Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Yet Another Oscar Controversy

From The Hollywood Reporter:
Could a little rivalry have been revealed in the sound mixing world? Things turned weird when the winners in that category -- Willie Burton, Bob Beemer and Michael Minkler for "Dreamgirls" -- were onstage in the press room. A question was thrown to the trio about what advice they had for Kevin O'Connell, a nominee for "Apocalypto" who now has been nominated 19 times without a win. While Burton and Beemer had conciliatory things to say -- "Hang in there, Kevin, you'll get your chance," Burton said -- Minkler's words were the opposite. "I think Kevin should go away with 19 nominations," he said without cracking a smile. "We work really hard, and if we stumble upon an award, we are so grateful. I have to wonder ... Kevin is an OK mixer, but he should take up another line of work." He exited the stage leaving people wondering whether he was serious.

That's more classless than Eddie Murphy leaving after his loss to Alan Arkin. But listen to this, it gets worse. Kris Tapley at In Contention emailed O'Connell's partner, Greg P. Russell for a comment, asking if Minkler was really sincere, and this is what he had to say:
He was absolutely sincere with that BULLSHIT. That man has lost whatever respect he had from a ton of people. Kevin mind you left the ceremonies right after our award and went to the hospital where his mother passed away in his arms at 11:32 pm. As if Kevin didn't have enough to deal with. He wakes up to this bullshit.

It's been a really weird couple of days. I've been fielding all the calls because Kev has been out. The head of our studio came in to say he blasted Minkler for his assault. I even kicked myself for being congratulatory that night. Minkler said to me when I congratulated him that I was always a classy guy and he appreciated that alot. Integrity is something that means everything to me and this man has absolutely NONE. He stood backstage representing the entire Sound Community in front of the world, only to disgrace us all.

There's absolutely no excuse for saying things like that, especially after winning an Oscar. To diss your fellow nominees? Just dispicable. He'll be lucky if anyone ever hires him again after that ridiculous display of petty ungratefulness.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More of the Eddie Murphy "Controversy"

So the Eddie Murphy leaving the Oscars thing was apparently overblown. Yes, he still left. But not in the angry fashion that was originally reported.

Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood-Elsewhere posted this follow-up to the story from someone who was in the Kodak Theater at the Oscars:
I was at the Oscars, sitting towards the front in the orchestra, and I watched Eddie Murphy leave the auditorium. He passed less than twenty feet away from me and I watched him very carefully because I knew the loss for Best Supporting Actor had to sting and was hoping he was just taking a short break and would return soon.

"For the record, he did not 'storm out'. He did not 'leave in a huff'. Those phrases imply a mien of anger and agitation that were simply not present. To the contrary, Eddie was composed and polite and waited patiently for those in front of him to exit the theater first. He was as cool and gentlemanly as a person could be under those circumstances.

"The phrases 'storm out' or 'leave in a huff' may be figuratively true (it's arguable), but they are absolutely false in any literal sense. Anyone who repeats those phrases is misrepresenting what actually happened at the moment when Mr. Murphy left the auditorium, and perpetuating a falsehood. There are enough lies in Hollywood. Let's not add one more to the pile.

Click here to see the post.

Looking Ahead at 2007

Kris Tapley at In Contention has put together his annual year in advance Oscar preview. Check it out!

Right now he is projecting the Best Picture nominees to be Charlie Wilson's War, The Kite Runner, Michael Clayton, Reservation Road, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Of course this is obviously VERY preliminary. No one has seen these films yet. It's based solely on expectation, potential, and pedigree.

And as last year's early Best Picture projections showed (Breaking and Entering, Flags of Our Fathers, The Good Shepherd, Goya's Ghosts, Hotstuff), guessing the nominees this early is nearly impossible.

Makes for good speculation, though.

Yep...Eddie Left

After much speculation swirling around the blogosphere since Sunday, it has been confirmed that Eddie Murphy did indeed leave the Oscar ceremony after his loss to Alan Arkin.

From Us Weekly:

Is Eddie Murphy a sore loser? After failing to nab the award for Best Supporting Actor to Little Miss Sunshine’s Alan Arkin, Murphy tried to brush off the loss, telling Us, "It's fine. It happens. It's OK."

But clearly it wasn't. Shortly thereafter Murphy, 45, and girlfriend Tracey Edmonds left the show in a huff and didn’t return. Thanks to the early exit, the actor didn’t see any of his Dreamgirls castmates perform and missed out on costar Jennifer Hudson’s win for Best Supporting Actress.

