Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Final Predictions Underway

After I got Leading Actress out of the way -- by the way, I did actress first cause it was easy (Seen all the nominees, have very fixed views) -- I've moved on to the categories I am pretty much certain about. I'm waiting until I see Capote/Junebug/Syriana to touch the other main categories, so they'll probably have to wait til Friday.

Anyway, final predictions are up for:

  • Cinematography
  • Costume Design
  • Original Score
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Visual Effects

Check them out. Early joy for King Kong and Memoirs of a Geisha it seems.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Shame of 2005

Shopgirl heads my "Worst of 2005" list, with seven nominations. All fourteen painstakingly embarassing categories are available to view at the site now.

Feel free to comment.

Top Ten List available on Tuesday.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Actress In A Leading Role

The time has come to commit. My final predictions. My final preferences. And the best category kicks it off -- Actress In A Leading Role .

Who was snubbed?
Who is the best?
Who will win?

Questions. Questions. Questions.

How To Steal A Million

All over the radio this morning -- £25m stolen from Security Depot-- six men in Kent apparentely. Fairly intricate. Said to be Britain's biggest ever robbery - check out BBC for more details.

It seems in movies, pulling off this kind of heist is epic and genius, going back to William Wyler's charming '66 comedy How to Steal a Million, which, to this day, I love. With the divine Miss Audrey Hepburn in a role that showcases her as a comic goddess, and also starring the glorious Peter O'Toole, HTSAM is about the duo's plan to steal the valuable Cellini Venus statue from a Paris museum, to prove its authenticity (or lack thereof).

We've seen this before in Ocean's Eleven (the remake is better, the sequel, not so good) where eleven guys take part in a grand casino heist, and go through many trials, tribulations, and planning to pull it off. Entrapment is similar. Two master criminals doing battle with one another. As is The Thomas Crown Affair, though perhaps it's more about the aftermath than the event.

Anyone noticed a pattern? In every single case, we're rooting for the criminal. Why is that? Is it a 'fuck you' to society and corporate dominance? Looking at the people stolen from, and motives for theft, there seems to be circumstances that make the situation more morally permissable. In HTSAM, the statue is being stolen to prove its true worth, in both sentimental and financial value. In Ocean's Eleven, the man at the head of the casino, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), is a cold, calculating, mechanical villain. In Entrapment, theft is the 'norm'. The Thomas Crown Affair is slightly different, but still paints (excuse the pun) Pierce Brosnan in an almost idolised shade of blue. Yet when it comes to real-life, we can't help but denounce these master criminals for being greedy thugs.

When is it alright to steal, and when is it not? What is your favourite heist movie and why?

Press / Blunt

Look at this picture.......
No. Look at it carefully.....
Now tell me what's wrong with it.

You can't think of anything can you?

That's because there isn't anything wrong with it. It's perfect. And not enough people know it.

Ahead of my full analysis of the Best Actress Oscar race, which I'm currently adoring, I want to make one BIG thing perfectly clear. I fucking hate AMPAS. And even though I may be slightly intoxicated and therefore very emotional, this is the one thing I want to convey in this post.

In my 'Who Should have been nominated?' section there will be a place -- just as there is a place in my heart -- for Nathalie Press' stunning, revelatory, heartbreaking turn as Mona in My Summer of Love. She made me laugh. She made me cry. But above all, she made me believe in taking chances, in bravery. I think it will be a long long time before I see a character as polished as this one, and as completely authentic.

I'm writing words but there aren't any to describe this. I will stop. If you haven't seen her, do it. And do it quick.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What's Hot : Music

To contribute some musical insight, which has sadly been lacking for a while, I'm starting a new feature each week to chronicle the latest goings on in the musical world, and download tips (legally of course ;) ) Although there'll be a lot of British influence, I do listen to a vast range of stuff, which you'll see if you check my profile.

Latest News

Three-girl band Sugababes now has just one of its original members remaining, after Mutya Buena, who recently gave birth to a baby girl, has decided to call it a day. The original trio of Mutya, Keisha, and Siobhan (yes weird names, it gets weirder) made an early modest success with debut single Overload before having a very tidy year. After Siobhan Donnaghy left (by the way she has an excellent solo single called Overrated), Heidi joined the band, and the success continued, gaining them four number ones including a number one album.

