oscar nominations tomorrow
the oscar nominations are only a few hours away, but the way people are predicting them it probably doesn't even make sense to watch, seeing as how there is little room for surprise at this point. still, something tells me that there is going to be at least one shock tomorrow morning, and i think it could be in the best picture race. slumdog
, the dark knight
are pretty much assured nominations, but i still think the other two spots are a little more open than most people think. more than likely, the curious case of forrest gump
will be nominated, but i do think that there is at least a small contingent of people that acknowledge it as the overhyped rip-off that it is. i think, and i realize i am largely alone on this one, that the film really at risk of being snubbed is frost/nixon
. it seems that this movie is already starting to be forgotten, and even if it is good, i don't think there are enough academy members out there that are really seeing stars over it. yeah people like it, but there are other movies they like more. and i wouldn't be surprised if it were left off the list tomorrow in favor of wall-e
which people seem to be flipping out over a lot more.
as far as the rest of the races go, i wouldn't be surprised if there were at least a few surprises in the acting awards as well. who's at risk of being left off? the best supporting actor noms seem to be down to ledger, robert downey jr., philip seymour hoffman, josh brolin and dev patel, but i think the last two men are vulnerable. it wouldn't be an absolute shock to see patel left off in favor of brad pitt from burn after reading or milk's james franco. the supporting actress awards are likely to go to the doubt ladies, penelope cruz, kate winslet and marisa tomei. but tomei could always be swapped for taraji p. henson. the actors are expected to be frank langella, rourke, penn, pitt and jenkins, and there isn't likely to be a surprise here, but i honestly think that langella could be at risk, maybe to be replaced by the overwhelmingly deserving clint eastwood. and the actresses will probably consist of winslet, streep, hathaway, sally hawkins and jolie. but jolie's spot is likely one of the most open in the acting races. it could easily go to melissa leo.
in an ideal world, here are three things i would love to happen tomorrow (varying widely in probability)
1. (likely)- amy adams for best supporting actress for doubt
. out of nowhere she gives the best performance in the film i think, and i am worried she will be overlooked in favor off viola davis' more flashy screen appearance.
2. (less likely)- clint eastwood and leonardo dicaprio for best actor. these are probably two of the best performances overall given this year, and they are both in grave danger of being left off the slate.
3. (not gonna happen) curious case
snubbed for best pic. revolutionary road
we'll see what happens. fingers crossed.
the curious case of benjamin button
the good news about benjamin button
is that it's entertaining. despite being more than two and a half hours long, it isn't boring. the story has many pieces to it that help keep it from dragging the way it might have had it been more expository. so it isn't entirely unenjoyable by any means.
the bad news about benjamin button
, however, is plentiful. for me this film is entirely too derivative and has entirely too many problems to attract the kind of positive critical attention it has received. this film is a prime example of the power of campaigning. honestly, people were writing their positive reviews of this movie before they had even seen it. i remember in march reading about how good this movie was bound to be. and the problem is that critics have been blinded to button
's major flaws.
first of all, the film is entirely too insistent on being clever. every detail of it from the title to the camera work, to the quirky acting and dialogue is very in-your-face-look-how-original-this-is. and quite honestly, it's not that original. no one could possibly see this film without comparing it to forrest gump
. it's hard for me to say whether this is better or worse than gump
, because the two films are so similar. in many ways they almost mirror one another (e.g. in the films' nearly identical methods of storytelling). and there are plenty of other movies this one seems derivative of as well. in short, this film isn't nearly as clever as it thinks it is, and in order to be really enjoyable, it needed to have stepped down off its high horse.
second, as was so irritating last year with juno
, where the dialogue was so insistently hip, here the dialogue is equally insistently epigrammatic. pretty much every conversation in this film, every line of dialogue comes across as infinitely wise and like something one should stitch onto a pillow or tattoo across a chest. you never believe for a second that any of these conversations could actually be taking place. it's more likely that these conversations were merely cribbed from poor richard's almanac.
and just as the script of this movie is entirely too epigramatic, the story itself is similarly over-sentimental. every single action, every word, every glance, every expression in this film represents all these deep emotions that are always bubbling to the surface and threatening to just explode. and eventually it gets tiring watching that.
and what's up with all the symbolism? i mean a good book or a good film definitely has to employ symbolism if it is going to be adequately communicative, but here its hard to tell what isn't
a symbol. i mean, even in just the last few frames, there is this extended sequence of all the symbols the film employs, from the hummingbird, to the dancer, to the diary, etc. the result for me is that these symbols become so watered down that they come to mean nothing. and i really think that this movie could have been a lot better if it had been made by a better director who could have censored this impulse for excess-- excessive sentimentality, excessive pedantry, excessive symbolism. this film definitely screams LESS IS MORE.
