Saturday, December 20, 2008


Everybody else is doing it so why the hell not?

Going into the season, when I hadn't seen anything, I personally thought that despite all the Ben Button hype, Sam Mendes would prove he's truly The King of the World and Revolutionary Road would win Best Picture in the end.

Of course, I had no idea what Revolutionary Road was about because I hadn't read the book yet and the truth is, it's a small miracle this movie even got made. It's very good, don't get me wrong, but it softens the characters and their attitudes towards each other, losing a penetrating brutality that doesn't scar so much as bruise.

Kate and Leo were both excellent but the truth of the matter is that I was a little underwhelmed by Revolutionary Road. The end in particular did not sit very well with me. There were a couple missed opportunities in my mind.

Is it one of the top 25 films of the year? Absolutely. But do I think it's one of the top 5? No. To be fair, I think one would appreciate the film more if they've ever been married. But ultimately, while I thought DiCaprio was actually better, or at least more consistent than Winslet (although that may just be the characters), I don't think it was a character/performance he'll be remembered for. Winslet may be more memorable if only because you're not likely to forget one of the scenes toward the end of the film (a gorgeous sweeping shot across a living room). But you can't argue that it's not a career best performance from either DiCaprio or Winslet, and I'm just not hearing the passion out there for Leo this year, at least certainly not as loud as The Aviator or The Departed.

There are plenty of other questions to be sure. Will voters embrace Clint Eastwood like they have in the past? Will voters feel Frank Langella's Tony Award is enough? And will they snub the yin to Nixon's yang, Michael Sheen's David Frost. Will Sheen accept supporting status, despite the fact that both roles are clearly both leads. Of course, that line is getting blurrier each year. Heath Ledger, lead or supporting? Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, lead or supporting? Could The Reader's Kate Winslet be nominated in the supporting actress category since she's a lock for a lead nom for Revolutionary Road? Will the dual nomination help or hurt her Oscar chances? Could Milk earn dual supporting actor nominations for its impressive trio of Josh Brolin, James Franco and Emile Hirsch?

I 'doubt' Miramax will push Philip Seymour Hoffman for lead even though he most definitely is a co-lead with Streep. The acting in the scene where they're without a third party in Sister Aloysius' office is the stuff movies are made of. Hoffman's performance walks an incredibly fine line and I feel it registers as one of the best of the year and his career. There's such focus and restraint in every scene. He's so careful to 'control the look on his face' as Sister Aloysius puts it. The way his eyes dart back and forth as Streep applies pressure. It's like watching two boxers in the ring, throwing acting punches at each other. And believe it or not, Amy Adams holds her own with them. Of course everyone will be talking about Viola Davis and deservedly so. She's fantastic. Lock her up on the chart cuz she ain't goin' nowhere!

I'm still waiting to see Australia, Valkyrie and I'm holding off on Button to hopefully save the best for last. I don't want to watch it during some week filled with screenings. I don't want Button to be an awards season casualty, a statistic, another notch on my moviegoing belt. I want it to be special and so it shall, on Christmas Day, so long as it's not sold out.

Meanwhile, I still have no idea what to make of The Dark Knight. Is it Best Picture material? Does that even matter? Who knows? Nobody. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button remains a giant Question Mark for me right now. Without further adieu...


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire


Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant - Milk


Leonardo DiCaprio - Revolutionary Road
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn – Milk
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler


Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet – Revolutionary Road


Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Dev Patel - Slumdog Millionaire


Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler


Woody Allen - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Dustin Lance Black - Milk
Jenny Lumet - Rachel Getting Married
Robert Siegel - The Wrestler
Andrew Stanton - Wall-E


Simon Beaufoy - Slumdog Millionaire
David Hare - The Reader
Peter Morgan - Frost/Nixon
Eric Roth - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley – Doubt


Encounters at the End of the World
Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts
Man on Wire
Standard Operating Procedure
Trouble the Water


Waltz With Bashir

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Death threats? Let's hear 'em below.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Here goes nothing...

