the reaction of the royal family in the week following the death of Princess Diana.


9
MARIE ANTOINETTE

D: Sofia Coppola; S: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman; PG-13
Sofia Coppola's woefully misunderstood, impressionistic take on the infamous French queen is a dreamy, delicious truffle of a film that thinks with its heart instead of its head.


10
BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN

D: Larry Charles, S: Sacha Baron Cohen; R
Side-splittingly funny mockumentary about a clueless Kazakhstani journalist (Sacha Baron Cohen), who goads unwitting subjects into demonstrating not only America's deep seeding prejudices, but its surprising patience as well. A brilliantly scalding satire, and one of the most original comedies in years.


HONORABLE MENTIONS
The powerful German Holocaust drama Sophie Scholl - The Final Days
The dazzling, disco-era, R&B musical, Dreamgirls
The delightful hit comedy Little Miss Sunshine
The best horror film in years, The Descent
The shocking documentary, Why We Fight
Robert Altman's elegiac swansong, A Prairie Home Companion
Deepa Mehta's daring and controversial expose of the treatment of widows in India under Hindu law, Water

All Hail "The Queen"

Now that the Golden Globes have weighed in, it is looking like the final five for the Best Picture Oscar will be Babel, The Departed, Dreamgirls, Little Miss Sunshine, and The Queen.

Five fine films to be sure...but Little Miss Sunshine? Really? It's a smart, funny film. But best of the year? No. Not by a longshot. It's too cute and lightweight for the top prize. I would like to see Clint Eastwood recognized for his double-whammy achievement of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Letters is the more likely candidate. And the Academy LOVES Clint. I still don't think they will let him go un-nominated.

And I want to be the first to point out something. Each one of those films has a pretty rabid fanbase. But they also have very outspoken detractors. Except for one...The Queen. The Queen is the most universally respected and admired film of the bunch. And is probably the only one that everyone can agree on. Which makes it a major threat to stage an upset and win the Oscar. Picture, Actress, Screenplay, Score...it could pull it off. It would probably be the sole scenario where everyone ends up satisfied about the winners.

The Queen is indeed one of the year's best. And I wouldn't object one bit to seeing it take home the gold. And I doubt anyone else would either.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"Babel," "Dreamgirls" Top Golden Globes

Best Picture (Drama) - Babel
Best Picture (Comedy/Musical) - Dreamgirls
Best Actor (Drama) - Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress (Drama) - Helen Mirren, The Queen
Best Actor (Comedy/Musical) - Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat
Best Actress (Comedy/Musical) - Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Best Director - Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Best Supporting Actor - Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Best Screenplay - Peter Morgan, The Queen
Best Foreign Language Film - Letters from Iwo Jima
Best Animated Feature - Cars
Best Original Score - Alexandre Desplat, The Painted Veil
Best Original Song - Prince, "The Song of the Heart," Happy Feet

Forest Whitaker

Whitaker's moving acceptance speech for Best Actor just cemented his win at the Oscars. They might as well close balloting now.

A Change in the Wind?

Not only has The Queen won the Golden Globe for Best Actress (no shock there), but Best Screenplay as well. Is it going to upset for Best Picture? At this point...it just may happen.

"The Banquet"

I want to know why we are not seeing a bigger push for the official Hong Kong Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film, Feng Xiaogang's The Banquet. I just saw it this evening, and it is quite simply a masterpiece. It's Hamlet set in China, and is the best wuxia film since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, easily besting China's official entry, Curse of the Golden Flower, and even topping other recent wuxia films Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

Zhang Ziyi is luminous as the scheming Empress of China, who is plotting to murder her new husband, who has just murdered his brother and usurped the throne, while his exiled nephew sets out to avenge his dead father.

The reason we aren't seeing any FYC ads is doubtless because it has not been released in the United States, and doesn't have a U.S. distributer as of this writing. Which is a grave injustice. This is a jaw-dropping, breathtaking film, with lyrical, Yuen Wo Ping choreographed fight sequences that take on the beauty of a bloody ballet, and features some of the most stunningly beautiful shots and set pieces in recent memory . But since it was submitted for consideration this year without having been released theatrically in 2006, that has screwed it over for other awards consideration next year. Which means the sumptuous production design and gorgeous costumes will never be eligible for consideration. Zhang Yimou's Hero was similarly shortchanged.


