Friday, December 16, 2005

Snow, and a lot of it

I have a love and hate relationship with shoveling snow. While engaged in the act, I lose myself in the to-and-fro movements and begin to drift away in my mind's eye. I take strange pleasure in shattering ice with the sharp tip of my shovel and hearing the scrape-ing sound of plastic conflicting with asphalt. Frankly, I'm amazed I have so much fun doing what so many others hate and dread so much, especially because the winters here are so relentless. I suppose I like that I can so easily control the snow, that I'm able to manipulate and pack it away so neatly in piles along the edges of my driveway. It's very therapeutic for me, even more so during this time of year when things become hectic and I feel I have no control over anything. The "hate" part of the relationship comes in after the fact, when I wake up the next day unable to move my arms up beyond a 90 degree angle. So I'm sitting here wincing every time I move a muscle, hoping that the five Tylenols I've just taken in tandem will kick in at some point or another. Yeah, yeah, I can't take pain. Go ahead and laugh.

I have no proper segueway into my movie reviews. I was going to say something about how it looks like Narnia outside and then move into talking about the Disney film (snow... White Witch... get it? get it?), but it didn't work. Forget about it. I saw all these films on Tuesday, which was a lot of fun; kind of felt like a film festival day. Even at the end, I was ready for one more, but the theatre was closing up. Here we go.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Adamson, 05) C+ [Well, kids obviously love the hell out of this film, if the audience I saw it with is any indication (oh, and the box office numbers as well). It seems like this toned-down, very easy-to-swallow film has been made exclusively for them. Four of my cousins go the same elementary school, and they asked me to come along as a volunteer on their field trip to see this movie. It's not a bad effort by any means, but it's seriously lacking daring and vision. It's the equivalent of how a Chris Columbus adaptation of this book would play out - entirely faithful, but dry as day-old toast. Shrek's Andrew Adamson was the best director they had for this? For Lewis's Narnia? Really? A lot of the time I was thinking this guy had no idea what he was doing and I also frequently wondered why the camera was placed like it was. He also suffers from a Lord of the Rings-hangover, but only somewhat succeeds in hitting the same highs. The special effects are spotty as well, and there are some moments that are almost Die Another Day bad. Overall, it's far from a disaster, but I'm disappointed because so much more was possible, and I think a better director would have made a lot of difference. The cast is okay (aside from a boring William Moseley as Peter and a rather grating Anna Popplewell as Susan), with James McAvoy and Tilda Swinton (no surprise there) stealing the film. Swinton especially makes the most of her screentime (she owns those super-diva outfits), and is absolutely terrifiying during the final battle. A few years ago, I saw a very scaled-down theatrical production of this novel, with only five (!) actors filling out the roles. They had minimal props and costumes, but they made the most of them. It's telling that even after all these years, that adaptation resounds more in my mind than this film, which I just saw a few days ago.]

Walk the Line (Mangold, 05) B- [It may be terribly predictable, but it's a lot more fun than last year's interminable Ray, which tried my patience even in the first fifteen minutes. This film follows the standard biopic formula (unhappy childhood, infidelity, drugs, yada yada yada), and there's virtually nothing new here on display. Years pass by in matter of minutes, and a lot of depth and other details are overlooked in favour of focusing solely on the love story between Cash and Carter. Gennifer Goodwin's Vivian (Cash's first wife) gets a little more sympathy than you'd expect in a film like this, but she's still depicted as a jealous, irrational shrew who we are supposed to look down upon in favour of Reese Witherspoon's saintly can't-do-wrong savior figure. But it's still entertaining because Joaquin Phoenix and Witherspoon are electrifying on-screen together. It seems probably hyperbolic to say that these to "make" the movie, but I have no other way to explain why this film works as well as it does. Furthermore, Witherspoon proves herself the film's MVP, outshining Phoenix (who's been better) and creating a three-dimensional figure in spite of her character's very standard construction. From start to finish, I couldn't take my eyes off her, and the film fared better whenever she was on-screen.]