So that brings us up to the present day, and Mutya's replacement, Amelle Berrabah. Amelle's debut performance with the group was last week on Top of the Pops (in Turin no less) and it turns out they made a great decision. As well as being very pretty -- I know, I know, as if they were going to choose a minger --this girl can also sing. Singing live, as they always do, one of the reasons I think they're great, they were as good as ever, and have a catchy song coming out soon. It's called Red Dress if anyone's interested.

Despite my enthusiasm, we've seen before with bands that new members can spell the end. With numerous rumours of rifts and quarrels, perhaps it is a little too naive to believe that all things will be rosy. Still, the success of Destinys Child, a group that had all in all around 7 members in its 7 years, must be a comfort. With Amelle, they still have appeal.

On the IPod: Top 10 Tracks

1. Goldfrapp - Ride on a White Horse
2. Pink - Stupid Girls
3. Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine
4. Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
5. Smokey Robinson - Tracks of my Tears
6. Avril Lavigne - Sk8r Boi
7. Bjork - There's More to Life than This
8. The Beatles - Hey Jude
9. Arctic Monkeys - When the Sun Goes Down
10. The 411 - On my Knees

Download any if you can. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


BAFTA Winners:

Best film: Brokeback Mountain
Does this change anything? Not a great deal. Crash remains an extreme outsider for a victory, re-enforced by its loss here but success overall.

Best British film: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

Best direction: Brokeback Mountain
Does this change anything? No. Ang Lee is a complete lock. Yay!

Best original screenplay: Crash
Does this change anything? Not a lot. Even though Crash is a frontrunner, I'm sure AMPAS owe more to Clooney than BAFTA do.

Best adapted screenplay: Brokeback Mountain
Does this change anything? I'm just stating the obvious now.

Best film not in English: De Battre Mon Coeur S'est Arrete (Beat My Heart Skipped)

Best actress: Reese Witherspoon
Does this change anything? Thankfully, no. Reese Witherspoon has won every award that matters, and will justly be rewarded in two weeks time.

Best actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Does this change anything? Sadly not. Yet another lock.

Best supporting actor: Jake Gyllenhaal
Does this change anything? Hell yes it does! What an interesting category, and proving that perhaps all but William Hurt is very capable of winning this. Although Dillon, and particularly Gyllenhaal are fairly young for this, their films are very strong, and seemingly have little chance of an acting win elsewhere.

Best supporting actress: Thandie Newton
Does this change anything? Not really, since Newton isn't involved at the Oscars. It does make you wonder if this just isn't Michelle Williams' year. Snubbed at the Globe, SAG, and now BAFTA. I love it.

Best music: John Williams for Memoirs of a Geisha

Best production design: Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire

Best editing: The Constant Gardener

Best short film: Antonio's Breakfast

Best effects: King Kong

Best cinematography: Memoirs of a Geisha

Best sound: Walk the Line

The Academy fellowship: David Puttnam (yay!)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Best of British?

It occurred to me when watching the Brit Awards on Thursday how incredibly fucked up the people who vote for these awards must be. In one of the most boring shows in history, not even the performances could stir me from my lulling depression.

And the winners were..

British Male Solo Artist: James Blunt
Prediction - Correct
Reaction - Well deserved, if not my number one choice.

British Female Solo Artist: KT Tunstall
Prediction - Correct
Reaction - Completely the right decision, but I hope Kate gets another chance to win this.

British Group: Kaiser Chiefs
Prediction - Correct
Reaction - Clearly it was their night. Deserved, if a little overappreciative overall.

British Album: Coldplay — X&Y
Prediction - Incorrect
Reaction - A very meh pick. I like Coldplay as much as the next person but was their album really better than James Blunt's -- not to mention the divine Kate Bush. Strange that the Kaisers didn't win this as well.

British Single: Coldplay — "Speed Of Sound"
Prediction - Incorrect
Reaction - I don't know how this can win over James Blunt. It's a travesty.

British Breakthrough Act: Arctic Monkeys
Prediction - Correct
Reaction - Excellent decision, and a STFU to Noel Gallagher's flippant remarks, which is usually to criticise every other band that's successful. Here's to zero wins for Oasis this year.

British Urban Act: Lemar
Prediction - Incorrect
Reaction - Not sure what revelatory (or even solid) work he's done this year. Perhaps the best of a bad bunch.

British Rock Act: Kaiser Chiefs
Prediction - Incorrect
Reaction - Could have been worse.

British Live Act: Kaiser Chiefs
Prediction - Incorrect
Reaction - Ditto.

Pop Act: James Blunt
Prediction - Correct
Reaction - As I said. The only true pop act. Westlife are more of a circus act.