I'm not one to get into the silly celebrity gossip, but that's just unforgivable. I noticed he wasn't shown again after his loss. But I was hoping there was a good explanantion. I guess not. And it is precisely that attitude (and Norbit) that may have cost him the award in the first place.

Sad.

And So it Begins...Again

The Hot Blog's David Poland, one of the chief proponents of the Dreamgirls overhype, has come out with similar things to say about Tim Burton's adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical, Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street...

I believe now that Johnny Depp is a 95% bet to be nominated for Best Actor as the title character in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in a very, very crowded field of 2007 male movie performances… and an 80% chance to win.
Uh oh. I'm getting a feeling of deja vu here. Johnny Depp is a very talented performer and deserves an Oscar eventually. Please don't ruin it for him by starting the hype now! You see how it worked out for Dreamgirls!

Just for the fun of it, let's go back to November and see what I had to say about the Dreamgirls hype before the film was even released.
It still surprises me how people keep insisting that Dreamgirls is the one to beat in this year's Best Picture race. No one has seen it yet. And let us not forget that in 2004, before anyone had seen it, Alexander was the Best Pic frontrunner, and The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, and The Producers were all expected to be contenders. Sure, Dreamgirls looks good, and the pedigree is top notch (starring Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, directed by Bill Condon). But all of these breathless exclamations that it is THE movie of the year, when it hasn't even been seen yet, may be a bit pre-mature. Hopefully it will be as wonderful as hoped, I'm just saying that expectations shouldn't be so high, when that happens you're liable to get disappointed.
And...they ended up NOT being the one to beat. Too much hype can kill a film. And as we all know, the Academy does NOT like to be told what to vote for. Too much chatter now about Johnny Depp winning for Sweeny Todd could turn it into this year's Dreamgirls.

Oscar Class of '06


Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar Pros and Cons

CONS

  • The Oscar fashion show (awkward)
  • Playing off multiple winners after only one speaker
  • The sound effects choir (neat but a pointless waste of time...give that time to let the winners speak!)
  • Not enough Ellen!
  • Children of Men losing Cinematography (quite possibly the most groundbreaking camerawork of the decade)
  • America in Film (WTF?)
  • Chris Connelly's sickeningly smarmy backstage commentary
PROS

  • MARTIN SCORSESE!!!!!
  • The Foreign Language Film Montage
  • The opening interviews with nominees by Errol Morris
  • Ellen's Al Gore joke (America DID vote for him!)
  • Jerry Seinfeld
  • Abigail Breslin and Jaden Smith
  • The Will Ferrell/Jack Black lament for comedy (hilarious!)
  • Ennio Morricone's honorary Oscar acceptance speech (yes, I cried a little)
  • The Al Gore/Leonardo DiCaprio bit
  • Ellen gets Martin Scorsese to read her script
  • Ellen gets Steven Spielberg to take a picture of her with Clint Eastwood for her MySpace, then has him take it again because it isn't centered
  • Meryl Streep gamely playing along with the Anne Hathaway/Emily Blunt "Devil Wears Prada" bit by giving them an unflinchingly icy stare when they realize they "forgot her latte"
  • The more laid back atmosphere
  • The Dreamgirls musical medley
  • Tom Hanks' priceless reaction to Chris Connelly's sickeningly smarmy backstage commentary ("You BET Chris, more FUN!")

Oscar Prediction Results

Thanks to Oscar Central for tallying up which award prognosticators fared the best last night. I ranked 9th nationally out of 83 tallied critics, pundits, and bloggers, correctly guessing 16 out of 24 categories with 67% accuracy, and 100% accuracy on the major categories, going 8 for 8. I was one of only 5 prognosticators to do so (the others being Darren Keeny at Movie Experience, Erik Childress at eFilm Critic, Frank Avella from New York Cool, and Steve Pond from The Envelope), so I'm feeling pretty good right now.

The champion prognosticator was Erik Childress at eFilm Critic, who correctly predicted 18 categories. Anne Thompson from The Hollywood Reporter, Dave Poland from Movie City News, and the Variety Academy Tracker also followed with 18, but didn't go 8 for 8 in the majors, therefore tying for second place.

