Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Addicts: But First The Worst

It's a matter of days before I begin to reveal my jaunt through personal Awards, which some time ago I elected to call the 'Addicts'. When I'm deciding my Awards I find it quite difficult. Oh, it's always fairly easy making shortlists. But when you have to cut the shortlists suddenly you can be besieged with attachment you didn't even know you had (or at least to the extent that it hits you). That's why I won't be leaving anyone from my shortlists unmentioned, and why it's going to be so painful to cut my list of lead actresses from seven to five. I'm from the UK so I don't technically go by U.S. release, although I don't go by UK release either. Instead I count a release anywhere (excluding festivals), and primarily in the country that made the film, so for instance, I deem Lady Chatterley to be a 2006 film. I've found it works best this way.

But before we get to that, let me just tell you what I thought were the Worst things to take from the cinema in 2007. There were a few, although much less than last year, which I'm pleased to report. Maybe I just chose my films better in 2007. I guess these can't be 'Addicts'. Not severe enough. How about 'Junkies'? Anyway, here goes... (Winners are in red)

Worst Picture

My only comment on this film earlier in the year was that it was the 'death of production design'. Several months on and this is still the only morsel I've extracted from this tired film.

Across The Universe
A film that fails on every level, and unforgivably (for a musical) one that can't integrate its themes with the music, suffocating them (and the plot) beneath its desire to play every track The Beatles ever recorded. Has no more effect than a jukebox.

Ghost Rider
A thin, desperate representative of an already-tired comic book franchise. Can we please stop with these now? I can't take it!

Saw IV
Perhaps the worst thing about Saw IV is that it tries too hard. It so wants to make this one more shocking than the rest, not just in regard to blood and guts, but with its absurd plot devices. It introduces characters previously seen for less than five minutes in the franchise and gives them a pivotal role in a messy finale, and ends up twisting the film so that we have absoloutely no idea at which point in time we are.

The film says nothing about anything, or anyone in it, aside from that they're the hollow product of some godawful ventriloquist act.
(Taken from review)

Worst Director
Darren Lynn Bousman, Saw IV
Mark Steven Johnson, Ghost Rider
Shekhar Kapur, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Sam Raimi, Spider-Man 3
Julie Taymor, Across The Universe

Worst Actor
Nicholas Cage, Ghost Rider
Jim Carrey, The Number 23
Nathan Fillion, Waitress
Anthony Hopkins, Fracture
Clive Owen, Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Worst Actress
Kirsten Dunst - Spider-Man 3
Virginia Madsen - The Number 23
Eva Mendes - Ghost Rider
Amelia Warner - Gone
Naomi Watts - Eastern Promises

Worst Screenplay
David Benioff, The Kite Runner
Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais, Across The Universe
Michael B. Gordon, Kurt Johnstad & Zack Snyder, 300
Mark Steven Johnson, Ghost Rider
Adrienne Shelly, Waitress

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscars! Winners & Reaction

Nobody could stop what was coming. That the Academy put together a nominees list better than any in recent memory was the real victory for the year, but the embracing of No Country For Old Men, a film that a decade ago surely would have lost, suggests Oscar is changing. A great list of winners. Here are the lucky people:

Best Picture: No Country for Old Men
Best Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Best Actor: Daniel Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Best Actress: Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
Best Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
Best Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, Juno

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Coens, No Country for Old Men
Best Doc Feature: Taxi to the Dark Side
Best Doc Short: Freeheld
Best Score: Atonement
Best Cinematography: Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood
Best Song: Falling Slowly, Once
Best Foreign Language Film: The Counterfeiters
Best Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum
Best Sound Mixing: The Bourne Ultimatum
Best Sound Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum
Animated Short Peter and the Wolf
Live Action short: Le Mozart des Pickpockets
Art Direction: Sweeney Todd
Visual Effects: The Golden Compass
Best Makeup: La Vie Rose
Best Animated Feature: Ratouille
Best Costume Design: Elizabeth, The Golden Age

Prediction Score: 14/24 (Same as last year. I'm pleased!)


Best Victory: Tilda Swinton's win for Michael Clayton. One of the best ever Supporting Actress wins. I would have been happy with anyone but Ruby Dee winning but this was a bonus.

Speech: Diablo Cody. Lovely, genuine, and she appropriately dedicated her award to the writers. Tilda Swinton bringing up Batman and Robin is a pretty close second though. Oh and I also loved the Freeheld people. Visibly overjoyed.

Best Moment: Marketa Irglova returning to the stage shortly after Once's song victory, and giving the speech she was prevented from giving at the time.

Worst Victory: Generally very good this year. Gone are the days of Sean Penn in Mystic River and Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. I liked most of these choices. Maybe the effects win for The Golden Compass is the worst of them, and was clearly awarded because animals are cuter than robots.

Worst Speech: Any of The Coen Brother's wins. Not bad. Just boring.

Worst Moment: Any of the clips. Do we need to know every Oscar winner since 1928? Absurd. Especially when you consider they cut a load of time off the In Memoriam slot.


