Monday, January 30, 2006

T'is time.

I don't think I have to tell you not to take these predictions seriously, or (hah!) use them as a template. Forecasting is really not my thing (see my results for SAG last night - 2/5!), and trying to anticipate the Academy's choices gets more frustrating with each passing year (perhaps because I think they're going to be risky when they ultimately go totally safe, and vice versa). Can't win. Last year, I went bold and "foresaw" a total Finding Neverland shut-out, thinking the weightiness of Hotel Rwanda's subject matter would securely land it in the Best Picture slot instead. Didn't happen, and the former film got a whopping seven nods. The point? Oscar is not consistent with surprises; years like 2004 (City of God's out-of-nowhere four nods; the Best Actress mix-up; etc) are few and far-between. Therefore, we must look to the Best Director branch this year to give us our fix this year (let's hope it's something good like Cronenberg or Wong), but otherwise, look for the same old suspects Tuesday morning. So I've more or less gone very conventional this time around with a few exceptions here or there...

1. Brokeback Mountain
2. Good Night, and Good Luck
3. Crash
4. Capote
5. Walk the Line
6. The Constant Gardener
7. Munich
8. Match Point

The first three are safe, and the latter two seem likely at this point (Capote has the guild support; Walk the Line has the box office and universal love in Hollywood). But the next two films in line (Gardener, Munich) have decent chances as well; the Meirelles film has been enjoying a resurgence of sorts lately, while the fast-fading and controversial Munich might get some residual votes (remember how The Green Mile was apparently hated by everyone but still managed to garner a Picture nom back in 2000?). The miserable Match Point may make it in (no!) just because it's made by Woody Allen, but it's too little seen, with very spotty precursor love. He has a good shot in the Director race though, considering his history with that branch.

1. Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
2. George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck
3. Paul Haggis, Crash
4. Bennet Miller, Capote
5. Fernando Meirelles, The Constant Gardener
6. David Cronenberg, A History of Violence
7. Steven Spielberg, Munich
8. Woody Allen, Match Point
9. Wong Kar-Wai, 2046

The first three seem solid; the last two can be any combo of the next few names. I'm thinking that Capote support extends to Miller (who can be credited with refreshing the now tired biopic genre this year) while Meirelles follows behind with a sophomore nod. I'm not totally confident about him, but I can no longer predict Cronenberg because I am aware that it is mostly motivated by what I personally would like to see happen. Yes, I would be thrilled to see him get a career acknowledgment (it's about time), and it could happen, but I feel like Violence is going to be - with the exception of a Makeup or Screenplay nod - shut out. Maria Bello included. Why? Too upsetting, too subversive and too... well, weird (even though this is Cronenberg at his most accessible!). Meirelles feels right for some reason, and you're crazy if I think I have some solid reasoning behind this prediction. I work on instinct, which usually misleads me. Anyways, Spielberg and Allen will probably be snubbed because of the less-than-enthused reception their films received; Wong would be an exciting change, but I think 2046 will be perceived as too disjointed and self-satisfying to warrant serious consideration. It's more of a critics' darling than a collectively loved film. But you never know.

1. Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
2. Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
3. Ziyi Zhang, Memoirs of a Geisha
4. Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
5. Gwyneth Paltrow, Proof
6. Joan Allen, The Upside of Anger
7. Charlize Theron, North Country
8. Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice

I will be extremely unhappy if I find tomorrow morning that SAG has predicted this category 5/5. That's why for the sake of my sanity, I have to shake up this category a bit (if it only means throwing Paltrow into the mix). For some reason, the industry this year seems to want to reward Zhang very badly (why the accolades can't be for 2046, I don't know). Like it or not, she's in (sigh). I really want to predict a Dench snub, seeing as I see very little enthusiasm about this film or her performance in it, but she's relatively done well throughout the precursors, so I keep her in. When it comes to the possibility of a prior winner returning to the part for a second nod, something tells me it will be Gwyneth Paltrow instead of Charlize Theron making the cut. It's too soon for Theron, who already seems very bored with this process. Paltrow's last nod was several years ago, and this recognition would honor her accomplishments for The Royal Tenenbaums and Sylvia (which she deserved a nomination for, IMO) as well. But if this category goes the way of 2004, we could see any mix of players, including Joan Allen (please God make this happen), Keira Knightley or Theron for obvious reasons.

1. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
2. Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
3. Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
4. Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow
5. David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck
6. Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man
7. Ralph Fiennes, The Constant Gardener
8. Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale

First three are locks, the last two are up in the air. Terrence Howard seems like more of a sure thing to me than most, and it's because I can see a lot of voters placing him in their #1 spot. It's a performance that is hard to deny/snub after you've seen it. The only thing working against him (the only thing I say) is the unsympathetic nature of the character (a hard-edged pimp who throws out one of his, um, employees out on the street, baby and all). Meanwhile, Strathairn seems vulernable, but the fact that this low-key, publicity shy actor was picked out by SAG is encouraging to me. Still, I would not be surprised (although very disappointed) if Crowe usurps his position on the shortlist. The Cinderella Man star has done very well throughout the season for reasons completely unknown to me. It's a serviceable performance, but there was much better work out there this year. Furthermore, it seems like he's being rewarded for bad behaviour. Ralph Fiennes and Jeff Daniels (this would be amazing) are very possible nominees, but the support for their films will likely be shown elsewhere (Supporting Actress and Original Screenplay respectively) in the nominations tomorrow morning.

1. Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
2. Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain
3. Catherine Keener, Capote
4. Amy Adams, Junebug
5. Thandie Newton, Crash
6. Maria Bello, A History of Violence
7. Frances McDormand, North Country
8. Scarlett Johansson, Match Point
9. Shirley Maclaine, In Her Shoes

First three are in. Many are still doubting Amy Adams's chances, but this category has historically been very kind to performers in tiny, independent films that apparently "no one" has seen (re: Marcia Gay Harden for Pollock, Patricia Clarkson for Pieces of April, Mare Winningham for Georgia). As for Thandie Newton, it makes sense that with Crash's lauded and celebrated ensemble, more than just one player (Matt Dillon) will be acknolwedged. Newton has the best chances for a female actor from the cast to be honored (Bullock's appearance is fleeting), and her abused, victimized wife is much more sympathetic than Maria Bello's assertive sexual ferocity. Frances McDormand has somehow hit all the precursors, but North Country seems stale by now (maybe if I repeat this, it will be true?). Bah. Maria, I love you and I'm rooting for you. I will be biting my nails when this category is called out tomorrow.

1. Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
2. George Clooney, Syriana
3. Matt Dillon, Crash
4. Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
5. Clifton Collins Jr., Capote
6. Frank Langella, Good Night, and Good Luck
7. Terrence Howard, Crash
8. William Hurt, A History of Violence
9. Donald Sutherland, Pride and Prejudice

First three are in, and Gyllenhaal fairly very likely (NBR [which has been accurate for the past few years] + SAG), so that leaves only one spot open to play around with. When considering the several actors bringing up the rear, I'm thinking that a surprise is in store, namely in the form of a newcomer. One of the more disappointing developments in the award season so far (aside from Joan Allen's continual snubbing and the dominance of mediocre fare like Crash, North Country and Memoirs) is the ignoring of Clifton Collins Jr. in Capote (who gave the film's best performance in my eyes). I may overestimating the film's support in the Academy, but it just feels right to me. Langella and Howard are very possible, especially the former. It's hard to consider Howard's position in this race because of Hustle & Flow. Can he follow in the steps of Pacino and Foxx to get two nods in the same year, especially after it just happened last time around?

1. Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco, Crash
2. George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck
3. Woody Allen, Match Point
4. Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale
5. Stephen Gaghan, Syriana
6. Cliff Hollingsworth, Akiva Goldsman, Cinderella Man
7. Judd Apatow, Steve Carell, The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Although I'd love to see it happen, The 40-Year-Old Virgin just doesn't scream "Oscar nominee" to me.

1. Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain
2. Dan Futterman, Capote
3. Jeffrey Caine, The Constant Gardener
4. Tony Kushner, Munich
5. Gill Dennis, James Mangold, Walk the Line
6. Josh Olson, A History of Violence
7. David S. Goyer, Christopher Nolan, Batman Begins
8. Steve Martin, Shopgirl

I'm thinking Mangold gets a consolation nod for missing out on Director. His stars/producers showered love on him at the Globes.

I'm not predicting the tech nods, but not because I'm not interested in them. Rather, I have very little luck with those categories. I'd do them if I was playing for money or something.

I'm actually quite excited for tomorrow morning, as it's the first time in five years that I have no school on the day of the announcements. Usually I have to take a radio with me to school or dash to the computer lab to read the names on-line. This year, it's all about sitting in my recliner with a bowl of Life cereal watching my t.v. Can't wait.

P.S. (primarily to Javier and Nick) - I swear, someone up there does not want me to see The Constant Gardener. First through the months of September and October, theatrical viewings totally evaded me. Something unavoidable came up everytime I readied myself to make the trek to the theatre. Now on video, the exact same thing is happening, and it's driving me nuts. I visited three video stores today (including a large chain), and all copies (every. single. one.) have been rented out. I really wanted to see this film by nomination time (to gague Meirelles's and Fiennes's chances), but no luck. At this point, I'm ready to just blind buy the damn thing. EDIT: Scratch this, I finally obtained a copy!

