Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Oscar Love (and hate): Part 2

In the last few day I was able to trim the short list of films I've missed down to seven. Hopefully I'll be able to catch the rest very soon and add a little more complete insight into the Oscar race this year. That being said, let's get to it.


Who I'd like to see win: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
What Terrence Malick did was create something poetic on a grand scale. I've spoken in some depth about this film here. The bleeding fact is the film would be nothing without Terrence's masterful direction. In his long (and very short) career he has made both films I love and films I hate. But it's never been because his directing prowess was lacking. Most of his films still work on some level just because he is such an interesting force behind the camera.

Who I think will win: Alexander Payne, The Descendants
I like Alexander Payne. I've enjoyed all of his movies. But his winning this award would be a mistake. This is honestly his weakest picture to date, and this category is too strong for him to be allowed to slip in by merit alone. Frankly, the only way Alexander Payne wins for this film, is politics.


Who I'd like to see win: Michael O'Connor, Jane Eyre
There was a presence in this film. It was as if everything had come together just right to make what we saw on screen absolutely believable. At least, the imagery was there. If there were any weakness in Jane Eyre (which there may have been) it wasn't because of the art department and it certainly wasn't because of Michael O'Connor. I commend the man for a job well done.

Who I think will win: Michael O'Connor, Jane Eyre
This is honestly a no brainer to me, but then I've been wrong before.


Who I'd like to see win: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
This film was haunting, and as in the Directing category, I often feel a great cinematographer is an extension of a great director. They work as a team and invent something wholly beautiful. And this one came out just right in the imagery department.

Who I think will win: Janusz Kaminski, War Horse
Janusz Kaminski is among the best. That's fact, not opinion. I think this year is just an extension of his long and illustrious career.


Who I'd like to see win: Anne Seibel and Hélène Dubreuil, Midnight in Paris
When you fall into so many pasts and never feel out of place, there's something magical to that. Midnight in Paris is worthy of every award it's been nominated for and I'm gunning for the academy to recognize the amazing subtlety that these two brought to the world.

Who I think will win: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo, Hugo
Look, it's probably gonna win something. But this somehow seems wrong. The train station was massively designed and everything about the movie had a very specific style to it... Just, to me, that style didn't work. Very little worked in Hugo and I'm expecting that fans of the film will be disappointed in the lack of Oscars it actually receives after so many nominations. I think this is one of the better things the movie has to offer, but I don't think it did its job... I mean, I think it drew more attention away from the performances (which perhaps should have been ignored anyway) than it should have. And when a piece of a team ignores the rest of that team to try and gain simply for its self, it usually just makes the incongruity of everything else more apparent. I would prefer to see Midnight in Paris or Harry Potter or The Artist... or War Horse win before this.


This is my most difficult category...

Who I'd like to see win: Kung Fu Panda 2
At the end of the day, I think Dreamworks has turned their act around. This year they annihilated Pixar (2 nominees to Pixar's 0). And I think Kung Fu Panda 2 should be the frontrunner for the award. Everything in the film worked for me... especially that ending which was so well earned. I can't speak highly enough about this film.

Who I think will win: Rango
But then, I don't know. I loved Rango as well... though not as much as Kung Fu Panda 2. And I list it here as an example of how good this category is. Anyone could win (with the probable exception of Puss in Boots). I don't know enough about Chico & Rita or A Cat in Paris to put them in the running here, so Rango takes the probable possible position. But really, Kung Fu Panda 2 should win.


Who I'd like to see win: Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
In a silent role, she commanded attention and was instantly lovable. I think that's at least worthy of some note.

Who I think will win: Octavia Spencer, The Help
She deserves it. Something about her attitude was right on the money. She proved that a potentially annoying character could be thoroughly lovable if put in the right hands. Bravo.


Who I'd like to see win: Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn
If Marilyn Monroe can be recreated on screen, Michelle Williams comes as close to doing it as I've ever seen. She's grown into quite an actress. And for my money I'd give her a chance at shining in almost any movie.

Who I think will win: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
I've learned one thing since I began watching the Oscars at least twenty years ago... don't underestimate Meryl Streep. If she is in a movie, she will probably be nominated for an Oscar, no matter how bad the surrounding movie is. And if that surrounding movie is any good, she will probably win. Well, The Iron Lady is somewhat good. And Meryl is up to the pedestal already giving a cheerful speech about all the wonderful people in the room she knows and you know what? Everybody's okay with this. Even the women she beats out are okay with it. And that my friends is called power.


Who I'd like to see win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
I really liked Beginners. And I liked Christopher Plummer even more than I liked the movie. So that's key.

Who I think will win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
It probably won't be Jonah Hill. That would really be insane. He was interesting to watch, butnot an Oscar winner... but then we'll see.  But if I've learned anything (other than the Meryl thing... which is true by the way) it's that age, respect, and the recognition of a long and wearied career proving that it still has some life left to it will usually beat out the newcomer... usually. Yeah, there's a chance that Nick Nolte or Max von Sydow may get it for similar reasons. And Kenneth Branagh impressed me even more once I went back and watched Sir Laurence Olivier in interviews. But in my mind, Christopher Plummer has hit the gas. After all, he was the most fun nominee to watch.