Best Dressed: Jennifer Garner. Simple black dress with gorgeous detail at the bottom, beautiful hair, and a stunning diamond necklace to top the outfit off. Insanely pretty. Laura Linney also did very well. Loved her hair. LOVED Diane Lane's dress. Lovely thing on the waist. Katherine Heigl's shoulder detail. Wasn't sure about the hair. Marion Cotillard. Brave choice. The men: Javier, as ever, and Dwayne Johnson. Yummy. Best dressed couple, Seal and Heidi Klum. Dreamy.

Worst Dressed: I hated the colour of Amy Ryan's dress. Or at least on her. Didn't like the choice of Cameron Diaz. Boring. Amy Adams' deep green dress was not to my liking. Cate Blanchett. Weird neckline.

Indie Spirit Awards

Robert Altman Award
Todd Haynes, Laura Rosenthal and the cast of I’m Not There

Best Director
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Male Lead
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Savages

Best Female Lead
Ellen Page, Juno

Best Feature

Best Supporting Male
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Talk To Me

Best First Screenplay
Diablo Cody, Juno

Best First Feature
The Lookout

Best Supporting Female
Cate Blanchett

John Cassavetes Award
August Evening

Best Foreign Film

Best Screenplay
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages

Best Documentary
Crazy Love

Best Cinematography
Janusz Kaminski, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oscars! Final Predictions [The Big Two]

Best Picture

Michael Clayton
No Country For Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Should Win:
My favourite is Atonement.

Will Win:
I'd like to begin by saying that this is one of the greatest BP lineups Oscar has ever had. Truly a brilliant representation of the year. Michael Clayton is my least favourite of these, and I might be a little miffed if it wins, but I don't think it will. For me it's a battle between the film that's at the top of every important list this year, No Country For Old Men, and the film that everyone loved, Juno. And I actually think that lil Juno is gonna take this award. $100m+ at the box office, a nomination for its director (more than Little Miss Sunshine's directors managed last year, and that was surely in contention for the win), and the endorsement of two major players in the Oscar game, Roger Ebert and Oprah Winfrey. Personally, I'd be thrilled if it won.

Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood
Joel & Ethan Coen - No Country For Old Men
Tony Gilroy - Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman - Juno
Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Should Win:
Probably the Coens. Or PTA.

Will Win: The Coens
. They're stronger than their film because it's so admirably crafted.

Oscars! Final Predictions [The Actresses]

Actress in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie - Away From Her
Marion Cotillard - La Vie En Rose
Laura Linney - The Savages
Ellen Page - Juno

Should Win: Aside from the inclusion of Cate Blanchett, the Academy have assembled an excellent collection of actresses this year, and had expected-nominee Angelina Jolie been in her place, I'd argue it would have been one of the best ever. I don't have a problem with any of the other four taking home the golden guy, but if pushed my favourite has to be Julie Christie, for bringing so much grace and being so natural in a role that's surely difficult to get right.

Will Win:
Had Edith Piaf been American, and Marion Cotillard had played her in an American-produced film, in the English language, then she'd definitely win here. As it stands her performance is foreign, and Sophia Loren is the only actress in Oscar history to break this barrier, even though Cotillard herself has other things going for her; like the 20-something beauty transformed into an old diva. Instead I fancy she'll be pushed back into third place, for Julie Christie and Ellen Page, whose films lend empathy to their characters much more than Cotillard's will allow (not that I dislike La Vie En Rose -- on the contrary actually). Juno is strong, but there must be a group of the Academy that look down on it, and thus I really don't think Ellen Page's performance (as wonderful as it is) can triumph over a traditional win for the gorgeous, deserving Julie Christie.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Ruby Dee - American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton

Should Win: Tilda Swinton, who elevates her character so much from its written form, absorbing the themes of her film and manifesting them in her performance so superbly. Love the Blanchett, too.

Will Win:
I've been going over this but I've finally settled on Amy Ryan. Everybody else, bar Ronan, seems to have won something, and people love her performance. Plus the role is total bait, even in a category comprising of a woman playing a man and an 83 year-old legend who tearfully attacks her drug-dealing son.

Oscars! Final Predictions [The Actors]

Actor in a Leading Role

George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd
Tommy Lee Jones - In The Valley Of Elah
Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises

Should Win: I admire all of these performances, but the only two I wrestle with in my mind are Day Lewis' sinister turn as a guy engulfed by the greed and competition of the era, Darwinian to the extreme, and Tommy Lee Jones' perfectly-pitched performance as a grieving father, in which he's effectively asked to become an amateur sleuth and constantly rises far, far above this. My favourite is probably Daniel Day-Lewis.

Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis. In 2002 he led the critics, precursors etc. and lost out to Adrien Brody. A good decision if you ask me. But this year there is no pianist, and there is no pretender. It's so rewarding to witness someone like Daniel Day-Lewis talk about his work because you can really truly feel his passion. It's easy to think of Actors as they are in gossip magazines: distant, diplomatic, unaware, but this is a man who belongs at the centre of everything. A true oscar winner, if you will. And a two-time Oscar winner after tonight. No doubt about that.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James
Javier Bardem - No Country For Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
Hal Holbrook - Into The Wild
Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton

Should Win: I haven't seen Hal Holbrook, and I must say I'm a bit disappointed with this category. The one nominee I emotionally registered with is most definitely a 'Leading' actor, and the other three I've seen I like but don't love. Nevertheless, Javier Bardem's jaunt through No Country is a harrowing experience, and it's testament to how well the film is constructed that he never feels like a cartoon. Presence is his weapon, and it's a potent one.

Will Win: Javier Bardem. Duh. People haven't been able to look past this performance. It's in a hugely popular film, and belongs to a charismatic, beautiful man. Who can argue against that?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oscars! Final Predictions [Foreign & Screenplays]

Foreign Film

“Beaufort” (Israel)
“The Counterfeiters” (Austria)
“Katyń” (Poland)
“Mongol” (Kazakhstan)
“12” (Russia)

Should Win: I saw eight foreign-language films from last year and liked almost all of them, but none are featured here.

Will Win: Voters dissented against the populist choices of Persepolis and 4 Months, so theoretically anything could happen here. But the only one of these I can really pick for the win is The Counterfeiters, because it's the only one that's been given a release. It's also got great reviews.

Original Screenplay

“Lars and the Real Girl”
“Michael Clayton”
“The Savages”

Should Win: Diablo Cody's Juno script is often indulgent but always clever, and manages to challenge pre-conceptions of its characters so wonderfully well. Way better than any of the other nominees, although I haven't seen Lars yet.

Will Win: Juno. Happy times.

Adapted Screenplay

“Away from Her”
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
“No Country for Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”

Should Win: There Will Be Blood amalgamates a lot of different sources to achieve its dense script. Admittedly the amalgamation is not seamless but is certainly a victory for ambition.

Will Win: No Country For Old Men, since it's taken almost every critic prize and precursor.

Oscars! Final Predictions [Design]

Art Direction

"American Gangster"

"The Golden Compass"
"Sweeney Todd"
"There Will Be Blood"

Should Win: As much as I love Ferretti's wacky throwback to a murky-looking London, Atonement's got my vote for this award as well. So elaborate. Even the wallpaper!

Will Win: I don't know. Sweeney has the most overtly theatrical set, Atonement has the true period factor, and Blood has a lot of its set burned down. If the other awards work out the way I think they will, this could be There Will Be Blood's only real chance at a technical prize, and so I'll go for that.

Costume Design

"Across The Universe"
"Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
"La Vie En Rose"
"Sweeney Todd"



Make Up

"La Vie En Rose"
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"

Should Win: Meh.

Will Win: Probably La Vie En Rose, since Cotillard herself is such a beauty that the scenes in which she is old do tend to make you wonder how long she had to be prepared before work every morning.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Oscars! Final Predictions [Cinematography, Editing and Effects]


“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
“No Country for Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”

Should Win: If you've got it , flaunt it. Elswit's work on 'There Will Be Blood' is wonderfully natural, but the shameless showing off by McGarvey in Atonement works for me. Underlining epicness.

Will Win: Deakins is nominated twice, and No Country has probably shaded the critics' choice in this category anyway, so I'm inclined to go for that. The Academy could however choose to reward the technically showy Diving Bell here, since it's unlikely to win anything else. Decisions, decisions. I'm gonna stick with Deakins.

Film Editing

“The Bourne Ultimatum”
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
“Into the Wild”
“No Country for Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood"

Should Win: I've only actually seen two of these, although I'm finally catching Diving Bell tomorrow. Of the two, No Country is much more accomplished in this department than the ambitious but admittedly faltering There Will Be Blood. And the editing doesn't escape Blood's list of flaws either.

Will Win: I'm quite wary of predicting No Country to win too many awards in a year where there are so many wonderfully-crafted films. I wouldn't be surprised if it took editing too, but I'm gonna place my bets on The Bourne Ultimatum, which is surely impressive in this area, and an award here would please its many fans.

Visual Effects

“The Golden Compass”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”

Should Win: Transformers. Wonderful FX.

Will Win: I think the Art Direction nomination for Golden Compass suggests that AMPAS are very impressed with the film visually, and so I expect it to win.

Hottest Track: Sam Sparro - Black and Gold

Brit Awards: Winners & Reaction


British Male - Mark Ronson
British Female - Kate Nash
British Group - Arctic Monkeys
British Album - Arctic Monkeys, "Favourite Worst Nightmare"
British Breakthrough Act - Mika
British Live Act - Take That
British Single - Take That, "Shine"
International Male - Kanye West
International Female - Kylie Minogue
International Group - Foo Fighters
International Album - Foo Fighters, "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace"

Prediction Score: 2/11 (Terrible!)
So much for atoning for last year's sorry prediction score. Even worse this year.


Things We Learned: Leona Lewis is not as loved as you'd think... The Arctic Monkey's are still the 'in' band... Amy Winehouse has a long road to recovery ahead... and Paul McCartney is nowhere near past it. Heather who? Classic.

