Sunday, February 28, 2010

If I had a ballot

In the interest of looking further into the new preferential ballot system, I decided I'd rank the ten Best Picture nominees as if I were a voter.

1. The Hurt Locker
2. Avatar
3. Up in the Air
4. Inglourious Basterds
5. Up
6. District 9
7. A Serious Man
8. An Education
9. Precious
10. The Blind Side

Just thinking out loud really.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hans Zimmer's "Discombobulate" from the "Sherlock Holmes" score music video.

This is awesome. Give the man an oscar for crying out loud.

Mountains out of mole-hills

So I've been guided towards some ridiculous "news" regarding a new, late game smear campaign against "The Hurt Locker" in this year's oscar race by Kris Tapley of The full "story" is over at Gold Derby. Bottom line, one of the 4 producers sent out an email to academy members urging them to vote for "The Hurt Locker" over rival "$500 million film(s)" like "Avatar". This, of course, is against the rules, but the kind of shitstorm the media is stirring up about this is ridiculous. Later on, the producer issued an apology, stating that he is new to the game and wasn't aware of the rules that say that you can't address members directly and ask for votes. You can beg and plead via FYC ads and media appearances, interviews, etc. But asking directly is a big no-no.

Here's the thing. Despite the producer issuing an apology and the Academy saying they will handle it and that there's nothing to discuss, the media, of course, insists on making this a huge deal. It's wrong. He screwed up. We all agree on this. This kind of action is why the rules are in place, because that kind of behavior was made infamous by Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused many times over of schmoozing Academy voters for their support.

But what's also unacceptable is rival publicists and whatnot making this out to be such a damned outrage. There is no plot to thicken. It's over. Done. He screwed up, then apologized. The Academy addressed the problem. Finished. But what I don't think anyone is understanding is that the Oscars ARE political. Always have been. What, pray-tell, is the difference between this producer's email, and FYC ads, special studio parties, screenings, tributes, etc? Why is one email by a newcomer who didn't know he was breaking the rules so unacceptable and unforgivable?

I doubt this changes anything. We'll find out Sunday March 7th.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Good times.

No real blog posts today (unless by some miracle I finish transcribing my interview/discussion with Audree Jo. on "Shutter Island" tonight). It's my 21st birthday, so I'll be out and about today. Happy birthday to anyone else who's birthday is today!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who will/should win

This is basically my late game predictions with my own two cents on who should win and who deserved to be nominated.

Best Picture:
Will win - The Hurt Locker
Should Win - The Hurt Locker
Should have been nominated - The Road

Best Director:
Will Win - Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Should Win - Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Should have been nominated - Neill Blomkamp (District 9)

Best Actor:
Will Win: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Should Win: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) or Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
Should have been nominated: Viggo Mortensen (The Road)

Best Actress:
Will Win - Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
Should Win - Carey Mulligan (An Education)
Should have been nominated - Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria)

Best Supporting Actor:
Will Win - Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Should Win - Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Should have been nominated - Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)

Best Supporting Actress:
Will Win - Mo'Nique (Precious)
Should Win - Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
Should have been nominated - Melanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds)

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Will Win - Up in the Air
Should Win - Up in the Air
Should have been nominated - The Road

Best Original Screenplay:
Will Win - The Hurt Locker
Should Win - The Hurt Locker
Should have been nominated - Avatar

Best Art Direction:
Will Win - Avatar
Should Win - Avatar
Should have been nominated - Inglourious Basterds

Best Cinematography:
Will Win - Avatar
Should Win - The Hurt Locker
Should have been nominated - The Road

Best Costume Design:
Will Win - The Young Victoria
Should Win - The Young Victoria
Should have been nominated - Sherlock Holmes

Best Editing:
Will Win - The Hurt Locker
Should Win - Avatar
Should have been nominated - Up in the Air

Best Makeup:
Will Win - Star Trek
Should Win - Star Trek
Should have been nominated - District 9

Best Original Score:
Will Win - Up
Should Win - Sherlock Holmes
Should have been nominated - The Road

Best Original Song:
Will Win - The Weary Kind (Crazy Heart)
Should Win - The Weary Kind (Crazy Heart)
Should have been nominated - Help Yourself (Up in the Air)

Best Sound Editing:
Will Win - The Hurt Locker
Should Win - The Hurt Locker
Should have been nominated - District 9

Best Sound Mixing:
Will Win - Avatar
Should Win - Avatar
Should have been nominated - District 9

Best Visual Effects:
Will Win - Avatar
Should Win - Avatar
Should have been nominated - None, they got this one right

Best Animated Feature Film:
Will Win: Up
Should Win: Up
Should have been nominated: Ponyo