THE TOP TEN:

1. Erik Childress (eFilm Critic) 18
2. Anne Thompson (Hollywood Reporter) 18
2. David Poland (Movie City News) 18
2. Variety (Academy Tracker) 18
5. Kevyn Knox (The Cinematheque) 17
5. Gerard Kennedy (Tech Support) 17
5. Lou Lumenick (NY Post) 17
8. Darren Keeny (Movie Experience) 16
9. Matthew Lucas (From the Front Row) 16
10. Adam (Oscar Beachhouse) 16
10. David Carr (New York Times) 16
10. Kris Tapley (In Contention) 16
10. Sasha Stone (Oscar Watch) 16
10. Scott Feinberg (...and the winner is) 16
10. Tom O'Neil (The Envelope) 16

To view the results, click here.
To view the full chart, click here.

The 79th Annual Academy Awards

What a night.

I correctly predicted 16 of the 24 categories, and went 8 for 8 on the Major Awards. Considering how many upsets and surprises there were, I think I did pretty well. Not as well as I have done in the past, admittedly. But in a year so full of uncertainty as this, that seems like a pretty good tally. Especially after wrongly calling Best Picture for The Aviator and Brokeback Mountain the last two years, and in this, the most wide open Oscar race in recent memory, I bounced back and correctly called Best Pic for The Departed.

Overall I found the show to be a success...much better than the last two years. My only two major disappointments were Children of Men (which had some of the most groundbreaking camerawork in years) losing Best Cinematography to Pan's Labyrinth, and then Pan's Labyrinth losing Best Foreign Language film to The Lives of Others.

Ellen DeGeneres made a very good host I thought, but I wish we had seen more of her. The sound effects chorus seemed to just take up time that could have been used instead of constantly playing off the nominees (which got annoying after a while...this is their big moment, let them speak!).

And how about that Martin Scorsese? That was my favorite moment of the night. His award was a long time coming, and even though I knew it was coming, I still felt like jumping out of my seat when his name was called.
All in all, I say it was a refreshingly unpredictable night, and surprisingly upbeat and fresh. A sign of good things to come, perhaps?
It was the best Oscar ceremony in several years. As well as the best Best Picture winner since The Lord of the Rings.
Now I must sleep. But I'm sure this won't be the last you hear about thi s from me.
Again I say, congratulations Marty!

"The Departed" Wins 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture

And the winners are...

Best Picture: The Departed
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Best Supporting Actress - Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Best Editing: The Departed
Best Original Song - Melissa Etheridge, "I Need to Wake Up" An Inconvenient Truth
Best Original Screenplay - Little Miss Sunshine
Best Original Score- Gustavo Santaolalla, Babel
Documentary - An Inconvenient Truth
Documentary Short - The Blood of Yingzhou District
Foreign Language Film - The Lives of Others
Visuals Effects - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Best Cinematography: Pan's Labyrinth
Best Costume Design: Marie Antoinette
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Departed
Best Animated Feature: Happy Feet
Sound Mixing: Dreamgirls
Sound Editing: Letters from Iwo Jima
Live Action Short: West Bank Story
Best Animated Short: The Danish Poet
Makeup: Pan's Labyrinth
Art Direction: Pan's Labyrinth

Tally
THE DEPARTED - 4
PAN'S LABYRINTH - 3
DREAMGIRLS - 2
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH - 2
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE - 2
BABEL - 1
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA - 1
THE QUEEN - 1

Analysis to follow.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Independent Spirit Award Winners

I watched the ceremony on IFC, and I must say...it seemed a bit awkward and mundane this time. I really enjoyed the tribute to Robert Altman set to the rendition of "Sweet By and By" from A Prairie Home Companion. And the David Lynch/Laura Dern tribute was appropriately surreal. But the ceremony as a whole seemed, well, toothless. I was glad to see Sweet Land and Quinceañera take home awards though, they're two of my unsung joys of 2006.