Syriana (Gaghan, 05) B- [I have no idea where to start here, and if you've seen or heard a lot about this film, you'll know why. The majority of it is absolutely impenetrable, and about half of the time, I was at a loss to understand anything that was happening. I actually spent about an hour on-line afterwards trying to make sense of an entire subplot which completely flew over my head (Jeffrey Wright's). So why the marginal positive grade? Well, I still like it for the same reasons Roger Ebert liked it, and his great review can be found here. Dumped right in the middle of it all, I found myself engaged in the stories and characters, even though I didn't always know how they connected. I also found that became better as it went along, as the disparate threads starting coming together and finally crashed together in a stunning, very depressing ending. However, on the flip side, there are just as many elements that hurt the film, including a surprising lack of depth and subtlety ("Corruption... is how we win" - come on now!) in the proceedings. Then there's one story about a young Pakistani man manipulated and brainwashed by a terrorist group into following their instructions that could make an entire film on its own. The whole thing is very ambitious, very revealing and very commendable for the points it makes, but it comes in both an equally engaging and off-putting package of confusing visuals and words. I have a weird desire to see it again, actually. By the way, in terms of Oscar potential, I think it will be a shame if George Clooney wins Best Supporting Actor for this - Alexander Siddig is ten times better.]

I also had the chance of re-watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind recently, almost a year-and-a-half after seeing it on the big screen. I've had the DVD for months now, but I always was afraid to give it a spin because I was afraid it wouldn't live up to the highs of the first viewing (this happens to me a lot, most recently with In the Bedroom). Obviously, I shouldn't have worried. What I was left with this time was how good the entire cast is here (not just the two brilliant leads) - from Tom Wilkinson to Jane Adams, everyone is performing at their best. What a great, great film.

Monday, December 12, 2005

It begins...

Everytime I wanted to post a new entry about so-and-so organization's awards announcement, another one would come along and add to the pile... therefore, I decided to wait until after all major groups had picked their winners/nominees. Insanity! Awards Season has begun. Let the Oscar predictions begin (as if they haven't already)...

RANDOM NOTES, the good and the bad...

NBR - You know, I rarely toot my own horn, because I don't have that much to boast about in my life. But today is a different story altogether. *toots own horn* I accurately predicted 8 out of the ten spots on NBR's list and also got their Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress (bleurgh!) selections right. I only wished I had listened to myself and predicted Ang Lee for Director, even though I believed that his win ten years ago would pose a problem. As for their other selections, I'm sort of "eeh" on: I would really rather not have another gimmick performance win Best Actress, but Felicity Huffman seems to have convinced everyone again that such work is automatically award-worthy (I know I still have yet to see the acting in question, but honestly...). All I need is for Roger Ebert to call it "one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema"!!!!!!$@#$@#!!! And as for Jake Gyllenhaal winning Best Supporting Actor, I'm not buying. He's great in the movie, but his is not a supporting performance at all. Fraud! ...Then again, if it means that he has better chances of an Oscar nomination, I suppose I'd rather he have a nod than none at all (he certainly deserves one by this point; great body of work for an actor this young).

Maria Bello/William Hurt/A History of Violence - How thrilled am I that this masterpiece hasn't been forgotten despite it seeming to fade away in the last few months? First of all, Bello's Best Actress Drama nod from the Golden Globes (even more than hearing about the film's Best Film mention) made me whoop for joy out loud. It's one of those fantastic surprises that you hope will happen with these nominations instead of the same names being read out over and over again. Who would have thought? Unlike others, I don't think this will affect her Oscar chances in the Supporting Actress category. I have a feeling that voters will mark their ballots the way the campaign dictates, allowing this unexpected placement as an anomaly... As for William Hurt, winning the NYFCC and the LAFCA together (yes!) = very good nomination chances. Poor Cronenberg though. Although it's good that the film is still hot, it would have been good for him to get either the N.Y. or the L.A. Director's prize to make filling in that always-surprising 5th spot in the Director category possible (fighting off Malick and Allen). Now we (read: I) pray...

Brokeback Mountain - Although it's too early to call this the frontrunner/lock/lead for the Best Picture Oscar, I'm mighty tempted to just state the obvious. Not only have the critics gone nuts for it (the powerful combo of the LAFCA and the NYFCC is not to be scoffed at), but the Golden Globes sweep (woulda been eight if the HFPA hadn't rejected the campaign and tried to squeeze Gyllenhaal into Lead Drama) is certainly persuasive. Anyways, what could beat it at this point? King Kong? Walk the Line? Good Night, and Good Luck? Earlier, some were saying...