International Male Solo Artist: Kanye West
Prediction - Correct
Reaction - I thought this the only possible win. Kanye is good, but much more unoriginal than Mr. Johnson, who given his win, may have had a chance here.

International Female Solo Artist: Madonna
Prediction - Correct
Reaction - YES!

International Group: Green Day
Prediction - Incorrect
Reaction - Horrific win.

International Album: Green Day — American Idiot
Prediction - Incorrect
Reaction - Ditto

International Breakthrough Act: Jack Johnson
Prediction - Incorrect
Reaction - What a pleasant surprise. If it were not for their adoration of Green Day and the Kaiser Chiefs, I may actually have thought they had taste.

Outstanding Contribution To Music: Paul Weller
Reaction - Great set. Town Called Malice. Gold.

And so the official stats: 7/15 (44%) . Better luck next year eh?

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Painful Truth

Ahead of my Top Ten, and the TFL Awards at the end of February, I've decided to have a bit of a rant at some of 2005's many turkeys in my Bottom 10 of the year. At times it's difficult deciding exactly how bad a film is, especially as I don't like to think too much about it. I just love lists.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Beatrix Fucking Potter

Things may be comparatively 'alright' for British cinema. I mean, after all, there have been a number of recent worldwide successes emanating from this side of the Atlantic. 2001's Gosford Park is a good example -- one of my very favourite films -- and 2002's Bend it Like Beckham being another. We do churn out some interesting projects. But an article in the Observer today reminded me of the "value" of success. I'm not the first person to bitch about the relentless financial focus of the industry today, and nor will I be the last, but from a British perspective, it's difficult to question the motives of the British Film Council, and its method of distribution.

I'm not going to launch into the misguided hocus pocus view of English culture, its commercial value, the mythical essence of Notting Hill. While it's easy to criticise this dream-like vision of England as a white middle-class haven, it is easily neutralised by filmmakers such as Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, and the socio-realism they bring with them. But how long will this last? Is there another Leigh or Loach hiding in the shadows? And are they going to be sufficiently backed?

The most worrying thing about all of this is that even after Mike Leigh's triumphant Vera Drake -- a film nominated for 3 MAJOR oscars -- success is still a box-office breakout, or a cult dvd crowd. Perhaps when the British Film Council are assessing the potential "success" of a film in their care, they should ask themselves whether its really necessary.

Why ON EARTH would anyone in their right mind want to see Anne Hathaway 'become' Jane Austen? And while we're at it, why ON EARTH would Renee Zelwegger want to play Beatrix Potter? It beggars belief, it really does.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Brits are Coming!

This is a very big week for British entertainment with the top British awards in Film, the BAFTAs, a week on Saturday, and the music extravaganza that is, The Brit Awards, a week tomorrow. This year has been pretty great for British music, and I'm really pleased with most of these nominations. Because I can't resist, here are my preferences and predictions about each category:

British Male Solo Artist:

Who deserves to win? This one is tough for me. I want to say James Blunt but I only really LOVE one of his songs. Between Will and Anthony, I have to go for Anthony. His voice is so soft and beautiful and his songs really mean something. Sorry Will.

Who will win? Surely James Blunt, who has the biggest-selling album of last year, and a killer song one can hardly forget.

British Female Solo Artist:

Who Deserves to Win? Amazingly strong category. I'd rule out Natasha Bedingfield straight away, then Katie Melua, and then reluctantly Charlotte Church. I've made it clear how much I love Kate Bush, and I would dearly cheer if she ever wins another Brit, but if this is a prize for the year it has to go to KT Tunstall. Tunstall's album is amazing, she's great live, so if there's a woman of the year, she's it.

Who will win? Probably KT Tunstall, who is well-documented to have had a GREAT year. If it isn't KT, it'll be Charlotte Church, who has grown from operatic beauty to pop diva, and had a couple of great tunes.

British Album:

Who deserves to win? Kate Bush, whose comeback album is infinitely better than any of the other albums nominated. Lyrically fascinating, vocally sharp, and a ton of tonal beauty.

Who will win? Probably James Blunt again, since it's the best-selling album of 2005. He may face competition from the Kaiser Chiefs though.

British Group:

Who deserves to win? In a kind of a meh category, Gorillaz are my favourite. With three very respectable tunes this year, their comeback has been a triumphant one.

Who will win? Probably the Kaiser Chiefs, who have had a breakthrough year to say the least.

