Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Disappointing but Funny: Charlie Wilson's War

Charlie Wilson's War (Advance Screening)
Directed by Mike Nichols
To be released December 25, 2007

This odd film about a congressman working to help Afghanistan fight back against the Soviet Union is not a complete misfire, but with the team involved, it really should have been better. The biggest problem throughout the film is that it presents itself as a goofy, aloof dramatization yet it splices in extremely serious issues and the general plot of the film involves helping a repressed people being slaughtered without any hope of defense. This imbalance makes for an often hilarious but not quite satisfying experience. The direction and editing are off a bit, and the script by "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin is not as sharp and quick as it should be (though all the actors do talk very fast). Stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are fine, but this is by no means an Oscar comeback for either of them (thought their pedigrees and awards history do not discount them completely). Hanks is not quite right for the role, as he is too inherently likeable to seem sleazy and womanizing. Roberts has a small role and her accent is a bit much. Philip Seymour Hoffman, on the other hand, is terrific in his supporting role as a sarcastic, deadpan CIA agent. His role, like the film, is often unexpectedly more serious and he does not have much to do in that case. I think this film may do well with the Golden Globes, but I have removed it from my Oscar predictions with the exception of Hoffman, who I think may make it in due to lack of competition. There is always the chance that this likeable cast and crew might be well-received by audiences and awards groups, but I, for one, am a bit let down.

B-

For the Record: Oscar Predictions

**UPDATED**
After seeing "Charlie Wilson's War", I think I am going to remove it from my predictions. It may still make it in, and I'm not too confident about my replacement choice ("Into the Wild"), but right now I just do not see "Charlie Wilson's War" making it in, especially not Roberts (but who will replace her??).

I am revising my Oscar predictions before the Golden Satellite award nominations. I previously posted predictions for the top eight categories on October 3rd. I have dropped "American Gangster" from the Best Picture lineup and replaced it with "Charlie Wilson's War". Neither of the supporting categories have gotten any clearer or easier to predict. I have added the additional categories and will be making continued changes to this list as time passes.

Best Picture
Atonement
Into the Wild
In the Valley of Elah
Once
No Country for Old Men

Best Director
Joe Wright, Atonement
David Cronenberg, Eastern Promises
Todd Haynes, I’m Not There
Sean Penn, Into the Wild
The Coen Brothers, No Country for Old Men

Best Actor
Brad Pitt, The Assassination of Jesse James
James McAvoy, Atonement
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Best Actress
Julie Christie, Away from Her
Ellen Page, Juno
Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart
Laura Linney, The Savages
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

Best Supporting Actor
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
Ed Harris, Gone Baby Gone
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

Best Supporting Actress
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Marisa Tomei, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There
Kelly Macdonald, No Country for Old Men

Best Original Screenplay
In the Valley of Elah
Juno
Knocked Up
Ratatouille
The Savages

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Assassination of Jesse James
Atonement
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Into the Wild
No Country for Old Men

Best Cinematography
The Assassination of Jesse James
Atonement
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Into the Wild
No Country for Old Men

Best Film Editing
Atonement
Charlie Wilson’s War
Eastern Promises
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Best Art Direction
Atonement
The Golden Compass
Hairspray
Lust, Caution
Sweeney Todd

Best Costumes
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
The Golden Compass
Hairspray
Lust, Caution
Sweeney Todd

Best Original Score
Atonement
The Golden Compass
The Kite Runner
Ratatouille
There Will Be Blood

Best Original Song
Enchanted, “That’s How You Know”
Hairspray, “Come So Far”
Into the Wild, “Guaranteed”
Once, “Falling Slowly”
Once, “When Your Mind’s Made Up”

Best Sound
Beowulf
The Golden Compass
Hairspray
Sweeney Todd
Transformers

Best Sound Editing
Beowulf
Live Free or Die Hard
Pirates of the Caribbean 3
Spider-Man 3
Transformers

Best Make-Up
Beowulf
Love in the Time of Cholera
Sweeney Todd

Best Visual Effects
Beowulf
The Golden Compass
Transformers

Best Animated Film
Bee Movie
Persepolis
Ratatouille

Best Documentary
For the Bible Tells Me So
Lake of Fire
No End in Sight
The Rape of Europa
Sicko

Best Foreign Film
The Edge of Heaven
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
Persepolis
XXY
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Independent Spirit Award Nominations

I always tell myself that I am going to be vigilant about following every single awards guilds and keeping up with predictions, but I always seem to miss one or two. Today the Independent Spirit Award nominations were announced, which are not a great predictor for the Oscars or any other awards in that they are highly selective and the boundaries of eligibility are much broader. The Best Feature list is great, and includes "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", "I'm Not There", "Juno", "A Mighty Heart", and Gus Van Sant's "Paranoid Park", which does not hit theatres until March of 2008. There is not too much else to say about the nominations, other than the fact that Nicole Kidman ("Margot at the Wedding"), Laura Linney ("The Savages") and Christian Bale ("Rescue Dawn") were all left off the list while other players in their films made the list. I highly disagree with the inclusion of Sienna Miller in the Best Actress category for "Interview". Reading quickly, I assumed that Irrfan Khan was nominated for "A Mighty Heart", which was recognized in other categories, but looking again, I saw that he was nodded for "The Namesake", which is regrettable since he was infintely better in the former film. Also great: "The Lookout" for Best First Feature, "Waitress" for Best Screenplay, and the hilarious inclusion of "Once" in the Best Foreign Film category (Ireland).

Nominations can be found here.

Intoxicating and Brilliant: I'm Not There

I'm Not There
Directed by Todd Haynes
Released November 21, 2007

Todd Haynes' bizarre look at the "many lives" of Bob Dylan is a fresh and infectious film. I know pretty much nothing about the history or music of Bob Dylan, and this weird and warped movie does little to enlighten me, but I sure enjoyed it, and I am certain that Dylan fans will love it as well and may even enjoy it more. It absolutely works better than this year's Beatles film "Across the Universe", this time inserting music as transitions between scenes or background music rather than a distracting, front-and-center barrage. I really disliked the Richard Gere segment, but the rest were fantastic. Each of the five actors who portray Dylan's alter agos (I am discounting Gere) get so perfectly lost in the roles. I personally enjoyed Marcus Carl Franklin as an 11-year-old guitar-playing prodigy the best, but there is no denying that Cate Blanchett's portrayal is truly impressive. The most wonderfully surprising thing about this film is that it actually tells a compelling story even though it is continually confusing and splinters Dylan's history into six different people in six different times. This one is playing at a select few theatres, but I highly recommend checking it out once it expands.

B+

Imagined Futures in Sci-fi: Fight Club

I am taking a course called "Utopia/Dystopia: Imagined Futures in Sci-fi" which focuses on science fiction films from the fifties to the present. I will be writing a few words about each of the films I watch in class.

