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The 81st Academy Award Nominations: The Big Show Goes Small

Posted by goldwriting on January 22, 2009

oscarDo you know how long I have been waiting to duel with someone. Seriously! I have the sword and everything.

For movie fanatics all over the world, this is the morning we wipe our crusted eyelids, roll clumsily out of bed and collapse on the couch to see the live announcement of the Academy Award nominations. It is more than a testament to the passion we have for cinema, it is a statement of how much we want to quickly and violently debate the fairness of the Academy’s choices. So, let the debate begin…

Best Motion Picture of the Year

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Frost/Nixon

Milk

The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win, most likely winner)

What can anyone do to stop the steamrolling power of the Slumdog? Pretty much nothing. Sweeping every category it was nominated in at the Golden Globes, Slumdog has all the momentum and all the passion of an Oscar winner. It’s uplifting, full of hope and adversity, and overall everything the Academy voters love to rally around. When it wins for Best Picture it will also help paint the picture of the Academy as a more international accepting body of voters. I give great credit to Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon for both being incredible films, but I don’t see them climbing over Slumdog for a win. Milk to me is over-nominated and I would have gladly let this one go in favor of The Dark Knight or Revolutionary Road. My disappointment over the snubbing of The Dark Knight isn’t truly due to thinking it would win the category, but because it would have given some validation to the comic book genre and really helped to boost the idea that these are not just costumed vigilantes on a violence bender, they are incredibly complex and moving stories available to be enjoyed by adults as well as kids. As for The Reader, Ricky Gervais must have been right when he told Kate Winslet at the Golden Globes, “See, just do the Holocaust movie and awards just come rolling in.”

Best Achievement in Directing

David Fincher: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Ron Howard: Frost/Nixon

Gus Van Sant: Milk

Stephen Daldry: The Reader

Danny Boyle: Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win, most likely winner)

This is the first time since 1944 where there is an exact match between the Best Picture category and the Best Director. Commonly the two awards go hand-in-hand, but there is usually one oddball or mismatch between them. Not this year and my feelings remain pretty much the same from the previous category. Danny Boyle will walk away the winner.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Richard Jenkins: The Visitor (deserves to win)

Frank Langella: Frost/Nixon

Sean Penn: Milk

Brad Pitt: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke: The Wrestler (most likely winner)

Now here is some excitement and tension for the night. The inclusion of dark horse Richard Jenkins throws a distinct wrench in the celebratory plans of Mickey Rourke, who took the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Drama. Jenkins hands down deserves the nomination and I am pulling for him to win. All these performances were incredibly strong, which could split the voting and leave Jenkins available for the sneak attack. The big money is on Rourke because of his Cinderella-esque return to the limelight, but I’m personally hedging my bets and putting some small change on Jenkins. Sean Penn can proudly stand here as the one thing I agree with in terms of nominations for Milk. He was the lightning rod for this film and it all hinged on his stellar performance. Langella and Pitt both were terrific, but the momentum and buzz are not behind them this year.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Josh Brolin: Milk

Robert Downey Jr.: Tropic Thunder

Philip Seymour Hoffman: Doubt

Heath Ledger: The Dark Knight (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Michael Shannon: Revolutionary Road

I was thinking about just leaving this area with one word, “Duh”, but that would steal my opportunity to praise and shout for the nomination of Michael Shannon. He was the most outstanding and powerful part of Revolutionary Road and I am thrilled he got the nod here. Yet, with that said, let me now return to my previous thought…

“Duh.”

Ledger takes this.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Anne Hathaway: Rachel Getting Married (deserves to win)

Angelina Jolie: Changeling

Melissa Leo: Frozen River

Meryl Streep: Doubt

Kate Winslet: The Reader (most likely winner)

Who is Melissa Leo and what is this film, Frozen River? Pulling a repectful Jenkins-like move, Leo throws this semi-strong category into a whirl. Hathaway and Winslet are the two obvious front runners, with Hathaway almost sure to take the Independent Spirit Award the night before the Oscars and Winslet still fanning herself off after the double grab at the Golden Globes for both her roles this year. Holocaust subject matter aside, I think Hathaway was stronger in her role as an ex-junkie struggling with reintegrating herself into her own family, where as if Winslet had been nominated for Revolutionary Road instead of The Reader I would be more inclined to begrudgingly hand it to her. Streep can’t be totally counted out, especially since all four of the main actors from Doubt got nominations, but I think she will fall by the wayside here. Maybe when she lands there, she can bring Jolie a drink, she’s been down there all year.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams: Doubt

Penelope Cruz: Vicky Christina Barcelona

Viola Davis: Doubt

Taraji P. Henson: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Marisa Tomei: The Wrestler (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Even though Vicky Christina Barcelona took home the Golden Globe for Best Comedy, I think Penelope is the only one is this category you can count out of the running. The two Doubt women, Davis and Adams, were both sensational, but they might end up splitting that audience in half. This leaves Henson and Tomei to battle it out, with Tomei a touch ahead since I think she only lost out on the Globe because she was battling Winslet on her night-of-all-nights. If Henson pulls it out here, she will most likely be one of very few of the thirteen nominations for Button that will result in a win.