Best Foreign Language Film:
Will Win: The White Ribbon
Should Win: A Prophet
Should have been nominated: None, they got this right

Best Documentary Feature:
Will Win: The Cove
Should Win: The Cove
Should have been nominated: Capitalism - A Love Story

What say you?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review: "Shutter Island" 5/5

About 20 minutes into Martin Scorsese's latest film, "Shutter Island", I completely forgot that Scorsese was directing it. The rest of the film felt like Alfred Hitchcock had come back from the dead to direct the film. In other words, the spirit of Hitchcock is alive and well in "Shutter Island", a film that would have made the master of suspense proud. Simply put, the film is one of Scorsese's finest and most unrestrained films. At once, it's accessible to mainstream audiences and a cinema lover's dream. It's also the darkest film in Scorsese's career.

The storytelling is brisk, fast-paced, and thoroughly gripping. You'll be sitting on the edge of your seat the entire time, which is saying a lot considering the 2 hour 18 minutes running time of the film. Not once did I feel the length of it. In fact, by the time the film reached it's shocking climax, I wanted more. A day later and I already want to see the film again, just to look for clues and details I might have missed the first time. In keeping with the best of the genre, "Shutter Island" is all about mood, atmosphere, and suspense. In fact, it represents a watershed moment for horror and psychological thrillers, standing head and shoulders above any film in the genre release in the last decade or two. But what makes the film so great is not the scares, but the chilling atmosphere of the film. From the start, you get a sense that Shutter Island is like a living haunted house, an organism of it's own. And things only get more creepy from there. Scorsese must have watched a lot of Hitchcock and Robert Wise to get a sense of where he wanted to go with this film. But that's the beauty of the film. It's doesn't go for cheap shock-value scare tactics.

It's an extremely violent film, but the violence is all part of the context of the film. It's intellectual, it serves the story, makes us really feel the sense of paranoia and terror that is so clear on the face of Leonardo DiCaprio, who gives one of, if not the best performance of his entire career in the film. He is at once terrfying and terrified. It's a difficult role, one where an actor must be clenched from the beginning, much like Al Pacino in "The Godfather Part II".

On the technical side of things, the film is literally perfect. Everything from Robert Richardson's gorgeous cinematography to Dante Feretti's spooky set design to living legend Thelma Schoonmaker's startling and masterful editing is all top notch. Scorsese's direction is superb. An extended nightmare sequence is the stuff of any film lover's dreams.

I've been saying it for years, a great film is a great film is a great film. "Shutter Island" is one hell of a great film from cinema's greatest living filmmaker. In fact, I'd argue it's Scorsese's finest film since "Goodfellas". Do yourself a favor and see this movie if you have any love for movies at all.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It's dark in here.....

Sorry for the lack of updates these last couple of days. Been busy with a little thing called life, among other distractions (damn you World of Warcraft!). I'll have some juicy tidbits of info this weekend.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The State of the Race - Best Actor

Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Colin Firth, Morgan Freeman, and Jeremy Renner. Those are our five nominees for Best Actor this year. Two of the men are previous winners in the Supporting Actor category. Morgan Freeman won in 2005 for Million Dollar Baby, and George Clooney won in 2006 for Syriana. Colin Firth is enjoying his first nomination in a long career of fantastic performances. Jeremy Renner is the newcomer, scoring his first nomination in a breakthrough role in the Best Picture frontrunner this year. And then there's Jeff Bridges, sitting on his fifth nomination in a career that spans 40 years. He's never won before, and most agree, it's his time. So is there anything to discuss?

Plenty. The big question is whether or not Jeff Bridges is as much of a lock as it seems. The short answer is yes. The Dude will win his long overdue oscar. However, there's a bit more to the race than meets the eye. Many have wondered if Jeremy Renner can ride the gravy train and good will towards The Hurt Locker to a surprise Best Actor win. Of the five men nominated, he's been the one consistent nominee since the film's release in the summer. Some predicted Freeman would get left out after the lukewarm reception for Invictus. George Clooney and Colin Firth became solid contenders when their films premiered in early fall. Jeff Bridges was not always a sure thing until Crazy Heart got picked up at the last minute by Fox Searchlight, throwing a monkey wrench into the works when the race seemed to be between Colin Firth and George Clooney in the fall. Other contenders were Viggo Mortensen in The Road, Daniel Day Lewis in Nine, Robert Duvall in Get Low, and Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Adding Foreign Cinema to your Film Diet

In the winter of 2006, I remember walking out of a small independent theatre in Dallas called the Angelika after having seen the Spanish film Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo Del Toro. My first thought was that it was by far the best film of the year, despite not being an American film. The entire film was in Spanish, with subtitles and all, and yet it was far more engaging and moving than any other American film I had seen that year.