Fight Club
Directed by David Fincher
Released October 15, 1999

Clearly I had seen this film before, but not in this context where we were looking at it as an examination of a near-future dystopia. The testerone-motivated "fight club" designed by a disillusioned insomniac mutates into a vicious and unstoppable cult with members deeply rooted in nearly every organization and capable of controlling major events. This concept is highly disturbing but is balanced by the extremely dark comedy throughout the film. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt play perfectly off each other, and Helena Bonham Carter does a great job as well. Director Fincher makes his films in a highly stylized manner, and this certainly shows it. From the pounding opening credits with furious music by the Dust Brothers, this is one intense thrill ride.

A-

Monday, November 26, 2007

Awards Season Begins Friday!

I am thrilled to announce that this Friday marks the nominations announcement of one of my favorite awards groups - The Golden Satellites. This wonderful wacky guild is slightly less popular than the Golden Globes (and has actually dropped the "Golden" from their name, making them now just the Satellites). It is fun because some of the nominees are so weird and out of nowhere (Joshua Jackson for Best Actor in "Aurora Borealis") but also serves as a decent predictor. Last year, eight of the eventual ten Golden Globe nominees for Best Picture showed up in the corresponding category at the Satellites. Contenders are often confirmed, but there are also false positives, like actors who were thought to have a chance and will still have no shot after their nomination here (such as Adam Beach for "Flags of our Fathers".

These nominations should pave the way for the following announcements, the nearest being the Golden Globes on December 13th. I am excited for the Satellite announcement, and tried for the first time (I never quite finished) to predict the nominees. It was fun for a while, but became tiring after I was just making up nominees to try to make them seem differentiated from other groups. Side note: all categories have six nominees, though they really can have anywhere from five to eight. Television nomination predictions can be found on the TV blog and are linked below. Without further ado, my random predictions. Nominees are in alphabetical order by film title and listed as the press release by the Satellite Awards lists them.

1. ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA
A. KEIRA KNIGHTLEY, ATONEMENT
B. JULIE CHRISTIE, AWAY FROM HER
C. CATE BLANCHETT, ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
D. TANG WEI, LUST, CAUTION
E. ANGELINA JOLIE, A MIGHTY HEART
F. HALLE BERRY, THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE

2. ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA
A. BRAD PITT, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES
B. JAMES MCAVOY, ATONEMENT
C. VIGGO MORTENSEN, EASTERN PROMISES
D. JOHN CUSACK, GRACE IS GONE
E. CHRISTIAN BALE, RESCUE DAWN
F. DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, THERE WILL BE BLOOD

3. ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
A. AMY ADAMS, ENCHANTED
B. NIKKI BLONSKY, HAIRSPRAY
C. ELLEN PAGE, JUNO
D. LAURA LINNEY, THE SAVAGES
E. MARION COTILLARD, LA VIE EN ROSE
F. KERI RUSSELL, WAITRESS

4. ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
A. JASON SCHWARTZMANN, THE DARJEELING LIMITED
B. JOHN TRAVOLTA, HAIRSPRAY
C. RYAN GOSLING, LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
D. PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, THE SAVAGES
E. JOHNNY DEPP, SWEENEY TODD
F. DON CHEADLE, TALK TO ME

5. ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
A. MARISA TOMEI, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD
B. MICHELLE PFEIFFER, HAIRSPRAY
C. CATE BLANCHETT, I’M NOT THERE
D. TILDA SWINTON, MICHAEL CLAYTON
E. LAURA LINNEY, THE NANNY DIARIES
F. KELLY MACDONALD, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

6. ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
A. GORDON PINSENT, AWAY FROM HER
B. ALBERT FINNEY, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD
C. JAVIER BARDEM, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
D. MARK RUFFALO, RESERVATION ROAD
E. PHILIP BOSCO, THE SAVAGES
F. PAUL DANO, THERE WILL BE BLOOD

7. MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA
A. ATONEMENT
B. AWAY FROM HER
C. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD
D. EASTERN PROMISES
E. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
F. THERE WILL BE BLOOD

8. MOTION PICTURE, COMEDY OR MUSICAL
A. HAIRSPRAY
B. JUNO
C. ONCE
D. THE SAVAGES
E. SWEENEY TODD
F. WAITRESS

9. MOTION PICTURE, FOREIGN LANGUAGE
A. THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
B. 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS
C. THE KITE RUNNER
D. LUST, CAUTION
E. THE ORPHANAGE
F. LA VIE EN ROSE

10. MOTION PICTURE, ANIMATED OR MIXED MEDIA
A. BEE MOVIE
B. BEOWULF
C. ENCHANTED
D. PERSEPOLIS
E. RATATOUILLE
F. THE SIMPSONS MOVIE

11. MOTION PICTURE, DOCUMENTARY
A. DARFUR NOW
B. LAKE OF FIRE
C. NO END IN SIGHT
D. RAPE OF EUROPA
E. SICKO
F. THE 11TH HOUR

12. DIRECTOR
A. SARAH POLLEY, AWAY FROM HER
B. SIDNEY LUMET, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD
C. DAVID CRONENBERG, EASTERN PROMISES
D. JOEL COEN, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
E. PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON, THERE WILL BE BLOOD
F. ADRIENNE SHELLEY, WAITRESS

13. SCREENPLAY, ORIGINAL
A. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD
B. EAGLE VS. SHARK
C. EASTERN PROMISES
D. ONCE
E. THE SAVAGES
F. WAITRESS

14. SCREENPLAY, ADAPTED
A. ATONEMENT
B. AWAY FROM HER
C. THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
D. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
E. INTO THE WILD
F. THERE WILL BE BLOOD

15. ORIGINAL SCORE
A. THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES
B. ATONEMENT
C. THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
D. THE GOLDEN COMPASS
E. THE KITE RUNNER
F. THERE WILL BE BLOOD

16. ORIGINAL SONG
A. ENCHANTED – “That’s How You Know”
B. HAIRSPRAY – “Come So Far”
C. INTO THE WILD – “Guaranteed”
D. ONCE – “Falling Slowly”
E. ONCE – “Leave”
F. ONCE – “When Your Mind’s Made Up”

17. CINEMATOGRAPHY
A. THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES
B. THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
C. LUST, CAUTION
D. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
E. SMOKIN’ ACES
F. THERE WILL BE BLOOD

18. VISUAL EFFECTS
A. BEOWULF
B. THE GOLDEN COMPASS
C. HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
D. LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
E. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 3
F. SPIDER-MAN 3
G. TRANSFORMERS

19. FILM EDITING
A. ATONEMENT
B. EASTERN PROMISES
C. THE GOLDEN COMPASS
D. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
E. SMOKIN’ ACES
F. THERE WILL BE BLOOD

20. SOUND (EDITING & MIXING)
A. BEOWULF
B. THE GOLDEN COMPASS
C. LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
D. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
E. SMOKIN’ ACES
F. TRANSFORMERS

21. ART DIRECTION & PRODUCTION DESIGN
A. BEOWULF
B. ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
C. THE GOLDEN COMPASS
D. HAIRSPRAY
E. HARRY POTTER & THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
F. LUST, CAUTION

22. COSTUME DESIGN
A. BEOWULF
B. ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE
C. THE GOLDEN COMPASS
D. HAIRSPRAY
E. LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA
F. LUST, CAUTION

BEST ENSEMBLE, MOTION PICTURE
JUNO

And continuing on to the TV predictions...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Movie: The Shining

The Shining
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Released May 23, 1980

I had not seen this classic before simply because I am not a fan of horror films. I will see one only if it is supposed to be a terrific film, and I had always planned to see this one, eventually. That eventual viewing was accelerated as a result of staying at the Mohonk Mountain House (Alan Alda was a guest there as well), which is the hotel “The Shining” is based on, over Thanksgiving. My brother insisted we watch the film while we were staying there.