Best Animated Film of the Year

Bolt

Kung Fu Panda

Wall-E (deserves to win, most likely winner)

I’m still baffled by all the acclaim for Bolt, but it really doesn’t matter this year. Wall-E lost out on a Best Picture nod most likely because everyone just wanted to give it this award and be done with it. Plan on Pixar walking away once again, proud of its tiny trashman.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Eric Roth: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

John Patrick Shanley: Doubt

Peter Morgan: Frost/Nixon

David Hare: The Reader

Simon Beaufoy: Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win, most likely winner)

There’s a good chance Slumdog will continue its reign here, but it’s a strong category so anything could really happen. The Reader has pulled in lots of support and you can count on a huge studio push for the win, but the rest of the pack are no slouches either. Shanley wrote the play for Doubt as well as the screenplay and he was already heaped with acclaim for the stage version (surprisingly, the same holds true for Morgan with Frost/Nixon). Hare succeeded greatly with taking an incredibly minute starting point, a much loved, but much thinner short story, so his skill and credit comes from the expansion and illumination of tale we are lucky to not have missed. Anyone’s game, but I’ll lean towards the Bollywood train based on sheer momentum.

Best Original Screenplay

Courtney Hunt: Frozen River

Mike Leigh: Happy-Go-Lucky

Martin McDonagh: In Bruges

Dustin Lance Black: Milk

Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon: Wall-E (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Again, this is a category where Milk really doesn’t fit. I don’t see it as an original story since it was a biopic and mostly a dramatization of the documentary, The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. It’s a good film, but not what I consider an original story. Then there’s that mystery movie, Frozen River, once again. I really need to see this. Wall-E deserves writing acclaim without a doubt since the first twenty minutes were done beautifully with virtually no dialogue at all. That’s talent, people. Happy-Go-Lucky and In Bruges are getting more acclaim since both movies had their main actors recognized with Golden Globes this year, but I think this one will still end in the incredibly cute storage bin of our friend, Wall-E.

Best Achievement in Art Direction

Changeling

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (deserves to win, most likely winner)

The Dark Knight

The Duchess

Revolutionary Road

The Duchess is a period drama and those tend to do well in this category. As for the rest, they are all incredibly picturesque and beautifully designed films, ranging from the aging, earthy tones of Button to the stark and stunning colors of Road, any of these films deserves the accolade on this night. Just for the sake of picking a winner, I’ll toss my tiny iota of support behind Button. (Sorry, Dark Knight, I still love you.)

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Changeling

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish the difference between Best Art Direction, which is how the film and its universe looks, and Best Cinematography, which is how the film is shot, which in turn show you how the universe looks. It’s a fine line, but this year I think the inventiveness of movement and pacing coupled with the saturated colors of India are going to bring Slumdog yet one more statue for the night.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Australia

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (deserves to win, most likely to win)

The Duchess

Milk

Revolutionary Road

Except for The Duchess, these are all dramas set in fairly contemporary time periods, so the costume design was more about complementing the world and environment, whereas in Duchess gets to really show off the fashions of its 18th century era; big hair pieces, huge dresses and rib-crushing corsets. I’ll lean towards Button due it sheer volume of nominations and its clarity of vision inside the entire project, but this is truly a toss-up.

Best Documentary Feature

The Betrayal

Encounters at the End of the World

The Garden

Man on Wire (most likely to win)

Trouble the Water

I can’t put “deserves to win” here since I have seen absolutely none of these. I love documentaries, but I happen to miss this grouping completely. I’ve heard amazing things about Man on Wire from both friends and industry readings, so I’ll go with that one.

Best Documentary Short Subject

The Conscience of Nhem En

The Final Inch

Smile Pinki

– The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306

Umm…[tries to read tea leaves]…uh…The Witness? Yeah, that’ll win.

