22 February 2009
  final reflections
best of the year- slumdog of course, but also kate winslet in revolutionary road. i think it was watching her in the reader again yesterday that really made me reflect on just how good she was in the other film. like marion cotillard last year or adriana barraza the year before, i will definitely remember kate's as the best performance this year.

worst of the year- i know that the razzies were handed out yesterday and they gave the worst pic award to mike myers the love guru, but i can't even imagine that it could even compare to spike lee's hysterically bad miracle at st. anna. the funny thing is that i was really looking forward to this movie. i actually do recommend it though, because i think it is worth watching just because it is just that bad that you have to see it for yourself. at one point there is an entire scene in which an italian peasant girl hangs up laundry topless. i'm not kidding. and could someone please explain to me how this village doesn't even have any food because of the nazi blockade, but yet the lusty rochelle rochelle wannabe seems to have an endless supply of makeup and seems to have time to wash and blowdry her long wavy black hair every morning?

worst of the year, runner up- (and i have to admit that i like her music, but) paris hilton is just unconscionably bad in repo: the genetic opera. i mean, really, really bad.

most prolific- kate winslet gave two great performance, but clint eastwood managed to do it all. he reminds me of one of those old vaudeville guys with a harmonica and a drum and a banjo or whatever.

most inexplicable nomination- i'm tempted to say robert downey jr.'s best supporting actor nod for tropic thunder, but people liked it so i guess to each his own. but i really don't understand philip seymour hoffman's best supporting actor nomination, since this is very obviously a leading role. and while we're at it, there's dev patel's best supporting sag nomination and kate winslet's recognition as supporting in the reader. people really seem to have been playing around with the categories this year

what would make me happy- no montages. amy adams wins best supporting actress. slumdog wins in all eight categories in which it's nominated.
20 February 2009
  my oscar predictions

i've been reading everyone's oscar predictions this week as they've been posted on the blogs, and i don't think i can remember a year in which everyone seems to agree as much as they do this year. there are really only a couple races that people are still debating. and my predictions will pretty much follow suit. here they are.

supporting actor:
will win. . . heath ledger (not that he doesn't deserve it)
should win. . . for me, this is the weakest of the four acting races. there are a lot of good performances, but nothing that stands out as heads above the rest. that being said, i think i will go with the flow and endorse ledger for the win. still, i did have to think long and hard about whether or not to pick him or brad pitt in burn after reading. that comes in a close second for me.
my five. . . heath ledger, michael shannon, brad pitt (burn after reading), ralph fiennes (the reader) and david gulpilil (australia)

supporting actress:
will win. . . this is the one race this year on which i am going to venture out on a limb. remember last year when tilda swinton won for michael clayton? it seemed that the movie was nominated for so much and they needed to give it something. that's why i don't think penelope cruz will win this one. i have a feeling it will go to one of the actresses from doubt or benjamin button. i am going to predict taraji p. henson winning this, since i think that the academy will want to give button something. it isn't my favorite performance of the year, but henson is a fine actress, and i'm happy for her.
should win. . . of all the nominated actresses in the category, i would vote for amy adams. but the person who should win the category is debra winger, from rachel getting married. i went back and forth between her and rosemarie dewitt, but it's winger's much smaller but much eminently devastating performance that stood out for me.
my five. . . debra winger, amy adams, viola davis, rosemarie dewitt (rachel getting married), kathy bates (revolutionary road)

best actor:
will win. . . mickey rourke, probably. it's obviously between him and sean penn, but seeing as how penn just won a couple years ago for mystic river, i think the voters will go for rourke. how much am i not looking forward to hearing his loopy acceptance speech. hopefully he won't use the word "fag" too much.
should win. . . frankly, rourke is playing himself. and penn is fine, but this isn't even in the same league as his best performances. unfortunately, none of the top three male performances of the year are even nominated in this category. the academy really dropped the ball on this one. it is REALLY close for me, but i am going to pick clint eastwood in gran torino as my favorite actor of the year. leonardo dicaprio and philip seymour hoffman are close on his heels though.
my five. . . clint eastwood, sean penn, richard jenkins, leonardo dicaprio (revolutionary road) and philip seymour hoffman (doubt)

best actress:
will win. . . please dear God it has to be kate winslet. there are lots of grumblings out there of an upset (melissa leo maybe?) but i just don't think it's going to happen. winslet gave two of the best performances of the year (in any category) and i expect her to win here for the lesser of the two.
should win. . . winslet, but for revolutionary road. if i had to pick a single performance as the best of the year (a la marion cotillard last year) it would be this one. i wonder if the reason that she got nominated for the reader and not this other movie is just because of the order in which the ballots were counted. my feeling is that if you added up all of the votes, winslet would have placed first AND second, and maybe she would have ultimately come out on top for rev road. honestly, i haven't heard a single person saying that her performance in the reader was the better of the two.
my five. . . kate winslet (revolutionary road), kate winslet (the reader), meryl streep, angelina jolie and cate blanchett (curious case of benjamin button)