I can safely say that “The Shining” is in no way a letdown. Kubrick builds tension delicately by using eerie music and long tracking shots down mysterious hallways which all look the same. Kubrick masterfully uses the enclosed setting to create a true feeling of no escape, and the film is completely captivating. I liked the fact that things do not jump out to frighten the audience, but instead the music cues the viewer to expect something scary. The combination of supernatural mystery and psychological terror makes for one thrilling film. I personally enjoyed Shelley Duvall’s antics, but in my follow-up research I noted that the Razzie Awards awarded her a nomination for this film. They also nominated Kubrick for Worst Director, so they clearly disagreed with the majority of diehard fans of this movie. One of the best elements of the film is obviously Jack Nicholson, marvelously creepy as the unforgettable Jack Torrence. All in all, this is an excellent film certainly worth seeing if you are not a fan of being scared.

A-

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Awards Season is Coming Up!

Check back after Thanksgiving for revised Golden Globe predictions, as well as all the buzz on the PGA, DGA, WGA, SAG, and critics' prizes. Preliminary Oscar predictions are also coming soon, and the first ever AFT Film Awards nominations will be unveiled in early January!

Nothing to Like: Margot at the Wedding

Margot at the Wedding
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Released November 16, 2007

Every one of the characters in Noah Baumbach's follow-up to "The Squid and the Whale" are so inherently dispecable and unlikeable. Unlike the negative, manipulative parents in "The Squid and the Whale", Nicole Kidman's Margot constantly insults her son for no reason to the point where it feels like we the audience are being berated for not being impressed by Margot's cruelty. It is hard to like any of the other characters, even though we would be hard pressed not to side with them against the vicious Margot. This also pales in comparison to "The Squid and the Whale" as far as the child actors go - they were so great in the former film but here are less than impressive (save for "Squid" import Halley Feiffer, who has altogether too much energy for this film in relation to her castmates). For all the buzz surrounding her performance, Jennifer Jason Leigh really has little to work with as Margot's engaged sister. The lackluster script is poorly complemented by a truly dreadful performance from Jack Black. He is trying so hard to be serious despite clearly being comic relief, and it is painful to see him attempt to cry in some of his more dramatic moments. Supporting actors Ciaran Hinds and John Turturro seem much better suited in period dramas, and in any case their roles here are not stellar. Kidman does nothing to elevate Margot to a position of supreme bitch, but also fails to make her remotely sympathetic. That is sadly the case for the entire film; there is no one with whom to sympathize.

C-

Avoid It At All Costs: Southland Tales

Southland Tales
Directed by Richard Kelly
Released November 14, 2007

The first hour is just confusing and weird. After that, I was hoping that the projector would stop working. People seriously got up and left. That is the risk you take when the director of the super-bizarre "Donnie Darko" makes a film with the strangest cast ever, including The Rock, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Jon Lovitz, Seann William Scott, and Justin Timberlake. No one is necessarily good or bad, but the film as a hole falls flat. Apologies in advance to "Buffy" fans, but I really cannot stand Sarah Michelle Gellar, so all her scenes were annoying to me. The Rock does do the best with his material and is often quite funny. Seann William Scott in the token dramatic role was not a good idea, however. For all its fantasy elements and technological babble, there is not one ounce of sense in this movie. The impending end of the world is interesting for a moment, but each character manages to make it just seem dumb. The very technology-oriented future is chock full of disturbing reckless killing and dystopian elements, but it is like a misguided amalgam of "Brazil" and "Idiocracy" on crack. When characters begin to utter the film's horrid tagline "I'm a pimp, and pimps don't commit suicide", I almost had to look away. Two and a half hours is much to long to have to suffer through this film. I can see why it got booed at Cannes.

F

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Moving and Stunning: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Advance Screening)
Directed by Julian Schnabel
To be released November 30, 2007

I really hope this small foreign film will be seen by a lot of people. I went in knowing nothing about the film, other than that it was directed by American director Julian Schnabel but it is filmed completely in French. Based on a true story about an Elle editor who was completely paralyzed except for his left eye after a stroke, this is a difficult film to get through but a wholly worthwhile one. Very much like the 2004 film "The Sea Inside", it combines beautiful cinematography with an excellent script. Mathieu Almaric delivers an affecting, mostly verbal performance as the paralyzed protagonist, but it is the uniformly terrific supporting cast that really shines. While the subject matter is disturbing, the film is ultimately a hopeful and wonderful experience.

B+

Imagined Futures in Sci-fi: Brazil

I am taking a course called "Utopia/Dystopia: Imagined Futures in Sci-fi" which focuses on science fiction films from the fifties to the present. I will be writing a few words about each of the films I watch in class.

Brazil
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Released December 18, 1985

What an amazingly interesting film this is! Part dystopian future, part acid trip, this is one absolutely unforgettable and fairly incomprehensible film. It is so fascinating that I could hardly look away. Jonathan Pryce stars as a bureaucrat who becomes enchanted with a mysterious woman afterr an error occurs where an innocent man is arrested instead of a rogue heating engineer. Robert DeNiro's role as the rebel engineer, Tuttle, is classic. The art direction and scenery is dazzling. The script is wildly inventive in a really good way. I cannot say I understand it, but this is one film you should definitely see. Note: I saw the director's cut.

B+

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Golden Globe Musings: Best Motion Picture - Drama

The following represents some preliminary thoughts on Golden Globe contenders for the given category. Predictions will be narrowed and revised towards the end of November or the beginning of December. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is way to early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point. This category feels pretty locked up at this point. This category in particular often includes films which have not yet opened at the time of the nominations announcement and start off campaigns for those films.

The top contenders:
AMERICAN GANGSTER
Will backlash against this over-hyped film hurt its chances? More importantly, is there really that much backlash? The release did come at a great time.

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES
Did people like it or did they think it was too long? Praise may be reserved for Casey Affleck, but I suspect “Jesse James” will show up in a lot of places. As long as they do not have Jessica Biel announcing again, who last year had to stumble through the entire extended "Borat" title.

ATONEMENT
This film will be opening a week before the nominations are announced and should easily make it in given the rave reviews that it has been getting.

CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
This is one of the films which will depend entirely on Globe reception because its release is not until Christmas. A few years back “Closer” popped up here, and “Charlie Wilson’s War” may be a more generically appealing film if it is not too hokey.

EASTERN PROMISES
Dark and violent, David Cronenberg’s thriller may have disappeared from voters’ minds. It did receive a great deal of good marks back in September, and Cronenberg’s last effort, “A History of Violence” made it in here.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH
Paul Haggis’ drama received so-so reviews and will really need to resurge before awards season to make it in.

INTO THE WILD
This is a great film, but as I have said everywhere else I predicted it, I just do not know how much critics went wild for it. This could be a good entry point for the film into the awards mania.

MICHAEL CLAYTON
A lot of people called it the best movie of the year. I did not. Regardless, Clooney proved a few years ago that he was an unstoppable force, but even “Syriana” did not make it in to this category (despite my predicting it).

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
The Coen Brothers’ bloody film is getting excellent reviews and they are awards favorites. “The Man Who Wasn’t There” was recognized here in 2001, and this film is a far bigger and better deal.

THERE WILL BE BLOOD
P.T. Anderson’s oil drama is another one that will peek really late, hitting theatres December 26th. The release date did no favors for “Children of Men” last year, but I think buzz may help this film’s chances.

Anything else? Sidney Lumet’s latest, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, is earning good marks but I think it is too small. Same goes for Gone Baby Gone, although it could surprise. I have no idea whether I’m Not There is considered a drama, but I think it will be a bizarre experience regardless which Globe voters may hesitate to reward. I remember seeing a movie about Love in the Time of Cholera last year (“The Painted Veil”), and that one did not do well with awards despite a well-known cast. Hopefully there will be a surprise contender here that is not 3:10 to Yuma.

Current predictions:
THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES
ATONEMENT
CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
EASTERN PROMISES
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Golden Globe Musings: Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical

The following represents some preliminary thoughts on Golden Globe contenders for the given category. Predictions will be narrowed and revised towards the end of November or the beginning of December. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is way to early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point. This category feels pretty locked up at this point.

The top contenders:
THE DARJEELING LIMITED
The Globes do not usually respond to Wes Anderson, and despite this movie being so good, I do not think it will change matters. There is very little competition this year, so the film could have a shot.

ENCHANTED
I do not think it looks good, but it does look quite intriguing and like the kind of fare that could fit in to this category. Entries like “Nicholas Nickleby” and “Bend It Like Beckham” have been recognized in the past and this could be a wonderfully weird comedy/musical/animation hybrid.

HAIRSPRAY
The Globes do love a good musical and this one did quite well with critics and audiences alike. I cannot imagine what would get in the way of this film getting nominated.

JUNO
I just saw this film and can pretty much assure that it will make it into the top five. The sharp script and excellent cast work stunningly together to make for an unforgettable comedy.

KNOCKED UP
It came out a while ago and was a hit. Previous Judd Apatow effort “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” did not make the cut, but this is a fairly empty year and I think “Knocked Up” should be fine.

MARGOT AT THE WEDDING
This film is from Noah Baumbach, whose last film “The Squid and the Whale” was nominated in this category. This looks a bit more bizarre and possibly a bit darker, so I am not as convinced that it will get in.

ONCE
At the beginning of this summer, this musical was a major hit. If Globe voters still remember it, it should score here and in the song categories.

THE SAVAGES
It does look terrific, and I see no reason why it should not make the cut, but at the moment I am feeling like it will merely be stars Hoffman and Linney who get nominated.

SWEENEY TODD
It looks like a load of fun, and it should be just weird enough to please Globe voters.

WAITRESS
It came out very early but received positive reviews. I would be happy to see it recognized, but I think it was too long ago.

Anything else? It would be great to see Superbad here, but I think it is just a bit too inappropriate. The Bucket List might be a success with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, but I do think it will steer clear of any awards. Ryan Gosling should get all the buzz for Lars and the Real Girl. And Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium looks like too much of a kids’ movie.

Current predictions:
HAIRSPRAY
JUNO
KNOCKED UP
ONCE
SWEENEY TODD

Monday, November 12, 2007

Golden Globe Musings: Best Director

The following represents some preliminary thoughts on Golden Globe contenders for the given category. Predictions will be narrowed and revised towards the end of November or the beginning of December. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is way to early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

The top contenders:
RIDLEY SCOTT, AMERICAN GANGSTER
This all depends on how “American Gangster” is received. Besides “Gladiator”, Scott has earned two Oscar nominations for films that were not nominated for Best Picture. The same is not true at the Globes. Scott has only one nomination, for “Gladiator” and might find himself stuck with that statistic after this year.

ANDREW DOMINICK, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES
I think that people may be underestimating this one. I personally think it will show up for Best Picture, but not here. Dominick has only one other film credit to his name, so this could be a spot where he first makes his mark.

JOE WRIGHT, ATONEMENT
Wright is all but assured a placement here. If for some reason the film backfires at the last minute, Wright’s lack of extensive credits could hurt him, but I think he is safe.

MIKE NICHOLS, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
This one is still looking pretty strong. Nichols was nominated last time one of his films started off with great praise but ultimately bit the bullet with awards (“Closer”). This category encompasses both comedy and drama, so voters do not have to decide which one his film is.

DAVID CRONENBERG, EASTERN PROMISES
Cronenberg has been ignored time and time again throughout his career. Two years ago, his film received a Best Picture mention but he missed out in this category to a barrage of famous directors (Woody Allen, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg). Can he make it in this time or have people forgotten the film?

PAUL HAGGIS, IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH
I think this is the real underdog to watch, but that does not mean it will show up strong at the Globes. “Crash” managed only two nominations (one for supporting actor Matt Dillon, one for Screenplay) before going on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Still, Haggis is quite popular these days.

SEAN PENN, INTO THE WILD
I still cannot tell whether critics liked this one, but I know I did. Penn has amassed four acting nominations, and if his film is popular enough, should earn a fifth one in this category.

THE COEN BROTHERS, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
After seeing this one, I am fairly confident in predicting it. The film should do really well with critics and awards alike. Even the Coen Brothers’ less-noticed “The Man Who Wasn’t There” earned a Globe nod for Best Picture. Enough said.

TIM BURTON, SWEENEY TODD
Burton has yet to crack his way into this category despite a couple of his films being nominated for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical (“Big Fish”, “Ed Wood”). Burton and Depp together should be an irresistible combination for Globe voters, though comedies always have a hard time in this category.

PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON, THERE WILL BE BLOOD
I am reconsidering my initial evaluation of this film’s chances. I think it may do better than I originally thought. In the past, P.T. Anderson’s films have only earned nominations for performers at the Globes (Adam Sandler, Tom Cruise, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore). Daniel Day-Lewis is almost certain to make it in, but can Anderson?