Best Achievement in Film Editing

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Frost/Nixon (deserves to win)

Milk

Slumdog Millionaire (most likely winner)

Although the editing in Slumdog was sensational, I am happy to announce I think there is actually a better choice in this category. Frost/Nixon tackled a nearly yawn-inducing subject, one last interview with an old and broken man, and turned into a harrowing, sweat-filled ride towed along by brilliant pacing. Do I think it will actually win, nope, but it most certainly gets my vote for most deserving.

Best Foreign Language Film

The Baader Meinhof Complex

The Class

Departures

Revanche

Waltz with Bashir (most likely winner)

Bashir took home the Globe and you can expect it will do the same here. Nothing but praise has been heaped on this oddly animated drama and I am itching for my chance to witness it myself.

Best Achievement in Makeup

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (most likely to win)

The Dark Knight

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (deserves to win)

The real choice here is what you find more impressive, making something look incredibly realistic with a mixture of CGI and practical makeup or making something fantastical come to life with prosthetics and makeup? The former would give you Button as the winner and the latter would give you Hellboy II, while the only makeup worth celebrating in Dark Knight is the insanely creepy and dripping face of the Joker. I would like to see Hellboy win here for the amazing work not only on the main character, but also the underworld villain Prince Nuada and his sister, Princess Nuala.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)

Alexander Desplat: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

James Newton Howard: Defiance

Danny Elfman: Milk

A.H. Rahman: Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Thomas Newman: Wall-E

While this might be the happiest group of characters Danny Elfman ever scored for, I think he will lose and quickly return to his gothic roots. Slumdog has a good chance due to its unique international flavor and the Golden Globe A.H. Rahman is already carrying, but the other three are very much in the running.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)

Peter Gabriel: “Down to Earth” from Wall-E (most likely winner)

Gulzar: “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire (deserves to win)

– A.R. Rahman, Maya Arulpragasam: “O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire

There is a distinct lack of the man commonly referred to as “The Boss”! Why Bruce Springsteen didn’t get a nomination for the Golden Globe winning song he wrote and performed for The Wrestler is beyond me. Also surprising is the exclusion of Academy golden oldie, Clint Eastwood, and his warbling diddy for Gran Torino. With those two oddly out of the limelight, Gabriel could indeed walk away with it for his heartwarming tune, but Gulzar’s tune is the ending credits number and backs up a huge Bollywood dance number, which helps lift the audience to their feet after all the yearning and struggling they just witnessed. I’m going to put my mark there, while internally wishing I could actually dance like that.

Best Animated Short Film

La Maison en Petits Cubes

Lavatory – Lovestory

Oktapodi

Presto (most likely winner)

This Way Up

Presto is the only one I have seen since it was shown before Wall-E in the theater, but the whole thing is done with no dialogue and is gut-wrenchingly funny. Plus, it’s a Pixar joint, so just give it the gold and be happy they want to make more.

Best Live Action Short Film

Auf der Strecke (On the Line)

Mannon on the Asphalt (most likely winner)

New Boy

The Pig

Spielzeugland (Toyland)

I’ll go with Mannon on the Asphalt because it makes me think of a montage of skateboarders faceplanting.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

The Dark Knight (deserves to win, most likely winner)

Iron Man

Slumdog Millionaire

Wall-E

Wanted

The fact Wanted can now call itself an Academy Award nominated film just tickles me. There was some great sound work by all the nominees in this category, but here I will lovingly and joyously put my ballot into the box of Dark Knight. From the sounds of the jet engine of the Batmobile to the bone-crushing thud of Ledger’s head hitting the interrogation room table, this was a symphony of audio accomplishment.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight (deserves to win)

Slumdog Millionaire (most likely winner)

Wall-E

Wanted

Evidently Iron Man didn’t mix as well as they edited. Odd. Anyway, I’d still like to see Dark Knight get this, but I think the voting block might split this one up. There might still be enough uber-love for Slumdog to pull this one through for them as well.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (deserves to win, most likely winner)

The Dark Knight

Iron Man

This is the one category where Button truly deserves to win, hands down. The character of Benjamin was so incredible and adorable, I couldn’t felt any more sympathy and yearning for him if he were sitting right in front of me. The only reason it worked was the sheer realism of this aged and decrepit child, so without any reservations, this one goes to them.

If you made it all the way down here, thanks once again for reading and I would love to hear your thoughts. Tell me I’m right, tell me I’m wrong, make me believe I missed out on something truly great or just let me know what you thought of that box of Raisinets you got at the movies (Were yours stale? Mine were last time, but I can’t stop getting them).
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Golden Globe Nominees: Here Comes the Award Season

Posted by goldwriting on December 14, 2008

56005361PR001_globeWould it be possible to get mine in something a little more lighthearted? Possibly periwinkle or neon?

