Tag Archives: Martin Scorsese

[Review] – Side By Side

12 Sep

Title: Side By Side
Year: 2012
Director: Christopher Kenneally
Writer: Christopher Kenneally
Starring: Keanu Reeves, James Cameron, David Fincher, David Lynch, Christopher Nolan, Robert Rodriguez, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Runtime: 99 min
IMDb Rating: 8.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Metacritic: 84

For a while now I’ve been hearing just the best of stuff from people who have seen Side By Side. That only made me want to see it more, since this already seemed like the sort of film I would be so deeply in love with. It’s a documentary for film geeks, basically, but also for anyone else who wants to get into one of the most heated debates in the industry nowadays: film vs. digital. It’s about the history, the process, the feel and differences that come between working with digital film and the good ol’ photochemical stuff.

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[Trailer] – The Dictator

7 May

Next week Sacha Baron Cohen‘s The Dictator finally hits theaters, and if kidnapping Martin Scorsese on Saturday Night Live this past weekend wasn’t enough, we’ve now gotten a brand new red-band trailer for the film which you can watch after the cut.

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Oscar Recap

28 Feb

Finally, we come to the end of yet another exhaustive awards season. Though not as infuriating as the one of last year (in which The King’s Speech ended up stealing momentum from the far-superior The Social Network), there’s still stuff that will get people angry (little to none recognition for Drive and Shame? C’mon) and stuff that will make people overjoyed (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo winning Editing last night was a high point of the ceremony for me), but awards seasons always end up feeling tiresome, and yet I always watch them every step of the way and once they’re over I vow never to follow one as closely ever again, even though I know I’m full of it.

But anyways, back to the point, last night the 84th Academy Awards took place, and there were very little surprises insofar as the actual winners of the night, but there were a few things about the ceremony itself that I think are worth mentioning. So here’s my recap, first we’ll take a look at the list of winners with a brief impression of what I thought about each of them, and then we’ll look at the the good and bad parts about last night’s ceremoney.

LIST OF WINNERS

  • BEST PICTURE: The Artist – I predicted this one correctly and it’s not as though anyone was questioning it. When Hugo started winning the technical awards and The Artist had just 2 trophies heading into the final four awards of the night people were doubting it, but then came Harvey Weinstein and took those four awards (three for this film, the other for Meryl Streep).
  • BEST DIRECTOR: Michel Hazanavicius – Another one that was easy to predict. It was still kind of odd to see an unknown Frenchman triumphing over four American masters, though.
  • BEST ACTOR: Jean Dujardin – Clooney couldn’t prevail, though I think this one was really close. Dujardin won’t be able to transition into American films in which he actually has to talk though, at least I don’t think so, so this was his only chance.
  • BEST ACTOR: Meryl Streep – YES! That’s all I can say about this win, which was the biggest surprise about this whole thing. Yes, Meryl was always in the running for this one, but people already thought it was Davis’ award after she won the SAG. I don’t care how people say this win won’t age well and won’t help Streep’s chances for future Oscars, all I know is that it had been 29 years since the greatest ever won one, it needed to happen as soon as possible. And I’m already looking forward to her fourth.
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christopher Plummer – This could have been one of the biggest yawns because this was the surest bet there was, but Plummer’s eloquent and graceful speech made it one of the highlights of the night for me.
  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Octavia Spencer – Another sure-thing that happened and that was still awesome because Spencer was just so genuinely excited and everybody at home felt it.
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen’s record third win in this category. He wasn’t there to accept it, naturally, but Angelina Jolie’s leg did just fine.
  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Descendants – This is the category in which the Academy chose to reward this masterful film. Getting Alexander Payne his second Oscar (let’s hope the third will be for directing) and getting Jim Rash (Dean Pelton!) to show that Angelina isn’t the only one that can rock a sexy stance.
  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: A Separation – Good thing they honored such an amazing film.
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY: Undefeated – I wasn’t expecting this one, honestly. Guess having Diddy in your camp helps. Or maybe it’s just that Weinstein magic at it again.
  • BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Rango – Obviously.
  • BEST EDITING: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – One of the biggest surprises of the night. This when people first started (wrongly) assuming The Artist may not have Best Picture in the bag after all. And I loved that Baxter and Wall are now consecutive winners of this award, too bad there’s no Fincher film this year so they can make it three.
  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Hugo – Look, Hugo was my favorite film 2011 and I’m super glad it racked up so many technical wins and tied The Artist for most overall, but it’s a seriously horrible snub that The Tree of Life didn’t get this one.
  • BEST ART DIRECTION: Hugo – As well as it should.
  • BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: The Artist – I like this guy’s speeches quite a bit. All of The Artist‘s team gave good speeches, actually.
  • BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “Man or Muppet” – Bret McKenzie, Oscar winner! Yes!
  • BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Hugo – I think not even the winners thought they were ever gonna triumph over Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Harry Potter here. It’s as though the Academy thought “We’re not gonna give Hugo any of the big awards, so let’s give it all of the small ones”.
  • BEST SOUND MIXING: Hugo – Why not?.
  • BEST SOUND EDITING: Hugo – Again, why not? Sound Oscars I don’t know how to call, but I predicted Hugo for both categories so I’m happy, though I was still crossing fingers for a Drive win.
  • BEST COSTUME DESIGN: The Artist – I kind of wanted any other film to win here, but I got my prediction right.
  • BEST MAKEUP: The Iron Lady – Well, that’s it people, Harry Potter shut out from the Oscars yet again.

Overall I think I did okay, predicting 16 out of 21, which is pretty respectable.

THE GOOD

  • Billy Crystal’s opening montage inserting himself into the nominated films. This is what his hosting gigs are known for, and I liked it. That kiss with Clooney was pretty damn funny.
  • Octavia Spencer being so in the moment on her acceptance speech.
  • Christopher Guest’s hilarious The Wizard of Oz-inspired mockumentary.
  • Emma. Stone. She stole the show for me.
  • Christopher Plummer making the wives of every other winner feel bad because their husbands weren’t as awesome to them as he was to his wife. Seriously, what a speech.
  • Scorsese! (Best drinking game ever)
  • Meryl Streep. Period.

THE BAD

  • Every other thing about Billy Crystal’s hosting gig that wasn’t him inserting himself into the nominated films. It just felt too safe, too dated, too much like all of his other hosting gigs. I needed something fresher. Let’s hope next year’s host is a new, fresh face not named James Franco.
  • The fact that The Muppets were there to introduce a segment and not to perform their nominated song.
  • The celebrity interview packages did it at times for me, but as a whole I just didn’t really love them at all.
  • The horrible sound.
  • Billy Crystal’s The Help joke. It was cringe-worthy. The only time he went for something a bit edgy in humor and he was way off.