Here are the winners:


BEST FEATURE
Little Miss Sunshine
Producers: Marc Turtletaub, David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf, Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa

BEST DIRECTOR
Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris
Little Miss Sunshine


BEST FIRST FEATURE
Sweet Land
Director: Ali Selim
Producers: Alan Cumming, James Bigham, Ali Selim

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Quinceañera
Writer/Directors: Richard Glatzer & Wash Westmoreland
Producer: Anne Clements

BEST SCREENPLAY
Jason Reitman
Thank You For Smoking

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Michael Arndt
Little Miss Sunshine

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Shareeka Epps
Half Nelson

BEST MALE LEAD
Ryan Gosling
Half Nelson

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Frances McDormand
Friends with Money

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Alan Arkin
Little Miss Sunshine

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Guillermo Navarro
Pan's Labyrinth

BEST DOCUMENTARY
The Road to Guantanamo
Directors: Michael Winterbottom & Mat Whitecross

BEST FOREIGN FILM
The Lives of Others (Germany)
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

SPECIAL AWARDS - IFC/Acura Someone to Watch Award
Julia Loktev director of Day Night Day Night

SPECIAL AWARDS - Axium Truer Than Fiction Award
Adele Horn
The Tailenders

SPECIAL AWARDS - Axium Producers Award
Howard Gertler and Tim Perell producers of Shortbus and Pizza

SPECIAL DISTINCTION AWARD
David Lynch and Laura Dern

To view the nominees, click here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Predictions: A Recap

My predictions haven't changed, I'm just reiterating here on the day before the ceremony:


BEST PICTURE

Will win: “The Departed”
Should win: “Babel”

BEST DIRECTOR

Will win/should win: Martin Scorsese, “The Departed”

BEST ACTOR

Will win/should win: Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland”

BEST ACTRESS

Will win/should win: Helen Mirren, “The Queen”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will win: Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Should win: Mark Wahlberg, “The Departed”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will win/should win: Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will win/should win: William Monahan, “The Departed”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will win: Michael Ardnt, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Should win: Guillermo del Toro, “Pan’s Labyrinth”
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Will win/should win: “Pan’s Labyrinth” (Mexico)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Will win/should win: “Cars”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will win/should win: “An Inconvenient Truth”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Will win/should win: Alexandre Desplat, “The Queen”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will win/should win: “Children of Men”

BEST ART DIRECTION

Will win/should win: “Pan’s Labyrinth”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Will win: “Dreamgirls”
Should win: “Marie Antoinette”

BEST FILM EDITING

Will win: “The Departed”
Should win: “Babel”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Will win/should win: Listen, “Dreamgirls”

BEST MAKEUP

Will win/should win: “Pan’s Labyrinth”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Will win/should win: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”

BEST SOUND MIXING

Will win: “Dreamgirls”
Should win: “Apocalypto”

BEST SOUND EDITING

Will win: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”
Should win: “Apocalypto”

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

Will win/should win: “West Bank Story”

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Will win: “The Little Matchgirl”
Should win: “Maestro”

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Will win: “The Blood of Yingzhou District”
Should win: N/A

To read my full prediction rundown click here.

Friday, February 23, 2007

West Bank Story

iTunes once again has the five Best Live Action Short Film Oscar nominees available for download, and I have officially changed my mind about who should win the award.

Binta and the Great Idea is a sweet, endearing little film, but West Bank Story is a gleefully subversive, unabashedly un-PC musical satire on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, told as a take-off on West Side Story. It follows a Palestinian woman and an Israeli man who fall in love despite their families' warring fast food establishments, Kosher King and Hummus Hut. It's hilarious, biting, and yes, charming.

I still predict that it will win the Oscar, but now I can say that it should.

Are the Academy Members Idiots?

Well...after reading David Carr's (aka The Carpetbagger) report on interviews with Academy members, I'm beginning to wonder. One predicted Volver was going to win Best Foreign Language Film (it's not even nominated), most he talked to were only familiar with one of the Foreign Language nominees (Pan's Labyrinth), and another said “I will not vote for the children’s movie. What I call ‘The Yellow Picture,’ where they go to the beauty contest.”

I don't want Little Miss Sunshine to win either but at least I remember it's name. Geeze...do these people even watch the nominated films? Or just check off the names they're familiar with?

At least when it comes to the foreign language category, voters must see all the nominated films at special Academy screenings in order to be able to vote.

Click here to read the story.

And the Oscar Goes to...Jackie Earle Haley?

While my official prediction for Best Supporting Actor is Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine...due to the growing backlash against Eddie Murphy, I have this nagging suspicion that we're all barking up the wrong tree. After all, Arkin seemed like the consensus choice after Murphy...but something is telling me that Jackie Earle Haley might surprise us all.

Little Children FINALLY arrives in my state tomorrow, so I will have seen it and can be a better judge tomorrow. But we all know Oscar loves an underdog success story, and Haley has a great one.