BEST PICTURE - DRAMA (a surprise sixth could be The Reader)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Burn After Reading
Mamma Mia!
Tropic Thunder
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road
Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Jim Carrey, Yes Man
Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man
Colin Farrell, In Bruges
James Franco, Pineapple Express
Dustin Hoffman, Last Chance Harvey

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Keira Knightley, The Duchess
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road

Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Frances McDormand, Burn After Reading
Sarah Jessica Parker, Sex and the City
Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia!
Emma Thompson, Last Chance Harvey

Josh Brolin, Milk
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married
Debra Winger, Rachel Getting Married
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon, Wall-E

Kung Fu Panda
Waltz with Bashir

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Spot the Differences?

Could these posters be any more similar? I know it's only a teaser poster but is the best Fox Searchlight could do a week after HBO debuted its True Blood poster online? What ever happened to originality? How could they waste the opportunity to stick two babes like Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried on the poster? And when you have a movie called Jennifer's Body, wouldn't you wanna, I dunno, show off her body on the poster?? By the way, I've read Jennifer's Body and considering it was written by Oscar-winning (cough, bullshit, cough) scribe Diablo Cody, I was none too impressed. My expectations are considerably low but what do I know? I passed on Juno.

Friday, July 18, 2008


If you're on the fence about watching HBO's new wartime miniseries Generation Kill, let me suggest that you give it a chance. In fact, I strongly recommend watching. I've seen all 7 of the episodes and the series definitely gets better as it goes along. The first episode is actually the hardest to get through, so if you've already sampled the first chapter, you might as well stick with it. It's true that it's nearly impossibly to distinguish the characters. I've spent more than 7 hours with the soldiers of Generation Kill and I only know a handful of the characters' names. But there is something captivating about the series. The finale is, in my opinion, the best episode, and the very last scene is a chilling montage set to a classic Johnny Cash song. I have more to say about the finale but I'll update this post later with what I took away from it. Stay frosty!


WARNING: Spoilers lie ahead. Tread carefully.

My ex-roommate rarely used his Hollywood connections to bring me anywhere cool but two weeks ago he passed along the opportunity of a lifetime… a chance to see The Dark Knight early, in glorious IMAX, with a post-screening Q+A with producers Charles Roven and Emma Thomas and co-writer/director Christopher Nolan. In short, it pretty much lived up to the hype.

Forget Tony Stark. Forget Speed Racer. Forget Prince Caspian. Forget Indiana Jones (oh wait, you already did…). Forget Carrie Bradshaw and Po the Panda and Bruce Banner and Maxwell Smart. Hell, forget about Wall-E! Because this summer belongs to one man, one myth, one legend: The Joker. Excuse me, The Joker as imagined and brought to life by the late Heath Ledger, whose remarkable performance is worthy of all the Oscar buzz and in the process, somehow makes his tragic death that much more sad. It’s true that by the end of the movie, Ledger’s Joker has become one of cinema’s most iconic bogeymen, up there with Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs and Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men.

Ledger’s performance is scary-good on its own merit but his overdose makes it all the more haunting. I hate to go off point here so early but you really can’t discuss this film without talking about Heath’s death. A lot of really famous, influential artists and performers have died recently including but not limited to Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Stan Winston and George Carlin. It’s always terrible news to hear and my condolences go out to all of their families, friends and fans, but I’m in my 20’s and those guys all meant something truly special to the generations before me. I was a fan of all of their work but it didn’t really affect me on that personal level. Heath’s death was something different.

I’d actually met Heath once while working for the NYU paper. It was a press junket for Brokeback Mountain. He was a really nice guy. He went around and shook everyone’s hand at the table and looked them in the eye and asked them their names. And whether or not he was just acting nice to be polite to us pen-pushers (after all, he was a pretty great actor), it seemed like he genuinely listened and cared. You know how sometimes when you meet people you know you’re never going to see again and you exchange names but it goes in one ear and out the other. Well Heath wasn’t like that. Imagine that, a movie star who actually cares. Anyways, he spoke about how much Brokeback Mountain meant to him and I think we all understood what a risky role it was to take. The career ramifications it could have for a leading man in Hollywood. Personally I thought it was a beautiful film and the only ramification I saw was an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Anyways, it was probably a 20-minute interview and I remember only getting one or two questions in because there were a lot of veteran sharks around the table, but it was an incredible experience because I knew from the tears on my shirt at the end of Brokeback that I’d just witnessed an incredible performance that in my mind, deserved an Oscar. (Plus, Toby Jones’ Capote was better than Philip Seymour Hoffman’s!)