Best Victory - Kate Nash...None of my favourites in any category took home a Brit but Kate was the closest. She has an original sound that I very much enjoy.

Best Speech - Kate Nash... Honest, gracious, and major bonus points for the line, "Let's eradicate the notion that 'female' is a genre".

Best Performance - Leona Lewis... If there's a more accomplished voice in music right now I haven't heard it.

Best Presentation of an Award - Everyone! One thing I love about being British is that it's more of a stigma if you don't get drunk at a party than if you do. Have you ever seen a drunker collection of presenters and recipients? Hilarious!

Worst Victory - Foo Fighters (Who I quite like) winning International Album ahead of Arcade Fire's stunning 'Neon Bible'.

Worst Speech - Kanye West. Confident is one thing, obnoxious another.

Worst Performance - Mika. Seriously screeeechy! Tone it down!

Worst Presentation of an Award - Chris Moyles. About as funny as cancer.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Linkage: An Oscar Special

All About My Movies so wants Casey Affleck to walk away with the Supporting Actor prize on Sunday -- despite the blatant category fraud.

And The Winner Is... asks "What if...?" about Oscar's apparent outsiders.

Goatdog makes the case for Juno winning Best Picture. More from me on this later in the week.

In Contention thinks No Country already has it won.

ModFab has the Live Action Short rundown. We speculate for months on end and yet it still manages to catch you out that there are simply SO many categories and factors still to consider.

StinkyLulu becomes one of Amy Ryan's countless admirers. Wish I could chip in. Gone Baby Gone remains unreleased here in Britain.

Strange Culture chronicles the year's twists and turns. Everything changes so quickly in an Oscar race.

Predicting the Brits!

So tonight it's the biggest music awards ceremony in Britain, the originally-titled Brit Awards. Last year I did unbelieveably bad in my predictions, so I'm hoping to save face a little this year. Here are my predictions...

British Male Solo Artist

Jamie T
Mark Ronson
Newton Faulkner
Richard Hawley

If I had a vote it would go to... Jamie T, whose album I definitely prefer to Ronson's, and whose two leading singles, 'Calm Down Dearest' and 'Sheila', I prefer to Mika's 'Grace Kelly' and 'Love Today'.

But I think the Brit is going to... Mark Ronson (probably). Mika has a lot of fans, and sings his own stuff which is obviously an advantage, but Timbaland and Kanye West's nominations in the international equivalent of this category probably means the Brits are as taken by the expanded role of the Producer as the rest of the world.

British Female Solo Artist

Bat For Lashes
Kate Nash
KT Tunstall
Leona Lewis
PJ Harvey

If I had a vote it would go to... BAT FOR LASHES! Excellent album. Creative genius.

But I think the Brit is going to... Leona Lewis, since her single and album broke records this year, and she seems to have risen above the reality tag. Good for her but I'm not sure the material she's put out so far beats any of her competitors this year, who all had pretty stellar albums, perhaps with the exception of Kate Nash, who had a killer single.

British Group

Arctic Monkeys
Girls Aloud
Kaiser Chiefs
Take That

If I had a vote it would go to... Girls Aloud (!), who have waited too long for this nomination, and put out my favourite album of the year last year.

But I think the Brit is going to... Take That. Everyone loves a comeback. Although if they feel guilty enough about snubbing Girls Aloud for the past four years, who knows? I have to say, with the amount of talent in this country I'm pretty disappointed with these nominees. Editors? Kaiser Chiefs? Take That? Boring.

Mastercard British Album

Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
Leona Lewis - Spirit
Mark Ronson - Version
Mika - Life In Cartoon Motion
Take That - Beautiful World

If I had a vote it would go to... Mark Ronson, in a bit of a meh category. I think his album feels a lot fresher than the Monkey's effort, which didn't vary enough from their mind-blowing first for my liking. Leona Lewis' first two singles are good but I've heard the album is littered with ballads. Not good.

But I think the Brit is going to... Take That. I don't really feel like saying much more, except that I'm fairly certain that these four comeback kids and Leona Lewis will be taking the most awards home this evening.

British Breakthrough Act

Bat For Lashes
Kate Nash
Leona Lewis

If I had a vote it would go to... Bat. For. Lashes. I do have a lot of time for the Klaxons though, and I'm glad they're there.

But I think the Brit is going to... Leona Lewis ... or the Klaxons... but probably Leona Lewis.

British Live Act

Arctic Monkeys
Kaiser Chiefs
Take That

If I had a vote it would go to... Klaxons. I like their sound, and they've been bursting with energy any time I've seen them perform on TV.

But I think the Brit is going to... Take That, who had a lot of media coverage regarding their theatrical tour, and so this award would make sense.

British Single

Leona Lewis - Bleeding Love
Mika - Grace Kelly
Take That - Shine
Kaiser Chiefs - Ruby

Sugababes - About You Now
Mark Ronson feat. Amy Winehouse - Valerie
Kate Nash - Foundations
The Hoosiers - Worried About Ray
James Blunt - 1973
Mutya Buena - Real Girl

If I had a vote it would go to... Kate Nash. 'Foundations' is SO original and lyrically brilliant. She doesn't carry it off half bad either. Gotta have a lil' bitch about two of these songs in particular. 'Ruby', which completely gets on my tits, and '1973', which is the type of song your Grandad thinks IS from 1973, until you tell him that that's just how James Blunt exercises his pedestrian artistry.

