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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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Changeling: Truth and Passion without Power.

Posted by goldwriting on October 26, 2008

“Oh my, ummm…this is awkward. Can I return this one for something a little more, i don’t know, related to me?”

Ranking: 7.5/10

Some people refer to it as the “Oscar curse”, others mention it as “setting the bar too high”, but they all refer to the same phenomenon, once great success is achieved everything from that point forward is compared against it. Few directors still working today know this as well as Clint Eastwood. After winning a number of awards previously, he finally snagged the Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture for his 1992 return to the Western, Unforgiven. Twelve years later he reached that height once more in both categories for Million Dollar Baby. With that amount of popularity and acclaim in your wake, critics and audiences begin to develop a particular impression of where your movies will take them. Each time Clint returns to the screen, it is another contest against himself to try and outdo his previous visions. Did it happen this time? Were new peaks reached in power and passion? Let’s find out.

Changeling is based on a true story about a young woman named Christine Collins whose young son was kidnapped in late 1920’s Los Angeles. This took place during a time of great scrutiny and negative press for the police department in LA, so her tragic situation was given an overwhelming amount of news coverage and spotlight. Desperate to garner anything in the form of positive press, the LAPD snatched up any attempt to find her boy, but in that desperate vein they returned to her a young boy who was not her son. Whether it was an honest mistake or collusion on the part of the police force, it didn’t matter, there was no way for them to back out. What followed was a closely guarded cabal of high ranking officers and elected officials who did everything in their power to silence the willful and impassioned young mother still crying for her real son to be brought home.

The story is a powerful one and at times you have remind yourself that it actually took place. The sheer audacity and corruption depicted nearly ruins any suspension of disbelief, but it’s because we live in a different time, a different society. Back then, women still had very few rights and a great deal could still be swept away with a back handed comment about them being “too emotional”. In the past we were still bearing witness to the classic adage of “absolute power corrupts absolutely”, which we can still see today if we look closely enough. Clint did a fantastic job translating this desperate tale to the screen, bringing every minuscule detail of the 1920’s – 1930’s Los Angeles back to life. He also continues to handle brutal levels of violence in a sensitive and classic manner, moving the camera away or playing with shadows just enough to let the audience fill in the darkness.

Yet, what a director is truly there for is to direct the actors and bring forth the most honest and pure performances possible. This is where Clint Eastwood is a living, breathing masterpiece. Angelina Jolie brings forth the tremors and troubles of the young mother, Christine Collins. There is no doubt playing this role was incredibly intense for her since she most likely drew from her own much publicized experiences as a mother. She once again glides from reserved, to frantic, to forlorn and lastly to resolute with the grace of an actress much older than her years. The only problem for her was she spent a good deal of the movie emotionally troubled, so there wasn’t very far she could still go by the time of the third act climax. In the end there was a sense of caring for her, but I felt the lack of a distinct moment of undenied connection from the audience. John Malkovich lays the heavy hand of responsibility on the LAPD in his performance as Reverend Gustav Briegleb, a local pastor who made it his main goal in life to bring to light all the criminal and despicable acts the police had committed under the guise of justice. John achieves the powerful and sometimes frightening level of surety and devout belief in his own actions, which is usually the signature of highly influential religious officials. Jeffery Donovan gets the part people either love or hate to play, the character left holding all the blame. As Capt. J.J. Jones, Jeffery scrambles erratically to cover up Christine Collins in any way possible, including having her committed to an insane asylum until she agrees to sign a document absolving the LAPD of any wrongdoing in her case. He definitely reaches deep into this character to bring out the desperation which accompanies his actions, but the one failure here is we can never tell how much he knew from the beginning, exactly how complicit was he, which affects how much the audience can blame him. Yet, with all these big names and accomplished actors in the film, scene after scene is stolen by Jason Butler Harner in the role of Gordon Northcott, a frighteningly imbalanced monster with a penchant for young boys. No matter who he was on screen with, Jason drew all eyes to him and punched his way off the screen into the guts and underbelly of the audience. When nominations are announced next year, I’m not going to be surprised to see some of these names in lights, but Jason is certainly one of the most deserving.

