Thursday, March 30, 2006

#15 (Film in Review 2005)

My biggest hope for Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (#15 - tie) is for it to be one day considered away from the so-called "controversy" of its subject matter, the backlash of parodies it engendered, and the now-legendary Oscar upset it underwent. Even I must admit that it was extremely difficult to experience the film on its own terms, even back in September at the Toronto Film Festival, because just about everyone had an opinion even when it was in pre-production. To be frank, I think Larry McMurtry, the co-writer of the film, got it right when he suggested, "Perhaps the truth really is, Americans don't want cowboys to be gay". The regression demonstrated on part of the media, the general public and even some of the film's actors was considerably depressing, proving that when we are given a chance to show our readiness to embrace what is different, we choose to remain wilfully ignorant. I was particularly irked by how the film's (subtle, yet present) sexual politics needed to be watered down during the promotion, but I digress from the point at hand... Ulltimately, say what you will, this is a haunting and understated tragedy of lives destroyed by a society characterized by intolerance. I saw the film three times in the theatre, and each time I marvelled at the mastery of Lee's composed observations, as well as the work by the excellent cast of actors (Ledger in particular, is in another class altogether).

Moment of confession: I have a terrible, sometimes alarmingly spotty, memory. Whether it is remembering where I last left my glasses or recalling specific scenes or lines of dialogue from a particular film (even if it is one that I absolutely loved), images and sounds escape my memory within minutes of having encountered them. It is a quality (or failing) I am really quite infuriated by. In regards to film, I have confessed that it takes me at least two viewings to really "get" a film, or imprint it elements of it in my mind. I tend to get so caught up in what is happening, it is difficult for me to be conscious of what I am basically doing (namely being a viewer, watching a movie). It is likely to be the greatest challenge to my efforts in becoming a critic, because that profession requires an individual to work under strict deadlines and form an opinion almost immediately. Yet Susanne Bier's Brothers (#15 - tie) somehow has escaped this fate, and various moments are easily accessible to my mind. Whether it is Johan Soderqvist's lyrical, disorienting score or Connie Nielsen's mysterious facial expressions (What is she thinking?, I wondered throughout), they are all contained within a book in my brain. This is perhaps a telling sign that the film is one that is difficult to shake off after it has said all it has to say. It is a drama that refuses to pander, a tale of adversity that avoids simple moralizing, and ultimately a story that does not enforce a specific feeling upon the viewer.

Link to original Brothers capsule Review

And now, I will change gears for a bit. Fortunately, the number of good to average films I saw this year far outnumbered the few bad ones. But I must give a shout-out to the two especially horrid features that also must be singled out as two of the biggest disappointments of 2005. The first, Martin Campbell's The Legend of Zorro, was anything but; an insufferable, pathetic retread of what was absolutely thrilling in its top-ten-worthy predecessor. One of its many transgressions is throwing a plucky young lad into the mix, Zorro and Elena's son, who has somehow inherited all of his father's fighting skills (and none of his wit). Add to this a humourless villain, an end piece lifted from Wild Wild West or any action film involving a train, and sloppy visual effects: the result is a thoroughly painful exercise in blockbuster filmmaking. The other dishonorable mention is Rob Marshall's crippled Memoirs of a Geisha, a film that had tremendous potential and yet managed to offend on every possible count. A exoticized epic that engages in the worst kind of dress-up cinema, Geisha holds no thematic substance, or any attempt at arguing a politics (and if it does, it is considerably problematic, namely that the best an exploited geisha can hope for is a benevolent husband). What's more, stiff acting, tired voiceovers and hideous aesthetics only exacerbate a lame reading of geisha culture as survival of the bitchiest.

