Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Whatever Happened To... Hollywood's Most Promising #2

OK.. I realise that posts have been very few and far between lately, so I've decided to make up for it (ever so slightly) with a triple post today. The first of these is my merging of the Whatever Happened to... and Hollywood's Most Promising elements, because yes, you've guessed it. They're one in the same.

Hollywood's Most Promising #2: Haley Joel Osment

Now.. I know Mr. Osment hasn't been on the scene for a couple of years now. But that begs the question: why? I got thinking after seeing Haley playing for the USA in the All-Star Cup, a celebrity Ryder Cup-esque golf tournament. I know it's for charity but you have to wonder why he isn't off shooting a film somewhere. Sure, he does have a project called Home of the Giants, scheduled to begin filming in the near future, but this is by directorial debutant Rusty Gorman, and Haley is the only part of the cast as of yet. Can't Osment do better? Especially seen as he was built up to be the greatest child actor ever, receiving an Oscar nomination at the age of 11 for his wonderful turn in The Sixth Sense. Maybe the "curse of the child star" is manifesting itself once again, but Osment seems pretty grounded to me, and has produced no less than three Oscar-worthy performances in my opinion.

I've mentioned his brilliance in The Sixth Sense and so will move on to the vastly underrated Pay It Forward, released in 2000. First I want to say that when looking if a film is manipulative, you have to decide whether the event in question alters your perception of the concept of the film as a whole. I don't believe that the tragic finale in Pay it Forward bears any manipulative qualities bar a tear or too. Its singular concept is monumentally powerful, and serves solely as an eye-opener through the eyes of the incredibly naive, damaged genius of Trevor, played by Osment. It bothers me how so many people can ignore the 110 minutes before its painful conclusion.

As for Osment's best performance, well, this comes in Artificial Intelligence, where he plays a robot searching for a family, a home. Now I'm not all that keen on the last twenty minutes of this film, which is over-sentimental melodramatic trash (ok, got that out the way), but there's no denying that Osment owns the film and the character. I can't imagine how difficult it is to communicate feelings, while remaining essentially static and artificial. Osment may be playing a robot, but it's a robot that has human qualities, led by the desire to love and feel. Nobody in past or present could have done a better job.

To quote Nicole Kidman in Cold Mountain (and what is possibly one of the most powerful lines in film): "[Haley Joel], if you are walking stop walking, if you are marching (down the 11th tee) stop marching, come back, come back is my request"

Friday, August 26, 2005

Hollywood's Most Promising..

"Another feature?" I hear you say. Yes. Indeed. But rest assured, I haven't forgotten about Most Snubbed.. and Whatever Happened To.. there'll be additions to those groups in the next day or two. So anyway, I want to make clear who I think will turn out to be the cream of the crop in Hollywood terms. There are lots of young 'uns promising to be the 'next big thing', but which will make it? I'll give you my view:

Hollywood's Most Promising #1: Natalie Portman

Perhaps a little predictable. My adoration of Portman is clear from my reviews of Closer and Garden State, which I think are the two best supporting performances of the year. I'll tell you a little bit more about why I think she has a future.

Looking at the photo (on the right) just makes me smile straight away, thus the vibrance and warmth she gives to the character of Sam in Garden State. Now I loved Garden State, and she's probably the main reason why. She brings out elements of me that made me think when watching the film, and instills elements of her own personality, while never once going over-the-top. It's incredible how she makes the character appear totally unique to any other character in any other movie, yet be so refreshingly inviting. Never mind Braff, anyone would open up to her if given the chance, it's the face, the innocent but know-it-all free spirit that made me melt at her feet.

Her performance in Closer works to similar effect, revealing her as a beacon of talent, an alluring seductress, and most of all, an immovable presence. While watching Closer, there wasn't a lot to like, in fact, there wasn't anything to like apart from Portman's tearaway/victim character complex that she conquers so utterly brilliantly. You have to see the film to understand the magic behind it, and the famous slow-motion pace up the street that defines her lack of commitment and ultimately fleeting visit that is the only thing worth caring about.