Although numerous critics around the country have already had their own awards ceremonies and passed out a handful of gold plated statuettes, there are only two awards which really catch the eye of the mass populace: the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Most people feel a Golden Globe win for a particular movie is a safe bet for the Oscar, but since the categories are surprisingly different between the two shows, there is not always a direct overlap. Some of the nominees listed below are surprising and some are exactly what we expected to see, but let’s scroll through and I’ll let you in on where I think things might go (and also where I think they deserve to go, which can be completely at odds with each other). I won’t go through the TV nominations because I only watch a handful of shows, but I think we will see the usual suspects on stage that night: 30 Rock, The Office, House M.D. and anything HBO decided to make this year.

[The * denotes which movies I have actually seen]

BEST PICTURE: DRAMA

· The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

· Frost/Nixon *

· The Reader *

· Revolutionary Road (Most Likely Winner)

· Slumdog Millionaire * (Deserves to Win) WINNER

So far I have seen three of these movies (Benjamin Button and Revolutionary Road still to come), but Slumdog Millionaire is starting to look like the dark horse rearing up from behind. It has already won a couple of Best Picture Awards, which gives it a nice momentum, but in the Hollywood circles, Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon seem to be the ones to beat. The surprise here is Milk and The Dark Knight being stepped over. I would credit Slumdog for knocking one of them out, but to see both without a Best Picture nod here doesn’t bode well for Oscar season. Personally, I think The Dark Knight still has a good chance, but Milk I believe will fall by the wayside in lieu of better films this year. Back to the Globes, from the ones I have seen, Slumdog deserves the win.

BEST PICTURE: COMEDY OR MUSICAL

· Burn After Reading *

· Happy-go-lucky

· In Bruges * (Deserves to Win)

· Mamma Mia * (Most Likely Winner)

· Vicky Cristina Barcelona * WINNER

Now this has always been a little bit of a sticking point for the Golden Globes. Do we really need the separation of Drama and Comedy/Musical? Couldn’t they follow along with the Oscars and just crown one movie Best Picture of the Year? I know the argument against is the Oscars don’t reward comedies nearly enough, and that part is true. The Academy should learn to step down from their weepy, heartwrecnhing high horse and celebrate films that make us laugh, even if it’s from a well-timed fart joke. But in the end, I think it is still worthwhile to be able to group and contrast all movies together and crown one a victor for the year. Anyway, onto the category at hand, the happy surprise here is In Bruges, which didn’t pull in major box office, but was widely lauded by the critics. I saw a screening of it early on and was blown away by how funny, irreverent and tight the script was, along with being impressed with the performances across the board from Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes. So, kudos to them and the team from In Bruges for a well-deserved nomination. Now cut that celebratory emotion out when we come to Burn After Reading, which is far from being the best we’ve seen from the Coen brothers. This was a quirky character piece, enjoyable in particular sections, but nowhere near awards potential. This nomination alone helps to prove the case for not separating the genres, because films like this slip onto the ballot. Woody Allen can be happy to get a nod once again, but I foresee him going home empty-handed that night. I haven’t seen Happy-Go-Lucky, but never take your eyes off the British when it comes to heartwarming comedies, they’ll sneak up on you. The real front runner here is Mamma Mia, which sparked a worldwide phenomenon and single-handedly helped Universal Pictures weather the current economic strain. At last count, it brought in an incredible $570 million dollars worldwide. People love their Abba evidently. I would love to see In Bruges take the crown, but I think Mamma Mia will be the one dancing on stage that night.

BEST DIRECTOR

· Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire * (Deserves to Win) WINNER

· Stephen Daldry, The Reader *

· David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

· Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon *

· Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road (Most Likely Winner)

I always find it hard to differentiate between Best Picture and Best Director. If you have the Best Picture of the Year, most of the time that should indicate you’ve done the best job in Directing. It’s no surprise that we see the exact same movies here as we do in the Best Picture – Drama category. So for the moment, until I see the last two of these movies, I’m sticking with Danny Boyle and Slumdog for most deserving. As for who will actually take it, Mendes could split up the pack, but Howard and Fincher are the front runners.

BEST ACTOR: DRAMA

· Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road

· Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon *

· Sean Penn, Milk *

· Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

· Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler (Most Likely Winner, possibly most deserving as well) WINNER

Sean Penn was the best thing going in Milk, so this is well deserved for him, but the critical buzz and momentum behind Mickey Rourke could make this the year of the grizzled warrior. I’ve yet to see The Wrestler, but his performance is said to be a career topper. Brad Pitt hasn’t been able to clinch a victory since his Best Supporting Golden Globe for 12 Monkeys. That’s not saying he hasn’t done good work since then, since he’s almost always in the race, but someone always sneaks by and pulls the golden statues from his grasp. Frank Langella won heaps of praise for his role in Frost/Nixon on stage as well as on screen, but it won’t be enough to overcome the rawness and sheer intensity of Penn or Rourke. That leaves DiCaprio, who may very well be amazing in the role, but I have caught it yet and I can’t tell whether this will be a disappointing or deserved loss for him.