That brings up a huge problem with Academy rules for foreign language films. Besides the fact that there is only one film per country allowed, if they are submitted without a theatrical release they are not eligible for any other award.

Which is sad, because I have no doubt that if and when The Banquet is released here, it will e counted among the very best films of the year.

We need to make some noise and get this film noticed so it will recieve the release it deserves. Studio heads take notice. This is an amazing film.






Weekend Box Office Totals

1. Stomp the Yard - $22,000,000
2. Night at the Museum - $17,100,000
3. The Pursuit of Happyness - $9,100,000
4. Dreamgirls - $8,122,000
5. Freedom Writers - $7,117,000
6. Children of Men - $6,432,000
7. Alpha Dog - $6,142,000
8. Primeval - $5,988,000
9. Arthur and the Invisibles - $4,300,000
10. The Good Shepherd - $3,908,000

Source: Box Office Mojo

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hannibal Rising


The chances of this movie actually being any good are pretty slim, although I am a huge Lecter fan. But with Peter Webber (Girl with a Pearl Earring) at the helm, we may be in for some more twisted elegance that the series demands. And Gaspard Ulliel (A Very Long Engagement) seems to be eerily channeling Anthony Hopkins' immortal performance...a few of his lines are so Hopkins-esque they gave me chills ("Now tell me inspector...you lost family in the war? Did you catch who did it? Then we are both suspects...").

Here's hoping this isn't the train wreck it has a chance to be.

Click the picture to see the exclusive Yahoo! trailer.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Curse of the Golden Flower


Directed by Zhang Yimou
Stars Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Qin Junjie, Li Man, Liu Ye, Chou Jay
R - violence
In Mandarin with English subtitles

Advertised as yet another wuxia martial arts fantasy by Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers), Curse of the Golden Flower is really just a soap opera with gorgeous sets and costumes. It tells the story of the Emperor and Empress of China, who really hate each other and want the other one dead, enough to command armies against one another.

Darker than Zhang's previous wuxia films, filled with intrigue and emotional layers, but ultimately unsatisfying as it descends into soap opera territory near the end. And while the sets and costumes are stunning, they are so impressive that they completely overwhelm the film, swallowing it up in a colorful swirl of gold plates and silk brocade.

Not a bad film, but indeed a disappointing one.

GRADE - **½ (out of four)

Critics' Choice Awards

Best Picture: The Departed
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress: Helen MIrren, The Queen
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Best Doc: An Inconvenient Truth
Best Song: "Listen," Dreamgirls
Film Score: Philip Glass, The Illusionist
Best Animated Film: Cars
Best Acting Ensemble: Little Miss Sunshine
Best Foreign Film: Letters from Iwo Jima
Best Writer: Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine

Friday, January 12, 2007

American Cinema Editors Announce Nominations

Nominations are for achievement in film editing.

Drama
Babel
Casino Royale
The Departed
The Queen
United 93


Comedy/Drama
The Devil Wears Prada
Dreamgirls
Little Miss Sunshine
Pirates of the Caribbean
Thank You for Smoking


Thanks to Sascha Stone at Oscarwatch for providing the info.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Writers' Guild Announces Nominations

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
"Borat," Peter Baynham, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines, Dan Mazer
"The Departed," William Monahan
"The Devil Wears Prada," Aline Brosh McKenna
"Little Children," Todd Field, Tom Perotta
"Thank You for Smoking," Jason Reitman

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
"Babel," Guillermo Arriaga
"Little Miss Sunshine," Michael Arndt
"The Queen," Peter Morgan
"Stranger than Fiction," Zach Helm
"United 93," Paul Greengrass

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Teaser Trailer for "The Hills Have Eyes 2"

The first one was actually a pretty good horror movie, until director Alexandre Aja went all vigilante on us in the last quarter. The teaser trailer for the sequel, however, is one of the most coldly effective and innovative trailers I've seen in a while. I hope the movie can live up to it. Check it out!