But I think the Brit is going to... Ronson & Winehouse. Amy was snubbed badly for these awards and there has to be an amount of guilt there, especially as she's allegedly on the mend. Plus if they don't choose 'Valerie', they may have to actually decide (shock! horror!) between Leona Lewis and Take That.

International Male Solo Artist

Bruce Springsteen
Kanye West
Michael Buble
Rufus Wainwright

If I had a vote it would go to... Timbaland. Three excellent songs, and probably another coming up with Madge (we hope!). I don't enough about Wainwright and I'm not a Kanye fan.

And would you believe it? I think the Brit is going to... Timbaland. It could yet go to Kanye, but he's won this before, and this may sound a bit harsh but I think he's been gettin kinda lazy to be honest.

International Female Solo Artist

Alicia Keys
Kylie Minogue

If I had a vote it would go to... Rihanna. I adore Bjork with all my heart, but major tunes have been coming from Rihanna in the last two years.

And I think the Brit is going to... Rihanna. There will certainly be a temptation to reward Kylie's comeback, and her album nomination suggests she is popular this year, but I don't think Rihanna can be ignored this year. Although she did basically curse our Summer. Maybe they hate her.

International Group

Arcade Fire
Foo Fighters
Kings Of Leon
White Stripes

If I had a vote it would go to... Arcade Fire. Nothing else need be spoken.

But I think the Brit is going to... The Eagles. We loved them here. Plus their album has done brilliantly.

International Album

Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Eagles - Long Road Out Of Eden
Foo Fighters - Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
Kings Of Leon - Because Of The Times
Kylie Minogue – X

If I had a vote it would go to... Arcade Fire - Neon Bible. I recently bought this and was blown AWAY. I could listen to 'Black Mirror' all day.
And if there is any justice, I think they might, might, MIGHT just give it to the universally adored 'Neon Bible' by Arcade Fire. The Eagles will be there or thereabouts but I'm hoping they get it right this time.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Oscars! Final Predictions [Sound Stuff]

Original Score

“The Kite Runner”
“Michael Clayton”
“3:10 to Yuma”

Should Win: Marianelli's beyond-gorgeous Atonement composition works so well with the different phases of the story. I think it's a lot better than the other nominees, which says a lot considering I like all of the scores here -- even The Kite Runner, which I otherwise detested.

Will Win: Atonement. Besides that epics are known for their sweeping score the film has five tech nominations, more than any of the others in the category. And Marianelli is enough of a name.

Original Song

“Falling Slowly” from “Once”
“Happy Working Song” from “Enchanted”
“Raise It Up” from “August Rush”
“So Close” from “Enchanted”
“That’s How You Know” from “Enchanted”

Should Win: I'm very attached to 'That's How You Know' but even though I haven't yet managed to see 'Once', Falling Slowly is enough to ensure that I do.

Will Win: Last year we saw 'Dreamgirls' lose in this category despite hogging three of the nominations. Similarly, 'Enchanted' has a major presence here, but I'm not sure whether any of its songs are strong enough to prevent vote splitting. The cult 'Once' fans could well have their say. I predict Falling Slowly will take this award.

Sound Mixing

“The Bourne Ultimatum”
“No Country for Old Men”
“3:10 to Yuma”

Should Win: That 'No Country For Old Men' feels atmospheric and spine-tingling with potential danger, whether it's focusing on a desert, or a shotgun, or both, is testament to the excellent starkness of its audio arrangement. I've yet to see Bourne.

Will Win: With four of the five here transferring to the sound editing category it's likely that in this category, probably the more highly regarded of the two, and with an absence of any musicals, they'll reward their favourite film, which with a hefty eight nominations has to be 'No Country For Old Men'.

Sound Editing

“The Bourne Ultimatum”
“No Country for Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”

Should Win: With the snubbing of Greenwood's score I'd be very tempted to vote for Blood, but in honesty I think the sound effects of Transformers beats pretty much everything this year.

Will Win: It's difficult. Last year they gave it to Jima, but only really because it wasn't going to win anything else. Maybe Blood is in the same position, but I'm inclined to go for a Ratatouille victory. With five nominations it seems very popular, and I seem to remember a win for The Incredibles in this category a couple years back.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Take Me Off Your Mailing List

I don't live in New York, but it's a place represented in the media often. I used to think of it (and at heart still do) as the ultimate city. Where anything and everything possible. A cultural home. One of the most liberal states in a country I honestly cannot stand. But recently it seems that people are keen to turn against New York City. Whether it's Jodie Foster's concerns in The Brave One, which perhaps can be construed as an attempt to mask her own characters' self-doubt, but admittedly is fairly scathing about what is intimidating people today, to things such as LCD Soundsystem's stunning song, 'New York, I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down', a hint at the recent New York 'clean-up' serving a distinctly promotional purpose. The lyrics 'Take me off your mailing list, for those who think it still exists' suggesting that New York has lost its identity altogether.