Link to original Memoirs capsule Review

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Introductory Thoughts (Film in Review 2005)

I think it was back in early January that I had pubicly expressed my disappointment in 2005 as a whole, beating to death the adage that some critics love to espouse at the end of every year. Shame on me for resorting to that silliness. I am reminded of the year 2000, curiously labeled one of the worst years by many reviewers in spite of Dancer in the Dark, Crouching Tiger, The Cell, You Can Count on Me and other masterworks making their mark that same year. The reality is that every year runs the gamut in terms of the movies; you have the masterpieces, and you have the atrocities. No one year can be absolutely termed "bad", "good" or "average". The good art is always there, if you know where to look for it (hint: it will likely not be found at your local multiplex). What I also failed to remember was that there was a wealth of films I had not obtained on DVD before making such a misinformed claim. And indeed, most of my favorite films this year were ones that I had missed out on during their theatrical runs. In that regard, I am glad I did not jump the gun in announcing my top ten before seeing those films, otherwise I'd be tearing out my hair editing and fine-tuning after the fact. Although there are some films I still would have liked to see before compiling this list (such as C.R.A.Z.Y. and Pulse [the original Kurosawa]), I think I'm ready to put 2005 to rest (especially after the exhausting awards season). And what better way to do that than listing the best fifteen (out of 103) films I watched from last year, in ranked order?

At this point, I am ambivalent about sharing my thoughts on the film year overall (such as fascinating trends, big disappointments, etc). I do not think it makes much difference me making the same observations many other critics and box office pundits have made. You know the drill - that Penguin movie (which I did not care to watch) made record-breaking numbers, a divisive film about racism in L.A. won the Best Picture Oscar, and the Star Wars saga finally took a final bow (let us hope). I will say though that it was certainly a busy, exciting calender; we had our usual blockbusters and under-the-radar independents, as well as the politically-charged bunch of productions. But most of all, what surprised me is how quickly it seemed to pass. Perhaps this is just a sensation that comes with growing older, but I can remember watching early birds like The Upside of Anger vividly (even what I ate that day, who I went with, etc). And now, it's a quarter through 2006, and those highly-anticipated titles are just around the corner. It never ends, and the circle continues...

What I am introducing this year as well are The Marigold Petal Awards. The institution's moniker may sound a bit off-putting at first, but I think every prize group has had some trouble with names and standardizing them in the beginning. And yes, I plan to continue them with each passing year. If you have not guessed it already, the title is inspired by the delicate and alluring flower featured in Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, one of my all-time favourites. The blossom is to me a symbol for life, happiness and love, while the film is a glowing celebration of music and the art of movie-making (all of them what I live for, except perhaps the love part). Once I considered the title, it stuck immediately; it seems the perfect way in which to honour my picks this year (representing organic growth, uniqueness and vibrancy - qualities I look for in a winner). Plus, at least it sounds interesting (like a Film Festival prize), moreso than "The Ali Awards" or something along those lines. The categories remain similar to those established every year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, although there will be inclusions (such as Best Ensemble Cast) and omissions (such as Best Foreign Film, Animated Feature and Documentary - I have not seen enough to justify competitive races).

I think now is a good time to unveil the ones that just missed the list - the runner-ups. Starting off is Phil Morrison's Junebug, an endearing look at the tensions and changes exerienced by a small family living in North Carolina when a well-meaning newcomer disrupts the usual order. It is a quiet, perceptive film free of fussiness or "big" moments, and, I think, much more than a simple look at the clash between Red and Blue American state cultures. Unconcerned with plot machinations and feeling the need to fill the suggestive silences, Morrison and screenwriter Angus MacLachlan refuse to judge or "fix" any of their characters, and this is what proves to be the film's greatest achievement. Then we have Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin, an effort I still am have trouble making up my mind about. But what I can affirm is that it packs a tremendous emotional punch, and even if you are put out by Araki's helming, it is impossible to not empathize with the two lead characters and their difficult journeys coming to terms with a shared, devastating childhood event. Deepa Mehta's Water has yet to open outside of Canada, but make sure you get a screening in when it opens near you in April (Fox Searchlight is distributing in the U.S.). It is a film that explores a restless time period in India's formation as a independent nation, as well as the oppressive power imbalances experienced by abused women, their only crime being widows. Steven Spielberg's Munich is next in line, and I salute him for venturing out into moral murkiness rather than moralizing as he has been prone to do. It is a difficult but rewarding film, and I look forward to a second viewing soon. Finally, there is Mike Binder's The Upside of Anger, a film that warrants consideration besides Joan Allen and Kevin Costner's acclaimed performances. It is far from a perfect piece, but it has a gigantic heart, having the ability to warm even bitter cynics such as myself. If you can leave small quibbles (such as the ending) at the door, there is great enjoyment to be had herein.