Anyone else? “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” is earning Sidney Lumet positive marks. I could not hope to tell you if Todd Haynes realistically has a chance for his bizarre Bob Dylan movie “I’m Not There”. If “Michael Clayton” does well in other categories, look for Tony Gilroy’s name here. Both Marc Forster and Ang Lee could get nominated for their foreign-language entries “The Kite Runner” and “Lust, Caution”. Comedies and musicals are a tough sell, but “Juno” and “Once” may be popular enough to allow Jason Reitman and John Carney to slide in. The late Adrienne Shelly did a remarkable job with “Waitress”, but it came out so long ago. And don’t count out Ben Affleck for “Gone Baby Gone”.

Current predictions:
JOE WRIGHT, ATONEMENT
MIKE NICHOLS, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
DAVID CRONENBERG, EASTERN PROMISES
THE COEN BROTHERS, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
TIM BURTON, SWEENEY TODD

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bloody and Tense: No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men
Directed by Ethan & Joel Coen
Released November 9, 2007

The Coen Brothers' latest feature is not as altogether stunning as "Fargo", but it certainly deserves a good deal of praise for its execution. The western feel of the film is perfectly accomplished, and all members of the cast fit in so well to their surroundings. I hardly noticed the lack of scoring for the film and it did not distract from my enjoyment of the film, though my friends felt it did detract from their experience. The film starts off fairly slow but hardly lets the viewer off the hook, keeping a feeling of uncertain suspense throughout. Javier Bardem is excellent as a psychotic but calculating killer, and he will have no trouble earning an Oscar nomination for this performance. When I reviewed Goya's Ghosts earlier this year, I said that Bardem was much better off in his native language, but this is proof that "Goya's Ghosts" was merely a fluke (take my word for it, do not try to see it for yourself). Tommy Lee Jones delivers another fine performance, but it pales in comparison to his work in "In the Valley of Elah". Josh Brolin, who I usually find obnoxious, fits in well with the scenery even if he does little. Both Kelly Macdonald and Woody Harrelson have extremely limited screen time but make an impact with their appearances. This film, like many of the Coen Brothers' previous efforts, is quite violent but well worth it.

B+

Entertaining and Clever: Juno

Juno (Advance Screening)
Directed by Jason Reitman
To be released December 5, 2007

This highly anticipated new comedy pretty lives up to all the hype surrounding it. A terrific cast makes for a "Little Miss Sunshine"-esque feature from the director of "Thank You For Smoking". The script by Diablo Cody has received a ton of praise, and it really sparkles with hilarious dialogue and sharp characters. In describing the film, some have said "Think 'Knocked Up', but younger" and that is a fair description of the film. It is just as good, with an even better cast. Ellen Page in particular carries the film with her carefree portrayal of our young pregnant heroine. Michael Cera, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, and Jason Bateman make up part of the great ensemble. Jennifer Garner has received lots of buzz for her performance as a wife "desperately seeking spawn" and she does a decent enough job but the role does not substantiate a nomination of any sort. The marketing for this film should help it outdo any box-office predictions, and it is a refreshing thought. This is a heartwarming and inventive comedy that really delivers. Make sure to see this one when it comes out.

B+

Golden Globe Musings: Best Animated Film

The following represents some preliminary thoughts on Golden Globe contenders for the given category. Predictions will be narrowed and revised towards the end of November or the beginning of December. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is way to early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point. This particular category is only going into its second year, so it is possible it may be stretched to five nominees instead of three.

The top contenders:
BEE MOVIE
I loved it, but I guess critics did not feel the same way. I still think it might break through with the popularity of Jerry Seinfeld and the trillions of obnoxious ads which aired on NBC.

BEOWULF
This is an odd case, because it is not your typical type of animation. “A Scanner Darkly” did not make it in last year. Robert Zemeckis might turn this film, which truthfully looks awful, into a major surprise hit.

MEET THE ROBINSONS
All I need to know is that I laughed every single time a local movie theatre showed a clip where the frogs took all the cell phones, threw them in the trunk of a car, and then closed the lid to indicate that cell phones should be shut off. The movie probably was not as good.

RATATOUILLE
Probably the biggest lock of the century. This one is almost guaranteed the win. It was so unbelievably good, I could not agree more.

SHREK THE THIRD
The first two were a huge hit; this one did not seem to do as well. I am not convinced that people are ready to let Shrek go yet (I of course have yet to see this installment).

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE
The film was received pretty well, and the TV-to-film transition seems to have gone fine. The television show did receive a nomination for Best Comedy Series back in 2002.

SURF’S UP
I won a prize which was a goodie bag with stuff pertaining to this movie. I have yet to see it, but I am assuming that it is not much more than Happy Feet Part Two. Which may not be the worst thing.

Current predictions:
BEE MOVIE
RATATOUILLE
SHREK THE THIRD

Friday, November 9, 2007

Golden Globe Musings: Best Foreign Film

Golden Globe Musings: Best Foreign Film

The following represents some preliminary thoughts on Golden Globe contenders for the given category. Predictions will be narrowed and revised towards the end of November or the beginning of December. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is way to early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point. Rules of eligibility in this category are often weird and not as stringent as at the Oscars. Some of the films I list as contenders may not ultimately be eligible. At this point it is just guesswork and advance buzz. There will be little commentary for each contender simply because I know very little about each of the films.

The top contenders:
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (France)
This film was deemed ineligible for the Best Picture prize and relegated to this category. A Cannes favorite written by Oscar-winner Ronald Harwood and starring Max von Sydow.

THE EDGE OF HEAVEN (Germany)
Germany tends to do well in this category, and the film picked up a Screenplay award at Cannes.

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS (Romania)
This film was all over Cannes and is supposed to be fantastic. The one near-universal prediction for this category that I have seen.

THE KITE RUNNER (USA)
Well, it’s directed by Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland”), but like “Letters from Iwo Jima”, it is in a foreign language so it is therefore considered a foreign film. Unless it really sucks, the film should have no problem slipping in here.

LUST, CAUTION (TAIWAN)
Ang Lee’s newest film was recently decreed ineligible for this prize at the Oscars, so this will have to be its best shot. Lee’s film is very artfully done, and its extreme sexuality is best suited in this category, which is not as concerned with that kind of thing.

THE ORPHANAGE (SPAIN)
It is being marketed with producer Guillermo Del Toro’s name attached at the hip, and the poster even looks a bit like “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

PERSEPOLIS (FRANCE)
This one is supposed to be terrific, plus it has the country’s backing for its official Academy Awards submission.

LA VIE EN ROSE (FRANCE)
This film faces much internal national competition, but Marion Cotillard so well embodies Edith Piaf that the slightly underwhelming film might be carried to a nomination.

XXY (ARGENTINA)
It sounds absolutely interesting, and Argentina is a good source country.

THE YEAR MY PARENTS WENT ON VACATION (Brazil)
This one I actually heard great things about from a friend. The plot sounds great.