BEST ACTRESS: DRAMA

· Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married * (Deserves to Win)

· Angelina Jolie, Changeling * (Most Likely Winner)

· Meryl Streep, Doubt

· Kristin Scott Thomas, I’ve Loved You So Long

· Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road WINNER

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my affinity for Anne Hathaway, but that aside, she does deserve all the accolades being heaped on her for her turn in Rachel Getting Married. It was a serious departure for her from her normal fare and served to prove once again the range and power she can handle. The closest behind her is Kate Winslet, who supposedly got this role pushed up for Best Actress instead of her performance in The Reader because the studio believes she has a better chance with this film. As you’ll read further down, this might work against her. Now Angelina found time in her efforts to become a living saint to churn out another nominated performance, but honestly this feels a little like “starf*#king”. She is an incredibly talented actress, but Changeling was really only one emotion for her the whole way through and felt a little draining by the time it was done. As for Meryl, Doubt is still to come on my list of things to see, but hopefully I’ll be able to separate my appreciation for her acting away from my deep-seeded loathing of religious zealotry. She’s going to have to fight hard to make that happen. Lastly, Kristen is a strong actress, so she could slip in with this small indie film, but it’s slipped past me as well, so they’ll have to make a strong push to the voters to make sure they’ve caught it and remembered it in the big ole’ mix.

BEST ACTRESS: COMEDY OR MUSICAL

· Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona * (Deserves to Win)

· Sally Hawkins, Happy-go-lucky WINNER

· Frances McDormand, Burn After Reading *

· Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia *

· Emma Thompson, Last Chance Harvey

It’s hard to say who will win this. It’s a category filled with highly talented people, but out of the three performances I have witnessed, I’m putting my vote towards Rebecca Hall. She was able to overcome the sheer fact of being the main character in a Woody Allen film that barely got any billing on the posters because she was surrounded by A-List names, two of which were also nominated, and still managed to steal almost every scene she was in. There was an honesty in her which eclipsed the supporting players and truly made her stand out. Meryl deserves her share of credit for lending her voice and her talent to such an unlikely phenomenon, but it looked like it was more sheer fun than talent which brought this movie to the list. As for Frances McDormand, once again I can only say I don’t feel Burn After Reading deserves to be on the list at all. She was funny at moments, but this was not an award-winning role for her and barely seems to qualify as a lead actress piece. To Emma and Sally, I have heard good things on both fronts, but they are tougher movies to track down showtimes for.

BEST ACTOR: COMEDY OR MUSICAL

· Javier Bardem, Vicky Cristina Barcelona * (Most Likely Winner)

· Colin Farrell, In Bruges * (Deserves to Win) WINNER

· James Franco, Pineapple Express *

· Brendan Gleeseon, In Bruges *

· Dustin Hoffman, Last Chance Harvey

Javier is still riding the wave of love from the Academy last year and the praise for No Country for Old Men, so some of that will surely bleed over into this year. I’m not saying he wasn’t good in this film, but I think this will give him the little edge he needs to separate himself from the pack. Colin, on the other hand, has not had the best relationship with the award audiences or the Hollywood scene in total, but he really let himself dive into In Bruges and it really showed. Whether you like him or not as a person, you just can’t help laugh with/at him in this hilarious movie. Appearing all over the place in the last few years, James Franco scored a nomination for playing an incredibly realistic pot dealer and stoner extraordinaire, but once again I am surprised that the committees felt this was a truly worthy performance, especially with his role in Milk being overshadowed. Brendon Gleesn is equally good in In Bruges, but Colin just happens to be playing the more important and charged role, so he steals a touch more of the focus from the audience. If you follow Hollywood at all, you can never count out Dustin Hoffman in a race like this. He could do a five minute cameo as a salesman for Japanese tea and you could guarantee a Independent Spirit Award would be engraved and waiting for him.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