While there are times we complain something on screen is unbelievable or that it could never happen in real life, this film suffers slightly from the opposite effect, what we witness is based on real life, during a particular moment in time. The level of mental, physical and emotional abuse laid upon this woman is not only baffling, but shocking to the idea that it ever took place. The film follows a common structure of your underdog story, one against the many, but in the end I’m not sure whether there was enough retribution to balance out the agony she had been put through. Without that equality between protagonist and antagonist, the film can sometimes feel unfulfilled.

Bottom Line: Fans of Clint Eastwood will like the film, but possibly not love it. It still fails to reach the level of his previous works, but certain performances, specifically from Jason Butler Harner, are truly worth experiencing.

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Oscar Wrap-Up 2008

Posted by goldwriting on February 24, 2008

no_country.jpg Go ahead, say one more thing about the haircut. Just get it out of your system already.

Another year has passed and another year of watching Jon Stewart polish off the Oscars like it was just another episode of The Daily Show. I swear the man cannot be fazed. As for the winners, I made predictions a while back, so let’s see how I matched up: (I’ll mark the ones I got right with a “*”)

* Best Picture: No Country For Old Men – Flocks of people left this movie confused about the ending, but I stand as one of the minority that enjoyed it, understood it (at least I think so), and was glad they didn’t try to wrap it up nicely in a Hollywood colored bow. A well deserved win for the Coen Brothers and I anxiously await their next picture, the adaptation of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon.

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis for There Will Be Blood – Was there anyone who didn’t see this one coming? I wasn’t a huge fan of the film, but his performance was the one thing that kept me interested. I still hold that this role felt a lot like a continuation of his character from Gangs of New York, but since he lost that year I consider it a dual win for him this time around. You might notice the star missing, because even though it was all going his way, I actually wanted Viggo Mortensen a little more for his role in Eastern Promises. I’m happy either way.

* Best Actress: Marion Cotillard for Mome La (or The Rose or La Vien Rose or whatever else they called it) – If she hadn’t won this I might have punched the nearest puppy. This was a monumental performance and when I saw her at a screening of the film there was a five minute standing ovation for her. Never before have I witnessed such an outpouring in person and I felt it could have gone on for even longer and been worthwhile. She was truly brilliant.

* Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men – Another shoe in for the award, even though his field was well stacked. In the end I think he just scared the living crap out of people who might vote against him.

Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton – This was the biggest upset of the night. Most people had Cate Blanchett walking away for her Bob Dylan interpretation in I’m Not There, but again I was in the minority of people who liked Michael Clayton and I congratulate Tilda on her award. If you happen to see her winning it, you can tell she was also honestly shocked. She probably bet against herself in her own Oscar pool.

* Best Director: Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men – I was thrilled by this. All the other movies were well deserving of nominations, but this film was a true work of art. Well paced, well acted and well shot. Overall fantastic work by these two geniuses.

Best Editing: Christopher Rouse for The Bourne Ultimatum – This is one of three awards the film took in surprising fashion tonight. I would be incredibly remiss to disagree with the choice though because the movie was thoughtfully and skillfully paced. Editing action is an amazing balance of quick cutting and specific holding and if you watch the Brazilian fight scene in this film, you will know why he won. Best use of a book in a fight ever!

Best Cinematography: Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood – Another well deserved win for this film. I might not have been one of the die hard devotees to it, but it was beautifully shot. The landscapes were picturesque and the intimate moments were kept close and meaningful.

* Best Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – Any Tim Burton film is automatically a wonderland for an Art Director. The worlds are dark, ornate and yet lovely in their eccentricities. The morose canvas they had to play with was helped to create the playground for Tim Burton and his man-muse Johnny Depp to complete yet another in their list of superb collaborations.

Best Song: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova for “Falling Slowly” in Once – The main reason I didn’t vote for this, when everyone in the world who saw it told me to, was because I honestly never heard the song or saw the film. It had a limited run here and I never made it out to see it, but it moved a nation of people and after hearing it played on the show I can see why it walked away the winner. I also want to give a hearty thanks to the amazing Jon Stewart for bringing Marketa back out on stage since she got cut off on her way to the microphone to deliver her thanks. Very classy.