P.P.S. - My poli sci prof highly recommended Crash to us in class today ("It's a great movie!"). Needless to say, I was not amused.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

My Discovery of the Month... to blame for my lack of on-line ubiquity the last couple of weeks. I recently stumbled upon the amazing, can't-live-without-it-now last week through Glenn, who posted a link to this hilarious MadTV Memoirs of a Geisha spoof (see it!) from his blog. But after fiddling around with the search engine at the top of the page, I found a way to catch up on literally everything in pop-culture that I missed over the past few days, weeks or even years. People like you and me upload various clips from t.v., movies, trailers, award shows, the news, their own lives (those are the crappy ones) from all over the place. Yes, there's a lot of crap out there, especially those home videos that feature stoned and drunk teenagers singing along to songs or making movie spoofs, thinking they're the funniest people ever. But if you master the search bar, there's no limit to how many hours you can spend watching (believe me).

Last night I stayed up until 3 a.m. catching up on Oprah putting A Million Little Pieces writer James Frey on the hotseat about his "memoir" or her other show featuring the cast of Brokeback Mountain (I needn't have lamented missing it on Friday; typical ignorant Oprah fare like "The tent scene - where'd that come from?!" or "Let's talk about the kiss guys!". Damn, just STFU Oprah, you immature, dumbass loser; get over the damn love scenes. But it was nice to see Heath and Michelle all googly-eyed; I heart them). From Tara Reid's disturbing (but funny) wardrobe malfunction to re-watching Geena Davis's Golden Globes speech, I'm in entertainment heaven. The downside is that vitually no work gets done, either university readings nor blog/review writing.

Tonight are the SAG Awards. I'm watching the hideous pre-show as I write this - the hosts feel like they have to explain everything, and that's hell for critics, movie lovers, or hell, anyone who's kept up with the two prior awards shows BFCA and GG. I already KNOW that Huffman and Witherspoon won at the Globes and that it's between them tonight. Stop reminding me. Okay, here are my predictions. Alternates in brackets.

Ensemble: Crash (Brokeback Mountain)
Self-explanatory. Big huge cast = prime ensemble. Brokeback is second-in-line, and I'd much rather see it win than Crash (Anne Hathaway deserves something!). But if you want to know my personal pick, I'd vote for Hustle & Flow, which featured heart-breaking, focused performances from all involved (not only Terrence Howard).

Actor/Leading: Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain (PSH, Capote)
Although I'm going against conventional wisdom here, I think it's time for a change (I certainly hope so). Heath would be my personal pick.

Actress/Leading: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line (Felicity Huffman, Transamerica)
Huffman is very likely also, especially because of that infernal show that I will not speak of here. But Reese is on a roll. And her movie is wider-seen. And for me, it's the only worthy performance in this group (haven't seen Dench yet though).

Actor/Supporting: George Clooney, Syriana (Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man)
It's between them, but it's the Cloonster, for chrissake. The voting body won't be able to resist. My pick: Gyllenhaal, even though it's the wrong category.

Actress/Supporting: Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain (Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener)
Aside from McDormand and Weisz (who I still haven't seen), all these performers are worthy, but an Amy Adams win would make me most happy. Michelle Williams would also be great.

Fuck the t.v. categories.

Tomorrow night: Reviews and Oscar noms.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Better late than never

I'm jotting these down while in the middle of an all-nighter essay session just to keep track for the ceremony. I swear to God, I could not be any less interested in university this year.

I'm not being very risky/adventurous with these predix, but look what happened to me when I did that with SAG. Not again.

Picture (Drama): Brokeback Mountain (alt. Good Night, and Good Luck)
Picture (Comedy/Musical): Walk the Line (alt. Pride and Prejudice)
Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain (alt. George Clooney, Good Night)
Actress (Drama): Felicity Huffman, TransAmerica (alt. Maria Bello, A History of Violence)
Actor (Drama): Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote (alt. Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain)
Actress (Comedy/Musical): Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line (alt. Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice)
Actor (Comedy/Musical): Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line (alt. Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale)
Supporting Actress: Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain (alt. Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener)
Supporting Actor: George Clooney, Syriana (alt. Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man)
Screenplay: Crash (alt. Brokeback Mountain)
Foreign Film: Tsotsi (alt. Kung-Fu Hustle)
Score: Memoirs of a Geisha (alt. Brokeback Mountain)
Song: Brokeback Mountain (alt. TransAmerica)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The lights are dimming...