A good supporting performance (better than Renee Zelwegger's) in Cold Mountain also showed off her ability as a dramatic actress, adding background to the character that could have easily been lost, and altogether, Portman is an insanely talented young actress who I'm sure will be around for decades to come.
More Promising Newcomers to Arrive Soon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Oscar Battles: Part VII

And onto the seventh Oscar struggle and actually, the final encounter. Yes, I've decided to cut the battles short at number 7 -- not because 7 is a lucky number (though it's meant to be) but cos it's kind of getting old. After this one we'll put all of the snubbed performers in a big poll to see who you think Hollywood snubbed the most.

As for last week's battle, Morgan Freeman became the only winner to survive, beating out competition from Church and Owen. It was a good performance in a lame movie for me, but then again I don't expect everyone to agree with my
Million Dollar Baby analysis. In fact, you may struggle to find anyone. Oh I love disagreeing with the masses.

Where was I? Oh. Yeah. Number Seven. Forgive me if I'm just a hopeless romantic with a dry and sarcastic outer shell, but I do love to watch something that's well done. Titanic will always be one of my favourite ever films because everything about it is so captivating. Its relentless onslaught of tragedy embedded in blissful romance is stunning. Why? Because they intertwine and flourish as one. You care about Rose and Jack, and you care about the rest. You can't like one and disregard the other. They're all in the same boat after all -- lame joke I know. Still, I have to wonder whether the backlash it has suffered is for people with heartless cynics, weak minds, because no film has ever swept the world like Titanic did, and nor will any piece of cinema have quite the same effect on a population in the future

NB: If you stopped reading when I started to mention romance you can breathe a heavy sigh of relief and say to yourself, "What is that guy talking about?", that's if you haven't given up on my taste in film altogether. I have faith that there are others that adore it too. Somewhere out there anyway.

So Titanic has a lot of haters now, and many (including a lot of critics) feel that L.A. Confidential should have taken home the coveted Best Picture prize in 1997. Why people mention this as the main fault of '97 is beyond me, as Helen Hunt won an Oscar for a role any C-list Actress could have done as well as her. Oh my god I'm off again. Note to self: Back to L.A. Yes indeed, Curtis Hanson's picture is pretty good, if a little dull, especially for a crime thriller. Strange pacing as well, and very cold characters. I gave it a B, but I've only seen it once, and that was a while ago

OK then. Take your pick. Crime or Romance? Epic or Thriller? 10's or 50's? Have fun.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Craving Life

So it's been a boring boring day. There seems to be too many of those nothing days lately, like I'm wasting my life or something. Lifeless even. I'm getting that Garden State feeling (which can't be good) where I wanna stand on top of a big truck thing and yell into the emptiness of the world. I won't reflect too much on the glorious Garden State but I will say that I just bought it on DVD. Perhaps time for a repeat viewing, hmm.. maybe. I also bought Sideways, or should I say, stole Sideways for a meager £5.99 from Blah , and Phantom of the Opera (don't laugh), which I really enjoyed. I think the people who haven't seen it on stage, which includes me, probably like this better. But until I see it on stage, I'll continue to be a fan of Schumacher's adaptation.

I've lost all faith in cinema after seeing Sahara earlier, and believe me, I wasn't expecting it to be good. But I certaintly wasn't expecting it to be that bad. What a pile of crap. So I have Maria, Full Of Grace to finally watch or the tiny Aussie flick Somersault. What to choose. Decisions, decisions. When I go to Blockbuster, I always try and mix it up a little. I don't want to full-on drama, so I try and pick one tame pic (Sahara), one full-on pick (Maria), and one unknown quantity (Somersault). Unless of course there's a couple I just can't resist, which does frequently happen.

I think I'll write a couple of reviews tomorrow and give an update thing before I go to the evening's football match -- Sunderland A.F.C. if you're interested. Bottom of the league after two games but one can only hope.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Whatever Happened To...

And welcome to a brand-spanking new feature, asking "What the hell happened?" about some of film's most promising starlets at one time or another. Without further ado:

#1 : Julia Stiles

One of the most promising young actresses in 2001 was Julia Stiles. Having gained an MTV Breakthrough Award and an award from the Chicago Film Critics Association for her brilliant performance in Ten Things I Hate About You in 1999, Julia was billed as one for the future.