Oscar Predictions

25 Feb

The 84th Academy Awards are coming up some forty-something hours from now, so I thought I should post my predictions right now and not wait until the actual day, so I can enjoy Oscar weekend (and the NBA All-Star weekend) fully and without distractions knowing that my (hypothetical and irrelevant) votes have been cast. I know there’s bound to be a surprise or two (and hopefully it’ll be a welcome one and not a Crash-like one) but a general consensus seems to have been reached, and of course The Artist is poised to be the night’s massive winner. Now, below I will list all of the categories except the three shorts categories (because I haven’t seen most of those films) and offer up my prediction for both who I think will win and who I think should win. Without further ado:

BEST PICTURE

  • The Artist (Thomas Langmann)
  • The Descendants (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Scott Rudin)
  • The Help (Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan)
  • Hugo (Graham King and Martin Scorsese)
  • Midnight in Paris (Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum)
  • Moneyball (Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt)
  • The Tree of Life (Nominees to be determined)
  • War Horse (Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy)
Were this an old-school five-nominee race the nominees would most likely be The Artist, Hugo, The Help, The Descendants and Midnight in Paris, so you have to assume those are the only films with a shot at this one. However, while the other four do have a shot at it, it’s a very small one, as The Artist is bound to win the big one.
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: Hugo
BEST DIRECTOR
  • Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
  • Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
  • Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
  • Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
  • Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
Two master directors who aren’t expected to actually attend the ceremony. One of the best American directors continuing his masterful streak. The best of all-time (in my opinion) delivering a really different, and personal, film. And a Frenchman who a few months ago was unknown this side of the Atlantic. And, guess what? The unknown French is bound to win this one over the proven masters. Some people are saying that maybe there will be a split, The Artist taking Picture, Hugo taking Director. I would love to see that, but I doubt it’s happening.
Will Win: Michel Hazanavicius
Should Win: Martin Scorsese
BEST ACTOR
  • Demián Bichir (A Better Life)
  • George Clooney (The Descendants)
  • Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  • Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
  • Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
It’s Clooney vs. Dujardin all the way here, with maybe Brad Pitt having a thing or two to say about this. But the big wins have been all Dujardin pretty much, so expect him to triumph here. Still, the real travesty is that Fassbender isn’t here.
Will Win: Jean Dujardin
Should Win: George Clooney
BEST ACTRESS
  • Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
  • Viola Davis (The Help)
  • Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
  • Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
  • Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
Meryl or Viola? Viola or Meryl? That’s the question that lingers through the minds of Oscar aficionados. It’s probably going to be Viola though, she’s hasn’t won before (I know Meryl hasn’t won in like three decades but she’s won before, and twice) and she’s a black actress so it means the Oscars can claim diversity (which will be for naught after this week’s profiling of its members, all old white men) and, more importantly, even Meryl wants Viola to win. So yes, seems like Ms. Streep, the best that ever lived, will have to wait until August: Osage County for that extremely deserved and ellusive third golden man.
Will Win: Viola Davis
Should Win: Rooney Mara
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
  • Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
  • Nick Nolte (Warrior)
  • Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  • Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
Some people are of the opinion that von Sydow could maybe make a run for it. Well, he could, but it’s not happening. This one’s Plummer’s all the way, as well as it should be.
Will Win: Christopher Plummer
Should Win: Christopher Plummer
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
  • Jessica Chastain (The Help)
  • Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
  • Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
  • Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Another Oscar that probably already has the name engraved on it. Considering Chastain is here for the wrong role and Mulligan and Woodley are absent from the shortlist, I’d actually give this one to McCarthy for shitting on a sink.
Will Win: Octavia Spencer
Should Win: Melissa McCarthy
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
  • Bridesmaids (Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig)
  • Margin Call (J.C. Chandor)
  • Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
  • A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)
Will The Artist take this one as part of its big sweep, or will this be the category in which they honor Woody by giving him his third Oscar for writing (and fourth overall)? I’m going with Woody, because his screenplay was the best of the year, original or adapted.
Will Win: Midnight in Paris
Should Win: Midnight in Paris
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)
  • Hugo (John Logan)
  • The Ides of March (George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon)
  • Moneyball (Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan)
This will probably be the category in which they choose to honor The Descendants which at one point in the race was the front-runner for Best Picture. And rightfully so, since the script is brilliant, even if I did personally like Moneyball‘s better.
Will Win: The Descendants
Should Win: Moneyball
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
  • Bullhead (Belgium)
  • Footnote (Israel)
  • In Darkness (Poland)
  • Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
  • A Separation (Iran)
If the Iranian film doesn’t fin this one it would be one of the biggest upsets of the night, for sure.
Will Win: A Separation
Should Win: A Separation
BEST DOCUMENTARY
  • Hell and Back Again (Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner)
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman)
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs)
  • Pina (Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel)
  • Undefeated (TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas)
It’s a travesty that neither Senna nor Project Nim are here, let’s just hope that Pina can take this, even though I’m afraid it won’t.
Will Win: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Should Win: Pina
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
  • A Cat in Paris (Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli)
  • Chico & Rita (Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal)
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jennifer Yuh Nelson)
  • Puss in Boots (Chris Miller)
  • Rango (Gore Verbinski)
I just saw Chico & Rita and it’s fantastic, but no animated film came even close to achieving the greatness that Rango did.
Will Win: Rango
Should Win: Rango
BEST EDITING

  • The Artist (Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius)
  • The Descendants (Kevin Tent)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall)
  • Hugo (Thelma Schoonmaker)
  • Moneyball (Christopher Tellefsen)
The Artist should take this one as part of its sweep, though maybe Hugo can sneak in and take it from them. I would very much like to see last year’s winning team come in for the repeat, though.
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • The Artist (Guillaume Schiffman)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Jeff Cronenwerth)
  • Hugo (Robert Richardson)
  • The Tree of Life (Emmanuel Lubezki)
  • War Horse (Janusz Kaminski)
I guess The Artist could potentially take this one, too. But the Academy gave some love to The Tree of Life in major categories, which means they’ve seen it and liked it quite a lot, and even those who didn’t must have been left in awe of the work Emmanuel Lubezki in crafting the year’s most visually stunning film.
Will Win: The Tree of Life
Should Win: The Tree of Life
BEST ART DIRECTION
  • The Artist (Laurence Bennet, production designer; Robert Gould, set decorator)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Stuart Craig, production designer; Stephanie McMillan, set decorator)
  • Hugo (Dante Ferretti, production designer; Francesca Lo Schiavo, set decorator)
  • Midnight in Paris (Anne Seibel, production designer; Hélène Dubreuil, set decorator)
  • War Horse (Rick Carter, production designer; Lee Sandales, set decorator)
Well this one has to be Hugo‘s for sure, doesn’t it?
Will Win: Hugo
Should Win: Hugo
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
  • The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)
  • The Artist (Ludovic Bource)
  • Hugo (Howard Shore)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alberto Iglesias)
  • War Horse (John Williams)
The big thing here is the fact that neither Drive nor The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were nominated, and that really sucks. Now, The Artist is a silent film so the score narrates the whole thing and keeps it moving, and that’s seriously a tremendous accomplishment.
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: The Artist
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
  • “Man or Muppet” (The Muppets; Music and Lyrics by Bret McKenzie)
  • “Real in Rio” (Rio; Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyrics by Siedah Garrett)
Only two nominees and the songs won’t be performed at the telecast, a real pity of you ask me. Still that means the odds improve so that we can say “Bret McKenzie, Oscar Winner” in the very near future.
Will Win: “Man or Muppet”
Should Win: “Man or Muppet”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson)
  • Hugo (Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning)
  • Real Steel (Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg)
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier)
Right, if they didn’t Andy Serkis with an acting nod for his revolutionary motion-capture performance as Caesar the ape, they might as well reward the special effects team that made that happen. Though maybe this will be the Academy’s chance to reward the Harry Potter franchise, although they would be doing so in a smaller category than they should.
Will Win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Should Win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

BEST SOUND MIXING

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson)
  • Hugo (Tom Fleischman and John Midgley)
  • Moneyball (Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin)
  • War Horse (Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson)
I never know how to predict these pesky sound categories but Hugo has won these awards at the other awards shows so might as well go with that pick for both as it will probably win at least one.
Will Win: Hugo
Should Win: Hugo

BEST SOUND EDITING

  • Drive (Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Ren Klyce)
  • Hugo (Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl)
  • War Horse (Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom)
Again, tough to predict these sound categories, though nothing would be more awesome than for Drive to pick up an Oscar.
Will Win: Hugo
Should Win: Drive
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
  • Anonymous (Lisy Christl)
  • The Artist (Mark Bridges)
  • Hugo (Sandy Powell)
  • Jane Eyre (Michael O’Connor)
  • W.E. (Arianne Phillips)
It’s probably, as per usual, a battle between The Artist and Hugo.
Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: Jane Eyre

BEST MAKEUP

  • Albert Nobbs (Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng)
  • The Iron Lady (Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland)
I think this is a toss-up between all three of them, or maybe just Potter and Iron Lady.
Will Win: The Iron Lady
Should Win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
So that’s it for my predictions. Check back on Monday to see the full list of winners and how I did with these predictions!