This could be the stuff of which upsets are made. But the last time I had this feeling was about Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake...and that didn't work out so well.

British Bookies Paying Out on "The Queen"

From BBC News:

Bookmaker William Hill has started paying out on bets for Dame Helen Mirren to win the best actress Oscar - five days before the awards ceremony.

The firm will settle bets worth £50,000 after Dame Helen's odds reached 1/66.

A William Hill spokesman said: "Should the unimaginable occur and Dame Helen fails to win the Oscar, then she will have been robbed and so will we."
Witness the gutsiest Oscar prognostication in awards history...

That's just asking for one of Oscar's classic, Halle Berry-esque surprises.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Could Leo win for "Blood Diamond?"

From The Envelope:

"I don't care if it's the 'wrong' movie! I voted for Leo anyway!" an indignant Oscar voter fumed the other day.

That's turning out to be a commonly held view. While trotting around Hollywood chatting up lots of academy members, I'm hearing LOTS of votes for Leo DiCaprio — and, of course, Peter O'Toole and Forest Whitaker. But let's stay focused on the Leo scenario. For months Oscarlogists have been slamming Warner Bros. for hyping Leo's chances for "Blood Diamond," insisting that the studio was losing Leo an Oscar while failing to properly push his truly worthy work in "The Departed," which Warner Bros. also produced. It's true that Leo gave a more impressive turn in "Departed," but he has less screen time, so the studio pushed him down into supporting for that role when category declarations had to be made for the Screen Actors Guild in November. Surely, studio exex secretly hoped for one of those Jamie Foxx/ Holly Hunter combos — resulting in two nominations in one year.

The problem with that plan, as many kudos observers pointed out, was that, when stars score dual bids, they tend to win for the lead one and "Blood Diamond" isn't, they posited, the stuff of Oscars. It's a showy role because Leo slices off three thick inches of ham parading as a South African accent and manages to keep it on his plate for, well, most of the movie anyway, but there isn't much real fat on the role. The movie is a thriller. Those rarely win Oscars. But there is a notable exception to the Dual Bid Rule: Jessica Lange won in the supporting slot for "Tootsie" when she was also nommed in lead for "Frances."

That would certainly be interesting (and unexpected). Could voters see a vote for Leo as a de facto vote for The Departed? If he does indeed win, then that will be the final signal that The Departed has Best Picture in the bag. Very few people that I know of actually think Leo should have been nominated for Blood Diamond instead of The Departed...voting for him anyway could be a show of support for Leo's good work this year, but more for Departed than Diamond, which is the Best Picture nominee and most well receieved of the two performances.
I don't think it will happen. But I'm not saying it couldn't. If the Academy loves The Departed (and I mean REALLY loves it), then that could carry Leo's Blood Diamond perf to victory.

My Official Oscar Predictions

I reserve the right to change these anytime before the ceremony...but I doubt I will.


BEST PICTURE

Will win: “The Departed”
Should win: “Babel”

BEST DIRECTOR

Will win/should win: Martin Scorsese, “The Departed”

BEST ACTOR

Will win/should win: Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland”

BEST ACTRESS

Will win/should win: Helen Mirren, “The Queen”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will win: Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Should win: Mark Wahlberg, “The Departed”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will win/should win: Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will win/should win: William Monahan, “The Departed”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will win: Michael Ardnt, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Should win: Guillermo del Toro, “Pan’s Labyrinth”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Will win/should win: “Pan’s Labyrinth” (Mexico)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Will win/should win: “Cars”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will win/should win: “An Inconvenient Truth”


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Will win/should win: Alexandre Desplat, “The Queen”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will win/should win: “Children of Men”

BEST ART DIRECTION

Will win/should win: “Pan’s Labyrinth”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Will win: “Dreamgirls”
Should win: “Marie Antoinette”

BEST FILM EDITING

Will win: “The Departed”
Should win: “Babel”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Will win/should win: “Listen,” “Dreamgirls”

BEST MAKEUP

Will win/should win: “Pan’s Labyrinth”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Will win/should win: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”

BEST SOUND MIXING

Will win: “Dreamgirls”
Should win: “Apocalypto”

BEST SOUND EDITING

Will win: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”
Should win: “Apocalypto”

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

Will win/should win: “West Bank Story”

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Will win: “The Little Matchgirl”
Should win: “Maestro”

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Will win: “The Blood of Yingzhou District”
Should win: N/A

To read my full prediction rundown click here.