Thursday, January 18, 2007

Globes Reaction

OK. Apologies this is late. I went on a major drinking binge and have only just recovered. First of all, here is the list of winners:

Best film (drama)

Best film (musical or comedy)

Best director
Martin Scorsese - The Departed

Best actor (drama)
Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland

Best actor (musical or comedy)
Sacha Baron Cohen - Borat

Best actress (drama)
Helen Mirren - The Queen

Best actress (musical or comedy)
Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada

Best supporting actor
Eddie Murphy - Dreamgirls

Best supporting actress
Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls

Best foreign language film
Letters From Iwo Jima (US)

Best animated feature film

Best screenplay
Peter Morgan - The Queen

Best original song
The Song of the Heart - Happy Feet

Best original score
Alexandre Desplat - The Painted Veil

OK, before I discuss the less inspiring aspect of the night -- and let's face it the secondary purpose for the media being there in the first place -- the film awards, I'm gonna discuss fashion. I'll do this briefly, because contrary to popular belief, I am not gay enough to launch into an essay-style assault on designers and shit.

Best Dressed: Reese Witherspoon, whose sunshine yellow was indeed a ray of light on a bleak and boring Hollywood occason. The stunning Sienna Miller, who never seems to look anything but faultless. And Drew Barrymore, who keeps getting invited to these events despite having a diminishing profile and, truthfully, a limited talent.

Worst Dressed: Rinko Kikuchi. Don't get me wrong. I am all for trying something different. But jesus christ. I cannot believe she actually looked in the mirror before she left her hotel and thought she wasn't going to be in the fashion hall of shame in every magazine in America the next day.

Now for the speeches...

Best Speech: The heroic Meryl Streep, who always manages to be hilarious, sincere, and impacting. Her point about smaller films not getting their dues in big theaters is a long-argued one, but completely appropriate in this year's Actress race, and expertly put.

Worst Speech: Forest Whitaker. As much as I think his shyness is cute, in an honest, childish kind of way, it defies belief to me that he cannot acknowledge his award with more sincerity and swagger, seen as his performance is the most over-the-top you're likely to see for a long time.

And finally, the awards..

It's probably best to get Helen Mirren out of the way first. As much as I do love her, it was easy to predict a double royal win. 2 more hurdles then, and the biggest awards haul for a single performance will be complete. Dreamgirls' 3 wins means it's probably in the lead, given all-over-the-shop avid disagreement over Best Picture, eventually culminating in nomination leader Babel being given the prize. I certainly did not think The Queen would win, being a smaller, subdued film, but for The Departed this must be concerning. Nevertheless, it's exciting for the BP race, assuring it's gonna go down to the wire.

Another race that will go down to the wire is Best Actor, where Whitaker has struck an early precursor blow to add to the mountain of critics love. Yet this does not strike me as an Oscar-winning performance, and he does not seem loveable enough to me to be capable of thwarting the legendary Peter O'Toole's undoubtedly final surge for Oscar glory. Sacha Baron Cohen, on the other hand is loveable, fuckable, all of the aboveable, and more. His decision to turn up out-of-character definitely a smart move, if he wants to grab a nod from Gosling, or the potentially splitting Di Caprio.

With a refined Helen and floundering Forest, it was left up to the Dreamgirls supportng players to drum up some media frenzy. Hudson and Murphy's wins will likely match up at Oscar, though Murphy will have to fend off SAG competition from Haley and Nicholson first. Hudson, however, is already assured of the golden guy. As is Martin Scorsese, who has no real competition. I'm especially glad he will get it for a much more accomplished directorial feat than The Aviator was 2 years ago.

Quick bitchy comments about: Cars - worst of the nominees, Peter Morgan - simplistic, cartoonish, Jamie Foxx hosting - arrogance an understatement, Letters From Iwo Jima - America is not the world

That's All.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Picture, Drama:

"The Departed"
"Little Children"
"The Queen"

Prediction: The Departed
Alternate: Babel

Actress, Drama:

Penelope Cruz, "Volver"
Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"
Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Sherrybaby"
Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Kate Winslet, "Little Children"

Prediction: Helen Mirren - The Queen

Alternate: None

Actor, Drama:

Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Departed"
Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"
Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

Prediction: Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland
Alternate: Peter O'Toole - Venus

Picture, Musical or Comedy:

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"
"The Devil Wears Prada"
"Little Miss Sunshine"
"Thank You for Smoking"

Prediction: Dreamgirls
Alternate: Little Miss Sunshine

Actress, Musical or Comedy:

Annette Bening, "Running With Scissors"
Toni Collette, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Beyonce Knowles, "Dreamgirls"
Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Renee Zellweger, "Miss Potter"

Prediction: Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada
Alternate: Beyonce Knowles - Dreamgirls

Actor, Musical or Comedy:

Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"
Johnny Depp, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Aaron Eckhart, "Thank You for Smoking"
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Kinky Boots"
Will Ferrell, "Stranger than Fiction"

Prediction: Sacha Baron Cohen - Borat
Alternate: None

Supporting Actress:

Adriana Barraza, "Babel"
Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"
Emily Blunt, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"

Prediction: Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls
Alternate: None

Supporting Actor:

Ben Affleck, "Hollywoodland"
Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"
Jack Nicholson, "The Departed"
Brad Pitt, "Babel"
Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed"

Prediction: Eddie Murphy - Dreamgirls
Alternate: Brad Pitt - Babel


Clint Eastwood, "Flags of Our Fathers"
Clint Eastwood, "Letters from Iwo Jima"
Steven Frears, "The Queen"
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"
Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"

Prediction: Martin Scorsese - The Departed
Alternate: Clint Eastwood - Letters From Iwo Jima


Guillermo Arriaga, "Babel"
Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, "Little Children"
Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal"
William Monahan, "The Departed"
Peter Morgan, "The Queen"

Prediction: Guillermo Arriaga - Babel
Alternate: Peter Morgan - The Queen

Foreign Language:

"Apocalypto," USA
"Letters from Iwo Jima," USA/Japan
"The Lives of Others," Germany
"Pan's Labyrinth," Mexico
"Volver" Spain

Prediction: Pan's Labyrinth
Alternate: Letters From Iwo Jima

Animated Film:

"Happy Feet"
"Monster House"

Prediction: Happy Feet
Alternate: Cars

Original Score:

Alexandre Desplat, "The Painted Veil"
Clint Mansell, "The Fountain"
Gustavo Santaolalla, "Babel"
Carlo Siliotto, "Nomad"
Hans Zimmer, "The Da Vinci Code"

Prediction: Gustavo Santaolalla - Babel
Alternate: Alexandre Desplat - The Painted Veil

Original Song:

"A Father's Way" from "The Pursuit of Happyness"
"Listen" from "Dreamgirls"
"Never Gonna Break My Faith" from "Bobby"
"The Song of the Heart" from "Happy Feet"
"Try Not to Remember" from "Home of the Brave"

Prediction: "Listen" - Dreamgirls
Alternate: "Never Gonna Break My Faith" - Bobby

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Top 10 Uses of Existing Songs in Movies


Although none of the film's songs are on this list, this idea came to me while watching Sofia Coppola's wonderful 'Marie Antoinette'. There have been some inspirational cinematic revivals of existing songs throughout history, and here are my top ten.
**Note: Contains mild spoilers**

#10. The Crew Cuts - "Sh-Boom" (1954)
in "Clue" (1985)

Popularly referred to as "Life Could Be a Dream Sweetheart", this is one of the more memorably hilarious choices of music in the film. After a particular flurry of murders in the dark, the surviving members return from their respective rooms to the sound of this record skipping and then resuming. The bewilderment of the characters ties in perfectly with this -- why are they here? How have they gotten themselves into this mess? Fantastic.

#9. Edith Piaf - "La Vie En Rose" (1946)
in "My Summer of Love" (2004)

Translated as "Life in pink", this swooning song carries with it a foolish idealism and devotion that correlates with the themes of MSOL. Used towards the end of the film more appropriately, it is representative of the characters' ardent nature; their impetuousity and fearlessness when they get something into their heads. An ode to love and life.

#8. Karla DeVito - "We Are Not Alone" (1985)
in "The Breakfast Club" (1985)

The scene in the film in which the six adolescents let go of their social inhibitions and judgement, and collectively indulge in smoking pot, dancing, and generally exercising their teenage rebellion. The song is a statement that is indicative of the film as a whole, that people should not isolate themselves from one another, and is one of the few moments where the group are truly united.

#7. Judy Garland - "Over the Rainbow" (1939)
in "Face/Off" (1995)

A rare occasion when violence is seen through the eyes of a child. Adds an entire different dimension to what could have been a conventional action sequence, and gives us the perspective of the more passive characters, seen as possessions to be recovered. The victims caught in the crossfire. It makes the film seem harrowing and authentic despite its less than modest predictability.