My brother lives in New York. I've always thought of it as a grander London, and having been there twice it feels strange how everyone seems so reliant upon things that, in the small town in the North of England where I come from, feel a distant and alien triviality. My brother's mother-in-law (I don't know what that makes her to me) Kiki Maria, a respected professor of English, recently had an essay published in the New York Press which tells about the reaction of her fellow New Yorkers when her ankle buckles beneath her near Union Square.

People are people. I get that. Perhaps this is because I've lived in a small town for most of my life, but whenever I visit a big city it always seems as if people are possessed or controlled. Systematic, characterless. But this essay clears things out of my mind, and makes me open to the way community is affected through circumstance. New York City may be the craziest place on earth, its inhabitants towered over by corporations, but anywhere you can call home must be crazy to somebody. That's culture.

Oscars! Final Predictions [Documentary, Animated & Shorts]

Documentary Feature

“No End in Sight”
“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience”
“Taxi to the Dark Side”

Should Win: My devotion to film should mean I see more documentaries. Shamefully, the only one of these I've seen is Sicko, but only because it's the only one of these five playing remotely near me. I'm a deprived Northerner. Haha.

Will Win: 'No End In Sight' has been winning most of the critics prizes, and if the ceremony had taken place a month ago I'd say the film was the frontrunner. Now I'm not so sure. 'Sicko' certainly has the commercial pull, and Moore has great history with AMPAS, but I'm not sure there is as much admiration for, or interest in this film, as there was for his previous documentaries. And we know by Born Into Brothels' 2004 victory over 'Super Size Me' that profile doesn't play much of a part in this particular category.

That the majority of the nominees be about war, and criticisms of Western culture, could play into the hands of 'War/Dance', the lightest of the five. But the film hasn't had as much notice as at least three of the other nominees, and similarly 'Operation Homecoming' doesn't have enough gumption in the race to manage a victory here. The other option is Alex Gibney's 'Taxi To The Dark Side', which has a couple of critics prizes and a WGA win to its name. It's difficult to know whether people will prefer the personalisation of war atrocities in the film to 'No End In Sight''s acclaimed overview, but I think this makes it more likely to have the emotional kick that voters will register with, and so I'm predicting Taxi To The Dark Side to take this prize.

Animated Feature

"Surf's Up"

Should Win: I haven't seen Persepolis yet. Not out here until March! Even though I think Ratatouille is very overrated (best animated film ever?!) it's much, much better than the thoughtful but flimsy 'Surf's Up', which I've just finished watching. The things I do for the Oscars...

Will Win: The rat movie. 'Persepolis' has done well but is hardly competition for a critical darling which EVERYONE in the known universe saw.

Documentary Short

“La Corona (The Crown)”
“Salim Baba”
“Sari’s Mother”

Should Win: Beats me. La Corona looks like it kicks ass.

Will Win: 'Sari's Mother' has the AIDS card. 'Freeheld' has the dying lesbian policewoman card. Freeheld has won more, so I'm picking it.

Live Action Short

“At Night”
“Il Supplente (The Substitute)”
“Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)”
“Tanghi Argentini”
“The Tonto Woman”

Should Win: Whoever thought of the name The Mozart of Pickpockets needs serious recognition.

Will Win: 'At Night' is about cancer, so maybe. I'm inclined to choose Tanghi Argentini actually. It seems very popular, and already has a lot of awards.

Animated Short

“I Met the Walrus”
“Madame Tutli-Putli”
“Même Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)”
“My Love (Moya Lyubov)”
“Peter & the Wolf”

Should Win: ModFab has an excellent analysis of this category, where you can view all of the nominees! I thought 'Even Pigeons Go To Heaven' was lovely and funny, but the animation in Madame Tutli-Putli is stunning, and I found the entire thing beautiful. My fave.

Will Win: As artistic and significant as 'My Love' feels, I think they could go for the endearing gem, Even Pigeons Go To Heaven. Just a hunch.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hottest Act: Bat For Lashes

Bit of a different theme this week. The reason being: Bat For Lashes, an act I've liked since I heard them at the Mercury Music Prize last year, performed live on radio 1 yesterday. You can hear them sing 'What's A Girl To Do?', my favourite song from their excellent album 'Fur and Gold', and a cover of Eurythmics' 'Sweet Dreams', which is FAB.

Grieving, Differently

Hallam Foe
Directed by David Mackenzie
Starring: Jamie Bell, Sophia Myles, Jamie Sives, Ciaran Hinds, Claire Forlani
Grade: B+

From the moment Hallam Foe launches himself from a treehouse, half-naked, into the path of a fornicating couple, we know that this boy is a lil' off the rails. When he has sex with his stepmother in a treehouse, that's another indication. And when he spies a woman bearing a resemblance to his dead mother and proceeds to place her at the centre of his voyeuristic attention, his symptoms become serious. But Hallam Foe knows better than to detail its subjects' symptomatic plague in this listly, throwaway fashion, instead crafting a character that's largely believeable, despite his name aptly underlining his irregular habits.