Someone, anyone...

...please buy this for me. I cannot live without it. Actually I could, but here's the dilemma. I could either buy this, or two weeks' worth of bus/subway tickets to get to school and back. What to do...

P.S. - Speaking of great HBO shows, I am really quite taken with Big Love, which I was very suspicious of initially. It sidesteps sensationalism and exaggeration (for the most part), and delivers more family dysfunction for our viewing pleasure. My only quibble is that Chloe Sevigny is - once again - playing the problem-causing bitch. Enough!

P.P.S. - Has anyone seen this Saturday Night Live spoof of another HBO treasure, Sex and the City? It had me laughing until my sides hurt. All of these actors do brilliant mimicry (particularly Christina Aguilera, who sounds so much like Kim Cattrall, it's frightening).

P.P.P.S. - Now that Blogger is finally accepting pictures once again, my 2005 Year in Review will commence shortly.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Assorted Musings

Must... update... blog. Provide... useless... commentary.

Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992) A- [Compressing four hundred years of personal and national history into roughly one and a half hours, Potter's adaptation of Virginia Woolf's novel about androgyny, politics and love frequently flirts with text surface skimming. This is the biggest flaw in an otherwise glorious cinematic experience (the equivalent of Russian Ark as visual museum piece, but in a British context), brought to life by a uber-talented production team. The glimpses into Orlando's life story may be brief and light on detail, but what a fleeting, thrilling journey through time it is! Sandy Powell, perhaps the most gifted costume designer in the industry working today, and the art direction team have a blast fashioning the characters' environments from the Elizabethan period through to the early 60s. And leading the way into this celebration of life is Tilda Swinton's extraordinary realization of this alluring figure, never once accentuating the shifts in gender identity, but internalizing them to the point where they become candid and spontaneous. As Orlando says to him/herself, "Same person. No difference at all... just a different sex". It probably does not come close to doing justice to the book (I am ashamed to say that I have not proceeded beyond twenty pages or so), but perhaps that was never Potter's aim in the first place. The film is better off for her employing Woolf's story as a starting ground to extrapolate new dimensions of this figure.]

Jarhead (Sam Mendes, 2005) B [Both the general public and critics came down hard on this film version of ex-marine Anthony Swofford's memoirs about the first Gulf War. The complaints seemed to aim at, in the former case, of the "boring" nature of the proceedings, while the reviewers focused on the lack of a context, focus or political commentary on Mendes's part. While I can understand these issues, 1) I rather enjoy deviations from the rah-rah, heavily violent structure of most war films, and 2) I don't think Mendes needed to explicitly make his anti-war statement (it's there if you look for it). The subjective slant to the events is a pleasant surprise, perhaps because the genre seeks to put as many soldiers as possible on equal terms. The desert landscape becomes a stand-in for Swofford's hollowness within, and Roger Deakins's hazy, desolate environments provide a reflection of this. The comparison made between waiting for conflict and the need to "get off" was rather ingeneous in my eyes, as well as the juxtaposing of the erotically-charged and violence. It obviously will not work for all tastes, but it is rather unique in its aims as a methodical, imagery-rich anti-war film. Think of it as a Gulf-War version of Gus Van Sant's Gerry.]

Brothers (Susanne Bier, 2004) B+ [In theory, on paper, by all accounts: this film should not work. It has all the makings of a rather distasteful melodrama, not far from Michael Bay's outlandish Pearl Harbor soap-opera with dead husbands returning from the dead to complicate newly-made love affairs. In the initial moments, I thought I had this production all figured out, believing that there was only one direction the set-up could lead. Much to my pleasant surprise, Bier completely turns the formula on its head, offering instead a complex tale that is equal parts family drama and anti-war statement. The screenplay frequently keeps the audience on edge, straddling the line between the seemingly perfect appearances and the dark secrets of human behaviour. Just as David Cronenberg masterfully explored the family dynamic in A History of Violence, by the end it is clear that Bier has also reached profound levels of insight into this damaged unit. The ensemble is uniformally excellent, but Connie Nielsen is the standout here; from the moment I saw her in Gladiator, I knew she would be able to carry a film on her own if someone gave her the chance (I have not seen Assayas's demonlover, although I should).]