Walk on Water (Eytan Fox, 2004) C [This would make an interesting comparison piece to Spielberg's Munich (which I am hopefully going to see tomorrow night), as it also tells the story of a Mossad agent (the very talented Lior Ashkenazi from Late Marriage plays Eyal) on a quest to track down and exterminate an individual who has perpetuated violence against Israel and its people. I do like this film a lot more than my grade would indicate for the difficult questions that are raised and the finely-conceived characters that it explores, but it takes way too many cop-outs in its overall journey through these elements. In an attempt to be spoiler-free, I'll just say that the optimistic tone Fox finally takes in the epilogue can understandably seen as necessary for suggesting the possibility for healing, but it is nonetheless too jarring and convenient a solution to the complexity of the movie's first two acts. Still, where the film works is in the interaction between the three major characters and how the rifts and tensions are subtly showcased through great acting/writing. As previously stated, Ashkenazi is terrific as the pained and repressed agent who buries his feelings, while Knut Berger and Caroline Peters are superb as the loving brother and sister who provide Eyal the access to completing his mission. Well worth a look for a noble attempt.]

Casanova (Lasse Hallstrom, 2005) D [I don't want to waste any more time on this sloppy, poorly-made mess after having spent two hours of my life watching it, so I will try (unsuccessfully) to be brief. It would be difficult to believe that Hallstrom could make a film more soulless and empty than The Shipping News, but he has done it. Granted, he may not have been working with a solid screenplay, but his work behind the camera is utterly lacking in any distinction (well, why am I surprised really?). The story submits a typical "mistaken identities" gimmick to propell the narrative and serve as the major conflict, but the result is anything but engaging. More insulting is the flimsy script's conceit that everyone in town knows who the notorious Casanova is except a conveniently selected group of individuals (namely his love-interest(s) and their respective families... please). Faring worse is Miller's Francesca figure, who is portrayed as a rah-rah feminist type who argues for equality and such, but has no problem falling for a sexist pig womanizer and marrying him. All this leads to the film's biggest problem - it doesn't convince us of the love story in the slightest; Miller and Ledger share zero chemistry, and their characters' realizations of intense love don't register as anything more than plot devices. Heath Ledger may have given the performance of the year in Brokeback Mountain, but I'd have no qualms putting him on a Razzie "Worst Actor" shortlist for his efforts here. Utterly charmless and obviously making no attempt whatsoever to fashion a personality, Ledger mumbles and feigns through every scene, making him absolutely intolerable. Sienna Miller shows the potential for a more full-bodied characterization had she been working with something better - I hope she finds something worthy of her talent soon, before she is written off as Jude Law's sometimes-ex (or is it too late? Dump him for good Sienna!). As for Oliver Platt, he may be the film's only bright spot (Lena Olin and Jeremy Irons are merely picking up paychecks), but he's offensively saddled with fat joke after fat joke after fat joke. What a disservice to such a great character actor (although what was he thinking signing this film in the first place!?). Trying to recreate the magic of Shakespeare in Love, Casanova ultimately attains not even a tiny fraction of that film's enchanting brilliance. Skip this garbage.]

Happy Endings (Don Roos, 2005) B [I'm rather disappointed to see the indifference that greeted Roos's latest following The Opposite of Sex, because while it does have its share of flaws, I'd still rather see formula-free and sharply written satire like this than the crap masquerading as "comedy" today at the multiplexes. Lisa Kudrow is absolutely phenomenal ("Friends" was really bad for her, obviously not in a fiscal sense, but in a creative one - could Pheobe have been any more stale and unfunny after the first two seasons?) in what is arguably the lead role, reciting every line with incredible truth and playing every action with believable understatement. Her thread in the film may be the weakest of the three, but she is an absolute revelation - I've forgotten how good she can be. Maggie Gyllenhaal also lights up the screen in the most engaging track, manipulating a father-son combo into moving herself ahead in life. She recently received a FiLM BiTCH nomination (as well as other kudos from the ISA and GSA), and I have no qualms with the acknowledgments - see it for her as well. Wow, I'm really veering off track here into actor worship, aren't I? Well, Happy Endings is definitely worth your time, I promise you. It has too many tracks/characters/ideas to give full credit to here, so you can imagine the ambition and focus of this picture. It's an ensemble we're-all-connected film without falling into the manipulative antics of similarly-structured films like Magnolia, Crash and the like. To make the ride even more fun, Roos frequently throws out biting asides and quipps in the way of captions on the sides of the screen. What you waiting for? Rent it!]

Yesterday (Darrell Roodt, 2004) B+ [A message movie it may be, but damned if it isn't utterly effective in making you understand and invest in the struggles faced by people struggling with AIDS (especially in third-world countries, where health care is just an idea, not a reality). I don't know if anything I state here can do justice to the grim realities offered by this film, so I will just say: please, please seek it out. It doesn't feel like a chore, I promise you.]