Hallam's dead mother forms the basis of our initial impression of him. This guy has baggage. We're not sure of him. He's not sure of himself. But for a story that, on the bare bones of things, is a familiar evolution of a lost boy and his search for closure, Hallam Foe sails past any ocular buoys with fresh characterisation and interesting ideas about relationships. It treats Hallam as an adolescent adapting to the wild: eager, brave, rash, naive, emotionally cautious and growingly individual. His relationship with lookalike Kate (Sophia Myles) indicative of this, his initial decision to focus on her a result of maternal longing, only to have this altered drastically as her sexuality and failure to commit becomes an immediate opposition to this.

David Mackenzie and Ed Whitmore's thoughtfully-written screenplay constructs a character with richness, and curiously one that hardly realises he is grieving. Hallam's ability to watch and retreat is helpful and knowledgeable, but as the film so deftly reveals, can be a deceptive learning experience. Admirably, grief is used as a volatile fixture of his otherwise uncertain personality, and this is how the film is able to soften the tokenness of his warring relationship with a rather thinly-coated villain, and his quirky urges to don face paint.

Monday, February 11, 2008

BAFTA Winners

Yes, I know I'm late. Yay for Atonement, Shia and Tilda! Serious spread the wealth. More on this and every other precursor in my analysis of all the Oscar races, including final predictions, which will commence in the next couple of days.

Academy fellowship
Anthony Hopkins

Outstanding British contributuion to cinema
Barry Wilkinson

Best film
Atonement (Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/Paul Webster)

Best British film
This is England (Mark Herbert/Shane Meadows)

The Carl Foreman award for special achievement
Matt Greenhalgh (Writer) Control

No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen/Ethan Coen)

Original screenplay
Juno (Diablo Cody)

Adapted screenplay
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Ronald Harwood)

Film not in the English language
The Lives of Others (Quirin Berg/Max Wiedemann/Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)

Animated film
Ratatouille (Brad Bird)

Leading actor
Daniel Day Lewis (There Will be Blood)

Leading actress
Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose)

Supporting actor
Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)

Supporting actress
Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)

La Vie en Rose (Christopher Gunning)

No Country for Old Men (Roger Deakins)

The Bourne Ultimatum (Christopher Rouse)

Production design
Atonement (Sarah Greenwood/Katie Spencer)

Costume design
La Vie en Rose (Marit Allen)
The Bourne Ultimatum (Kirk Francis/Scott Millan/David Parker/Karen Baker Landers/Per Hallberg)

Special visual effects
The Golden Compass (Michael Fink/Bill Westenhofer/Ben Morris/Trevor Wood)

Make-up & hair
La Vie en Rose (Jan Archibald/Didier Lavergne)

Short animation
The Pearce Sisters (Jo Allen/Luis Cook)

Short film
Dog Altogether (Diarmid Scrimshaw/Paddy Considine)

The Orange rising star award (voted by the public)
Shia Laboeuf

WGA Winners

A bit late but I've had a shit weekend. Haha.

Original Screenplay: Juno
Adapted Screenplay: No Country For Old Men
Documentary Script: Taxi To The Dark Side

Thursday, February 07, 2008


So I work in a Sainsbury's Convenience store situated literally a minutes walk from my house, which is obviously very handy. I only work there 11 hours a week -- sunday morning, and monday evening, but I've been there for 2 and a half years so everyone knows me. Today I went in to get some groceries and my manager called me into her office to read a memo she'd received from head office.

Apparently, our store is "unsuitable" for upgrade to a bigger Sainsbury's outlet, and so it's now on the market. This isn't entirely a surprise, as there have been rumours for the past year, but it means that either: a) Another company will buy the store and decide whether they want to keep the staff on, b) I will be transferred to another Sainsbury's store in the area, or c) I'll be made redundant :'-(

I am kinda in two minds about this, as I have been craving some kind of life change, and to meet new people etc. so another job would help. I also wanna try and get into a field I'm interested in. But it is the only job I've ever had, and I get on with all the staff so well, that it will hurt to leave. I suppose everything changes huh? I'll resist bitching at Sainsbury's and general corporate bitches who want to eradicate the essence of community and the 'corner shop'. But yeah. It's hard to take.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Tangled Up: Linkage

Call The Shots... Film Experience hosts this year's Oscar Symposium joined by cool special guests.

Close To Love... It's easy to be when Crumb By Crumb poses the ultimate question, Who's Hotter: Dean or Bana?

Sexy! No No No... Really.. No! ModFab sees two former shags on a tacky lifestyle show. Hilarious.

Girl Overboard... All About My Movies doesn't like Lust, Caution's sex scenes?! Personally, I was foaming at the mouth.

Can't Speak French... And The Winner Is... hopes Oscar are talking Marion Cotillard's language come Oscar night.

Black Jacks... Boy on Film pays homage to La Dahlia Noir's interesting femme fatale, Hilary Swank.