Current predictions:
4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, AND 2 DAYS
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY
THE KITE RUNNER
LUST, CAUTION
THE YEAR MY PARENTS WENT ON VACATION

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Preachy and High-Minded: Lions for Lambs

Lions for Lambs (Advance Screening)
Directed by Robert Redford
To be released November 9, 2007

Robert Redford's latest directorial feature is almost exactly what I expected going in. Three huge stars - Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise - take turns lecturing each other and the rest of the cast about how war is made, mistakes were made, and how plans for the future may not succeed. The film is full to the brim with haughty speeches, mostly from Redford and Cruise, which get tiresome over the course of the film's mere hour-and-a-half runtime. Redford's college professor talks to a student about his untapped potential, and the student could not care less, and neither could we. Streep seems at once confused and dismayed, and her facial expression hardly changes throughout the film. Cruise looks as if he is wearing a vest much too small for him, but he still borrows through his lines as if no one could possibly stop him. While these unengaging debates are taking place, the story of two stranded soldiers in Afghanistan is interspersed. Right in the middle of this far more compelling war film, it repeatedly cuts to Tom Cruise straining to get out of his vest or Streep parting her hair. The film has a compelling element but refuses to give it a chance to play out and instead frequently interrupts it for shots of Redford himself or the bigger star, which makes for a painfully uneven film. Not that I expected much more. As the tagline says, "If you don't stand for something, you might fall for anything." On that note, stand for avoiding this film.

C-

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Golden Globe Musings: Music Categories

Golden Globe Musings: Best Original Score / Best Original Song

The following represents some preliminary thoughts on Golden Globe contenders for the given category. Predictions will be narrowed and revised towards the end of November or the beginning of December. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is way to early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point. Rules of eligibility in this category are often weird and not as stringent as at the Oscars.

I honestly have no idea what films will have frontrunners for the music categories. As a result, I will offer preliminary and uneducated predictions for the nominees and make revised predictions in late November as buzz picks up. As far as the songs go, I have heard and love all of the songs from “Once” and cannot remember those from “Hairspray” or “Into the Wild”. I am pretty certain that the film distribution will end up like that on the final list (1 “Enchanted”, 1 “Hairspray”, 1 “Into the Wild”, and 2 “Once”), but with the exception of “Falling Slowly” from “Once”, I could not tell you what they will be, but I will give it a shot. Here is hoping for the inclusion of “Pop Goes My Heart” from “Music & Lyrics”.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Atonement
The Golden Compass
The Kite Runner
Ratatouille
There Will Be Blood


BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Enchanted, “That’s How You Know”
Hairspray, “Come So Far”
Into the Wild, “Guaranteed”
Once, “Falling Slowly”
Once, “If You Want Me”

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Golden Globe Musings: Best Screenplay

Golden Globe Musings: Best Screenplay

The following represents some preliminary thoughts on Golden Globe contenders for the given category. Predictions will be narrowed and revised towards the end of November or the beginning of December. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is way to early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point. Nominees in this category come from drama, comedy, and musical motion pictures and are not separated by original or adapted material.

The top contenders:
AMERICAN GANGSTER (Steven Zaillian)
The film may do well in other categories and Zaillian is a past winner for his adaptation of “Schindler’s List” back in 1993. It is the kind of movie where the screenplay can easily go along with the rest of the film.

ATONEMENT (Christopher Hampton)
If this is as “instant classic” as it is supposed to be, it will be highly shocking if “Atonement” gets the cold shoulder in this category.

CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (Aaron Sorkin)
This new guy named Sorkin wrote a screenplay sure not to cause a big fuss. The former “West Wing” scribe has already received two nominations for lighter films, “The American President” and “A Few Good Men”. It all rides on how the film is received.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (Paul Haggis)
Haggis is the hot ticket in Hollywood right now, writing one film that went on to become a Best Picture nominee for the past three years. He last earned a nomination for “Crash” which definitely had a stronger script than “Elah”.

INTO THE WILD (Sean Penn)
I have not read the book, but I have heard that Penn may have done some impressive crafting and condensing with his script. The film is long but constantly interesting, a mixed blessing for this category.

JUNO (Diablo Cody)
This is easily the most buzzed-about screenplay of the year. It is a comedy, but that should not take away from its chances.

KNOCKED UP (Judd Apatow)
“Knocked Up” was all the rage back in early summer before “Superbad” and “Juno” came along. “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”, written by Apatow popped up at the WGA Awards a few years back but was not able to make it in at the Globes.

MICHAEL CLAYTON (Tony Gilroy)
If the film makes it in, the script may be considered fresh and inventive even though it is not really at all. Gilroy has few precursors in the way of previous nominations.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (Joel & Ethan Coen)
The Coen Brothers return for a feature that looks fantastic and should play well at least here and in Best Supporting Actor if nowhere else. The Coen Brothers earned a nomination for “The Man Who Wasn’t There” in 2001 as well as for “Fargo” in 1996.

THE SAVAGES (Tamara Jenkins)
Based on the trailer on the buzz, it feels like the kind of movie which would have a good screenplay, sort of like “The Squid and the Whale”.

Anything else? Both The Assassination of Jesse James and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead have fantastic screenplays but are more likely to be recognized elsewhere, for acting and direction, respectively. There Will Be Blood is adapted by Paul Thomas Anderson, but the man has no previous Globe nominations; he succeeds at the WGA Awards and the Oscars instead. Same for Wes Anderson and company with regard to The Darjeeling Limited. Musical successes Hairspray and Once boast nothing special in terms of their screenplays, but buzz and enthusiasm can go a long way.

Current predictions:
ATONEMENT
CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH
JUNO
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Imagined Futures in Sci-fi: Gattaca

I am taking a course called "Utopia/Dystopia: Imagined Futures in Sci-fi" which focuses on science fiction films from the fifties to the present. I will be writing a few words about each of the films I watch in class.

Gattaca
Directed by Andrew Niccol
Released October 24, 1997

Andrew Niccol's vision of a not-too-distant future where potential is determined by genes is without question intriguing. The execution is a bit lacking, in that the dialogue is rather short and the acting is generally mediocre at best. Everyone's delivery falls flat and the scenes seem overly forced. Ethan Hawke is all panicked and nervous the whole movie, and Uma Thurman in particular is so stiff. The concept is fascinating, and the imagery is great. The film earned a deserved Oscar nomination for its art direction. Some people refer to "Gattaca" as a classic, but it is a rather a worthwhile attempt which served as a decent precursor to Niccol's next script the following year: "The Truman Show".

B-

Monday, November 5, 2007

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

The following represents some preliminary thoughts on Golden Globe contenders for the given category. Predictions will be narrowed and revised towards the end of November or the beginning of December. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is way to early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point. Nominees in this category come from drama, comedy, and musical motion pictures.

The top contenders:
SAOIRSE RONAN, ATONEMENT
I have never heard of this actress but she is supposed to be terrific in “Atonement”. I am under the impression that “Atonement” will sweep this awards season and a certain dearth of supporting actress contenders will help the unknown Ronan break into the category.