Let's talk about her showing in '10 Things', which, in my opinion was more than worthy of an Oscar nomination. Of course, not as good as frontrunners Swank and Bening, but a deliciously dry performance that made the film for me. It's good to know that Chicago appreciated her excellence, but where were the other accolades? Anyway, regardless, this was more than enough to excite.

Also gaining a couple of awards for her part of the 'State and Main' ensemble in 2000, and moving on to 'Save The Last Dance' in 2001, which received mixed reviews, but general consensus that Stiles was the best part of it. So one would say that she maintained her height of promise by 2001, but since then, things have gone a little ary: A bit part in the Bourne films, the mainstream 'A Guy Thing', and the meh 'Mona Lisa Smile' part of her recent resume.

Julia is unbelievably still only 24, can she make a comeback?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A Timely Update

It's about time I gave you an update ( well on the film front anyway) about what I've been up to. So here it goes:

Recently Viewed:

  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Pooh's Heffalump Movie

I know, lol, two very different films with (absurdly) very similar messages. Midnight Cowboy, starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, was fairly sad, but wonderfully entertaining, led by the characters' apparent naivety but stunning depth of character. With Joe Buck (Voight) looking like he's at some fancy dress party for most of the movie, it's rather odd, but works brilliantly. At least, for me, the first 'Best Picture' I've seen in a while that actually deserves its title.

As for Heffalump, how class is Winnie the Pooh. Even when he's not the lead character he still steals the show! Pure brilliance. On the whole it was sweet, although not a great deal happened to be frank. The Hundred Acre Wood is a boring place full of colourful characters. Still -- admirable morals, don't judge a book by its cover, people are afraid of what they don't know. Ah, you can always rely on Disney to hammer home some fable-esque mentality.

Recently Reviewed:

  • Coach Carter
  • The Interpreter

You can see these on the site as per usual. Overall pretty average. Both had plenty of flaws, The Interpreter just had a lot more to swing it the other way. Anwyay, you'll see what I mean.

Imminent Viewings:

  • The Color of Money

Looking forward to this, if only for Newman. I've seen painfully (and shamefully) little of his filmography, and eagerly anticipate this flick. Expect my thoughts on the matter either tomorrow or Saturday.

Uni Here I Come!


The A Level Results came out today and I got a B Grade in English Language, a C Grade in Media Studies, and a D Grade in History, which got me accepted into Sunderland University Journalism course. Absoloutely delighted. Why was I worried again?

The whole thing was wierd, just like last year. The opening of the envelope is actually very quick, but everything after it is slow. Some people were crying as well, which isn't great to see. Personally though, this is excellent.

Anyone else out there who got their results care to share?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Fatigue Attack

Yaaawn! Feelin' so tired tonight. So tired in fact that I had a nap for like an hour and a half. Very unusual for me. I don't like it, not one bit. I prefer my set sleeping patterns. Maybe it's my cutting of breakfast and lunch today that did it, or I was just shattered from work. I just don't like naps -- it's a waste of time to me.

Naps. Good or Bad? And why?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Oscar Battles: Part VI

Week 6 is upon us, and thus the sixth of the Oscar battles. The only battle from 2004 sees eventual Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, battle competition from Thomas Haden Church's comic genius in Sideways, and Clive Owen's sleazy possessive husband in Closer. I myself would go for Church above these two, and by quite a distance, but the choice is yours.

Last week's battle between Burstyn, Linney, and Roberts ended up with Burnstyn edging out the other two. Not a surprise. I would say this is probably the snub that a lot of people mention. Anyway, the Oscar winner still has not survived in five battles thus far. Oh dear. Maybe Morgan will have more luck.

Get Voting!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Hollywood's Most Snubbed #2: Alfred Hitchcock

Oh this one had to come sooner or later -- a rant about the fact that one of the greatest ever Directors, the colourful Alfred Hitchcock, managed to finish his career with ZERO oscars, after five times of trying. What's even worse is that he wasn't nominated for Vertigo. Lunacy.