Munich - ...but its poor showing so far has been quite surprising. Although it finally picked up some kudos from the Washington Area Film Critics (Picture/Director), it's become very apparent that this is going to go more the way of Amistad (a few choice nods) than Schindler's List (huge sweep). Add to the fact that Spielberg is being called a traitor to Israel, I therefore can't see the film doing all that well with AMPAS as a whole (it seems like a Passion of the Christ sort of deal - too controversial to be fully embraced). Everyone still has it in their predictions for Picture and Screenplay, and Spielberg still feels like a good bet in the Director category (at least to me), but it's certainly lost a lot of steam (where's the Best Picture Globe nom?). Also suprising is that the film has received absolutely no acting mentions - Eric Bana didn't even get a BFCA mention (!), let alone a Golden Globe nod. Yikes.

The Family Stone - Speaking of "Yikes", what the hell happened here? Diane Keaton, who seemed a sure bet in Supporting Actress, has failed to show up anywhere so far except the Golden Satellites (where practically everyone in contention is nominated). Sarah Jessica Parker is the only representative of the film at the Golden Globes (hmmm), while people who have seen the film are rather cool on both those actors (Rachel McAdams is apparently the bright spot). All that aside, personally I must confess that I am addicted to the trailer for this movie (I've probably seen it upwards of twenty times by now), and I can't wait to watch the final product. It's probably going to be horrible, but I'm excited to see such a great cast at work (and I'll see anything with Claire Danes in it). Plus, I love SJP's line reading of "And You! You're the worst!", and McAdams's shocked reaction. Great.

Cinderella Man - It's (unfortunately) back. At first, I wasn't too convinced (the BFCA/GS love aside), but the strong Golden Globes showing proves that the campaign/re-release has been successful. I don't think I'll mind if Russell Crowe (probably 6th/7th in line for the Best Actor category) or Paul Giamatti (likely nominee) make the final cut because they were solid, but I will not be happy if Ron Howard and Brian Grazer make any shortlists. Please God no.

Crash - The big question mark. Aside from the likely nominations for Dillon and Haggis (Screenplay), is it possible it can garner more? The Best Picture and Director omissions at the Globes are telling; the thunder was stolen by (IMO)...

...The Constant Gardener - I still haven't seen this (on video January 10th - mental note) despite its late summer success, but I'm still taken aback by the resurgence. Still, in terms of Oscar prospects, I think that Rachel Weisz is the only one who should be crossing her fingers for a nomination. Meirelles already had his surprise nod a few years back, and Ralph Fiennes failed to garner a GG nom. As for Best Picture, it still has to contend with the likes of Kong, Crash, Match Point, Henderson, Capote, and Pride and Prejudice for the once-Memoirs of a Geisha occupied 5th spot (after Brokeback, Good Night, Munich and Walk the Line).

Match Point - Whew. After a very bumpy start, the Allen film was saved by a NBR top ten placement and approval from the Globes. Johansson thankfully will get a nod to make up for the one she lost two years ago. Damn, the Globes love her.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - Speaking of Capote, its star is gearing up to be the critics' darling of the year. But unlike Paul Giamatti, he's a definite thing for an Academy Award nomination. I would be tempted to call him a lock for the win, but he still has Heath Ledger to fight off, who is in a definite Best Picture nominee (while Capote is less of a sure thing). Going to be fun to see who walks away with the Golden Globe - despite Brokeback's leading status, I still think Hoffman will win.

The Squid and the Whale - I knew it would do well with the Independent Spirit Awards, but a GG nod for Best Comedy is heartening. Although the continued snubbing of Owen Kline sucks, I'm thrilled that Jeff Daniels is getting so much attention. I will be so elated if he gets an Oscar nomination, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm surprised that Laura Linney continues to be placed in Lead (if any performance were to be called supporting, this is it), but it's nice to see her nonetheless. But where's the GG nom for Baumbach's screenplay? It's dumb to give the film so much attention, but not in this regard (which is the film's greatest of many strengths IMO).

Anthony Hopkins - I was so sure that he'd be a nominee at the GGs (and eventually at the Oscars) for The World's Fastest Indian, especially since he's receiving the Cecil B. DeMille citation at the former ceremony. Pierce Brosnan (ew) seems to have taken his spot. I suppose the film is still too-underseen at this point, but couldn't this be one of those last-minute surprise nominations the Academy always has in store (re: Clint Eastwood)? Middle of December is not the same as end of January - things will be shook up.