Best of 2011: 20 Directors

4 Feb

A whole month after 2011 ended I have wrapped up my yearly rankings, having seen 256 films released in 2011, granting 13 perfect A+ scores and a really superb 76 scores in the A range. To remember the year that was I thought I should start a feature that will hopefully become a yearly thing for me and do a few Best of 2011 posts, choosing my Top 20 films, directing efforts, screenplays, and performances (separated by lead male, lead female, supporting male and supporting female) and doing a post honoring them with a brief paragraph explaining what made each of those 20 options so remarkable and memorable and thus made 2011 a great year for films. For the third entry in the series of posts we have my Top 20 Directors of 2011:

20. BRAD BIRD for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

I know this is kind of a weird pick, but, for one, I really loved the latest Mission: Impossible film (it would have been the 21st pick had my Top 20 been expanded), and, secondly, I think a lot of that has to do with how Brad Bird directed it. The fact that this was his first foray into live-action, after winning two Oscar’s for The Incredibles and Ratatouille, shows the man really has the goods, and here he delivers a tremendously fast-paced action flick that’s just full of huge set pieces that are jaw-dropping and it all has just so much style. It’s all done with an action-y kind of grace, with awesome scenes that are impeccably choreographed and a great sense of humor.

19. PAUL FEIG for Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids celebrates women in comedy, written by two extremely funny gals and acted out by an ensemble full of other ones, and it was a hugely refreshing and hilarious film to watch when it came out. But, for all the female talent it has, there are two key male players off-camera that also helped make it the $290 million-grossing film it is. One of them is producer Judd Apatow, but the other is Paul Feig, the creator of Freaks and Geeks and a comedic genius on his own right. This is comedy done to perfection, equal parts raunchy and witty, and with a helluva lot of heart in it, too. After naming it my second favorite screenplay of the year this is now my second ranking in which Bridesmaids appears.

18. DRAKE DOREMUS for Like Crazy

I named this film the eleventh best of all 2011, and its director gets a shout-out in this ranking too. And he has to be here because Like Crazy is all about very raw emotions being on display all the time, and it all starts with Doremus, who based it a lot on his own real-life experience and who gave his actors, Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin, just a very specific outlines and terrific direction and allowed them to improvise the drama unfolding. It takes a great director to have accomplished the kind of improvisation seen on screen in this film, as natural as it all feels you just know there was a lot of care and loving that went into it. He knows how to keep still and do a lot with silence, and he knows how to guide his actors; truly a talent to watch out for.

17. JEFF NICHOLS for Take Shelter

After appearing on the final spot on my Top 20 Screenplays, Jeff Nichols also appears here for his directing duties on his spellbinding film. It’s just a wonderfully subtle piece of work by him, really knowing how to create this outstanding sense of unease to go along with the mesmerizingly great domestic drama of it all. I just loved his work in this film, how he manages to make it just creep under your skin, making you feel uncomfortable and building a sense of horror while creating a really rich psychological examination of a contemporary American family.

16. ASGHAR FARHADI for A Separation

#15 on my Best Films ranking and #17 on my Best Screenplays one, Asghar Farhadi’s phenomenal film makes yet another appearance in this one. The direction is just so neat, and right after the opening scene Farhadi starts to shape his film tremendously, showing us the heart of the modern Iranian state while also commenting on the more universal themes this film touches upon, like marriage, parenthood, class and just an overall amazing portrayal of life. The ethical and moral questions this film raises are so deftly handled by Farhadi, it’s amazing.

15. JASON REITMAN for Young Adult

#12 on my Best Films ranking and #3 on the Best Screenplays one. Another film that’s now been in all three of my rankings thus far, and I’ve always really loved what Jason Reitman does in his films, and with Juno, Up in the Air and now this one he has a streak of three perfect films going on, and is quickly becoming one of the most important American directors around. It’s kind of a more snarky and sour film than what we’re used to getting from him, and he just knows how to execute that tone perfectly, and even though the portrayal Charlize Theron gives of Mavis Gary and the depiction of her from Diablo Cody’s screenplay don’t make her out as a likable character, he gets us to laugh at her and, maybe, even if it’s just a little bit, actually sympathize.

14. SEAN DURKIN for Martha Marcy May Marlene

Another film on all three of my rankings so far, coming in at #1o on the Best Films list and #13 on the Best Screenplays one. This is actually Sean Durkin’s debut feature, and it’s a thoroughly impressive one, just how he employs the various techniques to shine a light on the state of his lead character is fantastic, using really awesomely the time-shifting narrative, going back and forth from the chronological beginning of the story to the end, he uses that to create a sense of confusion and to make us join into her paranoia and understand how the realities are just as mixed up in her mind. Just a seriously terrific debut from a guy I can’t wait to see more of.

13. GEORGE CLOONEY for The Ides of March

#18 on both my Best Films and Best Screenplays rankings, The Ides of March gets a higher slot here because of how great I thought the direction by George Clooney, who also co-stars in it, was. You just get the sense that the man, while being a terrific actor, also has the makings of a great director, clearly having picked up some stuff after working under the direction of the Coen brothers, Steven Soderbergh and Jason Reitman. Here he shows he’s good at telling stories of smart men in complicated situations, and he creates just a great atmosphere and a wonderful sense of intrigue, as well as a kind of old-school pacing from political films of the 70’s.

12. LARS VON TRIER for Melancholia

My 16th favorite film of the year gets a nod to its crazy director, the one that got a lifetime ban from the Cannes film festival after some comments he made after the premiere of Melancholia. As always he brings forth a really unique vision to this apocalyptic story, but seeing the end of the world not in some grand way but in a smaller scope, in a very intimate way that allowed him to get a career-best performance from Kirsten Dunst, who just shines in this film, as well as create some really striking imagery to go along with the literal end of the world as well as for the inner crumbling down of the world that the depressed character Ms. Dunst plays is going through.

11. LYNNE RAMSAY for We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay is one of the most talented female filmmakers around, and after a nine year absence (since 2002’s great Morvern Callar), she was back at it again with this film, teaming up with the great Tilda Swinton, an actress who delivers an amazing performance and in which she can rely to let tell the story and just take a more backed off kind of approach. How she employs the flashbacks to shine a light on the life of Eva before and after the school shooting committed by her own son is terrific, and how she never takes the easy way out of making Eva a pitiable character is terrific, trusting her actors to do all the heavy-lifting to make the story function, which the really succeed at under her confident direction.

10. TOMAS ALFREDSON for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Another film that’s been on all three of my rankings thus far, and in the Top 10 of all of them (#9 film, #8 screenplay, now this), and I guess I’ll say it again for this ranking: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is probably the smartest film to have come out in 2011. And kudos must be given to Tomas Alfredson who after delivering the sublime Let The Right One In in 2008 now made the leap to English language films with this one. And boy did he succeed tremendously, masterfully crafting a film that never once underestimates its audience, giving us an intricately-plotted film and never once dumbing it down, trusting that we’re smart enough to follow them through the puzzles of the espionage world he and his cast and crew so expertly craft.

9. BENNETT MILLER for Moneyball

Another film that’s been in the Top 10 of all my rankings so far (#7 film, #4 screenplay, now this). The fact that Bennett Miller has only made two feature films is actually quite stunning when you consider the two have been Capote and now this one. He really does bring a lot to the table in this film, a film that was based on a book about baseball statistics, but that thanks to the wonderful script, amazing performances, mainly from Brad Pitt, and the skillful Mr. Miller who made this film not about the numbers but about the people crunching them, and the relationships between them which really made this film as perfect as it ultimately was.