  • Rebecca (1940)
  • Lifeboat (1944)
  • Spellbound (1945)
  • Rear Window (1954)
  • Psycho (1960)

Now, of all of these performances (some of which I haven't seen), the one that illuminates brightest, is his masterful guidance of the 1954 classic (and in my opinion the best of the Hitchcock collection thus far) Rear Window. The amount of sheer drama that AH manages to input into such an essentially static and confined narrative is awe-inspiring. I was with the characters at every moment. I felt involved.

I've mentioned Hitchock's nom snub for Vertigo being shameful, and indeed it is, as it contains some of the most haunting shots. The composition as a whole is incredible. I literally couldn't keep my eyes off the screen. Of course, another nom snub that is difficult to comprehend is 1958's North By Northwest, which is very much more focused on narrative than dramatic effect but still demonstrates the great man's ability highlighted in the plane scene in the middle of the film. Other brilliant directions include Psycho (1960) and Marnie (1965): So where's his Oscar?

Watch out for a poll asking for your favourite Hitchock flick. You've plenty of choice anyway.

'Lost' For Words

So.. ABC's second top show (after Desperate Housewives), Lost, debuted on Channel 4 tonight. The first two episodes of the show, which regularly claims 20 million viewers in the U.S, were sandwiched either side of the special midweek Big Brother eviction. This probably means it will get excellent ratings for C4, maybe 5 or 6 million if Desperate Housewives is anything to go by.

As for the show itself, I was unsure about the first fifteen, but loved it as it went on. Just like Housewives, everybody seems to have a secret, secrets that will be incrementally revealed as it goes along. Wonderful. Just hope it can carry the drama all the way through, I'm already craving the next edition.

Fully deserved of its 12 emmy nominations.
FYC: Lost for Best Drama!

Monday, August 08, 2005

You Scratch My Back..

Ok, so I stumbled upon this offer for a free Ipod. At first I was skeptical, and turns out partially rightly, but it actually costs a meager £10 for it, and if you've got friends, you're all set. Basically, you sign up for an Ipod using this link and you get put through to some great offers, like 2 dvd's for £10. Then you get five friends to sign up, and when that happens you get your free Ipod. It may sound a bit complicated but I kinda need some help with this now. To be honest, if I don't get five people, that's fine, cause I've made a bargain anyway getting Sideways and Phantom of the Opera at £5 a piece.

Something for you to ponder (or dismiss) .

Hollywood's Most Snubbed #1: Reese Witherspoon

Welcome to the first edition of Hollwood's Most Snubbed, which is my excuse to profess my adoration of certain actors/actresses while having a go at the Academy at the same time, which let's face it, needs to be done. Firstly, you may all have different opinions on what consitutes a "snub" so let me make this clear:

Snub (Verb): To dismiss, turn down, or frustrate the expectations of

Not that I'm saying the "snubbed" expected to be nommed -- at least some of them probably didn't anyway. In that way, the academy has frustrated my expectations, so you could say I've been snubbed as well. Anyway, you will certaintly get my drift by the time I've finished speaking my mind on the subject.

So onto the main event, and one of Hollywood's most snubbed leading ladies. The divine Reese Witherspoon, who continues to produce brilliant performances in so-so movies, is also continually snubbed for her good work. Despite receiving a Globe nod and three critics awards (KCFCC, NSFC, OFCS) for her riveting, show-stealing performance in Election, she was snubbed by both SAG and AMPAS. I appreciate that the competition in '99 was decent (Swank, Bening, McTeer) but this is a shameful snub. She also gained a Globe nod in 2001 for her wonderful performance in Legally Blonde. If there wasn't such a comedy bias, she may have been recognised by the Academy, but they didn't go for her in the universally acclaimed Election so it was unlikely they would oblige for such a mainstream comedy. It's a shame, because this tour-de-force epitomises the energy that Witherspoon brings to the screen and her hypnotic nature. Indeed, Witherspoon has a habit of lifting the films she appears in to relatively dizzy heights. As well as carrying Election and Legally Blonde on her insanely talented shoulders, she moved on to another mainstream comedy, Sweet Home Alabama. Personally, the movie was slightly above average, but only because of Witherspoon, only because of the charisma she exudes. She is worth infinitely more than the script is, and has made herself into one of the best comedic actresses around.

