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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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The Wrestler: Love Letter from the Top Rope

Posted by goldwriting on December 31, 2008

wrestler This is definitely going to hurt me more than it does you.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

I still can still see myself, sitting on that brown tattered couch in the living room, wondering how much change has found its way into the holes in those old cushions. I held the remote control in my tiny hand and flipped constantly, trying to battle the onslaught of commercials for break-dancing tutorial videos and Nancy Reagan pleading for me to “Just Say No”. Very few things would make the flipping stop or could make me endure the advertising interruptions, and for many years the chief among those was none other than professional wrestling. What many people refer to as a fake sport is in reality nothing different than live theater specializing in acrobatics, fight choreography and mythological storytelling. These men, and now many women, personify the characteristics of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong and heart vs. strength. It may be dramatically simplified, but what goes on inside the squared circle week after week is at its core morality embodied by living, breathing warriors.

The Wrestler is the story of one such warrior, Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson. He once was at the top of the mountain and idolized by legions of fans around the world, but twenty years have passed since those days in the bright, bright spotlight and now the crowds have thinned and the venues have fallen farther away from the stadiums of his past. The effects of the constant battery to his body, from drinking, drugs and the matches themselves, have left Randy in a fight for his own livelihood. With a broken relationship with his daughter and a spark fluttering between him and a local stripper named Cassidy, he has to make a choice if the “real” world away from the cheers and jeers is worth losing the “fake” world inside the ring.

Directed and produced by Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler is much more than a raw tale of a broken man. This is a love letter to the stars of today and those of the past inside the wrestling world, known to many as “sports entertainment”. The film describes with painful acuity the reality of life behind the curtain and away from the crowds. The players behind the mythic characters deal with physical pain on an almost constant basis; bones broken, necks sprained, skin shredded. And on rare and terrible occasions, lives are lost in pursuit of giving the fans one more big pop. In crafting the fictional tale of Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, Darren let audiences who might not ever watch a regular professional wrestling match in their life take a peek into how much dedication and passion these people have for the entertainment which so many people choose to write off as silly and childish. The film is shot honestly with a good deal of handheld camerawork, giving it a subliminal sense of documentary feel. It also jumps around somewhat, skipping beats of time, but that only lends more to the impression that the camera has been around this collapsing goliath for hours and hours on end, searching for those windows into his thoughts.

To get into the soul of a person, many say you have to go through the eyes and this pair happens to belong to the enigmatic Mickey Rourke. Like Sly Stallone enveloping the beef pounding fury of Rocky, Rourke silently struggles with the aching for some sort of connection and the stubborn pull of the spotlight, even as dim as it has gotten for him. It truly will go down as one of the most inspired casting decisions of this year. Rourke was a boxer for a number of years and was four fights away from a major title fight when his doctor told him to quit due to major neurological damage he had already sustained. This wasn’t the role he was born to play, it was the role he was beaten into playing beautifully. Who knows how many of the other story points in Randy’s life mirror those in Rourke’s, but very few people can disappear into a character the way Rourke does here. In recent years, I would say Heath Ledger was the only other person I have seen able to accomplish this feat on a regular basis. Holding strong on either side of this tragically pure performance were Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood. Tomei plays the aforementioned stripper, Cassidy, who also has to keep the line straight between a world of fantasy and the real world back home with her nine-year-old boy and a driver’s license under the name Pam. She lets go in a major way and dives deep into the pool of necessity to show where Cassidy comes from and why she does what she does. Wood plays Randy’s daughter Stephanie, who has been estranged from him for an unknown period of time. She only gets a small handful of scenes, but two of those rarities prove to be the best in the entire film. Wood has rarely strayed from the emotionally tortured characters, especially after her intensely powerful turn at sixteen-years-old in the indie drama, Thirteen. She is now the “it” girl for edgy and troubled young female roles, but we’ll have to wait and see if she can parlay that into playing those same women when she gets older.

In the end what Aronofsky made is a dedication to all those people who live behind their masks and the trials and tribulations they suffer through to make someone else’s day just a little bit better. It’s not wholly selfless; they all get paid for the masks they wear, but to many the money becomes secondary to the rush of the outside world stepping into their carefully crafted fantasy.

Recommendation: For the wrestling fans out there, this is a must see. It truly serves as a validation of your viewership to each and every pay-per-view match. For the rest of the audience, the strength of Rourke’s performance might just make you think a little next time you flip by the WWE on Saturday morning (that’s the World Wrestling Entertainment for those even farther outside the know).