British Rock Act:

Who deserves to win? Again, not the greatest category but for rock, I'd have to say Hard-Fi, who had two excellent rock tunes out lately. Kaisers a close 2nd.

Who will win? Probably a toss up between the Chief's and Oasis. I'll go with Oasis. It's any excuse to reward them.

British Urban Act:

Who deserves to win? Honestly, Ms Dynamite, whose 2nd album is severely underrated, and who will always have significantly more talent than her competitors.

Who will win? Kano, as an outside win. Failing the opportunity to surprise, they may go with Lemar.

Pop Act:

Who deserves to win? Some of these I don't even class as 'pop', especially Madonna's new album. My true preference is Madge but as a 'pop' act, I'd say James Blunt, who had a brilliant pop song.

Who will win? Dare i say another Blunt win? I dare indeed.

British Breakthrough Act:

Who deserves to win? In one of the best categories, the Arctic Monkey's are the true 'breakthrough', given their enormous early success.

Who will win? The monkeys. They can't ignore the band that made the biggest selling debut album ever.

International Breakthrough Act:

Who deserves to win? The Pussycat Dolls. I don't LOVE them but they've had two number one singles. And I ADORE 'Don't Cha'. Jack Johnson is my fave but he hasn't really 'broken through' as such.

Who will win? A fierce battle between Arcade Fire (a surprise double-nominee) and John Legend (a respectable RnB choice). I'll go with Legend... just.

British Live Act:

Who deserves to win? KT Tunstall hands down. Her voice has so much power and attraction. Singing live she sounds so natural.

Who will win? I honestly don't know. I'm going to go with Oasis again. It helps to be loved.

British Single:

Who deserves to win? Definitely NOT 'That's My Goal' anyway. Do they have no shame? Just because it sells hundreds of thousands does not mean it is in any way decent. James Blunt's 'You're Beautiful' is way above any of the others.

Who will win? The Blunt again. That's 4 out of 5 I've got him for. Lol. Well it could happen.

International Male Solo Artist:

Who deserves to win? Weird choices in this category. Bruce Springsteen?! Hmm.. Jack Johnson deserves to win this by quite some distance.

Who will win? Surely Kanye West. There's no one else.

International Female Solo Artist:


Who deserves to win? This is officially the BEST category at these awards. A shame it's an international category though lol. I love Missy and adore Bjork, but they really weren't at their best this year. The other three were great but nobody touches Madge, who nabbed her 11th number one single in October and is likely to get another one fairly soon.

Who will win? Madonna. They won't be able to resist.

International Group:

Who deserves to win? The Black Eyed Peas, who have proved me wrong after I hated 'Where is the Love?'

Who will win? Between the Peas and Green Day. The only 2 that have been anywhere close to prominent this year. I'll choose the Peas.

International Album:

Who deserves to win? MADONNA. Her best album since Ray of Light. A triumph.

Who will win? I think Madge will, but it could go to Kanye.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Gender Bending

This year has had its fair share of gender-orientated movies, with Felicity Huffman's oscar-nominated role in Duncan Tucker's Transamerica, and Neil Jordan's telling of Irish adventurer Patrick "Kitten" Brady in Breakfast On Pluto. The past few years has suggested more of these films gaining interest, with movies such as 'Boys Don't Cry' gaining some worthy attention. Whether they will ever break into a mainstream format is debatable, but for the moment they are doing just fine.

Both Pluto and Transamerica have problems, but firstly I want to talk about Pluto's. Every once in a while (and when I say a while, I mean a length of time that's not quite long enough) there comes a film that tries to please too many people in too many ways, and subsequently loses track of its identity. Pluto is this type of film. It's ironic in a way that identity should be one of the film's biggest problems, considering its thematic nature of gender puzzlement.

Patrick "Kitten" Brady (Cillian Murphy) grows up with a disregard for everything and everyone around him, making him a rebellious and unorthodox figure. He wants desperately to be seen as a woman and therefore tries in vain to dress like one, behave like one, be like one. Murphy is miraculous, diving headlong into the character of Patrick, making you forget you are even looking at an actor. He captures Brady's sensitivity, his confusion and failure to acknowledge serious situations. At the core of Murphy lies Kitten's foolish lost childish nature and an inner strength that helps him ride through even the worst of times.