· Amy Adams, Doubt

· Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barecelona *

· Viola Davis, Doubt

· Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

· Kate Winslet, The Reader * (Deseves to Win, also Most Likely Winner) WINNER

This is a sparse category for me right now, with only two movies actually seen, but I think Kate will take this one home. Splitting the voters can sometimes work against you if you are going for both Best Actress and Best Supporting in the same year. Unless the Best Actress category is weak, the voters will most of the time give the conciliation gift of Best Supporting and pass the Best Actress onto someone else, which will benefit Anne and Angelina. I’ve heard good things about Marisa and her role in The Wrestler, but that could also be her getting swept up in the hype over Mickey Rourke. Doubt truly looks to be a heavy movie in terms of performances, so I’m sure both Viola and Amy are worthy nominations, but I’ll know more once I get a chance to view them.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

· Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder *

· Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder *

· Ralph Fiennes, The Duchess

· Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt

· Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight * (Deserves to Win and Most Likely Winner) WINNER

This should be a fairly obvious category. Heath was entrancing as The Joker in The Dark Knight and his tragic demise only makes the story more poetic. Right now the only real question is who the studio will send up on stage to accept the award on his behalf (I think it should be Bale or Nolan). Even though the hype machine has built this up to epic proportions, Heath really does deserve the accolades. Robert Downey Jr. bit off more than anyone else could chew by doing modern day blackface in Tropic Thunder, but he pulled it off brilliantly and I’m thrilled he got the nomination. The same goes for Tom Cruise, who basically relaunched his career in the public’s heart with a hilarious turn as a meglomaniacal studio exec. As for Hoffman and Fiennes, both are extremely talented actors and I’m sure they do great jobs in their respective films, but this year belongs to Heath. No joke.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

· The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany)

· Everlasting Moments (Sweden/Denmark)

· Gomorrah (Italy)

· I’ve Loved You So Long (France)

· Waltz With Bashir (Israel) (Total guess, just so I have a choice noted) WINNER

Unfortunately I haven’t seen any of these, but the ones getting the most buzz are I’ve Loved You So Long and Waltz With Bashir. Bashir is also a crazy animated film, which could work against it in terms of voters thinking it is represented in the wrong category, or it could help differentiate itself from the pack and grab some swing votes. For me, this is totally up in the air.

BEST ANIMATED FILM

· Bolt *

· Kung Fu Panda *

· Wall-E * (Deserves to Win and Most Likely Winner) WINNER

Wall-E is a lock here and if something else goes down the Hollywood Foreign Press will never mean a damn thing to me again. The little story of “the robot who could” has already been winning awards, but not for Best Animated Feature, it’s been taking the top prize as Best Picture of the Year in a handful of critics associations. Kung-Fu Panda was very well done and worthy of nomination, but I can’t say I felt the same about Bolt. Bolt was cute, but didn’t give me the impression of a stand-out animated film. I still don’t understand why there are only three chosen for this category, since The Tale of Despereaux (still to be released) and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa both garnered some critical acclaim. Nevertheless, Pixar has dominated once again and Wall-E will safely be able to store this award away with all his other trinkets.

BEST SCREENPLAY

· Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire * (Deserves to Win) WINNER

· David Hare, The Reader *

· Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon *

· Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Most Likely Winner)

· John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

This could actually go to anyone. Out of the three I have seen, I might lean towards Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire, but the momentum of the movie could work against him if the voters decide they don’t want to create a “sweep” type of situation. Peter Morgan and David Hare both did excellent jobs bringing history to the masses and making it intriguing. Critics are already saying great things on both fronts for Doubt and Benjamin Button, so they certainly cannot be counted out. I’d truly be happy anywhere the ball drops in this one.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

· Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

· Clint Eastwood, Changeling *

· James Newton Howard, Defiance

· A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire * WINNER

· Hans Zimmer, Frost/Nixon * (Deserves to Win and Most Likely Winner)

Here you have three of the most cherished in the musical score business: Zimmer, Howard and Eastwood (who just has to prove he can do everything better than the rest of us 😉 ). I’m leaning towards Zimmer because his score did such a beautiful job of intensifying a story of two men in chairs sitting across from each other, but once again, I think this category is a toss up. In reality, they are all just lucky John Williams only worked on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, since no one really liked a damn thing about that travesty.