The question is: Will she be snubbed this year?

Well, lets review her chances. The Walk the Line trailer looks very good, and she looks a decent bet. If she goes supporting, there is a lot more competition, and they don't have to go along with the whole "babe" pick. If she's leading she'll have a better chance. She's avoiding the comedy bias, even though Walk the Line will undoubtedly be placed in the comedy/musical (this is insanity btw). It's a biopic -- playing a real person has its benefits, especially when you're looking for a nomination. I think she could do it, I hope she will do it, but will she?

Hmm.. any thoughts? What do you think Witherspoon has been 'oscar-worthy' in, and where does she rank on the grand scale of things?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Oscar Battles: Part V

It's that time again -- yes, the latest Oscar battle, and the fifth of ten. An exploratory poll on the most controversial of wins to see if, in actual fact, they were indeed 'wrong'. Before I get onto this weeks faceoff, I'm gonna run through the results of the past two weeks.

In Battle 3, Edward Norton fought off Roberto Benigni to claim at least a bit of pride, and the public vote, even if he failed to gather enough votes from AMPAS. Last week, the titanic four-way battle between a group of great directors, ended with Robert Altman's glorious direction of 30's satire Gosford Park edging out Peter Jackson and David Lynch. Good choice.

So far it's a bit of a two-finger gesture at the academy, with none of the Oscar winners surviving. Here are the results:

  • 1998 Best Actress in a Leading Role: Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love) Vs. Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth) - Winner: Cate Blanchett - Result: No Match
  • 1994 Best Picture: Forrest Gump Vs. Pulp Fiction Vs. The Shawshank Redemption -
    Winner: Pulp Fiction - Result: No Match
  • 1998 Best Actor in a Leading Role: Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful) Vs. Tom Hanks (Saving Private Ryan) Vs. Ian McKellen (Gods and Monsters) Vs. Edward Norton (American History X) -
    Winner: Edward Norton - Result: No Match
  • 2001 Best Director: Robert Altman (Gosford Park) Vs. Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind) Vs. Peter Jackson (LOTR: Fellowship) Vs. David Lynch (Mulholland Drive) -
    Winner: Robert Altman - Result: No Match

At the end of the battles, I'll combine all of the non-matches, and put them all in a poll to see which of these performances you think is the biggest snub.

As for this weeks battle, well, we're venturing into film's year of 2000, which launched one of the fiercest Actress battles. Although the winner was pretty much assured before the ceremony, all three women have critic awards, and all have their supporters. There's no doubting that these are three great performances, but which should have won the Oscar? Fill your boots.

Stay Tuned.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

What I've Been Up To..

Bonjour mes amis!
Letting you know what I've been up to:
Latest Films Seen:
  • Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
  • Unfaithful (2002)

Yeah.. so I got Dynamite off of Sky Box-Office, as admittedly it looked quite cool. Altogether though, it is a bit of a misfire, pretending to be something more than it actually is. Of course, it's quirkier than your average high-school comedy, but we shouldn't forget that it uses the same jokes, and to relatively limited effect. It kinda reminded me of a Harry Enfield sketch as well. I don't know if you've ever seen the Kevin sketch that Enfield does, which also spurned the film Kevin and Perry Go Large. Anyway, essentially it makes the same mistakes, as it basically has the same jokes all the way through. This should never belong as a movie.

As for Unfaithful, where to start? I must concede that overall, I did quite like it, but why I liked it is the most puzzling part. The more I reflect upon the movie, the more I find myself falling in love with Diane Lane. She is just brilliant, and probably the only reason that this film is worth a watch. It definitely works, but I can't help feeling it falls short of what it could have been. Lane is incandescent, and I recommend people see it just to catch a glimpse of her.

Reviews Written:

  • Million Dollar Baby (2004)
  • The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

I've made clear my contempt for Million Dollar Baby, and its seemingly very shallow underlying premise. As for its Best Picture win, I'm still glad that it won. Mainly because it shows that the academy voted for the one that they liked -- The Aviator, though a better film, would have been the routine Oscar pick. Call it one step forward anyway, even though the rest of the awards put them about ten steps back. Life Aquatic is less problematic, and more disappointing. There isn't anything in this film that I wouldn't mind being universally destroyed, and that's worrying. It's a nothing film, and really it kind of makes it a waste of money. Of course, the question still remains whether any money spent on Bill Murray is wasted money. Ask me after Broken Flowers.