8. WOODY ALLEN for Midnight in Paris

My fourteenth favorite film and my very favorite screenplay of the year; all of that because of Woody. I’m an unapologetic Woody Allen fan, even his lesser works do it for me, the guy just seemingly having a direct line to my sensibilities and to my funny bone. Midnight in Paris, of course, is Woody going back to doing to what he does best and to what he’s actually the best at doing in the world; this film is just so beautifully embedded in a lot of nostalgia, and is so funny and charming, and everything else that a Woody Allen film should be. The opening scene of this one is as much an homage to Paris as the opening of Manhattan was to the place where he made his best work. He’s just sheer genius.

7. MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS for The Artist

The presumed front-runner for the Oscar. And while that award should certainly go to Martin Scorsese, I guess the frenchman would also be a worthy winner. Creating a silent, black-and-white film that has captivated every person that’s watched it (and that I ranked as the #8 film and #12 screenplay). It works as an homage of the highest class to the Golden Era of Hollywood, recreating the charm of the films of the time, showing that he as a director is skillful and knowledgeable about his art to make a film like this, knowing how to thrill and move his audience and make one of the most entertaining films of the year out of a silent film.

6. ALEXANDER PAYNE for The Descendants

One of the greatest living American directors, as well as the man responsible for the screenplay of the film (which I ranked #7 in that ranking) and the film itself being my fifth favorite of the year. Here again he captures the essence of life every so masterfully, giving us his very unique human mix of emotions that take you by surprise; sometimes having you laugh at what’s happening on screen, sometimes having you cry. The balance between tragic and funny on display in The Descendants is one that only a man like Alexander Payne could have achieved, and the moments of emotional sincerity on display in this film, most of them acted out by George Clooney in a career-best performance, are a thing of beauty.

5. DAVID FINCHER for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher is probably one of my five favorite living directors, after delivering my second favorite directing effort of 2010 with the masterpiece that was The Social Network he’s at it again only a year later with my third favorite film of 2011 (and the one that had my 15th favorite screenplay of the year). Creating a two-and-a-half-hour film that’s unapologetically brutal and ever so captivating, getting an iconic performance from Rooney Mara that will grab you by the throat and never let you go. Every single frame of this film, from that insanely awesome opening sequence onwards, is sheer perfection, he’s known for asking up to a hundred takes of any one scene, but at least he has stuff to back that crazy request with when the results are going to be as masterful as they are here.

4. STEVE McQUEEN for Shame

My second favorite film of the year, and the one with my fourteenth favorite screenplay. Steve McQueen is proving to be a director with a truly unique voice. He’s such an intense kind of director, ready to deliver some truly outstanding and powerful films that will certainly leave their mark on you once you see them. Shame won’t be for everyone, I know that, but to me it was just spectacular to see how a director so vividly portrayed a state of addiction and an inner life that’s a living hell through his lead character, Brandon, that’s so masterfully acted by Michael Fassbender, who was also McQueen’s lead in Hunger, proving that theirs is one of the most exciting actor-director tandems in film right now.

3. TERRENCE MALICK for The Tree of Life

I ranked the film as the sixth best of the year, and the screenplay as the nineteenth best, but Terrence Malick as a director gets a higher positioning because this film proves why he’s such an exceptional auteur, and why his long, tedious and picky process of creation really does pay off. The Tree of Life is a true cinematic achievement in every sense of the word, even if you think some scenes are too long and how it sometimes didn’t feel all that cohesive a film you have to acknowledge that, you have to acknowledge the man made a tremendously special film that, even if the emotional and spiritual parts of it didn’t ring true to you, is still an undeniable visual feast.

2. NICOLAS WINDING REFN for Drive

#4 film, #16 screenplay, and now #2 director. Nicolas Winding Refn is a man with such a unique and incredibly awesome visual style that Drive is just a masterpiece pretty much solely because of that, and if the aforementioned director-actor tandem of McQueen-Fassbender is one that really gets me excited, so too is the one of Refn-Gosling, since the two really seem to have a lot of chemistry and trust in each other in this one. How he uses violence is just outstanding, maybe it’s too extreme for some, but it was just right for me, and as shocking as it may be, it’s not gratuitous, but used by the director to elicit reactions from his audience, and that, alongside some of the other heavily-stylized techniques he employs, are used to really add a lot to the end product.

1. MARTIN SCORSESE for Hugo

Of course Martin Scorsese was going to top this ranking for me; Hugo I have already named as the best film of 2011, and the screenplay for it I ranked eleventh in those rankings. Considering he’s my favorite director all-time, this was a no-brainer. Also considering he crafted another masterpiece, but this time did so straying far away from his comfort zone, making a film aimed at kids, in 3D no less. But this is also probably the most personal film the legend has ever made, one he did so that his young daughter Francesca could finally see a film of his, one that he did as a beautiful love letter to the art of cinema himself, one that he’s incredibly passionate about and does so much to preserve. A clear #1 for me. All 5 of the Oscar nominees are in my Top 10, but if I ran the Oscars, only two of them, Scorsese and Malick, would have actually gotten a nominated, here’s hoping Scorsese can pull of the win against Hazanavicius.

Hugo

27 Jan

Title: Hugo
Year: 2011
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: John Logan, based on the novel by Brian Selznick
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloë Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ray Winstone, Jude Law, Christopher Lee, Helen McCrory, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emily Mortimer, Frances de la Tour, Richard Griffiths
MPAA Rating: PG, mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking
Runtime: 126 min
IMDb Rating: 8.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metacritic: 83

 

It’s taken me forever, I know, but I finally got to see Hugo, two days after it racked up the most Oscar nominations of any film, but now I’ve seen the film and it was seriously worth the wait. People were kind of skeptical when Martin Scorsese announced his next film would be an adaptation of a popular novel aimed mostly at children, and done in 3D at that, one that would carry a PG rating (the first film of his to do so since 1993’s The Age of Innocence), one that would be the director’s first film without his recent muse, Leonardo DiCaprio, since 1999’s Bringing Out the Dead and one that, it would seem, was as far off from the legendary director’s comfort zone as you could imagine. And it’s true, this is unlike anything the man has ever done, prompted by his youngest daughter, Francesca, do finally make a film that she could see and enjoy, and yet, in many ways, this is an incredibly personal film from my favorite director of all-time. It’s also easily the best film of all 2011.

I say Hugo is in many ways the most heartfelt and personal Scorsese film ever because it’s just bursting through the seams with the unabashed love for the art of cinema that defines the man. Part of the reason as to why Martin Scorsese is my favorite director ever is not only because he makes the best films one could hope for, which he does, but also because it’s infectious to see how he gets when he starts talking about films from other people, he’s like a little boy speaking about his favorite toy, just super excited, talking a thousand miles an hour; a film-lover first and a film-maker second. This love has always been evident, especially in his founding of The Film Foundation back in 1990, a non-profit organization dedicated to film preservation, something incredibly close to Mr. Scorsese’s heart, but in Hugo he manages to finally make a love letter to the world’s greatest art form, a beautiful and elegant film that has an innocence and heart that beat with his love for cinema, one of the characters here is even the inventor of film himself, Georges Méliès.

Wondrous is the word that probably best helps define Hugo, especially if you, like me, are a true cinephile. Because if you have even the slightest sense of love for films then this film will certainly do the trick for you; it’s like you have a guy who’s been loving films for half a century, who has studied every era of it and is insanely well-versed in it and who now has decided to create a film himself that encapsulates that love for the magic of an artform he has helped define himself; this is a film for us to treasure for years to come. Watching Hugo is an experience in and of itself, it’s thoroughly magical, purely innocent (which is a quality that’s insanely hard to pull off in today’s world) and helmed by the only man who could have been up to the task.