This was a guy with an incredible future ahead of him, not just career-wise, but with his fiancĂ© Michelle Williams and their daughter Matilda. I actually cried when I heard he died. I was speechless. It just didn’t make any sense. It still doesn’t. I’m just glad I got to meet him. And I’m glad he gave us The Joker to remember him by. Why so serious? Because seriously, Ledger gives an unforgettable performance that’s chiefly responsible for making The Dark Knight the best Batman film ever.

The Dark Knight starts off with the prologue we’ve all already seen by now, a stunning bank heist starring The Joker as one of his own henchmen. Now I’m not very political but I believe it was Barack Obama who recently said that being a good American is about having faith in your fellow man. Well The Joker doesn’t have faith in his fellow man. He sees the worst in everybody, including the lazy, greedy colleagues in crime whose only concern is money. The Joker is about the principle of crime. He gets pleasure from senseless debauchery. The Joker is The Man With the Plan to be sure, but for someone who wants to harness the seething rage of Gotham’s criminal element and concentrate it on something larger itself (anarchy), he sure does pride himself on having no plan at all. He just… does. And that’s the theme of The Dark Knight. What would you do if the world ran amok? Would you give in to the chaos and join it or would you fight back in the name of justice, even if it meant your life?

The actual plot of the film is a little dense so I’m not going to say much about it, but suffice to say, The Dark Knight deals with the grey area in the spectrum of justice, where black and white and the phrase “by the book” just doesn’t cut it. It’s about how a city needs its heroes, and more important, how it needs the right ones wearing the right colors. Batman is ‘The Dark Knight,’ but Gotham’s White Knight is District Attorney Harvey Dent as played by Aaron Eckhart in a nearly-as-incredible performance that will almost surely be overshadowed by Ledger’s, unfairly or not. He puts Tommy Lee Jones’ Two-Face to shame and let me tell you something gang, Oscar-winner Tommy Lee Jones ain’t too shabby an actor. To be honest, The Dark Knight is really about Harvey Dent and his fall from grace. It’s his story arc, his revenge story, his romance that we’re ultimately involved in. Batman and The Joker just provide the appropriate pushes to move his narrative along.

Now as for the title character, Christian Bale just may be the best Bruce Wayne ever, imbuing the man behind the mask with both a cocky swagger and a quiet vulnerability. Then again, Bruce’s mood swings are all part of Batman’s charm. It’s clear more he’s more comfortable as the playboy billionaire, and of all the actors to play the character on the bigscreen, he looks like he’s having the most fun without the cape. But while he’s certainly better than Val Kilmer and George Clooney, I still think Michael Keaton rocked the suit the hardest. For starters, Bale’s voice as Batman is kind of ridiculous. I don’t know how people can deny this fact. Bale is one of the greatest actors of his generation but he snarls every line in this growling baritone like he’s Bruce’s cousin, John Wayne or something. Bale is still solid in the role but even as the straight man it seems like he’s settling for triples instead of swinging for the fences.

Maybe it’s the costume that hides his expression but there’s always been something kind of cold about Bale’s Batman. I think Tobey Maguire’s done a much better job in the Spider-Man series except for that ill-advised Saturday Night Fever moment in the last one. Maybe it’s because this Batman hasn’t had a great romantic interest since Katie Holmes was the weak link of Begins and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Rachel is more into blondes than brunettes. Either way, Ledger and Eckhart clearly overshadow Bale, although I acknowledge they get much juicier material to chew on while Bale makes good with the scraps he’s given, selling the occasional one-liner but for the most part, unable to escape being background noise in his own movie.