Best Visual Effects: Michael L. Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood for The Golden Compass – The world of cyber-geeks was stunned by the passing over of Transformers and so was I. I saw The Golden Compass and I’ll give them credit for the amazing effects, but the movie itself lacked in so many other areas it was hard to come out appreciating anything about it. If I were them, I would make sure to hide those awards in something bomb proof because Michael Bay is comin’ for them.

* Best Score: Dario Marianelli for Atonement – I went for this no only because it is a truly wonderful collection of music, but it is also the best use of a typewriter in movie history. Clickity clack indeed.

* Best Sound Editing: Karen M. Baker and Per Hallberg for The Bourne Ultimatum – You could hear every piece of breaking glass when he jumped through the window and every bone that got bruised by being bashed with a book (YAY!) or a table leg or an entire cabinet. Amazing work done here.

Best Documentary: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner for Taxi to the Dark Side – A definite shock since Sicko by Michael Moore made a ton more money along with the fact there were two other Iraq war documentaries nominated so the thought was the votes would be split, but I have read that this was extremely well done and hopefully more people, like myself, will see it now. In fact, I’m issuing a challenge to everyone out there to watch at least one documentary a month, just one. So much is out there to learn about. It’s not all people being beat up with books (Can I mention that fight scene some more? It was awesome!)

Best Foreign Film: Austria with Falscher, Die (The Counterfiters) – I actually didn’t even cast a prediction in this category, along with the short film nominations, because I know nothing about them, but congrats to them all the same. I’ll try to see if I can find this on Netflix or somewhere and give it a spin in the ole’ DVD player.

Best Live Action Short Film: Phillippe Pollet-Villard for Mozart des pickpockets, Le (The Mozart of Pickpockets) -They showed a clip of a little kid hiding himself in a duffle bag so he could steal someone’s wallet. I give him the award just for the sheer ingenuity.

Best Animated Short Film: Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman for Peter and the Wolf – Again, I didn’t see it, but the animation looked cool. Kid hung upside down from a tree branch and caught a wolf in a rope net. Sweet move.

* Best Animated Feature: Brad Bird for Ratatouille – This was one where I actually felt bad for the other nominated films. I’m sure they were good, but Pixar is a beast and cannot be stopped by ordinary means. They will continue to dominate the Animated Feature world until someone comes up with a whole new form of CGI. Until then, I’m perfectly fine sitting back and laughing like a little kid in front of their cartoon worlds.

* Best Costume Design: Alexandra Byrne for Elizabeth: The Golden Age – Put Cate Blanchett in that role and those clothes, sign yourself up for the post-Oscar party and save a chair for your statue.

* Best Makeup: Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald for Mome La (or all those other names) – They took a gorgeous actress and made her look not only plain, but aged her nearly forty years. The transformation throughout the film was staggering and I was convinced that three different actresses were playing the part. Stunning work done here. Absolutely stunning.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men – What can you say about these two. This was their year. I was pulling for Sarah Polley for Away From Her, which is one of the most tender films of the year, only second to Lars and the Real Girl (almost completely passed over in my opinion by the Academy), but I can’t be sad about the Coen’s winning anything this year. Tremendous work and they deserve it all.

Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody for Juno – Yes, I loved Juno. Yes, I didn’t vote for it. This goes back to my absolute infatuation with Lars and the Real Girl and this was the only category it was nominated in, so I hoped beyond hope that it would get something. But Juno was another steamroller in the hearts of the voting public and I agree (just take out the uber-cutesy first scene and the movie is scripted flawlessly). Also, kudos to Diablo for a touching acceptance speech.

Best Sound Mixing: Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis for The Bourne Ultimatum – Yet another blow by Jason Bourne and his third film in the franchise against those big spiky, nasty robots.

Best Documentary Short Subject: Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth for Freeheld – According to her speech the film is about the discrimination of same sex couples. Most likely she was on the “give them equality side” of the argument, so I’m happy she won then. Like her, I don’t have that discrimination against myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support those who have to deal with it on a daily basis. Were all human, so we should only fear one thing and that’s big spiky, nasty robots. And if you give them a book to fight with, oh hell no, I’m leaving this place right quick.

In the end I got 10/24 right, which isn’t too bad considering there were a handful I didn’t even try for. All the movies this year were outstanding and I can only hope that we keep having Oscar shows where I don’t care who wins what award because they are all so damn good. Those are good days for a movie fanatic such as myself.

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