It's strange then, that the film must possess a terrorism sub-plot in order to explain the blase attitude of its biographical figure. I have no doubt that terrorism was going on in Ireland at this time, but the way that Pluto uses this to explain issues of characteristics is perhaps a little too drastic a move. This, as an attempt to dilute the heavily quirky, comedic angle of the film, is both naive and far-reaching. Breakfast On Pluto only works as a comedy, largely due to Murphy, but when drama is introduced frivolously and needlessly, you'll wish you had the lack of perspective of Kitten himself.

For essentially the same subject of gender identity, Transamerica has a very different way of dealing with it. Firstly, the character of Bree (Huffman), formerly Stanley, has already undergone sexual operations and is considerably more wise than Pluto's Kitten. The film also focuses on Bree's relationship with her son as opposed to Kitten's journey of self-discovery. Bree meets her son after a strange telephone call from a police station in New York, saying he has been taken in for hustling. Toby, unknowing that Bree was once his father, travels back with her, with the understanding that she is a Christian missionary.Transamerica remains very soulful throughout, the interaction between father and son through the road trip appearing natural and very genuine. This film is a lot about accepting other people for what they are, even if you don't like who they are.

Although Transamerica has quite a touching bond between the two main characters, the film tends to turn situations regarding transsexual societies, drugs, and over-bearing grandparents into silly comedy. There seems to be too much effort into creating a memorable trip, rather than embracing its central relationship in a way that similar films have in the past. The decision to include as many 'incidents' as possible escalates the film into a mode that it doesn't belong in, and takes away some of the emotional resonance.

And so I guess the underlying lesson is: If you're talking about people learning to accept themselves and others for their chosen identity, you must stick to your own. Nobody would care if there were no madcap moments in Transamerica, no moral questioning in Pluto. We just want you to tell a story.

Breakfast On Pluto - C-
Transamerica - D+

Love.. Is a Burning Thing

So after months of speculation, FINALLY 'Walk the Line' arrived on UK cinema screens today. Beginning at the start of the year with a host of pre-oscar predictions, some of which came off, some of which did not, I was anticipating WTL. Of course, this can be blamed on the Academy's surprising shun to the picture, which makes what I'm about to say all that harder to bear.

I'm sure by now you must know that I adore Reese Witherspoon in every way imaginable. I think she is a total and utter genius, particularly in Election, but also in Freeway, Legally Blonde, and even Sweet Home Alabama. It's very rare to find such a charismatic woman with THIS much on-screen presence. After seeing WTL today I may even build a shrine (yes, I'm serious) so I could bow down to her sheer greatness every night before I go to sleep. This performance is not only the best in its category, it is the best of its year. When RW wins her first (and hopefully not her last) Oscar on Sunday March 5th, I will be so completely overwhelmed. Even if she's married to Ryan Philippe (displays a mixed harbouring of jealousy and puzzlement).

So now onto the film.. lol. Well, after 'Ray' last year, which by the way had absoloutely no place being anywhere near a 'Best Picture' line-up. Fairly horrendous I hope you'll agree. But anyway, yes, like Ray, 'Walk the Line' is about a very famous recently desceased musician with a troubled past. The way it differs from last year's effort though, is a) in it's quality acting of the two leads and b) in it's representation of expectation, by your doting public, by your loving wife, by your parents. WTL is an insight into society and human dilemna as much as it is an insight into Johnny Cash's musical ramblings. Hearing this story of love, friendship, morality is itself like music to the ears.

There is a definite sense in this film that both Carter and Cash undergo an emotional journey of different magnitudes, and in this way is very atypical of your usual biopic. Phoenix gives Cash a glaring humanity, and never overplays, whether he be a drunken rambler, a lovestruck puppy, a rock star, Phoenix is always Johnny Cash. Where the film particularly peaks though, is when he and Witherspoon interact. They connect on a level that typifies the central relationship in the film, driving the thematic boundaries of the film to the limit.

Listening to Cash's music is always a pleasure. Do not for one second imagine me as a Johnny Cash fan lol. I never will be a fan, but there are certain singers whose work is universally accepted, and he is one of them. The decision to let the two leads sing only enhances the film in a way 'Ray' grew distant and dormant. 'Walk the Line' is a triumph, in the sense that writing a song may be more rewarding than singing it. To believe in a song is to believe in what it is saying, and believe me when I say: 'Walk the Line' says all the right things, and believes in them all.

Grade: B+

Oscar Reaction

Reaction to the Oscar nominations, for the main six categories, is available over at the site. Any comments would be appreciated. Do you think I'm overrating Crash? Or underrating Felicity Huffman? Like I said -- if you do, give me a bell ;)