Who I'd like to see win: Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Here's the idea, Gary Oldman has been consistently ignored by the academy. It's funny in a way because he probably has turned out more Best Supporting Actor worthy performances in the last twenty years than most actors do in their entire careers. But the joke is that he is forgotten because he's so good. The academy doesn't nominate him because they forget that they are even watching him. They just assume that he is the character in the movie and there for that actor must be just like the character he is playing (something we know to be false). But they couldn't ignore him this year, and yes it was a damn subtle performance... but thank god. It's nice to see a barebones, "this is the character this is what he'd do," approach actually get some attention.

Who I think will win: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Look, George Clooney did not earn Best Actor this year. Neither did Brad Pitt. They gave solid performances and can be seen as frontrunners, but neither one of them actually proved to anyone that they deserved this award. Demián Bichir probably won't win just because I don't believe enough of the academy has seen A Better Life to vote for him... but The Artist has been a massive success and I think a number of people have the words "upset" running through their minds. I want Gary to win, but I'm not just looking at it from the angle of, "who's got the best acting chops." I'm trying to think from an academy member's perspective. Politically (in the film world sense) what would it mean for a French actor to take the award? What did it mean when Roberto Benigni took it back in 1998?


This year is so absurdly a toss up, because each of these films is so very different. But I'm gonna look at it thinking about the past... and what the academy wants to say about the future. That's a tough thing to do. But maybe it's just this. The best movie should win and we will try to figure out what that is. Sometimes we'll fail (Crash), but we'll always at least try.

Who I'd like to see win: Midnight in Paris
This is, in my opinion, the most complete film in the category. I've not met a single person who didn't like it. And there's no film, in my mind, that could prove its self more worthy of recognition this year.  If you've seen it, you can at least agree with me that it accomplished what it set out to accomplish... and I'd like to see Woody back in the spotlight. If you haven't seen it, stop griping about how boring Woody Allen is and actually give him a chance. He's a top ten director. And he's made a top ten (or top nine according to the academy) film.

Who I think will win: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Okay, this film surprised me. It is undoubtedly the best movie I've seen on the subject of 9/11. And I probably cried in the theatre. Though it managed to uplift me at the same time and I left with an extra pep in my step. I think this is the film the academy can agree on. And it's a good one. I wouldn't complain. Honestly the only films I'd gripe about are Hugo and The Descendants, just because they didn't make it this far on their own merits. But after the victory by The King's Speech, I have more faith in the academy to at least try to find something everybody can agree is good.

Well, there you have it. Once I see more foreign films and documentaries, I'll give a comment on those guys. And I've got a few Oscar articles in store for the month of February, but this should help show where I'm coming from. And perhaps what collective pieces help me to form an opinion. I hope the Oscars are good this year. Billy Crystals back, and that's a very good thing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 Oscar Love (and hate): Part 1

As of now I still have nine films left to see amongst the nominees (not including shorts and obscurities still  unavailable in the US). But the list is out. And most members of the Academy still miss at least a few of the short-listers. So what do I think about the final ballot?

WRITING (Original Screenplay)

This is a tough category, and while I have missed two of the films I still feel the three I have seen all have a decent chance of winning.

Who I'd like to see win: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Something about this film works so much better than I could have anticipated. Woody took a very simple idea worthy of a creative writing course in high school and made a highly memorable film out of it. I think he deserves to win just for showing us his mastery.

Who I think will win: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
And I can't argue with this. He made something no one's even attempted in decades. He found someone willing to produce it and now there's this charming little film just resting in the memories of people all over the world.

WRITING (Adapted Screenplay)

Who I'd like to see win: Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Solder Spy
They took an interesting story and ingratiated themselves into an understated, breathing film. I commend bravery and I think this film stinks of it. Just wish it was up for Best Picture.

Who I think will win: Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Moneyball
I like this film a lot... and I love Sorkin. But the vast majority of baseball fans were decidedly unimpressed by this feature. The thought being, it didn't even try to tell the true story and missed most of the key marks. Still, as an active ignorant of Baseball (it's too boring for me) I find the final film at least interesting.


Who I'd like to see win: Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Nothing else this year compares. Just watching Caesar's expressions is amazing. But then consider, he was more believable than most of the human actors and you know you've got something special.

Who I think will win: Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, Rise of the Planet of the Apes
The obvious front runner takes it. And thank god, if Real Steel went away with a statue I don't think I'd believe in a benevolent universe any more.


Who I'd like to see win: Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson, War Horse
The sound had to be perfect and I think it really was. To make an audience care about a horse in the middle of, well, a war... your lead doesn't have any lines... sound has to come up big. And it does.

Who I think will win: Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin, Transformers: Dark of the Moon
I hope this doesn't happen. Once again Michael Bay has made a piece of shit and called it art. The movie is too convoluted and as with the others that came before it, I have trouble understanding which robot is even doing what at what time and for what reason. But then, almost like clockwork, a bad movie always walks away with something.


Who I'd like to see win: Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis, Drive
This film breathes so well. And the sound is pitch perfect.