The Family Stone (Thomas Bezucha, 2005) B- [Okay, so it's a bit messy and it isn't very believable in a lot of the pictures it leaves you with, particularly its last-minute pairing switcheroo (poor Dermot Mulroney and Claire Danes are not to blame for the screenplay's bizzare, uncomfortable coupling of their two characters). Still, I find myself defending this film from its detractors because it's a Christmas movie with teeth, unafraid of depicting all its characters in their least likable moments. You may hate them all, but that's the point. Every character here succeeds in embarrassing him or herself in a number of ways, including several members of the Stone family who pride themselves in being super tolerant and loving. Anyways, even if you do not find much to like in the plot trajectory, at least bask in the ensemble acting, which is absolutely stellar. From Diane Keaton's fiery outburst at the dinner table (I've never loved her more) to Dermot Mulroney's devastating breakdown at hearing his mother's words "I'm sick", I was in love with all of them. All I know is that I want the Stones at my house every holiday season, because in spite of their nastiness at times, I know that they have bullied their way into my heart.]

King Kong (Peter Jackson, 2005) B- [Thinking back to sitting in Theatre 5 of the Varsity Cinema, I can vividly remember internally screaming at myself, alternating between the extremes "I love this movie!" and "I hate this movie!". I don't think I've felt so torn in so long (which is probably why I forced myself not to give this a C+ rating). Sure, I can understand that you must look past the "minor" flaws here to truly enjoy the grand scale of Jackson's vision and heart, but the problem is that these flaws are hardly "minor". Bloated to an insufferable length of about three hours, Kong is a little too full of itself, just as if Jackson was a little too spoiled by the Lord of the Rings hysteria. Juggling too many characters that I cared nothing about and banging me over the head with references to Heart of Darkness until they left scars on my head, Jackson left me rather indifferent to a lot of the film's first two-thirds. Sure, the dinosaur fight is spectacular, but too frequently the spectacle overshadows everything else. The only times where the film captured my soul were the sequences where Ann and Kong connected to each other (especially the incredible finale), but these moments were few and far between, interruped by long scenes of Kong going apeshit (excuse the pun) again and again. Sure, the film may grapple with themes regarding exploitation, inhumanity, showbiz, hardship, colonization, but these are sketchily treated. The acting is acceptable, although those praising Naomi Watts to the skies are overdoing it; sure, her interacting with Andy Serkis as Kong was very impressive, but how effective was she Kong-less? As Ann overall, it seemed like Watts doing her usual "acting" (although I blame the script more than her, I suppose). Andy Serkis was the most impressive here; Kong was truly a tremendous achievement (a full A+ for that). But above all else, what irked me considerably was Jackson's indulgent work, driving home the points several times in spite of the audience getting them the first time around. How many times do we need to see a slo-mo camera zoom into those oh-so-scary skulls and those oh-so-savage savages to understand that Skull Island is an oh-so-scary abode? How much longer do I need to see those bugs crawl and pulse and ooze and shake? How many times does Kong have to swipe at those planes to understand he's pissed and fighting back? While the package looks and sounds absolutely fantastic (with the exception of James Newton Howard's weak, ill-timed score), that's only half the battle done. Rather than feeling elated as I exited the theatre, I felt oddly detached, as if I had seen a first-cut needing thorough re-tooling. None of the moments approached the giddy highs of Jackson's previous films, at least to me: it all felt strangely like a tedious duty.]

Dosti (Satyen Bose, 1964) B+ [It may shamelessly tug at the heart-strings (usually a genre that does not usually find favour with me), but it has such conviction in its sentimentality and conventions that I didn't find much to take issue with at all. Part musical/entertainer and half social-message sermon, the film manages to give life to (albeit one-dimensional) characters and - most importantly - make us care about them. Any film to focus exclusively on people usually found on the fringes of society and routinely ignored by the dominant culture gets points with me, especially a production so commercial and popular in its day (it won six Filmfare Awards including Best Film). The story concerns two teenage boys living in poverty, devalued by society because of their "disabilities" (Mohan is blind, while Ramu cannot walk without assistance), but they soon discover that their musical talents enable them to make a living as street-performers. While watching it, I constantly thought of Rohinton Mistry's novel A Fine Balance, also about the suffering of the poor in India (although it takes a much bleaker view on the subject than this film does). The acting is phenomenal across the board, and while the songs do not stand on their own, at least they move forward the story instead of slowing it down. Overall, Dosti stands as a rare effort in terms of mainstream Hindi entertainment in the 60s: a story that does not centre exclusively on a love story between a man and woman (although the film has its moments of homoerotic undertones, I doubt it was the intention on part of even the actors, let alone the people behind the camera). Overall, it's hardely transcendent or subversive, but its simple, straight-forward perspective is one of its many charms.]