I guess it’s tough when you’re acting opposite Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman. Jesus, those are some of the best character actors alive. What a cast! Freeman does the same old song and dance more or less but Caine has some choice moments to work with and Oldman is fantastic as Gordon despite being saddled with a quasi-lame plot twist. His performance goes a long way toward selling the finale, which by the way, is better than the lackluster climax of Batman Begins but still leaves something to be desired. But more on the ending in a moment.

As for the rest of the cast, Katie Holmes would probably look better in IMAX but there’s no doubt that Maggie Gyllenhaal is an improvement in the thankless role of ADA Rachel Dawes. She’s much more womanly where as Katie always felt too young for Bale and lacked that combination of mature intelligence and elegant beauty needed to play Rachel. And while he’s not quite as good as Tom Wilkinson (who seems bound to add a Sir to his name soon), the habitually underrated Eric Roberts is also strong as Mob boss Salvatore Maroni. Elsewhere, Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow makes a brief, meaningless cameo that could’ve been worked in better. Lost’s Nestor Carbonell looks like he’s wearing eyeliner. Anthony Michael Hall is wasted. Colin McFarlane’s Commissioner Loeb has a nice if all-too-predictable scene opposite Oldman. Tiny Lister makes the most of his bit part as a criminal who’s tasked with a significant decision and William Fichtner is great as a bank manager.

The film also stars Joshua Harto as a conniving Wayne Enterprises staffer who learns Batman’s identity and attempts to blackmail him on the news; Chin Han as a potential business partner of Wayne’s who is really an accountant helping the Mob hide its money while fortifying his empire in China; David Dastmalchian as one of Joker’s crazy-eyed henchmen; Andy Luther as a good cop who gets a bad idea, and a couple of crooked cops to keep things interesting as we try to deduce who is on Maroni’s payroll.

Now back to that pesky ending. It’s not entirely satisfying, it feels a little rushed and as a result, it’s just a tad disappointing considering the rest of the film. The Joker is literally left hanging and the Two-Face’s arc lacks a meaningful payoff. We don’t care about his tragic fall like we should. It also complicates potential directions for the inevitable sequel to go, and while Nolan may not have compromised his artistic integrity for the sake of a sequel-tease, we’re left with questions that a sequel can’t possibly answer. I suppose the ending is true to Nolan’s original artistic intention but I feel like the villains’ fates should’ve been reversed since I can’t imagine them recasting The Joker and it would seem silly to address his fate after the fact. The ending also raises questions as to what will become of Gordon’s son, played by Nathan Gamble. While the will-he-or-won’t-he climax raises genuine suspense and creates real dramatic tension, I found myself wishing Nolan had really gone for it and killed the boy. Rachel’s death is a great twist you don’t see coming but I feel like if you’re gonna kill off the love interest that early anyway, you might as take the brutality to the max. There’s another instance where you feel the restrictions of the PG-13 rating and the studio’s insistence that the film be friendly for summer tentpole-sized audiences of all ages despite Nolan’s natural inclination towards darkness. It’s when The Joker slashes Gamble and the camera cuts away. And it’s not that we need the gore to know how vicious and fearless The Joker is, but it feels a little too Charmin’ soft. I’ve also read multiple reviews comparing The Dark Knight to Heat but the end doesn’t resonate nearly as much and it certainly had the chance to since like Hanna and McCauley, Batman and The Joker need each other. Bruce Wayne needs to see that Bat signal in the sky. He needs to feel wanted. It’s hard having a purpose when you’re already a billionaire. What’s his goal as a businessman, to accumulate more unnecessary wealth? It’s only necessary to continue funding Batman’s technology. And The Joker needs Batman because like all rebels, he’s really just looking for someone strong enough to challenge his authority. . But ultimately The Joker serves as a mirror, showing Batman and Dent who they really are and what really lurks inside their broken hearts.