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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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The Dark Knight: Shadows and Mastery

Posted by goldwriting on July 21, 2008

Buy at Art.com

[Click on the poster above to go to Art.com and buy the poster]

(Just no words)

This was what we’ve all been waiting for. The weekend to end all others this summer, most likely the year, possibly even years to come. The moon shone down on theaters nationwide as dedicated fans of comic books and gritty action movies alike lined up for the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight, the second in the revamped Batman franchise headed by director Christopher Nolan. The hype was dynamic, nearing the rampant fervor last held by Matrix Revolutions, but this time the anticipation and buzz machine wasn’t met with disappointment and disdain. The Dark Knight lived up to every expectation and exceeded most others. Much more than a comic book film, this piece of history breaks many of the long held rules and traditions of movie making. Without getting into too much detail, let’s just say the sun doesn’t shine down on our heroes very much and without that the audience is not given what would be considered the Hollywood ending. Nolan put his best foot forward and also had to stomp it down on the fact he wasn’t going to lighten this up, make it more palatable to the mass public, because I think he felt they were ready and they deserved it. He set the tone in Batman Begins and he keeps that gritty calmness on the same tightrope with tense anticipation and sliding levels of psychosis. The continuing character development of Batman running right next to the introduction of the Joker and Harvey “Two Face” Dent shows that Nolan is just as good on the page as he is on the camera. Nothing is left to chance, nothing is left unexplained, and that leads to everyone leaving the theater fulfilled.

What words could I possibly write about Heath Ledger’s performance. I was recently talking to my friends after we saw the film about how sad I was. Not only because we will only get one more chance to see new and original performances from Ledger (when his finished footage is used in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus), but also because this brilliant turn on the already once-made iconic role of the Joker will forever be marred by the events that followed it. There will forever be those people that will say we in the Hollywood community and beyond hail this role because of his death and not becuase of its sheer talent and genius. To those small and deluded voices I say this, Heath was an amazingly gifted actor and his interpretation of the Joker would have gone down in the record books no matter what happened to him afterwards and when the accolades and congratulation were lauded on him (an Oscar nomination is guaranteed, the win is probable) he would have accepted them with the same grace and humiliy he has shown so many other times before. He brought something new, something daring and something intentionally terrifying to this character. It’s incredibly unfair to compare his performance with that of Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton’s Batman because that film went in a totally different direction. Burton created a comic book world where Batman and his peers existed, whereas Nolan made a dramatic effect of creating our world, this day and time, which just happens to have Batman, and in turn those who will always turn up to fight against him. The final effect of all that work is a film with much more power, more substance and a raging river of emotions that rush over the audience.

Let’s not forget the other great roles in this film. Christian Bale brought even more to the Batman side of the equation this time, where we spent a lot of time seeing the person under the mask in the first film, now is our chance to see his psyche slide across that dangerously thin line between one personality and the other. One might use the term “the light and the dark”, but for the character of Bruce Wayne it is more approriate to think of it as “the dark and the pitch black”. Aaron Eckhart gives a little touch of his character from Thank You For Smoking and shows what happens when good people are pushed too far. Michael Caine brings a sense of class and stoic nature as always, showing a little more depth of the relationship between Alfred the loyal butler and his charge. Gary Oldman proves once more that he can be a skilled actor without showing how crazy he can be. Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal and a cameo by Cillian Murphy round out the cast, all refusing to let the quality and level of the film dip below outstanding.

Overall, this is a near perfect film. Running at 2 and 1/2 hours, I honestly didn’t feel one minute was overdone or unnecessary. One of the great successes of this piece is on paper this shouldn’t work at all. The normal rules of storytelling are completely shattered, the traditions of Hollywood movies (especially those that cost $180 million to make) are left whining and sputtering in the past. Chistopher Nolan has just secured himself a place in the annals of movie history as a great storyteller, accomplished director and soon-to-be most profitable moviemaker of all time. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and go immediately. I didn’t see it in the IMax first because I was afraid I might miss small details, but now that I have had the Arclight experience first, IMax…here I come for Round 2!

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Also, here’s a link to one of the better posters to come out of the marketing campaign. Many of them were sensational, like the “Why So Serious” series, but this one had a particular creepiness to it which resonated.

Buy at Art.com

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Daily Musings 3/11

Posted by goldwriting on March 11, 2008

1 – Thankfully for the fans of the tragically late Heath Ledger, it was just announced that they are back in production for the last film he was working on The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus and they will be leaving all his footage involved and intact. Jude Law, Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell will also be stepping in to take over the rest of the role, but no CGI, no re-cutting to make unshot scenes work. His last performance will be shown to us as Heath and Terry Gilliam intended it. [via Starpulse]

2 – More celebs have added their voices to the protesting of hate crimes like the one that happened mere weeks ago. [via Perez Hilton]

3 – Improv Everywhere, the group behind the people frozen in time inside Grand Central Station, are back with an impromptu musical inside a Los Angeles mall food court. I would have bought this hook, line and sinker if I didn’t actually attend acting class with one of the guys (the janitor, good singer too).