will win. . . danny boyle. there really isn't any other possibility here. honestly, it is really time for him to finally get this recognition, and everyone is ready to give it to him. even if there was some cataclysm and slumdog missed out elsewhere, boyle will nevertheless win this.
should win. . . danny boyle, no contest. not only did i love this movie, but the direction is fucking fantastic in and of itself. it is interestingly cast, shot beautifully, and the narration is pieced together so creatively. i can't wait to see what he does next.
my five. . . danny boyle, clint eastwood (gran torino), jonathan demme (rachel getting married), sam mendes (revolutionary road) and baz luhrman (australia)

original screenplay:
will win. . . sooo sooo unfortunately, dustin lance black's screenplay for milk will win here. this is a travesty. milk really could have been a fine movie if it had been written better, but as is i think this is just a remarkably bad piece of writing. it is so predictable, so cliched, so un-interesting and so passionless. basically black took bits and pieces from all of these other biopics and in a weekend pieced them together into this boring boring boring film about a really interesting person. if milk hadn't been saved by fine acting it would have been a total wash. in short. i HATE this screenplay.
should win. . . of the nominated five, i would pick courtney hunt's screeplay for frozen river. not only is it a great, well written work, but i am always happy to see women nominated in the major categories, since they so rarely get there. however, the best screenplay award should really go to another women, jenny lumet, for her fascinating script for rachel getting married.
my five. . . jenny lumet, thomas mccarthy (the visitor), clint eastwood (gran torino), baz luhrman (australia) and joel & ethan coen (burn after reading)

adapted screenplay:
will win. . . simon beaufoy is probably going to win here for his screenplay for slumdog, but something tells me that it isn't a landslide. for me, of all the parts of this movie it is probably the screenplay that is most fallible, although it is still fantastic. if the movie is going to be beaten anywhere, it might be here. and i have a feeling they could reward david hare for the reader, if anything is bound to sneak in. they might want to reward the reader somewhere, and it could definitely be here.
should win. . . i pick beaufoy's screenplay, but, like i said, it isn't a landslide for me. there are definitely some great adapted screenplays out there this year. i would probably choose as a very close runner up justin haythe's script for revolutionary road. the two films couldn't be any more different and each is fantastically written in its own way
my five. . . simon beaufoy, john patrick shanley (doubt), david hare, justin haythe and howard rodman (savage grace)

will win. . . slumdog. i realize the bloggers are just trying to make things interesting, but no- there will not be a benjamin button upset. no- there will not be a reader upset. no- mickey rourke will not get drunk and burn the place down before they give out the final award (hopefully). everyone loves this movie. everyone is voting for it. it's slumdog all the way.
should win. . . SLUMDOG *yea*
my five. . . slumdog millionaire, revolutionary road, burn after reading, gran torino and rachel getting married

other categories:
cinematography. . . slumdog could very will win in every category in which it's nominated. it will probably win here as well. my pic would be the amazing camera work in australia, with roger deakins work for revolutionary road coming in a close second.
editing. . . this is one of the places that i think slumdog is really breaking new ground. it is so fascinating how the editors pieced this work together, going back and forward through time and really making the scenes fit together like this beautiful jigsaw puzzle. slumdog will and should win here.
song. . . it would really be a shame if the slumdog songs cancelled eachother out and the lame peter gabriel song from wall-e won instead. that seems to happen like every year. i am predicting slumdog's jai ho will win, and it deserves it, but the best song of the year unfortunately didn't get a nomination. that would be bruce springsteen's "the wrestler." i would put jaime cullum's "gran torino" in the number two spot.
score. . . a.r. rahman's score from slumdog is really fun and creative and there is no doubt it's winning this one (are we sensing a pattern here?) for me though it's the score to revolutionary road that really blew the others out of the pack and got totally SCREWED out of a nomination (like pretty much everything from rev road). like the score to atonement last year, i love the way the music in this movie really works to tell the story. this is unbelievable work. the film wouldn't be the same without it.
makeup. . . i'm not sure, but i sort of think that the makeup for benjamin button and the reader was a little bit overdone. it wasn't my fave. i guess if i had to pick a favorite, i might choose the dark knight for this one, but button will win in the end i think.
art direction. . . people are generally predicting that benjamin button will win the art direction award this year, but for me there is absolutely nothing transcendent about this movie, and this category is no different. i am going to go out on a limb and pick revolutionary road to win this one. no doubt it deserves it.
costumes. . . i haven't seen the duchess, but that seems to be the film that is favored to win for best costume, with benjamin button nipping at its heels. i would pick australia as my favorite. like atonement's green dress last year, nicole kidman's red dress in the ball scene in this movie is definitely the single best outfit of the year (so gorgeous). freida pinto's yellow number with the scarf in slumdog was pretty hot too though.
19 February 2009
  2008 top 10