Interestingly enough, this trend of foreign films being better than American ones was not an isolated incident for 2006. In 2008, the best film of the year was The Dark Knight, but the Italian film Gomorrah and the Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In came very close. Earlier in the decade, films like City of God, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were also standouts amongst their American counterparts. But oddly enough, I found very few other people who felt as passionately about foreign films as I did. In fact, very few others outside of the film community had even heard of, much less seen any of the films I told them about.

Foreign cinema, like a lot of foreign entertainment products today, is not very popular in the United States. Whereas Americans buy Japanese and European cars quite often, there is something about foreign entertainment that Americans have an aversion to. The most successful foreign entertainment would be anime’ or Japanamation (short for Japanese animation, a form of animated television and film that has become it’s own sub-genre in recent years), but even those films and TV shows always end up “Americanized” in some way, usually by voice-over “dubbing” or censorship. The films of acclaimed Japanese animated movie director Hayao Miyazaki are not shown in Japanese with English subtitles, but rather always have famous American (or English speaking) actors providing the voice work in English. Japanese animated movies and television are not the only mediums suffering a drop in popularity in the United States.

This shift in popularity is not limited to Japanese entertainment. European countries struggle with getting their films and television programs to gain an American audience. However, in looking at most foreign cinema of the last decade, one can see that most foreign films today are better than their American counterparts. With films like Pan’s Labyrinth, The Lives of Others, A Prophet, Gomorrah, City of God, and others being released this decade, it’s a wonder no one else has caught on to the evident parallels this decade to the 1960s, where the most influential films were foreign ones, with movements like the French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realism being extremely prominent, as well as the films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.

What has changed since then? The simple answer is less distribution of foreign films in the US. Theatre companies and US studios don’t have enough confidence in smaller, lesser-known films, especially foreign ones, when they know that films like Transformers are far more bankable. So the obvious solution from my perspective would be to encourage more theatre companies and film studios to expand the distribution and exhibition of foreign films. However, it’s not enough to simply have studios do this, people need to be more willing to see these films, which is exactly what I am trying to encourage you all to do; add more foreign films to your film diet.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The State of the Race - The Big Five

In looking at this year's oscar nominees, only a couple of things really stick out to me. One is how while I firmly believe that "The Hurt Locker" will win Best Picture, Director, Editing, and possibly even Original Screenplay, the Best Picture race is hardly the two horse race the media has boiled it down to being. First off, I don't think it's actually just "The Hurt Locker" vs. "Avatar". There are other films in the ten nominees with a good shot at winning. The nominees, as a reminder, are

The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
A Serious Man
Up in the Air.

Let's get a few things out of the way. The Blind Side, An Education, A Serious Man, and Up, while all fine films, have absolutely no chance in hell of winning. It just isn't there. District 9 has a crucial editing and Adapted Screenplay nod that make it a slight possibility for a true dark horse, but that's not happening either. Rather, we turn our attention to the five films that would have been nominated in a field of 5 anyways.

The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Up in the Air

The Hurt Locker is sitting pretty at the top right now. It puled a shocking surprise win at the Producers Guild, an expected but crucial Director's Guild win, a SAG nod, Critics awards all over the place, and is tied with Avatar for the most Oscar nominations, laying claim to nine in total.

Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actor
Best Original Screenplay
Best Editing
Best Cinematography
Best Original Score
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing

Theoretically, the film could sweep and win every one of these awards. The only one it is pretty much guaranteed not to win is Best Actor. Jeremy Renner, while giving one of the finest performances of the year, will not be able to beat Jeff Bridges. Bridges is decades overdue, and that kind of sentiment, coupled with the fact that Bridges gave a fantastic performance in Crazy Heart, will take him to the top. However, if there was ever one actor who could potentially upset Bridges, it would be Renner. Right now, the buzz for The Hurt Locker is extremely high and is showing no signs of coming down soon. In a voting system using preferential ballots, the good will and love for The Hurt Locker would carry it to a potential sweep, even in the tech awards like Cinematography, Score, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing, which are all expected to go for Avatar. Those categories are notorious for going with the film the voters loved the most (remember last year when Slumdog Millionaire swept the tech awards over The Dark Knight?). If that love and good will carries over, Renner has a slight chance of winning over Bridges. But right now, I still don't see that happening.


Welcome everyone, to Film Studies and other shenanigans! Here, I will talk about film, hollywood, awards season (Oscars, Golden Globes, etc.) and various other things. Please feel free to comment and enjoy reading. I hope you all have as much reading this blog as I do writing in it. Thanks!