Best Original Song

– “Down To Earth” – Wall-E (Music By: Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyrics By: Peter Gabriel)

– “Gran Torino” – Gran Torino (Music By: Clint Eastwood, Jamie Cullum, Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens, Lyrics By: Jamie Cullum)

– “I Thought I Lost You” – Bolt (Music & Lyrics By: Miley Cyrus and Jeffrey Steele)

– “Once In A Lifetime” – Cadillac Records (Music & Lyrics By: Beyoncé Knowles, Amanda Ghost, Scott McFarmon, Ian Dench, James Dring and Jody Street)

– “The Wrestler” – The Wrestler (Music & Lyrics By: Bruce Springsteen) (Total Guess, but I’ll say Most Likely to Win) WINNER

It was pointed out to me while finishing up this post that I had left out the Best Original Song category. Since it still falls under the film umbrella, I’ll take a stab at an opinion. Clint Eastwood shows off again by gaining a nomination in yet another category not familiar to most actors, but in here he’s going toe-to-toe with the pros of the trade. Wall-E brings Peter Gabriel to the table, while Bolt totes along tween megastar, Miley Cyrus. Both are big hitters, but Cadillac Records sticks out with Beyonce, who just got awarded with “#1 Single of the Year” by Rolling Stone Magazine for her insanely catchy track, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”. Yet, when it comes to truly moving an audience, few people can do it better than all-American music legend Bruce Springsteen. I’m feeling he could pull this out the same way he did with “Streets of Philadelphia” from the movie Philadelphia. It goes to show, don’t mess with The Boss.

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Rachel Getting Married: Performances Outpace Story

Posted by goldwriting on October 4, 2008

I remember what it was like to blink. Those were good days.

In every actor’s career there comes a moment where the critics and audiences rally around jumping for joy about how they’ve just witnessed a breakthrough performance. As stunning as these performances are, the term “breakthrough” always felt a little out of place to me since it’s only on rare occasions the actor in question is relatively new. Most times they are people who have been pounding the boards and scraping the screen for years. In those terms, the breakthrough is nothing more than a large group of people seeing that actor in a new light for the first time, mostly in something they never imagined before. Now the newly colored spotlight falls on Anne Hathaway and her powerful turn as Kym in Rachel’s Getting Married.

The film is a slice of life piece detailing a small space of time, only a few days, where Kym returns home from a rehab clinic just in time for her sister Rachel’s wedding. Anyone who has ever taken part in arranging a wedding, especially one taking place in the family home, knows the extreme stress already present, so toss a young, partially unstable girl into the mix and top it off with a nice coating of family denial and dark skeletons in the hallway closet, then you get the full picture of this film. Relationships are strained, ties pulled so tight and taut they could snap and still they try to work it out through screaming, laughing and crying (not necessarily in that order). After all, it’s about a wedding, who’s not happy at those?

Before giving Anne her due credit, let me shed some light on someone most people won’t know off the top of their heads. Rosemarie DeWitt plays the title role of Rachel and she does it with the utmost tenderness and subtlety. What she brings across is the inherent hatred, resentment and unending compassion sisters can feel for each other, even through the worst of storms. With a film more comfortable in the category of “ensemble piece”, Rosemarie is the catalyst and pushes the energy along, changing and charging every one of her scenes. But the light shines brightest on Anne Hathaway as Kym, the ex-junkie, ex-alcoholic, ex-return rehab patient bordering on becoming an ex-family member. Audiences claim this as a breakthrough performance because they fell in love with Anne in The Princess Diaries movies, Ella Enchanted and the wonderfully wicked The Devil Wears Prada. Yet what they might not remember is she’s played rougher, tougher roles in Havoc and Brokeback Mountain, showing the more mature and adult side of her skills. So I wasn’t all that shocked to witness the brilliance she brought to this film, but I will celebrate it all the same. Anne jumps in and exposes a vulnerability, a cavern of pain and lost love, which drives the emotional core of the picture. From opening credits to the closing moment, she is the elephant in the room everyone must deal with and the magical point is this is the first time where the audience can begin to empathize with the elephant and not the onlookers. I can’t end the acting portion of this review without bringing up Bill Irwin and Debra Winger as well. Bill plays her father and churns out a tenderness only an accomplished actor such as himself could generate. There are such small moments, such tiny fractures in his facade which allow you to peer into the heart of a man trying to choose between his greatest love and his greatest loss. On the other side, Debra Winger plays her mother, who has chosen to block out the pain in her past and skate by the rest of her life, allowing the blackness and hurt to fester and suffocate any chance at a real connection with her daughters. As you can read, the acting on display here is sensational and will undoubtedly be remembered during awards season.

As a total film, I’m not sure the story reaches the same heights. A lot of great scenes and spectacular moments are created, but the story lacks cohesion. A particular subplot about the family and its deep love for music is mentioned and referred to over and over, but never fully explained or explored, which weighs down later scenes during the wedding celebration and the overlong musical sequences. During most of the musical moments, all I really wanted was to get back to the story, back to the family and to Kym. Also, the connection between Rosemarie and her soon-to-be husband Sydney (played by Tunde Adebimpe) never quite comes across. There is a wonderful moment during their wedding vows, but it could have been helped even more if their relationship had been more centered earlier on.