Other random thoughts on the film. We’ll start with the not-so-good. The whole story feels a little padded and too dense and there are times when the screenplay becomes a little too bogged down in superfluous cop talk that adds very little to the actual story. There’s also a sonar gimmick that looks kinda cool but seems more Bond than Batman to me, and there were times I found the whole idea kind of annoying, although there’s a great visual payoff in the Batlair where Lucius Fox pulls the plug on a wall of surveillance monitors. The action sequences are all gripping stuff, although there are some moments that get lost in the shuffle, whether it be the frenetic editing or the choreography itself, most noticeably in the nightclub scene where Batman is just tossing bodies left and right but you can hardly see anything in the club.. Besides the Heat-esque opening, there’s a spectacularly staged car chase with a great moment where a SWAT vehicle gets run off the highway into the water. Cross-dressing Joker R.N. is absolutely terrifying (as are the shaky-cam video clips on the news) and the hospital scene as a whole is really well done, especially the reveal of Two-Face. The Joker’s interrogation scenes are all awesome. The Hong Kong sequence is dizzying and amazing, even better than Mission: Impossible III’s eye-opening aerial sequence thanks to a truly great escape that had our audience applauding.. To truly appreciate the epic scope of this 2 and a half-hour film, you simply must see it in IMAX. I don’t care how many shows are sold-out, just wait at the theater until your first viewing is presented in the majesty of IMAX. The brooding cinematography by Wally Pfister is gorgeous and the rousing score by James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer perfectly captures the mood of the film, especially toward the end.

With The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan has weaved an epic crime saga and raised the bar for superhero movies, Hats off to everyone involved in this thrilling achievement including David S. Goyer and Jonah Nolan who, forgiving my minor criticisms above, co-wrote the for-the-most-part excellent story and screenplay, respectively, but especially Heath Ledger, who will be sorely, sorely missed by many, but particularly by this film lover. R.I.P.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mid-Show Theories

Yikes, I am doing horrible with my predictions but a couple things come to mind. Namely, Ethan and Joel Coen's acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay was extremely short. Perhaps the brothers know for a fact that they'll be back onstage later in the night? I mean, after all, the Academy went out of their way to produce that little ditty about how secrets the results are, as if we didn't already think that. Also, does No Country losing in both sound categories signal a kink in its armor. Now that the Coens and Bardem have gotten their just desserts, is it possible we won't be hearing from the No Country boys the rest of the night? Can't believe Marion Cotillard just won. Good for her. She's beautiful. Poor Linney though. Hopefully one of these days...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Final OSCAR Predictions

Best Picture
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

SHOULD WIN: There Will Be Blood
WILL WIN: No Country for... WAIT A SECOND! Do I really want to be the umpteenth person to predict the boring 'Old' front-runner? Hell, no! The InSneider doesn't play it safe and since it seems like all you have to do to get linked to on the overwhelming glut of Oscar blogs is go against the tide, I'm going with.... ATONEMENT. That's right people. The original front-runner is bound to rear its ugly head in at least one category on Oscar night so why not the top prize? Think about it. The Academy is heavily male but I can't ignore the ladies, as much as they might ignore me. Now some folks think that the female vote is exactl what could propel Juno to the podium at the end of the night but that theory gives me pregnant pause. The backlash exists, people! And the Academy is not comprised of teenage girls, but strong, intelligent women who might favor the period romance. I mean, there has to be some reason that Atonement snuck into the field ahead of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Into the Wild and Sweeney Todd. The BAFTA's ( I know, I know) proved the support is there, and the male vote is bound to be split between NCfOM and TWBB. As big a hit as Juno has been at the box office, I can't see anyone, even the film's staunchest supporters, really checking off that box and naming Juno the Best Picture of the Year. It's just an inconceivable scenario to me. Could Clooney's Clayton cold-clock the Coens? Yes, but that movie doesn't really feel like a Best Picture either. So if there are only three possibly movies I can actually see winning the grand prize, and two of them will likely split the vote, then that leaves Atonement standing tall. Plus Oscar loves those one-word titles. Think: Gandhi, Amadeus, Platoon, Unforgiven, Braveheart, Titanic, Gladiator, Chicago, Crash.

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman, Juno
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

SHOULD WIN: Schnabel
WILL WIN: The Coens. I predict this will be the only award of the night for the Coen brothers and as such, it will be considered their consolation prize for making a movie that was thisclose to being a masterpiece before it overreached with a heavy-handed, confusing and confounding ending. Reitman doesn't belong here and should be happy to be nominated. I see Gilroy and PTA being rewarded in other categories (as you'll see below) and Schnabel, well, he gets the shaft here. The Coens have to win something and this will be it.