Reviews are up on the site

About to See:

  • Marnie (1965? - Don't quote me on that)
  • The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Continuing my surge through the Hitchock collection, which I fully intend to complete, I prepare to view Marnie, which I believe is one of his more restrained efforts. With Sean Connery and Tippi Hedren I fully expect to enjoy this, but we'll see, one thing I will say is that I've thoroughly enjoyed every Hitchock flick I've seen so far. Hoping this one won't buck the trend. As for Tenenbaums, I realise that I've just totally trashed Life Aquatic in my review, but Wes Anderson's former effort is supposed to be better. It ought to be anyway -- the cast assembled is pretty damn talented. Still.. I can't help reflecting on the pointlessness of the two hours Team Zissou spent trawling the ocean, a couple of hours I would gladly eradicate from my memory. I expect an improvement.

So there you have it. Expect another update tomorrow :)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Decoding Da Vinci

When it comes to fashion, I am not someone you would turn to. I don't incessantly monitor the latest trends. I don't find myself craving something that's 'in', or repelling against something that is 'out'. I guess I'm just very unperturbed by the whole thing. I do have my exceptions though (doesn't everyone?), when the buzz is great I'm inclined to go with the flow so to speak. If there's something people are talking about, I find myself regularly wanting to know why.

So here we are, and Dan Brown's raved-about novel The Da Vinci Code, which I obtained a copy of last Saturday. Almost everyone in my immediate family has read this and really liked it, so I'm giving it a go. I do like a good mystery, usually the whodunit mystery is my favourite. I adore Agatha Christie. Still, halfway into the book I find myself relatively gripped by the prospect of 'the holy grail'. I won't give any of the plot away, but I do really like Brown's style of writing, and the way he moves the narrative forward. It's very very descriptive but, despite being a little superfluous, manages to create a great sense of atmosphere and setting. I'm also contemplating the vast amount of research that must have gone into writing a book of this historical accuracy and detail. Indeed, it almost feels like a history lesson, or a parisian tour, one I can't let go of. It's quite addictive. Not to the point of Harry Potter, but I've been with him for six whole novels, we have a bond. Still -- I'm finding that Da Vinci is a worthy successor.

Monday, August 01, 2005

One Down...Several to Go

OK... I haven't told you about this, but I'm in desperate need of some 'classic' films to watch. You'd be ashamed at the stuff I haven't seen.

Seriously, I'm yet to see the classic romance of Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca, the mafia-style masterclass of Coppola's The Godfather, not to mention Parts 2 & 3 as well. I also haven't seen Citizen Kane, Pulp Fiction -- ohh the list is endless. Anyway, what I did manage this weekend is to strike one of those off the list, a renowned 'classic' that is regularly at the top of a critics all-time list. Surely you've guessed by now?

Yes -- Stanley Kubrick's 1968 Sci-Fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey based on or co-incided with Arthur C Clarke's Book 'The Sentinel'. I've been wanting to see this for some time, and finally managed the two and a bit hours the other day. It is, quite simply, astonishing. It is definitely an epic, but an epic that stands alone as something totally unique. This has never been done before and nor will it ever be done again. Much of it is captivating, some of it is simply too lengthy, but in terms of creativity and context, this is awe-inspiring and leaves you with a hell of a lot to think about.

I don't really know how I'd grade it, I must admit that I do like my endings to have at least some resolve. Am I pathetic? (that was rhetorical btw) Should I challenge myself more? When films leave you thinking as much as this one (i.e. Mulholland Drive), I tend to reflect more positively after mental stimulation. There's just too much intellectual babble to admire it at the time. When I understand it, I can enjoy it. Of course, in 2001 there is a welcome break of operatic beauty, and though the effects are very outdated, there is a sense of wandering into the unknown that Kubrick manages to exert. A great film, but one I shall be thinking about incessantly in the near future.

Off to hunt summore classics down. See ya.