Rent (Chris Columbus, 2005) C [I have never seen the original off-Broadway/on-Broadway show, but sadly I can't say the film incarnation whet my appetite to seek it out one day. I understand that in order to enjoy Jonathan Larson's much-celebrated re-imagining of La Boheme, you have to buy into the world he creates, wholly and without reservation. But the way in which the work shamelessly and ludicrously yanks the viewers' heartstrings did not succeed in winning me over. The first act is engaging and amusing enough, introducing us to the diverse web of characters living in New York, struggling to make sense of their financial, romantic and professional lives. But what follows thereafter is a mess of irrational, unexplained conflicts based around misunderstandings and mistrust. Angel's sickness is employed to create a temporary rift between the friends, which feels weak and without basis. Proceedings feel elongated beyond necessity, and several musical numbers feel extraneous. The ending is a disaster in itself; perhaps on stage such cloying sentimentality works, but certainly not here. Overall, the music is effective enough, with only two stand-out numbers among the bunch - "Seasons of Love" and "La Vie Boheme" (both are easily the best sequences in the entire film). The cast is largely decent overall, although ironically, the two new additions (not having appeared in the original 1996 production) prove to be the standouts (particularly Rosario Dawson, who captures the spirit if not the look of a nineteen-year-old). The others' performances range from solid (Adam Rapp) to out-right appalling (Idina Menzel).]

Murderball (Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro, 2005) B+ [An absolutely thrilling sports film, highly preferable to feel-good shlock like Remembering the Titans and Miracle. Directors Rubin and Shapiro make nary a ill-conceived step here, refusing to sentimentalize the lives of these athletes as triumph over adversity cliches. The film tracks a couple of years in the lives of these teammates as they train for various quad rugby tournaments, particularly those of Mark, Joe and Andy, although other peripheral characters are showcased. I especially felt for Joe's son Robert, who reminded me of myself at a young age (I hated sports and resented anyone who tried to push me into them). If there's a flaw, I felt the American-Canadian antagonism was a little too convenient to generate the film's thrust, but I'll be damned if it didn't work on me at the time. What is more admirable about the documentary is that it manages to be inspiring without a shred of manipulation. It also features, in this regard, possible the best closing sequence in any film released this year.]

Kings and Queen (Arnaud Desplechin, 2004) B [A sublimely rich emotional experience. The central character is Nora, yet the film is driven by the various conflicts and pressures created by the men in her life (father, fiancee, ex-husband, son). Even her dead husband makes an appearance, in what is one of the best scenes of the year (similar to the opening of John Madden's Proof). It would be difficult to classify this production as a comedy or tragedy, but this is the its greatest strength (a unique blend of melodrama and burlesque). Emmanuelle Devos is marvellous in the lead role, coming across as a real woman with palpable fears, desires and strengths. But the scene stealer here is the uproarious Mathieu Amalric, whose giddy and high-wire acting work as Nora's mentally unstable ex ranks among the best of the year. But unfortunately, Desplechin and his troop begin to wear out their welcome. The plot is refreshingly complex, but stretching it out to two-and-a-half hours is hubristically indulgent. Kings quickly goes from quirky to repetitive. This may seem like a small quibble, yet some more judicious editing would have made Kings and Queen a great film instead of a merely a good one with its moments. Deleting fifty minutes or more would have made a major difference.]

Sin City (Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, 2005) C [Cheap and soulless, watching Sin City was like listening to an audio commentary of characters narrating all of their actions on-screen. For example: "I look up at the bastard. He's smilin' at me with those dead, taunting eyes, and I think of Blondie. Who killed yuh Blondie? I'm bettin' it's this guy. I reach for my gun, but he's too quick for me. Before I know it, there's a bunch of guys kicking the crap out of me and all I can think of Blondie. I start laughin' at them and spit blood in their faces. Oh Blondie... I'll get 'em for yuh. And I'll rip 'em to shreds." Etcetera, Etcetera, please kill me and put an end to my misery. This is not visionary or daring work; it's just sick with no substance or subtext. Sure, the artistry behind the scenes is commendable, but it is in service of over-stylized and bombastic crap. Some have come to the defense of the film, seeing as it supposedly empowers women and is true to its gritty source material. Please. The only thing this film does is exploit its characters to get the audience off, be it for their flesh, blood or innocence.]