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
4 Other Dudes from Movies not as good as There Will Be Blood

SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN, CAN'T LOSE: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
And Clooney's ride home, or to Dan Tana's, will be silent, just like the end of Michael Clayton, unless of course chatterbox Tony Gilroy is in the same limo.

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno

WILL WIN: Christie
People are getting sick of the little moppet named Ellen Page. Blanchett's movie wasn't any good. I doubt a foreign-language performance is capable of winning. And while Linney has an excellent body of work and the respect of the entire industry, Searchlight pretty much conceded this award early on by not making a big enough push for The Savages. That leaves Christie, the epitome of what an Oscar nominee should be. She didn't campaign for the award and she wasn't seemingly everywhere at once like Little Miss Juno. It's a last hurrah for her career and she'll go out on top.

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
4 Other Dudes from Movies not as good as No Country for Old Men

SHOULD WIN, WILL WIN, CAN'T LOSE: Bardem, for creating an iconic cinematic villain. This is one category where you can't stop what's coming. Now watch all the live-bloggers out there scramble to write how Bardem's win at the beginning of the night signals a possible No Country sweep. I think this year has some surprises in store and it'll be quite the opposite. This could be the only award No Country takes. I might winding up sounding like an idiot a few days from now but someone has to take a risk, right?

Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

SHOULD WIN: Blanchett
WILL WIN: Blanchett
This is essentially a two-woman race between Blanchett and Swinton. Ronan is too young and Dee is too old, not to mention she was in the movie for 5 whole minutes and no one walked out of AG talking about her performance. Ryan was the popular pick a few months back but I think her campaign peaked at the wrong time while Swinton has really come on strong as of late. This could be where the Academy rewards Michael Clayton but Blanchett's performance is much more technically accomplished, I don't think it matters that she's already won this award before for The Aviator. I'm Not There was a bit of a mish-mash (though it exceeded my expectations) but I think the Weinsteins helped her with that 45-minute highlight reel they packaged with Variety, and in the end, she really is quite the cross-gender chameleon. Frankly, Swinton has been better before (see The Deep End for proof) and strong as she is in Clayton, she was overshadowed by Clooney, Wilkinson and yes, even Sydney Pollack.

Diablo Cody, Juno
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Brad Bird, Ratatouille
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages

WILL WIN: Gilroy
Everyone says El Diablo has this one in the bag but I wouldn't be so sure. The Juno script had heart but it also had a lot of annoying one-liners that felt more appropriate for a low-grade sitcom. Clayton, on the other hand, was a first-rate legal thriller that was deceptively smart, if not a tad dull. Sure it plays like a Grisham adaptation but people really admire how Gilroy's film harkens back to the conspiracy films of the 70's and they could choose to reward him in this category, since he's better known as a writer than a director. For the record though, I think Juno and Clayton are the worst two scripts out of this bunch, but we know Jenkins and Oliver really stand no shot, and Bird will get his in the animation category.

Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Sarah Polley, Away From Her
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

WILL WIN: Anderson
My guess is as good as ours. Honestly, my head tells me that Anderson has the 3rd best chance of winning this one but I can't give it to the Coens, despite them taking WGA and Scripter honors. Big whoop! Their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel was fairly straight-forward and I still feel like audiences will be pissed they were denied any kind of satisfactory resolution. Harwood is a solid bet, seeing as he tackled the toughest assignment and came up with the idea of shooting from Jean-Do's point of view, plus he already overcame crazy odds a few years back when he surprised everyone with his win for The Pianist. That said, There Will Be Oscar for PTA, and if his film doesn't win Best Picture and the Coens steal Best Director, this is what he'll wind up with for making one of the best films this side of 2000. His adaptation of Upton Sinclair's Oil! was much more creative than the Coens and his abominable creation, Daniel Plainview, is one of the most despicable characters in the history of cinema, ensuring that he'll stay in our minds long after this year's ceremony.