Unabashed love for film history mixed in with personal history from the director results in a beautiful film that’s serious and yet open to the fun of life at the same time, an adventure centered around the resourceful titular boy, played incredibly well by the young Asa Butterfield, a boy on a quest to unlock a secret his father left him some time ago. It’s like a poem with beautiful verses, a look at the power of cinema, the possibilities it gives us in life and the magic of it all; a masterpiece that is patient with its story, letting it come through slowly but beautifully, melding the gorgeous visuals with some truly heartfelt moments. And yet it’s still a children’s movie, a fable that will be enjoyed by (some) kids while (every) grown-up that takes them to theaters will be in awe about how the most talented cinephile has been given the tools and budget to make a film about films. It’ll be a while before I become a father myself, but for some reason I know this will be one of the first films I show my firstborn, and I can’t wait.

It’s really neat, too, to see Martin Scorsese, he of super violent gangster movies with the awesome soundtracks, produce a film that’s so emotionally strong. It comes from his love of cinema, from his love of his daughter who has helped him see the world, and thus films, through a different, more kinetic set of eyes. Hugo lives in Paris during the 1930’s, teaching himself about the workings of several mechanical artifacts, a love of which that comes from his family, his uncle being in charge of the clocks at a Parisian train station and his father having spent most of his life trying to complete an automaton, which is a self-operating robot. Hugo’s dad, however, dies before ever completing his work on the automaton. Instead of going to live as an orphan, Hugo stays hidden in the train station, the ladders and passages and clocks of the locale being his new home as he feeds himself off croissants he gets to pick off shops and sneaks into the movies whenever he can.

The performance that the young Asa Butterfield delivers, by the way, is another thing of wonder, and how he didn’t garner up more awards traction I don’t really get, he is the soul of the movie, and his interactions with the rest of the incredibly talented cast are awesome to watch. That cast includes Sacha Baron Cohen in a scene-stealing role as the Station Inspector who’s always on Hugo’s tail, chasing him through the traveler-crowded floors of the station and from whom Hugo always eventually escapes, getting refuge above the station’s roof. There’s also Jude Law as Hugo’s father seen through flashbacks, leaving behind his notebooks on how to finish the automaton. And the great Chloë Moretz, another insanely talented young actress, as Isabelle, a curious girl who also lives in the station and who Hugo quickly befriends.

There also is, of course, a great performance by the great Ben Kingsley as Méliès himself, now a grumpy old man who owns a toy shop in the station, something that did actually happen in real life. Hugo, obviously, doesn’t know who this man is, he doesn’t know he was the magician who pioneered film in order to trick his audiences, he doesn’t know he is the original inventor of automatons. The first half of the film (it runs for a bit over two hours) is all about Hugo and how he goes through life at the station, and how Mr. Scorsese uses technology to create the station and his shots of Paris is stunning, the art direction by Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo is impeccable as well, as is the cinematography by Robert Richardson. And watching the adventures of Hugo is tremendous fun and would make for a great film as it is, but it’s once we get to the second half of this film that this becomes the masterpiece that it is.

That second half of the film is more concerned with the life of Méliès, going back to showing parts of his career, of the early history of film that any true cinephile will go gaga for considering this is being done Martin Scorsese, who not only is a lover of film, but who, as we can evidence from the documentaries he has made, knows how to tell a real person’s story. We see how the old man now working at a toy shop once helped create the world’s first special effects, helped pioneer cinema and we see him then realize that he’s not been forgotten, but that, after being driven out of the cinema and stumbling into poverty, he was widely celebrated as a master of his craft around the world. There are some scenes in which Mr. Kingsley just shines, heartbreaking to see this man so sure that his work had been destroyed, that he had been forgotten.

It’s amazing the effect Hugo has, what it does with your imagination, how many times you’ll be left in literal awe, your jaw dropped, at what an old-school guy like Martin Scorsese is doing with the newest of technologies. It is the most beautiful ode to film imaginable, and even if it didn’t count with this amazing technology, it would be amazing just based on the story it presents, it’s a film made for kids that has two of the best performances given by younger actors in the past decade or so, and that in its young characters has kids that are actually smart and not just there to make poop jokes like in most family films we get today. Everything about this film is sheer perfection, from the directing, to the acting, to the editing (done as always by Mr. Scorsese’s usual collaborator, Thelma Schoonmaker), to the art direction, cinematography, costume design and sound. Hugo is the best film of 2011, and here’s hoping the Academy too recognizes that.

Grade: A+

Oscar Nominations

24 Jan

Early this morning, the nominees for the 84th Academy Awards were announced and, as it’s usually the case with these things, there were some good things, some bad things, and some truly horrible ones too. Below I’ll post the entire slew of nominees announced this morning, a brief commentary on how that category panned out this morning and how I personally did with my nomination predictions I posted yesterday.

BEST PICTURE

  • The Artist (Thomas Langmann)
  • The Descendants (Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Scott Rudin)
  • The Help (Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan)
  • Hugo (Graham King and Martin Scorsese)
  • Midnight in Paris (Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum)
  • Moneyball (Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt)
  • The Tree of Life (Nominees to be determined)
  • War Horse (Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy)

Most people were predicting six or seven nominees in this category. I predicted eight, though one of my eight, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was left out, which is one of the snubs that pained me the most this morning. In its place was The Tree of Life, showing how many people love Terrence Malick’s masterpiece. And grabbing that last spot is Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which had been pretty much shut out this awards season but got some Oscar love, getting a ninth slot that people were predicting, if it happened, would go to Bridesmaids. I went 7 of 9 here.

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
  • Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
  • Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
  • Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
  • Martin Scorsese (Hugo)

Much like in Best Picture, here again is The Tree of Life presumably taking the slot that should have gone to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘s David Fincher. 4 out of 5 predicted correctly here for me.

BEST ACTOR

  • Demián Bichir (A Better Life)
  • George Clooney (The Descendants)
  • Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  • Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
  • Brad Pitt (Moneyball)

Here was the thing I hated the most about the Oscar nominations. The Academy failed to nominate the best male performance of the year by leaving out Michael Fassbender for Shame, proving that they are prudes that don’t mind female nudity but cringe at the sight of male nakedness. This was the one snub that got me mad this morning. It’s cool to see Oldman get his due, and a name like Bichir’s included, but all I think is how mad I am about Fassbender’s snub. 4 out of 5 here.

BEST ACTRESS

  • Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs)
  • Viola Davis (The Help)
  • Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
  • Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
  • Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

In my predictions yesterday, I said that either Glenn Close or Tilda Swinton, the presumed fourth and fifth slots of this rarce would fall off thanks to an upset at the hands of Rooney Mara. I was half-right since that indeed happened but the one that fell off was Swinton and not Close, like I had predicted. Still, super happy to see Mara here. 4 out of 5 in this one, too.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
  • Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
  • Nick Nolte (Warrior)
  • Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  • Max von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)

One of the biggest upsets of the morning happened here, as Albert Brooks for Drive, the presumed second-place by many, was snubbed in favor of Max von Sydow, riding the wave of support that also got Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close into the Best Pic category. Still, this category at least got the best Twitter interventions from Patton Oswalt, another snubbee. Yet another 4 for 5 for me here.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Bérénice Bejo (The Artist)
  • Jessica Chastain (The Help)
  • Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
  • Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs)
  • Octavia Spencer (The Help)

4 out 5 correctly predicted here, as Janet McTeer gets in instead of The Descendants‘ Shailene Woodley. Still, nothing too unexpected here.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
  • Bridesmaids (Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig)
  • Margin Call (J.C. Chandor)
  • Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
  • A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)

I went 3 for 5 here. Artist, Midnight and Bridesmaids were locks. And the final two slots I thought were down to about six films, Margin Call and A Separation included, I just predicted the wrong ones. Still, pretty happy about J.C. Chandor’s name being called out here, he’s an incredibly promising talent.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)
  • Hugo (John Logan)
  • The Ides of March (George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon)
  • Moneyball (Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan)

3 for 5 in this category. In my predictions I said that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Ides of March could take the fifth slot which I had predicted for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which was again snubbed, the fact that both got in, at the expense of The Help, doesn’t spell great things for the chances of Tate Taylor’s film at the Best Pic trophy.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • Bullhead (Belgium)
  • Footnote (Israel)
  • In Darkness (Poland)
  • Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
  • A Separation (Iran)

4 for 5 here. Sad about the lack of Pina here, but at least it got into the Docu race (about which I’m really mad about for another reason).