4 – Growing up, I don’t know how many times I said to my pals, “Gee, Predator is just such an awesome film. I only wish I could express the excitement and story of it through British Rap.” Today, one of my childhood dreams has come true. [via GorillaMask]

5 – Hellion on heels, Ann Coulter, has spoken out saying Obama should do the respectful thing and step down from the race. Her reasoning is that Hillary has won three primaries in a row (she doesn’t count Vermont because it was earlier in the day). My main confusion is why she wasn’t asking Hillary to step down after losing eleven primaries in a row. 11!? Evidently Ann likes to push the stereotype that women are running around shopping while muttering, “Math is hard.” [via Perez Hilton]

6 – Ummmm…Stunt Rock is actually a Public Service Announcement for all the things you should never, ever do. This includes: hitting people with your car, jumping off buildings and dressing like a wizard during a rock concert. [via Dave]

7 –  In the first piece of good news to come out of the new Terminator project, they are officially dumping the “Salvation” portion of the title. Now we should keep our fingers crossed hoping this will lead to more things being dropped, like McG. [via FilmDrunk]

8 –  What happens when you make a worldwide phenom viral video campaign like Ask a Ninja? You win the rights to write and direct the remake everyone has been clamoring for: The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! Oh yes, once more our silver screen streets will be overrun by the seeds of discontent from the mutant garden. Let’s see if the remake can launch another Hollywood legend like George Clooney (technically he was in the sequel, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, but let’s not split hairs). [via Hollywood Reporter]

9 –  The time has come to finally buy the one item we have wanted since birth. Can someone just loan me $5,500 for it? [via Uncrate]

10 – This was too adorable not to post: [via Swissmiss]

Bonus: Just because this was their top post this morning: [via Swissmiss]

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Daily Musings 3/10

Posted by goldwriting on March 10, 2008

1 – As much as I hate the what has become of the Star Wars franchise and also for what it did to my childhood (listen people, you will never, ever be original or humourous when you say, “You’re name is Luke? He He…I am your father. Ha hahaha get it? Like in the movie with that muppet dude?”), I still have to throw some love out there to the creators of this post from College Humor. This is actually all in the films themselves, but it’s played in the subtext. Just read between the lines and you’ll see it.

2 – The thickness of one’s skin is only truly dependent on the sharpness of the barb.

3 – Have you ever thought to yourself you wanted your PC to be more musical, more tonally impressive? Maybe the real fact is you have never really listened to it correctly. Try it again after watching this video of a musical jam made out of only Windows 98 and XP sounds, I think you’ll hear a distinct difference. [via College Humor]

4 – We’ve seen the original Mentos commercials, we’ve seen the anime versions as well, now let’s take a gander at what happens when the Mentos confidence goes awry. [via Pandachute via College Humor]

5 – Leave it to the fanatics to find something a way to turn the upcoming animated Horton Hears a Who! into a protest piece. Pro-Life rallies sprung up at the premier because they latched onto the moral of the story, “A person is a person, no matter how small.” and are using it as an anti-abortion catch phrase. I’m a Pro-Choice person myself, but if someone can bring me proof that at the very moment of conception the cluster of DNA and cells becomes a furry accountant with a penchant for rhyme, that’s when I make the switch. [via Starpulse]

6 – As if there was a role I wouldn’t be happy to see Johnny Depp play, now he is on the lookout for screenwriters who can create a worthwhile story about Salvador Dali. When this film gets made I am only going to be truly happy if Depp plays through a whole scene while it virtually melts around him. [via Starpulse]

7 – I was going to post up the first trailer for Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder, but it was so unimpressive that I decided this other trailer for Zombie Strippers was more valuable to your day. Your welcome. 🙂 [via FilmDrunk]

8 – There will always be a time when certain things need to be updated, evidently the Catholic Church thinks that time is now and they are planning an overhaul to the seven deadly sins. It seems we as a society have found new and improved ways to offend the almighty and the Church wants to make sure that we are appropriately covered for all our hell-bound needs. [via CNN]

9 – Yes! Yes! Yes! A whole company dedicated to firearms for Legos. Yes! [via Uncrate]

10 – There are a handful of new photos from the upcoming Dark Knight flick. Here is my favorite from the bunch. My personal caption would be, “Do you ever get that feeling like someone is watching you?” [via ComingSoon]

darkknightnyt1.jpg

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