it was pretty easy to choose like my five or six favorite movies this year, but getting down to like number nine and ten, i really did struggle with what movies to include. There were definitely a few films that i wish i could have fit in, but they really just barely missed out for me. (sorry, frozen river). so here goes it.

10. changeling. . . i am very glad that clint eastwood has tended to make his films in twos lately, even though it means i will have to go a few years to get more of him. this is probably the lesser of his two films this year, but still an excellent and highly underrated work. it didn't hurt this movie that it reminds me a lot of one of my all time favorite flicks, silence of the lambs, that is if it were made as a period piece. i really think that angelina jolie gives the best performance of her career in this, and john malkovich isn't bad himself. and the compelling story just makes this exciting and engaging to watch.

9. the visitor. . . of the two immigration-ey movies that came out this year, i think that the visitor is the better one, although only by a nose. i read one time in this really terrible review that someone found this film to be racist, but i couldn't disagree more. i think what is remarkable about this work is the masterful and subtle ways it manages to treat the subject of race. this is no small feat considering that this could very easily have been a super simplistic piece about some old white dude learning everything he needs to know from some poor black folk. i really think that you could only accuse this movie of falling into this trap if you only read the description. once you see the actual work, you see that it is a lot more intelligent than that. in short, this is probably the best social-criticism-type film i saw this year (yes, including the reader).

8. doubt. . . one of the best ensemble casts of the year. i think that a lot of the criticism of this movie has come from people who really liked the play, and since i have none of these expectations going into it, i couldn't relate to the problems that other reviewers had with it (e.g. some had problems with streep's portrayal of sister aloysius). for me, i keep going back and forth on what the best thing about this movie is. i am sort of equally awed by philip seymour hoffman's bravado performance and amy adams much more subtle one. both are fantastic. the other thing i thought that john patrick shanley did really well in directing this film was to create a really excellent sense of space. that is, in watching this movie i felt like i had a really strong understanding of the place and time in which these events were taking place. i love that.

7. australia. . . okay, so australia probably isn't baz luhrman's best work (that would obviously be moulin rouge) but there is plenty of excellent stuff going on here. one of the worst oversights of the entire oscar nomination ballot this year i think is this film being left off of the list for best cinematography. sometimes i think that the people voting on cinematography don't really know what it is. the fire scene in this movie where the rovers are trying to corral the cattle is just effing fantastic. for me, this was the single best shot scene of the year. i think i also liked this movie, because i really had a good time watching it. i mean, this year i really did gravitate to movies that weren't total downers. and just because a movie is fun to watch doesn't mean that it isn't well made.

6. rachel getting married. . . this is definitely one of those films that sticks with you long after you've seen it (and an obvious exception to my "i like movies that make me feel good" rule). not much happens in rachel getting married, but it's hard to take your eyes off the screen. the masterful thing about this movie is really the way in which the story is told. events sort of unfurl in a nonlinear way. everything builds on what happens before it, and you can never get a really good grip on what's going on if you don't consider it in context. and in the end, there is so much that is left unsaid, that it really gives you a lot to think about (i mean, what the hell WAS the deal with kym's mother anyway? this definitely jonathan demme's best work since silence of the lambs.

5. prince caspian. . . for some reason, i really took to this movie and obviously take it a lot more seriously than anyone else. it is really a rare treat when a sequel outperforms its predecessor, especially when the book that the predecessor is based on is a far-superior work. it was really watching this film on dvd that convinced me that it deserves a place among the best films of the year. like a lot of movies lately, prince caspian has a really dark tone to it and is overall more violent, more adult, more contemplative than the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. the christian elements are much more pronounced as well. at the very least i am surprised that nobody seemed to consider this film's special effects for awards recognition. if you are going to compare the effects in prince caspian to those in the dark knight, for example, for me there is really no competition.