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Hell and Back Again (Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner)
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman)
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs)
  • Pina (Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel)
  • Undefeated (TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas)

Just 2 out of 5 here. The fact that Project Nim wasn’t included in the shortlist is absolutely atrocious to me, one of the most horrible things the Academy announced this morning. At least Pina got in.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • A Cat in Paris (Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli)
  • Chico & Rita (Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal)
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jennifer Yuh Nelson)
  • Puss in Boots (Chris Miller)
  • Rango (Gore Verbinski)

3 out of 5 here. Really shocked about not seeing The Adventures of Tintin here. Ditto for Cars 2, which I really don’t mind not being here, but thought it would sneak in just for being a Pixar film (this is the first time a Pixar film isn’t up for the award and isn’t nominated for any kind of Oscar). Hoping this means this award is Rango‘s already.

BEST EDITING

  • The Artist (Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius)
  • The Descendants (Kevin Tent)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall)
  • Hugo (Thelma Schoonmaker)
  • Moneyball (Christopher Tellefsen)

I was awfully close to getting my first 5-for-5 category here. But in my predictions I went with my fanboy heart and predicted Drive instead of Moneyball. Still, good to see Thelma Schoonmaker here as well as last year’s winning team of Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • The Artist (Guillaume Schiffman)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Jeff Cronenwerth)
  • Hugo (Robert Richardson)
  • The Tree of Life (Emmanuel Lubezki)
  • War Horse (Janusz Kaminski)

Finally I predicted all five of the nominees here correctly. Probably a battle all the way between Schiffman and Lubezki.

BEST ART DIRECTION

  • The Artist (Laurence Bennet, production designer; Robert Gould, set decorator)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Stuart Craig, production designer; Stephanie McMillan, set decorator)
  • Hugo (Dante Ferretti, production designer; Francesca Lo Schiavo, set decorator)
  • Midnight in Paris (Anne Seibel, production designer; Hélène Dubreuil, set decorator)
  • War Horse (Rick Carter, production designer; Lee Sandales, set decorator)

3 for 5 here. I thought Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was an absolute lock in this category, and I also predicted The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but was quite unsure about that one. War Horse I could see here, but Midnight in Paris was more of a surprise to me, though a very welcome one.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • The Adventures of Tintin (John Williams)
  • The Artist (Ludovic Bource)
  • Hugo (Howard Shore)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alberto Iglesias)
  • War Horse (John Williams)

Double-dip by John Williams here. Still, all I can think about here is how infuriating the lack of Reznor and Ross for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson)
  • Hugo (Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning)
  • Real Steel (Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg)
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier)

3 for 5 here. Kind of surprised to see Real Steel pop in instead of The Tree of Life, especially considering how much love the Malick film had managed to score in more important categories.

BEST SOUND MIXING

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson)
  • Hugo (Tom Fleischman and John Midgley)
  • Moneyball (Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin)
  • War Horse (Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson)

I never know what I’m doing predicting these categories, so a 2-for-5 showing isn’t that shocking. Good to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo here though.

BEST SOUND EDITING

  • Drive (Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Ren Klyce)
  • Hugo (Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty)
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl)
  • War Horse (Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom)

4 for 5 here, I don’t know why I was so sure Super 8 was the front-runner here. Just insanely happy about Drive.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Anonymous (Lisy Christl)
  • The Artist (Mark Bridges)
  • Hugo (Sandy Powell)
  • Jane Eyre (Michael O’Connor)
  • W.E. (Arianne Phillips)

4 for 5 again here, strange not seeing The Help here, I guess it means its support isn’t as strong as we once thought.

BEST MAKEUP

  • Albert Nobbs (Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng)
  • The Iron Lady (Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland)

2 for 3 here, I was super sure Albert Nobbs wasn’t going to get in here, but after the love thrown at Close and McTeer I guess this was expected.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • “Man or Muppet” (The Muppets; Music and Lyrics by Bret McKenzie)
  • “Real in Rio” (Rio; Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown, Lyrics by Siedah Garrett)

Don’t know why there were only 2 and not 5 nominees here, so I’m not really counting it for my predictions.

And that’s it for the Oscar nominations. I went 72 for 102 in the predictions I made, which I guess isn’t all that bad, as the date comes closer I’ll make my actual predictions for who I think will win, but for now let us just think about these nominations. Here are my picks for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

The Good:

  • Hugo leading all nominees with 11 (the film with the most nominations has won Best Picture 15 of the last 20 years).
  • Woody in for Best Director.
  • Gary Oldman finally getting his nomination.
  • Rooney Mara in for Best Actress.
  • J.C. Chandor getting a nod.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes getting a nod somewhere.

The Bad:

  • No extra Dragon Tattoo. I mean, Mara getting in there and a slew of technical nods is awesome indeed, but no Fincher for Director or the film not getting into the big race was hurtful. But those categories were crowded. The one that really stung was the omission of its score. I’m putting this under Bad and not Ugly because at least Rooney got her due.
  • Tilda Swinton out of Best Actress. True, it was to give a spot to Mara (who gave a better performance), but Swinton’s performance was better than Glenn Close’s who did get in and should have been the one scrapped in order to make room for the youngster of the bunch.
  • Pina not included in the Best Foreign Language race. Bad and not Ugly because at least it’s in the Best Docu category.
  • No The Adventures of Tintin in the Best Animated Feature race.

The Ugly:

  • No Fassbender!!!
  • No Project Nim.
  • No Drive (except for a sole technical nod).
  • No more (Muppets) Original Song nominations.

Predicting the Oscar Nominations

24 Jan

I still have a handful of 2011 releases to catch up with (namely: Submarine, Daydream Nation, Kaboom, Crazy Stupid Love, Arthur Christmas and Hugo) and while I wanted to make my Oscar nominations predictions post having seen all of them (especially Hugo since its poised to be a major Oscar player) the nominations come out tomorrow so I’ll have to post them now. Below is how I think the categories announced tomorrow morning will shape up (in order of likelihood of having their names called out), with a brief paragraph following them stating how I think that race is shaping up. Please let it be known that this not my personal preference of films, performances or technical achievements, just how I think the Academy will cast their votes (which, as we know, is something they get wrong probably more than they do right), and my personal Best of 2011 posts will come as soon as I watch those six 2011 releases I’m still waiting to catch up with. This will probabyl be a really long post but, without further ado, here are my predictions of tomorrow’s Oscar nominations:

BEST PICTURE

  1. The Artist
  2. The Descendants
  3. Hugo
  4. Midnight in Paris
  5. The Help
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  7. Moneyball
  8. War Horse

The first 5 films are absolute locks, and the actual trophy will be fought over by the handful of them alone. It’s beyond that that it gets tricky, since under the new Oscar rules anywhere from 5 to 10 Best Picture nominees can arise, depending on the percentage of the votes they get on the nomination ballots. The contenders for those potential five other slots are known, but how many slots there will actually be is too tough to call. I’m predicting an extra three slots, though maybe War Horse will fall off and there will be only 7 nominees, or maybe the eighth slot will go to The Tree of Life or Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, or a fun pick like Bridesmaids or an edgy one like Drive. Who knows.