MARISA TOMEI, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD
Truth be told, she is not in the movie very much but does make one hell of an impression. Unfortunately for her, the impression is not quite strong enough to make it through the entire film and leave the viewer remembering just how great she was. A lack of other contenders could work in Tomei’s favor.

JULIA ROBERTS, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
This film could tank majestically, but it could also be a major success. Roberts was snubbed last time she starred in a Mike Nichols film (“Closer”) but looks to have a far juicier role in this film that should garner her a nomination unless voters find her too obnoxious.

AMY RYAN, GONE BABY GONE
Reviews and buzz for Ryan have been stellar. Thinking more and more about her role, I am impressed with her work in this film. It is a good role but her character may be too trashy and the film may be too small and non-awards fare to make Ryan a serious contender.

MICHELLE PFEIFFER, HAIRSPRAY
It may not be as good as Pfeiffer’s previous award-worthy performances (which I have not seen – I have to get on that), but she is certainly fun to watch. If the film performs well, as it should, Pfeiffer should make the cut.

CATE BLANCHETT, I’M NOT THERE
I really need to see this movie soon to see if Blanchett genuinely has a chance. Everyone who has seen it says that she is in for sure. The performance is certainly strange, but I honestly have no idea what to expect.

JENNIFER GARNER, JUNO
From the preview, it looks like this could be an extremely sympathetic role for Garner. From the reviews and the buzz surrounding her, Garner is said to be a certifiable candidate for a nomination. I do not think she will make it to the Oscars, but this could definitely be the venue for the Globe winner (for “Alias” back in 2001).

LESLIE MANN, KNOCKED UP
There is often a good actress who has a breakthrough comedy role that makes some sort of splash at the Globes. Last year it was Emily Blunt for “The Devil Wears Prada” and this year people are saying it will be Mann. I personally liked Paul Rudd’s performance better in the film, and I think that Jennifer Garner will overtake Mann for the slot.

JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, MARGOT AT THE WEDDING
Leigh is a veteran actress who has not done much major work lately. If “Margot at the Wedding” is a success, this could be a chance to rejuvenate her career. She already has one Globe nomination for “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle” from 1994.

TILDA SWINTON, MICHAEL CLAYTON
Swinton is at the center of much of the buzz surrounding “Michael Clayton”. She was nominated for a Golden Globe back in 2001 for the independent film “The Deep End” and may make it in even if her film sits out the other races.

Anyone else? “Atonement” is said to feature a powerful cameo from Vanessa Redgrave, but I am staunchly against nominations for revered actors with bit parts (I despise Judi Dench because of her Oscar win for eight or so minutes of “Shakespeare in Love”). Kelly Macdonald, an actress who has appeared in small parts in many films, faces a similar problem as her role may be too brief in “No Country for Old Men”. Evan Rachel Wood for “In Bloom”? Tell me more about the movie first. Laura Linney and Susan Sarandon earned positive reviews but have their own handicaps. Linney’s role in “The Nanny Diaries” is too much like “The Devil Wears Prada”, and Sarandon is barely in “In the Valley of Elah”. Stretch your memory way back and you might recall a little film called “The TV Set” for which Sigourney Weaver earned good marks. And while this would never actually happen, Margo Martindale is absolutely hilarious in the final vignette of “Paris, Je T’Aime”. If it helps, the website awardsdaily.com voted her Best Supporting Actress back at the halfway mark.

Current predictions:
SAOIRSE RONAN, ATONEMENT
JULIA ROBERTS, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
MICHELLE PFEIFFER, HAIRSPRAY
CATE BLANCHETT, I’M NOT THERE
JENNIFER GARNER, JUNO

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Darfur Now: A Call to Action?

Darfur Now
Directed by Ted Braun
Released November 2, 2007

This documentary boats a fairly descriptive title: it is about what is currently going on in Darfur and what people should be doing about it. Yet it is often unfocused and unorganized, favoring shots of Don Cheadle's children playing backgammon to delving further into the story of the people actually living and experiencing this hell in Darfur. The film presents six accounts of people affected by or working to end the genocide in Darfur, and powerful imagery is used to decent effect to supplement the horror tales told by the people of Darfur. The film does not necessarily tell the audience anything a casual follower of world events is unlikely to know, and presents nothing new other than to get some insight into the lives of those working from the United States and the Netherlands to create awareness and enact legislation to go after those responsible. But this multi-person story tends to focus too much on those of celebrity status (Cheadle and George Clooney) and expand on details of the personal lives of the people working to bring about change which are absolutely irrelevant to the plot. These scenes of Americans sitting in their fancy houses or working in expensive restaurants are in such contrast to the plight of those in Darfur that it seems an unwise choice for writer-director Bruan to have made to so ignorantly place the two side-by-side. The color and the sound cut out quite a bit during the second half of the film, but that could easily have been the theatre where I saw it. Like "An Inconvenient Truth", this documentary exposes something everyone has been talking a lot about but doing little to influence, but fails to deliver in any inspirational or inventive way. The end of the film is oddly hopeful, which does not match the film's tone but attempts to offer some sort of idealistic plan for the future.

C+

Friday, November 2, 2007

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

The following represents some preliminary thoughts on Golden Globe contenders for the given category. Predictions will be narrowed and revised towards the end of November or the beginning of December. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is way to early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point. Nominees in this category come from drama, comedy, and musical motion pictures.

The top contenders:
RUSSELL CROWE, AMERICAN GANGSTER
After seeing this film, I feel that Crowe has very little chance at getting a nomination. Crowe’s performance is not terribly good and he does not give it much effort. The film may be popular, and Crowe has received five nominations since 1999, not a bad tally.

CASEY AFFLECK, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES
This is really Casey Affleck’s year. Stepping out of the shadow both of his brother Ben (director of his other film, “Gone Baby Gone”) and his co-star Brad Pitt, Affleck delivers a tremendous performance as the “coward” Robert Ford. The film is a western, a genre that does not always play well with the Globes, but I think Affleck is honestly among the best of the year without much contest.

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
Sure, Hoffman is a revered actor with two other major roles this year, but have you seen the preview for this? I am sure he is fine, but this is no award-worthy role. This may not be true within the context of the actual film, and the Globes went wild for Mike Nichols’ last film, “Closer”, giving trophies to both supporting actors Clive Owen and Natalie Portman, even when other award-givers shunned the film. Hoffman may simply jump on the bandwagon – and he might be really good. Who knows at this point?

ARMIN MUELLER-STAHL, EASTERN PROMISES
This is one performer that I think awards gurus have been seriously underestimating. Mueller-Stahl delivers a powerful performance as a subtle but controlling Russian mob boss. His role may be small, but the film might also do well with the Globes.