Hitch (Andy Tennant, 2005) D+ [It's the only thing the family agreed to watch together, so I will not take any responsibility for watching this (at least it was free). As a non-fan of Will Smith, it doesn't hurt me much to say that he is just as grating, ignorant and self-absorbed here as he is in everything else he does (probably even while screwing his equally off-putting wife). I'm sure none of you are awaiting with bated breath my reasons for hating this film, so I won't waste your time. In a nutshell: pain-stakingly obvious writing + subpar acting (excepting Kevin James, who's just about okay) + superficial insights on dating/gender behaviour + typical slapstick + homophobia mined for laughs (the two male leads kiss! Now you can recoil and shout out "Gross"!) + idiotic crisis moment + forced happy ending = nothing you should give a fuck about.]

3-Iron (Kim Ki-duk, 2004) A [Spoiler Warning. My second viewing was just as good as the first (almost a year and a half ago now). I wanted to pay close attention this time around because of Ed Gonzalez's review which I still find rather puzzling. His concern over the film's treatment of women and abuse doesn't really convince me, particularily because of that final shot (although I guess there are quite a number of ways to read it, which is what I love about this film). When they both step on the scale and it reads "0", I understood to mean that they both learned to disappear together, and she no longer needs to suffer her husband's abuse. Or even if it is a re-affirming of patriarchy and victimhood, doesn't that just drive home the fact about the reality of women's experiences around the world? It may not be a cozy view, but it seems rather accurate to me. Either way, I just know that very few films I've recently seen have left me this awe-struck at the potential for cinema to be so longing, playful and loving without being the least pit pandering or sentimental. Oscillating between raw, jarring violence and tender, quiet interaction, 3-Iron is one of 2005's few bright spots in terms of film.]


Re: BFCA - I have absolutely nothing to say on this matter. The only win which found favor with me was that of Amy Adams (and to a lesser degree Reese Witherspoon, although her speech was way too giggly for my taste). Everything else (the major Crash love, the continued dominance of Brokeback Mountain [a film I enjoy more for its influence on our backwards society than its greatness as a cinematic work], Freddie Highmore undeservedly repeating his win from last year, Dakota Fanning continuing to brainwash the industry/critics, Paul Giamatti getting a consolation victory when he has been both been better earlier and elsewhere, the incredible failure and smugness of Dennis Miller [and I thought Eric McCormack was annoying]) was just plain hideous. If this list is going to repeat all through the season and eventually (oh please no) on Oscar night, I think I might have to re-think my investment in future awards seasons.

Re: DGA - Miller getting into the DGA's preferred five was a mild surprise, but hardly a shocker. Can he take ride Capote surge of guild support to a nomination? It's looking more and more likely (especially if AMPAS decides to pass on Spielberg this year, but we'll see about that later)... unfortunately, also looking more and more likely is Paul Haggis. Crash seems to be the only threat to Brokeback for Best Picture, and that's not such a bizzare statement if you think about it (we still have two months to go until Oscar, and Brokeback seems prime for a backlash already).

Re: SAG - What terrible, uninspiring choices. The only nominee that made me sit up was Don Cheadle, who came out of nowhere with this nod. Why? This is hardly a performance worth acknowledging, especially with so many other deserving nominees needing precursor attention. But why am I talking about the words "deserve" and "award" in the same sentence? Silly me. Well, I did very poorly on my predictions, but at least some picks were chosen by SAG - I saw Catherine Keener's nod coming (although it just as easily could have been for The 40-Year-Old-Virgin), as well as Capote's Ensemble nod. As well, a lot of my alternates made it in, although that doesn't mean I'm all that happy about it (Russell Crowe). Unfortunately, that statement - "Theron and Zhang are dead, IMO (watch this statement come back to haunt me tomorrow, eh?)" - did indeed sting when reading the nominations. How on earth is anyone convinced that these two are worthy of such high praise? And if they want to give Zhang a shout-out for her breakthrough into the mainstream, why not acknowledge her for 2046? I mean, does the film even matter?

Let's hoping Oscar is a lot more discriminating in his picks. I don't think I can take watching a ceremony where I have little investment in any of the proceedings or films in contention. Down with Crash! Down with Memoirs! Down with Cinderella! Down with North Country!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Ali and 2005

It will be a long, long time until I am able to have closure for 2005 in terms of film, but I do feel like I am able to look back on the past year in other respects...

1. What did you do in 2005 that you'd never done before?
- I got straight A's and a 3.9 GPA. That was certainly a first (in university at least).
- Finally, finally read Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, which I had been putting off reading for months (!).
- At long last attempted to get my driver's permit (I failed the test tho). I'm not in a hurry to try again ("Sir, why would you drive over the curb during your driving test? That's the one thing you don't do! Where's your attention??!"). Um, FUCK YOU. Sir.
- Fell in love. (It was unrequited, so that's all I'll say on that). In fact, the term ("love") is rather debatable.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
- I'm not good at New Year's resolutions. But each time around, I do make a mental reminder to work harder at school, stop biting my nails, keep in touch with people, get a better job, be more proactive about career goals, lose more weight and start writing reviews again. I don't think any of that will happen.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
- No, but my aunt will have her third kid in March of this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
- A couple of family friends, no one particularly close to me, but still unsettling nonetheless.