BEST DIRECTOR

  1. Martin Scorsese (Hugo)
  2. Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
  3. Alexander Payne (The Descendants)
  4. Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
  5. David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

The first three names are all locks, and I’m guessing so is Woody. The fifth slot is trickier, I’m going with Fincher because I love him and I think he should be there, but don’t be surprised if the name called out is Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Tate Taylor (The Help) or Steven Spielberg (War Horse)

BEST ACTOR

  1. George Clooney (The Descendants)
  2. Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  3. Brad Pitt (Moneyball)
  4. Michael Fassbender (Shame)
  5. Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)

The first four slots, I think, are pretty much locked. The fifth one is a bit tricker, with Oldman and DiCaprio (for J. Edgar) battling it out, and even Demián Bichir (for A Better Life) and Michael Shannon (for Take Shelter) trying to get in there. I’m predicting Oldman because his is the better performance, the better film, and he’s incredibly overdue.

BEST ACTRESS

  1. Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
  2. Viola Davis (The Help)
  3. Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)
  4. Tilda Swinton (We Need to Talk About Kevin)
  5. Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

The first three are absolute locks, and the general consensus is that the final two slots will go to Swinton and Glenn Close (for Albert Nobbs). I’m guessing one of them will be snubbed, probably Close, and Mara will get in and be the fresh face in the competition (though don’t count out Charlize Theron for Young Adult to maybe pull off that upset).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  1. Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  2. Albert Brooks (Drive)
  3. Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn)
  4. Jonah Hill (Moneyball)
  5. Nick Nolte (Warrior)

This is pretty much the general consensus for this category (which has already been won by Plummer, so whatever). If there’s an upset look for it to be at the expense of either Hill or Nolte, and by the hands of either Patton Oswalt for Young Adult (which would be insanely awesome), Ben Kingsley for Hugo (which would make the film a huge threat for the Best Picture crown) or Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  1. Octavia Spencer (The Help)
  2. Berenice Bejo (The Artist)
  3. Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids)
  4. Jessica Chastain (The Help)
  5. Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)

Much like the male equivalent of this award, this one already has a name engraved in the golden man. Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) is the only name I could forsee getting in here, though I would kill for a Carey Mulligan mention (for either Shame or Drive).

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  1. Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
  2. The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius)
  3. Bridesmaids (Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo)
  4. Young Adult (Diablo Cody)
  5. Beginners (Mike Mills)

I’m torn here for the final two slots, Thomas McCarthy for Win Win could easily be there, ditto for Will Reiser for 50/50, Asghar Farhadi for A Separation and J.C. Chandor for Margin Call. I always love this category.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  1. The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash)
  2. Moneyball (Aaron Sorkin, Steve Zaillian and Stan Chervin)
  3. Hugo (John Logan)
  4. The Help (Tate Taylor)
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Steve Zaillian)

I think the four first slots are in for sure, but the fifth could also go to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or The Ides of March.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  1. A Separation (Iran)
  2. In Darkness (Poland)
  3. Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
  4. Pina (Germany)
  5. Footnote (Israel)

Other than A Separation (which I gave an A to) and Pina (A-) I haven’t seen any of the other remaning seven films fighting for the five available slots here, so this is pretty much guesswork.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  1. Project Nim
  2. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
  3. Pina
  4. We Were Here
  5. Bill Cunningham New York

This is also pretty much guesswork in this category, but so long as both Pina and Project Nim get in here (and one of them wins the whole enchilada) I’ll be good with this.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  1. Rango
  2. The Adventures of Tintin
  3. Puss in Boots
  4. Cars 2
  5. Kung Fu Panda 2

Cars 2 shouldn’t get in here, but its Pixar so it probably will. Instead, a nod for Winnie the Pooh would be quite nice to see.

BEST EDITING

  1. The Artist
  2. Hugo
  3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  4. The Descendants
  5. Drive

I’m really hoping the Academy shows Drive some love tomorrow, and this would be a really nice nomination to do it with if they can’t go for the Best Pic nod. War Horse or Moneyball, though, are probably safer bets here.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  1. The Artist
  2. The Tree of Life
  3. Hugo
  4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  5. War Horse

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Moneyball could get in here if the love for War Horse is even weaker than it already seems to be.

BEST ART DIRECTION

  1. Hugo
  2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  3. The Artist
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The first three films are total locks here. The rest is me just guessing, though it would make sense to see those other two films here, though War Horse, Jane Eyre, Anonymous and The Tree of Life could show up just as easily.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  1. The Artist
  2. Hugo
  3. War Horse
  4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  5. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Artist has this one in the bag since the score helps narrate the silent film. The rest of the field is quite tough to predict, I’m guessing Hugo and War Horse are definitely in there, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has the best score of the year so I’m hoping it’ll get in there too, and for the last slot I picked Desplat’s score for the 9/11 film over Dario Marianelli’s for Jane Eyre.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  2. Hugo
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  4. The Tree of Life
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger

Transformers: Dark of the Moon or X-Men: First Class could get in here as well, but I’m predicting a trio of really good blockbusters to go along with a couple of serious awards contenders.

BEST SOUND MIXING

  1. Hugo
  2. Super 8
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  4. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  5. War Horse

This is where the big, loud summer blockbusters get recognized, so don’t be surprised if Transformers: Dark of the Moon or Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides get in here.

BEST SOUND EDITING

  1. Super 8
  2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  3. Hugo
  4. War Horse
  5. Drive

I have really no idea how this one will go, I just want Drive nominations.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  1. The Artist
  2. Hugo
  3. Jane Eyre
  4. The Help
  5. W.E.

I’m pretty confident in the first four films I have predicted here. The fifth slot I’m giving to Madonna’s film because the costumes were the only great thing about it, though maybe Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 will also be here or, a personal favorite of mine, Midnight in Paris which combined contemporary and period costumes splendidly.

BEST MAKEUP

  1. The Iron Lady
  2. Hugo
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

I’m not predicting The Artist here. If anything Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life would be more deserving of an upset nod.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  1. “The Living Proof”  (The Help)
  2. “Life’s a Happy Song” (The Muppets)
  3. “Lay Your Head Down” (Albert Nobbs)
  4. “Pictures in My Head” (The Muppets)
  5. “Hello Hello” (Gnomeo and Juliet)
Two songs from The Muppets for sure, and I’m guessing they won’t snub Elton John.

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff

11 Jan

Title: Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff
Year: 2011
Director: Craig McCall
Writer: –
Starring: Jack Cardiff, Martin Scorsese, Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Runtime: 86 min
IMDb Rating: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Metacritic: 71

 

Jack Cardiff’s status in cinematic history is legendary. He started as a child actor in silent films as early as 1918. But, most importantly, he was a cinematographer in over eighty titles, his first project being made in the mid-thirties and his last in 2007, two years before his death in 2009. A four-time Oscar nominee (and one time winner, for Black Narcissus) as well as the winner of an honorary Oscar in 2001 (the first cinematographer to receive one). The man’s career spanned so many cinematic moments, from the silent era, to his early experiments in Technicolor photography that altered the look of films from there on; a truly legendary man. Craig McCall’s film takes a look at the man’s great body of work, with interviews with many great contemporaries of him that help examine how he became such an influential figure in filmmaking, revolutionizing much of it with his mastery of the Technicolor process.

Even though Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff doesn’t really give us all that much insight into the “life” part of the title, since we don’t really learn all that much outside his life outside of the “work” environment, this is still a truly terrific film to watch, and by the end of it the stuff he did in the movies will be really awesome for you to watch, truly required viewing for any movie-lover. And it’s awesome that we have these documentaries about a cinematographer, because, other than real cinephiles, people don’t know the names of cinematographers, not even the Roger Deakins and Conrad L. Hall’s, they just see them as names rolling by in the credits and as people accepting awards at the Oscars they have to go through to get to the real movie stars. It’s awesome that there’s a film to give a look at the life of one of the greatest ever.