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Morning After...

Er. Well chums, I'm trying really, really hard to be happy for Crash and the people behind it (they were just as shocked as we all were). As much as I spew hatred against it every once in a while (and inevitably will in the future), I do think it's a film with merits and one that was made with the best of intentions (*cough*). Plus, it's not even the worst Best Picture winner of the new milennium - that "honor" is accorded to Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind. Anyways, although it's hard to swallow a Brokeback Mountain defeat after months of hype and steamrolling (has a film ever grabbed LA/NY/GG/PGA/DGA/WGA/BAFTA/ISA and not won Best Pic before?), we can rejoice in the fact that years from now, the Academy will look incredibly lame (as always) for not choosing something better (like... any of the other nominees). Brokeback has become bigger than anyone could have hoped for, and while the phenomenon has had its downsides (how many more parodies and jokes will we have to endure?), it was a pretty cool experience overall. And fans are not likely to shut up about the upset anytime soon... Ultimately, I'm just happy that Ang Lee won.

The ceremony overall? Thoroughly enjoyed it. Aside from the obvious aforementioned disappointment, I was impressed at how crisp and efficient the proceedings were, and, of course, by Jon Stewart's excellent performance as host. Maybe I'm overpraising him because Chris Rock sucked so badly last year, but I haven't enjoyed a telecast as much as this one since 2000.

The Citations for "Special" Behavior During the Oscar Telecast:

Best Line: Came right after one another during Stewart's opening monologue: "[Between] Munich and Schindler's List... I think I speak for all Jews when I say: I can't wait to see what happens to us next... Trilogy!" and "I do have some sad news to report. Bjork couldn't be here tonight; she was trying on an Oscar dress and Dick Cheney shot her". That last one made me fall off my sofa.

Celebrity who most resembles a melted Barbie doll: Dolly Parton, desperately hopping across the stage singing "Travellin' Thru".

Most Awkward Moment of the Night: Lauren Bacall, forgetting how to read and speak at the same time while introducing an utterly unnecessary tribute to film noir (honestly, who gives a fuck?).

The Lauren Bacall Award for Distinction in Speaking: Colleen Atwood, accepting her Best Costume trophy for Memoirs, speaking haltingly. like. this. for. her. entire. speech.

The "Please Get a Haircut, you're not in your 30s anymore" Award: Tom Hanks. Does he think he looks good? Or that it makes him look younger?

Most Shocking (and Deserving) Winner: "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow, which beat out the sentimental favorites.

Best Speech: Gavin Hood, accepting Best Foreign Language Film for Tsotsi. How genuinely refreshing to see someone excited to take the stage. Also Reese Witherspoon - how genuinely refreshing to see an actor feel proud of her work and not resort to fake self-effacing "humility".

"Why Can't Any of You Pronounce My Fucking Name Properly or even Consistently?": A special prize presented by Ziyi Zhang to anyone who has ever introduced her.

The Annual Travesty Committed by the Academy: Dion Beebe, for the hideous Memoirs, beating four other nominees who all did superior work.

Most Generous Bosom: Jennifer Garner (also a winner for Best Recovery after an almost-fall; previous winners in this category include Goldie Hawn and Jamie Lee Curtis).

Most Distracting, Misbehavin' Audience Members: Catherine Keener and George Clooney obnoxiously chatting thru the entire ceremony. Shut up, the both of you! ... Naw, just kidding. Do whatever the hell you want.

The "Why the Hell were You Invited?" Award: J Lo and hubby. Seriously, why?

The "You're Not Funny or Talented no matter how many languages you can mangle, Get Off the Stage" Award: Will Smith.