Joan Allen/Kevin Costner - One of the not so pleasant surprises of awards season so far is the continued snubbing of Joan Allen. So many of us went in with expectations of her winning one of the three biggies - NBR, NYFCC or the LAFCA, and she won none of them. Worse still is the lack of GG love, which I believe can be blamed on HFPA members splitting votes because they didn't know whether or not she qualified under Comedy or Drama (it's the latter, I believe, which... doesn't make any sense). This is going to make a Best Actress nomination a very, very difficult feat. I blame New Line's pathetic campaign (if you go to their awards website, they would have you believe that the only films with potential are Violence and The New World). I've only seen one ad for both Allen and Costner - that's it. What the fuck? Get on it! At least I took some small happiness in seeing Costner win San Francisco's Best Supporting Actor prize. Hurrah!

The New World - Despite being MIA so far, there is still some hope here, not only in technical potential, but for Actress and Director (I'm not so convinced a Best Picture nod is possible at this point). Kilcher could go the Keisha Castle-Hughes route, and Malick could take that unpredictable 5th spot as I talked about earlier.

Memoirs of a Geisha - *Insert rant here about Zhang Ziyi getting Best Actress nomination for this film instead of for 2046.*

Gong Li - Speaking of that pathetic excuse for a film, this woman seems to be its only chance at a major nom. At least, that's what I was thinking until her GG snub. Still, the NBR citation is rather commanding, and I feel she's still in, at least for now.

Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams - Aside from me being extremely happy with Ledger getting so much love, excuse me while I get sentimental for a sec. Won't it be so lovely if both of them are nominated together (and if one of them wins?) and neither one of them has to play supportive-spouse on the red carpet? Aw. I love it. Hope it happens. I always thought Williams was the most talented out of the Dawson's group (and have always seethed at Katie Holmes getting the attention over her. Hah! Take that Katie. Michelle is going to get a nomination before you [ever] do).

Now the especially bad...

Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, North Country - re: Golden Globe nods; I'd rather not talk about it, thanks.

Johnny Depp, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Worst. Nomination. Ever. He should not even show up to maintain his dignity.

Will Ferrell - I'm scared. Someone hold me.

Friday, December 09, 2005

"Congratulations. You're one step closer to becoming Japan's Next Top Geisha."

I take objection to Memoirs of a Geisha (Marshall, 05) [D-] on so many levels, it's hard to know where to start (and no, I won't be criticizing the film's casting; enough has been said about that issue already.) But if there was ever a prize given out for most mixed messages contained in a single film, Memoirs would be a total lock for the "honour". For the most part, it has no idea what it's talking about and the ideas it tries to leave you with are incredibly problematic, to say the least. Furthermore, any credibility it might have as a critique of Geisha hierarchies or of the double binds faced by women under patriarchy and American colonialism are severely undermined by Marshall's tendencies to go for the glitz factor and engage in embarrassing, manipulative melodrama.

Here's what was going on inside my head while I watched (*Spoiler Warning*):

Starts off well enough, bleakly exploring how little Chiyo (Suzuka Ohgo) is separated from her sister and sold into a Kyoto Geisha house. Her determination to escape the oppressive power imbalances in the house is inspiring and effective (I'm digging it). However, now it's shifting gears when Chiyo grows up into the prized Geisha Sayuri (Zhang Ziyi) and all her main concerns seem to be learning how to bust some cool moves on a catwalk while being pelted by synthetic snowflakes and also how to deal with the violent uber-bitch Hatsumomo (an ever-sneering Gong Li), who apparently has nothing better to do than to harrass little girls for entering her bedroom and consequently vowing vengeance for life. Okay...

But wait, now the movie wants to focus less on dress-up and Geisha politics, and more on the Second World War. No, actually, scratch that, because Sayuri conveniently packs in several years of conflict and hardship into an informative one-minute voice over ("Then another year passed... then another... then another... then another"). I suppose Zhang Ziyi in refugee get-up isn't all that interesting to the filmmakers- audiences want her back in a pretty kimono, dammit! Done and done.

Now it's focusing on pleasing creepy, oversexed Americans who mistake Geishas for prostitutes. It gets awfully convoluted here. But wait, all complexity is dismissed in favour of love triangles, sexual politics and more catty back-stabbing. You know, all this would be easy to take, but Sayuri's interest in becoming a Geisha in the first place is disturbing. She doesn't pray to land this coveted position because it will award her some degree of power (however limited) or because she'll get to look pretty. No, she wants to become a Geisha because she wants Ken Watanabe to court her.