#6. Nancy Sinatra - "Bang, Bang" (1966)
in "Kill Bill Vol. 1" (2003)

Such a simple and succinct song that typifies the bride's sentimental, yet rigidly unmoving attitude towards antagonist Bill. The Bride, as a character, bears a lot of rage, but releases it in the form of clinical, efficient violence. Her casual demeanor and tone is cool and classy, much like Nancy's sultry resignation.

#5. Syreeta - "Harmour Love" (1977)
in "Junebug" (2005)

The type of sweet and simple tune easily associated with Junebug's Southern bible-belt orthodox Christianity -- easy to listen to, and containing a valuable message. It's also incredibly infectious, and captures the simplistic essence of what the film tries to say about family values.

#4. The Jesus and Mary Chain - "Just Like Honey" (1985)
in "Lost in Translation" (2003)

There's nothing I've ever experienced at the cinema that quite tops Bill Murray's exit to this song. Like a dream sequence, the subdued muffling of this song an indistinct reference to being in disarray or transition. The experience and resigned wisdom of knowing where to draw the line.

#3. The Police - "Roxanne" (1979)
in "Moulin Rouge" (2001)

This song is given a flamboyant makeover from its mundane and dull existence, into a flourishing, passionate, energetic tango. The sort that mirrors MR's constantly racy, chaotic tone. A sequence filled with power, tension and theatrics that just wills you to don a red flower and flail your arms around in a dramatic fashion. Magical.

#2. Pat Ballard - "Mr. Sandman" (1954)
in "Halloween II" (1981)

This chirpy tune creates a weird, eery feeling thats contrapuntal genius makes you scream "But what next?!". A deliberately upbeat number playing on the idea of not being able to sleep, and used frustratingly appropriately throughout the film, almost as if to dismiss its world of terror and chaos as unavoidable normality.

#1. Vera Lynn - "We'll Meet Again" (1939)
in "Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964)

Perhaps it's the history of Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again" that makes its presence in the film so perfect. A classic war tune, it tells of lovers parting as the man goes off to fight for his country. As Strangelove's apocalyptic finale becomes clear the song plays as the world crumbles to an end. A noble anthem that rules a line under the less-than-noble actions that litter the film, and a fittingly rousing farewell to a comedy of errors. The final mark of insanity.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Revised Black Dahlia Review

The Black Dahlia
Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Mira Kirshner, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Scarlett Johansson, Fiona Kay, John Kavanagh

Brian De Palma's stint in film noir -- a stint that reached its height with the release of crime classic 'Scarface' in 1983 -- continues over twenty years later with this adaptation of James Ellroy's novel, 'The Black Dahlia'. In this typically 40's crime drama, Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart are two L.A. cops on the hunt for the brutal killer of aspiring Hollywood actress Elizabeth Short. Bucky Bleichert (Hartnett) and his partner Lee Blanchard (Eckhart) are drawn into the investigation, but when Blanchard begins to obsess over the case, Bleichert is left to pursue it alone, meeting along the way what can only be described as a very against-type Hilary Swank as Madeleine, the mysterious, sumptuous daughter of Hollywood tycoon Emmet Linscott. But as Blanchard grows ever more unstable, Bucky is drawn closer to his wife Kay, played by Scarlett Johansson.

Although 'The Black Dahlia' is based on a real-life murder, the actual murder was never solved, and therefore the characters in the story are entirely a work of fiction. Presumably this is why many of the characters suffer from a lack of authenticity, bar the dahlia herself, a mesmeric performance from Mia Kirshner. Shown in snippets of archives, Kirshner's Short is the most human and believable of Dahlia's weird and wonderful concoction, enveloping the translucent desperation of an aspiring dreamer with stunning resonance. With the flick of her eyelash, the hint of a seductive pout, you can't help but be drawn to her multi-faceted monologues. The ability of Kirshner to keep you guessing is extraordinary, particularly evident in a screen test in which she launches into a bad impersonation of Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara, and then proceeds to look gazingly into the eyes of the camera, a wounded soul, as she utters the words "Even if I have to lie, or cheat, or steal".

Her mysterious visionary captures the audience as much as the mystery of the Dahlia is supposed to grip us, but in truth, Kirshner generates most of the intrigue of this mystery herself, as the narrative of the film gets bogged down in dull, meaningless exchanges, and random unaffecting sub-plots. It is Hartnett that leads the audience amidst a typhoon of somewhat ridiculous characters that are either underplayed (Swank), overplayed (Shaw), or simply badly acted (Johansson). De Palma watches the level of interest in his plotline rapidly descend, while Hartnett struggles bravely against a tired and at times painful script.