Unintentionally Hilarious Moment of the Night #1: Struggling L.A. actors doing an interpretive dance to the scenes of Crash during the song performance of "In the Deep". *wipes away tear*

Best Follow-up to UHMOTN#1: Jon Stewart - "If I were trying to escape from a burning car, I would not be moving in slow motion".

Unintentionally Hilarious Moment of the Night #2: Yet another montage celebrating how socially progressive the Academy is. Cue clips from Driving Miss Daisy, Philadephia and the rest... Bleurgh.

Most Overdone (and Overrated) Introduction: Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep wasting valuable time. Girls: we got it - five minutes ago.

Best Host Since Billy Crystal: John Stewart. Bravo!

Best Dressed? I have to say, I failed to be wowed by any single person this year, perhaps with the exception of Jessica Alba, who was the only personality I'd call a real pleasure to look at. The color really worked for her skin, and although I'm not sure about the bottom half of the dress, she looked pretty damn good overall (the hair, the earrings, the teeth, the whole package). As for the others, black or darker colors really reigned the night IMO. Felicity Huffman thankfully lost Best Actress, but I'd have no problem calling her one of the few stunners of the night; loved the cleavage, loved the color, loved the hair. Rachel Weisz reminded me instantly of Catherine Zeta Jones circa 2003 (the year she won Best Supporting Actress), but looked ten times better. I was worried about her after the GG fiasco; thankfully, she went understated (which is always better for her). Amy Adams was glorious overall; the striped trimming around her chest and waist was a classy touch, and the blue matched her earrings. Also wowza was Queen Latifah, who also gets points for being the liveliest presenter tonight (if only all of them were as jovial as her). Men are harder to acknowledge for fashion choices, but at the top of the list were Terrence Howard and Jake Gyllenhaal, who somehow manage to look GQ all the frickin' time. Damn them! Worthy runner-ups: Reese Witherspoon, Hilary Swank, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Meryl Streep.

The following also looked great, but it was like they were struggling to keep their tiny dresses from falling
off their even tinier bodies. I don't know if the separation from Chad has been especially stressful for Hilary Swank, but she looked much tinier than she did last year (is it because Million Dollar Baby had just wrapped a couple of months before?). Keira Knightley was getting a lot of compliments from the E! interviewers, but I didn't think she looked all that great. The necklace was a bold accent, but the dress colour was horrid, clashed with her hair and to make matters worse, she appeared smaller than one of those rotting skeletons from Pirates of the Caribbean. She would look so much more attractive if she gained five to ten pounds, just saying is all. Finally, Ziyi Zhang was cute and chic (like the bodice a lot), but it took me a second to recognize her - she looked like a ten year old kid! I know most of these actors are naturally waif-like, but it was just too difficult to look at them without cringing. I'll take all you ladies out to dinner (my treat), as long as you promise to eat. Carbs. Lots of them.

Worst Dressed? Oh dear. Well, there were some truly hideous selections to choose from, starting with Miss Dolly Parton; I totally understand that it's hard to find a great dress when you're a petite, well-endowed woman, but I don't think this dress does her any good. The fact tha
t she's thrusting her assets out like that doesn't help much either. The woman next to her (yeah, the one mixing purple, blue and green) was Philip Seymour Hoffman's date (his wife? EDIT: His girlfriend, Mimi O'Donnell). Either way, she's quite the eyesore... It hurts to put Uma Thurman here, because she's far from the worst-dressed. But she looked totally washed out - her skin, hair and dress all made her resemble a freshly-painted wall. The less said about Zhondra Rhodes, the better; I know she's an unorthodox, daring designer, but this outfit is frankly hideous, I'm sorry. Finally, Helena Bonham Carter is just screaming for a makeover (she just doesn't consciously know it); for fuck's sake, that hairstyle has remained the same for the last fifteen years! I'm abstain from Corpse Bride jokes, but she needs serious help... now!