It’s awesome, too, that Jack Cardiff was such a quiet man in a business full of egomaniacs so ready to boast about their accomplishments, even as Mr. McCall approaches his subject with such obvious, and deserved, admiration, the man in the spotlight takes it all with a modesty that only makes you like him more. The man is a master, a true genius in knowing how to work with lighting and color and just at capturing some truly memorable images on film. And even if his work wasn’t as majestic as it is, the sheer longevity of his career would be awe-inspiring enough; like Dustin Hoffman said when presenting him the honorary Oscar, for anyone in attendance that night who was under seventy, the honoree had been working since before they were born. Such a thing is amazing enough, that he was able to be a first-hand witness to the transition from silent film to sound, from black-and-white to Technicolor; that he was such an important figure in those moments in history just makes it all the better.

I guess as a documentary this isn’t that mind-blowing, it’s not groundbreaking or innovative in any way, but you get the sense that Mr. McCall was just making this as a huge fan, and as such made the right decision of leaving his hand pretty much out of this one, letting the images crafted by the man he was homaging speak for themselves, aided by a who’s-who of interviewees including Martin Scorsese, Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall. The interviews with Mr. Scorsese are great, he’s my favorite director ever and to see him like we do in here, just riffing on with his trademark speedy chatty voice about film history and his overall love about the medium is awesome. We also get Thelma Schoonmaker, the long-time editor of Mr. Scorsese (and three-time Oscar winner as such), and who was married for six years with Michael Powell, until his death in 1990. It was as the house cinematographer for Mr. Powell’s and Eric Pressburger’s company that he helped hone such films as Narcissus and, of course, The Red Shoes, and define the look of films of the time.

Maybe there wasn’t so much time dedicated to the “life” part because for Jack Cardiff his life as was his work, the guy was always doing something, either working on his films, shooting some of the best actors to have ever lived, or going to museums to study how the best painters used lighting in their compositions, which explains why his style is often described as a painter working on film, and why his eye for color was the best one to guide filmmaking through the transition into color. I really loved this look at the work of a master, and I loved how the master himself looked at the great work he made, with a sense of confident humility, not making such a big deal about having made some of the greatest films with some of the greatest filmmakers. The man truly was an artist, this film will make that pretty clear, and may make you kind of resent the fact that nowadays so much is done with digital effects and not just with the camera like he did it. Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff lets the images speak for themselves, an homage to his work, and it’s all that we need.

Grade: B+

Sympathy for Delicious

19 May

Title: Sympathy for Delicious
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Mark Ruffalo
Writer: Christopher Thornton
Starring: 
Christopher Thornton, Mark Ruffalo, Juliette Lewis, Laura Linney, Orlando Bloom, John Carroll Lynch, Noah Emmerich
MPAA Rating: 
Not rated
Runtime: 
96 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 
30%

I was greatly looking forward to Sympathy for Delicious, the directing debut from Mark Ruffalo. And that’s because Mr. Ruffalo not only is one of the most consistent actors working today, as can be attested by his Oscar-nominated performance in last year’s sublime The Kids Are All Right (which I ranked as my 2nd favorite male supporting performance of 2010, behind just Christian Bale’s Oscar-winning turn in The Fighter), or by the ones he gave in You Can Count on Me, Shutter Island or Zodiac, to name a few. But I wasn’t just looking forward to see what he’d do as director only because of how amazing he’s as an actor himself, which considering the wide array emotions he’s so perfectly portrayed would have you think he’d be great at getting similar results from people under his direction.

No, that wasn’t the only reason why I was interested to see him take on directing duties, a lot also had to do with the fact that the guy has worked under such amazing directors that you just know a man as smart as Mr. Ruffalo has been learning a lot along the way. Just take a look at this man’s resumé and you’ll quickly realize this guy has been surrounding himself with the best directors: Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Michael Mann… the man has worked for the very best, and some of that was bound to pay off.

And so I saw Sympathy for Delicious with high hopes. The movie was written by Christopher Thornton, Mr. Ruffalo’s longtime friend, who also stars as “Delicious” Dean O’Dwyer, an up-and-coming DJ in the L.A. underground music scene who is left paralyzed after a bad motorcycle accident. A story that’s close to him, as he also had a promising career, but at 25 he had a climbing accident and was left paralyzed from the waist down himself, forced to live in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Mr. Thornton didn’t give up, obviously, as he went back into acting in theatre a small time after this accident, and now here he is, in front of the camera for Mark Ruffalo, and acting alongside him and people like Laura Linney and Juliette Lewis.

And giving up is something Sympathy for Delicious explores, as Dean quickly starts getting depressed about his situation, ready to give up on life. But then he meets this young priest, which would be the character Mr. Ruffalo plays, who’s an advocate for faith-based healing, and tries to convince Dean that this might be the way to get him to walk again. And so Dean starts experimenting with healing, and he actually somehow has this supernatural power that allows him to heal… everyone but himself. So that begins this new stage of the film in which Dean, against father Joe’s advice, starts using his ability to get famous and get money, and actually joins a rock band and gains notoriety. But that just doesn’t fix anything, so we have to go on this spiritual journey with him, and realize what’s to be done for Dean to come to terms with his tragedy.

But even though I think I appreciated certain bits of Sympathy for Delicious, this film as a whole just didn’t do it for me. Which sucks because I really wanted Mr. Ruffalo to proof he can be awesome at directing as well, but I honestly didn’t get this film, no matter how much I wanted to. It’s not because the story was sort of unusual, it’s just that I don’t think I ever really got what Mr. Ruffalo and Mr. Thornton were trying to say with it. There were times in which it seemed as though they were being a satire of religious views like the ones proposed here, then there were times in which it seemed as though they were focusing on criticizing what may happen due to an excess of fame and exposure, and I just lost track of its intentions.

So there you have it, that’s why I didn’t get Sympathy for Delicious, I felt it lacked a clear point of focus. This is a film that Mr. Ruffalo and Mr. Thornton have being trying to get made for the past decade, and it’s obviously one they both hold very near to their hearts, but I just felt it was lacking, especially during the middle when it just feels all over the place for too long. But this is not to say that Sympathy for Delicious doesn’t have its moments, because it does. When it regains some of its focus it gets to shine a light on the chemistry that Mr. Ruffalo and Mr. Thornton have which can translate beautifully on-screen at times, not to mention that there are a couple of truly brilliant scenes between Mr. Ruffalo and the impeccable Ms. Linney, who, if you’ve seen You Can Count on Me (and if you haven’t then get on it now), you know can be dynamite together.

The thing is that for those really good scenes, those that focussed just on the drama between Dean and father Joe, there are many scenes that don’t do anything for us at all. The faith-haeling stuff is very exaggerated, and more so is the stuff that goes on in the rock band, and I think that was done as an effort to satirize those things, but it just doesn’t do that very well. The part with the rock band especially, with Orlando Bloom’s and Juliette Lewis’ characters, those don’t work for a second, falling into unfortunate clichés that take away from the main drama of the story.

And that’s why I won’t give Sympathy for Delicious a very good grade, because I felt it missed its target, if it even had one to begin with. But that’s not to say this was a bad debut directorial effort from Mr. Ruffalo, not at all, I thought this had some very good moments thanks to him, especially with how he managed Mr. Thornton’s performance. I mean, the performance really is monotone, and only goes in one direction, but because Mr. Thornton under Mr. Ruffalo’s direction can connect so deeply to it on a personal level it also has this raw feel to it that feels very intense and adds to the character. In the end, Sympathy for Delicious may have been too unfocused to be great, but I’m ready to welcome the opportunity of seeing Mr. Ruffalo back in the director’s chair.

Grade: C+