Roger Deakins, The Assassination of Jesse James...
Seamus McGarvey, Atonement
Janusz Kaminski, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Roger Deakins, No Country for Old Men
Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood

SHOULD WIN: Kaminski
WILL WIN: Kaminski
Another incredibly difficult category to call. It seems like Deakins' year but Kaminski's camerawork was integral to the storytelling. The guy's an old pro and if the Academy is looking for fresh 'blood' than I think Elswit stands the best shot. Deakins' work in Jesse James was superior to No Country as well, and his double nomination might wind up costing him the statue. McGarvey's eight-minute tracking shot of Dunkirk is widely admired but I thought it was completely pointless and I doubt I'm alone in that assessment. If the work speaks for itself, Kaminski should prepare his acceptance speech for his brilliant work on Diving Bell.

more coming...

Monday, January 21, 2008

The OFFICIAL Oscar Nomination Predictions

Our Oscar nomination predictions for Variety's office pool were due on Friday so here's what I submitted. Keep in mind, this is what I think will be nominated on Tuesday, not what SHOULD be nominated. Every year prognosticators offer up their expert predictions and every year Oscar yields plenty of surprises, so I tried to account for that unpredictable thinking with my picks. There were no alternates allowed on the sheet but I decided to offer them up for fun anyways. I'm also offering up a No, Really? nominee in selected categories for nominees that for some reason or other I don't think should be nominated. Here goes nothing. Oh, and an asterisk (*) indicates what I think will eventually win come Oscar night.

Best Picture:
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Into the Wild
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood*

Alt: Michael Clayton
No, Really?: Juno (box office leader but there's a well-deserved backlash)

Best Director (same 5 as Best Picture)
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Ethan and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Sean Penn, Into the Wild
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly*
Joe Wright, Atonement

Alt: David Fincher, Zodiac
No, Really?: Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton (first movie and it was a little slow)

Best Actor
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood*
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild
Denzel Washington, American Gangster

Alt: James McAvoy, Atonement
No, Really?: Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises (way better in A History of Violence)

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en rose*
Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart
Ellen Page, Juno

Alt: Laura Linney, The Savages
No, Really?: Keira Knightley, Atonement (pretty face but a surface-level performance)

Best Supporting Actor

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James...
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men*
Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Alt: Max von Sydow, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
No, Really?: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War (one great scene, not much else)

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There*
Jennifer Garner, Juno
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Alt: Ruby Dee, American Gangster
No, Really?: Catherine Keener, Into the Wild (c'mon, are you kidding me? brian dierker outshone her)

Best Adapted Screenplay (same 5 as Best Picture)
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Ethan and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly*
Sean Penn, Into the Wild

Alt: James Vanderbilt, Zodiac
No, Really?: Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson's War (the very definition of an uneven movie)

Best Original Screenplay
Brad Bird, Ratatouille*
Diablo Cody, Juno
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl

Alt: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, The Darjeeling Limited
No, Really?: Steve Zaillian, American Gangster (classic example of a good but not great movie, and the script was painted in broad strokes)

Best Original Score (NOTE: The Academy has disqualified There Will Be Blood and Into the Wild so I have amended their inclusion. Such a shame...)
Dario Marianelli, Atonement*
Paul Cantelon, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Alberto Iglesias, The Kite Runner
Alexandre Desplat, Lust, Caution
Michael Giacchino, Ratatouille

Alt: Marco Beltrami, 3:10 to Yuma
No, Really?: Howard Shore, Eastern Promises (forgettable)

Best Costume Design
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Lust, Caution
Sweeney Todd

Alt: La Vie en rose
No, Really?: Across the Universe (even the costumes couldn't distract me from the mess onscreen)

Best Editing
Into the Wild
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men*
There Will Be Blood

Alt: The Assassination of Jesse James...
No, Really?: The Bourne Ultimatum (slow down there Chris, let my eyes process what the hell I'm seeing before you cut to another shot for .0001 seconds)

Tiebreakers (total nominations WITHOUT GOING OVER):

Sweeney Todd: 4
Atonement: 6
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: 4
Michael Clayton: 6