This category is "Points for trying, but no cookie", which acknowledges effort and hands out constructive criticism. Firstly, there's Bahar Soomekh, who played the Iranian storeowner's daughter in Crash; the color
was fitting on her, but the excessive doilies around the chest and waist were unflattering - simple is better. Naomi Watts (looking positively ill throughout - was it Heath/Michelle jitters?) had the same problem - the extra frilly material across the top half was annoying. Jennifer Aniston looked fine for the most part, but the ensemble is very boring; it's like I've seen that dress on her 5,000 times. Black is okay Jen, but try experimenting with color next time. It can be cathartic. I don't know quite what to make of Charlize Theron's efforts here; every time I look at time, I have a different reaction. I certainly don't hate it, but the fluff on her left shoulder is distracting, and the hairstyle makes her look then years older than she really is. Finally, Michelle Williams's dress fit her to a "T", but the bright color didn't work for her pale skin, nor did the bright red lipstick (she looked like a clown at times).

And... I'm spent.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Teh Winners

So... they're finally here. After months of deliberation, reviewing and odds-making, it's time to finally kiss 2005 good-bye, setting in stone (hah!) the "Best" (hah!) of the year in terms of film. It's been a lot of fun (ha-- no, it really has actually), but I'm sure even the biggest Oscar enthusiast is shouting "Enough is enough!". I personally love awards season, but I have to admit that I'm exhausted and, moreover, bored. I want it all to end. Not that anyone will have to twist my arm into watching tomorrow, but after sitting through awards ceremony after awards ceremony, I'm not expecting a lot of surprises or changes in the overall voting trends. Every year I desperately hold out for upsets, and I turn away disappointed (see last year, where SAG, DGA and WGA influenced every category - yawn). So I'm trying to get myself excited; not for any last-minute shockers (although they're certainly welcome), but for the following (in roughly this order): Jon Stewart's performance, the dresses (duh), the acting clips (my favorite part), "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" (just to see how they pull off this PG version), and Ang Lee winning the Oscar he deserved back in 2001. I also enjoy the Red Carpet coverage somewhat, minus the stupid, annoying reporters (The Antichrist isn't going to be anywhere near the Kodak Theatre, is she? Please reassure me, someone, anyone...)

Prediction: Brokeback Mountain
Preference: Capote
Upset: Crash
- Although I have Paul Haggis's film second-in-line, it's still not likely. Every year, the media tries to inject some suspense into this race, pitting secure locks against films with no chance (LOTR vs. Mystic River; A Beautiful Mind vs. Moulin Rouge). Bless them writers and their noble efforts, but it's not going to work. I recently caught Crash again a couple of days ago (for the first time in a year-and-a-half), and while I liked it considerably more this time around (seeing it warts and all), it just doesn't feel like a Best Picture winner. The Academy will surely reward it in other categories (Original Screenplay, Song and Editing look likely), not to mention that they usually like the Picture and Director winners to match (Return of the King, Million Dollar Baby most recently).

Prediction: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Preference: Bennet Miller, Capote or Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Upset: George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck
- There is no way on earth that Ang Lee loses this. Best Picture is still up in the air, but this category is settled. If he loses this in spite of previously winning the Golden Globe and the DGA prize (again), the universe will rupture.

Prediction: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Preference: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line Upset: Felicity Huffman, Transamerica (Please God no).
- Reese Witherspoon is the saving grace of this horrid category, and I hope the voters feel the same way (obviously not, since they voted for all these lame nominees in the first place!). I'm really quite terrified of the thought that one day I'll have to walk by the "T" shelf at the video store and have to endure the Transamerica DVD cover screaming "Academy Award Winner: Best Actress - Felicity Huffman". I actually had a dream (nightmare) a couple of days ago that she won. Let's hope that my dreams never come true. And considering the precursors, there's a good chance that they won't.

BEST ACTOR Prediction: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Preference: Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain (Terrence Howard was great too)
Upset: Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
- It's not likely that anyone can upset PSH here. If Brokeback wins an acting trophy, it will be a for a supporting performance.