4. gran torino. . . clint eastwood is amazing. period. i mean this is an old man we're talking about. (this film proves that). and what was he up to this year? let's see he wrote one movie, directed two, starred in one, wrote scores and even fucking sang the song over the end credits in this one! but there was a lot to love about this movie, even beyond eastwood. the hmong actors did a really fantastic job i think, especially considering that they had largely never acted before. the story itself is really simple, but just so emotional, so compelling. this was a hard movie for me to watch, and it did affect me more than anything else i saw this year, but sometimes that is a good thing. i will definitely be watching this whenever i need a good cry.

3. burn after reading. . . i first saw this movie on dvd and i kind of liked it. then, like a week later i watched it again with john's mom and i was sort of surprised how much i was enjoying it considering i had just seen it a week ago. then i got back home and i was trying to think of a movie to watch and i was like, you know, i think i'd like to watch burn after reading again. in short, this was really a grower for me. but honestly i could watch it over and over again. this is the coen brothers the way i like them. burn after reading is just a fun, escapist sort of movie, but it is also well written, superbly acted, and just damn clever. brad pitt is fantastic. this is the movie he should be getting an oscar nomination for this year (not his turn as computerized forrest gump). with the possible exception of doubt, this is the best ensemble cast of the year. i hope the coens keep making comedies, because i really think it's what they do best.

2. revolutionary road. . . the travesty of the oscar season. why is revolutionary road nowhere to be found? this is a masterful work. sam mendes really must be shocked and dismayed that this movie didn't at least get a screenplay nomination. it makes absolutely no sense. this movie isn't for everyone. it is deep and introspective, full of intense characters, and dialogue where you really have to read between the lines to know what's going on. and obviously it is incredible sad, not the most fun time i had at the movies this year. i really think that all four principal actors in this movie gave like four of the best six or seven performances of the year. in a few years, i hope that people will look back and find this masterpiece and maybe it will have a sort of renaissance, finally getting the respect it deserves. maybe it's just a film ahead of its time.

1. slumdog millionaire. . . there's really not much left to say. far and away the best picture of the year. honestly, anyone that doesn't agree is just being contradictory for the sake of being contradictory. nobody really saw this film coming, and then it was just THERE, and i think a lot of people are still sort of shocked by just how good this movie is, without a doubt one of the best of the decade. i am struck by how many people (*ahem*oscarwatchpeople*ahem*) discount this film as a simple, feel good, happy movie that people have enjoyed because it doesn't make them think too much. in contrast, i think this is really one of the most intelligent works this year. the way that it treats global relationships in particular and the ways in which the U.S. and Europe are connected to the lives of these characters is done really masterfully. in fact, if you watch this movie and it doesn't make you think about globalization, world tourism, development economics, not to mention religion and class inequality, than you are really missing the point.
15 February 2009
  it's oscar week bitch
yeah, that's right, even though you'd maybe never know it if i hadn't told you. it just seems that people are generally unenthused this year. sasha stone and the people at awardsdaily (nee oscarwatch) couldn't really care less about awards season this year, outside of their innane incessant childish whining about the dark knight being left off the docket (oh, and the occasional passive agressive swipe at slumdog) and at one of my favorite awards blogs, awardscircuit (nee oscar igloo) they are actually discussing american idol picks this week (!) honestly, nobody seems to care. and i sort of get it. i mean, there isn't a whole lot of excitement about an award that has all but been handed out already. slumdog has rightfully won almost every critic's award possible this year and will no doubt take home the prize on sunday. in all honesty this hasn't been a really great year for movies, and slumdog just simply stands out as lightyears ahead of anything else that has been released. sure there have been a few really good films this year, but nothing compares to boyle's utter and complete masterpiece. it is probably one of the best two or three movies of the decade. but i guess a lot of awards bloggers out there have just had a hard time mustering up a great deal of interest in an oscar year that doesn't seem to have room for too many surprises.

and about the dark knight. and i do hate myself for even discussing a subject that has already been discussed to death. i really did sort of like this movie. it had some excellent qualities no doubt. but there were plenty of good movies this year, most better than the batman flick, that just couldn't fit into the best picture roster. rev road, gran torino, doubt, frozen river, the visitor and lots of other movies could have potentially been best picture nominees, but there was only room for five. so yes, i understand your disappointment (sasha et al) that your favorite movie didn't make it but GET A GRIP. do we have to take it out on other movies, that were also deserving, at least equally, maybe moreso. i feel like i am having ang lee/annie proulx bareback upset redux (i.e. the worst show of bad sportsmanship EVER).

as far as i'm concerned, the dark knight snub (?) wasn't even the worst nominee dis this year. there are a number that stand out for me. maybe the biggest is clint eastwood being shut out for director, writer, scorer and especially actor for either of his two movies this year. another real disappointment (and this one i think people will look back on in a couple years with disbelief) was the lack of love for revolutionary road. no nominations for kate, leo or kathy bates? no best pic, director, score cinematography or screenplay nominations? (the score to this movie was particularly beautiful) but the worst mistake by the academy voters has to be leaving bruce springsteen's song from the wrestler out of the running. i mean, that was certainly the best thing about that entire film.