Okay, again, I would be able to accept that, however creepy and questionable. But then the film actually has the gall to suggest in its bizarre happy ending that a suitable alternative for a frustrated Geisha is to settle down and marry! Beware oh you Geishas who walk out into the morning mist, attempting to face the world by yourselves (I'm talking to you, Hatsumomo) - according to this film's interpretation, you are doomed. Therefore, if you are a dissatisfied Geisha who is feeling limited in her prospects (read: "I am not worthless!" and "I want a life of my own!"), all you have to do... is find a benelovent husband! Problem solved.

Roll Credits. Cue applause from several audience members (You've got to be kidding me.)

Er, what was this movie trying to say?

Rob Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha is a film more ignorant than Edward Zwick's The Last Samurai, if that is possible to believe.

Monday, December 05, 2005

National Board of Review Predictions

Is it already that time of year? That time of year when awards specialists attempt to find some sort of pattern (*cough*) to the bizzare let's-vote-for-anything-because-we-begin-the-trend habits of the National Board of Review, a New-York based group of... well, who knows? But years of controversy about their policies and selections has not lessened their influence on the Oscar race. In fact, the very idea that I'm dedicating an entire post to this awards announcement affirms how much we look to this group for some sort of direction in this chaotic, anything-is-possible atmosphere (The Producers! Narnia! Brokeback! Oscar! Nominate me! Nominate that! ...!!). Personally, I really hope the Board has some balls this year and picks something a little less predictable and not so baity for the #1 spot. I don't think anyone expected the drab, creatively-challenged Finding Neverland to arrive in the Best Picture slot last year. Furthermore, I hope we get some really "out there" (but warranted) selections. Something as unexpected as Campbell Scott deservingly winning Best Actor for Roger Dodger or Gods and Monsters getting Best Picture. Something as delicious as Quills inexplicably getting top honours. Let's see more of that, okay?

Anyways, onto my predictions. It was really difficult this time around. Last year, I scored an amazing 7/10, which is pretty good if I do say so myself (I botched it with #1, thinking they would fall for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and we know what happened there). I don't expect to have the same success this time around at all. There are so many films competing for attention right now, it's hard to narrow it down.

1. Good Night, and Good Luck. (George Clooney)
2. Memoirs of a Geisha (Rob Marshall)
3. Munich (Steven Spielberg)
4. Match Point (Woody Allen)
5. Cinderella Man (Ron Howard)
6. Capote (Bennet Miller)
7. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
8. Crash (Paul Haggis)
9. The Constant Gardener (Fernando Mereilles)
10. Walk the Line (James Mangold)

[alternates: The New World, Mrs. Henderson Presents, King Kong, The Family Stone and Pride and Prejudice, all of which I feel stupid for leaving out].

Latest word on the Oscar scene is that the Board is ga-ga over GN,AGL and Memoirs. I think the final selection will come down between those two films and Steven Spielberg's mysterious project (which they just screened yesterday). A part of me wants badly to go with Munich, as it will be fresh in their minds and a very bold statement on the race (placing it as the obvious frontrunner). Then again, they may want to go small, like they did with Gods and Monsters in 1998. I would feel a lot better making these judgment calls if I'd seen these films beforehand (I still haven't seen Walk the Line and had to turn down passes to Memoirs of a Geisha today).

Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote (The last two years, they've gone with the frontrunner, who went on to win. Why change gears now?) [alt. Ralph Fiennes, The Constant Gardener and The White Countess]

Best Actress: Joan Allen, The Upside of Anger and Yes (perhaps also for Off the Map) [alt. Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents]

Best Supporting Actor: Barry Pepper, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (I don't know, we need a shake-up in this category) [alt. Bob Hoskins, Mrs. Henderson Presents]

Best Supporting Actress: Gong Li, Memoirs of a Geisha [alt. Scarlett Johansson, Match Point]

Best Director: Rob Marshall, Memoirs of a Geisha (The Board is always very wild in this area, but this time I feel they'll be a bit more predictable. I'm also tempted to say Ang Lee, but he won ten years ago for Sense and Sensibility) [alt. Steven Spielberg, Munich]

Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, Match Point (He better get some love considering he's getting "best-of career" citations). [alt. Paul Haggis, Crash]

Best Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Munich [alt. Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain]

And the rest... (I'm not going to do their ridiculous "Freedom of Expression" awards. Yawn.)