ED HARRIS, GONE BABY GONE
The stakes are not the same here as they are at the Oscars – many are saying that Harris will finally pick up his long overdue Academy Award for his excellent turn in this film. The Globes do not carry this same “overdue” prospect, not to mention the fact that Harris did win a Globe in 1998 for “The Truman Show”. Harris’ role in “Gone Baby Gone” is fairly small but he is terrific. I am not sure if the film will play into awards season, though.

HAL HOLBROOK, INTO THE WILD
Now this is one performance you have to love. As a kind but lonely man who befriends the young adventurer played by Emile Hirsch, Holbrook creates a sympathetic and tremendously likeable character. His screen time is short and the film is not a shoo-in for any other awards, so he may go unnoticed.

TOM WILKINSON, MICHAEL CLAYTON
I am a fan of Wilkinson, but this is not his best performance. The character is juicy to be sure but Wilkinson is not afforded the chance to excel. He missed out on a nomination for “In the Bedroom” back in 2001 despite enthusiasm for the film and its other stars. I still stand by my contention that “Michael Clayton” will not factor into any awards race this season.

JAVIER BARDEM, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Bardem should be considered the only lock for this category at this point. A two-time Globe nominee for “Before Night Falls” and “The Sea Inside”, Bardem switches to the supporting category for his role as a violent killer in the Coen Brothers’ latest film. Nothing in my mind can stop Bardem from gaining a nomination and probably a win.

ALAN RICKMAN, SWEENEY TODD
Rickman is one actor who is deserving of many awards but rarely rewarded for his work. He looks to be great in “Sweeney Todd” but it is too early to tell at this point, since his role might be small like past performances which got early buzz (Dustin Hoffman in “Finding Neverland”, Kim Dickens in “House of Sand and Fog”).

PAUL DANO, THERE WILL BE BLOOD
The film looks great, and Dano shares most of his scenes with Daniel Day-Lewis. Pitting the young Dano against the established Day-Lewis should be good for Dano since he proved he can act with his under-rewarded role in “Little Miss Sunshine” last year. I think the film is getting more buzz than it will follow up on, and Day-Lewis may be the film’s lone nominee.

Anyone else? “Gone Baby Gone” features another older actor who continues to make great films. Morgan Freeman is good but his role is too small. Philip Bosco is rumored to be a contender for his role as the dying father in “The Savages”. Max von Sydow may also factor into the race for his performance in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”. Some are predicting Mark Ruffalo for “Reservation Road”, but based on reviews I think the film will sit out the awards race. Go back a few months and you have four actors whose performances should have faded from people’s minds but may see a resurgence. Jeff Daniels is funny in “The Lookout” and critics raved back in March when it opened. Gordon Pinsent has more of a leading role opposite Julie Christie in “Away from Her” and she will take most of the buzz anyway. Steve Zahn was surprisingly good in “Rescue Dawn”, but has no chance unless co-star Christian Bale gets a nomination. I, for one, would support a nomination for Irfan Khan in “A Mighty Heart”, but I think the positive reviews of his performance will pale in comparison to the lackluster box office reception of the film.

Current predictions:
CASEY AFFLECK, THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES
ED HARRIS, GONE BABY GONE
HAL HOLBROOK, INTO THE WILD
JAVIER BARDEM, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
ALAN RICKMAN, SWEENEY TODD

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Golden Globe Musings: Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical

The following represents some preliminary thoughts on Golden Globe contenders for the given category. Predictions will be narrowed and revised towards the end of November or the beginning of December. A reminder that the Globes are wildly unpredictable and that it is way to early to gauge the reception or awards potential of a number of the so-called “contenders” at this point.

The top contenders:
AMY ADAMS, ENCHANTED
This looks like a surefire flop but you never know. Adams got an Oscar nod two years ago for “Junebug” and she will certainly do a good job with this role; it is just a matter of whether this is an awards type of film.

NIKKI BLONSKY, HAIRSPRAY
The bright-eyed and jolly star of this year’s most colorful musical certainly works hard to deliver her performance. She is young, however, and compared with some of the eligible actresses (Nicole Kidman, Helena Bonham Carter, Laura Linney), she might seem too new. But this may well be the year of young actresses (continue reading below).

ELLEN PAGE, JUNO
The breakout star of last year’s extremely dark “Hard Cardy” now stars in what looks to be this year’s best comedy. Page has all the buzz on her side, and I think only her age and the small size of the film could get in her way.

KATHERINE HEIGL, KNOCKED UP
Heigl won an Emmy for her role on “Grey’s Anatomy”, and she is a hell of a lot better in this film. Golden Globe voters have rejected previous Judd Apatow efforts and their performers, but “Knocked Up” should find itself an awards hit.

NICOLE KIDMAN, MARGOT AT THE WEDDING
Kidman has been absent for a few years now from the awards spotlight (though I did predict her last year as a nominee for “Fur”). Globe voters responded well to “Savages” director Baumbach’s previous film, “The Squid and the Whale”.

MARKETA IRGLOVA, ONCE
I did not actually like her that much in the film, but her singing is fine, which is the important part for musicals and their stars at least for the Globes (BeyoncĂ© for “Dreamgirls”, for instance). I still cannot gauge how popular “Once” will be here or whether it will simply surge later, but Irglova may sneak in.

LAURA LINNEY, THE SAVAGES
Linney is a three-time Globe nominee and respected actress who should have no trouble making it in. The film looks great and Linney should be fantastic as well.

HELENA BONHAM CARTER, SWEENEY TODD
I am not positive this is a lead role, but from the looks of the trailer, it is definitely an amazing one. Carter only has one film nomination from the Globes (“The Wings of the Dove”) in addition to three TV-movie nods. I imagine this film being a huge hit and Carter being a shoo-in for a nomination.

MARION COTILLARD, LA VIE EN ROSE
This is probably where Cotillard will end up being placed and presumably win this award.

KERI RUSSELL, WAITRESS
I have never been a huge Keri Russell fan but I will admit that I very much enjoyed her performance as a desolate housewife slash pie maker. The film is great, which is an added bonus. Russell did win a Golden Globe for the first season of “Felicity” back in 1998.

Anyone else? Probably, but the field is slim at this juncture. The only other contenders I can think of have very slim chances. I am not positive if Anne Hathaway places in the drama category for “Becoming Jane”. A similar problem exists for Michelle Pfeiffer, who really is supporting but might be pushed as lead for either “Hairspray” or “Stardust”. Evan Rachel Wood is a lead actress but not really the star in “Across the Universe”. And I do not know if anyone liked “The Nanny Diaries” enough to vote for Scarlett Johansson.

(I know I am sort of cheating predicting Cotillard in two categories, but I think she will ultimately end up here).

Current predictions:
ELLEN PAGE, JUNO
KATHERINE HEIGL, KNOCKED UP
LAURA LINNEY, THE SAVAGES
HELENA BONHAM CARTER, SWEENEY TODD
MARION COTILLARD, LA VIE EN ROSE

alternate: KERI RUSSELL, WAITRESS (if Cotillard ineligible)