As things hot up, and Dahlia's love triangle subplot is ended once and for all, the pieces of the puzzle do finally begin to merge, or rather, splat together. But while De Palma likes to keep us dangling on a string for much of the film -- a string that's very very very fine I'd like to add -- he wastes no time in wrapping the film up into a frayed and bundled mess. Most disappointing is a finale that reeks of bad TV Whodunits, racing towards a silly conclusion like 'Murder, She Wrote' on acid (and I LOVE Murder, She Wrote). Dahlia may be gloriously stupid, but I can't help but wonder that this could have been a classic, had a bigger effort been made on creating a convincing enigma than there was on iconising its title star.

Grade: C

Friday, January 05, 2007

And in the beginning, there was nothing. And God said, "Let there be light", and
there was light

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

SAG Predictions

SAG tomorrow!!!!! Here are my predictions:-


The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine


Leonardo Di Caprio (The Departed)
Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson)
Peter O'Toole (Venus)
Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness)
Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland)


Penelope Cruz (Volver)
Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal)
Helen Mirren (The Queen)
Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada)
Kate Winslet (Little Children)

Supporting Actor

Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine)
Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children)
Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls)
Jack Nicholson (The Departed)
Michael Sheen (The Queen)

Supporting Actress

Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal)
Shareeka Epps (Half Nelson)
Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls)
Rinko Kikuchi (Babel)
Catherine O'Hara (For Your Consideration)

Vera Farmiga in Running Scared

33 year old Vera Farmiga first burst onto the scene last year, with a Los Angeles Film Critics Association victory for her much lauded turn in indie hit Down to the Bone. Though hardly a breakthrough of the most epic proportions, Farmiga, whose early credits feature scattered American TV appearances, has found herself involved heavily in this year's calendar, working with legendary directors Anthony Minghella (in Breaking and Entering) and Martin Scorsese (in The Departed). Both of these appearances have earned her Oscar buzz, and though she still has a very longshot opportunity of a nomination for her feisty Departed turn, it's another '06 performance of hers that I can't help but find the most exhilarating.

The first cinema release of the year I went to see was Running Scared. Let the record show I had no intention of going to see this film when I entered the cinema. You know what it's like with multiplexes. You come at the wrong time, you have to make do. It's not often I'm surprised by a film I'm really only going to see to pass the time, and this was no exception. Running Scared, an action thriller, starring the cute but ever-vapid Paul Walker, and the equally vapid but twice as annoying Cameron Bright, is one of those films that really only exists to allow Walker his annual exercise as a gun-wielding hero. This is perhaps forgivable. What isn't forgivable is its incessant deployment of cliches in almost every scene that supposedly serves to remind us of what a harsh world we live in.

Where Farmiga comes into the debacle is as Walker's wife Teresa, and mother to his son, who is drawn into the corrupt world of crime when her husband gets into a sticky situation. Much of her early appearances in the film serve to build the relationship between her and Walker as a loving one, so that we can care when it starts to unravel a little later on. Her subtle beauty in these scenes evident, she wades in and out of rationality with a knowing ease, etching the characters thoughts and concerns; her matriarchal desperation to keep her family from danger, the everyday struggles of a less fortunate family. She has the weight of the world on her shoulders, and is a much more convincing protagonist than leading man Walker.

The thing about Vera is: whether it be a junkie (Down to the Bone), psychologist (Departed), hooker (Breaking and Entering), or familiar wronged wife role she decides to dig her claws into, Farmiga's on-screen presence commands empathy. Even in the most extreme of situations, through frustratingly amoral circumstances and serious character flaws, she is a strong, incandescent embodiment of 21st century womanhood. And for me, Farmiga's stardom is set in stone when she is asked to sell a potentially horrendous cheap, cliche-ridden scene regarding paedofilia. You believe every second of her grapple with crime. Her nervous dive into the barrel-scraping underground of criminality utterly convincing, Teresa's moral battle is stunningly presented. Farmiga's fantastic knowledge of the character allows her to give the audience a window into the mind of a woman drifting away from logic into instinct. She bursts onto the scene a completely different woman to the one that exits the scene, stripped to the bare bones by the cruelty of the world and forced to come to a resolution nobody can contemplate. Gripping to the bitter end it's the best-acted scene of the year, a believeaby raw and eminently powerful portrayal of human nature, and her ability to make the five-minute rollercoaster believeable is a titanic achievement.

I love you Vera.