Who I think will win: Ren Klyce, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I'd be okay with this, though I feel the sound did more for Drive. They honestly are very close in quality, so I just assume the more popular film will win.

MUSIC (Original Song)

Who I'd like to see win: Bret McKenzie, Man or Muppet from The Muppets
This song was so very fun. I personally can't wait to see it performed at the ceremony.

Who I think will win: Bret McKenzie, Man or Muppet from The Muppets
Like Real Steel, if I see Rio walk away with a statue, my brain may implode. And this Muppets song is just so much more interesting.

MUSIC (Original Score)

Who I'd like to see win: Alberto Iglesias, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tinker Tailor just did everything right for me, so I'm gunning for it in every category. Score is a big one as that specifically helped make the movie for me.

Who I think will win: John Williams, War Horse (or The Adventures of Tintin)
I just find it hard to believe that John gets nominated twice in one year and doesn't take the prize... but then there's always the possibility that he splits his votes.


Who I'd like to see win: Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
With the exception of the aging makeup at the end, I've liked what they've done with this whole franchise in the looks department.

Who I think will win: Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle, Albert Nobbs
This is one of the films I missed, but based on what I've seen in promos, and assuming the aging makeup does effect the voters opinions, the door is open for something odd like making a woman a man to take the cake.


Who I'd like to see win: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
This may be biased, but I just don't like the editing in the original film. So to see this version succeed so completely where the other one fell short... well tat gets me giddy. I like both films, but that one quality of the original takes away so much from my experience.

Who I think will win: Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
I just think there's nothing else to compare this to in the last fifty years. And I feel the voters will jump on the bandwagon. After all, I can't believe that one of the others like Hugo would even stand a chance. Man did I dislike the editing in Hugo.

I'll be back to talk about the rest of the awards in Part 2.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Praising George Lucas For A Change??

Before you get the wrong idea, this is not an article about Red Tails. This is simply a decisive article about my opinion of Lucas' most recent statement wherein he said that he is retiring from "blockbuster" filmmaking. Thank God. Between the Star Wars prequels and the Indiana Jones sequel I honestly didn't know how much more I could take from the one time phenom. And to put it more clearly, I think Red Tails looks like the work of a confused, misguided filmmaker a la Oliver Stone's Alexander. Some times passion projects just don't make sense. The long and short of it is this, Lucas is a tired old man with little left in the way of ideas... so he has to edit and reedit his old work until it no longer resembles the thing we once loved. He has, over the course of the last twenty years, essentially ruined his two great franchises. And in the wake of this, I've personally discovered that his other films just don't interest me in the slightest. American Graffiti is incredibly overrated and contrived even for its time. And THX 1138... well I can't say overrated because I have yet to meet anyone who likes the film... but it is certainly derivative in the worst kind of way (ie. we can see the cut and paste from the literature he copied). Then suddenly even his greatest achievements become derivative as Lucas himself calls Star Wars a remake of The Hidden Fortress. In the end, I've come to find that Lucas has never had an original idea, rather he has surrounded himself with people that make him look better. The mere fact that he calls The Empire Strikes Back his least favorite Star Wars should be proof enough that he simply doesn't understand. Empire is the one that he didn't write and man does it show. So yes, I am praising Lucas (in a rather negative way). Thank you for what you have done... the wonderful things you gave me in my childhood. But thank you even more... for going away. Your presence will not be missed on the film front. Leave the rest to Spielberg. He's the reason we've put up with you for so long anyway.

I'm not a negative person, but when someone so frequently destroys the things I love, I can only be malicious in return. It's simple like that. We fans can only take so much abuse before we snap. And the studios clearly get it... not giving Lucas any help in producing his latest film. Now if we could only get quality, untouched editions of those great classics that made us like him to begin with...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Joss Whedon Is Becoming A Production Machine

The speculation on late blooming Cabin In The Woods can take a backseat in my mind for the next couple months (it comes out in April) as I mull over the fact that one of my favorite, frequently ignored writer/directors, Joss Whedon is on a mission. With Cabin looming, Joss has recently finished production on big budget Marvel/Disney tentative blockbuster The Avengers as well as a very under the radar adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (a personal favorite of mine). And now he's announced yet another mystery project (In Your Eyes?). What excites me most is the idea that Joss Whedon who has suffered more than a few set backs in recent years (Dollhouse cancelled, Firefly cancelled, Angel cancelled) is blooming into a production machine.
Dr. Horrible was a tremendous success and it seems studios are finally recognizing what an excellent creative mind Joss has. But let's not ignore the other factor that I am certain studios are salivating for; Joss can make quality material, cheaply. Dr. Horrible had literally no budget and won an Emmy. Much Ado was shot over a long vacation weekend and I'm assuming it'll be of good quality. Not to mention, the man is responsible for a massive television franchise in Buffy and Angel respectively. His film Serenity was only made because diehard fans pushed for the Firefly finale to happen. People are genuinely passionate about Joss' work. I know I am. And I'm excited to see what new steps he takes with his career once The Avengers comes along. I thoroughly expect it to be big, hard hitting, excitement.