5. What countries did you visit?
- Just the U.S. (Houston and Allentown). I seriously need to change this. I can't stay in North America anymore.

6. What would you like to have in 2006 that you lacked in 2005?
- More self-confidence, better study habits and less cynicism.

7. What date from 2005 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
- Nothing really big of significance happened this year. It was all one big mush of events, people and things, nothing stupendous. The three highlights - going to Dani's cottage in July, the film festival in September and my mum's wedding just recently. Oh, one date in November as well (whether it was a highlight, I dunno), but that event shall remain private for now.

9. What was your biggest failure?
- God, so many of them, don't ask me.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
- A couple of minor ailments, but nothing too serious.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
- All my DVDs? My Criterion Collection stash tripled in size this year with a lot of Bergman, Cronenberg and the like.
- My new desktop, which I got along with fine until the hard drive crashed a couple of weeks ago (grrr).

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
- Certainly not mine. My family has been fun and good and helpful and supportive...

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
- My own.

14. Where did most of your money go?
- DVDs, transit fare, movie tickets, Diet Coke.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
- Movies (obviously), my mum's new fiancee, the cottage trip, my high grades, my new-found major (the switch from Poli Sci to South Asian Studies), the discovery of new writers, the beginning of awards season, and not much else.

16. What song will always remind you of 2005?
- "Dheere Jalna" from Paheli.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you...

i. happier or sadder?
- Hard to tell. A tad happier, but not by much.

ii. thinner or fatter?
- Fatter.

iii. richer or poorer?
- Poorer, because I don't have a job right now unlike last year.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
- Living.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
- Moping.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
- I spent it sleeping in, I think. Then I decorated. Watched some films.

21. How will you be spending New Years?
- The family came over. It was the night before the wedding, so it wasn't the most relaxing time (preparations, preparations).

22. Did you fall in love in 2005?
- Debatable (see above). I did have a HUGE crush, but I don't know if it can be described as such.

23. How many one night stands?
- Hah.

24. What was your favourite TV program?
- I enjoyed Six Feet Under while it lasted (I say good-day to you, naysayers! Nothing on t.v. comes close). America's Next Top Model is a guilty pleasure. I try to get into Arrested Development every season and while I enjoy it, I never form a lasting connection.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
- The same people, more or less.

26. What was the best book you read?
- Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
- Alexandre Desplat (well, carry-over from 2004, but still...)

28. What did you want and get?
- Material things.

29. What did you want and not get?
- No comment.

30. What was your favourite film of this year?
- A History of Violence, but there's still more to see.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
- Went to the cottage. 21.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
- Probably travelling out of the country.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2005?
- American Eagle (because I worked there so long). Now I can't stand to even look at their clothes. Time to shop.

34. What kept you sane?
- Diet Coke. Gym membership. Movies. Campus distractions. Food.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
- All of them, except the ones that suck.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
- Oh, so many to choose from. We're having an election here in a few weeks, so I am trying to involve myself in the issues as much as possible.

37. Who did you miss?
- The regular crew (Dani, Sam, Durlaks, Stew, Cooney, Laura, Jordi, Jason, Andrew). All my PASS-ers (Tom, Melissa, Charlie, "Erik"). Noorie and Shab. The old times.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
- Robbie (however briefly I spent time with him). My World Lit Prof. Munir.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2005.
- I should thank the powers that be for leading such a priveleged, lucky life. I've been extremely ungrateful for many years.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
- I don't listen to a lot of music.

EDIT: Coming soon, reviews and thoughts on SAG/DGA (I know, I'm very slooow). Plus a write-up on the BFCA ceremony (thank god they got rid of Eric McCormack this year).

Thursday, January 05, 2006

SAG and DGA Predictions

Why do this at 4am in the morning? Because I want to avoid doing work or going to bed, plus all my fellow bloggers are doing it. Yes, I know I am quite behind with all this, but better late than never. I'm going with my gut in a lot of these...


1. Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
2. George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck
3. Paul Haggis, Crash
4. Steven Spielberg, Munich
5. James Mangold,
Walk the Line

alt. Fernando Meirelles, The Constant Gardener or Ron Howard, Cinderella Man

Well, the first two are pretty much locks, that much can be said. Although I am getting ahead of myself, it will be interesting to see who takes it - Lee already won in 2000, so will the guild spread the wealth (Clooney) or re-award the former (like Ron Howard)? But back to the point... after Crash's strong showing yesterday with PGA and WGA, it seems like this film is really, really, *really* beloved by Hollywood (duh, Ali). I guess I am just not eager to see Haggis's name on the list tomorrow, but it looks more and more likely that the film will end up on Oscar's Best Picture shortlist (everyone loves it - Jodie Foster, Oprah, etc). The likely SAG Ensemble nomination it will get tomorrow just sweetens the deal. Nathaniel was right. It's lasted this long (since March), so that's why it will likely end up on the roster. As for Munich, I don't think it's quite dead yet. By this point, the film has had time to settle a little bit, and the controversy that greeted its release in mid-December seems to have calmed. I still don't know how it will fare with Oscar, but right now I don't know who else to predict (Spielberg does well with the DGA). And James Mangold - I have him predicted for the spot that some other director will fill on Oscar's roster (re: Marc Forster, Gary Ross, etc). My alternates are Meirelles and Howard, although I'm also feeling Peter Jackson as well. The possibilities are endless.


Cast of Brokeback Mountain
Cast of Capote
Cast of Cinderella Man
Cast of Crash
Cast of Good Night, and Good Luck
Cast of
Walk the Line

alt. Casts of The Squid and the Whale or Pride and Prejudice [it's, again, endless - could be any film with a well-reviewed cast]

Hey, they had six nominees last year, why not again? Brokeback, Crash and Walk the Line seem like safe bets here. Good Night, and Good Luck is shaky in my mind - aside from Strathairn, who else can be immediately singled out? I suppose Frank Langella? And as for Cinderella Man, I have a dreadful gut instinct that it will resurface big-time. Let's hope I'm wrong. I also want to place Pride and Prejudice in there, but I have no room. This category is a total puzzler.

Joan Allen, The Upside of Anger
Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
Felicity Huffman, TransAmerica
Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

alt. Naomi Watts, King Kong or Maria Bello, A History of Violence

Fairly standard picks here with the exception of Joan Allen, who hasn't had the best season so far. This is the last chance she has to make a comeback, so let's hope it happens. Theron and Zhang are dead, IMO (watch this statement come back to haunt me tomorrow, eh?).

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Terrence Howard, Hustle and Flow
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck

alt. Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man or Ralph Fiennes, The Constant Gardener

I'm having a lot of trouble with this category, because I have a feeling that Crowe is going to be a major player in the end. Then again, the thought of Howard as a double nominee (wait, actually that would be triple with the Crash Ensemble nom) is too good to pass up, re: Jamie Foxx last year.

Maria Bello, A History of Violence
Catherine Keener, Capote
Shirley Maclaine, In Her Shoes
Thandie Newton, Crash
Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

alt. Diane Keaton, The Family Stone or Amy Adams, Junebug

I'm going to really mess up this category. For some reason, I'm thinking Crash goes over big tomorrow (as well as Capote). Will I regret it? Time will tell. Bello and Williams seem safe to me (although vote splitting could affect the former, true). Shirley Maclaine seems like a good pick, what with Cloris Leachman last year.

George Clooney, Syriana
Matt Dillon, Crash
Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Bob Hoskins, Mrs. Henderson Presents
Terrence Howard, Crash

alt. Frank Langella, Good Night and Good Luck or Kevin Costner, The Upside of Anger

I'm leaving Gyllenhaal out because I think he'll end up pushed into Lead (in a repeat of the Globes fiasco). Something tells me that he will have the most problems with category confusion with Oscar (not Maria Bello or Laura Linney). I'm also thinking that Clooney is in trouble because Syriana doesn't feel like a movie that SAG would embrace. Still, I'm leaving him in... I don't know who to replace him with...

I hope we have some (pleasant) surprises in store tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

After the wedding...

First of all - Happy Holidays, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year [and any other festivities/special days that I have overlooked!]. I hope that you all had a wonderful break and a restful time in between school/work/whatever. I'm quite surprised to realize that it's been over two weeks since I last posted an entry... I figured by this point, I would have already taken in all the Oscar hopefuls and factored them into my predictions/reviews/top ten. But some of you may know that the last week was dedicated to wedding celebrations, because my mother just got married! I have to admit, I truly underestimated the amount of time, work and energy that is put into making a wedding happen (as well as attending all the events). I thought during the holidays, I would catch a movie there, do some decorating at home afterwards (silly me), help out with planning too. Uh... no. It was exhausting, but I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else - yes, even a movie theatre (where I feel most comfortable!). It was so heartening to meet family members from out of town that I hadn't seen in several years and see them so invested in the happenings. I'm sort of depressed that it's all over; it was a non-stop whirlwind of happiness, food (yum) and fun. I'm writing this on the day after... the bride and groom are off on their honeymoon, the guests from overseas have left, and the lights and decorations have to come down. Seeing as I put them up, I guess it's up to me to do that right now (plus vacuum, wash dishes, do my readings and do the laundry).