Prediction: Catherine Keener, Capote
Preference: Amy Adams, Junebug or anyone but Frances McDormand
Upset: Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
- This is one prediction I am likely to regret making come early Monday morning, but I need to throw a wildcard in just to make this all interesting (and to distinguish my list from all the others). Rachel Weisz looks like a sure thing for many reasons, ranging from her prior awards to the "importance" factor of her film (this would be a good way of rewarding The Constant Gardener as a whole). But after taking in Capote for a second time, Catherine Keener's work really impressed me; she does so much with so little, and the performance sneaks up on you. I can see this happening a la Marcia Gay Harden in 2001 (although that was a co-lead while this very much is not). A vote for Keener would represent her body of work from 2005 (along with Jake Gyllenhall, this was very much her year) as well as right the wrong of Angelina Jolie walking away with her trophy back in 2000. I'm feeling this...

Prediction: George Clooney, Syriana Preference: William Hurt, A History of Violence (but since he has no chance, I'd vote for Jake)
Upset: Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
- I really want to predict Gyllenhaal to take this award, because I can see the vote splitting between frontrunners Clooney and Giamatti. But the reality is that other than William Hurt (ironically giving the best performance in this bunch), any of these actors could take it. What pushes George over the others is his three nominations, and guilty-feeling voters will probably throw him a bone in this category. Otherwise, I'd be predicting someone else. At least he'll give a confident, funny speech (unlike Jake, who was painful to watch at the BAFTAs).

Prediction: Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco, Crash
Preference: Noah Baumbach, The Squid and the Whale
Upset: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck
- Voters give Haggis a consolation prize for losing last year. Thankfully, the lame Match Point has no chance here.

Prediction: Diana Ossana, Larry McMurtry, Brokeback Mountain
Preference: Dan Futterman, Capote
Upset: Dan Futterman, Capote
- Best Picture or not, this category looks wrapped up.

And the rest...
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Prediction: Rodrigo Prieto, Brokeback Mountain Preference: Emmanuel Lubezki, The New World Upset: Robert Elswit, Good Night, and Good Luck

BEST EDITING Prediction: Hughes Winborne, Crash Preference: Claire Simpson, The Constant Gardener Upset: Claire Simpson, The Constant Gardener

BEST ART DIRECTION Prediction: John Myhre, Gretchen Rau, Memoirs of a Geisha Preference: Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer, Pride & Prejudice Upset: Grant Major, Dan Hennah, Simon Bright, King Kong

BEST COSTUME DESIGN Prediction: Colleen Atwood, Memoirs of a Geisha Preference: Arianne Phillips, Walk the Line Upset: Arianne Phillips, Walk the Line

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE Prediction: John Williams, Memoirs of a Geisha Preference: Gustavo Santaolalla, Brokeback Mountain Upset: Gustavo Santaolalla, Brokeback Mountain

BEST ORIGINAL SONG Prediction: "In the Deep", Crash Preference: "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp", Hustle & Flow Upset: "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp", Hustle & Flow

BEST MAKEUP Prediction: Howard Berger, Tami Lane, Chronicles of Narnia Preference: Dave Elsey, Annette Miles, Revenge of the Sith Upset: Dave Elsey, Annette Miles, Revenge of the Sith

BEST SOUND MIXING Prediction: Paul Massey, Doug Hemphil, Peter F. Kurland, Walk the Line Preference: Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Ron Judkins, War of the Worlds Upset: Boyes/Semanick/Hedges/Peek, King Kong

BEST SOUND EDITING Prediction: Mike Hopkins, Ethan Van der Ryn, King Kong Preference: Mike Hopkins, Ethan Van der Ryn, King Kong Upset: Richard King, War of the Worlds

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS Prediction: Letteri/Van't Hul/Rivers/Taylor, King Kong Preference: Letteri/Van't Hul/Rivers/Taylor, King Kong Upset: Helman/Muren/Dutra/Sudick, War of the Worlds

BEST ANIMATED FILM Prediction: Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Preference: Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Upset: The Corpse Bride

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM Prediction: Tsotsi Preference: ? Upset: Paradise Now

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE Prediction: March of the Penguins Preference: Haven't seen them all, but I was quite taken with Murderball Upset: Darwin's Nightmare ....

TALLY: Brokeback Mountain - 4 Crash - 3 Capote - 2 Memoirs of a Geisha - 3 King Kong - 2 Walk the Line - 2 Chronicles of Narnia - 1 March of the Penguins - 1 Syriana - 1 Tsotsi - 1 Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit - 1

Happy watching, everyone!