Ensemble: Crash (I'll be quite shocked if it's otherwise)
Animated Feature: Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Breakthrough (Male): Terrence Howard, Crash and Hustle and Flow
Breakthrough (Female): Amy Adams, Junebug (EDIT: Since the selections have been moved to Monday, I'm changing this to Rachel McAdams for her three films [Wedding Crashers, Red Eye, The Family Stone] this year. I don't know why, but I have a feeling.)
Directorial Debut: Bennet Miller, Capote
Special Achievement in Filmmaking: George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck.
Production Design: Pride and Prejudice
Musical Score: John Williams, Memoirs of a Geisha
Foreign Film: 2046
Documentary: Murderball

Friday, December 02, 2005

My Apologies, Keira.

So, it's Friday evening. I have less than a week until I am entirely done school (well, for the hols). It feels so good to think that and repeat it over and over again, but then I remind myself that I still have two essays and two exams to complete within this time period, and I haven't started on any of them. But no matter, I've always worked best under pressure, and I'll undoubtedly get it all done. I'm not worried about that. But I do dread the work and time to be spent on it all, having to stay up late, use up several bottles of eyedrops and force extra-dark coffee mix down my throat (I kid about that last one... somewhat).

Okay, enough of that. I'm sure reading about my schoolwork and the consequences for my own laziness are boring you readers (all two of you) to death. On to a movie review.

* Please excuse me if I make no sense. I haven't slept in two days.

So guess what I'm eating? That's right, humble pie. But not just a slice - the whole damn thing. That's how bad I feel about prematurely dismissing Joe Wright's Pride and Prejudice [B+/A-, still deciding] all these months leading upto its release. You see, the 1995 BBC version is very dear to my heart (I feel it's definitive) and the Austen novel is one of my favorite literary works ever, so you can see why I viewed this umpteenth adaptation with suspicion. My immediate dislike of the project also stemmed from the fact that Wright had cast Keira Knightley in the lead, an actress that I have had a less-than-stellar track record with. But I was wrong, my friends. I was so wrong. While I still feel the BBC version is better (it's four hours long, so obviously it has more depth), this effort stands firmly on its own. What makes it special in my eyes is the sheer cinematic vibe I got from it; Simon Langton's helming of the mini-series was straight-forward and no-frills (which is fine, it worked for the production). But Wright does awe-inspiring work here; the camera is never static, but constantly moving, following, spinning, darting, exploring - this dynamic approach involved me. I was riveted because I was being engaged as a viewer, placed immediately within the context of the characters' environment. The two ball sequences are especially characteristic of this inexplicable technique, and I simply let myself be led by "window" of the camera (those sequences must have been extremely difficult to get perfect!). The film obviously looked absolutely gorgeous, but not because of the objects and actors in front of the camera; rather, I felt it was due to the fact that Wright was so diverse in his approach. Not for a second did I expect where I would be "looking" next - his work was brilliant, varied and dazzling (Elizabeth twirling on the swing, the bizzare Rear Window tribute with the camera moving from window to window, the choreography of the camera following the dances). I only was turned off by two of his decisions (the cutaway to Lizzie and Darcy dancing alone together, and then the borderline-cheesy finale). If this movie had to be singled out for only one Oscar nomination, you know my vote would go. I also must credit the screenplay (written by Deborah Maggoch, aided by Emma Thompson), which managed to encompass and give depth to all the significant turns of the novel without turning it all into a streamlined "Coles-Notes" skeleton of the original text. I don't know how they managed to do it, but I would certainly love to get some pointers from them. As well, the casting, which initially turned me off - once again, I eat my words. This is the first film in which I liked Keira Knightley - she managed to catch the essence of Lizzie without copying Jennifer Ehle's perfection. This Elizabeth is younger, a little more flirtatious and definitely feeling some sexual tension for Mr. D. I loved her take on the character, and I am no longer apprehensive about seeing her get an Oscar nomination for this. As Mr. Darcy, Matthew MacFadyen is a little less sturdy, but his approach to the character was also interesting in that it exposed the more vulernable feelings buried deep within. All in all, a fantastic film by any standard. It made me laugh, it captured me from beginning to end. Hell, I even got misty-eyed (I blame Donald Sutherland, who manages to nail a moment of emotional nakedness so precise, authentic and tender that it made several audience members burst out into sobs). Bravo, everyone.