On the directing front, Jonathan Demme, with the assistance of a touchingly tender script from Jenny Lumet, helps craft a reality we can all believe in, a home we can all feel we’ve been to before. Much of this intimacy and nuance came from the free form style of camera movement, with the actors never knowing where and when the camera was going to appear on them. Everyone was basically playing everything from the moment he yelled action, so there were emotional surprises around every pan of the camera. That technique gave the movie a certain level of improv or even documentary feeling, like the audience was the most silent of voyeurs.

Recommendation: A powerful series of moments, filled with terrific acting, that don’t quite come together as a film. Certainly has great value to witness, but the theater experience might not be necessary. Also, this really is meant for those viewers not afraid to open themselves up to it.

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Daily Musings 3/21

Posted by goldwriting on March 21, 2008

1 – One of my favorite twisted souls in the literary world is Chuck Palahnuik, author of newfound classics Fight Club, Choke, Diary, Haunted and many others. On his home site it was just updated with the plotline for his upcoming book titled, Pygmy:

I’ve just finished the first draft of a novel called “Pygmy,” a dark comedy about terrorism and racism. The lead character is a 13-year-old foreign exchange student sent to live with a suburban, white, middle-class family. Oh, and they’re Christians. The visit is for six months, and he’s one of a dozen similar kids, all shipped to America to live with typical families.

The secret truth is that Pygmy is a terrorist, trained since infancy in martial arts, chemistry and radical hatred of the United States. He has six months to build a prize-winning project for the National Science Fair. If he succeeds, he and his project will go to Washington, D.C. for the finals competition — where the project will explode, killing millions.

So far, Gerry Howard says it’s the best book I’ve done. Fingers crossed for luck.

Yep, I’m prepared once again to be amazed and shocked by the words this man puts down. The wall of genius inside his head fell down long, long ago and now it all just flows out like creepy, creepy water. [via The Cult]

2 – Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford better step aside, because the baddest dude on the block is jumping on the comeback train and it could be the one we were waiting for. Clint Eastwood has announced he is making another Dirty Harry film, currently titled Gran Tornio, referring to the car the villain drives in the film. Unless Charles Bronson comes back from the dead, Eastwood is going to bring the toughest, craziest, meanest SOB back on the screen once again. [via Starpulse]

3 – A new trailer for Get Smart is here. New jokes, new explosions, new reasons to be insanely jealous of anyone who gets to be around Anne Hathaway. [via FilmDrunk]

4 – Oh my God! Oh my God! G.I.Nerd Boner!!!! Let me introduce you all to the awesomeness that is Ray Park as Snake Eyes in the new G.I.Joe flick (there is another pic through here as well) [via ComingSoon]

snakeeyes1.jpg

5 – At what point did the French become the ‘nice people’ in the global community? President Nicholas Sarkozy, while he might be a tad on the weird side in other aspects, has made a huge move by cutting France’s nuclear arsenal to down to 300. I’m hoping he is doing this out of a desire for peace and global disarmament and not because he saw the movie 300 and thinks all his nukes will suddenly become buff, shirtless warriors flying through the skies screaming, “THIS IS LA FRANCE!!!” [via CNN]

6 – There are mysteries in the world we are just not meant to solve, but luckily this is not one of them. Now you can create and enjoy your very own batch of Twinkies in the safety and fluorescent glow of your kitchen. The real kick when we start experimenting with the mystery filling…(get your mind out of the gutter people! I’m talking about filling it with Nerds, or maybe cookie dough. Jeez) [via Uncrate]

7 – People laughed at me when I said I felt watched, but now I know:

[via tcritic and icanhascheezburger]
ceilingcat-011.jpg

8 – I can’t explain the genetic code that makes watching things blow up at 5000 frames per second so cool, but why explain it, just sit back, enjoy the opera music and witness the ballet of destruction unfold. [via GorillaMask and Spongefish]

9 – I hate things that come along and make me feel bad for enjoying the things I do. I feel like I might need to take a hot shower before playing Guitar Hero again. [via GorillaMask]

10 – OK, here’s the shameless plug for the week. My friend and I run a t-shirt line called Off the Ledge Tees. It took a long time for the webstore to get up and running smoothly, but now that it is, we are pleased to toss out some discount love to those people in our circles. So, if you go to the store, put in this code: HYSG82AS and you’ll receive the lovely gift of 15% off the order. Isn’t that special? You can also jump to the site through the “T-Shirt of the Week” link on the top right corner of the page. Enjoy!

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