Control Of The Knife... The Cellar Door wants to know just who Zac Efron would like in possession of his penetrative weapon.

Fling... In The Mood For Blog's fanboyish tendencies towards Liv Ullman have hit newfound heights.

What You Crying For?... Goatdog lists six legitimate reasons.

I'm Falling... In love with next year's exciting (at least on paper) Actress race, detailed by The Glorious Diatribe.

Damn... Cary Grant never got that Oscar. And didn't even get nominated for Arsenic and Old Lace, my favourite comedic performance of all time. Edward Copeland On Film has received similar complaints.

Crocodile Tears... Strange Culture isn't happy with 80's cinema, or at least of the non-quirky variety. I say Clue and the music scene gave the decade enough genius.

Eat, Pray, Love Celebrities

The critics' word is admittedly not always the 'right' one. Lord knows I can think of a good dozen universally-acclaimed films from the past couple of years -- Inside Man and Million Dollar Baby, to name but two -- that I only really thought were, at best, mediocre. But when you think about it, in deciding between the films you race to and those you add to your online rental queue, you've gotta put your faith in somebody, and if it isn't a critic, then who is it?

I'm currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert's lauded Eat, Pray, Love as part of the Book Club I'm in. I've only read around twenty pages and was shuddering when the first line was "I wish Giovanni would kiss me.", expecting a post-feminist commentary on the shittiness of men while pandering to their every need. Thankfully it's taken on quite a nice tone, but that's beside the point. The thing that struck me was not what was inside the book, but what was on it; or rather, who was on it. 'It's what I'm giving all my girl friends', Julia Roberts apparently proclaims, her sentiments echoed by supermodels Elle MacPherson and Sophie Dahl; Actresses Toni Collette, Minnie Driver and Meg Ryan; politician Hillary Clinton, and, sandwiched between all this stardom, novelist Esther Freud. I have nothing against any of the women mentioned here, and in fact admire them all, but the fact that they are all women seems to be their only common attribute -- unless of course they're all voting Democrat this year. Now I get the fact that this is a chick's book but is being a woman the only qualification for recommending it? And if so, are people seriously reading these quotes and saying to themselves, 'If Minnie Driver liked it I'm going to'?

Reading is a kind of community. The majority of books I read come from friends or family, who, after a while, can filter out the books that they have a rough idea I'm not going to like, or be able to access. But if you browse a random shelf at a store, it's different. Should celebrities really be given the grounds to have their opinion paraded in this generic populist way, and if so, what does that say about the role of the critic? I realise that Eat, Pray, Love is an Inside Man or a Million Dollar Baby, and that I probably would have read it regardless of the book club, but it certainly wouldn't have been the off-the-cuff remarks of Sophie Dahl that swayed me towards it.

Of course, everyone is capable of hating something that on paper they really shouldn't. But I suspect this happens >5% of the time. Who do you trust when committing to a book or a film? Instinct? A critic? Julia Roberts? I'm glad I'm not the only one perplexed at this. 'Celebrification' has got a lot to answer for.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

No Country Wins the PGA

More on this later...

I was at work at six this morning so a Sunday lunch drinking session has to take precedence.

Friday, February 01, 2008

96. The Misfits (1961)

Directed by John Huston
Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach, Thelma Ritter

John Huston's DGA nod was the only major nomination that the intensely powerful The Misfits received. Penned by the legendary Arthur Miller it tells the story of newly-divorced Roslyn (Monroe) and her mouthy friend Isabelle (Ritter), who upon meeting aging cowboy Gay (Gable) and his friendly tag-a-long Guido (Wallach), rush off with them to Gay's country ranch for a relaxing holiday.

That this be a very atypical "western" is indicative of the film's keenness to demonstrate the cultural transition of America in this period. Monroe's divorcee, neither worldly nor experienced, initially appears to be a traditional 'damsel' of the genre, confused and alone. But as we learn more about her she evolves from submissive girl to promiscuous woman, catching both us and the two men off-guard. Retrospectively speaking though this shouldn't come as a great shock, Roslyn initially turning her back on the institution of marriage and then making a spontaneous decision to leave town with two men she hardly even knows. The film's success in making its leading woman's journey feel both surprising and yet passionately necessary, gives us a valuable flexibity, in terms of perception and gaze, with which to watch its events unfold. Its vast overview of such an intimidating culture and the people entrenched within it is itself revelatory.

There is no one character to identify with in the film. No hero, villain, wiseguy. The film's reluctance to draw attention to the positive and negative aspects of the characters enables you to make your own judgement, certainly one of the main points to take from it. The Misfits is about the death of the paradigm, the hypocrisy and struggle within an ingrained society trying to find its feet. The film begins with Roslyn determined to move on, and ends with a bitter resignation that things have to move on. In one of the most powerful cinematic sequences I've ever seen, a group of cowboys round up a group of horses to kill for dog meat. The construction of this sequence is filmed with the flair of a Western chase, majestic and grand. It mirrors the desperate grasp of its characters to hold on to the past, the majesty of a tradition that is all but obsolete. The Misfits is vital, vital viewing.