i was happy about a few things though. i am glad that amy adams got her best supporting actress nomination for doubt. i thought hers was the best performance of the film, and i had this idea in the back of my mind that it wasn't going to happen for her. and i am happy that kate winslet got nominated for her really strong performance in the reader. frankly, she is fantastic in this movie, although i personally prefer her turn in revolutionary road. i am sort of glad she didn't get double nominated actually, because hannah schmidt certainly wasn't a supporting character in that movie. and it was nice to see courtney hunt's screenplay from frozen river nominated, as well as melissa leo's great performance. i think the academy did a good job this year of recognizing at least a few of the more quiet, not-uber-campaigned films. so all in all, i think they did a fair job with the nominations, although they certainly could have made things a little more exciting i guess.

anyways, i guess i'm not as excited this year as i have been in the past, but i am looking forward to seeing slumdog take home the prize. my predictions and top ten will come later this week.

(p.s. six days til the best picture showcase. *yea*)
14 February 2009
  the wrestler

so there is this scene in the middle of the wrestler where mickey rourke and marisa tomei are in this bar and they're talking about 80s hair band music, and rourke is like, 'man the 80s were awesome-- until cobain came and ruined it all' and tomei is like 'i know-- what's wrong with wanting to have a good time?' um, yeah mr. aronofsky, what exactly is wrong with wanting to have a good time?

no doubt darren aronofsky is one of the best filmmakers working today. i love all three of his previous offerings (requiem for a dream is one of my all time faves). and no doubt he isn't exactly known for his uplifting spielberg-esque fare. but i really think that the wrestler is his most depressing offering yet. the whole thing is an effing downer from the very first scene to the very last. and i maybe could have gotten past that and still enjoyed the movie if it didn't have so many other problems with it.

in short, and i realize i am in the minute minority on this one, i really think aronofsky dropped the ball on this one. i kept asking myself as i was watching the movie- why in the world did he make this? the whole story seems somewhat beneath him, and i really think that this is by far the least of his four films.

i am not a person who has to really like the subject matter to enjoy the movie. i loved hustle & flow even though i have absolutely no interest in rap music. and i love lots of boxing movies, even though i couldn't give a care when it comes to the actual fighting. but i have to say that the wrestling in this movie really turned me off. i just can't believe that anyone could take this stuff so seriously. rather than making a movie about how important this sport (? game? pageant?) is to those who take part in it, i think it would have made more sense for aronofsky to really problematize wrestling itself. what comes across on screen is a horrible display of violence, drug use and mysogyny, and it isn't one of those things where i can simply say to-each-his-own. the film that the wrestler most reminds me of is field of dreams. in both movies you watch these loopy guys go on and on about how important something is to them all the while watching in shock and trying to hold back laughter. in short, i just think wrestling is ridiculous, and this movie certainly did nothing to change my mind about that.

but really only about two thirds of this movie were about wrestling so, in theory, i could have enjoyed the other third, right? well no, because i was too busy during that 40 minutes seething with anger at what a horrible person mickey rourke's character is. he is just plain awful. when he has his heart attack and goes to visit his daughter, i was just cheering her on as she screamed at him. what an asshole! i mean he never did anything for her his entire life and then suddenly he has a crisis and needs something and this is when he decides to drive over to her place. and THEN what he does after she finally agrees to have dinner is even worse. basically he does terrible things throughout the movie, but it is what he did to his daughter that upset me most.

and i hate to say it, because mickey rourke wasn't terrible in this (although i intensely hate him as a person) but i really don't think there was a lot of acting going on here. come on people, the wrestler IS mickey rourke. (and how high do you think he was during the entire filming?)

still, the real problem with this movie, and i can't believe i haven't seen anyone commenting on this, has to do with the stripping scenes. there is just something strange and vaguely masculinist about the entire film, and the stripping scenes are the sprinkles on the icing on the cake. i can't BELIEVE that marisa tomei agreed to do this. i don't have a problem with female nudity, but there were parts of this i just couldn't bring myself to look at. the dancing is SO raunchy and SO unappealing, and they just make tomei look SO unsexy i just felt bad for her (the actress, not the character) the entire time. i really think it wouldn't have hurt the movie if aronofsky could have cut a little bit of the stripping out. in fact, i think he really owed it to the character of the stripper to try and treat her as more of a person and less of a spread-eagle-ass.
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