one other thing that really bothered me right from the beginning in this movie was how effected and unoriginal the narration was set up. it really couldn't have been any more hackneyed if it has ended in one of those it-was-only-a-dream moments. in order to enjoy the core of this film, one needs to suspend disbelief that somehow benjamin spent his entire life diligently writing in a diary (that we never see him carrying or writing in) and that it was just miraculously discovered moments before daisy's death, just in time for her to serendipitously impart the story of his life onto her daughter. honestly, it is just as effected as it sounds. and i could never suspend disbelief long enough to get into this peri-narrative.
in regards to the acting, the one truly bright spot in this movie is cate blanchett who completely and totally embodies her role as an aging new orleans matriarch, daisy. watching her in this role, it is one of those performances where you can't imagine anyone else playing this role. blanchett IS daisy. the same thing can not be said for brad pitt in the titular role. sure he is fine and everything, but one could imagine at least a dozen other actors playing this role just as good if not better than him. he is just much less interesting to watch than blanchett, and the parts of this movie that were most interesting to me were the ones that focused on her, especially as an older woman. unfortunately, as magical as cate blanchett is, even she can't save this curious case from the excesses of its director.
changeling and gran torino
subtitled: clint eastwood is neat.
i think part of the reason it was so hard watching clint eastwood slowly pass away in gran torino
was the fact that you look at this guy and you're like someday he really will die. and then where will we be? someday when eastwood stops making films, it will be a tremendous loss. first of all, the guy does everything. this year he directed AND wrote the score to changeling
and directed, starred in and even sang the title song for gran torino
. but second of all, and more importantly, everything he does is done well. he could conceivably be considered for oscar nominations for any of these five cinematic efforts.
it's perhaps interesting that eastwood would make these particular films in the same year, as i see both of them as sort of clever engagements with two popular and often cliched film genres. Changeling
, for example, begins as a sort of quotidian kidnapped child saga, that immediately threatens to come across as a derivative silence of the lambs
rip off. But Eastwood manages to rework the boundaries of this often told story, and instead what he creates is not only a compelling thriller but also an intelligent critique of state power. similarly, gran torino
(and this should be obvious to anyone whose even seen the trailer) immediately presents itself as a return to eastwood as dirty harry bad-ass shoot-em-up. but anyone anticipating this will probably not be disappointed by the ways in which eastwood cleverly rewrites these older stories for the contemporary moment.
unlike two years ago when his letters from iwo jima
was clearly a much better film than flags of our fathers
, i find myself going back and forth as to whether i liked gran torino
more. on the one hand, angelina jolie gives one of the best female performances of the year in changeling. it is particularly satisfying to watch her grow as a woman, to learn to stop acceding to her subordinate role and begin fighting for herself. on the other hand, though, clint eastwood certainly gives one of the finest male performances of the year as the star of gran torino
. he too embodies a character that experiences tremendous growth in the course of the film, and it is in some ways satisfying to watch this as well (although less so, for obvious reasons to those who have seen the movie). in short, the acting is largely pretty impressive in both films (even among the hmong cast of gran torino
, almost all of whom had never acted in a film before), so it is difficult to privilege one cast over the other.
however, i think it's equally difficult to determine which film is better in regards to either directing or writing. eastwood takes notable risks with his direction of both films, yielding interesting rewards in both cases. i especially love the way that he really captures the scene just in the ways he sets his films. after watching changeling
, you feel like you have a really good sense of what it must have been like to live in 1920s-era los angeles. and i love the way almost the entirety of gran torino
takes place in just a few spaces on this sparse and dilapidated street. he really captures the poverty, insecurity and fear that must be felt by a person living in this sort of situation. in regards to these films' writing, i also think both films were surprising and entertaining, while equally eloquent and intelligent, offering sage insights on race and religion (gran torino
) and gender and power (changeling
). in short, i think i'm going to have to call it a draw for now and reserve more definitive judgment for a later day.
still, i think it's relevant to note that although both films have received pretty solid if not ecstatic critical support, gran torino
seems to have been met much more kindly than changeling
was. and, considering both of these are pretty fine films in my estimation, this response seems to be more than a coincidence. it is obious to me that this is just one more example of the ways in which movies about and starring women are always approached much more harshly than those about and starring men. it seems that every year women have fewer and fewer starring opportunities in hollywood, and after this year, i don't think this is a trend that will be ending any time soon. in any case, i don't expect that angelina jolie will be making any more changelings
or a mighty hearts
any time soon. but i do anticipate lara croft tomb raider 3